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.
If you missed The Amaz!ng Meeting 2013, you can still catch great talks on science and skepticism given live from the TAM 2013 stage, at the James Randi Educational Foundation's YouTube page. This week's videos include James Randi's 2013 keynote address, "Fighting the Fakers":
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.
The lethal tradition of snake handling arose from a literal interpretation of several Biblical passages. In Acts (28:1–6) Paul survives a bite from a vicious viper. Mark (16:17–18) promises impunity from snakes and even poison, “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Luke (10:19) gives us the, “power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Of course, we’re yet to see any church take up the practice of serpent or scorpion treading…
Snake handling is outlawed in many states in America, although this hasn’t stopped its practice among people who claim religious freedom. On Saturday February 15, Jamie Coots died of a bite during a snake-handling ceremony. Coots was the preacher at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Kentucky (where snake handling is illegal). He was also one of the stars of National Geographic’s reality TV show Snake Salvation. During the service at his church, Coots was bitten on his right hand. He soon passed out and his family took him home. Emergency workers arrived at the church and then his home, but Coots refused treatment and died at about 10pm.
This wasn’t his first venomous bite. Coots had been bitten nine times before, and even lost half of a finger to a rattlesnake bite. Four generations of his family have handled snakes as preachers, from his grandfather to his son Cody. Coots kept over 70 snakes for this purpose, and had been arrested twice for illegally possessing a collection of copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlesnakes that he had caught himself. Snakes used for snake handling are usually in poor shape. Their mouths aren’t sewn shut like the cobras used by snake charmers on the streets of India, but they are mistreated and mishandled, and these snakes are often sluggish and sick.