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CHURCH OF THE FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER

Flying Spaghetti Monster

In recent weeks, I’ve received literally more than one hundred notifications of a new religion, a satirical attack on the teaching of Creationism in American schools. It’s known as the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” I’ve waited until this matter simmered down a bit, but now it’s time to offer a comment.

For a growing band of devoted followers, the FSM – as His Noodliness is informally known – is the Supreme Being, Creator of the Universe and of all living things. Rather than a fatherly figure seated on a golden throne, the Monster looks like a heap of pasta and meatballs topped with eyeballs on stalks. The tenets of the Church include the usual standard notions of Heaven and Hell, of course, the reward system that has worked so well in other religions to keep the faithful appropriately in line. Immortality, as well as sin and redemption, fanaticism and self-sacrifice, are also in place so that the new church will be acceptable to those raised on Islamic or Christian agendas.

There may now be millions of converts to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the discovery of 25-year-old Bobby Henderson, a currently unemployed physics graduate from the state of Oregon. According to Bobby, the FSM revealed himself in a dream, though not in a burning bush or out in a desert, as we might have expected. It is suspected that indigestion might have played a role in this epiphany, but that possibility is still only under investigation.

Earlier this year, the state of Kansas announced that its schools could teach in its science classrooms the notion known as “Intelligent Design” (ID) thus providing students with a supposedly scientific alternative to the Old Testament belief that a deity created the world in six days and nights, but dismissing most of the fossil record as false and relying on the Earth being far younger than geological evidence shows. Seeing this, Mr. Henderson wrote to the Kansas Board of Education:

I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster….

I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Supporters of ID say that the universe is so complex that it can only be the work of a higher intelligence, and they are pushing to have ID taught as an alternative to Darwin's theory of natural selection. Not to our astonishment, ID has the support of many leading conservatives, including Senate majority leader Bill Frist and President George W. Bush, who has declared that it should be taught in science curriculum.

But the ID "theory" has a basic problem that the designers (no pun intended) apparently did not anticipate: it does not specify which of the thousands of gods should be accepted, assuming that the deity will be the traditional Christian fundamentalist one. That leaves room for any and all other gods to elbow in and demand equal consideration. I suggested that difficulty back in June of this year, at www.randi.org/jr/062405silly.html#2, though I could not have anticipated the advent of FSM.

It’s incredible that in this day of relative enlightenment about superstition and mythology we should even be concerned about such a matter as Intelligent Design, and that subject is hardly a humorous one, seeing that it might well put us back a generation in science education. But consider: the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster offers a very real problem to the fundamentalists who are obstructing the teaching of real science in our classrooms. Kansas is no stranger to the battle between the religious right and supporters of Darwin. Eighty years ago, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee showed the world that state's unsuccessful attempt to stop the teaching of any aspect of evolution, including the theory that man and other primates have a common ancestor. Now, conservatives have taken control of the Kansas Board of Education, which is expected in October to officially endorse the teaching of ID in that state.

Mr. Henderson says:

I don't have a problem with religion. What I have a problem with is religion posing as science. If there is a god and he's intelligent, then I would guess he has a sense of humor.

Well, though I share Mr. Henderson’s opinion, I do have a problem with religion. I see it as a superstitious philosophy that has infiltrated our government despite the “separation of church and state” so cherished by Thomas Jefferson, and by so many of us today. The serious message behind the FSM creation should not be lost amid its humor.

Only three months into the establishment of his church, Bobby Henderson has discovered that he really has created a monster of sorts. His website at www.venganza.org receives as many as two million hits a day and has been featured on several widely-read blogs. On one of those blogs, we find the ravings of Australian creationist lawyer Victor Zammit reflected by a US$1,000,000 prize offered for proof that the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not exist.

It’s so satisfying to see the weapons of the grubbies turned back on them. Hallelujah!

I was informed – misinformed – by readers who insisted that Bobby Henderson lived in Las Vegas, so I immediately e-mailed him and invited him to show up at TAM4 to meet his many fans. He wrote to inform me that he actually lives in Oregon – but I think that we can get him to present a talk at TAM5.




