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 esteemed panel, featuring some of the leading figures in science and skepticism, addresses audience questions at The Amaz!ng Meeting 2. The panel covers women and minorities in skepticism, skepticism and faith, critical thinking education, and more. Panel participants include Penn & Teller, James Randi, Phil Plait, Eugenie Scott, Michael Shermer, Steven Barret, and others.
Believing in nonsense hurts people, and that's why James Randi and The James Randi Educational Foundation work hard to promote critical thinking and skepticism as a form of intellectual self defense.
2013 — the last twelve months were our most productive ever — is quickly coming to an end, and as you would expect, we are busy with our plans for 2014. But only with your help will we be able to continue battling unreason into the New Year.
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.
Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.
A formal request for retraction of a Cancer article (James Coyne) A plea for Cancer to retract an article claiming that psychotherapy delays recurrence and extends survival for breast cancer patients. It’s just another poorly conceived attempt to validate fanciful ideas about “mind over matter” in cancer treatment. Its conclusions are not supported by simple analyses, but only by the authors’ inappropriate multivariate analyses. The research design was flawed, there is no plausible mechanism to explain their results, it is essentially a negative study misrepresented as positive, and the authors attempted to block publication of criticisms.
Gary Taubes and the Cause of Obesity (Harriet Hall) Gary Taubes wants everyone to adopt a low-carb diet. He offers a plausible rationale but admits that the evidence isn’t in yet. Whatever the underlying cause of obesity, there are practical ways to achieve weight loss by reducing calorie intake below expenditure while we wait for better evidence. Strict low-carb diets are one way to achieve lower total calorie intake and may be somewhat more effective than other diets in the short term, but they have not proven more effective in the long term.
Dialogue on “Alternative Therapies” (Steven Novella) In an opinion piece in The New York Times, James Gordon represents many common misconceptions about mainstream medicine and CAM. Mainstream medicine does not “dictate” drugs and surgery, and nutrition and exercise are mainstream, not “alternative.” It is mainstream medicine, not CAM, that addresses underlying causes. The rising costs of health care can be best addressed by not wasting money on dubious treatments.
Legislative Alchemy 2014 (so far) (Jann Bellamy) Legislative alchemy is the process by which legislators turn practitioners of pseudoscience into state-licensed health care professionals, unleashing quackery on the public. Recently, chiropractors have suffered some defeats; naturopaths have achieved licensing in two more states; acupuncture bills are pending; and Vermont has passed a “chronic Lyme disease” bill. You can track CAM-related bills in your state through a list maintained on the Society for Science-Based Medicine website.
More Dialogs (Mark Crislip) Another response to Gordon’s opinions in The New York Times. Medicine has issues, but the solution is not to turn to therapies based on fantasy and magic. Dr. Crislip distinguishes 4 categories of SCAMS: magic, plausible, inadequately tested, and things that are not CAM at all, like diet and exercise. Gordon’s call for a dialog on CAM is only a distraction from effective efforts to improve reality-based practice.