Table of Contents:




INTELLIGENT CHIP NOT SO SMART

At www.randi.org/jr/021105an.html#6 you read about the "Machina Dynamica" device, the “Intelligent Chip," a thin, one-inch square orange wafer that the manufacturer claims "improves CD sound quality in the blink of an eye." Well, we now have a report from Roger S. Schlueter, who ran a test of this ridiculous “invention” on behalf of the Center for Inquiry West. The results could have been predicted without a crystal ball, tea leaves, or close examination of lines in the palm. Writes Roger:

Randi, I know this is not new material, but I thought it might merit inclusion in your SWIFT commentary as a way to close out an old issue for current readers and to bring new readers up to speed on JREF activities in this area.

On August 20th, 2005, a preliminary test of the GSIC device was conducted at the Center for Inquiry West facility in Los Angeles.  This device claims to improve the sound quality produced from an audio CD by altering the CD itself.  Here is a picture of the device.

The claimant failed to support her claim that the GSIC treated CD (a recording of "Peter & The Wolf" by the New York Philharmonic) improved the CD's sound quality even when she knew whether she was listening to the treated or untreated disc.

After the test was complete, we decided to break open the GSIC device to see what was inside it.  The device itself consists of two thin plastic "covers" that we were able to break apart with a pair of scissors.  Here is a picture of the two covers and the interior "device."  The coin is a US dime.

Note that in contrast to the Omnitron device you are investigating, this device has no wires, circuits, knobs, lights, diodes, solder joints, screws, bolts, etc.  Dare I speculate that it does not use N-Rays? It should be the soul of simplicity to analyze. I know you see flummery of every extreme type.  But this "device" must surely rank right up there with the silliest of the silliest.

In summary, a preliminary test protocol was agreed upon, the test was conducted, and the claimant was unable to substantiate her claim under that protocol.  Score one for critical thinking.

No, score many more points, Roger. However, as we know from previous experience, this definitive exposure will not have any effect on the sales or promotion of this fakery. The swindle will continue, the FTC will ignore it, and the Machina Dynamica crooks will continue to get rich on the naivety of those who choose to be ignorant – with this and their other quack products. It was ever thus.



MANIFEST IGNORANCE

Reader Brian Miller quotes from the November, 2005, issue of Esquire Magazine:

…there was a panel on the subject [of evolution] on Larry King Live, in which Larry asked the following question: "All right, hold on. Dr. Forrest, your concept of how can you out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?"

No comment….




BRITAIN’S PSYCHIC BLUNDER

Last week, at www.randi.org/jr/200512/12025teslar.html#i9 I mentioned Britain’s Psychic Challenge, which now has a web site at www.five.tv/programmes/psychicchallenge. The presenter – “host,” to Americans – is Trisha Goddard, who is referred to as “Britain’s most popular talk show host.” Trisha believes in many weird and wonderful notions, such as that polygraph tests are legitimate indicators of the truth. They have just announced that they’ve taken aboard the panel a new member, Deborah Borgen. And what is Ms. Borgen’s philosophy in regard to psychic matters? The website explains:

Norwegian-born Deborah Borgen is one of Europe's top psychic experts. She's been involved in the field for 19 years, previously enjoying a high-flying career as a financial advisor. Her main occupation is now teaching people to identify, and training them to develop, their extra-sensory perception (ESP).

She also works with the Norwegian police; has been a key contributor to the original Scandinavian version of Sensing Murder, in which psychics attempt to shed new light on cold cases; and an advisor on numerous other programs concerning aspects of psychic powers.

She's currently writing a book on ESP and is the perfect person to act as a counterweight to the skeptical panel, encouraging and defending the contestants as appropriate.

Ah, in other words, a dedicated woo-woo person. Ms. Borgen, in an extensive interview, offered all the tired old New Age, “energy” crap and “vibrations” to justify her admission to the show’s panel. A more likely reason for her entrance, in my opinion, was the bare fact that the producers could see the possibility of a rational, factual, result coming out of the show if it were to continue with a panel so encumbered with reasonable and competent members.  Borgen’s entrance will probably skew the results appropriately in the direction of public tastes.  My Granada series, “James Randi, Psychic Investigator,” ran its course and vanished simply because no one was able to establish their abilities – not to my great astonishment….

