The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



SWIFT November 9, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

The FC Nonsense Is Still with Us, CNN Berserk, Sylvia Honored, Notice, An Applicant, The Speaker Cable Matter, You Gotta See This, and In Closing…

Gupta

Dr. Hank Schlinger, Ph.D., who has been battling the ridiculous “facilitated communication” farce that we’ve dealt with so many times here in SWIFT, reports on recent disheartening developments. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, who I’d always thought to be a dependable reporter and commentator, has apparently abandoned any critical thinking he’d formerly had by allowing an obviously biased and naïve report to appear in his blog:

Table of Contents
  1. The FC Nonsense Is Still with Us

  2. CNN Berserk

  3. Sylvia Honored

  4. Notice

  5. An Applicant

  6. The Speaker Cable Matter

  7. You Gotta See This

  8. In Closing



THE FC NONSENSE IS STILL WITH US

Gupta

Dr. Hank Schlinger, Ph.D., who has been battling the ridiculous “facilitated communication” farce that we’ve dealt with so many times here in SWIFT, reports on recent disheartening developments. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, who I’d always thought to be a dependable reporter and commentator, has apparently abandoned any critical thinking he’d formerly had by allowing an obviously biased and naïve report to appear in his blog:

 

Chris

The just-completed Autcom Conference has been profiled in Sanjay Gupta’s Blog on CNN. One of his producers went to the conference just held in Edmonton, Alberta, posted an item on facilitated communication (FC), and is inviting responses. The producer, A. Chris Gajilan, doesn’t raise even the most elementary questions about FC. It seems that those academics who write about such things are right, that science reporters have no interest in being scientific. John Burnham is once again proven correct.

Randi: See tinyurl.com/2v2x7f. Especially, read the comments that follow the article, from those who recognize this as a major farce, and from the agonizing and often deluded parents of autistic children.

CNN again interviewed and continues to provide a network forum to Amanda Baggs, who has now attained cult-hero status. Did CNN ever conduct a background check on this person? Her status as an autism advocate might be questioned by a closer look into her years at Simon’s Rock College when she reportedly talked just fine, chattering on about her various mental illnesses and drug experiences. No, it wouldn’t. These people are true believers. They have already successfully rationalized away the discrepancies and inconsistencies in her story.

The producer missed another obvious bit of medical fraud, right there on the speaker’s podium. Autcom opening speaker and conference organizer, Gail Gillingham Wylie, claims on her website to be able to diagnose and treat a vast array of medical problems over long-distances, via “subspace,” using her “SCIO” device, which employs a “Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface.” (Yes, that’s subspace, like in Star Trek.) For just a quick $1000 credit card payment, Wylie claims to be able to diagnose and treat diseases, autism included, from hundreds of miles away using her subspace connection. If the client doesn’t have $1000, she offers lower-cost packages. She has scams for desperate people, both rich and poor. This kind of thing might make an interesting story, speaking directly to the fundamental credibility and honesty of the Autcom leadership. But, it is Dr. Gupta’s job to promote the Time/Warner autism pseudoscience agenda, not be a genuine medical authority. If facilitated communication is real, why not the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface?

Randi: At tinyurl.com/2vehvq and tinyurl.com/38cqbt, you’ll find more…

“But,” as they say in the TV commercials, “there’s more.” If the opening words of the Autcom conference were given by a facilitated communication advocate who believes in a “Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface,” it is absolutely fitting that the last talk was given by Anne Donnellan, a facilitated communication advocate who believes in ESP.

Randi comments: Fifteen years ago, in Madison, Wisconsin, I ran tests – at Dr. Anne Donnellan’s personal request – of her notion, the possibility that autistic children were in touch with their “facilitators” via telepathy. She was in charge of the FC farce that was being conducted there, hugely funded. The tests failed definitively, I demonstrated to Donnellan and her staff that their notion was inarguably a total delusion, and I was then dismissed with insults and threats. That’s the “unassailable evidence” referred to, ahead, though no one seems to want to assign credit for that service, which I’ve thoroughly documented…

When Donnellan was confronted over a decade ago with unassailable evidence that facilitators were authoring the statements supposedly made by the people with autism, what did she do? Did she say this, “They’re right, this stuff is bogus!”? No. In a 1993 book, Donnellan and Paul Haskew suggested that the people with autism might have a sixth sense – a kind of extra-sensory perception – by which they tapped into the consciousness of the facilitators, thereby knowing answers to questions they had not seen. A good reporter might have seen how delicious it all would have been, bookending the Autcom story with Quantum Consciousness at one end, and ESP at the other. The juicy FC center would have made the whole thing just perfect. This won’t happen. The job is absolutely not to investigate. The job is to make sure facilitated communication gets as much free publicity as possible courtesy of CNN and its parent company, Time/Warner.

