Monday, July 29, 2019

Book Report: Flim Flam!

            The novel Flim Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions was written by James Randi, whom was once a stage magician and a scientific skeptic. Now that he is retired he is now an author and challenging different and widely popular theories. Throughout his novel, Randi analyzes the mass public's conspiracy theories and in the end he concludes that they are merely hoaxes. When a theory such as the Bermuda Triangle is brought up, everyone has their own perceptions and opinions on it, and the media help to over exaggerate a bizarre occurrence and the media concludes that it is supernatural. Randi’s “job” is to show that these paranormal instances and conspiracy theories are just that, theories. The novel covers many different theories and phenomenon’s. Some of those being ESP, unicorns, fairies, Bermuda Triangle, pyramid power and psychics and their abilities. The novel looks at and dives into what Randi believes and understands to be an “outrageous deception”. The public are easily manipulated and find it easy to believe anything they are told. James Randi debunks popular theories and even is critical over people who have said they have psychic powers, with very valid and in-depth arguments.
            The chapter that I found the most interesting was the “Fairies at the Foot of the Garden” chapter. In the year 1920, in London, England, there were two girls who “stumped the world”.  They were playing in Cottingley Glen, which is a park. The two girls while playing took pictures of what they claimed were real “fairies”. The girls not only took pictures of the fairies but also got photographs of themselves with them. The girls photos were evaluated by experts in that field and the experts had stated the photos couldn’t have been fake. I can see why at this time in society, why people would be keen to believe the girls and think the photos were real. It was the beginning of the roaring 20’s, after World War I. People wanted to believe in something that seemed unreal. This kind of thing happens a lot after a deep tragedy, many use this fantastical idea to cope with how they are feeling. In today’s world, people wouldn’t believe something like this. With the invention of Photoshop, many would immediately assume the girls were lying and the photos were fake. I found this chapter and this case really interesting. As Randi stated in the chapter, “This case features all the classic faults of such investigations. Gullibility, half-truths, hyperbole, outright lies, selective reporting, the need to believe, and generous amounts of plain stupidity are mixed with outrageous logic and false expertise to be found anywhere in the field.” (Randi). I feel like this quote exemplifies what the mass media does in certain instances with these crazy stories. I liked this book because it talked about many different topics and didn’t center around just one main topic. It kept the book interesting and made it really enjoyable to read.
            Many of the chapters talk about things that we talked about in the lectures and that our classmates made posts about on the class website. The chapter about fairies and reminds me and relates to when we as a class learned about the different mythical animals, such as the Jersey Devil and chupacabras. I feel like fairies and unicorns are the “happier” and are not scary compared to the creatures we learned about in this course. They aren’t as believable and are more likely to be less real, then the Jersey Devil, chupacabras and even Bigfoot, but are almost more fun to think about and think about them actually being real. The chapter about UFO’s in the novel is tied into what we learned in this course. We also covered UFO’s and their abductions in a lecture. The topics we discussed in the book and in the class lectures go hand in hand and can help us look deeper into those topics. Being able to read a novel that can provide more information on these topics that we had lectures on, is a part of this course and this assignment that I really enjoy.
            When doing research and looking further in to who James Randi is I found a TED Talk that he did about nine years ago. This talk was about homeopathy, quackery and fraud. To kick off the talk, he took a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills, on stages in front of the audience. This is also where he started to introduce his Million Dollar Challenge, where the world’s psychics can take a James Randi approved test to not only show if what they are saying they can do is true or not but to also debunk and prove that people may not always be saying the truth. On YouTube, there are so many different videos of him debunking theories, psychics and other paranormal topics. I think that this book could be used in different ways outside of class. I feel as though this book can help people to understand that things in life are deeper. Also, to not take things for what they are, to not take things as face value. The different topics discussed in the novel can help you reflect on your life and to look deeper into things. I don’t think this book can solve any serious issues or real-world problems, but it can help people in their individual lives. This book isn’t meant to and wasn’t written to be a book that is going to fix the world’s problems, but I felt that Randi did have a valid purpose for writing this book. I feel that he wanted to debunk and show that not everything we here is true.

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