Wednesday, May 9, 2007

James Randi

This week I want to pay a tribute to a man that I admire very much, the skeptic James Randi (see picture) who will turn 81 in august. Randi, in a sense, is a man with two faces. First there is "The Amazing Randi", a world famous magician who has performed many seemingly impossible tricks. Among his achievements Randi is the holder of two world records. On one occasion Randi outperformed the infamous Harry Houdini when he spent 104 minutes in a sealed coffin on the bottom of a swimming pool. He earned his second entry into Guiness world records when he came out alive after having been frozen in a block of ice for 55 minutes. Does anyone know how this was done?



Magicians are of course interesting and fun, however, it is not magic skills that makes Randi unique. Like the just mentioned Houdini, James Randi is a skeptic. He has openly admitted that he has never performed any real magic in the supernatural sense. In other words, all the magical shows that we laymen find impossible or at least incomprehensible have merely been trickery. This of course begs the question of whether other people who seem to have similar magical talents are also just using tricks. My belief is that they are merely using tricks, and I have never encountered any evidence (excluding anecdotal stories) that has made me contemplate this. Interestingly Randi has once been accused of being a fraud in the opposite sense. Once when he performed a man claimed that Randi was in fact using psychic powers and that he is lying when he claims he is using trickery.


Nevertheless, our dear magician is perhaps most famous for his one million dollar paranormal challenge. James Randi has 1.000.000 dollars waiting in a bank account for anyone who can demonstrate that he/she has psychic/supernatural powers. Hundreds have tried but no one has succeeded until this day. Others, including the previously mentioned Houdini, and the Swedish organization Humanisterna have posed similar challenges. (Just recently, a psychic in Sweden failed a mutually agreed upon test, getting zero correct of a possible fifteen.)


Through the years James Randi has appeared on TV quite a few times. If you go to "You Tube" and search for James Randi you will find many interesting clips to watch. Alternatively, you can also go to his website, http://www.randi.org/, where there is a nice collection of multimedia as well as many interesting articles.


Below I have put together my own list of my favorite Randi multimedia including some personal comments. Enjoy!




Uri Geller and Peter Popoff. In this video Randi explains what he is doing and why he is doing it. Randi also shows how he exposed Uri Geller (see picture), the spoon bender phenomenon for what he really is, a fake (or perhaps he really just had a bad day). Finally he shows how Peter Popoff, a priest who makes miracles happen, was actually just using a wireless radio (Popoff went bankrupt a year after he had been exposed).


James Hydrick. James Hydrick, a 23 year old martial arts trained psychic, claims that he can turn pages the pages of a phone directory using his mental powers (and that we all can learn to do it). By using a simple control Randi shows that Hydrick is not using any psychic powers, but rather he is simply blowing. According to wikipedia, Hydrick has subsequently admitted that he was indeed a fraud, what a surprise…


Astrology. An entire class is given identical horoscopes and are asked to rate the accuracy. Everyone in the class rates the accuracy as being either four or five out of five.

Psychic surgery. In this video Randi performs, using only his bare hands, what looks like a very real surgery in order to show that no supernatural powers must be involved (as some others have suggested)

Homeopathy. This video is actually one of my favorites. Randi has a 15min lecture in which he explain the very odd principles of homeopathy. He also tells us about when he downed no less 64 tablets without being affected at all. This is despite the fact that that the cans say that you should call a poison doctor if you take 4 or so (I cannot remember the exact numbers).


Spoon bending. Randi shows us how he can bend a spoon using trickery. It looks just like when Uri Geller bends his spoons using his psychic powers, or perhaps Geller was also using trickery? You decide…


Medium discussion, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Randi is on Larry King live where he discusses an incident where the medium Sylvia Browne told the parents of an abducted child that their child was dead. The women who got the erroneous information from her spirits still claims to have psychic powers, she have accepted Randi challenge, but have still not actually done it. Afraid that she won't make it perhaps?

James Randi and a medium. In this video Randi exposes a medium by revealing a transcript in which the medium has given her client no less than 37 names, and asked him whether he feels there is any connection to any of these names. Statistically speaking it would be quite unlikely if the client had no connection to any of the names...

Applied Kinesiology. In this video James Randi, and a kinesiologist do a blind study, testing whether a particular chosen crystal make the test person stronger. If you are to believe the result in this particular test, the subject benefitted very much from rat poison, hmmm...

If anyone has any further multimedia tips I will watch them with much interest.

13 comments:

Z said...

what a coincidence
Today i wrote about a 40yearold miracle on my blog and why i trust this particular one more than other claims.

rasmussenanders said...

