SWIFT December 7, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Is Scientology a Religion?, No Surprises Here, Geller in Germany, More Assertions, Evolution Again, Does this Man Read SWIFT?, The Texas Big Back-Step, Cattywampus, Yahoo Misinformation, Fremer Still Hiding, More Dynamica, That Irrepressible Bob Park, And In Addition, Teach Them Early, A Trace of Phenomenon, Medical Medium Well Done, It Must Be Real, Assigning the Blame for Reality, and Upcoming in the New York Area…

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That’s the question recently pondered over at a recent Hamburg meeting of top German security officials, prompted by the Secretary of the Interior, Udo Nagel. As a result, Germany could be asked to ban the U.S.-based Church of Scientology under a proposal that contends the group violates human rights. After looking into the facts about the Church of Scientology, the German government now considers it a commercial enterprise that takes advantage of vulnerable people.

Table of Contents
  1. Is Scientology a Religion?,

  2. No Surprises Here

  3. Geller in Germany

  4. More Assertions

  5. Evolution Again

  6. Does this Man Read SWIFT?

  7. The Texas Big Back-Step

  8. Cattywampus

  9. Yahoo Misinformation

  10. Fremer Still Hiding

  11. More Dynamica

  12. That Irrepressible Bob Park

  13. And In Addition

  14. Teach Them Early

  15. A Trace of Phenomenon

  16. Medical Medium Well Done

  17. It Must Be Real

  18. Assigning the Blame for Reality

  19. and Upcoming in the New York Area…



IS SCIENTOLOGY A RELIGION?

cross

That’s the question recently pondered over at a recent Hamburg meeting of top German security officials, prompted by the Secretary of the Interior, Udo Nagel. As a result, Germany could be asked to ban the U.S.-based Church of Scientology under a proposal that contends the group violates human rights. After looking into the facts about the Church of Scientology, the German government now considers it a commercial enterprise that takes advantage of vulnerable people. This last summer, it refused to allow the producers of a movie featuring movie star – and Scientology member – Tom Cruise to film at the site where Germany’s most famous anti-Hitler plotter, Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, was executed following a failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. Cruise plays the part of the aristocratic army officer.

The ban was withdrawn after the government received assurance from the producers that the memory and heroism of the colonel would be respected.

Pending agreement of all sixteen German states, the Interior Minister would be asked to initiate proceedings against the Church, asking that it be banned. A spokesperson for Scientology called this proposal "more than incomprehensible" and pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Scientology when Russia denied its application to register as a religious community.

Think of it: Scientologists – including intellectual giants like Tom Cruise, Chick Corea, Greta van Susteren, Isaac Hayes, Kirstie Alley, Lisa Marie Presley, and John Travolta – believe that they have the abilities to fly by mental power, to kill people with thoughts, and to move objects with will-power alone, and that science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard is/was the antichrist. They also believe Hubbard’s fantastic version of history – that 75 million years ago, Xenu, the dictator of an extragalactic civilization, was about to be deposed from power, and devised a plot to eliminate the excess population from his dominions. Using souped-up versions of DC8-like aircraft (?) he brought billions of his people to Teegeeack – as Earth was then known, we’re told – cleverly paralyzed them, lowered them into Earth’s volcanoes along with hydrogen bombs, and detonated the whole mess. Only a few of these aliens’ physical bodies, said Hubbard, survived, but the “essences” – souls – of all this vast crowd remained behind after vaporization, and these inhabit people in modern times, causing them spiritual damage. That’s what Scientology saves us from, folks.

Don’t look at me! That was Hubbard’s idea! It’s almost as mad as those ideas of virgin birth, immortality, resurrection, transubstantiation, angels, a 6,000-year-old Earth, and demons….




NO SURPRISES HERE

Reader Ken Fischer sends us to: livescience.com/strangenews/071129-psychics, where we find an excellent set of observations by Benjamin Radford, LiveScience’s “Bad Science” columnist. Ken extracts this from the longer article:

While the news media often report on a psychic’s introduction into missing persons cases, reporters very rarely follow up on the psychics. The result is that the public hears about psychics being involved, but doesn’t hear about whether or not psychic information actually recovered the missing person or solved the case.

[In reference to a particular case involving numerous self-proclaimed psychics that intervened] : …only one enterprising journalist dug a little deeper and interviewed police about the information they received from dozens of self-proclaimed psychics. The result was an excellent article headlined "Psychic Tips Were Off On Missing Women Case," by Deb Silverman, a reporter for WCPO in Cincinnati.

…Thirty different "psychics" gave 30 different answers… The women were found, not by psychics, nor by police… The skeletal remains… were spotted… by a hunter and his son in a secluded field…

All the information that all 30 psychics gave was wrong. The numbers, the dreams and visions, the river, the white churches – every detail was not only completely wrong but wasted time and resources.

Police spent about 40 work hours sorting through the information.

The psychics are largely to blame, but journalists bear some responsibility. If more journalists covering missing persons cases followed up on their reporting and publicized psychics’ consistent failures, perhaps fewer would contact police with their visions and hunches, wasting police time and falsely raising the hopes of the missing person’s family.

