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This time it is Flim-Flam by James Randi

Well, okay, that isn't the only book I've recently read, but it is the one I feel like talking about. Though a few other things (almost completely unrelated to the book) creep in. But it's my journal and I'll ramble if I want to, ramble if I want to...

This almost didn't get posted, because I was almost finished typing it up and then accidently deleted the whole thing and was unable to restore what I'd already wrote. So here is version 2.0.

Before we begin, I will point out the book itself is old (1982) and some of the stuff "debunked" older still. But the book was rather highly recommended and I was feeling like some skeptical reading.

First, lets talk about the so-called offensive level. I actually give props to Randi on this. He managed to write this book and not be overly offensive to those who did not share his view.

No, I'm not saying that everyone who reads this book will walk away unoffended, just saying that I did. And I think that is pretty good, because sometimes even when I agree with the skeptics they manage to offend me.

Of course, if you were one of the persons "debunked" in the book you will almost certainly be offended, or if you very deeply believe in the persons debunked. Otherwise you probably won't be overly offended by the book. The trouble is that sometimes it is very dry and techie. Yes, I freely admit some of the tech-talk went WAY over my head, though I was still able to grasp the jist.

But for the most part, Randi has written a decent and non-offensive book. That's good. So many people who write "skeptic books"... Well, you can clearly tell the author thinks anyone who doesn't believe as they do should be drug in front of a firing squad and killed. Randi himself may feel that way, but he manages to keep that impression from showing through in the book itself. Kudos!

And the few times Randi does skirt close to the edge, you can understand why. Personally, what I'm about to say is more mystifying than someone believing in the supernatural/paranormal to me personally. Fakers, I'm not talking about those who really believe they have power, but those who know they are faking and still go before Randi (or any skeptic) trying to prove themselves.

Stop wasting OUR time! Yes, I said "our" time, because you know you're faking. You know you have no power, so you waste the time of both sides when you try to prove yourself with parlor tricks. Besides, Randi has proved time and again that he IS going to see through your pitiful parlor tricks. To be honest, any skeptic worth their salt is going to see through most parlor tricks used by fakers.

So, yes, I can firmly understand the annoyance skeptics sometimes feel from having to deal with all the fakers out there who for some reason or another honestly believe they are good enough to fool a skeptic. You're not, get over it, move on!

Honestly, I think someone with actual power would play hell getting Randi (or skeptics in general) to admit/accept it. Yes, I'm one of those that feel Randi's money is pretty damn safe, because I think even if he found someone who showed actual talent, he would keep testing and testing until they failed.

Now, I didn't get that impression from the book, I got the impression from the book that good ol' James was an honest man and that he genuinely wanted someone to prove ability to him. But he is the author, so he can make himself sound good.

And there is actually one instance in the book that made me doubt the assumption. It is when the fellow is dowsing for water and comes close to one of Randi's water lines. Even though he came close to the line, he still wasn't right. But Randi's first assumption is that the dowser in question somehow got his hands on the plans. Could Randi step back for one moment and consider the person might have actual talent? Nope, he automatically assumes the fellow is cheating.

To be fair, I can understand why. But it was just one instance in Randi's own work which made me wonder. And that is why some of the things I've come across outside the book make me doubt even more that Randi would ever allow someone to walk away from him with confirmed power.

Anyway, because the book is old, some of the things in it have pretty much debunked themselves in the years since it would have been totally relevant - The fairy pics, levitating, and psychic healers.

Yes, I know some still believe, but...

The fairy pics, I may never understand why anyone was fooled by them in the first place, to be honest. They look exactly like what they are - cardboard cut-outs of fairies. And as for levitation (at least the kind talked about and debunked in "Flim-Flam") I'd discovered long before reading the book that what some were calling levitation looks a whole lot more like bouncing to me. No, I didn't waste any money and very little time discovering this - I simply watched a program some years ago on the subject and the program showed the so-called levitation. "Hey, look ma! I've got a special super secret power - I can bounce!"

However, I could rant long and hard about so-called psychic healers, because I know they are out there still fooling way too many people even in this day and age. But I will refrain for the time being - Suffice to say, Randi nailed this one with deadly accuracy.

Seriously, eight times out of ten (without assistance) an unprofessional such as myself can see the trick when it comes to psychic healers. Of course, I can almost understand, in this case, why people would be desperate enough to try it. But Randi is absolutely right - save your time and money.

