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SWIFT October 12, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Sounds Like Acceptance, Incredible, Freedom of Expression Triumphs, No Surprise at All, Correction, Evolution and Education, Coo-Coo Department, In Closing…

It’s not often that one of the noisy woo-woos out there actually accepts to take the JREF challenge, but we just may have such a one! It’s Michael Fremer, who signs himself as “senior contributing editor, Stereophile Magazine.” Now, we’ve sniped away at Stereophile many times here on SWIFT, and offered them the JREF million-dollar prize, repeatedly – with no response. But that may have changed. I must admit, I feel like a hungry lion who just had a flock of tasty lambs wander into his valley…!

In a rather “enthusiastic” and certainly colorful response to my taunting, Mr. Fremer chose to quote me from the November 17th, 2006, SWIFT, where I printed one of his more hilarious statements re demagnetizing vinyl LP recordings. No, that’s not a misprint, folks. Even though vinyl plastic can’t retain or even react to a magnetic field, Fremer – a scientifically-trained editor, remember, as opposed to my own meager educational background – seems to believe otherwise. He wrote:

 

Table of Contents
  1. Sounds Like Acceptance

  2. Incredible

  3. Freedom of Expression Triumphs

  4. No Surprise at All

  5. Correction

  6. Evolution and Education

  7. Coo-Coo Department

  8. In Closing…



SOUNDS LIKE ACCEPTANCE!

It’s not often that one of the noisy woo-woos out there actually accepts to take the JREF challenge, but we just may have such a one! It’s Michael Fremer, who signs himself as “senior contributing editor, Stereophile Magazine.” Now, we’ve sniped away at Stereophile many times here on SWIFT, and offered them the JREF million-dollar prize, repeatedly – with no response. But that may have changed. I must admit, I feel like a hungry lion who just had a flock of tasty lambs wander into his valley…!

In a rather “enthusiastic” and certainly colorful response to my taunting, Mr. Fremer chose to quote me from the November 17th, 2006, SWIFT, where I printed one of his more hilarious statements re demagnetizing vinyl LP recordings. No, that’s not a misprint, folks. Even though vinyl plastic can’t retain or even react to a magnetic field, Fremer – a scientifically-trained editor, remember, as opposed to my own meager educational background – seems to believe otherwise. He wrote:

...demagnetizing an LP definitively removed a high-frequency glaze or glare and seemed to enrich the midband... Demagnetizing LPs works. Better yet, once a record has been demagnetized, it seems to stay that way... And do not try one of these devices unless you’re prepared to buy it.

Here’s how I commented on this Fremer statement on that occasion:

…strangely enough, he [Fremer] won’t invest 20 minutes of his time to win the JREF million-dollar prize! Or could it be that he’s an incompetent fumbler and is just turning out crap for naïve subscribers to Stereophile? He will not respond, nor will anyone else at Stereophile Magazine, because they’re fakers. Prove me wrong.

Now, nearly a year later, I will quote Michael Fremer’s answer directly, with all his subtle phrasing, grammar and spelling, and his consummate smooth talk, exactly as it appeared. He wrote:

OR COULD IT BE I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT HIS STUPID F...KING CHALLENGE?

I am easily found on the internet but no one has come to me with whatever the hell this "challenge" is. Instead, the bitter, little Randi chooses to issue some kind of lame "challenge," into the ether and because I don’t know about it, he feels empowered to attack me for not responding?

WHAT A LAME LITTLE NAVEL GAZING EGOMANIACAL WEASEL!

One of the "fools" who reads me and finds me credible (you know, doctors, research scientists, etc.) alerted me to this bullshit.

So now that I’ve been insulted by a pathetic, ignorant egomaniac, who thinks that because I don’t hang on his every foaming utterance that I won’t invest 20 minutes of my time to win some prize, I AM RESPONDING.

Randi is clearly a putz, but this "incompetent fumbler" might be induced to attempt to prove him wrong if whatever the hell this is proves to be of interest to me.

So let me know what the JREF is......

Umm, I think Fremer knows, by now. I must say that I’ve not even so much as glanced at my navel in years, and I cannot imagine that he was unaware of the JREF prize offer. However, he then published this statement:

I will take the annoying Randi’s cable challenge once we agree to the protocol and I find it intended to be truly scientific and not designed to produce confusion. I am more than well qualified to participate and am willing to do so despite the fact that the annoying Randi attacked me personally on his site by using a clownish photo of me that I generously allowed to be taken for the cover of a magazine because A) unlike the annoying Randi I have a sense of humor and B) unlike the annoying Randi I have a sense of humor.