The website asks the question:

Do you think you're psychic?

If so, you're not alone. An estimated 150,000 people in the UK claim to have psychic powers, and as many of us believe in parapsychology as we do in God. Of course, the sceptics rubbish all claim to psychic ability.

But what can people who claim to be psychic actually do? Could there be rational scientific explanations for some of the things they claim to be able to achieve, or is it just a matter of luck, trickery and the need to believe? Five is going to find out once and for all by putting some of these so-called psychics to the test...

Well, that rather establishes the standards and attitude of the show, but to state that the program is “going to find out once and for all,” is revealing indeed. Judging from the first program of the series, they won’t be developing any such information, and it would take more than a series of TV programs to come anywhere near such an answer.

I will be viewing a DVD shortly, but meanwhile, our UK correspondent Tony Youens – website www.tonyyouens.com – sends us this report on the first in the series of programs, aired last Sunday:

Thoughts on “Britain’s Psychic Challenge”…

Much of the program focused on promoting the possibility of psychic powers, e.g. our underused brain, we’ve all lost touch with nature, we can develop parts of our brain if we work at it, animals didn’t die in the tsunami, etc. The fact that Rupert Sheldrake made a contribution should speak volumes. Naturally no counter argument was put forward. In fact, the only skeptical input came from Chris French and Philip Escoffey, and that was largely confined to merely commenting on the tests.

Randi comments: The tired, old, and wrong “we use only 10% of our brain” ploy, and that “clever wildlife” blunder, are used by writers who either don’t know their subject, or have been encouraged not to be too picky about representing reality in their work. Chris French has told me that he and magician/mentalist Philip Escoffy had the initial understanding, when first contacted by the show’s producers, that they would be designing the tests and the protocol; that was not to be. The writers took on that task, with predictable (no pun intended!) results. Tony continues:

The show had small a studio audience whose purpose was quite unclear. They were not present at any of the tests and seemed to be utterly superfluous. Perhaps it was in order to give the show a sense of being “live” – which it wasn’t.

Criticisms of the “Body in a Boot” test:

[This was done in a parking lot with 50 cars. A human subject was secretly placed into the “boot” – “trunk,” to Americans – of one of those cars. The six “psychics” were supposed to guess which car had been used.]

As stated by Chris French, the selection of the car by the “body” was not random. They were given as much time as they needed and this obviously meant that much was edited out. Are we to believe the person hiding did not move in all this time? Chris suggested that the three successful psychics were probably the ones who spent the longest at the task, a fact confirmed by Jackie Malton [one of the “experts”]. Chris also mentioned that some cars would have been difficult to fit into, thus reducing the odds from the claimed 1 in 50. Most worrying was that during the test three persons were present who knew the correct car: Jackie Malton, the boss of the guy doing the hiding, and the cameraman. For all we know there could have been more.

Randi comments: To me, this is quite sufficient reason to invalidate the test, entirely. In a properly-designed test, no one would be present who knew the location of the subject – except the subject, of course. That’s what’s meant by “double-blind, folks! Also, for the purposes of the videotaping, the chosen car would have to be located in an appropriately-lighted location, and the “boot” would be accessible for being videotaped when opened. Not all of the 50 cars would be so qualified. And, the car that was used was not chosen by an appropriate randomizing method. Having been present at other similar tests where the camera crew knew the solution, I’ve seen that the camera lights are often not switched on at all until the “psychic” actually gets into the vicinity of the target – to save battery power!
 
This test was a farce, designed by amateurs. Tony again:

The first psychic had no success, nor did numbers three and four. At the end of three of the tests, Jackie Malton was shown following the psychics as they made their decisions. On all three occasions they were in close proximity to the correct car, and on all three occasions they were correct. In one instance, Malton was standing right by the car, and suggested that the psychic should make up her mind!