There is a reason psychic healers don't perform on themselves, and it isn't what they (the healers themselves) say it is. Seriously, it works much the same way in the non-magical world. Want to know what works - follow a Doctor around and see how and what he uses to treat himself and his family with.

Now I will stop for a moment and provide some links "debunking" some of the so-called facts in James Randi's book "Flim-Flam":
A Skeptical Look At James Randi by Michael Prescott
The Amaz!ng 3 Meeting - Las Vegas, January 13-16, 2005 by Ted Dace
Randi Retreats by Richard Milton (I could be wrong, but RM is the name on the website at any rate.)

Now before someone yells at me, I can totally understand why Randi would not want to conduct at test that could potentially be life-threatening. Now during my research I heard rumors that there had been a test like this allowed by Randi before and the person almost died. However, that last is (at the moment) rumor more than fact.
Though, I personally believe a test of this nature could be done without proving fatal, even if the person in question was a faker. But I can understand why Randi wouldn't want to take that chance period!

And while I'm tossing out links, I suppose I should toss out the link to Randi's own site:
James Randi Educational Foundation

I personally found the first link to be the most interesting. Now as I mentioned before "Flim-Flam" is an older book. However, Randi isn't the first skeptic to take the easily debunked supernatural/paranormal accounts and declare since that one story (or person) is faked (or a faker) the whole thing is bubkiss.

Seriously, I'd really like to see some of the more compelling evidence taken on by skeptics. Almost all skeptics take a shot at UFOs/aliens, and Randi was no exception. But they seem to take the most thin-ice accounts with which to do so. Yes, I'd be willing to say at least half (probably more) of the UFO/alien accounts are in fact bubkiss, but to be fair I have seen some very compelling evidence in support of UFO/aliens that I would ever so deeply love to see a skeptic (any skeptic) tackle.

And come up with a better explanation than "inconclusive" to explain it away!

Yes, you (general skeptical you) do that quite often. I've seen several tests conducted by believers and watched (on site) by skeptics. And when the test indicates there might be some truth to the other (believers) point of view. What do you (again general skeptical you) do? You scream "Inconclusive!" I've seen you do it.
NOTE: I've not seen Randi himself do so, though from research it does seem as though he too has written off any and all evidence that doesn't support his point of view. (See links above)

BULLSHIT! Well, okay a test might be inconclusive, obviously. But if that is the result, then the logical conclusion, at least to little ol' redneck me, would be to run another test.

Wouldn't it be fun if my Doctor ran one test and decided the results were inconclusive and then just stopped? Not really, and I would certainly be finding myself a new Doctor. Yes, I know someone will say this example is apples/oranges, but the basis is not all that different. My Doctor will (or damn will should) run tests until he reaches the proper conclusion, otherwise - Bad Doctor, no biscuit!

Many skeptics also tackle ghost stories, though to be fair Randi did not. However, there is lots of evidence (more than with UFOs and aliens, in my opinion) to support ghosts (or at least indicate there may be something worth looking into here). But as with aliens and UFOs the skeptics that do tackle ghosts take the most easily disproven stories and then merely write off the rest.

Orbs, for example, I'm sorry, to all who believe orbs = ghosts. I have proven for myself, or at least to my satisfaction that orbs are far more likely to be dust balls than a sign of paranormal presence. I didn't need some skeptic to tell me this.

And that right there is exactly my problem with most of the works/proofs of skeptics. They are telling me things I already know, or can easily prove/disprove on my own. I want them to tackle some of the things that it is next to (if not outright) impossible for me to prove/disprove.

And, to be fair, some have tried. But to paraphrase Skinner (from the X-Files) "frankly the explanation with UFOs and aliens makes more sense." Is that perhaps why they've backed off from trying to debunk the more compelling stuff? Because they can't come up with a logical sense making explanation? Does start to look that way after awhile.

What's funny, and please note that I perfectly understand what they mean when they say it - it is just a nice bit of irony in my opinion. The skeptic will say it is not his/her place to disprove. Just like the con (or flim-flam man/gal) will have a ready excuse when things don't go their way. Things that make you go Hmmm!

Therefore, it was really a surprise to me to learn/see that Randi's book had some facts that were oh-so-easily called into question. Even if a skeptic can't disprove, you'd think (think being the keyword here) that anyone trying to show that something is bogus would want to have their work beyond reproach.

