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The Parade of Errors PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

The state of Virginia boasts one of the most transparent – yet revered – “psychics” of recent decades. He was known as the "Sleeping Prophet," a photographer named Edgar Cayce who earned his nickname by making medical diagnoses while reclining in a “trance,” though no evidence was ever produced to establish this state, perhaps because experts on the subject are rather rare. Cayce – pronounced “Kay-see” – was the subject of an episode of one of NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries," the TV show that showcased such wonders as the Gulf Breeze UFO photos of Ed Walters, and England's phantom “crop circles,” as genuine wonders. The NBC-TV crew went both to Norfolk and Virginia Beach filming dramatic recreations of Cayce's life for a 15-minute segment which concentrated on Cayce's reputation as a "psychic diagnostician."

Five different time periods from 1890 to 1945 were “creatively” re-created for the show.

Support for claims of medical cures divined by Cayce was provided by an interview with a New Jersey chiropractor, Joe Pagano, who had been sharing these divinely-inspired “psychic” remedies with patients for 30 years. He admitted that they didn't work in all cases, but one patient, also interviewed, claimed to have regained eyesight after using a Cayce cure – no medical evidence provided. The remedies themselves were often bizarre: applying mashed potatoes to the eyes for blindness, or taking three almonds a day to prevent cancer. Cayce also recommended hot broths and vile-sounding and bad-tasting concoctions made from roots and bark. It was no secret that many of these home-spun remedies were commonly found in bedside almanacs and various quack pamphlets distributed by travelling medicine-men.

The Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) in Virginia Beach has on file some 14,000 of Cayce's readings, which treat everything from medical problems to the lost continent of Atlantis. Run by Cayce's grandson Charles Thomas Cayce, ARE is a nonprofit organization devoted to the prophet's spiritual teaching, a weird mix of Christianity and Eastern mysticism.

The director of the "Unsolved Mysteries" segment was quoted as saying that they were not approaching Cayce's story as believers, but viewed it "as a phenomenon that is very mysterious." He further found Cayce's medical knowledge difficult to explain. Likewise, the segment producer was quoted as saying, "Cayce had this psychic ability to determine why people felt the way they did physically or emotionally." Such statements indicate that the series’ producers didn't make much of an effort to solve this mystery. As I pointed out in my book, Flim-Flam, Cayce already had in hand letters from the ailing naifs who sought his powers, and most of those letters actually stated the ailments, so his diagnostic powers weren’t at all strained.

But there are many more reasons to doubt his powers. He even gave diagnoses for who were dead! How could that be? Surely death is a very serious and evident symptom and should be easily detectable. But we have failed to take into account the ingenuity of the breed, apparent in the following example.

Cayce gave a reading on a Monday for a little girl who had died of leukemia on Sunday, the day before. He gave a long and typical diagnosis and a long and complicated dietary cure. This brief excerpt from the reading will suffice to show just how lucid and informative it was:

And this depends upon whether one of the things as intended to be done today is done or isn't done, see?

I mention this particular phony because I’m involved in preparing much more in-depth material on him for inclusion in my next book, “A Magician in the Laboratory,” which will deal with my adventures travelling about the world examining how well-funded scientists fumble the ball while examining phonies who are beyond their abilities to observe properly.

Stay tuned…

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written by Rogue Medic, February 12, 2009
Maybe you could donate some copies of this book to some of the larger media outlets.
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written by ConTester, February 12, 2009
Edgar Cayce’s medical genius and perspicacity should be assessed against the fact that he died. Of a stroke.
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what's with the dead psychics?
written by MadScientist, February 12, 2009
Aren't NBC interested in living psychics, or do living psychics refuse interviews these days?

Ah, the Golden Age of psychics - before the invention of the moving picture cameras. Now if only those bastards would quickly become extinct like the spiritualists with psychokinetic powers.

I'll be looking forward to the new book. smilies/smiley.gif But for now I need to read 'Flim-Flam' - it's sitting in the middle of a queue of about 8 books on my desk.

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Glorious Television
written by bosshog, February 13, 2009
Anyone who still expects television (including the so-called "hard news") to give them anything remotely resembling an honest objective story is hopelessly deluded. As George Orwell so eloquently put it: "Television is not an information medium and it is not an entertainment medium. It is a sales medium."
This is why I view all attempts on this site to review TV shows in terms of their relative adherence to science and skepticism as being off the mark. ALL television is bull excrement - in terms of credibility there is absolutely no difference between 60 Minutes and The Brady Bunch. They exist solely to capture your attention long enough and by whatever means necessary in order to push the merch, whether commercial or political.
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19th Century Medical Knowledge
written by StarTrekLivz, February 13, 2009
It should be pointed out that medical knowledge in the 19th Century was not very advanced, and one could practise medicine well into the 20th century without a degree from medical school, even without studying gross anatomy.