So far as I know, none of the psychics had ever claimed to be able to locate a living person who was hiding somewhere, in which case there was no attempt to match the claimed powers of the psychics to the testing regarding the “Body in the Boot” test. This would have obviously provided them with justification for failure. The basic questions of, “What can you do, with what level of accuracy and under what conditions?” just wasn’t considered.

Randi again: As Tony points out here, in all such tests, it must first be determined just what any given “psychic” claims that he/she is able to do. To bypass that obvious requirement, is like asking an expert juggler to play the violin – when the juggler has never played a violin previously. Tony adds:

At one point we were treated to a segment in which a professional psychic – one of those who had previously failed the “Body” test – gave a series of cold readings (or psychometry, if you prefer) to people in a supermarket. Goodness knows how much of this ended up being edited out, but I assume we saw the best bits. Here's one on her insightful comments:

I'm getting a very strong link with the name Steve or Stephen around you. Is that making sense to you?

Well it makes sense to me; my brother-in-law is named Steve. Is this the best we can expect from a "Professional Psychic"? A common name is offered with no additional information. Essentially it was the same as saying, "You don't happen to know anyone called Steve or Stephen do you?"

From this example alone, I’d say we’re seeing nothing at all new in “psychic” performances, simply the tired old crap that we’d expect. The presenter's assurance that the program series would “find out once and for all” about these fatuous claims, seems even farther from reality than previously thought.

The “Knebworth House” referred to by Tony ahead, is an impressive county estate that one could easily look upon as being haunted, and many doubtless do.

The next test at Knebworth House was so obviously flawed as to be completely worthless. Each of the 3 remaining psychics gave a basic “cold reading” about two deceased brothers – Anthony and John, both related to the owner, whose photographs they were given in sealed envelopes. Their task was aided by the fact that they could ask questions as they went along. At certain points they were even guided. It was pretty obvious to me that they were simply making educated guesses.

Tony understates the case, in those last three sentences. The owner of Knebworth House, Henry Lytton-Cobold, was standing by with the “psychics” as they threw out suggestions and guesses to him, asked him questions, and were immediately and fully corrected and/or prompted and freely given information by this one person there who knew the details about those two deceased persons! Henry even told them – when they were going in the wrong direction – what they should be asking about! At one point he cautioned one of them and told her, “There’s a lot of history in this room!” – which provides an excellent alibi for any wrong guesses she might make – and he said:

I felt that she [the “psychic”] was struggling, and it may well have been that it was the outside elements of history that this room embodies.

He has given her here the perfect “out”! Any “cold reader” would embrace this opportunity to look psychic, don’t you think? It was a ridiculous “test,” in the first place, and no way to control the conditions, anyway. The “psychics” had an easy job of it. And, we’re told, what got broadcast – as we’d expect – was only a very small but carefully-made selection from the great number of guesses, questions, and hints, that were offered. 

There was no objective measurement of whether any of the psychics were successful and as far as I can recall no comment was made as to their success or failure. Towards the end of the show there was an additional test which was meant to be “for amusement only.” Each psychic in turn handled an envelope that – unknown to them – contained a pair of underpants that had been left at Knebworth House in 1976 by Mick Jagger. They were to identify the owner of whatever was in the envelope. They were quite successful at guessing the contents (in vague terms) but never picked up anything about their owner.

Randi: The paper package was small, flexible, and soft in texture, instead of being a box that would give no clue about the parameters of the contents. Just who designed this test? It certainly was not a person with any common sense….

Despite the battery of ineffectual and badly designed tests no one was pronounced as being psychic, although their failure was never really mentioned much, either. Like other programs of this genre, it will probably serve to launch their careers. In preparation for the forthcoming shows, viewers have been given the chance to test themselves by guessing which of a selection of objects would be shown, and what subjects were smelling, tasting, feeling, etc. Out of the dozens of viewers I’m sure there will be enough seeking their five minutes of fame to fill another show.

