In an effort to make our extensive video library available online free of charge, The James Randi Educational Foundation is posting high quality digital video lectures and sessions from previous Amaz!ng Meetings and other events on randi.org. Check back often to see the latest video content.
This videos features Dr. Steven Novella’s fascinating review of consciousness from TAM6.
As Thanksgiving approaches here in the United States, and we gather with loved ones, I can't help but pause and reflect on the work we do at the JREF, and how grateful we all are for the support from folks like yourself.
Concerned and dedicated skeptics and science advocates like you drive all the work we do combatting unreason and promoting critical thinking at the grassroots, in classrooms, at conferences, in the media, and on our speaking tours.
If you follow the JREF on Facebook, you're already enjoying our day-by-day posts of news stories around the world showing both how unfounded beliefs hurt people (and animals) and how skepticism is gaining ground, fighting superstition and exploitation. But you may still be wondering what you can do to advance skepticism and reason. Here are a few ideas from recent headlines.
Former TV News Reporter Claims He Can Tell the Future
What's Happening: You know those times you predict a hurricane in the Philippines and you have nothing to prove it, and you think "Damn, if only I'd texted myself beforehand about this, I could be the talk of the town!"? Well, UK-based former TV reporter John Thomson is one step ahead of you. Claiming that he can predict the future, Thomson started texting himself his predictions and now claims he has a backlog of accurate predictions to rival any alleged psychic (shall we make a "predictive text" joke? No? Okay, we'll move on). The only problem is, Mr. Thomson has been collecting the texts for well over a year, giving him plenty of time to send thousands of texts to himself, and delete the predictions which didn't come true. Is he really foreseeing catastrophic world events, or just a really patient (and bored) texter? I'm suspicious.
What You Can Do: If John Thomson is all he claims to be, there's a million dollars waiting for him. Tweet at John and ask him to take the JREF's million dollar challenge. As always, be brief and polite.
Why do people believe the things that they do? While only science can generate testable hypotheses, advocates of various paranormal claims tend to rely more on anecdotes, appeals to authority and “intuition” and the general public tends to be ambivalent about the distinction between science and the supernatural. Ongoing controversies over intelligent design in schools, climate change and vaccination have demonstrated that the public perception about science is often shallow due to misunderstandings about how science works.
A recent article published in the Journal of Educational Psychology presents the results of a research study directly comparing the processes that influence how people form opinions on scientific and paranormal concepts. Written by Andrew Shtulman of Occidental College in Los Angeles, the article is part of his research program studying conceptual development relating to science education and how people weigh the actual evidence involved before forming opinions on complex subjects.