Please go to the original, complete, article for a fuller presentation of this important picture. This points up – once more – the fact that the media will ignore blatant evidence that so-called psychics fail so precipitously and so often, when the security, confidence, assets, and emotions of the bereaved are so brutally attacked and taken advantage of. A failure by the “psychics” can be written off by an editor as a “non-story” and passed by. The public deserves complete follow-up information on such matters, and simply doesn’t get it, with the present attitude of media outlets.




GELLER IN GERMANY

From reader Tommy Finke, in Germany:

I have been visiting the website of the JREF for about a year now and I really enjoy all the useful information there. I am writing you because I was watching television last evening – which I hardly do anymore – and suddenly all my attention was drawn to a trailer for a "new spectacular show" called "The Next Uri Geller."

As I expected, they imported the whole "Phenomenon" show to Germany on the Pro7 channel. It will air sometime in January. Actually, Pro7 was known to me through a show called "Galileo" – prosieben.de/wissen/galileo – where they presented technical facts to "the average guy," like how shoes are produced or why you can’t always trust your eyes. I liked that a lot.

Then they started airing a second show called "Galileo Mystery" – prosieben.de/wissen/galileomystery – and suddenly the subject of the show was switched to reincarnation and werewolves. Why they used poor Galileo’s name for this one will remain a "mystery." The problem was: no matter how much evidence against the supernatural was shown, it was never clearly stated that the subject itself was all made up or based on superstition, leaving the audience to judge for themselves, which is not a good idea for a "scientific" show.

And now there’s "The Next Uri Geller." I am very sorry for German Television and I would really appreciate a law against "pretending to have supernatural abilities in public." We don’t have someone like Chris Angel who would expose Geller in the show. Most people would just expect everything to be true because no other statements will be given…

Well, Tommy, since it appears that Geller is quickly edging toward an “it-was-all-just-a-joke-ho-ho-ho” position in regards to his long-standing and repeated claims of having real psychic powers, I think you can expect that on the Pro7 show, he’ll be asking to be referred to as “a mystifyer,” or a similar vague term. And – be assured – in Germany he’ll be doing the very same inane kid-show carnival stunts that he is now reduced to, and he’s already done on the USA “Phenomenon” series, since his thorough exposure via the Internet, and via YouTube, in particular.

I think that a quick summary of his tricks, with exposures of each one, is now in order. This could be produced and aired before the Pro7 show, don’t you think…? And I’d be available for such a task…

Hello, Germany…?

On the same subject:




MORE ASSERTIONS

Last week’s long list of examples in which Uri Geller has verified that he uses no tricks, and is genuinely “psychic,” is now augmented by these additional examples. The purpose of this procedure is to inform everyone of these firmly-stated claims, just in case Geller tries to move to the next apparent step, which is to announce that all his cute posturings were just a big joke.

smith

1975: From Susy Smith’s book, “The Power of the Mind” under “THE ENIGMA OF URI GELLER”:

Geller says he thinks he is a channel for power that comes from higher intelligences – that is, extraterrestrial beings – from a civilization that has been monitoring our planet for thousands of years. He says he is not a psychic, because he thinks psychics use their own forces. He believes these things are being channeled through him as signs "that more things are going to happen; that we are capable of greater things." He goes on, "My feelings and theories of this thing concern a super civilization that learned how to understand and control time – the past, present, and future – and that evolved beyond our comprehension.”

See: uri-geller.com/potm28.htm

1975: From Geller’s autobiography, “My Story”:

Let me assure the reader, I understand that it is hard for him to believe or comprehend the things I do unless he experiences them himself. Because they have been happening to me ever since I was a small child, I sometimes forget that I can’t just talk about them and expect people to believe me.

Dr. Chilton said: "Geller is either the cleverest magician of the century or he has something new. There is no half-way about it." Of course, I knew I was not a magician, not even an unclever one. I was groping as much as they were to find the real answer.

See uri-geller.com/books/my-story/ms2.htm

1976: In Colin Wilson’s book, “The Geller Phenomenon,” page 111, re Geller’s believability:

wilson

I am again struck by the seriousness and enthusiasm with which he says everything; it may be a habit he has picked up from being interviewed so many times. He makes an impact of great sincerity, as well as charm. When you are talking with him, it is difficult to doubt him. And when he assures me, with great emphasis, “I have never cheated, not once in my life,” I decide that he is probably speaking the truth.

November 6, 1986: On the Australian Current Affairs program, “Willesee”

Ben Harris: It’s brilliant. It’s a brilliant stroke on your part. But, it’s a trick, it’s not psychic!

Geller: [Heatedly] That is not a trick! And you people at home, exactly do what I said. Believe, for 30 seconds, that your watches will start ticking; watches that you know that your watchmaker said will never work. Or spoons that you are sure that are straight. You are going to experience this phenomenon because this does exist. Metal bending does exist!

See: zem.demon.co.uk/confront.htm

October 11th, 1996: David Alexander, in the Reading Chronicle, under “Mind-bending evening with Uri”:

…some of Geller’s displays, and I hasten not to use the word “tricks” ("I am not a magician," he said), were very impressive.

