March 2, 2007
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This will be a rather long item, but it deals with an important subject – how Oprah Winfrey manages to promote woo-woo ideas on her program by careful management of the content. Before we begin, you must understand how TV programs are recorded and put together for later broadcast. First and most important is the image of the host; this must be supported, and audience expectations must be met in that regard. Second, the sponsors must be satisfied that nothing unpopular or politically incorrect is used; that won’t sell the product. Third, secondary guests are expendable, and are there only to be used, in any way that serves the intent of the producers.
Back in April of 1995, I’d been contacted by the Oprah show and made an offer to do a second appearance with them. I simply told them, “No thanks”; I’d already been sandbagged by that show. In that appearance, I’d been told, just before I left my hotel for the studio, that the previously-scheduled “psychics” – for whom I was well prepared – would not be showing up. I went all the way out to the location and then found out, moments before the show went on the air – live – that those major "psychics" actually were appearing on the show. Though I’d prepared video and newspaper material to contradict the pompous and false claims of those two scheduled “psychics,” I’d left the data behind at the hotel when told I'd be without opposition, and I had nothing in hand. It was a blatant, calculated lie designed to trap me, and I fell for it. But I’d not do it again. I'm sure Oprah doesn't need me, and I have no need of such unethical behavior. There are rules, even though Oprah doesn't seem to know them.
Recently, Oprah Winfrey aired a lopsided interview with “psychic/mediums” John Edward and Allison DuBois. Things immediately took on a circus air when Oprah began by describing human life as “vibrating energies.” The perfunctory skeptics were present, but of course the producers took great pains to be sure that they were ineffective. One woman from Evansville, Indiana, who had repsonded to a call for skeptics, was handled as we might have expected. Her sister, Cristina Michelassi, wrote to me:
My sister, Laura McMahon, was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show taped Thursday, 2/8/07, for a segment that was purported to be a discussion between skeptics and “believers” on the subject of psychics. My sister believes in critical thinking and scientific study, and thought that the panel of guests would be open to having an intelligent discussion on the topic, albeit with their differing perspectives. She had responded to the on-air call for show participants via Oprah's website, explaining that she was skeptical in regard to paranormal or supernatural abilities that psychics claimed to possess.
I thought you might be interested in the account I've written about the experience, as it illustrates how the producers of the show very deftly controlled and orchestrated the whole show to ensure an outcome that would be well received by Oprah's audience. Once again, it was made quite clear to me that most people will believe what they want to believe, no matter how much logic and facts are presented to them.
I am very thankful that you and your organization exist!
Cristina wrote this report:
I wish I could be writing to all of you about what a wonderful experience Laura had when she went on the Oprah Winfrey show, but the truth of the matter is that she did not.
We all knew beforehand that her viewpoint would not be the “popular” one, especially in such a venue as this show. We did, however, hold some hope that it would offer an opportunity for a reasonable discussion about the topic, as she had been led to believe that there would be a panel interspersed with individuals who believed in psychic abilities and those who held a more skeptical view. Unfortunately, this was not the case whatsoever, as she was the only guest on the show with a truly skeptical perspective.
Now that I've had some time to reflect a bit on the whole process, it is quite apparent that the show is not ever meant to be a discussion about the topic at hand at all, but is instead a strictly controlled forum to showcase what Oprah's audience wants. Although the planning for this starts well before the topic's blurb on the website looking for show participants, that blurb seems to be the initial “hook” which allows the producers to not only get a good sense of the audience's position on a specific topic, but also to begin their search for individuals who, unbeknownst to them, will be filling the roles in the play that’s already been scripted.
My brother, Roberto, said it best when he observed:
I think it is quite clear that this was all orchestrated to get the outcome they wanted. The show is after all – business. They obviously know their audience quite well – and set up a show that would appeal to them. They needed to set up an environment where on the surface it appears as if they were really trying to be fair and balanced – so that the people on the fence might still get drawn into the show. But they had to make sure that the outcome would be clear, and the one that they knew the majority of their audience would agree with.