The same caveat applies here: does anyone out there claim any such ability? I’m sure the producers will make no attempt to determine that. Be assured, “Britain’s Psychic Challenge” will ignore all these comments that Tony and I have offered here, and will continue to attract a large audience – which is all that the producers are interested in….




OFFICIAL UFO LANDING PAD IN CANADA

Canadian reader Dave Bailey reveals to us more hanky-panky going on in his homeland. The town of St. Paul, province of Alberta, Canada, is right out front with intergalactic politics, he’s proud to announce. If you thought that the items here on former Canadian Minister of Defense Paul Hellyer, were scary, read on for further chills. On June 3rd, 1967, Hellyer himself – the Minister of Defense, remember! – flew in by helicopter to officially open the first UFO Landing Pad in that country, built at the main entrance to the recreation grounds on land donated by the town of St. Paul. The project, 130 tons of concrete and steel, cost CDN$11,000, but at least no public funds were provided for its construction; private firms contributed the money and materials. The Honorable Grant MacEwan, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, officiated at the sod-turning ceremony. I kid you not.

A map of Canada is embossed in the Pad backstop, made of stones provided by each province in Canada with each provincial flag flown atop the backstop. And a time capsule was built into it, stuffed with letters addressed to Canadians, to be opened June 3rd, 2067. One hopes that the citizens of that period will be appropriated amused – or embarrassed – by the naivety of their forebears….

Then in 1992, construction began on the rounded building shaped like the traditional saucer-UFO to complement the adjacent Landing Pad. This opened for business the following year; it is also home to the St. Paul & District Chamber of Commerce, showing that the town takes all this seriously! How seriously? Ah, there’s more…

In 1996, an addition was built to the existing Tourist Information Center to house a “UFO Interpretive Display.” There, we’re told by the proud Chamber of Commerce, visitors can see “actual photographs of UFOs, crop circles and cattle mutilations”! This, they say, is “designed to educate.” Included along with “real” UFO evidence, viewers are also shown “ingenious methods to hoax the public.” Hoaxes? In the UFO field? Say not so!

In May 1995 a toll-free number was announced to complement the UFO theme. Reports of UFO sightings, cattle mutilations, abductions, crop circles, and encounters of all kinds are documented at the data center, and callers are encouraged to report any of their own experiences. Call 1-888-SEE-UFOS if you have input for this project….

Now, 38 years after it opened, the UFO Landing Pad patiently waiting in St. Paul, Alberta, has yet to receive its first spacecraft….




COMMUNICATION TERMINATED

Reader Dale Lockwood, PhD, at Colorado State University:

I enjoy reading your site. Recently I received some e-mail from Whole Foods regarding sales, recipes and the like. I ended up linking through to their website and found a list of “therapies.”  While they make some effort to indicate that this is not medical advice it is unclear that many readers would not see it as exactly that. I read the homeopathy section and then wrote them an e-mail. What follows is the transcript of e-mails. I recently checked the homeopathy webpage and found that the text had changed to remove some of the original text but also to include more specific potential cures. They clearly are dancing around the issue that homeopathy is at best a placebo effect, but it is interesting to note that the text did change. Note that they removed text stating that “Homeopathic remedies are safe and not harmful,” so maybe my writing helped a little bit. Unlike some of your other readers, I apparently had a longer conversation with someone in the company than has occurred in the past.

I try to teach my students about the dangers of trusting the web too much and this shows the risks of listening to a source that has a large economic stake in the outcome of the weak science presented. I also point my students to an interesting website, www.truth.gov to inform them of the limitations of web based information.

Dr. Lockwood wrote to Jessie Walker, Consumer Communications Assistant Coordinator of Whole Foods, on Thursday, November 03, 2005. Here are the e-mail exchanges, first from Dr. Lockwood:

Reading through your website after receiving an e-mailed newsletter, I came across a list of "therapies." While most of these have no scientific basis and have not been demonstrated to provide any benefits beyond placebo effects, I am particularly disturbed by the homeopathy text. In it the article states, "Some well-run recent research, however, suggests that there is more than a placebo effect inherent in homeopathy." To my knowledge there is currently no "well-run" peer reviewed scientific studies that support this claim. In fact, in August the Lancet reports the results of a large study indicating exactly the opposite – any perceived benefit from homeopathy is simply a placebo effect. I realize that the writer of the article attempted to show some balance, but there appears to be no foundation for such balance. Unless you place the references on the site the reader cannot confirm the claim.

