Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Report - Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and other Delusions - JR

The book I choose to read for our class book report is Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and other Delusions. I choose this book due to how much the title of the book stands out to me. I shortly then realized that the author of this book, James Randi, is the same man we have seen in videos through the class lectures who offered a prize of people could do their tricks under his supervision. The book covers a few topics and gradually takes the reader through a process of breaking the material down. Occasionally it he offers facts and doesn’t engage the reader but it may be a learning experience if reading the book. One thing that stands out rather largely is that the author makes claim to not necessarily proving that any of these myths do not exist, merely that under scrutiny they do not hold the same weight as originally perceived. As a reader I thought this was good to read because if a person choose to be naive or choose to play devils advocate and argue the skeptical side about the subject you could think opposite to what James Randi suggests and that wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. The images below may suggest how much facts and myths may plague peoples mind even in this century.

My favorite part of the book was the chapter dedicated to the Bermuda Triangle and Atlantis. I am a large fan of many different forms of mythology and enjoy letting my mind wander around wild claims, such as the city lost under water. One of my favorite mythologies is that of Vikings. One thing I have been told about engaging in movies and books is to let your mind open and allow yourself to delve into the world the subject wants you to be part of. One issue with that is when you can’t separate fact from fiction.
The one section regarding the Bermuda Triangle was fun to read because I knew little facts about the area. I personally always believed in some of the myths. Sme of the major myths come from a writer who supposably documented all events happening in the triangle. After close scrutiny it was revealed the publisher was nothing more than a writer. He had exaggerated claims of things that happed hundreds of miles from the area, made up material to sounds more dramatic, and was found lacking credibility when put under a microscope. This author is Berlitz and he may be one of the larger reasons for such myths revolving around the Bermuda Triangle.
The other myth is that Atlantis is this area. Atlantis is the city lost under water. Berlitz claims that there are artifacts found in this area that suggest man made roads and construction that suggests life once present. For a person who enjoys their mythology I was all ears. Research then showed that many of the materials found were consistent with trading industries and would suggest they were material fallen overboard near shore. The roads were a material called beach rock, which is found often in Australia and carbon dating showed the material to not fit the claims that the city is as old as once suggested.
Although I would love to believe in the lost city and the mysticism that revolves around the Bermuda Triangle the facts show there is little evidence to ever support the claims. When looking for evidence to refute the claims and not support the theory it is clear that boats traded often in the area and use materials that are currently found in that location, carbon dating shows the city would not be as old as thought to be, and many disappearances in the area are exaggerated descriptions on the parts that fit the myth and neglected facts that do not comply.
It is important to note that the theory of Atlantis may derive as early as 400 B.C. Plato who was a Greek Philosopher. See below for a crude yet funny example of a "stand up philosopher" from one of my favorite films History of the World Part 1,
Fact is due to the cast time gap of Plato there are many refutable facts regarding what was clearly said or done. Although he is recognized for his work in mathematics he is not an expert in geography or aquatics which means he has little authority to make claims of a lost city under water. The principles of the author and the class give way for thinking outside of class. Not to take information directly as given to you. A good method to use would be one which Plato would have used which was the Socrates method which is to question everything. Take nothing for face value. Overall, I would say give the book a read but many of the principles and take-aways you may have received through the original text and/or lectures. 

Justin R.

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