The James Randi Educational Foundation’s annual end-of-year fundraising initiative, The Season of Reason, supports our important work combating harmful paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs. Over half of our annual support comes during this critical year-end period and we couldn't continue our operations without it. This year, we are asking you to help us raise $220,000 to support the JREF’s grassroots and educational programs that will be the backbone of the JREF’s work in 2012.
The JREF is an independent non-profit and all donations are used for the sole purpose of promoting critical thinking to the public and advancing our skeptical, pro-science mission. Your Season of Reason contribution will help us teach students to think critically about the world, support skeptical grassroots campaigns, and take on public figures and celebrities who promote dangerous nonsense.
Our Gift to You: Make a one-time donation of $100 or more or a monthly donation of $25 or more during the Season of Reason campaign and you will receive this limited-edition, hand-made, three-inch ceramic ornament by Surly-Ramics. Surly-Ramics have long been a popular fashion staple of the skeptical community, and we are both proud and honored to have this special three inch diameter ornament available to a limited number of our supporters this year. The design on the 2011 Season of Reason ornament is James Randi as "SkeptiClaus" based on a popular photo taken at The Amazing Meeting 2011 (Photo by Ingrid Laas). Randi enjoyed the design immensely.
Our annual Season of Reason ornaments are a collector’s item. Hundreds of JREF supporters participated in last year’s Season of Reason, and by doing so again this year, you will add to your collection. Don't miss your chance to keep your collection, and the JREF, going strong.
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.
With a swarm of determined zerglings, the Brood War is currently underway on the East coast. Brood II, a cohort of slumbering cicadas, recently made their way out of the ground in the billions (or maybe trillions) to outnumber the humans in their path 600 to 1. Even more amazing than their numbers is how long the cicadas have waited to emerge. Every 13 or 17 years—depending on the brood, of whare 15—they flood the trees, shrubbery, and streets with deafening sex sonatas. The cicadas have waited nearly two decades for a few weeks of procreation.
What is less amazing is ending this conversation here, attributing the rest to the supernatural.
In an article published in late May, Brian Thomas, a science writer at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), outlines the many amazing adaptations of this big-eyed bug. Notably, Thomas points out the evolutionary mystery going strong for the last 350 years—why cicadas emerge at prime-numbered times as opposed to other times. Scientists are working hard on the question. Some researchers think the long cycles reduce competition among broods, others think it helps to avoid predators. Still more think the cicadas’ cycles help control bird populations—their primary predators.
But for Thomas, the mystery is solved. As astronomers would notice a prime numbered signal directed at us as a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence, Thomas knows that the cicadas’ prime-numbered life cycle signifies a divine intelligence. He writes:
If you missed The Amaz!ng Meeting 2012, you can still catch great talks, panels, and workshops on science and skepticism given live at TAM 2012 on our YouTube page. Today, we are pleased to share one of those remarkable panels.
The Future of Skepticism
JREF president D.J. Grothe moderates this panel discussion with Jamy Ian Swiss, Barbara Drescher, Tim Farley, and Reed Esau about the future of skepticism as an approach to exploring claims and as a movement to advance that approach.