The truth of this observation was evidenced by Oprah's own behavior and remarks throughout the tapings of the two shows and the “after show” segment. The producers seated Laura in the first row of the audience, directly across from Oprah. The first guest to join Oprah on the stage was John Edward, a popular self-proclaimed psychic. Each time he either related a “supernatural” experience from his past or a videotaped segment of one of his “readings” was shown, Oprah would immediately look at Laura, and rather than address her by name, would make remarks such as "What do you say to that, science lady?" or "Any response, skeptic woman?" and on one occasion, “Skeptico?” directed at her with a questioning look.
The next step in fostering the show's outcome was to bring into question Laura's scientific background and education. This was done by suddenly identifying a “surprise” guest in the audience who was introduced as a psychologist studying paranormal phenomena. [Randi: this was an electrical engineer, Dean Radin, author of “The Conscious Universe”] This man stated that there have been a lot of experiments and studies done in the last 100 years that have indicated to scientists that there's "definitely something there." This meaningless statement seemed to sufficiently convince the audience that the whole of the scientific community worldwide believes in psychics, so who does "science lady" think she is?
As the second show taping began, it became more obvious that we had been “had.” Oprah related how some people believe that Harpo Studios [where Oprah tapes] is haunted by the spirits of the people who died when the Eastland ferry sank and the building was used as a temporary morgue to house their bodies. Videotape was shown of various staff members claiming to have heard, seen or felt a supernatural presence while working in the studio alone late at night. Then videotape was shown of one of the “psychics” on the show, walking around Harpo Studios late at night with a film crew, claiming to be experiencing precisely the very things the staff members had. When asked about how the dead people looked, the “psychic” said they appear to her as whitish energy blobs. Oprah chose this moment to admit, a bit hesitantly, that she herself had been visited once in the middle of the night by a presence that looked exactly as the psychic had just described! (She does know how to act, after all!)
When Oprah had announced who would be on the show, she had referred to Laura as a mother of two from Indiana who is a skeptic, “Laura McMahon.” That was the only time she actually ever said Laura's name. Although she consistently addressed the other audience guests by their names, she never once addressed Laura by hers. By the time Laura's pre-taped “reading” was shown, the tide had pretty much turned. When Laura told how the psychic was wrong in all her statements about our father save one, the response was that Laura was “blocked,” not open to receiving my father's “energy,” and that she had issues with closeness and emotional ties. In other words, it was her fault that the psychic had failed so miserably. Whether you only met my sister once or have known her since her birth, I am confident in saying that all can attest to the fact that she is an extremely approachable human being. On more than one occasion, total strangers have remarked upon her genuineness and warmth upon meeting her for the first time.
After the two shows were finished, they continued to tape the “after show” segment. All three “psychics” claimed to possess these “abilities” because of their personal and special connection to God. They insisted that their ability to speak with the dead, or predict the future, or get into a criminal's mind, was a God-given gift that they constantly improved and perfected through meditation and prayer. Oprah turned to Laura and asked her point-blank if she believed in God. When Laura replied that she was a humanist, the audience reaction was one of total disapproval and disbelief, though I'm quite sure the majority of them had absolutely no clue what a humanist is. Oprah's last remark to the audience before she left the stage was her admission that she believes in the supernatural.
We find here the tried-and-true ploy of casting aspersions on a victim by establishing that they’re not superstitious or credulous, or might even be an agnostic or atheist; being naïve is regarded as a highly admirable trait.. It’s a cheap shot, but it works. Cristina continues:
If nothing else comes of this, just know that these shows are not interested in people, they don't care to know your stories, they aren't interested in your joys or sorrows, and they certainly don't want to bother with your thoughts… They want good ratings, for continued monetary success. And as Roberto said,
I think that they don't even consider us as real people. We are just members of the "Audience," a thing that is to be manipulated, cajoled and otherwise persuaded into behaving in a manner that delivers to them the rewards they so richly deserve.