And not only publicity, but extensive funding, as well. Parents of autistic children have been pouring money into the FC nonsense, and have received nothing in return but more appeals for support.

This is my personal statement on “Facilitated Communication”: It’s a cruel, vicious delusion supported by pseudoscience and by generous but careless government and private funding. It doesn’t work, at all, but it provides employment for amateur scientists and technicians who are thereby supported by quackery and will not respond to the clear evidence that investigators such as I have provided them. The parents and the children who are subjected to this procedure are the victims, and they deserve to know the truth about it.

If you have any doubt about the true nature of this scam, look at autcom.org/pdf/ConferenceSchedule.pdf and see a pseudoscience enjoying the adoring recognition of its peers… CNN owes us all an apology.

But there’s more nonsense from the network:




CNN BERSERK

Reader Sam Lewson finds CNN is being woo-woo. How can that be? A supposedly reputable news source actually promoting supernatural beliefs? Now, if that were a TV network, we’d understand! In any case, Sam writes:

While reading CNN.com today under “Living” I found an article called “How to handle these household disasters.” It had some advice on what to do if a wild animal gets in your house, or you have water in your basement, etc. Imagine my surprise when I got to the seventh one, “The house is haunted.” Fortunately they quoted an expert saying that the ghosts won’t harm you and had some tips on how to shoo them away. I was really worried for a while.

This on CNN? Unbelievable!

Here’s the link to the article: tinyurl.com/2y83rg. And it says, under item number 7:

The house is haunted

What to do: If the signs of haunting are auditory, first rule out animals by bringing in a pest-control expert (see crisis No. 1). "Raccoons and bats sleep all day and go outside at night, so you'll hear them moving around at dusk and dawn," says critter wrangler Tom Scollins.

Although ghosts seem scary, they won't harm you, says Stephan A. Schwartz, a research associate at the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, and spokesperson for the Parapsychological Association. "They're entities that have become trapped in the home, and they really just want help to move along." Light candles or incense; join hands; pray; meditate. "The goal is to express your intention that the spirits leave the building," Schwartz says.

How to keep this from happening to you: Good luck getting a home inspector to check for ghosts before you buy. But consider this: Do-it-yourself exorcisms are kind of fun, and they make great stories.

And, I might add, do-it-yourself getting-smart-exercises are even more fun! They’ll hurt a bit, as you drop away the stupid notions you’ve had cluttering your brain, but that leaves room for real smarts, and they can actually help you make it through life without sending money to Sylvia Browne!




SYLVIA HONORED

Incidentally, Speaking of The Talons, we’ve just had a shipment of books arrive from a chap who finally saw the light and decided not to blow any more money on Ms. Browne. He donated his woo-woo collection to the JREF, and this allowed us to create a new library category, consisting only of the Browne books:

Gupta Adventures of a Psychic

Animals on the Other Side

Blessings from the Other Side

Conversations with the Other Side

God, Creation, and Tools for Life

The Nature of Good and Evil

The Other Side and Back

Past Lives, Future Healing

Soul's Perfection

Sylvia Browne's Book of Dreams

Note that Sylvia seems rather overly-obsessed with the “other side.” That’s ten books, enough to give Sylvia her very own JREF library category! And, each of these books not only conveniently repeats much of what the author says in the other books – in case you didn’t get it – but each book gets funnier as you move along, though reading this nonsense can cause heavy convulsions and wide yawns, I warn you…!

And, I’m not about to find out what Sylvia dreams of in that last book. I’m not that brave.