See: uri-geller.com/rd-c.htm

November 27th, 1996: In the New York Press, by John Strausbaugh, “URI GELLER: Parlor Tricks or Psychic Spy?” quoting Geller:

For the next two and a half years I was the biggest thing that had happened in Israel. It was mass hysteria. I filled up auditoriums with 10,000 people… I did the lecture circuit in a very bizarre way because I went on stage, I just did my thing, bending keys, doing telepathy. There was no order in my performance. It was a mess – but it worked… Then I started seeing that the auditoriums were getting emptier and emptier. The reason was because I couldn’t change my act. I did what I did. I was not a magician. I used real powers. I couldn’t invent things.

See: uri-geller.com/nypr.htm

December 24th, 1996: From the Jewish Telegraph, “Uri Geller offers close encounter in Eilat sell-out”:

These days, Geller said, he is a millionaire, with money earned by locating deposits of precious metals… However, he explained, since his powers are real and not a trick, he could not improve on them, and he found his audiences decreasing to the point where he was appearing in small night clubs…"

See: uri-geller.com/qq2.htm

1998: From Jonathan Margolis’ book, “Magician or Mystic?” page 76:

He also used to perform séances. People would sit round a table and he took a cup and put it on the other side and everybody put his finger on this cup and it started to move it around the table and tell all sorts of stories about everyone round the table, and what may happen in the near future and all those kinds of things. I don’t think we took it too seriously. It’s hard for me to say whether he did. The interesting thing was that he said, “I am not a magician,” and what I think about Uri – and I never changed my opinion – was that he tried to be very honest. That was my feeling. He said he believed he had some kind of extra powers that everyone has, but not everyone can utilize yet. …some of what he did looked like magicians’ tricks… Uri explains today that what appeared to colleagues to be tricks really were telepathic demonstrations.

See: uri-geller.com/books/magician-or-mystic

October 15, 1999: On Canada AM, advertising Geller’s book, “Mind Medicine,” in an interview:

Interviewer: Now, what is it that you have that we don’t have?

GELLER: Okay, first of all, I don’t think I’m unique. I think we all have what I have. And I discovered this 30 years ago when, as you said, I stood on television and I looked into the camera, I held the spoon. And at that time I was amazed because I thought I was emanating, I was sending some type of a vibration through the airwaves and it was bending people’s spoons at home. But I was wrong. All I was doing is I was triggering some kind of an energy – apparently it’s a dormant power, it’s a dormant force that we all have in our mind… Now, because I became famous for that, obviously people who were sick, especially parents who have sick children, traced me down. They contacted me and said, "Oh, Uri, can you heal our children?" And I said, "Look, I’m not a healer, I’m certainly not a miracle worker," but I couldn’t turn them down.

January 10, 2003: From a CNN TV transcript “CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT”:

GELLER: I actually discovered my ability when I was 4 years old. I was eating soup in my mother’s kitchen and the spoon bent and broke. And my mother, she’s related to Sigmund Freud. And she was sure that I inherited certain…

CHUNG: Oh, she is not.

GELLER: Yes, she is. My name is actually Uri Geller Freud in my British passport. So, she thought that I inherited certain powers from him. But, throughout my life, I’ve been very controversial, because there are lots of people who don’t believe in this. They think that I have chemicals or I prepare the spoons and so on.

CHUNG: Well, before we go, I was really, truly shocked that you were able to bend that spoon and break it with only your mind. What else can you do?

GELLER: Well, I can look right now in the camera and I can ask all your viewers to quickly get a broken watch and focus on that broken watch or even place a spoon on your television sets at home. And I say one, two, three, and those watches will start ticking, even if they have a broken spring inside. And some of those spoons may leap off the television set. And you know what, Connie? It’s not my powers. It’s not my energy. I am only a trigger. I’m only a catalyst. I’m an enabler to certain energies that we all have that are dormant in us.

Undated: UK Scientist Ted Bastin, re Geller’s metal-bending trick:

He may put his hands over the object as if he were blessing it, or he may do it from a distance. It is all very open. He is genuine.

Udated: Edgar D. Mitchell, now a supporter of scientific and scholarly research in parapsychology, introduced Uri to the SRI scientists; and through him, the funding was raised to underwrite the cost of the laboratory work. Mitchell has observed Uri in action and he says:

wilson

There is no question in my mind that Geller’s abilities are genuine. We have thousands of feet of film taken during the experiments. In our minute scrutiny of the film, frame by frame, we didn’t see anything that looked like trickery in any way… At any time where Geller’s hands were out of view of the film or it appeared he could have done something in any way to influence a test, we threw out the results… We threw out a lot of things that were probably real events just because we couldn’t be absolutely certain of them – but what is left we are completely certain of.

