Friday, July 27, 2018

Book Report: Flim-Flam!

Book Report: Flim-Flam!  

            Flim-Flam! by James Randi disproves many supernatural theories to be nothing more than hoaxes. James Randi is a retired stage magician and a scientific skeptic. The media and television exaggerate stories and claim it is supernatural. Many believe in Kirlian photography, ESP, pyramid power, the Bermuda Triangle, and prophecy. Kirlian photography is “a technique for recording photographic images of corona discharges and hence, supposedly, the auras of living creatures,” which is a ridiculous notion (Merriam-Webster). Psychic surgery is a phony process of “healing.” Some surgeons practiced laying on of hands to cure a person’s tumor. In reality, the surgeons used animal parts claiming it was the person’s removed tumor. Randi has also exposed many frauds who claimed to have psychic abilities, such as Uri Geller.

            My favorite chapter of Flim-Flam! discussed the elaborate theory of the Bermuda Triangle.  The Bermuda Triangle is an area in the western Atlantic Ocean boarded by Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Miami. Charles Berlitz wrote The Bermuda Triangle, Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds and Without a Trace. Both books make outrageous claims with poor or nonexistent research to support his arguments. “Early in 1979, Berlitz took a group of fifteen archaeologists, explorers, and divers into the so-called Bermuda Triangle to study the ‘Lost Civilization of Atlantis’” (Randi 42). In 1945, five aircraft flew into the triangle and supposedly “disappeared.” Berlitz took the story and embellished it in his novel. Larry Kusche studied Berlitz’s claims. In 1953, thirty-nine people disappeared north of the triangle on a flight to Jamaica. An SOS signal was sent out and then suddenly ended. The plane had Jamaica as its destination and it would have to cross the Triangle, but instead, the plane took a “northwesterly path away from the dreaded area” (45). The plane stopped in Newfoundland, Canada and then it flew to Jamaica. Also, the plane was lost 900 miles north of the Triangle due to strong, icy winds and rain. The SOS signal that “mysteriously” ended was a “tragedy, but one that has occurred hundreds of times around the world” (45). Berlitz wrote about the loss of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 that “‘suffered a loss by disintegration’” (46). In reality, the crew of the plane was on autopilot at night while flying over the Florida Everglades “where there are no ground lights for reference” (46). Then while fixing a problem in the cockpit, they did not even notice the descending altitude until the plane crashed. Berlitz also believed that Christopher Columbus saw a fireball that circled his ship while sailing through the Triangle. The fireball was instead a meteor and it did not circle the ship. In 1945, Avenger torpedo bombers flew into the Bermuda Triangle and vanished. They were on a training flight and their compass was broken. Also, their fuel was low. The bombers flew around until they ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. Another ridiculous idea of Berlitz is that Atlanteans built a road underwater. The “road” is nothing more than beach rock. It contains “scraps of glass bottles, nails, nuts, a laser tube, and a trace of a TV set” that should not have existed during the mythical Atlantis era (51).

            The Bermuda Triangle hoax was created by a selfish critical thinker. He used his thinking and his ideas to make money. By leaving out contradictory evidence of the Bermuda Triangle’s mysterious disappearances, Berlitz has no credibility. The Triangle is a “product of mass exposure, repeated lies, large profits from book sales, irresponsible publishers, a gullible public, and the current taste for the ridiculous” (46). People who read Berlitz’s book believe that it is factual rather than a misrepresentation of events because of Berlitz’s ability to deceive the public. Giving misinformation to a person can change his/her memories and beliefs. The media’s portrayed alteration of events of the Bermuda Triangle causes people to believe it as true. James Randi is one of the few people who is not afraid to go against the lies that the mass media is feeding people. “There are no laws that protect the consumer from these misrepresentations. Literature about these subjects is a consumer product and should be regulated by the same laws that ensure the quality of other products. The consumer should have the right to return the product for a refund if it is faulty. The Berlitz books about the Bermuda Triangle are in this category of unsatisfactory goods” (46).

Works Cited

Merriam-Webster. “Kirlian photography.” 

Randi, James. Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and other Delusions. Amherst NY, Prometheus Books, 1982.

1 comment:

  1. I also read this book for my report. I was wondering if you sensed Mr. Randi's anger throughout his book. Although he is correct, no one should be deceived for money, I do not believe he should be insulting to those who may believe in certain things. I believe that instead of sitting and observing a so called psychic surgery, he should have educated those who believed. Their health and very life may have been at risk. All thru his book, his interest was on proving that something was impossible instead of educating those he was supposedly concerned about. And, in the end, people have a right to believe what they want and should not be called an idiot or stupid because of it. Thanks for your report.