NOTICE

Dr. David Colquhoun, with the Department of Pharmacology, University College London, has frequently been quoted here on SWIFT. He now notifies us all that:

The “goodscience” blog has now been merged with “Improbable Science.” From now on, everything will be at dcscience.net. The former had an emphasis on how to get good science, which was based originally around, "How to get good science," now at dcscience.net/?p=182. The latter was largely about bad science. But both are about aspects of the interaction of science and society and about the growth of endarkenment thinking, so they have been merged into one blog.

I like that phrase, “endarkenment thinking”! And I strongly recommend that readers regularly look in on the new site to keep informed.




AN APPLICANT

A chap has just contacted me suggesting a test of homeopathy. He wrote as follows – punctuation and grammar intact, since the text is a bit confused:

Dear James Randi

I was interested (curious) to hear of your involvement with the Benveniste trials, and your conclusion (upon your results) that this then wipes out homeopathy as an authentic form of therapy. The bland red herring of placebo is the mundane, established, ill-informed and lazy way of dismissing the art and science of homeopathy, not just from the fact that the remedies act just as powerfully on animals and children (animals placebo??), but when used on adults the remedies don't act until the right remedy is ultimately given and then in their very specific and predictable ways (specific placebos??). If the placebo is so central to the extreme efficacy of homeopathic remedies, then surely the established medical profession now have all the help they need to cure the sick? They don't now need to bother any more with any of the multi-variety of 'evolving' concoctions they are using but just use the placebo, full-stop sorted?

Perhaps, it seems, you are unaware of how each individual remedy is chosen to suit the particular range of symptoms they are capable of curing? They are given to a group of healthy individuals, under very strict double-blind conditions, until they begin to experience changes in their state of health and the new symptoms common to the group (mental physical and emotional) are recorded, which most often show a general remarkable concurrence.

THE CHALLENGE – So what I would dearly like you to do is to take part in a controlled proving, i.e. you will take the homeopathic remedy blind along with a group of others, and your change of symptoms will be recorded via scientific clinical testing of your blood, urine etc both before and after the trial. A remedy will be chosen that will be predicted to induce certain testable physiological changes thus discounting placebo, unless you are going to inveigle placebo in reverse! This will give me your million dollars to pass on to a charity of my choice.

I do of course agree that the success of homeopathy never fails to astound but what is science if not the consistency of results from specifics of method?

Best Wishes
Trevor Jago

I promptly responded thus

Mr. Jago: First, of course, it would be necessary for you to fill out the standard acceptance form – to be found at randi.org/joom/content/view/38/31 – after which we can proceed apace.

I always hasten to accept challenges from smug, self-righteous, totally certain, believers in woo-woo! I therefore accept your offer without hesitation. In the past, I’ve consumed huge quantities of homeopathic preparations that were supposed to produce dreadful consequences in my poor old body, but I only experienced mild indigestion from the lactose.

I am gratified that you announce – concerning the million dollars that you have not yet earned, but which you are so (typically) confident of winning – that the sum will be donated by you to a charity. That is noble, indeed, and demonstrates your selfless dedication. I would caution you not to alert any potential recipient just yet, however; proper tests of homeopathy have a way of disappointing those who support the “art.” Your generous intention – of giving away the prize money – has been expressed to us many times, in fact by most of those who set sail on this bumpy/bounding main. It makes for good press, I’ve found.

When and where shall we engage in this world-shaking confrontation? I assume that you are prepared to undertake the expenses of such a test, and that we will have a firm, written, protocol by which to operate. I am prepared to travel to the UK, if necessary, provided that all my expenses are provided for, of course. Or, you are welcome to visit here and conduct the test. Your choice.

I suggest that you begin looking for some competent, authoritative, and dependable persons in whose hands we can place the control of this procedure. The name Dana Ullman springs to mind, though I believe you’ll find that the homeopathic community is somewhat reluctant to engage in definitive tests of their hazy notions, particularly where I am involved…

I will tell you now that I have ZERO interest in endless esoteric philosophical meanderings and theory weaving. I am ONLY interested in doing the challenge, and getting back to my work. I’m a busy person.

