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SWIFT September 12, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Sensing Silliness, Who Owns the Word Skeptic, For Skeptical NYC, Randigram on Hiatus, Irresistible, Critical Thinking Education Group, Skepdoc Harriet Hall, Chase El Chupacabra With Us, Are You A Rational Mom, Debate: Did "Science" Get a Mention in St Paul, In Closing…

Please note, item 3 has been updated: Myers Responds!

Sensing

As reported in the New Zealand Herald, September 5, 2008, (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/10530704) police in Wellington have called in two TV psychics from the show Sensing Murder. Deb Webber and Kelvin Cruickshank have been asked to help provide “any little piece of information” to help them solve the disappearance of physiotherapist who went missing while walking in Rimutaka Forest Park.

Table of Contents
  1. Sensing Silliness by Jeff Wagg

  2. Who Owns the Word Skeptic by Jeff Wagg

  3. UPDATED! - For Skeptical NYC by James Randi

  4. Randigram on Hiatus by Jeff Wagg

  5. Irresistible by James Randi

  6. Critical Thinking Education Group by Jeff Wagg

  7. Skepdoc Harriet Hall Site by Jeff Wagg

  8. Chase El Chupacabra With Us by Jeff Wagg

  9. Are You A Rational Mom by Phil Plait

  10. Debate: Did "Science" Get a Mention in St Paul

  11. In Closing…



SENSING SILLINESS by Jeff Wagg

Sensing

As reported in the New Zealand Herald, September 5, 2008, (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/category/story.cfm?c_id=30&objectid=10530704) police in Wellington have called in two TV psychics from the show Sensing Murder. Deb Webber and Kelvin Cruickshank have been asked to help provide “any little piece of information” to help them solve the disappearance of a physiotherapist who went missing while walking in Rimutaka Forest Park. Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said “I’m on the fence (regarding psychics).” It seems odd that Sergeant Ross doesn’t realize that “any little piece” of WRONG information will actually impede his case. There’s a common misperception that calling in so-called psychics when a case is stalled can’t hurt. Well, it can. Taken seriously, the pronunciations of the psychics can divert valuable police resources into dead ends and wild guesses. The psychics are hoping that somehow the police will subsequently solve the case, and give them an avenue to say they “helped.”

Raybon Kan writing for stuff.co.nz (www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4684231a1861.html) says the following: “Psychics are bogus. Psychics are pscum. Psychics are full of pshit.” Raybon goes on to make the following serious point: “If these people really could communicate with the dead, how about this: names of murderers please. Names, addresses, clues.” Those might indeed be helpful. And if our strong suspicions are correct and the so-called psychics actually have no powers, we have to consider the following:

Ads have to be honest. Why can a programme pretend to be factual when it's not? Shouldn't Sensing Murder have a disclaimer that the show is a paid advertisement for its two psychics? Isn't it time Fair Go took on Sensing Murder?

Fair Go is a New Zealand television show devoted to consumer affairs. And it’s a valid point.. these people are making money for giving what appear to be wild guesses and vague speculation to the police, who will use taxpayer resources to follow them up. It’s interesting that a person who didn’t claim to be psychic doing the same thing would be charged with obstruction.




WHO OWNS THE WORD SKEPTIC? by Jeff Wagg

Tug

One of the problems skeptics face is that the word “skeptic” has always been assumed to be a negative. News reports will often say “Skeptics this and skeptics that” as though skeptics are people who refuse to believe the obvious. Well, that may be changing. At Dragon*Con 2007 (dragoncon.org) I noticed that the Skeptics vs. Believers “Smack Down” debate had BOTH sides claiming to be the skeptics. Suddenly.. skepticism was desirable. It now lends credibility. At this year’s DragonCon, it was the same... people who we might refer to as “believers” often claimed to be “skeptics” in order to bolster their position that ghosts are real, or whatever they were arguing.

While this is anecdotal, and not a study of sociology or anything, I’d be curious if anyone else has noticed this: it’s starting to be cool to be a skeptic.




FOR SKEPTICAL NYC by James Randi

NYC

I’ll be speaking for the New York Skeptics on Friday October 10, 2008, 7:00 p.m. at the Caspary Auditorium, Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue – at 66th Street. You can get more specific info at: www.nycskeptics.org/lectures/randi. And, for those interested, I’ve sent off a note to Mr. Jack Myers (see tinyurl.com/55koqh ) to notify him that I’ll be there prepared to receive his check for $1,000 made out to the JREF. Of course, that means he will have to administer a full overdose of sleeping pills to me by 7:00 a.m. Friday morning, and monitor me for the next 12 hours up until I step onstage at the Caspary Auditorium, but I’m sure that can be arranged.

UPDATE:  MYERS RESPONDS

This is the response that Jack Myers has just sent to me, published – as requested – “in full”:

Dear Mr. Randi

I respect your willingness to undertake the challenge and I respect the sincerity with which you hold and present your beliefs. I am not in New York City on the 10th or 11th of October, but even if I were I would not accept your challenge. I will however, make a donation to a charity of your choice. I would prefer not to honor or further publicize many of your beliefs, not because I disrespect you, but because I disagree with you. I do not necessarily disagree with your facts, but I cannot in good conscience  help advance a crusade in which I do not believe.

If you publicize this statement, please report it in full.

Jack Myers Report
jm@jackmyers.com
(212) 875-8002

 As I suspected he would, Myers has backed down from his bluster. But note: he does not offer an alternate date on which we could conduct this experiment, he simply refuses to go through with the challenge that he offered, a challenge that would definitively prove or disprove the allegation he made about my faking the consumption of the Calms Forte homeopathic sleeping pills! And he now tries to misdirect attention to whether or not my beliefs are valid!  Proof can be had, easily and directly, but he won’t subject his own beliefs to a test!