(This also helps to explain the rise of "Christian Science," "miracle" shrines like Lourdes, and homeopathy: doctors were so ineffectual, people would try anything, and occasionally natural recovery or remission seemed to "prove" the efficacy.) This situation changed & improved in the 20th century with better medical training, the discovery of antibiotics, and sophisticated medical tests beginning with x-rays.

There's no excuse for believing in such nonsense now, of course.

As an aside, the rise of medical knowledge has had another effect: Lourdes has not reported an "authentic" miracle for about 60 years; every claim that has been offered has been demonstrated to explicable. (The Vatican's response, by the way, was to lower the bar on what qualifies as "authentic.")
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..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by José, February 13, 2009
The state of Virginia boasts one of the most transparent – yet revered – “psychics” of recent decades.

He was transparent? Surely that has to be more impressive than being psychic!
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written by Arts Myth, February 13, 2009
Given the dubious nature of Edgar Cayce's "abilities," perhaps the ARE would be more aptly considered a non-prophet organization?

(Nature abhors a vacuum, I abhor an untouched straight line.)
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Personal skeptic experience at Cayce's CFE
written by abkaiser, February 13, 2009
DBSkeptic recently published an article by a skeptic who went through the entire tour and ESP training at the Association for Research and Enlightenment. Details here:

http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/...ghtenment/.

Notable are the defenders who chime in at the end of the article.
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 13, 2009
Very punny, Arts Myth, very punny.

I get a giggle out of those who feel us old folks ought to frame everything from their perspective of time.
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Dead Psychics Recycled
written by Chris Long, February 13, 2009
Here we go with NBC recycling a little psychic "mystery" for a little ratings spike...the only mystery here is why the MSM keeps pushing this junk on us...

The Believers in this sort of thing use the MSM coverage as 'proof' there must be something to all the psychic and UFO stuff because, hey, they wouldn't have it ON TV if it wasn't true, huh ?
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written by José, February 13, 2009
I get a giggle out of those who feel us old folks ought to frame everything from their perspective of time.

Stop giggling and get with the program, old-timer. From now on “recent decades” can only be used to refer to things which occurred less than ten minutes ago. Everything before ten minutes ago will now be lumped into the Pleistocene epoch.

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Putting it all together...
written by BillyJoe, February 13, 2009
As George Orwell so eloquently put it: "Television is not an information medium and it is not an entertainment medium. It is a sales medium."

Television is a sales medium by means of entertainment with misinformation.
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Cayce still sells
written by Diverted Chrome, February 14, 2009
When I was a gullible adolescent Cayce was of passing interest for me and his foundation's books were ubiquitous at the time. I thought he might have knowledge worth investigating but the first book I read sent up red flags that had the effect of contributing to my skepticism. I had more than a couple friends who ate up Cayce. So I still have a "soft spot" of interest in Cayce debunked and in what Randi has to say about the die-hard "phenomena". (Aside from the fact that it can all be summarily dismissed with a few words).

@bosshog
That's mostly a description of network television (as was Orwell's), a shrinking segment that more and more of us use only for local news content. "All television is bull..." is a blanket statement that uses the device itself to describe content and would include Sundance Channel, IFC, Weather Channel, PBS, cSPAN, BBC News (US), Subscriber Movie channels (which now also have original programming), Discovery and a dozen others which can not be fairly lumped in with network broadcasts. Network can no longer compete against viewers who pay for direct content and is relegated to the LCD, but that's old news; the TV landscape is entirely different now to 10 yrs ago.
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History & Discovery Channels contribute to Woo Woo
written by StarTrekLivz, February 14, 2009
Sadly, lately both the History and the Discovery cable channels have devoted programming to "examining" Nostradamus, fundamentalist Apocalypse scenarios, and the alleged Mayan prediction of the end of the world on December 21, 2012. While the shows occasionally feature skeptics and science to look at the claims (or in the Apocalypse scenarios, Christians who disagree with the fundamentalist "Rapture" and "End Times" theology), by far the greater portion of the programs are given over to an uncritical presentation & defense of the "woo woo." I believe these shows only give legitimacy to the claims by giving "equal" hearing (as if the nonsense had some integrity).

Which leads us back to the necessity of evaluating TV, and Orwell's criticism as noted earlier ....
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 14, 2009
lol, 10 minute window duly noted, Jose.

Back in my day, when all roads ran uphill and men would rather die than cry, Edgar Cayce was one of those who were always held up by believers as undebunkable, so take that, Mr. Skeptic (though in reality that designation wasn't yet common). Of course, this was because no one had really bothered to take a serious, critical look at the Edgar Cayce claims. Then came Randi's Flim-Flam. *POOF*
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written by Caller X, February 14, 2009

written by José, February 13, 2009
I get a giggle out of those who feel us old folks ought to frame everything from their perspective of time.

