It's been quite a week for news stories. If you haven't been glued to your TV (and your Twitter feed) following the presidential elections, you may have been reading about Simon Cowell hiring a house healer (more on what the JREF is doing to help Mr. Cowell in an upcoming post) or tracking Theresa Caputo's tour across the United States. But what can you do with news of pseudoscience and paranormal claims, besides gently tugging at the roots of your hair until your head bleeds? Here are a few suggestions.
UFO Spotted Over Pregnant Mother in the United Kingdom
What Happened: The Irish Sun is reporting that a Buzz-Lightyear-like figure was spotted floating above an unsuspecting pregnant woman last week. The photographer claims he did nothing to manipulate the photo and that he didn't notice the Tim Allen-like figure until after the photo was taken. Okay, sure, so the Sun isn't exactly the premiere source of credible information, but this is just the sort of claim we hear every day, from people who accidentally catch their own thumb in a photo, to those who intentionally insert an object into the frame. And, unfortunately, these fakes often fool many people, causing them to wonder if aliens are on their way to Earth to rob graves and slowly chase women.
What You Can Do: If you can recreate the effect in the photo, send us your own version, and we'll share the best ones, so the world can see how easy it is to manipulate a photo and get the same effect. We've already received many fantastic entries, so hurry up and send us your own version! The best one wins a Team Randi shirt!
In 2007, The Amaz!ng Meeting 5 took on the theme "Skepticism and the Media". In this video from our archives, the creators of South Park, Trey and Matt, take questions from the audience and thank James Randi as the inspiration for their John Edward episode. Penn Jillette gives the introduction.
You can check out JREF's other videos from The Amaz!ng Meetings, which have been viewed nearly 1.5 million times since we started making them available online for free, at YouTube.com/JamesRandiFoundation.
James Randi is back with the second entry in his YouTube vlog. This week's entry, "It's Not In the Name" deals with the specialized wording used by different groups who may or may not be reality-based. And don't miss a minor miracle performed by Randi himself.
This, and all of the JREF's videos are available at our YouTube account. To see it larger or leave comments, click here.
In today’s China, it appears that ancient superstitions are rising to the top of the politicians’ agenda for serious attention. The official view, their explanation for the series of misfortunes they believed to be threatening their careers last year, centered around a pair of Imperial guardian lions, traditionally known in Chinese as “shi,” and often called "Foo Dogs" in the West. They’re a pair of fierce-looking stone lions that guard so many homes and businesses, including the state-owned China Tobacco building just across the street from the government Land Bureau offices.
Well, a Land Bureau official has revealed that the secret weapon the Bureau used was “feng shui,” the ancient practice of how to arrange objects and to design architecture to supposedly improve health, prosperity and luck. For proof, he pointed at a stone wall in their parking lot that was built to block the feline statues’ harmful “qi,” or energy.
It’s a fact that Marxist ideology is fading in China, but as I’ve so often noted, ancient mystical beliefs once banned or shunned tend to gain ground and even replace one sort of nonsense with another; this happened in Russia within recent years when abandoned churches began to fill again as the grip of Communism relaxed.
Chinese fortunetellers are now eagerly offering costly sessions in astrology and numerology, and business people are consulting feng shui masters for financial guidance.
Last year we at the JREF decided to test the waters with a year-end fund-raising campaign to help raise awareness both of our mission as well as new ways to advance it. We were inspired by your response to our appeal, so much so that this year we hope our Season of Reason campaign will continue to support the bright future for skepticism and critical thinking.
We are focusing on our new educational efforts, as you will see here. But we now have a secret weapon that we're hopeful will make this end-of-year fund-raising campaign even more effective. An anonymous JREF member has made a very generous challenge donation to the JREF of up to $100,000. This means that whatever support you feel motivated to give to the JREF, this donor will match dollar-for-dollar up to a $100,000 limit!
Simply put my friends, there's never been a better time to put your money to work for skepticism and critical thinking, not only because every dollar you donate now doubles its value, but also because the JREF is doing more now to increase critical thinking in education than we've ever done in the past. The Amaz!ng Meetings are growing in size and number internationally, with record attendances, and we're seizing new opportunities to make a difference, such as digital publishing and smartphone "apps."