And none of that “thousands of feet of film” have ever been seen again. How dearly we magicians would like to see it – but that will never happen, be assured. It would give away the whole act… Just where does Mitchell get his expertise in conjuring, I must ask? Oh, I forgot. He’s a Phd…




EVOLUTION AGAIN

From Brandon Haught, Florida Citizens for Science, comes this notice:

This is a request for assistance from Florida Citizens for Science. The evolution debate that constantly makes its rounds across the U.S. has landed with a thud in Florida. The state’s science standards, which guide all public schools’ curricula in the state, are being revised. The standards are a serious matter, since whatever is in them must be taught to students in preparation for statewide testing. That testing affects promotion and graduation of students, and determines the fate of funding and reputation of each individual school. The current science standards don’t mention evolution by name or give the theory any significant importance. The draft of the new science standards is a huge step forward, as it rightly acknowledges evolution as an important concept for all students to be familiar with.

As can be predicted by anyone with a passing knowledge of evolution’s “hot potato” status in Pennsylvania, Kansas, Ohio and Texas, the fact that the word appears prominently in the draft standards has caused a stir. Organizations like Focus on the Family (citizenlink.org/content/A000005985.cfm) and the Florida Baptists (floridabaptistwitness.com/8144) have sounded the call to battle. Members of county school boards have come forward to publicly announce their opposition to evolution and their desire to at least balance evolution with the creationism Trojan horse, intelligent design.

The latest news to strike a blow to sound science, is a Florida Board of Education member announcing her intentions to vote against the new standards because of evolution. That’s an alarm bell, because it’s the state Board of Education that makes the final approval of the new standards. Enough board members voting against evolution can sink the whole thing.

We at Florida Citizens for Science are aware that the anti-science crowd is out in full force trying to exert influence where it counts the most: the state Board of Education. We need to counter that attack, with your support. Please rally your audience, especially any of your fans who live in Florida, to contact every member of the state BoE and let him or her know that evolution belongs in the state science standards. Please visit the Florida Citizens for Science website (flascience.org), especially the blog (flascience.org/wp), to learn more.

I urge our Florida members and readers to follow Brandon’s earnest suggestion. If we don’t make the cause of rationality known, we may very well allow this attack to succeed…




DOES THIS MAN READ “SWIFT”?

A member of the US Congress, Jay Inslee, has just called for a congressional investigation into the plethora of unproven “energy medicine” machines that are being offered for sale in this country, and are potentially dangerous and possibly illegal. See tinyurl.com/2mxbuk. We called attention to this situation two weeks ago at randi.org/content/view/131/27/#i8. Inslee says – as we did – that some manufacturers have used these devices to misdiagnose diseases and to divert critically ill people from genuinely life-saving care.

We learn now that authorities have opened some 573 similar investigations in the past two years. Nearly all of these investigations were the result of complaints from the public. I hope that our nudging has spurred some of this action, but we await real results as only a distant possibility; lawyers have a way of making such inconveniences go away…




THE TEXAS BIG BACK-STEP

The Texas Director of Science Curriculum, Christine Castillo Comer, 56, resigned this month under pressure from officials who said she had seemed to be criticizing the teaching of intelligent design, and was “siding against creationism and the doctrine that life is the product of intelligent design – the major anti-science notion that Christian Fundamentalists enjoy introducing into all educational formats. The Texas Education Agency [TEA] put Ms. Comer on 30 days’ paid administrative leave in late October, resulting in what she defined as “a forced resignation.” She said that the TEA director for organizational development had told her to resign or be terminated for a series of unauthorized presentations at professional meetings and other reported transgressions.

No, I think not. I think that Christine Comer offended the TEA by acting like a true scientist instead of like a backwoods fundamentalist preacher. She stood up for her chosen profession, and fulfilled her duties as the TEA’s Director of Science Curriculum with dedication. The TEA will not understand that stance, nor – apparently – will it stand for truth and rationality in its ranks.

Ms. Comer’s crime – the one that precipitated this event – was that she’d forwarded an e-mail message that originated with the National Center for Science Education – a pro-evolution group – about a talk in Austin on November 2nd by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a co-author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse” and an expert witness in the landmark 2005 case that ruled against the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover, Pa., schools. Forest’s book also argues that creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. This e-mail message was sent to several people and to a few online communities, and thus came to the startled attention of the TEA, who have since coyly declined to comment on the matter. Almost comically, the TEA statement was that

Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that T.E.A. endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.

Neutral? What a preposterous statement! How can any Education Agency remain neutral on such a basic, critical, fact of science as evolution? This is a rejection of scientific advances made over the past century, a retreat into biological ignorance. TEA officials said that forwarding that e-mail message conflicted with Ms. Comer’s job responsibilities and “violated a directive that she not communicate with anyone outside the agency regarding a pending science curriculum review.” Was there such a specific directive in the rules by which Ms. Comer operated, and if so, why? Does the TEA want matters involving their actions on a science curriculum kept secret? Are they embarrassed that they want to shape a curriculum that either denies or ignores the fact of evolution?

After twenty-seven years as a science teacher and nine years as the Texas Education Agency’s Director of Science, Ms. Comer said she did not think she had to remain “neutral” about teaching the theory of evolution. “It’s not just a good idea,” she said, “it’s the law.” But now she’s out of a job, and her departure, which has rightfully brought dismay among science professionals since it became public, is a prelude to an expected battle early next year over rewriting the state’s science education standards, which – as we see – include the teaching of evolution. The TEA stated:

Our job is to enact laws and regulations that are passed by the Legislature or the State Board of Education and not to inject personal opinions and beliefs.