Laura’s husband Roberto also gave us his individual account of this event:
My wife Laura accepted an invitation to be a guest on the Oprah show, which was taped today, about mediums who speak to the dead. She was identified by the show based upon a response to a question in which she wrote about her skepticism of this phenomenon. She was flown to Chicago, where she was first asked to do a 1:1 reading with a psychic, who stated upon beginning the session that my wife would have to answer either "yes" or "no" to each of the medium's questions about my wife's deceased father – essentially reducing the exercise to a child's game of “20 questions.” When my wife asked why she would have to do that if the medium could actually speak with the deceased, the medium rose out of her seat and proclaimed, "I can't work with this woman!" Eventually, she sat back down and continued the cold reading, but apparently the look on my wife's face had already made her position clear. Part of it was fairly offensive as the medium chuckled, in apparent response to something funny that my wife's deceased father "said" to her. The session finished, and my wife awaited the taping of the show.
While on the show, that same psychic misrepresented what she’d said to Laura during the reading. For example, she had told Laura that her father didn’t like to show his romantic side to his wife. Laura had denied this, citing the numerous times that he’d bought her jewelry or surprised her with flowers and chocolates. And, on the broadcast – edited – show, the “reader” said that she had correctly gotten that the father liked to show his romantic side to his wife – the exact opposite of what she’d “divined.” Roberto continues:
Laura and I talked about how the taping of the show might go, and we certainly anticipated that she might not be the hero of this story, given the earnestness with which people seek out and buy into this type of activity. We were not, however, prepared for what actually occurred at the taping. As it turned out, my wife was not only the sole guest who did not believe, but was likely the only person in the entire audience or at least the only one courageous enough to voice her opinion. The other guests were other famous mediums and a "professor" of paranormal psychology. [Randi: this was Radin, the electrical engineer.] As you can imagine, my wife was clearly out of her depth, and swimming with the big fish.
I've just spoken with my wife after the taping, and it was a terribly difficult position for her as the audience, and to some degree, Oprah, hammered away at my wife for being "closed," "blocked," and "narrow minded." Oprah even had taken the position of calling my wife the "science lady" in a not-so-positive reference. (I hold a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and my wife worked for quite a few years as a research assistant). My wife actually sat next to John Edward during the taping, and after being reminded yet once again of her "blocked" state, turned to him and said "Are you getting any signals yet?"
Needless to say it was a very challenging and, to be transparent, upsetting experience for my wife, particularly since we figured that while she would probably be in the minority, she would not be alone in her position. Clearly our mistake. I have told my wife that it took a person of enormous courage and character to stand up for her principles in such a highly emotionally charged and one sided environment. I am struck by the thought that my wife was essentially fed to the lions in the taping of the show, which of course will probably make great television, but that under different circumstances she might have been cheered for standing up against this deplorable act of pretending to speak with the dead. My wife and I can only imagine how she will be portrayed in what will be the final product, once the editing of the show is completed...
Roberto, what your wife did was very courageous. She saw the minefield she was walking into, and yet decided that the confrontation was worth risking. Of course, she could not have anticipated the extent to which creative editing, selection, timing, and emphasis would be employed to slant the outcome of the show. As I wrote above, even I was once the victim of this same process, at the hands of the Oprah team. They got what they wanted: Oprah looked good, decisive, powerful; the skeptical point of view was derided and suppressed. An “expert,” Dean Radin, was pulled out of the air like a bunny from a hat, and presented as if he represented the scientific view on these matters. No other really scientific point of view, which could have offered a very different opinion – though easily available to the producers – was presented. Radin said his piece, and the show closed.
Laura, thank you, sincerely. Without good folks like you to stand up against this humbuggery, we’d have no soldiers out there to offer a defense of reason. Oprah is powerful both in influence and image, and she’s opted to join, support, and endorse the forces of woo-woo. Her huge staff, her producers, and her money are brought into the battle against rationality and common sense, and she sees a God on her side, as well. I’ve known this ever since I saw her fall for Geller’s spoon-bending on a co-hosted show out of Baltimore, many years ago, well before she was an icon of American – and international – television.