That he would take that photo and use it to attack me is indicative of his loathsome and arrogant character but nonetheless I hereby state that I am willing to participate in a double blind, scientifically designed cable test. However, the point of the test must be to see if an individual might be able to hear differences and reliably identify them as opposed to a test designed to "prove" that there are no differences (which is the opposite of the scientific method).

I do this despite having participated in an AES [Audio Engineering Society] sponsored double blind test designed to see if AES members and members of the press could hear differences among audio amplifiers. This was in response to a different David Clark, one who contends there are no audible differences among well designed amplifiers.

I took the test and got 5 out of 5 identifications correct. John Atkinson, my editor, who the annoying Randi also derides, got 4 of 5 correct. However, as the overall population of engineers produced a statistically insignificant result, I was told that I was a "lucky coin," and my result was thrown out! Just as you would expect from a good bunch of collectivist commies! Had I been challenged to do 100 push ups and done them but the average number of pushups produced by the group was 20, my 100 would have been thrown out!

But never, mind. If we can agree on a high resolution audio system set up in a good room and agree on the test protocol (including my choice of expensive cable and the annoying Randi’s choice of cheap cable) I hereby accept the annoying Randi’s challenge. Now please stop the bullshit on your site about how no audiophiles are willing to accept the annoying Randi’s challenges. I’m doing it right here and now (10/3/07)

The A) and B) options listed above, quite escape my understanding, or I’m insensitive to a subtle bit of humor, a problem that might be shared with other readers. However, I must admit that Fremer’s use here of the word “annoying” – eight times! – is very significant. It certainly is annoying to have someone constantly calling your bluff, questioning your competence, and trying to equip you with the simple facts of grade-school science. The “bunch of collectivist commies” comment says much about Fremer’s politics, and I hasten to assure him that I – at least – have zero “collectivist” or communist sympathies. No matter. I guess he was running short of schoolboy insults, and reached ’way down into the bag…

Ah, but what an unexpected surprise this is! Pending preparation and examination of the protocol – of course – Michael Fremer, senior contributing editor of Stereophile Magazine, has now agreed to take the JREF challenge! Hallelujah!

I’ll address a few points he makes: first, I assure him that any proposed test would be scrupulously scientific, designed to produce definitive results. I cannot expect him to be familiar with my established standards in this respect, since he appears to be ignorant of my campaign to bring reality to those who need it, but I assure him that qualified scientific advisors are prepared to assist us in protocol design and implementation. And, as he wrote, he himself is “…more than well qualified” in this respect. Second, I apologize for having used a photo of him that he found to be “clownish.” My only problem is that I’m unable to discover this photo, though I seem to recall having used one of him that looked like Mickey Mouse. If that’s the one referred to, it appears that he willingly, purposefully, “generously,” posed for it, and knowingly did so for use on a magazine cover! I had no idea that he so regretted that action…

In regard to my sense of humor, I assure Fremer that it’s quite well-developed. You see, it’s part of the defense mechanism I’ve developed so that I’m not too easily depressed by the scam artists who sell useless gimmicks to heal innocent, vulnerable victims, or to magically improve the expensive audio/video setups owned by the naïve, or to bring financial assistance to needy persons via incantations and charms. There are some tears along with my laughter.

As for my “loathsome and arrogant character,” I suggest that Fremer doesn’t really know me well enough – yet. If truth and common sense offend him, if honesty and candid statements hurt his preferred perception of the world, and if rationality threatens his delusions, I can understand that opinion he holds of me. However, it appears that all that misconceptions will shortly be cleared up.

He states – again, much to my surprise! – that he is “willing to participate in a double blind, scientifically designed cable test.” I would – contrary to his stated dread – insist that the tests be designed “to see if an individual might be able to hear differences and reliably identify them as opposed to a test designed to ‘prove’ that there are no differences.” That latter notion never occurred to me, since I cannot imagine having to design a protocol to establish such a strange idea, but it was his invention, not mine. We are in total agreement in that respect.

I assure him that I would never retreat to re-designing the rules of any tests, as he suggests was done previously after a test of audio components in which he took part. (I must say, in passing, that a test of differences in audio amplifiers could surely be winnable, since there obviously are audible differences between different designs and different combinations of audio components. I think that even I – inexperienced as I am – might be successful in such a test.) All the protocol in any tests in which I’m involved, is stated in advance, clearly, and is followed scrupulously, Mr. Fremer. Be assured of that.

In accordance with Fremer’s suggestion, I’m sure that we can agree on a “high resolution audio system set up in a good room,” and we can agree on the test protocol. Also, the choice of cables will be both his and mine, as he suggests.