I’ll add that this man is poorly informed re the animal tests he cites, and is unaware of just how familiar I actually am with the involved and rather poetic fashion in which homeopaths approach finding the “right remedy” for specific ailments, but the test will be, as he suggests, to see if predicted physiological changes take place as a result of my ingestion of zero doses of the prescribed substances. And, don’t worry, I’ll be alert to the possibility that some real content might be introduced…!

Needless to say I’m wondering what it means to “inveigle placebo in reverse,” but I guess I’ll find out. I will of course keep you informed of developments.

If any…



THE SPEAKER CABLE MATTER

Michael Fremer, the only person remaining in this suggested test of speaker cables, has fallen silent. How can that be? Surely he’s eager to be tested for the million dollars?

Or maybe not. Are you out there somewhere, Mr. Fremer, sorting through cables and trying to find a set of the magic Pear Anjou items…? We note that we’ve not heard anything recently, and your fans out there are asking me to get on with it…

Ball’s in your court…




YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Plates Shown here is a side-by-side comparison of an old 29¢ wall-plate at the JREF (on the right) beside the latest hi-fi scam to hit the Idiot Market. If you thought that the Pear Anjou claims were ridiculous, refer back to randi.org/jr/021105an.html#6 and randi.org/12095intelligent.html#i1 for the “Dynamica GSIC Intelligent Chip” scam, then go to machinadynamica.com/machina44.htm and see how they’ve outdone themselves – as if that’s possible. Here they advertise their “Newest Super-Toy,” the

Tru-Tone Duplex Light-Switch Cover, a special audiophile-grade cover for all duplex wall outlets; they are intended to replace all types of duplex covers - steel, plastic, wood, etc. - in the listening room, including non-audio outlets - even unused outlets. We suggest a "baseline" of 3-4 Duplex Covers in the room. Tru-Tone Duplex Outlet Covers produce a remarkably powerful, detailed and focused sound.

No, this is not a gag, folks. Dynamica gets US$30 for these wall-plates, and the audiophools are feverishly sending in orders, I’m sure. Note that they suggest covering even unused outlets, and that at least 3 or 4 should be used in a room…! The “remarkably powerful, detailed and focused sound” that results should be easily sensed by Michael Fremer, if he weren’t so preoccupied with testing speaker cables, though I suspect that even Fremer might find this preposterous bit of hi-end swindling, a little doubtful…

No, I guess not…



IN CLOSING…

This was sent to me by the tireless Scot Morris, who cannot allow a good story/joke/illusion to remain uncirculated. It originated with a Jackie Hess, about whom we are otherwise uninformed:

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogical researcher, discovered that Hillary Clinton's great-great uncle, Remus Rodham, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is this inscription: "Remus Rodham; horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times, caught by Pinkerton Detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.

Judy e-mailed Hillary Clinton for comments. Hillary's staff of Professional image adjusters sent back the following biographical sketch:

Remus Rodham was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.

And THAT is how it's done when you're a politician, folks!

I’m informed that the latest edition of the Skeptics' Circle is up, and it takes the form of an open letter to the readily-credulous of matters such as Quantum-Touch, magical vitamins, and the usual woo-woo-like suspects. See it at tinyurl.com/2pstlg.

The latest episode of the NBC-TV series, “Phenomenon,” calls for little comment. It continues to bore, getting to look more and more like an ooh-I’m-gonna-die show, with constant pleas for “absolute silence” from the host, and “mind-blowing” murmurs from Geller. Great lighting, spooky studio set, fine music, a handful of good performances. But that’s it…

And time is running out to sign up for TAM 5.5 at the early bird discount rate. Prices go up November 16th! Don't miss this fun-filled and interactive weekend with some of skepticisms rising stars as they share with you their secrets for getting their message out to the masses. On Friday, January 26th, join your fellow JREFers poolside or attend the optional workshop on how to get the most out of blogging, podcasting, and other online Web 2.0 applications. Saturday, enjoy a full day of lectures and activities with our speakers, and an evening party by the pool and in the hotel's disco. On Sunday, get a rare chance to visit the offices of the JREF and meet the staff in their native environment. This is a truly special TAM, and one that's not to be missed!

For more information and to register, please visit www.amazingmeeting.com.

Trackback(0)
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy