The James Randi Educational Foundation and Women Thinking, Inc. have come together for an opinion survey aimed at better understanding the spread of the unfounded “vaccine panic” that prevents some parents from getting important immunizations for their children. The project, Immunization: Myths, Misconceptions, and Misinformation, explores better ways to communicate a “vaccine-positive” message.
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.
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.
Michael A. Stackpole is a podcaster, best-selling science fiction writer, author of the "Pulling Report" which debunks myths about the harmful effects of role playing games, and a long-time activist skeptic. In this fun and informative talk from The Amaz!ing Meeting 5.5, he tells us how to effectively communicate our skeptical message through mainstream media, blogging, or in conversations with friends and family.