History will be the final judge…
Our most excellent friend Dr. Hal Bidlack (US Air Force, ret.) is alarmed at the recent actions of Montel Williams in supporting the flummery of “psychic” Sylvia Browne. He expresses himself eloquently at www.stopsylviabrowne.com/articles/openlettertomontel.shtml. I suggest that you click in and see how he asks that Williams show some consideration and responsibility in his position as a former military man, and as a US citizen…
Reader Daniel Calder rightfully points out what has happened to what we might assume to be a company connected with our friend Norman Edmund – who just turned a remarkable 91 years of age this last Tuesday, and is still active and frisky, and working on a new project. Norm lives here in Florida, very near to the JREF. His name is attached to the famous Edmund Scientific Company, and for many decades he dealt in science kits, scientific equipment, lenses, lab apparatus, and teaching tools. And, he’s written extensively on the subject.
Well, Norm is no longer connected with the company, which has leased out its name to other outlets, and essentially lost the pioneering attitude of the original organization. A company known as “Edmund Scientifics” – note the attached “s” – is currently advertising quack devices and systems, a fact that got the attention of Mr. Calder. He wrote to them:
Dear Edmund Scientifics,
I am disturbed by the inclusion in your otherwise excellent science catalog of an item called a "Microcomputer Therapy Apparatus," a product listed as #S30813-83. Link: www.scientificfun.com/details.php?pid=586766833.
In your online catalog, you claim that this device can "Diagnose and cure a range of acute and minor illnesses," including "everything from diarrhea to arthritis." This device claims to do this by means of "the six traditional Chinese medical functions of hammering, acupuncture, naprapathy, cupping, scraping, and massage."
If any one of these so-called "medical functions" has been shown through clinical trials to diagnose or cure any diseases, I am unaware of it.
Since such specific and important claims are made for this instrument, I believe that these claims need to be substantiated. Please refer me to the peer-reviewed studies that back up these claims. If no such studies exist, you have an obligation as an educational and scientific company to stop making these spurious health claims, and to remove this product from your Scientifics catalog.
I anxiously await your reply.
Well, Daniel, don’t let your anxiety overpower you, because you’ll get no response, I assure you. Norm Edmund is as concerned as you are, and he can’t get an answer, either. This is typical quackery at work, offering no evidence, nor communication. It’s a blind alley…
Correspondent “Steve” informs us:
In your latest commentary, you wrote: "...page 42 of the Instruction Manual for this toy states..." "...doing a demo of their toy..." Maybe you need to re-read the manual. On page 47 they plainly state,
Keep Sniffex® away from children. Sniffex® is not a toy.
Other than "Container 19," the "Sniffex is not a toy" line is one of my favorites.
After seeing the link to the apparently fake JamesRandi1 Myspace webpage someone posted on the JREF forum (http://profile.myspace.com/jamesrandi1), the blog entries on that Myspace page, and the stuff on the freewebs webpage that the Myspace page links to, I would say Mr. Johnson doesn't seem too happy with you. Certainly we can't assume he created those pages, but it does seem to be someone close to the company and sympathetic to it.
Despite his opinion to the contrary, I think it is only fair that consumers are informed that the explosive detection product they might be considering buying is deemed by the scientific and engineering community as "bogus" and worthless. From what I have seen on the internet, your site seems to be the only one with readily available information on the product and the fact that it has never been proven to work. In fact, the Navy tests show pretty well that it doesn't work at all.
Does Johnson's comment in the e-mail exchange about not being able to afford to continue to sue you mean he dropped his lawsuit? If so, congratulations.