This is not a matter of “opinion” or “belief”! It is a matter of fact, and of science – with which the TEA seems rather unacquainted. How did these people get their jobs? Based on a Sunday School education?

As Ms. Comer commented to the press:

I don’t see how I took a position by F.Y.I.-ing on a lecture, like I F.Y.I. on global warming or on stem-cell research. I send around all kinds of stuff, and I’m not accused of endorsing it… I’m for good science, and I don’t think it’s any stretch of the imagination where I stand.

Texas prides itself on doing everything BIG. They’ve now taken a BIG step backward, into the 1400s. Let’s not follow them down that dark and winding trail…




CATTYWAMPUS

From reader Ted Smith comes this excellent article written by David Owen and published in Life Magazine, in October, 1990:

The Best Teacher I Ever Had

Mr. Whitson taught sixth-grade science. On the first day of class, he gave us a lecture about a creature called the cattywampus, an ill-adapted nocturnal animal that was wiped out during the Ice Age. He passed around a skull as he talked. We all took notes and later had a quiz.

When he returned my paper, I was shocked. There was a big red X through each of my answers. I had failed. There had to be some mistake! I had written down exactly what Mr. Whitson said. Then I realized that everyone in the class had failed. What had happened?

Very simple, Mr. Whitson explained. He had made up all that stuff about the cattywampus. There had never been such an animal. The information in our notes was, therefore, incorrect. Did we expect credit for incorrect answers?

Needless to say, we were outraged. What kind of test was this? And what kind of teacher?

We should have figured it out, Mr. Whitson said. After all, at the very moment he was passing around the Cattywampus skull (in truth, a cat’s), hadn’t he been telling us that no trace of the animal remained? He had described its amazing night vision, the color of its fur and any number of other facts he couldn’t have known. He had given the animal a ridiculous name, and we still hadn’t been suspicious. The zeroes on our papers would be recorded in his grade book, he said. And they were.

Mr. Whitson said he hoped we would learn something from this experience: teachers and textbooks are not infallible. In fact, no one is. He told us not to let our minds go to sleep, and to speak up if we ever thought he or the textbook was wrong.

Every class was an adventure with Mr. Whitson. I can still remember some science periods almost from beginning to end. One day he told us that his Volkswagen was a living organism. It took us two full days to put together a refutation he would accept. He didn’t let us off the hook until we had proved not only that we knew what an organism was but also that we had the fortitude to stand up for the truth.

We carried our brand-new skepticism into all our classes. This caused problems for the other teachers, who weren’t used to being challenged. Our history teacher would be lecturing about something, and then there would be clearings of the throat and someone would say, "Cattywampus."

If I’m ever asked to propose a solution to the crisis in our schools, it will be Mr. Whitson. I haven’t made any great scientific discoveries, but Mr. Whitson’s class gave me and my classmates something just as important: the courage to look people in the eye and tell them they are wrong. He also showed us that you can have fun doing it.

Not everyone sees the value in this. I once told an elementary school teacher about Mr. Whitson. The teacher was appalled. "He shouldn’t have tricked you like that," he said. I looked the teacher right in the eye and told him he was wrong.

Ted – and David Owen, if he’s still around – I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several Mr. Whitsons in my life. Mr. Henderson – I don’t think any of us knew his first name, and we students were always similarly addressed by him, as by all of our teachers, as "Mr. Zwinge," or whatever was called for – was one of those teachers. He delighted in giving us mathematical puzzles just before he dismissed a class, and thoroughly expected us to have an answer when we sat down to class the following day. Mr. Tovell, who taught us physics, would mischievously sketch out a somewhat plausible perpetual-motion machine on the blackboard, then ask us to return the next day to explain why we thought the machine would – or would not – work. These were problems that stimulated our imaginations, made us eager to get to the next class, and I feel sure are not the sort of thing that modern teachers become involved with. Our history teacher was a Mr. Grow, who would occasionally drop in an obviously false comment or two while giving us an account of some event with which he hoped we’d become familiar. And, occasionally he fooled us all and then was able to show us how he had done this to our young minds.

Those were teachers…!




YAHOO MISINFORMATION

Reader Darren Collins informs us:

I was looking up "breast cancer" as keywords in yahoo.com, then clicked on breastcancer.org, then I did a search for "no insurance" and one of the first handful of search results yielded this page: breastcancer.org/treatment

Worse than the advice on this page, are the links on the left that go even deeper into informing earnest people about shoddy treatments. I understand bad advice, but this seemingly "good source" makes it all the icky-er to me. Pass it on my good man, thanks for all you do.

I have to seriously question the expertise of Drs. Benor, Johnson, and Weiss. How did they ever get the notion that acupuncture has ever had any effect on the treatment of disease? It’s plain quackery, in its most dangerous guise, since it seems to have the imprimatur of ancient endorsements – as does bloodletting and the use of calomel – Hg2Cl2, mercurous chloride, which can convert into mercuric chloride and poison the patient. These endorsements are ludicrous!

