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TAM London: A Brilliant Success! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Phil Plait   
Thursday, 08 October 2009 12:08

[Note: all the pictures here, and more, are in my TAM London Flickr set.]

TAM London has come and gone, but it's left quite a wide swath. The Amaz!ng Meetings 1-7 have all been, well, amazing, and so this one, the James Randi Educational Foundation's first international conference, had a lot to live up to.

I think we did pretty well.

In fact (to use an Americanism), this ball was hit way out of the park. The speakers were incredible: Brian Cox talking about the Large Hadron Collider and the origin of gravity, Simon Singh on his well-publicized libel lawsuit involving craven chiropractors, Ben Goldacre and bad medicine, Ariane Sherine on the atheist bus campaign and her new book, The Atheist's Guide to Christmas (for which I wrote an essay), and so many more. Professor Richard Wiseman emceed the event, and was fantastic at revving the audience up and keeping things moving -- it was a tough choice to have him host rather than give a talk, but he did such a tremendous job I may never want to hear him give a talk again.

Britain to Benny: Go Away! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 00:00

In a delicious piece of good news, the UK decided not to let self-proclaimed faith healer Benny Hinn enter their country. He tried again, and again, was denied.

Was he denied because his "parsonage," that is his personal home paid for with church funds, is worth $10,000,000? Was he denied because he won't open his books to public scrutiny? Maybe it's because he proclaimed that God would destroy the homosexual community with fire? No, it was none of these. It was a simple, non-personal change in British law that states simply that "preaching" is not work, and therefor a work visa will not be granted unless he has documentation from a church.

Trying Another Approach PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Tuesday, 06 October 2009 00:00

solarballoonJREF supporter Michael Streib sent this to me, and I thought it worth sharing:

A couple weeks ago, a relative of mine who embraces all manner of woo emailed me a flyer, a copy of which can be seen here.  It announces one of a series of seminars presented by Dr. Stephen Greer, a man who claims to be able to summon extraterrestrials through the use of telepathy.  Over the years, this relative and I have gone back and forth repeatedly on the odds of aliens visiting this planet, the need for experimental data, burden of proof, etc.  Rather than hash that out again, I decided to approach it from a different angle.

Let's suppose for a moment that Dr. Greer has precisely what he says he has: 100% proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, of the existence not only of extraterrestrials and their technology, but also the telepathic abilities needed to communicate with them.  This knowledge would be the single most important discovery in all of history, revolutionizing the world, accelerating us far beyond what the Scientific Revolution ever did, and bringing about a golden age of mankind.  So, what are his options?

Where Are the Believers? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Monday, 05 October 2009 00:00

For the first two years that Skeptics spoke at Dragon*Con, there was a panel known as the "Skeptics vs. Believers Smackdown," which featured prominent skeptics and non-skeptics in a debate about the paranormal. I noticed that in both years, the believers were quick to apply the label "skeptic" to themselves, while calling the skeptics "cynics" instead.

And then an interesting thing happened. In year three of the debate, it was canceled due to the lack of people willing to sit on the believers' side. There were no lack of skeptics, in fact as many as ten volunteered, but there was only one person who would sit on the believers side. Why is this?

Last weekend, Alison Smith and I sat on a debate panel for the radio show The Paranormal View. This show discusses the paranormal like many shows of its kind, but they also have the occasional show where skeptics are invited to debate believers. This time... they showed up.

Sad But Expected News... PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   
Sunday, 04 October 2009 00:00

I have received notice from Narisetti Innaiah, chairman of CFI India, that our friend Basva Premanand has died. Mr. Innaiah's tribute reads:

B. Premanand, the doyen of Indian rationalist movement, is no more. He breathed his last on 04.10.2009 at 2.20 pm at Podannur, Tamil Nadu. He was 79. According to his wishes, his body has been donated to the local medical college.

Born on 17 February 1930 in Kozhikode (Kerala), Premanand was a keen observer of paranormal phenomena even in his childhood. In his teenage, he approached assorted swamis and gurus to gain spiritual insights but soon fell out with each one of them when he realized that they were all fakes. In 1969 he met the ace Sri Lankan skeptic Dr. Abraham Kovoor who was in India for his "Miracle Exposure" lecture tour. That was a watershed in the life of Premanand, who immediately plunged headlong into the business of debunking spiritual tricksters. After Dr. Abraham Kovoor's death in 1978, Premanand continued Kovoor's famous challenge of offering One Lakh Rupees [US$2,000] to anyone who could demonstrate psychic abilities under fraud-proof conditions. Admittedly, there have been few takers.

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