Christian Long

James Randi: Fiery Takedown of Psychic Fraud

In TED Talks on May 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Extra credit reflection by GABRIELLA B.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

James Randi:  Fiery Takedown of Psychic Fraud

You’ve been there at one point or another, right?

You’re standing in a dimly light room full of incense and candles and other symbols of the occult. Maybe it’s a carnival, or your friends dared you to get your fortune read. Perhaps you want to know about your love life for the next ten years or if your ‘soul mate’ is out there. You know its nonsense, I mean, it’s like fortune cookies or horoscopes, funny and idiotic, but harmless so you do it anyway.

But what about those who really truly believe in these ‘practitioners of the dark arts’ these conjurors and fortune tellers and psychics, what are they looking for? They are looking for answers, for comfort and for something to believe in. they want to believe in ‘magic’ and thus allow themselves to be hoodwinked into believing, and paying for lies.

James Randi offers an energetic and amusing take on the persistent belief in and use of those who offer psychic services. He pragmatically lays out all the reasons those interesting folk out there who ‘contact the dead’ and see the future, are no better than swindlers and cheats.

Far from harmless, they deceive and offer false comfort to hundreds of grieving, or hopeful people at a premium. You may be thinking, well, it’s their own fault for being stupid enough to fall for the ploy.

Perhaps, but how would you feel if it was your mother or friend paying their life savings for a few words of hocus pocus and comfort?

Now, the James Randi Educational Foundation offers a million dollar reward to anyone who can prove, under proper observable conditions the existence of the occult.

And, big surprise, none of the major practitioners have contacted him. Oh, they have plenty of amateurs, but no one, save Sylvia Browne has taken him up on it, though she quickly backed down.

And why is this?

It is because the people who make real money out of this hocus pocus business of slight of hand and speaking to the dead know what they do is a hoax.

These people should be stopped they are cheating good, trusting, naïve people out of hundreds of dollars, twenty minutes with Sylvia Brown, by telephone will cost you seven hundred dollars…

All in order to acquire the most vital information like, the name of your guardian angel, and your past lives… yes, quite an investment isn’t it.

Most, rational people, have no problem with this. However I would like to contend, or at least clarify his point on homeopathic drugs. Watching this man take an entire bottle of sleeping pills with no ill effects (or sleepiness) is a very convincing prop to prove the falsities of some homeopathic drugs.

While I agree that some are useless there is a vast difference between homeopathic remedies and natural herbal remedies. While homeopathic drugs rely, for the most part, on the placebo effect, herbal remedies are effective, natural remedies. Medicinal plants contain potent chemicals and enzymes that act naturally within the body to aid healing and recovery.

They have been used effectively by doctors and midwives for centuries when there was no such thing as aspirin, prednisone, antibiotics etc.

Therefore take this talk with a grain of salt and remember natural doesn’t mean less effective, just perhaps less invasive.

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