On Xmas Day, "pastor" Rick Warren, the currently-celebrated evangelist who is on every TV screen and front page as the hand-picked preacher to deliver the invocation of divine magic at the Obama inauguration ceremony, gave an effusive, rambling account on the NBC Today Show that demonstrated his incredible naivety about rational thinking and how disconnected his brand of religion - at least - is from reality. He was gushing over a miracle that he said had "blessed" his family.
The facts: Warren said that his daughter-in-law Jaime gave birth to her first child six weeks prematurely, though he can't seem to remember whether it was five, six, or seven weeks, since he gave all three figures... The hospital, he said, performed a C-section to save the baby's life - and the mother's. In that procedure, Warren said, they discovered that it was a "breech baby," that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck and it was not receiving oxygen.
Please watch this video from this 12/23/2008 episode of NBC's Today show. We, as skeptics, are specifically invited by NBC to reconsider our belief that angels are unproven in light of new evidence. In short, a woman sees an angel on a security camera monitor, and her daughter–who has just been taken off life support–recovers. What could explain this other than angels?
How about.. a poorly adjusted camera, medical science, and the natural ability of a body to heal itself?
I see no evidence of angels there. In fact, I don't even know what an angel is. Fortunately, NBC chose to ask that question, and the answer given by the post-modernist rabbi was ultimately "they can be anything." How nice. I think I'll stick with believing the only actual angels are ballplayers from Anaheim.
In her new book The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena, former Harvard professor Diane Hennacy combines philosophy, physics, and empirical data to examine supernatural traits like telepathy (the ability to access someone else's consciousness), psychokinesis (the ability to use one's consciousness to affect external objects), clairvoyance (the ability to broaden one's consciousness to remote time and space) and precognition (the ability to see into the future).
So far, so good. Yes.. let's examine these things in a scientific fashion. The author, Diane Hennacy Powell is an MD and is associated with Harvard University. To be clear, I have not read the book, but if this interview is any indication, it will not be going on the shelf next to Flim Flam or Demon Haunted World.
This season, instead of waiting for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to come on network television, you might try heading up to Barnes and Noble to purchase a copy of A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All. That is, if you're one of the people who can stand Christmas sentiment (and if you aren't, I'll be getting to you momentarily). And yeah, I realize it's not Christmas anymore in many parts of the world. But for all I know, you're still flipping through the channels awaiting that part where the other reindeer make fun of Rudolph and he responds by letting out a phlegmy-sounding wail. Don't worry, A Colbert Christmas isn't your standard blaring O Holy Night type of Christmas special. It is edgy, controversial, and might even piss off skeptics.
In recent months, there've been a few satisfying examples of how some police departments have moved in on "psychic" scams, arrested the perpetrators, and even obtained penalties against them. In San Mateo, California, Janet Adams, 42, a woman who advertised herself as a psychic was charged with taking $80,330 from an 85-year-old woman by claiming that both their husbands would die if the woman didn't hand over money. She is being held on $500,000 bail at the San Mateo County Jail. Adams came up with additional colorful - and false - stories about funeral expenses and a fictional son's medical treatments, and has a history of victimizing women in this way. In 2004, she spent two years in state prison on a theft conviction, while working as a palm reader.