Just as I was preparing this text to submit to Rich Montalvo for preparation to go up Thursday night, as we regularly do, Fremer apparently panicked that he might actually have to go through with the acceptance of the challenge. At 2:44p.m. on Wednesday, I received this note via e-mail:

I MAKE NO CLAIMS OF HAVING "PSYCHIC, SUPERNATURAL OR PARANORMAL ABILITIES."

I claim to be able to hear differences among audio cables. I don’t believe in seances, ghosts, past lives, or an afterlife, or in a big head in the sky who watches and judges me (I’m not talking about you, either, by the way).

At 2:47p.m., all a-twitter at having heard directly from Fremer, I fired off this response:

As clearly stated, I have designated the Pear claim, by its nature, and by definition, to be a paranormal event. That makes it eligible. In any case, you are eligible for the JREF million-dollar prize. Do you accept?

At 3:43p.m., Fremer responded:

So it’s not a "psychic" event, it’s not a "supernatural" event, but it is a "paranormal" one. Please define "paranormal."

At 4:03, I answered:

Okay, we aim to please:

We define "paranormal" as describing an event or a phenomenon that can actually be shown to occur, but has no explanation within scientific reasoning.

That’s our definition. Bearing in mind that dictionaries do not give definitions, but only usages, Webster’s Dictionary – the Random House College Edition – gives this usage:

…pertaining to events or perceptions occurring without scientific explanation, as clairvoyance or extrasensory perception.

Detecting differences between two varieties of excellent conductors of low-voltage electrical signals – speaker leads – via a direct auditory test, would fall within this usage.

Regardless, we of course have the right to accept this claim as paranormal in nature, and we hereby do accept it as such. We will even create, for the purposes of this experimental protocol, a special category of "golden ears," just for you.

Do you accept, subject to the designed protocol yet to be arrived at?

This item appeared on Gizmodo at tinyurl.com/328aqg

Last week, magician and paranormal debunker James Randi… offered the makers of Pear speaker cables $1 million if they could prove in double-blind testing there was a difference between their $7,250 cables and ordinary Monster Cables. Now, Adam Blake, CEO and co-founder of Pear Cable, has called Randi’s offer "a fake" and a "joke." We’ve contacted James Randi, asking if he’d like to get together with these Pear dudes for some double-blind testing. We’ve also contacted Adam Blake, asking if Pear planned to participate in Randi’s double-blind test. After the jump, see the full text of Pear Cable’s accusations that Randi’s million-dollar offer is a hoax. We’ll keep you posted if anyone responds.

Here’s Pear Cable CEO Adam Blake’s response received by Don, a member of the forum at DIY Mobile Audio:

Nice to hear from you. Yes, by now we have heard about this challenge (although we were never contacted directly). Unfortunately, like most offers of $1 million this one is a hoax. While James Randi is claiming to offer a $1 million dollar prize to differentiate between these speaker cables, by reading the official rules of the challenge, it becomes immediately clear that the offer is not valid. One must be able to "demonstrate any psychic, supernatural or paranormal ability" in order to qualify. Since there is a wealth of scientific information explaining the differences between speaker cables, the offer is not a valid one (and James Randi knows it).

 

Umm, no, Adam. The JREF believes that if the claims made for these cables – not to mention the claim that vinyl plastic can be magnetized! – are genuine, that would constitute a paranormal event. And, it’s our challenge, so we can make this provision if we want to, and you should welcome the scent of a million dollars wafting your way! To continue:

While we publish a frequency response plot demonstrating the differences between cables on our own website here [website provided] there are also independant [sic] measurements and data that can be found for example here: [another site given]. In addition, the High School eductated [sic] James Randi who claims to have consulted unnamed experts on the matter makes unsubstantiated claims that our science is junk. Unfortunately true experts do not agree. For example, despite his claims that RFI is not a problem in speaker cables, according to publications by the Amateur Radio Relay League, RFI has been documented as a known problem that can exist in speaker cables.

Umm, I don’t recall that I’ve ever doubted the possible effects of RFI – Radio Frequency Interference – on audio quality, but Blake seems to think I have. I’m also well aware of possible inductance problems, resistance/impedance effects, and other interfering elements that might not be rejected by plain old “zip” cord speaker cables, but there is a point beyond which no ear can benefit from the expense of conductors. But, moving on:

In addition, according to the editor of Stereophile magazine John Atkinson, James Randi has completely fabricated the statements about Atkinson made in this "challenge". Furthermore, another audiophile who goes by the moniker "Wellfed" on the AudioAsylum forums, says he tried to take the challenge twice for what I consider a more dubious audio tweak (the GSIC chip), but was denied the opportunity and was lied to by the Randi Foundation. Finally, according to forum posts… at least one person has tried to take the "challenge" previously to show that they could differentiate between loudspeaker cables and they were denied by Randi who said "Wire is not wire. I accept that."