I realize that your company is in the business of profits and homeopathic elixirs are profitable (heck, charging large sums for what is just pure water has got to be profitable), but you are a company that prides itself on being more than simply profit motivated. Without any evidence supporting homeopathy, you do a serious disservice to your customers by pushing snake-oil. It is disgraceful that you pander to flights of fantasy and sell products with no value and can lead to harm – when customers choose quackery over seeking necessary medical treatment.

Jessie Walker replied on Tuesday, November 08, 2005:

Thank you for your interest in Whole Foods Market. The following is our statement on this subject.

WFM Position on Homeopathy

We offer homeopathic remedies at Whole Foods Market as a resource to customers who wish to use them. Homeopathic remedies are safe and not harmful, and we only sell homeopathic remedies manufactured and labeled according to the standards for strength, purity and quality set by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, as recognized by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic act and regulated by the FDA. 

We acknowledge that there is disagreement in the scientific community about the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies. A growing body of research supports the efficacy of these remedies, and recent meta-analyses of earlier research suggest that homeopathy can be significantly more effective than placebo. Other studies have cast doubt on the efficacy of these remedies. There is a clear need for further research in this area. We are unaware of any studies which have suggested that homeopathic remedies are harmful or dangerous.

Homeopathy is a system of healing which has attracted many avowed followers in its 200+ year history. Because homeopathic remedies are safe and believed by many to be effective, we will continue to carry them in our stores. 

For more information:
www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthinfo/wholehealth/therapy_homeo.html
and www.fda.gov/fdac/features/096_home.html.

Two references, one to a Lancet examination of a meta-analysis, and another to a British Medical Journal article, followed. Dale Lockwood wrote back, November 08, 2005:

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my concerns. Your company's unqualified statement, "Homeopathic remedies are safe and not harmful" is in error. While few cases have been reported, there is documented evidence of certain potentially serious effects from homeopathic substances. [three references quoted] In and of themselves, many (if not most) homeopathic substances may not be harmful, but when a person attempts to medicate a potentially serious condition with a useless product, one can no longer view the product as entirely harmless. Likewise, taking money from people for products with no known efficacy is clearly not harmless.

I would also like to thank you for your list of two papers that are the apparent basis for your website claim that homeopathy is significantly better than placebo. I would like to point out that both studies are far from supportive of homeopathy if read in detail. For example, in [one reference] the authors state: "At the moment the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias." Likewise [second reference] states "we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition."

For [one reference] it only gets worse. After a wave of criticism in the scientific literature [reference given] the authors reevaluated their data… and state, "We conclude that in the study set investigated, there was clear evidence that studies with better methodological quality tended to yield less positive results." In fact, those studies with the better qualities do not show statistically significant positive results.

In the March 2001 edition of the journal, Family Practice Management, Steyer summarizes the two [referenced] papers, "Two meta-analyses have been published suggesting homeopathic remedies are more effective than placebo alone. However, both studies state that the current research and literature in the field does not meet the rigorous, scientific proof needed to establish efficacy of homeopathy for specific clinical conditions."

A least one other paper that evaluated the methodology of [that reference] cast serious doubt on the results….

Finally, I would point out that [reference] performed an analysis of 110 homeopathic studies and 110 clinical studies and demonstrated that homeopathic treatments are only as effective as placebos. It should also be pointed out that numerous other studies demonstrate the lack of effectiveness of homeopathy as well.

I suggest that if Whole Foods continues to persist in its sales of homeopathic products, the supporting statement should be rewritten to note that such products are not completely without risk and that there is NO scientific evidence supporting claims that homeopathy provides any effect beyond the placebo effect.

