Remember Derek?, Norway Still In a Tizzy, Kudos From Poland, Another Miracle Worker in Mexico, Homeopathic Hullabaloo in the UK, We’re Hoping Too, And in Hungary?, Possibly, Perhaps Another Pseudoscience, More Cat Stuff, Robert Lancaster Checks In, Re Isaac Newton, Political Theology, Dowser Inquiry, Stupid Questions Department, Apologies, We Regret, Incredible, Joker Hoaxed, Note, Uncle Phil Comments, and In Closing.

 

Reader and Forum member Niobe Vorenus, in the Netherlands, reports to us:

As I mentioned in the forums, Derek Ogilvie has gotten a TV show in the Netherlands with RTL that has other superstars like Char Margolis and Robbert van den Broeke. Fortunately for them, psychic abilities know no language barrier, it seems.

Today in the newspaper he claims he already took the JREF test, which he says can't be scientific, because "Randi is an illusionist." He also claims to have been tested by a Dr. Jerry Glock, of which the results he can't disclose, but there will be a documentary. I'm not sure who this Dr. Glock is, but perhaps he's the Gary Schwartz to his Allison DuBois (Why do I keep misspelling this word "Dubious?")

Table of Contents
  1. Remember Derek?

  2. Norway Still In a Tizzy

  3. Kudos from Poland

  4. Another Miracle Worker in Mexico

  5. Homeopathic Hullabaloo in the UK

  6. We’re Hoping Too

  7. And in Hungary?

  8. Possibly

  9. Perhaps Another Pseudoscience

  10. More Cat Stuff

  11. Robert Lancaster Checks In

  12. Re Isaac Newton

  13. Political Theology

  14. Dowser Inquiry

  15. Stupid Questions Department

  16. Apologies

  17. We Regret

  18. Incredible…

  19. Joker Hoaxed

  20. Note

  21. Uncle Phil Comments

  22. In Closing




REMEMBER DEREK?

Reader and Forum member Niobe Vorenus, in the Netherlands, reports to us:

As I mentioned in the forums, Derek Ogilvie has gotten a TV show in the Netherlands with RTL that has other superstars like Char Margolis and Robbert van den Broeke. Fortunately for them, psychic abilities know no language barrier, it seems.

Today in the newspaper he claims he already took the JREF test, which he says can't be scientific, because "Randi is an illusionist." He also claims to have been tested by a Dr. Jerry Glock, of which the results he can't disclose, but there will be a documentary. I'm not sure who this Dr. Glock is, but perhaps he's the Gary Schwartz to his Allison DuBois (Why do I keep misspelling this word "Dubious?")

Niobe, we have conclusive signed and witnessed statements from Ogilvie in which he agreed that the conditions for his definitive test with the JREF were fair, binding, and acceptable, in every respect. The UK firm who videoed those tests here in Florida back in early May, have failed to respond to our inquiries about when the program will be aired, but we have continued to observe our agreement with them not to reveal the outcome of the tests, until they give us permission.

Stay tuned. And if anyone can find out who this “Dr. Jerry Glock“ might be, and whether he has any credentials whatsoever, we’d like to hear about it…





NORWAY STILL IN A TIZZY

The matter about Norway’s 35-year-old Princess Märtha Louise [see randi.org/jr/2007-07/072707bashing.html#i5] hasn’t gotten any better. Bergens Tidene, a leading Norwegian newspaper, has now called on her to “to renounce her royal title…” after she said she communicates with angels.“Her claim of also talking to horses was not included in the suggestion. Though the princess is only fourth in line to the Norwegian throne, citizens there are apparently of the opinion that it’s far too close to take any chances… Märtha Louise is the daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja, and the older sister of Crown Prince Haakon. The rest of the family is quite sane and realistic.

In an interview on Norway's public broadcaster NRK, Martha Louise explained her view on angels:

Some feel them, others see them. Everyone experiences them from their own standpoint. For me, they are beings of light, like a feeling of a powerful presence, a strong sense of love.

She compared the media frenzy to a witch hunt:

I am very happy that I don't live a few hundred years ago, because then I would have been burned at the stake a long time ago.

Seems like a waste of princesses, to me, but rules are rules…





KUDOS FROM POLAND

Reader Oskar "The woo-woo destroyer" Darski informs us:

Here is the story that should make you, at least a bit, proud… shows that your foundation is really educational.