IT’S BACK

“The Exorcist” made millions for Warner Brothers Studios in 1973, and now in 2005 Sony Pictures has been fluffing up their own latest assault on reason, a film named “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” It’s said that the film is “based on a true story,” as the former one also claimed; we all know how loose such a base can be. The fictional Emily Rose was, in real life, Anneliese Michel, a Bavarian. She was born September 21, 1952, and was a normal, religious girl. Then one day in her 16th year, she began shaking uncontrollably. The Psychiatric Clinic of Wurzburg diagnosed her with "Grand Mal" epilepsy. Because of the strength of the fits, and the severity of the depression that followed, Anneliese was admitted for treatment at the local hospital.

Soon after the attacks began, Anneliese adopted the conviction that she was “possessed,” an easy delusion to slip into because of her religious background. She needed no other explanation for the visions she experienced during her prayers. She began hearing voices of what she was sure were demons, who gave her orders. The doctors could offer her little help, and she lost hope that they were going to be able to cure her. She began taking the medication usually prescribed for such a malady.

A few years after she was first afflicted with this ailment, her parents began taking her to various priests to request an exorcism. They were rejected and given recommendations that the now 20-year-old girl should continue with the prescribed medication and treatment. They were told that unless all the criteria of a “genuine” demonic possession were met, an exorcism could not be offered. Validation would call for such symptoms as an aversion to religious objects, speaking in languages that the person had never studied, and having supernatural powers.

In 1974, after supervising Anneliese for some time, Pastor Ernst Alt requested an official church permit to perform the exorcism. The request was at first rejected, and the recommendation was made that Anneliese should live even more of a religious lifestyle in order to find peace. The attacks did not diminish, and her behavior became more erratic. She became insulting, she beat and began biting other members of her family, and refused to eat because, she said, the demons would not allow it. She slept on the stone floor, ate insects and coal, and began destroying religious objects such as crucifixes, paintings of Jesus, and rosaries.

Then, having in some way verified to his satisfaction the genuine nature of the possession in September of 1975, Josef Stangl, the Bishop of Wurzburg, ordered Father Arnold Renz and Pastor Alt to perform "The Great Exorcism" ceremony on Miss Michel. Their examination had determined that the young woman was inhabited by several demons, including Cain, Adolf Hitler, Judas Iscariot, Lucifer, and Nero, as well as a disgraced priest from the 16th century and some other souls which had “manifested” through her. From then until July 1976, exorcism sessions were conducted weekly. The girl's attacks were sometimes so strong that she would have to be chained up, or at least held down by three men while the magic was performed.

In spite of all this heavy intervention, the attacks did not stop. In fact, Anneliese would often fall into paralysis and unconsciousness even more often than before. The relentless exorcism continued over many months, with prayers and incantations flowing freely. For several weeks, Anneliese refused all food. On the last day of the exorcism, totally emaciated, suffering from pneumonia, and with broken knees from the 600 genuflections she performed during the daily ceremonies, Miss Michel fell unconscious. She died the following day, July 1st, 1976. Soon, charges of negligent homicide were brought against Anneliese's parents and the two exorcists, Renz and Alt.

Before these final events had taken place, the film "The Exorcist" (1974) had been to cinemas in Germany; as a result, psychiatrists all over Europe reported an increase of obsessive ideas among their patients. It was more than two years before the Michel case came to court, with only two questions being posed: What caused the death of Anneliese Michel, and who was responsible for it?

According the forensic evidence, Anneliese had literally starved to death. If forced feeding had been performed as little as one week before her death, she would have lived. In their trial, the exorcists actually tried to prove the presence of the demons by playing taped recordings of strange, fanciful, dialogues such as that of two demons arguing about which one of them would first have to leave Anneliese's body. Said the priests, not one of those present during the exorcism ever had any doubt about the actual existence and presence of the demons.

The verdict was not what might have been expected: Anneliese’s parents and the exorcists were found guilty of manslaughter due to negligence and failing to administer first aid. They were sentenced to six months in jail, and probation.

Rose is a bit upset...

A church commission later declared that Anneliese Michel had not been possessed, but superstition carried the day; her corpse was exhumed – eleven and a half years after her burial – to confirm that it had decayed as would have been expected if she’d not been possessed. You see, if she’d really hosted demons, her body would have been preserved, as Bram Stoker told us; I’m surprised you didn’t know that. There is now, more than twenty years after Anneliese Michel died, a new Exorcism Rite, which is prescribed for worldwide use. I’m sure it works just as effectively as the old system. That’s progress, right?

