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A Plea for Any Real Psychics to Help Haiti

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on January 14, 2010

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I am issuing a plea for any real psychics to join the search. Time is of the essence; the victims are literally dying by the hour, many of them because searchers don’t know where to look. I know they could use a real psychic to reunite families and lead searchers to the wounded.

I have donated money to the relief effort, but beyond that, there’s not much I can do. I don’t have (and don’t claim to have) any psychic abilities at all. I can’t locate missing persons, I’ve never said I helped police solve crimes. If you can really do what you claim to do, please use your powers to save countless lives.

This means you, Montel-beloved Sylvia Browne. And you, Medium TV show inspiration Alison DuBois. And Carla Baron of TV’s Haunting Evidence. And you too, Nancy Weber. And John Edward. Will any of you step forward and help?

Many of you charge money for your psychic services. Fair enough; doctors, police, and others earn a living helping others. If that’s the issue, please contact me at jaminradford@gmail.com and we can negotiate a fee for saving innocent lives. If cost is an issue and you need to visit Haiti in person, I will offer to personally pay round-trip airfare to Port-au-Prince or Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) for any nationally-known psychic who is willing to use their claimed powers to help those in desperate need.

Some of you have claimed that you don’t get involved in a case unless specifically asked. Well, I’m specifically asking each one of you. If, for some reason, you need a particular devastated Haitian to specifically request you and your services, I might be able to arrange that.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT CENTERFORINQUIRY.NET

Why aren’t America’s psychics helping keep us safe?

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on December 28, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT CFI

As I’m sure you heard, a Nigerian suicide bomber tried to blow up Northwest flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit, on Christmas Day. He managed to get 80 grams of the high explosive PETN on board, though his plot was foiled by a faulty detonator and a fast-acting nearby passenger. Fingers are still pointing about who is to blame for the usual laundry list of security lapses. The story of course didn’t get as much press as it would have if the bomber had been successful, but it provides what I like to semi-sarcastically call a “teachable moment.”

There are thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of people who claim to have psychic powers. Some of them can be found in little storefront shops not far from where you may work or live. Some of them can be found on TV, such as convicted felon Sylvia Browne, James van Praagh, John Edward, Alison DuBois, Carla Baron, and others. But all of them have one thing in common: they claim to have specific, accurate information about things outside their immediate knowledge. Some say they can read minds or auras; others say they can predict future events.

Which brings us back to the would-be Christmas bomber. The biggest challenge to national security, by definition, is that there is no way to distinguish threats from non-threats, passengers from terrorists, false-positives from positives. Airport security must thoroughly screen every single passenger, from the wheelchair-bound grandmother to the harried businessman to the nose-picking toddler, because everyone must be suspect; anyone could be a potential threat. Psychics, if real, could change all that.

If what they say is true—if these people have the powers they claim, why are 99.99% of innocent airline passengers subjected to invasive screening, delays, and hassles, when a psychic should be able to identify the terrorists and direct the security resources toward those people?

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2005 Uri Geller: Michael Jackson’s career comeback to be “most dramatic ever seen in showbiz”

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on July 1, 2009

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In a 2005 interview published in London’s Daily Telegraph, 1970s spoon-bending psychic / magician / alleged fraud Uri Geller spoke of his confidence that his friend Michael Jackson would soon make the greatest comeback of his career: “I’m quietly proud of my part in relaunching Michael’s career. This comeback of his is going to be the most dramatic ever seen in showbiz…. In fact, the only thing that could beat this would be for Elvis to come back from the dead.”

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Unsolved Serial Killings Haunt NM; Where are the Psychics?

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on April 22, 2009

My home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is making national news again, and it’s not the kind of press Mayor Chavez wants. It seems that there may be a dozen or more victims of a serial killer whose bodies were buried in a vacant lot on the West Mesa, dating back at least several years.

As writer Sarah Netter noted in the Feb. 17 Albuquerque Journal, “The bodies were found by chance, starting with one bone sticking out of the dirt…The bones were believed to have been unearthed by excavation work in the area.” At last count, the remains of eleven people have been found at what Police Chief Ray Shultz describes as one of the largest crime scenes in New Mexico.

It’s a horrifying story that brings up a curious issue. There are hundreds of psychic detectives across the country who claim to locate missing persons and solve crimes for police. I’d guess that there are dozens of psychics in Albuquerque who, if they have the abilities they claim, could do the same. Yet Albuquerque has about 25 open cases of missing adults, and hundreds of unsolved homicides dating back decades.

It’s a fair question to ask: Why haven’t any psychics helped locate missing persons, bring their killers to justice, or save lives by stopping serial killers before they could kill again? Why are police forensic teams and the Office of the Medical Investigator spending weeks identifying bodies on the West Mesa when gifted psychics could presumably do it in hours? Why are the remains of these victims being discovered only nowby accidentinstead of years ago by psychic-led search teams?

Among New Mexico’s high-profile missing persons cases:

* Albuquerque native Nick Garza disappeared after a party at Vermont’s Middlebury College, where he was a student, on February 5, 2008. For months, his family and police searched in vain; at least one psychic claimed to communicate with Garza’s spirit, but could not help locate him. Garza’s body was finally found by police and cadaver dogs in a creek near the college on May 27, 2008.

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New “Knowing” Film Based on Numerology and Bible Code Pseudoscience

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on March 19, 2009

In the new film “Knowing,” Nicolas Cage plays a professor who is given a piece of paper containing a mysterious number code taken from a time capsule at his son’s school. He decodes the message and realizes that the numbers accurately predicted past disasters—as well as an imminent apocalypse. That last bit, of course, makes it into an interesting movie. If he’d stopped at “discovering” the hidden code, the movie would end with him writing a best-selling New Age self-help book.

Though the plot is fictional, this scenario has occurred many times in the real world. In 1997 Michael Drosnin published a best-selling book titled “The Bible Code,” in which he claimed that the Bible contained a code (hidden in numbers and letters) accurately predicting past world events. Drosnin’s work was later refuted, with critics (including CSI Fellow David E. Thomas) demonstrating that the “meanings” he found were simply the result of selectively choosing data sets from a vast sea of random letters.

In psychology, the tendency for the human mind to find coincidences, patterns, and connections in random data is called apophenia. It is related to paredolia, the mind’s ability to find faces and images in ambiguous stimuli such as clouds, tortillas, food stains, and so on. In statistics, there is even a name for this type of thinking mistake: a Type I error. A common example of a Type I error is a false positive result on a medical test, for instance detecting a disease.

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The New Snake Oil

Posted in Center for inquiry by Skepdude on March 4, 2009

An article in the Chicago Tribune (January 14, 2009) heralded “Doctors going alternative.” Written by Julie Deardorff, it affirmed that mainstream physicians are increasingly employing treatments like acupuncture—collectively what is called “holistic,” “complementary,” “alternative,” or “integrative” medicine.

The article quotes New Age physician Andrew Weil, whose gullibility once led him to believe Uri Geller could bend metal with “psychic” power. (See James Randi, The Truth About Uri Geller, 1975, pp. 61–86.) Weil told the Tribune, “The public has been on board for some time,” regarding integrative medicine. “The professionals are harder to win over.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “CENTER FOR INQUIRY”