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Archive for the ‘Psychics’ Category

I’ve quickly become a fan of Derren Brown’s work, and this special that originally aired in 2005 is no exception.  Someone on Wikipedia was nice enough to lay out a synopsis, so rather than re-inventing the wheel — here it is:

“Shown on 7 January 2005, Brown travelled to the United States to try to convince five leading figures that he had powers in their particular field of expertise: Christian evangelism, alien abduction, psychic powers, New Age theories and contacting the dead.

Using a false name each time, he succeeded in convincing all of the “experts” that he had powers, and four openly endorsed him as a true practitioner. The fifth expert, the Christian evangelist Curt Nordhielm, whilst impressed by Brown’s performance, asked to meet him again before giving an endorsement. The concept of the show was to highlight the power of suggestion with regard to beliefs and people’s abilities, and failure to question them. Brown made it quite clear with each experiment that if any of the subjects accused him of trickery he would immediately come clean about the whole thing, a rule similar to one of the self-imposed rules of the perpetrators of the Project Alpha hoax. His conclusion was that people tend to hear only things that support their own ideas and ignore contradictory evidence; this is known in psychology as confirmation bias. During the section concerned with religious belief, he ‘converted’ people to Christian belief with a touch. Afterwards, he ‘deprogrammed’ them of any such belief.”

Here is part 1 of 8.  Part two is queued up to play next at the conclusion of part 1, and so on and so forth.

In the day and age we live, with the knowledge of the world and the universe that we have, people can and do believe in things that are purported to be miracles, and yet are nothing more that tricks.  If people in this day and age are so ready to believe tricks are miracles, how much more so were the people in an era where knowledge was in short supply, and superstition was at a fever pitch?

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Tomorrow (8/17/2011) at 10pm, ABC Nightline will be airing Beyond Belief: Psychic Power.  James Randi, D.J. Grothe, and Banachek from the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), will be appearing on the show to offer the skeptical perspective and to shed light on just how these apparent feats are accomplished.  You won’t want to miss it!

 

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In case you missed the premier episode of Curiosity on the Discovery Channel last week, here is a playlist in three parts where Hawking explains how a universe can “come from nothing.”

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David Gorski over at Science-Based Medicine had a great post on one of the recent guests of Dr. Oz, John Edward, of the show “Crossing Over.”  For those who are unfamiliar with John Edward, he like fellow psychic scammer James Van Praagh claim that they can talk to dead people, and not just any dead people — they say that they can tune into your dead relatives.  This of course is total nonsense, but with some really bad cold reading techniques and some crafty video editing, viewers tune in and are amazed at the ability of these so-called psychics to communicate with the other side.

Dr. Oz has been venturing into the land of woo a little more frequently as of late, but this by far takes the cake.  Dr. Oz actually suggests talking to the dead is legitimate “therapy,” which goes well beyond anything in the realm of “for entertainment purposes only.”  For a medical doctor to be suggesting anything like that is simply embarrassing.  I’m glad to see there are other doctors taking him to task for his nonsense.

Some people don’t see a problem with this type of charlatanism by saying that if it helps people feel better then there really isn’t any harm done.  However, when you consider: 1) They’re lying to people, 2) They’re lying to people, 3) They’re lying to people, and 4) They’re making money hand over fist through their scam, I don’t know how anybody could defend this as a good thing.  In addition, you have no idea how the person receiving the message is going to respond, and that can be very dangerous.

Let’s say for example that John Edward gives “a message from beyond” and tells the person their loved one loves them, watches over them, and looks forward to their reunion in the future.  That person then goes home and kills themselves now that they “know for sure” that their loved one is waiting for them.  How a person is going to respond to supposed supernatural messages is never known, and things can go real bad, real fast.  There is a danger and a harm that is done by lying to people in this way.

I’ll leave things there for now, and highly recommend checking out David Gorski’s post over at Science-Based Medicine.  It is well worth the read.  Like him, I think it’s nearly impossible for Dr. Oz to sink any lower than this, but I guess we’ll see.

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