It will be interesting to see what Sony does with the film story. I expect that the audiences will leave with the impression that while an ordinary ailment afflicted the heroine, there were supernatural forces at work as well. How could they resist? The fact that a young woman was literally murdered by superstitious “experts” who embraced the mythology they so adored, rather than being given appropriate medical services, will be softened beyond recognition.

It was ever thus….

You can see our Encyclopedia entry on exorcism at www.randi.org/encyclopedia/exorcism.html.




CHOOSE SPONSORS MORE CAREFULLY

Reader Sheldon W. Helms admits that he’s “flummoxed,” a serious state to be in:

As a devout Democrat, I was overjoyed when Air America Radio was launched not long ago, just in time for me to receive it with the satellite radio in my new car. As a fledgling station, their commercials tended to be repeated more often than normal, causing me to notice the high number of completely off-the-wall products and services they were willing hock in order to say on the air. Everything from Wendi Friesen’s useless “hypnotherapy” services and products (she now claims to cure alcoholism!) to various “herbal remedies” are still being touted in between sober political talk from hosts who decry the illogic of our current Administration. Not only do I find this ironic, but it seems a bit hypocritical, to boot!

The last nail in the coffin for me came a few weeks ago when one of the hosts was ranting about the drug companies making huge profits from changes made in Medicare prescription drug benefits. In between callers, this radio personality actually played a commercial for Kevin Trudeau’s new book “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You To Know About”! I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but that just about turned me off of ever listening to that station again.

I made a last-ditch effort to save my relationship with this wonderful radio station by writing to more than half a dozen of their hosts (Al Franken, Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Randi Rhodes, etc.), but I haven’t heard a single word from any of them in weeks.

It would seem that, like their Republican counterparts who tout faith-based nonsense in order to keep the money flowing and their political careers shining, the good folks at Air America Radio couldn’t care less whether the products and services they’re helping to sell actually work, have any basis in reality, or harm someone. Obviously, the most important thing is to keep the lights on, and keep the station alive. I’m sure there are plenty of other companies out there that would love to air commercials on their station, however, I’ll probably never know if they are because I refuse to remain a listener. I just can’t take them seriously anymore.

Air America is not the only sign of my political party cracking up. I happened to check Arianna Huffington’s blog today, and guess who’s a permanent figure there! None other than Deepak Chopra! Now, what the hell could he possibly have to say about politics, and why would I listen?

And he dyes his hair, you know. He wrote “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old,” and it wouldn’t do to be seen turning grey at age 58….




GHOSTS ON TRIAL

Several readers sent me an account of the owners of a Japanese restaurant in Florida, Christopher and Yoko Chung, who had planned to move into their renovated building in October 2004, but then backed out of the lease because, they claim, the building is haunted. They’re being sued by their landlord.

The Chungs' attorney says subcontractors provided several documented reports of having seen ghosts or apparitions in the restaurant at night. The attorney also says Mr. Chung's religious beliefs – he’s a Jehovah’s Witness – require him to "avoid encountering or having any association with spirits or demons."

The 2.6 million dollar lawsuit filed by the landlord last month in Orange County Circuit Court asks a judge to decide whether the building is haunted and, if so, whether the ghosts would interfere with the restaurant's business. You see the difference in attitude here? If that were my joint, I’d publicize the spooks. I’d feature Egg Fool Yu, Bad Fortune Cookies, and Spirit Peking Ah Choo. I’d have séances twice an evening, and free acupuncture via resident porcupines. There’s a fortune to be made here!

What interests me here is that it could end up being the judge who determines whether there are ghosts in the building. What’s his expertise? Will he subpoena some otherworldly citizens? What "expert" could be brought in to investigate this? Who ya gonna call? The JREF? Obviously, all the local psychics will be vying for attention here, though hopefully the judge will have sense enough not to fall into such a trap.




TRUTH REVEALED

Back at www.randi.org/jr/082605charles.html#3 I discussed the claimed ability of animals to sense the advent of a tsunami – a sense that I can accept as a possible survival mode that we are unable to know about due to atrophy of the pattern in our sensory systems. The devastating tsunami of December, 2004, brought stories of miraculous escapes by animals due to their “sixth” sense, but now we are finding that there are plenty of dead animals showing up. Weeks after the tsunami had struck, thousand of human bodies still remained unburied, and many if not most were still under the rubble, which averages about six feet deep. And, mixed in with them, it’s now been discovered, were thousands of dead animals. Aside from the terrestrial animals who died, dolphins were swept 500 yards inland, many dead and injured sea turtles were left high and dry, and beaches were littered with dead fish. In India, even during the tsunami, thousands of dead animals lined beaches.