Before I found your foundation, I never heard anything about "cold reading" or any other tricks used by psychics, so I believed in this nonsense. But, after I learned about how these psychics are working, I decided to test one of the best psychics in Poland, Anna Fijalkowska. She is quite famous in Polish esoteric circles. She is a fortune-teller, exorcist, spiritualist, healer – you name it. But she is most famous for her Tarot readings. She supposedly looks at her Tarot cards, and the cards tell her everything about your present situation, and what will happen to you in the future. She says that 98% of her predictions are true. Right.

Anyway, my test was simple. I invented a fictional story, with totally fictional characters. I told that story to her and asked her what I should do with that situation. So – If she really can see everything in the cards, the Tarot should tell her that I'm lying. Or, at least, she shouldn't see anything in the cards, because it was a totally invented story.

But no! She gave me a long lecture about my situation, she told me what these fictional characters are thinking about me, how this fictional situation is going to end, etc. I even asked her after the "reading" – What would happen, if someone lied? And she said that the Tarot is always telling the truth, and that she had this kind of situation before, and the Tarot always told her that this person was lying.

Well, that was the end of my belief in the supernatural. She even taped this "reading," and she gave me the cassette, so I could “check that she was right about my future.” When I played this cassette to my esoteric friends, they were shocked that she was so dramatically wrong.

Later, I began to learn magic tricks, and "mind reading" à la Derren Brown, and I really love it. "Magic" is my real hobby. I'm also a self-proclaimed "crusader against nonsense." I even have my own supernatural challenge. If any of my friends, co-workers or whatever, can show me any supernatural ability, or they know someone who has some paranormal ability, I'm going to pay them $1,000 dollars. Unfortunately, I cannot afford a million dollars. Many of them tried, but the $1,000 is still in my possession.

You really inspired me, Mr. Randi, and I'm really grateful for your work. Thanks to you, I discovered the beauty of magic, and the beauty of rational thinking. Thank you.

Hey, that’s what we do, Oskar. Hang in there…!





ANOTHER MIRACLE WORKER IN MEXICO

Mexican reader Tonatiuh Moreno tells us:

I read SWIFT very often, most of the time with amazement at the gullibility of people all over the world. I must say that here, in Mexico, we have a big share of that: merchants sell magical pendants and miracle cures on TV, politicians consult astrologers and witches, and church cardinals’ opinions have a very heavy weight in every subject.

Recently, a new large-scale scammer is roaming our land: he is called "Santo Niño Betito" [Alberto Solìs], 18 years old, and he dwells in the states of Saltillo and Tamaulipas. He claims that he can cure the sick, talk to the Virgin Mary, make the Sun dance, make flower petals rain down, and prevent wanted abortions. Thanks to Televisón Azteca (one of the two national-scale TV broadcasters in our country) he is getting famous and, some people say, rich. You can read the whole report on him here [in Spanish]: tinyurl.com/2ukt4y

I translate here a couple of the funniest (if not most pathetic) fragments:

Last year, the young man announced that the 2nd of August, 2006, the Virgin Mary would appear and a "dance of the Sun" would happen, like the one that allegedly occurred during the Fatima apparitions. However, everything was a fiasco: that day it was cloudy and it rained; there was no apparition. But the young man tried to spread the rumor that nobody got wet, as in the myth of the virgin of Atlanta.

Betito's got some statuette that supposedly "sweats" sacred oil, but the official priests, including an exorcist – trying to keep a monopoly on such things – debunked it in their way:

With that oil, the young man used to pray and to anoint people coming to him. People fell in a supposed spiritual trance. Some boy fell, not in a spiritual trance, but in signs of diabolic possession, as the church report explains. Because of that, he was taken to Del Río and Santiago [the local priests], who had to pray and perform an exorcism for him.

Apparently he needs money to buy a sanctuary that the Virgin ordered up, so he may be a candidate for the million-dollar challenge! Here's a video where the "virgin" talks to the people of Saltillo: tinyurl.com/3bx6mc. Sometimes I think I live in one of the most naïve countries of the world. I personally know people who are certain that a stain in their furniture is a divine manifestation.

I hope you find this note interesting. Please keep up your work. I think it is very, very important!





HOMEOPATHIC HULLABALLOO IN THE UK

See randi.org/jr/2007-05/052507.html#i2 for the item referred to here. Reader Les Rose, of Pharmavision Consulting, Ltd., tells us:

The UK's National Health Service is pulling out funding for its homeopathic hospitals, but about 200 Members of Parliament are objecting to this via a motion headed, “NHS HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITALS“:

That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.

