Recently I was driving from Edmonton to Calgary and just outside of Edmonton I came across a sign on the highway that read, “Need a Healing?” and then touted the name of an evangelical preacher (Thurman Scrivner) who was appearing at a hotel in Leduc to ostensibly heal the infirm. Being a skeptic and a former hard-core Christian, I thought I might just go find out what this gentleman was offering those who felt they needed to be ‘healed’ by his words or deeds.
So, off I went with a good friend to one of the evenings that this gentleman was going to be ‘healing’ at the hotel. Upon our arrival we were greeted with friendship and warmth, and the environment was pleasant. There was a band that warmed up the crowd with a series of religious musical numbers and then a local preacher did some talking to the room of about 120 folks before the guest of honor arrived.
A somewhat disingenuous sign considering no healings were offered...
A couple of years back a book, movie, DVD, audio-book combination was released called The Secret. The basic premise of the The Secret was that everything in your life can be altered by you simply ‘wanting it’ bad enough. The dangers of this kind of thinking are fairly self evident, and it’s in this kind of thinking where my trip to the faith healer got me a little riled up.
As I said, the evening was much like a church service, but as it wore on the speaker began to hint that the reason people got cancer, got sick, had problems in their lives was because of their sins. Indeed, this gentleman actually suggested that a woman’s teenage son, who was shot and was clinging to life in ICU, had been shot specifically because his mother was pregnant and the baby was conceived out of wedlock.
In an effort to make our vast video library increasingly accessible, free of charge, The James Randi Educational Foundation will regularly be posting high quality digital video to randi.org. Check back often to see the latest video content.
This installment features a fun discussion with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone from The Amazing Meeting 5. They take questions from the audience and recognize James Randi as the inspiration behind the John Edward episode.The introduction is by Penn Jillette.
We've seen the headlines: "Church Burns, Miracle Baby Survives" followed by quotes like "Jesus was watching little Jessica that day." And then there's no mention of the 200 people inside who suffered a horrific death. The baby's survival is attributed to a higher force, and the victims were just statistics.
As part of my responsibility as a good parent, I try to be informed about the television shows and movies my son is watching. I often sit and watch them with Atom and we discuss the content. I certainly don’t think kids shows should have to demonstrate a skeptical perspective. It is pleasing though, to occasionally find shows that take on a problem with the tools of science and critical thinking.
I have seen excellent examples of this on Arthur, which has an episode debunking an urban legend and another taking on UFO claims. We enjoy several PBS Kids programs such as Curious George, Cyberchase, and Sid the Science Kid, all of which regularly use scientific thinking to solve problems. The Nick Jr. series Backyardigans (pictured) has a great episode about the Yeti that challenges both extreme credulity as well as knee-jerk skepticism as it lets the evidence lead viewers to the answer. Of course there’s also good old Scooby-Doo, the prototypical skeptical cartoon.
About a month ago now, Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer) gave a talk at The Amaz!ng Meeting 8 that stirred quite a reaction among some folks in the skeptical movement, both positive and negative. I had my own strong reaction, and have enjoyed the self-criticism that this talk fostered. I have had many conversations about it since with skeptics holding varied and contrasting views about the best approaches to adopt when working to advance skepticism and critical thinking in our world.
We're making the video available online so that more people may take part in the conversation and because some of the criticism of the talk came from people who hadn't yet seen it.