Stop giggling and get with the program, old-timer. From now on “recent decades” can only be used to refer to things which occurred less than ten minutes ago. Everything before ten minutes ago will now be lumped into the Pleistocene epoch.


I think it's perfectly reasonable to quibble with the characterization of the period before the explosion of the first atomic bomb as "recent decades". Condescending Summer's Eve says what?
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written by Caller X, February 14, 2009
written by Cuddy Joe, February 14, 2009
lol, 10 minute window duly noted, Jose.

Back in my day, when all roads ran uphill and men would rather die than cry, Edgar Cayce was one of those who were always held up by believers as undebunkable, so take that, Mr. Skeptic (though in reality that designation wasn't yet common). Of course, this was because no one had really bothered to take a serious, critical look at the Edgar Cayce claims. Then came Randi's Flim-Flam. *POOF*


"No one"? You mean everyone who came in contact with his claims bought the stuff about Atlantis and the giant crystals? Shirley, that's not what you mean?

To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a hypnotist, everyone looks very sleepy. To a skeptic, Mr. Randi looks like, well, an eminence grise or a dyspeptic Santa Claus, depending on what kind of a day the observer is having.

People who needed Mr. Randi's book to start thinking critically should be rounded up and taken to .... ah, the circus, yeah, that's the ticket. The green wafers are on Tuesday, right?

But you can take comfort in the fact that Jesus loves you. He mentions you every time I stop in for a fajita platter. Ell O ell.
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written by José, February 14, 2009
I think it's perfectly reasonable to quibble with the characterization of the period before the explosion of the first atomic bomb as "recent decades".

Nope. It's petty.
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written by BillyJoe, February 14, 2009
I've stopped ignoring the poster who calls himself X. I can now see the funny side. And if, by chance, he does take himself seriously...well, I'm rolling ove laughing just at the thought

smilies/grin.gif

BillyJoe
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written by BillyJoe, February 14, 2009

...oops, laughing too much, I missed an 'r' in there. smilies/cheesy.gif
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cayce institute gives out degrees also
written by Todd, February 14, 2009
another dbskeptic article
http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/...nonsense/


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written by Cuddy Joe, February 15, 2009
Caller X reminds of the guy who spent 40 years going to church every day explaining to all the parishoners why they shouldn't attend church every day.

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written by bosshog, February 15, 2009
But there is no joy in Wooville
Mighty Cayce has struck out.
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written by bosshog, February 15, 2009
Diverted Chrome:
I stand by what I said. The fact that the content itself is frequently the product being sold does not negate the fact that a sale is being pushed.
How often does the Discovery Channel "discover" Noah's Ark or the truth behind Area 51 or the alien design of the pyramids or some other blowsy nonsense? And do you honestly think the BBC -that is, the British Government's official mouthpiece - doesn't have a political "point of view" that it seeks to propagate? And the Sundance Channel-since when are Robert Redford and the Hollywood establishment "objective"? And PBS??? Good God, where have you been living? Even the Weather Channel feels the need to relegate mere weather to the sidelines in favor of guided emoting.
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written by Cuddy Joe, February 15, 2009
I don't bother with the votey thing but had to give bosshog a + for The Mighty Cayce Has Struck Out.

I too feel all TV is crap, varying only in degree. Well, not all TV, but the 99.5% that is crap ruins it for the rest. Objective journalism has been totally abandoned in televison, sacrificed to ratings obtained by whatever bias will get the most viewers for a given time slot. Woodward & Bernstein 'followed the money'. Nowadays it's Barbie & Ken dolls following the red light showing which camera is on. I'm old enough to remember when news reporters would cover a story by interviewing those involved with the story. While that can still happen, these TV clowns mostly just interview each other.
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written by Steel Rat, February 16, 2009
I visted the ARE when I was a kid (maybe 12 or so, back in the mid-70s). It was so credulous (i.e. there was precious little "research" or "enlightenment" involved), but being a you and impressionable you, and having recently read such gems as "Chariots of the Gods?" and watching "In Search of Ancient Astronauts" (in school no less!), I was hooked. Fortunately I found little of substance in any of these things, and soon outgrew the need to explain the world with woo.
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written by Steel Rat, February 16, 2009
Jeez! "you and impressionable you" should have been "young and impressionable youth", which I now realize is redundant. But, we're talking about "psychics" here, so I think get a little leeway smilies/wink.gif
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written by Vitaliy, April 13, 2009
I am interested in finding out truth about all this ESP stuff: telepathy, clairvoyance and so on. My friends and mine humble experiments with Zener cards didn't brought anything more than pure statistical 20%. Evidences found in literature looked incomplete, dubious, or obviously phony. I'll just mention Victor Zammit's [u]"Afterlife"[/u].
But recently I came over [u]Edgar Cayce phenomenon[/u]. It impressed me by having many registered facts.
I have read Mr.Randi posting in this thread, but his criticism sounds somewhat superficial.
Does anybody know more detailed and convincing research in EC case?
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