It’s another case of evidence that doesn’t immediately show up, and is ignored when it does become evident simply because there’s no story in the expected happening; the reports of miracles survive that editing process.




A TWICE-TOLD TALE

Reader Michael Clear:

I was recently arguing with a co-worker about this. This person's brain is a sponge for right-wing and fundamentalist rhetoric. He is conversant in all the Creationist and Intelligent Design talking points but he had no response for what I said to him. My trump card in debates like this is always the same. I asked him, "Which creation story would you teach in schools if you had to choose?" His response was, "The one in the Bible." I said, "Yes, but which one?" He again replied, "The one in the Bible." I then got very sarcastic and said, "Gosh, are you saying you don't know that there are two distinctly different stories of the world's creation in the Bible? Have you ever even read the Bible? You presented yourself as such an expert on the subject!"

Bible Oops

This got him, and every other Creationist I've ever said this to, to hum and haw and scratch their heads and deny that what I said was true. I don't blame people for not knowing this. I went to Bible classes from 1st to 6th grade and I didn't know until I read a book by Isaac Asimov called In the Beginning. Asimov was the first person to point out to me that the Book of Genesis has two distinctly different stories of the origins of the world. The first story consists of God creating the Earth and sky out of the darkness and the void that existed before, through nothing more than His divine will. He starts by the creation of light and, six days later in His final act, He creates humans. "Man and woman He created together."

The second story is less sophisticated and has more in common with other primitive myths. In that one, the Earth already exists though devoid of all life save for God. His first act is to fashion a clay statue in His image. By breathing into it, He miraculously grants it life and consciousness and names this first man, Adam. God then creates all the plant and animal life then takes one of Adam's ribs and creates from it a companion for Adam, a woman He names Eve.

Both stories have huge differences, the main one being that in one, man and woman are a final act of creation and it is specifically said they are created together. In the other, man comes first and then comes woman after everything else. They are definitely NOT created together. This is obvious when you read it, yet most of the planet (including me and most other believers, not only in Creationism, but Evolution as well) has missed it completely. The only real response I've ever gotten to this was when I was in basic training and one of my squad members, when I told him this, simply said over and over again, "I believe everything the Bible says." It was a mantra he repeated by rote and it was the only thing he could think of to say.
 
So, I wouldn't be surprised if most of your readers had no idea about any of this. I took Bible classes in my youth and those two tales were sort of glazed over into one story. We were taught that God created Adam and Eve during the six days and the contradictions were never mentioned, much less addressed. But, if you should find yourself in an argument with someone preaching Creationism or Intelligent Design, bring this up and watch the blank expression that forms on the face.

These two quite different accounts are to be found in Genesis I and Genesis II. What fascinates me is that only one of these accounts can be true, and the only other possibility is that perhaps neither one is true. And, if you’re curious, look up the two quite different accounts of Noah and The Flood, as well….




QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED

Reader Bill F. Acklin asks appropriate questions for this day:

President Bush has today, September 16th, designated as a “Day of Prayer.”

Why are we waiting till the 16th? Why not everyday? Are we praying ALL DAY or just for a bit in the morning? Should we fast as well? What if some don't pray, will God turn away? Does a certain amount of humans have to pray to satisfy the Hurricane God? What if we are one thoughtful prayer off of the quota?  Will God give in? Didn't they Pray BEFORE the storm hit? Did God steer it more easterly into Mississippi to avert a New Orleans direct hit? Why Pray?  Who does it help, the person praying, or the intended prayer recipient? Who do we pray to? Bush's God, or the Muslim God, or the Pope's God? Or the Hindu God or the Buddhist – oops – they don't have one, or doesn't it matter, just so we pray? What do the Atheists and Agnostics do that day? Okay, I'll pray if it'll help, but to whom?  

What if I pray to the wrong God and the real God gets mad, and throws another hurricane, like a Frisbee, into the Gulf? Is it then MY fault? Forget it. I'm afraid to pray to a deity that would allow this to happen in the first place. He will answer my "after storm" prayers, but would not answer or comfort those at the bottom of this city in their greatest time of need?  What are my chances? Is God teaching the USA a lesson by making the poor and impoverished folks who live below sea level, suffer even more?