Steve, that is, as you surmised, a fake James Randi MySpace page. Whoever put it up there, merely runs the correspondence I’ve had with this strange Johnson person, all of which has already been published here. The real MySpace page is at www.MySpace.com/theamazingrandi, though I admit that I’ve not had the time to go there and peruse it to any extent. Yes, Johnson dropped the suit as soon as he found that he’d be deposed by our lawyer. Due to the remarkably inept way American law works, we were unable to collect any legal costs from Johnson; the USA is the only country in the world where a civil legal attack does not call for the attacker to pay the legal expenses of the attacked if the case is lost or dropped.
Reader Doug Fraser opines:
The Sniffex reincarnation of the MOLE reincarnation of the Quadro tracker makes one wish that we could have a set of special laws to get these people behind bars immediately to protect the public good.
Anyway, as a science teacher, I routinely use your commentary examples in my classroom – both as serious examples of "bad evidence" quackery, pseudoscience etc., and also as comic relief – these things really would be hilarious if they were not doing so much damage. I also like to let these quacks know that they are the subject of discussions within our schools. I try to make this point whenever I can – my hope is that they won't like the idea that they are being talked about and "made fun of" when they take themselves so seriously and often consider themselves quite clever. Of course I could not do this without the wonderful examples afforded me in your weekly commentary for which I am most grateful.
The prominent biologist T.H. Huxley (1825-1894) said and wrote many witty and perceptive things, among which is:
The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of “Spiritualism” is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a “medium” hired at a guinea a séance.
Aldous Huxley, (1894-1963), an English novelist and critic, was a grandson of biologist T.H. Huxley, and though he dabbled in spiritualism and other such foolishness, he also wrote:
You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religions. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, intelligent enough.
Right on, Huxleys!
Jeff Wagg received a note from someone who we believed might be trying to apply for the JREF prize:
Greetings Challenge Team. I would like to let you know that certain events will soon be happening for all the peoples of the Earth to see. When I was a boy I seen things in the physical realm happen from the pricipalites [sic] of the spirit world. I was very scared and nervous of certain encounters. I tried so hard to keep things in perspective by trying to look for a ''logical explantion'' [sic]. Yet sometimes logic falls and fails very short of reasoning with normalities [sic]. I had to block most of it out of mind [sic]. Yet not only was I contending with that, but I was also having increased visions of the future in my wreckless [sic] sleep.
Good will, John.
This was followed by another note, saying that “John” would only be interested if the JREF increased the prize to a billion dollars. That’s really out of our price range, John. He wrote:
Greetings. You only offer a small amount of money for a big task. Good will, John.
Drat! Yet another opportunity to award the prize, thwarted!
Reader Peter Ilott has written to the Los Angeles Zoo Public Relations Representative Laura Stegman (see www.randi.org/jr/2007-02/021607failure.html#i5) to register his concern:
In an article in the press I am informed that the Zoo has paid $4500 to a "Feng Shui" consultant (Simona Mainini?) to ensure the "life force" of some new monkeys. If this is true, I would like to express my strongest objections to the use of zoo funds for such an idiotic and superstitious waste of money. I am a zoo member, and I am shocked to find out that my contributions to the zoo every year are being essentially thrown down the drain by hiring such charlatans. Feng Shui is just another of many fraudulent methods to separate the credulous from their money. It has no basis in reality, has been shown to be nothing but a humbug, and despite its proponents using the term, “science of Feng Shui,” it is about as far from science as is reading the entrails of a chicken to predict the future.
In short it is a fraud, and I am most dismayed that the zoo would waste valuable funds on it. As a member I must demand that the money be recovered from the con artist who received it, or at least from the "architect" Charles Mays, and be used for real expenses rather than imaginary ones.
I am forwarding this email to several organizations that specialize in refuting quack claims, as well as the city of Los Angeles, and anyone else who might be a zoo stakeholder. Rest assured that this egregious misuse of zoo funds will be made public.
The amount paid for this fraud is more than all my contributions to the zoo in total. This means I could have just as well flushed it down the toilet.