Now the present session of Parliament doesn't end until 31st October, so there is still time to challenge this. Can you put a reminder please in your commentary that UK readers should write to their MPs, especially the 200 or so who signed this motion [to be seen at tinyurl.com/2zuyey] pointing out the truth about homeopathy? Here are a couple of sound bites:

I wrote to my MP Robert Key, and his reply was "We will have to agree to disagree about the place of homeopathy." In fact I am speaking at a local science club meeting shortly and the organizers have invited him, but there has been no reply so far.

I also wrote directly to Dr. Ian Gibson MP, until recently chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, and a career scientist. He said "I believe we should allow experimentation on homeopathy to take place in clinical trails [sic] before we rule every homeopathic medicine out. Where it's going on we should encourage it." I'm sure you can see the deep flaws in this reasoning, if you look at what the motion actually says.

Yes, SWIFT readers in the UK can help in this effort, please. MPs can and will react to letters, and this situation calls for your action. Homeopathy is a cruel and dangerous hoax that threatens victims all over the world.

 




WE’RE HOPING TOO…

Reader Erin Butler:

I hadn't heard about the Uri Geller and Chris Angel combination, and frankly, I'm suspicious. Angel's show frequently has a "debunking" element, and he has no love for charlatans. His "haunted house" episode, for instance, was brilliant: he played it straight for the entire show; then, after the final commercial break, he came back with a flashlight under his chin in best campfire tradition. Looking directly at the camera, he asks the rhetorical "Do you believe in ghosts?" Standard ending, right? Wrong! A second later, he added, "I don't," winked, and killed the light.

He's shown how psychics scam victims; common tricks you can play on friends and he freely admits there is no such thing as magic, only "magic." Sometimes he does mentalism, sometimes illusion, and sometimes straightforward sleight-of-hand, but he never claims psychic powers.

My dream result from this match-up? That Angel does the exact same tricks Geller does, with his own unique additions. Chris Angel is not only a far better performer, he's earned my trust, as well.

We'll see what happens in the editing rooms, I suppose, but I'm hoping not to be let down...





AND IN HUNGARY?

Reader Nandor Bokor, in Hungary, expresses his dismay on another angle of this project. He asks:

Uri Geller's "The Successor" on Hungarian TV in 2009?

I've been a constant and enthusiastic reader of your weekly comments for several years now, and I greatly admire your work to expose fraud. Also, I regularly attend the Skeptic Meetings in Hungary (during the last of which we were honored to receive a video message from you).

The reason I write to you is to inform you of some disappointing news circulating in Hungary recently. It seems that Uri Geller's latest effort to remain in the spotlight, the TV show "The Successor," which ended so embarrassingly for him in Israel, is not such a fiasco after all. Apparently, TV producers all over the world stand eagerly in line to invite Geller, do the show with him and broadcast it in their own country.

One of the two main private TV channels in Hungary, tv2, announced that after the NBC and Pro7 version, they will do a Hungarian version of the show with Geller and broadcast it for the Hungarian audience. They'll wait until the American and German shows are over, so the Hungarian show will probably not be broadcast before 2009, but they are already starting the ad campaign. They referred to the original Israeli broadcast as "a great success." All of this is very disturbing, of course.

There might be one good thing in it though. I hope it will prompt a renewed and lively discussion on Hungarian TV about "paranormal" frauds, and, especially, I hope that the media (always eager for sensation) will "smell" sensation in the embarrassment Geller put himself in in Israel (which was widely publicized on youtube), and run a full story of it again during the broadcast of the show in Hungary. We'll see.

Nandor, we’re currently negotiating with the Hungarian producers about running debunking sessions along with the Geller presentations in your country. As we know, his repertoire is very limited, and showing his methods will be very easily done. We’ll keep you informed...!





POSSIBLY

Reader Avital Pilpel conjectures:

A few comments. Ed Mitchell (or Buzz Aldrin) didn't say NASA “erased“ their memory. This is Hoagland's "interpretation." The conversation probably went something like this:

HOAGLAND: What did you do on the Moon exactly at 4:35:11 PM, EST, 1971?

MITCHELL: Look, it's been almost forty years, how can I remember everything to the second?

HOAGLAND: Aha! NASA erased your memory!!

Also, keep up the good work. Due to your web site, I've heard of Phil Plait, "The Bad Astronomer," and directed a would-be Moon hoax believer to his web site. It convinced him the “hoax“ idea is wrong. Let's save one soul at a time, if I may use such imagery...