Randi comments: Yes, because those claims were within reason, and could be expected to result in valid decisions, so were not in any sense paranormal. But note: There’s good news to be found here! Blake actually considers the totally incredible claims for the “Intelligent Chip” – which you can see at this link – “a more dubious audio tweak”! There appears to be some limit to his credulity! Continuing:

So, at the end of the day we have claims made by a high school educated retired magician, which are refuted by independent studies and publications conducted by experts. Most importantly, James Randi’s "challenge" is backed by nothing. Many audiophiles have already expressed interest in taking the challenge, but they are barred by the contest rules unless they are part of the media. And, in the past, Randi denied audiophiles the chance to take the "challenge" with regard to differentiating between speaker cables.

No, Adam, you’re showing your ignorance here. Applicants don’t have to be “part of the media,” at all. Re-read that part of the challenge rules. But you knew that, didn’t you? Anything goes, when you have to get readers off the facts…

What follows is the usual/expected appeal to hi-tech tests, rather than to the “golden ears” of the “experts.” These “measurements” are meaningless in regard to the actual listening experience – which is what the consumer would seem to be interested in, unless he has bats as pets… Writes Blake:

At Pear Cable we publish objective measurements to demonstrate the improved fidelity of our cables. In addition, we publish reviews and opinions that are based on both blind and non-blind testing. In fact, the comments made by Richard from the Bay Area Audiophile Society on the Comice Silver Interconnects were the result of a blind test he conducted. We have not yet put together an official response to this joke of a "challenge," so we are not currently participating in the many conversations going on in audio forums as we speak. In any case, I hope you find the above to be informative.

Oh, Adam, I suspect there are other reasons for your reluctance to participate in those conversations, especially when comments such as these – selected from a far greater number – have been sent in to your own site and to other blogs:

You know, if these people really thought that Randi was a hoax, there would be a very simple way to prove it, and to really "own" him. Take him up on the offer. Seriously. Accept Randi’s challenge and document the hell out of it. Record every phone call, save every email. And, if/when Randi backs out, makes unreasonable claims, or just gets difficult, post it all.

Instead, this just sounds like more of the same type of thing that the “psychics” claim:

"The negative energies from Randi keep my abilities from working." "I am not allowed to profit from my abilities." "The negative energies from Randi keep my abilities from working." "I am not allowed to profit from my abilities." "I don’t need a million dollars." "He would just keep changing the rules, so I am not going to try."

That Adam Blake dude is named by the media. Why doesn’t HE take the challenge?

Randi just doesn’t want to deal with all the little snacks out there that just want their 30 seconds of fame. Of course, when the challenge is done they all say the contest was rigged... Because they can’t accept they are not the real thing. It hurts their egos and they wanna justify themselves so they can continue fooling gullible foos’.

Also: PHD does not equal logical. Randi has about 549 more times common sense than some PHD fools in truthology out there. Randi is a pro magician, which means he’s trained to smell the bull out there. Don’t try to fool the man – he sees what you’re doing. It’s his JOB to fool people.

Take Randi for an old senile and you’ll regret it.

Blake just doesn’t get Randi’s point. It doesn’t matter if Pear cables can handle certain frequencies better if those frequencies are undetectable to the human ear. I’m not buying cables for my dog, I’m buying them for me.

If your cables are really the bee’s knees, why not submit to the test? You can show me all sorts of electrical readings from the cables themselves, but if people can’t tell the difference with their ears you’re selling snake oil. I give Blake credit for trying to back himself up, but saying "so-and-so said this on a forum" isn’t exactly a watertight support for an argument.

Put up or shut up, Pear Cable

If this snake oil salesman Blake actually had a valid claim, he would have done the test already. Fact is he KNOWS that his cables CAN’T provide an audible difference to the human ear, so instead he puffs up, struts around and calls James Randi names.

How can a "hoax" have "official rules"? I’m guessing that like all psychics, they balk at not being able to control the environment.

...did Mr. Blake actually write "High School eductated"?...lordy, no wonder he doesn’t want to submit to any "challenges" – he sounds intellectually overchallenged as it is... regardless.