Whole Foods responded. This is the entire answer:

Thank you for your thorough response to my response. We truly appreciate your feedback. Your opinions and comments have been duly noted.

Have a nice day.



NO JOKE

Reader James Rice:

With the coincidental timing of the release of the new Kansas Quarter, and the Dodo decision of their school board, I decided to draw up a more appropriate Kansas quarter.  I hope you enjoy it.  You’re more than welcome to use it as an illustration any time you want to bash Kansas.

Thanks for all your work on behalf of humanity.




THAT DOWSING ROD THING

Dowser-pursuer Carl Moreland – see www.randi.org/jr/200512/12025teslar.html#i15 – updates us:

I mentioned in my prior email a $1,200 dowsing rod produced and sold by Bob Fitzgerald in Oregon. I have just completed my report on this, and would like to get your feedback on it. It is posted at: http://www.thunting.com/geotech/ppl.html I have not yet linked to it on my web site. Before I make it public, I would like to get legally prepared for a likely lawsuit from Bob, similar to what happened with Jim Thomas. Bob has quite a temper, and has already legally threatened me in the past.

I am currently looking for a good skeptic-minded lawyer in Oregon, and have just made contact with the "Oregonians for Rationality" group. I would also like to contact Ray Hyman, since he is in Eugene. Any suggestions you can offer would be appreciated.

I informed Carl as he requested, and we await a tirade from Mr. Fitzgerald.  As promised last week, here is our formal JREF challenge to him:

Mr. Fitzgerald: this is to formally offer you the one-million-dollar prize of the James Randi Educational Foundation, to be awarded – subject to the rules to be found at www.randi.org/research/challenge.html – upon a successful demonstration of your “PPL” or any other “LRL” device that you sell at your site www.treasurenow.com. We are prepared to go through the long and convoluted procedure of working out just what you think you can or cannot do, under what conditions you think are proper, and in what locations you think it might work, in order to meet your requirements for a proper and fair test protocol. Our expectation is that you will either refuse outright to be involved in any such test – regardless of the substantial prize offered! – and/or that you will obfuscate and waffle on forever in order to tire us out. That latter condition will not occur, I assure you.

Mr. Fitzgerald, what is your answer?   




ANOTHER VIRGIN IN THE NEWS

Will it ever stop? How many weeping/drooling/bleeding plaster/stone/cement statues do we have to hear about before it dawns on the media that we’re tired of them? Now it’s a Sacramento church that proudly displays a statue of the Virgin Mary that cries blood….  Sheeesh!

Some priest at the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church spotted a reddish stain on the statue's face and wiped it away, we’re told. Then, on November 20th, people again noticed something near the eyes of the white concrete statue outside the church. This, says a faithful parishioner, means that

There's a big event in the future – earthquake, flood, a disease. We're very sad.

Wow! Some time in the next century, an earthquake, or a flood, or a disease, will be experienced? How ever did you know? Of course this makes you sad. But weren’t you just as sad when the last earthquake, flood, or disease, came along – any time since you were born? What’s so special about the next natural event that will arrive? Hey, throw in meteorites, just to be sure!

The Associated Press had an observation to make:

Thousands of such incidents are reported around the world each year, though many turn out to be hoaxes or natural phenomena.

Really!  I’m amazed! You mean, some of them are really statues crying blood, genuine miracles, the real McCoy, proven and tested wonders? You mean that science has been overturned, everything discovered in all of our species’ efforts at solving mysteries is now cancelled out? Just which of these bawling plaster icons can you bring to us to prove the case, please….?

Ah, but the deacon of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Reverend James Murphy, told AP that church leaders are always skeptical about these miracles – at first. That’s a good sign. “Miracles are possible, of course," he said, presumably because he – in his wisdom – just knows they are.  Double sheesh….

Just think of the reaction of an editor who has this story arrive at his desk; it’s got blood, a virgin, blind religious belief, a miracle, and a cathedral in it! Irresistible! Does it have any truth in it? Who cares? Print it….