PERHAPS ANOTHER PSEUDOSCIENCE

Excerpted from an article in Newsweek by Patti Davis:

In the study of “micro-expressions“ – yes, it is actually a field of study and there are some who are arrogant enough to call it a science – it has been decided that when people wish to conceal emotions, the truth of their feelings is revealed in facial flashes. These experts have determined that fear and disgust are the key things to look for because they can hint of deception.

Let’s see, fear and disgust in an airport? I’m frightened and disgusted weeks before I have to show up at an airport. In fact, I’ve pretty much sworn off the whole idea of going anywhere by airplane. It’s bad enough that I might be trapped in a crowded plane with no food or water and nonworking toilets for hours; now there are security agents interpreting our facial expressions. The face police, in place at more than a dozen U.S. airports already, aren’t identified as such. But the watcher could be at curbside baggage, the ticket counter or near the metal detectors and X-ray machines. The Transportation Security Administration hopes to have as many as 500 Behavior Detection Officers on the job by the end of 2008.

No doubt these dedicated BDOs will be equipped with dowsing rods, as well, to detect explosives…





MORE CAT STUFF

From reader Steve Bauer, in Portland, Oregon, more on the “psychic cat“ from randi.org/jr/2007-08/081007reason.html#i3

I have had the same cat for twelve years. Every night, the cat sleeps on my bed. Every morning, I wake up alive. I hereby offer said life-giving cat for rent, at a price to be agreed upon, and if any person who rents said cat from me fails to arise in the morning, I will cheerfully refund the price paid to the representative of his or her estate.





ROBERT LANCASTER CHECKS IN

You might be amused (though not surprised) by an article which went up on the Stop Sylvia site this morning. It details the various versions of her "how I met my spirit guide" story she has told in her books: stopsylviabrowne.com/articles

Don't forget that Robert Lancaster is going to be one of our presenters for TAM 5.5 here in Ft Lauderdale. Robert and others will be speaking about how to get your message across to the masses. Check the TAM 5.5 page for more information.





RE ISAAC NEWTON

From our friend Jan Willem Nienhuys in the Netherlands:

I noticed a remark about Newton in your last issue of SWIFT. Many people don't quite understand what moved Newton to spend so much time in alchemy and theology.

Newton was convinced that “the ancients“ were in possession of a complete knowledge of nature, e.g. Noah knew about the inverse quadratic gravitation law. Newton saw himself as a person who was mainly rediscovering the knowledge of the ancients. He thought his differential calculus was also such a rediscovery of a secret method of the ancients. He thought Pythagoras got his mathematics from an older genius, namely Moses.

Newton considered the Bible as a reliable text, and not only the Bible. He even tried to date the expedition of the Argonauts by interpreting certain parts of the story as information about the amount of "precession of the equinoxes" that had elapsed.

Alchemist texts were also considered to date back to a time long ago, and possibly also contained a clue about the supreme knowledge of the ancients. Moreover the changes that metals underwent were interpreted as evidence of divine vegetative or fermenting forces, so to speak the hand of God in nature. Vulgar alchemy (i.e. recipes for making gold or elixirs) was something Newton wasn't interested in.

Newton's theological studies told him that the doctrine of the Trinity was some kind of political concoction, and a deviation of the true faith. He was right of course (no doubt having read all the original documents pertaining to this question) and he was a more or less secret Unitarian at a time, when this was considered a serious heresy. Even nowadays someone who says that Jesus was just a rather ordinary man, and the Holy Ghost a figment of imagination and the idea of Trinity a blasphemy, won't get very far in US politics.

Summarizing, Newton’s activities in various fields are not contradictory, if one interprets them as efforts to regain the perfect and all encompassing knowledge of the ancients.

I’m continually being educated. What a great profession I have …!





POLITICAL THEOLOGY

From the irrepressible Bob Park at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.'; document.getElementById('cloak76803').innerHTML += ''+addy_text76803+'<\/a>'; //--> :

I got an angry e-mail from a reader this week complaining that religion now shows up in every issue of WN. Well, maybe not every issue, but he’s got a point. WN is about science and politics. In happier times WN gave religion almost no mention. What changed? The cover story in the August 19 issue of the New York Times Magazine tells us. "The Politics of God" by Mark Lilla, is adapted from his book "The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West," which will be published next month. We in the West have our own fundamentalists, Lilla acknowledges, but we "find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin." He goes on to quote from an open letter President Ahmadinejad of Iran sent to President Bush last year. It closes with: "Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty, and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things."