While I quite well understand Adam’s typos – since corrected – I’ll decline to respond to his snide “high school educated” comment. I’ll simply refer him to the long list of prestigious venues at which I’ve spoken – all over the world, the international recognition and honors I’ve received, and the string of Nobel Laureates who I’ve gotten to know. I’ve often said that though an education makes a person educated, it doesn’t necessarily make him smart…

Just as we were closing this week’s page, this was sent back to me from Fremer, with the heading “Importance: High”:

But there are scientific explanations for sonic differences among cables, including (among others) inductance, resistance and capacitance, all of which can have an effect on frequency response. Effective shielding (or not) can and does affect measurable noise spectra due to the intrusion (or not) or RFI/EMI.

The word "excellent" is meaningless IMO.

In addition, as I described to you in my email, the 1/3 octave equalizer example indicates that hearing something that’s not measured does not indicate "paranormal" activity, ESP or any such thing. It indicates something scientifically verifiable but not at the time the observation is made and checked against available measurable standards. The word "paranormal" is loaded. I don’t like it. If I pass this test I will be declared to have "paranormal" abilities, which I deny. It will be like the "lucky coin" business with the amplifiers. I also don’t claim to have "golden ears." Most who listen beyond the casual level can hear differences. I want this to be an experiment not a side show, with the results, should I be successful, indicating something other than ESP, paranormality, etc.

In addition I would like to include interconnects unless you concede that they make a difference in which case there’s no need....

Sir, I assure you that I’m quite familiar with such things as inductance, resistance, and capacitance as possible factors in performance. Well, let’s leave out the designation “paranormal,” then, since it seems that it intrudes on your sensitivity standards. Likewise with “golden ears.” As for the “interconnects” you mention, it would be my intention to simply mechanically – by hand – connect or disconnect the speaker leads, as dictated by the randomizer means we employ…

In any case, this discussion must end here, since we have to “go to press” with this edition of SWIFT. To be continued, anon….

I look forward to discussing the parameters, location, and time for a test. With great enthusiasm!



INCREDIBLE

Dr. Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., is a tenured professor of Psychology and the Director of The VERITAS Research Program of the “Human Energy Systems Laboratory” – a hotbed of woo-woo nonsense in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona. At U of A, Schwartz teaches in the departments of Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Surgery. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard, from whence also came Dr. John Mack, a man who apparently had never met anyone who hadn’t been abducted by space aliens. Schwartz is a darling of the media, who eagerly quote his belief in spiritualist mediums, remote viewing, and other wonders, because he’s a real scientist, an actual "Doctor" who embraces bump-in-the-night ideas without hesitation. And, be warned: he never neglects to tell you about his academic qualifications, his numerous scholarly papers, and other writings.

You can see a thorough examination of this strange fellow at this link and at other places on SWIFT.

Well, last week’s “Geraldo at Large” show on Fox News ran a 6-minutes-plus item that I only happened to hear about while channel-hopping. As I watched the piece, I could not believe what was being said. The video of this event can be found to the right →.

It appears that Dr. Schwartz has now turned from being merely a gullible believer in psychic claims, to having contact with the dead, himself! In the video clip, he tells a grieving father who lost his son five years ago, that he’s “talked to [his] son,” and has felt “his essence.” He suggests that the wealthy man should pony up $3.3 million to start a corporation “from the other side”! Hey, Schwartz already got $1.8 million from our National Institutes of Health to further the work of the Human Energy Systems Laboratory, and understandably he sees the naivety of people who are blinded by his Harvard education!

Interestingly, I note that Laurie Campbell, star of the Discovery Channel’s vapid “Sensing Murder” series, who was called in on the program by Geraldo to provide an opinion on Schwartz, joined her fellow “psychic” Allison Dubois – who had previously been chummy with Schwartz – in disavowing the man. Campbell described Schwartz as “highly unethical” and said that when she appealed to the University of Arizona for help, “nobody seemed to really be interested in helping me.” Perhaps an explanation for that reluctance is to be found in the next paragraph:

I must ask, will the University of Arizona remain unfazed by what appears to be not only a bizarre departure from academic propriety, but an adventure into the world of the spiritualist scam artist? When I offered the University the JREF million-dollar prize if Schwartz would submit his raw data on his John Edward “investigation” and thereby prove that Edward was a genuine psychic, the University declined to accept in spite of the fact that Schwartz had agreed – during an in-person visit to the JREF – that he would (a) follow the protocol that I’d designed to test Edward, and (b) submit to us the raw data from his investigation, though he subsequently allowed Edward to bypass the protocol, and never made any move to submit the data to us.. I think I now know why that offer to the University was turned down: I think that Schwartz is bringing so much money in to the University coffers, that another million just doesn’t seem that attractive, in comparison.