Bush/LA Gov/ N.O. City Mayor is going to need more than a God to clean and rebuild this mess. Oh, they have it.  Good old-fashioned Americans, giving all they got to help.

We're like that, you know.  God or no God.

Thank God...or the founding fathers. Your choice.




NEW HOPE

Reader Joe Sowers asks:

One is forced to wonder how many homeopath experts would enter a room full of rattlesnakes if promised a vial of homeopathic anti-venom.

Well, Joe, we may never know the answer to that provocative question, but I must tell you that a large-scale homeopathic test that was proposed some months ago is just a bit closer to possibly happening. Until just last week the homeopaths themselves were making the budget unrealistic by demanding that they be paid for their participation; now, we’re informed, that expense has been waived, and we’re that much closer to doing a comprehensive test at a hospital in Greece which has agreed to host it, using their very best Greek homeopaths. The JREF million-dollar prize is riding on this event!

While on that same subject, reader Warren Rodgers wonders, as we all do, about an objection made by a spokeswoman for The Society of Homeopaths on the study in The Lancet that showed homeopathic medicine works no better than placebos. See it at www.randi.org/jr/200509/090205alley.html#5. She writes, in New Scientist magazine:

It has been established beyond doubt that the placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy.

I agree, 100%, and also “beyond doubt.” That is, if you wish to get positive, supporting, results. A “placebo-controlled, randomized controlled” trial – which sounds like homeopath-speak for “proper” – would tell us definitively whether there’s anything to this ancient notion, and that wouldn’t suit the believers, at all. Using those methods for investigating such persistent delusions as astrology or hollow-Earth theories would also result in negative answers. But Warren has the succinct question about why a controlled, double-blind method isn’t a “fitting research tool” for testing homeopathy:

Well then, what IS?

You can see all this at www.newscientist.com/backpage.ns?id=mg18725154.500




EPIPHANY DEPARTMENT

Reader Lionel Vogt tells us of his progress:

Thank you for doing what you do.

I find myself having to repeatedly send friends to your website (along with Snopes and Mythbusters) to try and sever the ties to magic and myth that seems to rule their lives. It seems hopeless at times, however, the truth stripped of its syrupy candy coating is a bitter pill the masses recoil from, counting their gold bricks they have earned in heaven. All that effort in praying when they could be doing something.

Older now, I see a fundamentalist in power, I see people wanting an end of the world with boiling seas and sack cloth moons. When I was a kid I imagined the great wheels rotating in space, the moonbases, the Mars bases, science and technology changing the world in grand ways that we could make the imagined heaven, a REAL heaven on earth. And how, through it, we could become better than we were born. When I was a kid I thought humanity could do anything.

I see humanity in a race, Superstition vs. Science, and people, it's going to be a photo finish to find out if we – as a race – live or die.

Keep up the good work. Science, logic, and critical thinking are the only hope for a real future for us all. No heaven, no hell, no angels, no devils. And no fate, save for the ones we make for ourselves.




A JUSTIFIED COMPLAINT

Dutch reader Mathijs Panhuijsen:

Here in the Netherlands, a free national newspaper called Metro ran a story about an astrologer (with a diploma, no less) who cast the reporter's horoscope, which he said suited him to a tee. Being somewhat surprised by the reporter's unskeptical attitude, I fired off an e-mail to the newspaper – and it ran in the Letters section the very next day! Here's a translation of my e-mail as it was published:

Astro

Metro on 7 September fills a whole page with a story about astrologer Hanneke Lageman, who cast the horoscope of reporter John van Schagen and drew some shocking conclusions: this employee of the biggest newspaper in Holland is someone who "determines his own destiny and takes initiative himself." He also loves justice (something most people, after all, dislike) and has "a strong urge to achieve something special." It's amazing.

How can someone with common sense believe that the way in which heavenly bodies move through the cosmos has anything to do with our characters? A new planet has recently been discovered in our solar system; did Ms. Lageman take that into account in her calculations?

If this journalist were a real skeptic, he would have come up with a waterproof test. Why not, for example, turn things around: Van Schagen (or rather, a complete stranger) tells what kind of person he is, and Ms. Lageman guesses his sign. Or, submit a wrong birth date and check if the horoscope is still correct. Astrologers, with or without a diploma, are consistently exposed as frauds with these kinds of tests.

