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.
JREF senior fellow, magician and scientific skeptic Jamy Ian Swiss, "The Honest Liar", presents JREF’s newest video series, aptly titled The Honest Liar. Follow Jamy as he uses critical thinking, skepticism, and a healthy dose of humor, along with his expertise in legerdemain, to explore the facts behind false claims.
In our first episode, “Money for Nothing”, Jamy punctures the pretense of homeopathy. How much is too much to pay for a remedy with nothing in it?
Every day at the James Randi Educational Foundation, we hear about "psychics" manipulating people, financially and emotionally; we hear from families who have been burned by false mediums, clients who have been scarred (literally and figuratively) by unfounded alternative medicine procedures, and even violence commited in the name of the supernatural. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by these stories coming in from seemingly every corner of the globe. But what can you do about it?
Introducing a new weekly column, right here at Randi.org, "What You Can Do to Fight Woo." Every week, I will share with you new stories from around the world (and next door too), about unfounded claims and the people (and sometimes animals) they hurt. But most importantly, I will tell you a quick way you can fight back, and make a difference. Here's what's on our radar this week.
New Jersey "Psychics" Co-Opt the Tragedy of Witch Burning to Defend their Practices
The Problem: "Psychics" Lee Van Zyl and Lee Ann LaRocca claim they have the ability to talk to the dead, converse with non-human animals, and have other psychic powers. Van Zyl, who once worked directly with remote villages in South Africa where people were assaulted and brutally killed for "witchcraft," used those experiences to defend her own alleged abilities. Of the comparison between witch burning and being ostracized for her own psychics claims, she said "I kind of saw what could happen if people were misinformed," in a recent article at nj.com. For $10-75 a class, you too can learn from Van Zyl and LaRocca how to perform reiki, channel a dead relative, or psychoanalyze your cat... or so they say. Their website even states that during a mediumship session, they will not demand a penny from you until they provide you with "proof of [the] identity and personality" of your dead loved one. Yet, not a single piece of scientific evidence currently supports the claim that mediums can talk to the dead.
What You Can Do: Ask Van Zyl and LaRocca to put our money where their mouth is! Challenge them to take the JREF's Million Dollar Challenge, to prove they have psychic abilities. If they win, they can give the winnings to the charity of their choice. Perhaps one that fights childhood witch burnings? Write to them at email@example.com or call 973-866-0192. Always be brief and polite, for the best results. Simply challenge them to take the test and if they refuse, ask them to stop using the real tragedy of witch burning to defend their groundless claims.
It was a Sunday unlike any other in the history of Lagos. Friends gathered at the seminar room at the University of Lagos not to pray or worship, not to bind or cast away demons or utter meaningless tongues and syllables as is often done on a usual Sunday. Instead people convened to think, question and exercise their will to doubt and to critically examine issues and claims. People gathered to reason together, and for a skeptical fellowship.
It was an unusual event, and the first of its kind. One participant described it as a historic day. And indeed April 28, 2013 was a memorable day for freethinking people in Lagos state. Around 40 participants turned out for the inaugural forum of humanists and skeptics in the state. It was a coming out event for many who met and interacted for the first time with people of like minds.