I agree with reader Collins on the left-side links…




FREMER STILL HIDING

A note was sent by John C. Randolph, Friday, October 26, 2007 to Pear Cable. It was headed with the question: “How can you spot a fraud?”

Answer: they run away from being tested by the James Randi Educational Foundation. Mr. Blake, you are a liar, a weasel, and a fraud. Thanks for the entertainment I’m getting by watching you get skewered on Gizmodo and Digg.com

Oh, and BTW, claiming that the $1M prize is a hoax, is slander against both Mr. Randi and the JREF. I hope Randi sues your ass for it.

A response to this was received from Adam Blake of Pear Cable. Adam wrote – all punctuation and grammar intact:

Let me help you spot the real fraud. Randi is the one preventing a cable test from happening not Pear Cable.

3 cable options are being discussed by Randi and Fremer – Randi conditionally chooses Fremer’s Tara Labs cables – Randi then changes his mind by saying he would prefer to avoid doing 2 tests, so asks Fremer to consider the Pear Cables (never saying Fremer’s cables were off the table) – Pear Cable exits the game, suspecting that Randi would eventually derail the test and try to blame Pear Cable – Randi closes the challenge without notifying Fremer, despite there still being 2 other cable options being discussed – Fremer complains that the test should never have been closed since Pear was not the only option – Randi then claims to reopen the challenge, but now that he knows Pear Cable will not participate, according to Gizmodo he won’t allow Fremer to use his Tara Labs cables. Now, according to Mike Lavigne (who owns a pair of the Transparent Cables that Randi challenged and who wants to take the test) Randi states "The Transparent Opus MM cables are not simply cables, and thus not eligible.", thus eliminating the other cable Randi challenged.

So, Pear Cable exits the challenge suspecting that if it participated, the challenge would be derailed by Randi, but blame would be shifted to Pear Cable. Randi then apparently eliminates the other 2 cables under consideration, but it is Pear Cable that has derailed the test??? I don’t think so. The fact that Randi HAS derailed the test and is attempting to blame Pear Cable, is validation of our original concern. If Randi is so interested in making a test happen, why would he disqualify the 2 other cables being considered? We believe that Randi will do whatever it takes to avoid losing his $1 Million dollars. So far, it appears that he is proving us right. Pear Cable will not take part in these games. There is nothing stopping the current test from happening with 1 of the 2 other cables that were being discussed, except Randi. Fremer is willing to take the test.

What you see here is a man flailing around trying to get off a hook that is firmly embedded in his jaw, though he apparently can still issue inane statements. The fact is that I’m no longer concerned with Adam Blake; he retired from any possible test of his product, by his withdrawal statement, and he’s left Michael Fremer out in the cold. We’re still patiently waiting for Fremer to come forward with the equipment, and to set a time and place for the test. He’s been quite silent, as far as I can see, though I admit that I don’t go searching on the Internet for any comments he might have issued. He knows my address…

That said, I’ll address just some of Blake’s statements, made above. After all, he has to at least try getting Fremer out of any testing situation, since he’d be next in the tumbrel. He writes, “Randi is the one preventing a cable test from happening not Pear Cable.” I am not preventing anything from happening; I’m standing ready and willing, though increasingly impatient. And I never claimed or even suggested that Pear – thus Blake – was preventing any test from taking place. It’s obvious that Blake fears a test, and therefore precipitously withdrew…

No, three cable options are not being discussed by Randi and Fremer, as Blake avers. Only one has been discussed, the original challenge remains. I never “ask[ed] Fremer to consider the Pear Cables,” I told him that was the challenge! The Pear cables are the ones we would test, if Fremer would get on with it – which seems increasingly unlikely…

This isn’t worth my time, arguing with two desperate men who must avoid a test of this silly claim. Blake and Fremer are both under that huge rock hiding with Sylvia Browne, and they deserve the company…




MORE DYNAMICA

I send readers to a rather comprehensive treatment of the Machina Dynamica farce written by Jeffrey Lindblom in “Home Entertainment Systems, Miscellaneous Gadgets, Internet, Rant/Rambling” to be found at techpersona.com/wp/machina-dynamica.




THAT IRRESPRESSIBLE BOB PARK

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There exists a certain selection of skeptical writers of whom I am desperately jealous. A few are Richard Dawkins, Martin Gardner, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens (carefully arranged here alphabetically to avoid any possible favoritism!) But my old friend Bob Park, obviously a member of this formidable array, is in quite a different class. He manages to express his skeptical thoughts in a brief (less than 1,000 words) contribution that he periodically, though somewhat irregularly, deposits on the Internet, to our great delight.