I understand that in summertime, when there isn't much to report, you need to fill your newspaper, but why not then interview a skeptic (from the Skepsis Foundation for example) instead of legitimizing nonsense?

It was silly of the newspaper to publish this article, but I applaud them for publishing my letter in its entirety. Thanks for letting me share this story,




RAILING AT THE RAELIANS

Two amateur documentary makers say they infiltrated the UFO/cloning sect known as the Raelians and got candid videos they hope will further reveal the group's motives and even help shut it down. Brigitte Boisselier, a Raelian “bishop,” had announced the world's first successful cloning of a human, a baby named Eve, who the press couldn’t wait to meet. But she never produced "baby Eve" or twelve other purported clones. You see, the Raelians – through their leader Claude Vorilhon, known as Rael (what else?) offer to share:

Brigitte

…knowledge on science, religion, love, relationships, government, meditation, infinity, sensuality, eternal life, and so much more... The Raelian Revolution is boldly bringing about a complete paradigm shift on our planet. The Messages given to Rael by our human Creators from space contain the world's most fearlessly individualistic philosophy of love, peace, and non-conformism: a beautiful combination of spirituality, sensuality, and science.

Hey, I’ll take a dollar’s worth of that, but more might rot my teeth…

Now, video footage of the group taken in May at one of the cult’s Las Vegas seminars by Abdullah Hashem and his friend Joe McGowen has been gathered into a documentary that gives a critical view of the Raelians, with allegations that the sect uses sex as a recruitment tool, targeting people most likely to sympathize with its message that aliens – the Elohim – populated the world long ago through cloning. Rael got that message from some critters he encountered inside a volcano. Sure.

The video sheds little light on the cloning claims, by its makers' own admissions. In a taped interview, Dr. Brigitte Boisselier – their cloning “expert,” avoids questions about the actual existence of baby Eve. And Rael himself says that though he has never seen the baby, he supports Boisselier's efforts "morally," whatever that may mean. The group caught the attention of the film-makers after they discovered that one of the Raelian commandments is to give one percent of your annual income to help deliver his message. Hashem suspected Rael was coercing people to join the organization to get their money. Duh!

Florida attorney Bernard Siegal, who visited us here at the JREF, set about to sue Rael, Boisselier and Clonaid for custody of the supposed cloned child, and at that point he discovered that Clonaid had no address nor a board of directors. That made it impossible to sue the cult; it was shooting at an invisible target.

Silly people are always available to opportunists, or have I said that before…?




WE SURE CAN TEST THIS!

Reader Terry Johnson, in Olympia, Washington, lets us in on a brand-new science:

I don't know if anyone has made you aware of a person named Peter Ragnar, but he is promoting "Magnetic Qi Gong" that he claims will make you grow younger, stronger, free of disease and discomfort.  He has had numerous two-page ads in “Inside Kung Fu” magazine, and the magazine even printed an interview with him (issue of November 2004, page 62).  Now, there are a lot of piles of quackery found throughout the martial arts world, but this article was too much.  You might want to check it out.  It will either make you laugh or let out a big sigh.

Chuck Norris

Randi comments: the magazine shown here bears a heading, “MAGNETIC POWER! His Qi Gong Can Stop Cars!” This suggests a very simple test of the claim, involving a car driven by me, the claimant, and a parking lot. The details would have to be worked out, and I’m ready and willing. Terry continues:

Below are just a few bits from his ad in the June 2005 issue of “Inside Kung Fu.”  It just appears to be another "magnets can improve your life" scam dressed up in Qi Gong clothing.  The bold words and italics are as in the ad.

During the lunch break I connected the pair of Rare Earth Palm Magnets together around my knee, one magnet on each side.  To my surprise... instant relief!

The trick of such miraculous healing is found in those 12,000 Gauss Rare Earth Magnets (which, by the way, are some of the most powerful made).  And here's the best part: they're inexpensive.  When you combine these magnets with healthy, live food, you'll magnetize solar photons in every cell of your body.  Why, you'll feel invincible!

Use of these magnets not only invokes a feeling of invincibility; you'll find yourself physically performing at levels that will astound you!  Doesn't that sound like a good idea?  Who wouldn't want to run, jump, and play like a little child, plus have the physical strength of the so-called "prime of life"?  Why not give them a try?  You'll have nothing to lose but your limitations!