What “crusade” is he referring to? My battle is with misinformation, lies, deception, flummery, and nonsense promoted by people like Jack Myers in the media.  It’s hardly a crusade; it’s far more substantial than that.  It involves all of our species, our progress, our survival – while dabblers like Myers make loud media noises and back down when confronted with reality – as he has now done.

But why am I surprised? That’s the sort of person we’re dealing with. In any case, Myers is in default, and I expect his forfeit of the $1,000 that he agreed to at http://www.randi.org/joom/swift/swift-april-13-2007.html#i5 -- payable to the James Randi Educational Foundation – the “charity of [my] choice.”  I will report the outcome to readers.


 


RANDIGRAM ON HIATUS by Jeff Wagg

The popular Randigram feature, which alerted readers to newly published Swift newsletters, has been suspended while we review our technology. We will be launching something similar soon. Many thanks to Michael Feldman, who produced this for us for so long.




IRRESISTIBLE by James Randi

This is another one of those photos that simply doesn’t need any caption. Just imagine what’s going through Stella May’s fertile mind as she surveys the horizon for clients… Please note that she’s offering “authentic astrology,” not the fake stuff, and she’s “registered,” as well. Hey, for 10 cents, how can you lose…?

Come in…!

stella


CRITICAL THINKING EDUCATION GROUP by Jeff Wagg

Cathy Stein sends us this item: Attention all teachers: You may want to consider visiting this Google Group: http://groups.google.com/group/critical-teaching

Its Mission Statement:

The Critical Thinking Education Group (CTEG), seeks to promote lifelong critical thinking and learning, with an emphasis on teaching critical thinking in all levels of education.

Towards this objective we:

-Define critical thinking as the cognitive strategies employed to rationally evaluate information for  its potential usefulness and accuracy.

-Seek to generate interest in learning and applying critical thinking to consumerism, politics, problem  solving, and other aspects of life.

-Compile and maintain a library of resources such as curricula, classroom materials and demonstrations,  and references for evidence based teaching of critical thinking.

A recent study showed that 87% of US colleges were unable to even define critical thinking properly . This is a battle we can’t afford to lose.




SKEPDOC HARRIET HALL SITE by Jeff Wagg

Shermer

Our long time friend and advisor Harriet Hall sent us this news:

Just a note to friends and correspondents to let you know I have a new “SkepDoc” website.

The more people who visit it, the sooner it will climb the Google ladder so people can find it. www.skepdoc.info

Harriet has a regular column in Skeptic Magazine, and is a retired Air Force MD.




CHASE EL CHUPACABRA WITH US by Jeff Wagg

La-Mex

We have three successful voyages under our belt, and our next one, slated for March 8-15, 2009 should prove to be edifying, entertaining, and educational. It’s our largest ship ever, with a nice mixture of days at the beach and days of lectures and entertainment. Speakers include James Randi, Mentalist Mark Edward, Jeff Wagg, and others. Leaving from Long Beach, CA, ports include Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Will we find El Chupacabra? You’ll have to join us to find out...




ARE YOU A RATIONAL MOM? by Phil Plait

We grow up hearing fairy tales from our parents. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy... and then what political party to belong to, what religion to believe, what brands to be loyal to. It can be very tough on a kid to find out their parents may not be the most critical of thinkers. Worse, uncritical thinking can be very dangerous when it comes to the health of your child. Acupuncture, chiropractic, chelation, antivaccination beliefs and many more can seriously endanger children.

That's why Los Angeles critical thinkers Jessie Marion (a director, film editor, and choreographer) and Julie Mullen (a writer and teacher) are starting up a blog for skeptical parenting. Called Rational Moms, it's still in its birth throes. They want to cover such topics as "... vaccinations, the perceived rise in autism, acupuncture for fertility, organic food (baby food especially), genetically modified foods, chiropractors for kids, as well as personal experience stories on just about anything regarding pregnancy or parenting."

They're also looking for writers. Are you a rational mom (and/or a doctor or scientist with experience in this area), and tired of the nonsense you see around you? Contact Jessie and let her know: jessie.marion@gmail.com. Tell her the JREF sent you. And you never know; you might just save a little life or two.




DEBATE: DID "SCIENCE" GET A MENTION IN ST. PAUL? by James Randi

Our long time friend Bob Park mentioned this interesting tidbit in his weekly commentary:

Last week we did a word search for "science" in Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver. We thought it unfortunate that Obama made only a single reference to science. As you have surely noticed, What's New is firmly non- partisan, so we ran the same search on a transcript of McCain’s acceptance speech last night in St. Paul. "Text not found" popped up. Could this be? Our nation is roiled by controversies over evolution, nuclear power, climate change, energy shortage, stem cells, Plan B, all of which must turn to science for their resolution. Indeed, is there an issue the nation faces that doesn’t turn on science? "Perhaps the search technology failed," I thought, "try another word." I typed in "fight." There were 25 hits. Hmmm.




IN CLOSING… by Jeff Wagg

Swift is a bit different this week, and you’ll be noticing other changes to the JREF site as we take a look at making it better suit our needs and yours. If you have suggestions for how the site can be made more usable, please send them to jeff@randi.org.

The JREF crew is traveling a lot these days, giving lectures, attending conferences, and a bit of ghost hunting thrown in the mix. You’ll be kept informed of our adventures here.

One last tidbit.. our numbers on Facebook (www.facebook.com) are growing in leaps and bounds. If you’re not familiar with facebook, it's a social networking site that allows you to keep in touch with people from around the world. It’s not for everyone, but it can be a nice way to keep tabs on your favorite skeptical friends. You can find me under the unlikely name of Jeff Wagg (I'm the one leaning on a ghost).


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