I am a great supporter of the zoo and its efforts to educate the public and save endangered species. I cannot however support the zoo any longer as long as the zoo allows its funds to be used for such pseudoscience nonsense.
When can I expect to hear that the zoo has recovered the money spent on this foolishness, and when will the zoo make public the name of any persons connected with the zoo staff or administration responsible for this transaction? Accountability is paramount in a charitable organization, especially one doing work as important as the LA Zoo.
Until I hear that steps are being taken to rectify this situation I will withhold any further contributions to the zoo, and will encourage my friends to do likewise.
Peter, I wish that others would care enough to send similar letters off to officials concerned with such matters. Thank you for caring.
A reader directs us to uk.clarins.com/main.cfm?prodID=826#, where we find a skin-spray that is
…capable of protecting the skin from the accelerated-ageing effects of all indoor and outdoor air pollution but most significantly, the effects of Artificial Electromagnetic Waves.
Fortunately, this wonderful product is also
…suitable for all skin types, for men as well as women.
And we’re urged to:
Remember – Artificial Electromagnetic Waves are present 24 hours a day and effect [sic] men’s skin as well as women’s!
Well, I’m buying gallons of it. I’ll take no chances with those Artificial Electromagnetic Waves…!
My friend Rick Sapphire just sent me a copy of out-takes from a Wonderama TV appearance he made in 1962. Sonny Fox was the host, as Rick flubbed his first two entrances… Thankfully, it was not a “live” program. It hurts, even after 45 years, to watch this. Go to ricksaphire.com/outtake.html.
Reader Aaron Murray was on to “The Secret” of life long before the movie (see www.randi.org/jr/2007-02/022307sniffex.html#i2) came out:
I was taught "The Secret" when I was younger by a well-guarded book shown to only those who can understand the secret. It's called "The Little Engine that Could". He thought he could do it, he worked towards his goal and he took the chance to prove he could do it when the situation presented itself. AMAZING!
In light of this DVD and the stupid amount of press it's received, I'd like to announce a DVD that I'm going to release soon. It's called "The Secret 2: The Secret to Strength.” I figure I can trust you with the secret, Mr. Randi, so I'll let you know now what it is in a nutshell. Ready? If you lift weights you will become stronger. Yes, if you sit around and do nothing and think about how weak you are you will not get stronger, but if you harmonize your mind with the vibrations of the universe and lift certain amounts of weight, you WILL get stronger. I'm sure I just changed your life indeed and I will retail the DVD for $29.99, naturally.
Reader Leonard Tramiel – and a few others – corrected me re the item at www.randi.org/jr/2007-02/022307sniffex.html#i13:
Saturn doesn't have 19 moons. The number you refute, 33, is close to the number of officially named moons, 35. The current total is 56. Your claim of 19 with "smaller orbiting chunks" doesn't match the facts.
The real mistake in the quoted sentence is the claim the Phoebe orbit is "almost perpendicular to Saturn’s equator." The inclination is only about 30 degrees.
A first class source of such data is: sse.jpl.nasa.gov/planets/index.cfm. For more information on the sizes of these moons please see: www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~sheppard/satellites/satsatdata.html
Well, Leonard, I got my info at http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/saturn/moons.html, and that inclination of Phoebe’s orbit was claimed by the nutters, not by moi…
Dr. Bruce Flamm, still hot on the supernatural pray-to-get-pregnant paper (see www.randi.org/jr/2007-02/021607failure.html#i7 and www.randi.org/jr/2007-02/022307sniffex.html#i7) that has so embarrassed the Journal of Reproductive Medicine (JRM), tells us:
[Dr.] Cha appears to be violating state law by using MD after his name on websites and in news releases in California in spite of the fact that he is not licensed to practice medicine in the state. Also note that Cha still claims to be a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, although the medical school dean states that he was only a "visiting scientist" – never a professor or even an assistant professor. In any case they say he has had no connection whatsoever with the university for many years.
But this next item you will really get a kick out of: Cha's website also indicates that his astrological sign is Sagittarius! Astrological sign? Yikes! See http://tinyurl.com/3e4hmc.