I think the only thing someone will lose is $87, plus $5 for shipping and handling.  And perhaps, one can hope, they will lose their gullibility after trying this stuff out.

I’m rather surprised to discover that I can “magnetize solar photons in every cell.” That’s rather like being able to “percolate terrestrial ions in every corpuscle.” These dummies wouldn’t know what a photon was if they were given a gallon of them; they have a high-school physics text open before them, and simply use the words that sound most scientific to their addled senses.


CASE CLOSED

Reader Andrew Carver informs us:

In case you were wondering what was happening in the case of Louise Lortie, the naturopath who was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of a 12-year diabetic girl; she was to have been sentenced Oct. 12, but escaped a jail term. She died back on August 29.

See www.randi.org/jr/042905some.html#4.




BOOTS REVISITED

Adam Littman of Cornell held my hand through the calculations to determine that I’d simply accepted the Boots Pharmacy claim that they dispensed a prescription “every nine seconds of the working week,” and was simply wrong to do so. Actually, if the 85 million prescriptions per year figure that Boots claims, is accurate, and in a “working year ” there are 7.5 million seconds – taking a working day as 8 hours, and a working week as 5 days, with no holidays allowed for, that gives us 11 prescriptions every second, which is even more – a hundred times more – than Boots claimed! That leads me to suspect that someone goofed by moving decimals two spaces more than called for….!




ASIMOV SPEAKS

Reader Ron Spillman, commenting on the Asimov mention I made recently, quoted Isaac from one of his 1984 essays:

So there you are.  I stand four-square for reason, and object to what seems to me to be irrationality, whatever the source.
 
If you are on my side in this, I must warn you that the army of the night has the advantage of overwhelming numbers, and, by its very nature, is immune to reason, so that it is entirely unlikely that you and I can win out.
 
We will always remain a tiny and probably hopeless minority, but let us never tire of presenting our view, and of fighting the good fight for the right.

Isaac, why did you leave us so early….?




PICKY READERS

Straight from France came several corrections to my amateur French. I’d written, last week, “Plus que ça change, plus que ça reste la même chose” and I was firmly informed that the first “que” is redundant. I would never knowingly or intentionally be redundant by using superfluous, unnecessary phrasing, so I stand corrected. I was wrong as well as mistaken.

A few readers wrote me pointing out that I was in error when I wrote – also last week – that Boots Pharmacy stores are found “across Britain, Scotland, Wales & Ireland.” But I have an explanation for this failing. On the Boots Pharmacy home page, http://bootsus.bri-global.com/main.asp?pid=56 I’d found:

Boots today….. Boots now has over 1450 stores across Britain, Scotland, Wales & Ireland.

I figured that if Boots management wrote that, it must be proper….?




IN CONCLUSION….

Now that hurricane Katrina has passed on into oblivion, we’ve had the chance to re-examine our personal reactions to the tragedy. We at the JREF must thank all our readers who contributed to the Red Cross relief fund; many of you informed us that you’d reacted to our appeal. Anyone who has watched television on this subject, cannot fail to be gratified by the many acts of kindness and contributing that surfaced among our fellow-citizens; there were individuals reaching out from all corners simply because there were people suffering due to the vagaries of nature. Pressed, we’re a caring and compassionate species – which evolution has developed in us as a powerful survival technique. I’m not at all unwilling to take credit for altruism, even though I know that I’m already hard-wired that way and that many of my “nobler” instincts are something I can’t escape.

Go to www.theherald.co.uk/features/46894.html and see what columnist Ian Bell has to say about naivety in the USA.

Hellyer

Ray Hall called this week, and tells us that he has six solid entries already for the TAM4 Call for Papers which closes Oct. 31st, but he'd like more. See www.randi.org/tam4/callForPapers.html. TAM4 registrations are a bit ahead of last year at this same time, so get yours in, now. Remember that we can only accommodate a few more folks than we did last year….

Next week, we’ll visit Goddard College to see how they’ve decided to officially allow the woo-woo artists on campus, we’ll see how “psychics” in the UK and The Netherlands are being limited in how heavily they can swindle their victims, and how former Canadian Federal Cabinet minister Paul Hellyer is charming his fans with fatuous claims that the US government is covering up UFO visits….