It will be interesting to see how this strange event plays out. Mr. Michael I. Knopf, the man that Schwartz asked for the 3.3 million, is not at all happy with the way he was treated. The University will, I think, hum and haw a bit until the excitement dies away, and wait until the money starts coming in again. But we’ll see…



FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TRIUMPHS

The much-discussed “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” [DMCA], passed in 1998, is a major update of intellectual-property laws which, among other things, limits liability for online service providers, as long as the provider acts promptly when a copyright infringement is reported. We at the JREF had an instance of this just recently, when “psychic” Uri Geller complained to YouTube about some videos that we had placed on our site, very revealing videos with which The Spoonbender was displeased. He was seen in these videos doing quite ordinary conjuring tricks, though he’s said many times that he doesn’t do tricks, doesn’t know how to do tricks, and has never done tricks.

Geller told YouTube that the material in those videos that so offended him, was an eight-second clip of his "deeply private" family doctor, who had agreed to appear only in the original public performance some 20 years earlier, well before the public-access Internet/World Wide Web facility existed. YouTube immediately removed the videos in response to Geller’s claim that he had a copyright on the material, but as soon as it was discovered that he had no such copyright, the videos were back in place, and can now be seen again at randi.org/uri/

Well, a similar dispute in now underway between an atheist group and a creationist group over some postings on YouTube. The atheist group – the Rational Response Squad [RRS] – says they’ve been subjected to a new and inappropriate use of the DMCA. Recently, YouTube withdrew several videos criticizing the Creation Science Evangelism ministry, videos that had been posted by the RRS. At one point, YouTube even suspended Rational Response Squad’s account.

The RRS argued to YouTube that the content fell under the rule of “fair use,” and those videos were eventually restored. Rational Response Squad’s account was also reinstated.

Falsely claiming a copyright is not without possible serious consequences. This is illegal under DMCA rules, and can lead not only to damage judgments and legal fees, but also to public embarrassment when the public finds out about it. As another example of how the DMCA rulings are backfiring on the grubbies, Brian Sapient, a leader of the Rational Response Squad, noted that Kent Hovind, the founder of the Creation Science Evangelism group, presently serving a ten-year prison for tax evasion, had – from prison – encouraged use of certain material on the ministry’s web site. This matter is being investigated right now.

Geller, asked by Wired News for a comment about the posting of the videos, said:

I couldn’t care about criticism. Exposés are fantastic. I have no problems with atheists, agnostics or other critics, but I don’t want my doctor’s image splashed over the internet… Oscar Wilde once said that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. When skeptics bring videos out, come on, that’s free publicity… I’ve been hounded by skeptics for years. I’m used to turning it around.

That obviously means that Geller has no objections to our posting the videos, and he enjoys the publicity, I’m happy to note. Not only has he no right to have them taken down, but he has clearly said that he considers them “fantastic.” Well, so do we…! They’ll be up there in perpetuity…!

Says Wired News:

As more people catch on to how useful YouTube can be for delivering political, religious and cultural messages, DMCA claims are likely to increase. With news cycles moving at light-speed, an illegal copyright claim might well suppress unwanted news long enough to distort coverage. And if previous incidents are any indication, the issues involved could get much weightier, especially in an election year. In 2003, security-systems company Diebold tried, unsuccessfully, to use the DMCA to remove leaked company emails from the internet. The information revealed serious flaws in the company’s oft-maligned electronic voting machines. Diebold lost the case in 2004 and paid $125,000 in damages and penalties for bogus accusations of copyright violation.

As soon as we discover what Geller had to do to atone for his false copyright claim, we’ll let our readers know. Hark! What’s that sudden scurrying noise I hear? Could it be Geller frantically summoning his legal forces…?



NO SURPRISE AT ALL

Reader John Weber, CIO at Southeast Missouri State University, informs us:

Dr. Lucinda Swatzell is a professor of botany at Southeast Missouri State University and is presenting these three lectures as part of the Kent Library Athenaeum series. I attended the first lecture expecting an intellectual discussion of science and Genesis. There was no such thing. Dr. Swatzell presented a lecture backed up by a cartoon (literally) PowerPoint presentation at the level of a sixth grade Bible study class. Her presentation consisted of misrepresentations, falsehoods, gross oversimplifications of the methods of science research, wildly incongruent logic, and opinions based on her childhood interpretations of the Bible.

That a professor at this university could present such a puerile, shallow lecture in public, is truly embarrassing – and there are two more to go. The Dean of the School of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Chris McGowan, must be proud!