What follows just cannot be edited. It is his November 30th entry, which I here freely appropriate, succinct as always, and provoking smiles and a certain envy from me…

WHAT’S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 30 Nov 07 Washington, DC

1. FAITH: THE WAR BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION.

It’s time we had a little talk. The New York Times on Saturday published an op-ed by Paul Davies that addresses the question: "Is embracing the laws of nature so different from religious belief?" Davies concludes that, "until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus." Davies has confused two meanings of the word "faith." The Oxford Concise English Dictionary on my desk gives the two distinct meanings for faith as: "1) complete trust or confidence, and 2) strong belief in a religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof." A scientist’s "faith" is built on experimental proof. The two meanings of the word "faith," therefore, are not only different, they are exact opposites. Davies, who won the 1995 Templeton Prize is not the only physicist to make that mistake. "Many people don’t realize that science basically involves faith" Charles Townes said in his 2005 Templeton statement. On laser physics I would happily defer to Townes, but this is a matter of the English language. Here we defer to the dictionaries. The judges who awarded Townes’ the 2005 Templeton Prize cited a single line from his 1966 article The Convergence of Science and Religion: "Understanding the order in the Universe and understanding the purpose of the universe are not identical, but they are also not very far apart." They are a universe apart, bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN05/wn031105.html. In any case, the "purpose" of the universe is not on the science agenda. Suicide bombers no doubt believe they are part of some divine "purpose."

2. THE FAITH WAR: WHAT CONNECTS SCIENTISTS OF FAITH?

I count 8 physicists among the 34 recipients of the Templeton Prize, and a couple more had degrees in physics. It was initially the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and the first winner in 1973 was Mother Teresa. Winners have included Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. Billy Graham got it in 1982, Charles Colson of Watergate fame in 1993 and Paul Davies in 1995. But in 1999 Ian Barbour, a student of Fermi, was the recipient. A professor of physics and theology at Carleton College, Barbour was credited with initiating a "dialog between science and religion." Templeton admired Barbour, and coveted his dialog. The scientific revolution, after all, led to the fantastic growth in the world economy that made him a billionaire. Templeton believes God has chosen him to show the world that, as he put it, theology and science are two windows on the same landscape. So he changed the name to the Templeton Prize for Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. It is the largest prize for intellectual accomplishment in existence, chosen to be bigger than the Nobel. Since that time, six of the last eight winners of the Templeton Prize have been physicists. They all relied on the anthropic principle in their Templeton Prize statements.

3. ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE: SOME THINK IT PROVES THERE IS A GOD.

It argues that the universe has been "fine-tuned" to make life possible. In the so-called strong form: "The fundamental parameters of the universe are such as to permit the creation of observers within it." I believe an equivalent wording would be: "If things were different, things would not be the way things are."

Folks, I’ve said it here before, and I repeat: if you’re not already “on the list” to receive these hearty salvos from Bob, bestir yourselves. Go to listserv.umd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=bobparks and apply…!




AND IN ADDITION

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And here is something else in much the same vein. Edward O. Wilson is the prominent professor of entomology at Harvard University. This is a short extract of the afterword to his newest book, “From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin’s Four Great Books,” to be published next week by W.W. Norton. It was found on the current New Scientist site, to be found at newscientist.com/channel/opinion/dn8254.html.

Will science and religion ever be friends? Very unlikely, says E.O. Wilson. The growth of biology is widening the tectonic gap between them:

…will science and religion find common ground, or at least agree to divide the fundamentals into mutually exclusive domains? A great many well-meaning scholars believe that such rapprochement is both possible and desirable. A few disagree, and I am one of them. I think Darwin would have held to the same position. The battle line is, as it has ever been, in biology. The inexorable growth of this science continues to widen, not to close, the tectonic gap between science and faithbased religion. Rapprochement may be neither possible nor desirable. There is something deep in religious belief that divides people and amplifies societal conflict.

The toxic mix of religion and tribalism has become so dangerous as to justify taking seriously the alternative view, that humanism based on science is the effective antidote, the light and the way at last placed before us.

Religions continue both to render their special services and to exact their heavy costs. Can scientific humanism do as well or better, at a lower cost? Surely that ranks as one of the great unanswered questions of philosophy. It is the noble yet troubling legacy that Charles Darwin left us.




TEACH THEM EARLY

Reader Judy Jones writes:

I teach Art (K through 8) and always try to include an OP Art project for each level. During that unit, I try to impress upon the students that what might appear to be magical or supernatural is really quite normal. We discuss how our eyes are made, and how our limitations in vision allow artists to fool us.

I also try to impress upon them the fact that there are unscrupulous people in the world who will try to manipulate them. They’re especially impressed by the old trick of staring at a negative image, then looking at a wall and seeing the positive image. They also like seeing opposite colors after staring at a bright color. We then discuss how a "bad" person could use this to influence them or get them to give away money, etc.

I thought I had made a difference with them, but today a student talked about being so impressed by some psychics she watched on TV (Sylvia Browne types). We discussed this nonsense for awhile, but she was convinced that because it was on TV and seemed so plausible (to her), that it had to be true.

Bottom Line: Can you recommend a video suitable for elementary level that helps develop critical thinking skills, and/or pokes fun at these human parasites who prey on the gullible? I keep hoping that by educating people at a young enough age, we’ll have fewer gullible adults, but then there are times I feel overwhelmed.

Thank you so much for the work you do.