I'll say like Randi says in many of his videos. I am open to the idea of supernatural powers, however, I have never seen any evidence that there are such powers. I also think that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and claiming there is a miracle certainly is an extraordinary claim.

Can you still go and see the Zeitoun miracle, if not, why not?

Could the miracle be a result of natural phenomenons that we have simply not thought about before.

Is ther any type of test which could show that it really is a supernatural phenomenon.

These are some of the questions that I ask myself when I read about miracles that have been observed by a large number of people. I do admit though that it seems odd that so many people would observe the same seemingly inexplicable phenomenon...

Z said...

I admit that it's not enough when lot's of people have seen the same thing (expanding on this on my blog commentary).

if one has lot's of cash and knowledge of engineering from the sixties, one could perhaps try and create that sort of light shape with flying movements on a roof, but the test would require heaps of enthusiasm and patience. ;)
Something for James Randi?

lastAutumn said...

Your blog is really very interesting and unusual. I'll keep watching your posts. Good luck))

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for that compliment, they are always very much appreciated!

Looking forward to your comments in the future.

John said...

Methinks you should do some more homework on this topic too.
These two sites would be a good place to start. They are both by Master homeopaths.

1. www.vithoulkas.com

2. www.jelmiger.com

The second one is also a medical doctor who quickly saw that allopathic "medicine" just doesnt heal anyone. His book contains his rigorous empirically tested theory plus a whole host of extraordinary case studies.

Randi isnt a "skeptic". He is a true believer in the "religion" of science. A dogmatist through and through. Skeptical about everything except his own "certainty".

Anonymous said...

Great article, very interesting. I do not claim to know James Randi personally, therefore I also do not claim to know his real age. But I thought you might find it interesting that wikipedia says he was born in 1928, which wouldn't make him 81 until 2009. I'm not implying that their information is more accurate or reliable than yours, just stating that it is different than your information. I thought you might find that interesting and maybe even elaborate on how you came to believe he is turnung 81 (in 2007). That isn't a challenge or anything of the sort, I am just genuinely interested in what age he really is (misinformation naggs at me whether here or there). Anyways, as i said great article. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

*came to believe he turned 81 in (2007) sry :)

rasmussenanders said...

I think that in this case you would be wise to trust wikipedia. I cannot remember how I came to the conclusion that he turned 81 in august, but my guess is that I have done a miscalculation. I apoligize for the misinformation and thank you for your notification.

Anders

David Mabus said...

http://www.rock-explosion.com/images/finger.jpg

For Dawkins and Randi and the rest of the so-called "critical thinkers"...



The *MODEL* of mental health:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBEbfiaZTfc

"Look at the ANGLE OF THE KEY....see that, see that...."

what a fucking idiot this Randi is.....a REAL CRITICAL THINKER.....

Visit:

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/3283/P0/

to see how we stopped James Randi's fraudulent MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL challenge.....

watch carefully the consequences of Randi's *idea*…..

For over 40 years James Randi Zwigert (is this even a REAL NAME?) has had total control over who and how the testing was conducted, yet despite all this he has terminated the challenge.

The ONLY REASON why the challenge was stopped is because he lost and refused to pay.


PS: Love the IRONY of the BULLSHI*T sign over Randi's ugly little head

rasmussenanders said...

I looked at the sources that you included in your comment in which I did not find any valid criticism of Randi (saying that someone is an ashole or ugly is not a particularly convincing argument if you ask me).

Perhaps I missed something, in which case you could perhaps give a better link, but none of the links you sent included anything that discredited either Randi or Dawkins.

The challenge, contrary to what you say is still on. It will be stopped the 6th of March 2010 to free up the money for other uses. Here is a quote from wikipedia:

"On January 4, 2008 it was announced that the prize would be discontinued on March 6, 2010 in order to free the money for other uses. In the meantime, claimants are welcome to vie for it. One of the reasons offered for its discontinuation is the unwillingness of higher profile claimants to apply."

If you chose to respond again, please try and come up with some arguments that have a chance to hold.

Anonymous said...

PSYCHIC LAURA BUSHNELL claims to make a fountain of water come out of her hand, she calls it the nectar of giving. Con artist bushnell charges 350 a session, wheres the giving?
Bushnell claims to channel the Virgin Mary, and Jesus,,,wow, and claims to have a piece of the cross Jesus died on, and charges money to see it.

what a LIAR!

Pham said...

James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world's most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Outcall Escortslivesex