I am a strong supporter of free speech and academic freedom as an essential part of a viable functioning university. I think open, public discussions, especially about the conflict between science and religion, are important. Such discussions can/will show the strengths and weaknesses of ideas. However, one would expect that the bar would be set higher than this.

Also, Dr. Swatzell mentioned that members of her classes were getting extra credit for attending. At that point, I complained to the provost’s office that such an arrangement for students to attend a religious exercise to improve their grade might run afoul of university policies. As you can imagine, this complaint was not greeted warmly and was promptly dismissed.

I don’t know if bribing students [by awarding extra credits] to attend the lecture was particularly effective, since there were 37 people in the room (minus one when I left) and 16 of those were employees.

As if to give some more flavor to the matter, John gives us “Two Factoids”: The university has a “Creation Science Club,” and Cape Girardeau, where the university is located, is Rush Limbaugh’s home town.

You can see Dr. Swatzell’s brochure at library.semo.edu/Brochure_Swatzell.pdf



CORRECTION

Reader Dean Bergen writes, concerning the item two weeks ago at this link in which I stated – erroneously – that Stereophile Magazine editor John Atkinson had actually applied for the JREF prize:

I just wanted to fill in you guys (any gals there?) about an email I got from one John Atkinson today stating that:

I have not been contacted by Randi, I have not committed to do any such listening test. The comment that James Randi recently posted on his website that “John Atkinson of Stereophile Magazine made great noises about being ready to snap up the million, then got distracted by things such as gullible readers who accepted his claimed abilities, and backed out," is, for want of a better word, a lie.

Just thought you might like to know. You guys wouldn’t happen to have anything I could reply, and rebut, with, would you?

Well, I’ve looked into this matter, and discovered that Mr. Atkinson is quite correct – in some respects. First, we at the JREF don’t pursue or “contact” likely applicants for the prize – except in very rare cases. The woo-woos out there are very much aware of this challenge, and would have to be hiding under a rock – hello, Sylvia? – not to know about it. Second, I find I have three Atkinsons on my list, one – also named John – in the Isle of Man, another named Greta. I didn’t think that Atkinsons were so plentiful! Third, though I sent many notes off to THE Atkinson, it appears that if he got them – and my mail might have been designated “spam” by his system as a protective measure – he did not respond! Those acceptances I received were actually made on his behalf by Stereophile/Atkinson fans who assured me that he’d be more than happy to apply, and with so many other real assurances from “experts” who have eagerly declared their willing candidacy, I made a false connection…

So, THE John Atkinson of Stereophile Magazine – unless more than one such works with or for Stereophile! – never made application for the JREF prize, nor “backed out,” because he never backed in. Nor did he even entertain the idea that he might provide evidence for his support of pseudoscientific and quite hilarious products that he and Stereophile have endorsed, thus reacting just as we’d have expected.

Neither Stereophile Magazine nor their John Atkinson responded to the JREF million-dollar challenge, preferring to lie low and wait until I’d moved on. Fear is a great motive for hiding behind authority, as we’ve shown time after time.

I do apologize to THE John Atkinson, and thank him for verifying his still-standing reluctance to prove his support of nonsense such as the "Audiodharma Cable Cooker” – $649, the “Intelligent Chip” – $16, and the "Shakti Hallograph Soundfield Optimizer" – $999, – and to thereby win the million dollars. My statement last week about him was incorrect.



EVOLUTION AND EDUCATION

Reader Brian Makepeace of Ithaca, New York, writes:

My ever-eroding confidence in the future evolution of our species continues to be shaken. I offer some thoughts, gripes, and rhetorical questions:

My sons, who had been home-schooled until high-school, ended up at an “alternative” public school. The school has many great features, and is run much like a Junior College, with students able to choose their own classes, etc. With my hearty approval, my youngest son signed up for a class entitled, "Critical Thinking." It mostly dealt with media and advertising, and encouraged the students to "think critically" about what they were being sold and why. But included in the course was a unit on UFOs. By using taped episodes of "In Search Of...." and other similar made-for-TV "mocumentaries," the teacher effectively changed my son from a rationalist (like his Pa raised him to be) to a believer/fence-sitter.

As you know, those TV shows may make it seem like the most rational and open-minded position is to accept that the government is probably hiding something and that UFOs and alien visitations probably exist. Nowhere during the TV shows or in this "Critical Thinking" course, was the UFO "evidence" ever questioned. Like my son said, "But Pa, how do you know UFOs don’t exist?" And, "Why would the people making this video lie?" It took months of deprogramming by me to get my son to be a skeptic again but I am not sure to this day if his ability to think clearly hasn’t been permanently damaged.