A frequent theme in mail I get from fundamentalists is that without religion there would be no reason for people to be good. I find this shocking. Do these people long to rape and pillage, but refrain only because God is watching? The Wall Street Journal today has an article by Robert Lee Hotz on the discovery of "mirror" cells in the motor cortex that reflect the actions and intentions of others as if they were our own. They cause us to identify with the characters in a novel, or suffer when we watch others suffer on the evening news. If we are good, it is because we see ourselves as part of the human race and the happiness of others makes us happy.

1984 is not in the past, but in our future. A newly disclosed plan will put the nation’s most-powerful spy satellites at the disposal of domestic agencies as early as this fall. Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments for surveillance street cameras. We seem to have already achieved Orwell’s state of permanent war – "war is peace."





DOWSER INQUIRY

Reader Brad Tittle asks:

Since you have done such experiments and shown that the dowsers can do it fine when they can see the source of water, is the percentage of dowsers who capitulate greater than the experiment that Dawkins Video shows, or do they just work harder to explain away their failure?

I hope I am wrong in my suspicion of the answer.

No, you’re right, Brad. They all have rationalizations, alibis, excuses, and/or fanciful theories, to explain why they always fail…





STUPID QUESTIONS DEPARTMENT

A certain percentage of every day at the JREF is taken up with answering inquiries that should have never arisen. It’s hard to imagine, but one correspondent divined that I was charging $2,500 for a phone call, and that notion was quickly distributed all over the Internet as a “truth“…! On www.randi.org/jref/join.html he found this as a “perk“ and figured that’s what I demanded to talk to anyone… Incredible! How do these folks make it through more than a week of existence…?





APOLOGIES

Last year, I sent a letter to Prometheus Books in Amherst, New York. They have published paperback versions of four of my books: “The Truth about Uri Geller,“ “Flim-Flam,“ The Faith Healers,“ and “The Mask of Nostradamus.“ In that letter, I expressed my dismay and anger at the way that they degraded the first three of these books in subsequent editions. In some of the photos in “The Truth about Uri Geller,“ – pages 176 to 178 in particular – the images cannot be distinguished at all; the photos are merely grey squares. A reader cannot even guess at what the photos show, much less understand the point being made.

In recent editions of “Flim-Flam!“ a “postscript“ has been inserted by Prometheus at page 160, as if I had written it. This was done without my knowledge, and certainly without my approval. The text of the insert was taken directly from Uri Geller’s lawyers, and does not represent the facts, at all. Now, every copy of “Flim-Flam!“ that is sent out from this Foundation has a glued-in disclaimer expressing my apology for this to the purchaser, along with an explanation of the actual facts; the printed insert is crossed out by hand. And, the photos appearing on pages 124, 188, and 260/1, are hopelessly distorted.

The Prometheus printing of “The Faith Healers“ has a cover that looks as if it were bleached in the sun, it’s in a much smaller format, and the illustrations inside are muddy and smeared, with banding; comparing them with the original hardcover shows a vast difference. These three books look as if they had been printed by inexperienced kids on a mimeograph machine.

I want the public to know this: I’m thoroughly ashamed to be represented by these editions of my books. They’ve obviously been badly photocopied and cheaply reproduced. I’ve had letters from persons who have purchased them who were equally disappointed by the quality.

I’ve not heard back from Prometheus Books in response to my inquiries, and I’m currently investigating how I can regain publishing rights to these three books.





WE REGRET…

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is a weekly Podcast talk show produced by the New England Skeptical Society (www.theness.com/home.asp) in association with the James Randi Educational Foundation, discussing the latest news and topics from the world of the paranormal, fringe science, and controversial claims – from a scientific point of view. We have the sad news that Perry DeAngelis, fondly referred to as “one of our rogues,“ has passed away following a long illness. He was only 44 years of age, and the inspiration for the formation of the NESS. Perry’s distinctive wit and humor and his larger-than-life persona, which he lent to everything he did in life, helped forge the Skeptics Guide into what it is.