Again, another bit of irony creeps in with this, because they themselves tend to take one aspect (story) from the believers and once they've "debunked" it they sit back and happily write off the entire concept. Therefore, you'd think they'd want to make sure the believers didn't have such an out.
I.E. if one can prove Randi fudged one (or more) aspect(s) then it calls his whole entire report (book) into question. How much did Randi actually fudge on? Is everything else correct, or is there more incorrect that no one has bothered to tackle?

Now I'm not one of those UFO Mulder types, but even I was amused by Randi's use of Project Blue Book as complete fact. Though I was willing to allow that gaff to pass, because at the time "Flim-Flam" was written I think most people accepted the findings of Project Blue Book.
(To be fair, since I provided a positive link above, I'll provide one questioning the project here. Or at least I think it questions it - honestly, I didn't spend too much time looking. I'm not as into studying UFOs/aliens as I am ghosts.
And I'm not saying I agree with either side, I'm just saying that at least a couple things from Project Blue Book have been legitimately called into question since its publication. Perhaps Project Blue Book has corrected itself since the questions come to light - If so Kudos to them!

*sigh* That is something I'd like to see more often. Balanced point of views. The skeptics present things in such a way to make them seem correct, while the believers present things which makes them seem correct. Neither side ever seems willing to admit that maybe (just maybe) the "other" side might have a valid point, or in this case talent. I've always said that if you want the truth you take both sides of the story and you'll probably find the truth somewhere down the middle.
(But again this isn't entirely surprising. The skeptics, no doubt, get tired of finding themselves in "battle" with the believers all the time. And the believers get tired of being treated like idiots by the skeptics. Many skeptics do tend to be very much nasty to those who belief something they (the skeptic) thinks is wrong.
And you find the same thing with the news anymore. No one actually just sets back and says such and such happened. Nope, they've got to put their own spin on it and try to tell you what to think. Is it really any wonder people are turning to shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report?
As for me, I will think for myself, thank you very much!

Anyway, lets close on a lighter note.

Unicorns - The full title is Flim-Flam Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and other Delusions. So unicorns had to be mentioned, but I found that it wasn't actually mentioned inside the book itself. On sure it was mentioned in between the covers and after the introduction. But still the only mention the poor unicorn got was one five line paragraph and then a following sentence declaring Unicorns debunked.

No, I don't believe in unicorns - my point is that the bit about unicorns is shorter than most book blurbs. Therefore, with so little mentioned about them, I'm wondering why it was felt important enough to include unicorns in the title? But maybe that's just me.

PS - I should have mentioned this before, but I got caught up in other things. Yes, James Randi (in Flim=Flam) does tend to come off as very full of himself, but (except for two, maybe three times) he wasn't really annoying or over the top with it to me personally.

Also, there was a another link I wanted to include, but I guess having lost the info once it is understanding that I would forget a link.

The Ultimate Psychic Challenge - A Challenge to James Randi - this talks about a television appearance of Randi's more than Flim-Flam so that might be why I decided not to readd it after I lost the original post.

Mostly I wanted to include that link because it gives a bit of depth on the subject of Randi's million dollar challenge and why it might not be as impressive as it looks on the surface.

Though I also thought this little tidbit was interesting, as well.
Before the show the audience was asked to vote whether they believed, disbelieved or were uncertain about discarnate communication. The votes were: respectively 44, 19 and 37.
After Randi tried his parlor tricks, in an effort to show that most "mediums" aren't actually communicating with the dead, but rather reading the living - the votes were: 54 believed, 24 disbelieved, and 22 were uncertain.

(I just thought it was interesting that while Randi did increase the number of of those who did not believe by five, his performance actually increased the number of believers by ten.)

My recent absence from FAP (and other message boards).

I thought I should note (for those interested) that I've been dodging thunderstorms for several days now and it takes time (much time) to visit and play on FAP. Plus once you load the page, even if you don't read everything the site will mark everything as though you did. So I've been waiting to visit FAP again until I know I'll have time to properly scan everything. If they have the forecast right, it'll probably be Sunday before that happens.
OMG your icon!!!!

Do you think that the creepy Slytherin kid who liked making anagrams figured this one out???

I'd like to think so. But to be honest I'm not real sure, if he sat around playing with words all the time then he probably did. However, sometimes I think he might have just played long enough to come up with Lord Voldemort and stopped.
I hope we can see you back on the boards soon again sweetie. :) *hugs*