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The Art of Book Review PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Mr. Steve Hume, a member of the UK Society for Psychical Research, who apparently gives personal demos of "physical phenomena" such as "table levitation" and "direct voice communication" which are claimed to occur under the forces of spirits at séances has provided readers of the October 2008 edition of the Journal of the Society with a 1,600-word review of a 2007 book by Chris Carter, of Oxford University.

The Hume review contains this paragraph, following a comment that the focus in ESP research has moved toward statistical analysis:

Throughout, Carter gives examples of the opposition to this by detractors and the rhetorical claims made by them. One good example included from the modern era is CSICOP founder Martin Gardner's claim in 1983 that evidence for psi "... keeps coming from a tiny group of enthusiasts, while negative evidence keeps coming from a much larger group of skeptics." Carter seemingly could find only three such skeptical researchers worthy of mention and he subjects their careers to brief scrutiny that is all the more withering by virtue of its understatedness. These are Richard Wiseman, Susan Blackmore and conjurer James Randi. The inclusion of Randi at all is perhaps evidence that Carter may have been barrel-scraping here, writing of Randi that "his work is so irrelevant to serious psi research that for the most part parapsychologists simply ignore it." Indeed Gardner's claim is the exact opposite of the truth.

Let's look at that last sentence, first. Martin's quoted statement was made a full quarter of a century ago, when the woo-woo element was much more attracted to spirit-mongers; Geller was one of the rare magicians who had captured attention with simple conjuring tricks and had claimed they were genuine miracles. Mr. Hume seems to be of that heady school, the survival-after-death crowd, since his specialties - "table levitation" and "direct voice communication" - both require direct involvement of the performer, with conscious physical activity. It's far from any sort of self-delusion; it's full, knowing, fakery and fraud. It doesn't take place by accident.

Yes, parapsychologists can and do "simply ignore" my work, by scurrying off to their Ivory Towers and slamming the doors. They dismiss me because I have no academic labels to my name, and that - to them - takes me and my work out of consideration - regardless of the awkward and copious evidence I produce to annoy them. But notice that Mr. Hume declines to mention the qualifications of my other two partners in what he dubs "rhetorical claims" - Richard Wiseman (Professor, Dr., and author) and Susan Blackmore (BA, MSc, PhD.) They're just listed as names, but James Randi is clearly and joyously labeled as a "conjuror" - a certain condemnation, if ever there was one!

By the way, Steve Hume works for an insurance company...

 

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written by Cuddy Joe, November 21, 2008
To be 'ignored' by the parapsychology crowd is a high compliment. Of course, they DON'T ignore Randi, they just claim to ignore him, year after year, decade after decade. If Randi were truly being ignored this wouldn't be necessary, in fact, they wouldn't even recognize his name. To be regarded thusly is a sure sign of success.
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Will Hume demonstrate for investigative conjurers?
written by surfgeorge, November 21, 2008
I wonder if Mr. Hume (I certainly hope for David Hume's sake that this man isn't related to the author of "On Miracles"...) ever performs his tricks, er, I mean, demonstrates his interactions with the spirit world in the presence of investigative professional conjurers? I wonder if he would if challenged? Or better yet, why doesn't he apply for the million dollars? I won't be holding my breath waiting for the rationalization.
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written by Michieux, November 21, 2008
Yes, and Barack Obama was a mere "community organizer"...

You know the shysters and conmen and conwomen have zilch, nada, bugger-all by way of evidence to back up their fatuous claims when all they can do to discredit notable skeptics such as the illustrious trio mentioned is juvenile name-calling. Mr. Hume is clearly an idiot.
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written by BillyJoe, November 21, 2008
Cuddy Joe.

I am happy to agree with you for once. smilies/smiley.gif

Yes, initially they tried to discredit him and, when that inevitably failed, they simply pretend to ignore him.

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, November 21, 2008
I wonder if Mr. Hume ... [would] apply for the million dollars?

No, Randi's negative psychic energy would completely cancel out Hume's positive psychic energy and the table would remain firmly planted on the ground.
(Don't laugh, this "rationalisation" has, in fact, been used many times by "psychics")

BJ
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eh, I never cared much for The X-Files anyways
written by cwniles, November 21, 2008
Scully was pretty hot though (and smart!).

Methinks Mr. Carter should stick to fiction and Mr. Hume should stick to hawking insurance.

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written by GusGus, November 21, 2008
The psi fakers try to nullify the fact that a professional conjurer is the MOST qualified person to detect their fakery. Only a professional conjurer (who makes a living fooling people) has the skill and knowledge to detect when others are fooling people.
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written by BillyJoe, November 21, 2008
GusGus,

yesyes, youyou areare correctcorrect. smilies/grin.gifsmilies/grin.gif

Levitation is either a psychic feat or a trick.
Who best to judge whether it is a trick other than a conjuror.

BJ
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written by RJccj, November 21, 2008
I just wonder if this Hume is related to David Hume. If so, can tell that some genes dont' travel well through the generations.
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written by BillyJoe, November 21, 2008
Yeah, and I wonder if Stephen is related to Stephen Gould.
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Wrong "Chris Carter"
written by ttch, December 02, 2008
The book under review is undoubtedly Parapsychology and the Skeptics: A Scientific Argument for the Existence of ESP. But it was not written by the American screenwriter Chris Carter who attended California State University at Long Beach, but rather by the Chris Carter who graduated Oxford University in England with degrees in Economics and Philosophy and currently "teaches internationally".

See Chris Carter's Wikipedia entry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...eenwriter)

And the bottom of the Amazon.com "All Editorial Reviews" page for the latter's book:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ...55&s=books

(You would have had this information days ago had I known that we JREF Forum readers needed new accounts to comment on the JREF Swift Blog. And why no preview option on comments?)
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written by JeffWagg, December 04, 2008
@ttch: Thanks for that. I've corrected the text. As for the comments, I'll look into adding preview as an option. I'm not sure the module supports it.
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