INCREDIBLE

Reader Cary Snowden informed us of an earth-shaking new restriction by the Chinese State Administration for Religious Affairs. Says Cary:

We all (well, not all, apparently) recognize that governments have a history of using religious beliefs to manipulate the masses, but exercising control over the hereafter is taking it to monumental heights. Nevertheless, I expect to see angry Tibetans and other woo woos taking to the streets in protest of this bold restriction. My suggested chant:

No State! No State!
Can tell us where
To in-car-nate

The article reads:

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession, saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control. Assuming he's able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks. "It will be a very hot issue," says Paul Harrison, a Buddhism scholar at Stanford. "The Dalai Lama has been the prime symbol of unity and national identity in Tibet, and so it's quite likely the battle for his incarnation will be a lot more important than the others."

So where in the world will the next Dalai Lama be born? Harrison and other Buddhism scholars agree that it will likely be from within the 130,000 Tibetan exiles spread throughout India, Europe and North America. With an estimated 8,000 Tibetans living in the United States, could the next Dalai Lama be American-born? "You'll have to ask him," says Harrison. If so, he'll likely be welcomed into a culture that has increasingly embraced reincarnation over the years.

According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 20 percent of all U.S. adults believe in reincarnation. Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit, have found that a quarter of U.S. Christians, including 10 percent of all born-again Christians, embrace it as their favored end-of-life view. A non-Tibetan Dalai Lama, experts say, is probably out of the question.





JOKER HOAXED

An hilarious episode in which a well-known joker is taken in – yet again – by a team of hoaxers, can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND4pesOlTtw. To see him at his angry, blustering best, watch it... And note the frantic legal threats he throws about. He jumps on the phone – mobile or not – to bleat to his solicitor, as soon as anything displeases him. Note his handling of the cell phone…! Our courts in the USA have declared him to be “a litigious individual,“ and it rather shows here…





NOTE

Barry Williams, our good friend Down Under, has a blog on Skepticism and Science on The Australian Higher Education Supplement website: theaustralian.news/highereducation that promises to edify and educate us all. Do look in…





UNCLE PHIL COMMENTS

From Phil Plait’s scene comes this item. You should look in on The Bad Astronomer, regularly, at www.badastronomy.com.

There comes a time in every debunker’s life when they are threatened with a lawsuit. It’s the bar mitzvah of skepticism. The story is generally the same. Skeptic writes an article debunking some form of nonsense, author of said nonsense gets a bee in their bonnet (the archaic form of "wild hair up their butt"), said author says they will sue the skeptic, said skeptic laughs it off.

I’ve had my share of emails and letters, generally ALL IN CAPS, saying that I am preventing some Earth-shattering result from coming to fruition and keeping the author — who compares himself to Einstein, Galileo, and Newton — from getting what he deserves.

The irony is obvious: they are getting what they deserve: a logical spanking. And generally, that’s the end of it. The crank never follows through, and we’re done with it.

But this time it’s different. A guy by the name of Stuart Pivar has written a tome that says that genetic biologists have their profession all wrong, and that only he knows the truth. In a blog entry (and some followups) PZ Myers pointed out that the guy is clearly wrong. I am no biologist, but it only takes a glance to see that this guy is, um, maybe not terribly accurate.

PZ called him a crackpot, and perhaps that’s where the trouble lies. Pivar is suing PZ. Normally this can be shrugged off as just another goofball rattling the cage. Unfortunately, Pivar is a wealthy businessman, and can actually afford to follow through. Most times the cranks make threats, but can’t afford a lawyer, and even if they could, the lawsuits have no merit.

Nor does this one, in fact. Besides the use of that single term, PZ takes apart the science and lack thereof of Pivar’s book. There can be no libel if no lie is committed in an attempt to defame, and PZ told the truth. In a sense, this is just more cage-rattling, even if it goes to court. But a judge will quickly dismiss the case, I would imagine.

In fact, and I almost hate to say this, I rather hope (just a little) it does go to court. Most judges take a very dim view of frivolous lawsuits. It’s pretty cut and dry that PZ is innocent, and Pivar is trying to shut him down due to a negative review. If it goes to court, Pivar might be in for a lot more than he bargained for.

Phil is aware, as most of us are, that a lawsuit is won by the party who has the better lawyer. It’s unfair, it’s not justice, but it’s reality. True, there are laws in place – Rule 11 comes to mind – that are designed to protect against frivolous suits being brought, but judges are very loath to invoke such laws. Our system of law is excellent, but hardly perfect…

 




IN CLOSING

I'm seldom floored by a performance of something I've seen many times, and I've seen a number of "shadowgraphy" artists around the world. What you'll see here at Shadow Puppets is just so well done, that I had to share it with my readers... I think you'll agree with this evaluation...