RELIGIOUS TEST

Reader and JREF member Paul Schultz, MD of Saint Louis, Missouri, comments:

One of your readers wrote in this week's commentary: "I was dismissed from a capital murder case (thank you, I didn't want to do it anyhow) because I didn't pick a religion." As you know Article VI from the US CONSTITUTION should forbid this: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Surely “juror” is a public trust, how could such a test be allowed to be a requirement for jury duty?

I suspect that this is a faith-based decision, Dr. Schultz.




A HAPPY CONVERT

During a flight a couple weeks back on my way into Fort Lauderdale, I sat by a young chap who got into conversation with me and revealed that he’d been studying “energy healing” and could demonstrate it by means of “applied kinesiology.” See www.randi.org/encyclopedia/applied%20kinesiology.html. Well, that got my rapt attention, as you might imagine, and I told him that he could apply for the JREF million-dollar prize. He agreed to meet with me at the JREF, and a few days later he showed up. Kramer and I tested him, and he was quite shaken when he became aware of how easily he’d been fooling himself. As he left, I gave him one of my books, and some other literature.

I share with you now the follow-up to this event. I received this e-mail:

This is Brendan (your neighbor on the airplane) I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for having me come by the foundation while in Fort Lauderdale. I found it to be a highly educational experience...a much needed wake-up call. I know that the goal of your organization is to promote critical thinking...and this initiative has been a resounding success in my life since our meeting.

In the past, I admit I was blindly trusting people, which is unfortunate because there are no laws to protect the public from various forms of misinformation.  After having met with you, read your book, and watched your video, I am now quite skeptical about the information I accept, and am careful to critically analyze the information. In fact, a number of times, when people have made claims, I informed them of the great news...that they can make an extra million just by proving it with a controlled test through the James Randi Educational Foundation.  You can probably guess what happens next!

At this point, things are really starting to take off in my career.  Last week I was chosen to the Canadian Health Care Team for the 2006 Olympics in Italy, and I have been recruited as the personal trainer for a segment on a TV makeover.  Your guidance came just in time, and has "killed the monster while it was little."

I am still in search of "truth," and continue to devote my free time to reading books and listening to audio programs.  But everything I take in is now carefully filtered with a healthy dose of skepticism, thanks to your generous influence.

Sincerely, Brendan Fox

P.S. If you are ever interested in debunking the effectiveness of chiropractic medicine and orthopedic inserts, I have a great deal of information I can contribute. Just let me know if I can be a help!

Brendan can expect a call….!




A TIRED OLD CLAIM

Reader Kevin Kusinitz of New York City, informs us:

In the New York Post, Uri Geller claims that he brought John Lennon and Yoko Ono back together after their separation.

Elton John begged me to help get John onstage for the [Nov. 28, 1974] Madison Square Garden concert. John kept refusing, but eventually said, “If you can get Yoko back into my life, I'll do it.” I told him I'd do it telepathically. John believed me so he did the concert. That night, at the Pierre, they got back together.

I would've preferred if Uri had sent the same message to Paul, George and Ringo, but that'd be three times harder, I guess. By the way, that story Uri tells flies in the face of what both Lennon and Elton John said over the years, to wit: that Lennon would accompany Elton John in concert if the latter's remake of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" went to number one. On the other hand, Lennon was, unfortunately, a believer in scammers like Uri Geller and a fellow nicknamed Magic Alex, who promised to build him a flying car powered by ESP. I never understood how a bright guy like Lennon fell for stuff like that.

“Bright” doesn’t always mean, “smart,” Kevin, and why are we so concerned over a story Geller is telling? Is there any validation….? 




IN CLOSING…

Rather than extol the virtues of the following four items, I simply direct you there so that you may benefit – as I have – from the material presented. Folks, we are in very good company!

www.truthdig.com/dig/item/200512_an_atheist_manifesto
and
circadiana.blogspot.com/2005/12/skeptics-circle-23.html
and
www.guardian.co.uk/life/badscience