I tell you this because lately I have been bombarded by requests from many of my college-educated friends and my own children, to watch several different 9/11 “conspiracy” videos. To a person, they all are now believers/fence-sitters. They saw all the “evidence” on these videos, and knowing that I am an eternal skeptic, they challenge me to explain and account for the “facts” they witnessed. How did the buildings fall so fast, or how do I explain the sequential explosions that – supposedly – occurred as the towers fell? How come the hole from the plane crash and subsequent explosion at the Pentagon is so small, and where are all the plane parts? How could a mere aluminum airplane penetrate so deep through three fortified walls, into the Pentagon? Why did Building 7 collapse? Etc. Etc.

Because they don’t have answers to these questions, and because the video conveniently avoids giving any rational answers, they assume nobody has an answer. Result: It must be a conspiracy. Everyone I know who has seen these conspiracy videos is supremely confident that they are now privy to some dark secret, and because they didn’t dismiss the theories as pure hogwash, as I have, they proudly proclaim that they are the ones being open-minded – not me.

All this, and your recent posts about homeopathy and ghosts have reminded me of the time when I was 18, when I – sadly – first learned how gullible people really are. When I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I worked as a shoe salesman. Often, a customer would complain that a shoe was too tight. As was the age-old practice, we salesmen would take a shoe-tree shaped stretching device and gently stretch the shoe as the customer watched. More often than not, the shoes still wouldn’t fit. One day, while dealing with a difficult customer, and after nearly stretching his new shoes to the breaking point, I had an idea. I excused myself and took the shoes to the back room of the store. There, in between dozens of shoe boxes, stood our industrial-strength, upright vacuum cleaner. I plugged it in, turned it on, and let the loud machine run for a full minute. I then turned it off and walked back out to the customer. I handed him the shoes and told him I had put them on the "electric stretching machine." He tried them on, and said they now fit like a glove. From that day forward, none of the salesman in our store ever again hand-stretched a shoe – which actually works. If a shoe was deemed too tight, we always went directly to the loud, "electric stretching machine" in the back room, the customer was always sure the shoe fit better afterwards, and we always made the sale.

So why do I continue to be surprised at human gullibility? Why do I hold out hope that humans only need education, and then their belief in fantasies and lust for conspiracies theories will cease? If education isn’t enough, and if legitimate scientific data and actual facts aren’t enough to sway people, what the hell is? My Ivy League educated friend said after I poo-pooed his fervid support for the 9/11 conspiracy theory, "I don’t care what you say, my intuition tells me otherwise."

Brian, my intuition tells me that your friend needs to discover rationality, reason, and probability. Perhaps the ivy got in the way when those subjects were brought up at school…



COO-COO DEPARTMENT

In case you think that Blake and Fremer are pretty far out there, I’ll close with someone who calls himself “Lord Elf,” which rather sets the stage for his entrance here. Spelling, punctuation, just as sent in, here’s the kind of note we get a few times a week just to show us that there are people who actually think, for example, that vinyl can be magnetized… Oh, wait, that was Fremer. Sorry. “Zacharia Andrew Pain” – no wonder he’d rather be an elf! – or “Andrew Floyd Strasser,” whoever he is, sent us this love-note:

Would you like to keep your foundation?

To whoever thinks they are smarter than the world....

If you leave this site up you are leaving yourself open to a very wealthy take by the Soldiers of the United states of America who have and do serve as this. This will be a large group of people more than willing to take the proper protocol testing. I personally would take the testing at any point. I will tell you that you may not always hit your target drectly, but they can be hit. I’d love to pass this along to some people who’d love to make some extra earnings and will get promptly on that as well. Nice doing business with you. I called y’all out months ago and I can call you out today. kick a time and place and I’ll be there ready to show you the proven over 1000’s of years power that I AM capable of weilding.

Lord Elf,
Zacharia_Andrew_Pain
Andrew Floyd Strasser

Sigh…



IN CLOSING…

I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous Edmund Scientific Company, folks who have been so very active in getting materials and literature supplied to scientists – both amateur and professional – all over the world. Well, the man who started all this – Norm Edmund himself – lives only a few blocks away from the JREF, and I contacted him to see if he would grace TAM5.5 – January 26, 2008 – with his presence. This spry 91-year-old had no hesitation at all about accepting, and even turned down our offer to pick him up and return him to his abode. “I’m still driving, you know,” he said. Hey, if only for inspiration about your own advancing age, I suggest that you’ll enjoy meeting and chatting with this youngster at TAM5.5…!


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