Is this a joke? Apparently not. His site also indicates that his Zodiac year is the Dragon! Zodiac year? Yep! Although Cha does not appear to have a license to practice medicine and although he does not appear to be board certified in ob/gyn in the USA, the doctor's astrological credentials apparently remain uncontested!
Reader Doug Fraser – referred to earlier – took an opportunity this week to send this note off to the JRM:
Dear Dr. Lawrence D. Devoe,
As you are well aware your journal is rapidly losing its credibility within the scientific community due to your refusal to retract the fraudulent Cha/Wirth/Lobo "pray for pregnancy" study published in the JRM.
I thought I would also bring it to your attention that your journal's standards will now be used as an example of "bad" science in classrooms across the country and around the world. As a teacher and textbook author I routinely describe and champion the powerful and highly successful "objective" nature of science. However I always take care to note that while the methods of science are successful because they reduce bias, they are still conducted and interpreted by humans and you can't always take the "scientist" out of the science.
Perhaps I should be thanking you – my students prefer "modern day examples" that they can relate to. When describing bogus science I usually refer to the case of Blondlot and his mysterious "N-rays" – now I have a recent and "excellent" example to add to the mix – and right out of a peer-reviewed science journal, no less!!
Your refusal to retract the clearly fraudulent study – which is now presumably a significant embarrassment – serves to highlight the worst abuse of scientific standards. Perhaps you are a "believer" yourself and cannot overcome your own wishful thinking, but for the sake of your journal I suggest you do otherwise.
Until such time as you take action, I will continue to present your journal to young aspiring scientists as a model of credulity and disrepute.
Well, as they say, it’s better to serve as a bad example, than no example at all…
Sent to us anonymously:
The superstitious public seems to have quite an influence on the travel industry. A quick sampling of European airlines on SeatGuru shows that there is rarely a seat row 13 on an airplane. SAS, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM and Swiss all disguise row 13 under a different number. British Airways does not, nor does Aer Lingus seem to, as far as I can tell from their online seat reservation demo.
It doesn’t seem to bother the Americans much either, with American Airlines, Delta, Northwest and Southwest happy to acknowledge the modern, rational age. Not Continental though.
Hotels often “lose” floor 13. In Asia, floor 4 might be missing, since that number is considered unlucky. In Hong Kong, where East and West collide, a hotel might pander to the superstitions of both traditions and omit both 4 and 13 (and possibly 14 and 24 too, since they both contain a “4″!).
We ran a video clip of a recent “Inside Edition” item – http://www.randi.org/media/popoff-ie.mp4 – at the head of last week’s column, and it’s on this one, as well. Now, we can also see – courtesy of Dr. Mark A. Duva of Norwalk, California – the entire promo package sent out by Popoff, at www.deceptioninthechurch.com/popoffback.html. This reveals just how bizarre, ritualistic, and witchcraft-like his operation is. But federal and state officials shield their eyes, ears, and mouths when they we tell them about it…
Now, this is interesting: though YouTube ran the Inside Edition item immediately after it was broadcast, they withdrew it the very next day, giving as the reason that it had unspecified “inappropriate content”! Inappropriate? Perhaps truth and evidence – when it deals with wealthy scam-artists – is inappropriate? Popoff’s $2,100,000 home, his $110,000 Porsche, the $1,200,000 annual salary he pays himself and his wife, the $23,000,000 annual income his organization brings in for selling “Miracle Spring Water” and iodized (?) salt from the Dead Sea, could well be considered to be “inappropriate” information to pass on to the public…
There’s nothing like a good laugh to close out the week, after hearing about all those grubby people out there who lie, cheat, swindle, and steal…
Descartes, the famous French philosopher who said – “I think, therefore I am” – is at a bar.
The bartender asks him: “Will you have another beer?”
Descartes answers: “I think not.”
Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifKKlhYF53w and enjoy this gentleman’s talent…
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