I sent Judy to our site to look over the many videos to be found there at randi.org/component/option,com_seyret. Carefully selected, these will demonstrate to a classroom just how hollow are the claims of the "psychics" and the other charlatans…



A TRACE OF PHENOMENON

Reader Trace Conger tells us that a “Phenomenon” performer has outperformed his debacle on that show by coming up with an even more hilarious notion:

James – love the site. Thought you’d be interested in the below link. Jim Callahan (from NBC’s Phenomenon) is taking applicants for a future stage show, applicants for dead assistants. If you’d like a laugh, click on the below. He is offering $1 million (assuming U.S.) for the successful candidate. He cites that suiciders will be excluded. Unfortunately he won’t pay upfront, otherwise I’d be first in line. Plus, what in the hell is a dead person going to do with $1 million? I’m thinking Vegas. Go to jimclass.com/job_openings_for_the_dead.htm

Just a thought: “What in the hell is a dead person…” could have been written, “What is a dead person in hell…”




MEDICAL MEDIUM WELL DONE

Reader Justin Bourgeois writes us about yet another example of the cavalier way in which the media freely advertise psychic claims and hyperbole, just to fill space:

I am forwarding to you a story shown last night on my local Fox news channel, WXXA, which airs in the Capital District area of New York State. They were previously noted in SWIFT for this story on Therapeutic Touch: randi.org/jr/2007-05/051107.html#i10. The video for this new story is not available online, but the text of the story can be found here: tinyurl.com/3xfvdn




IT MUST BE REAL

Reader Chip Taylor, of Cabot, Vermont, re a book by Michel Gauquelin titled "The Cosmic Clock – From Astrology to a Modern Science”: Says Chip, the book is an attempt to use science (pseudoscience) to prove astrology. He continues:

I bought this book in a used bookstore and the clerk remarked that it was a wonderful book. When I told her that astrology was total nonsense, she got VERY defensive, telling me that of course astrology was valid as a "lot of books have been written about it." (Honest, I’m not making this up.) I replied that books have also been written about people who have taken rides in UFO to visit their Venusian friends, or talked to the dead, or even a person who died and ascended to Heaven but then came back. She repeated that astrology just HAD to be true because of all those books on the subject. When I said that I did astronomy, and could scientifically show that astrology was crap, she said, "Ah ha, you’re an astronomer. Well that explains why you have a closed mind on this." (She got the last laugh however: The book was $5 and when I got home I checked my wallet and found she never gave me change for my $20 bill!)




ASSIGNING THE BLAME FOR REALITY

In an encyclical released on Friday, Pope Benedict assigned “some of the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" in history, to atheism. The 75-page document is an appeal to a pessimistic world to find strength in Christian hope. In this, the second encyclical of his papacy, the Pope urged Christians to put their hope for the future in God and not in technology, political ideologies, or wealth – though the Church has done rather well in that last endeavor.

Benedict said that atheism could be regarded by some as a "type of moralism" designed to protest against the injustices of the world, thus missing the point entirely, an art in which the Vatican has shown its superiority. He said:

A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God… It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice.

Atheism has been a rather popular subject recently, largely due to best-selling books questioning the value of religion such as “The End of Faith” by Sam Harris, "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins and "God is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens. The Pope dragged out the old chestnut we’ve seen presented so frequently, that only belief in another life to replace this miserable one, will provide solace to humans. He presented it thus:

Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope.

By taking such a tack, the Pope risks pushing even more people away from religion. Italy’s Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (UAAR) said in response to his encyclical:

The existence of a billion non-believers in the world should be enough to make the Pope understand that man can live very well without God, but with reason.

Benedict even reached out to pseudoscience – no surprise! – to make unquestioning, blind, belief look more attractive to those who are beginning to seriously question religion:

We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift.

I guess he doesn’t read much.




UPCOMING IN THE NEW YORK CITY AREA

Reader Chip Taylor, of Cabot, Vermont, re a book by Michel Gauquelin titled "The Cosmic Clock – From Astrology to a Modern Science”: Says Chip, the book is an attempt to use science (pseudoscience) to prove astrology. He continues:

The New York City Skeptics Public Lecture Series announces that on Saturday, December 8 at 1PM, there will be an address by Dr. Steven Novella, academic neurologist on full-time faculty at Yale University School of Medicine, and the author of “Weird Science,” a monthly column featured in the “New Haven Advocate.” Steve is the co-founder and President of the New England Skeptical Society and co-host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, the official podcast of the JREF.

His talk is titled, “An Introduction to Skeptical Activism,” and will discuss the basics of a skeptical world view and why it is important, as well as sharing his experiences as a skeptical activist. It will be held at the New York Public Library, Jefferson Market Branch, 425 Avenue of the Americas – 6th Ave. The West 4th Street stop on the F, V, A, C, or E subway trains will get you there: walk north on 6th Avenue.

There will – of course! – be an audience Q & A session after the lecture.

December 10th is the cutoff for reduced room rates for TAM 5.5 in Fort Lauderdale. There may be rooms available after that date, but the rates will increase. Don't delay.. register today. For registering at the Plantation Hotel for TAM 5.5, in order to get the $99 rate, call the hotel directly at 954-556-8200 and say you’re with the James Randi group. You cannot register online and get the reduced rate. For more information about TAM 5.5 visit our Amazing Meeting page at this link.