Wednesday, April 22, 2020

book report: Flim Flam

      James Randi, a former magician and escape artist, as well as the author of the book Flim Flam! is a skeptic. He has dedicated his later life to debunking claims that are attributed to anything paranormal, occult of supernatural in any way shape or form. In Flim Flam!, he outlines popular deceptions and explains how they are done and why the public was ultimately tricked into believing them. Randi believes that people often fail to rationalize these claims and want to believe the pseudoscientific backgrounds that surround them. This novel covers topics ranging from ESP. psychokinesis, psychic detectives to UFOS, levitation, astrology and many more. Each chapter goes into depth on a topic, giving the most popular cases and misconceptions and ultimately debunking them in the end.
       In Chapter 3, “All At Sea”, one of the topics that was discussed was the Bermuda triangle. This caught my attention mostly because whether it is paranormal or not, a lot of weird occurrences happen there regardless. Even Randi recognizes this on page 43. He dives deeper and reveals the map and recounts the numerous disappearances. He also points out that anywhere that anyone or anything disappears in automatically gets a sort of paranormal reputation, not just the Bermuda Triangle. He attributes all the happening to bad weather that the media failed to recognize and share with the public. He believes that because of the Triangle’s reputation, not all the facts are always given so that the media can keep that shroud of mystery surrounding it. The website linked gives more of these facts and backs up James Randi’s original claims:

One of the other chapters that really interested me was Chapter 5. Chapter 5: The Giggling Guru was about Transcendental Meditation and the belief that it was supposed to make you levitate if done right. This was tested again and again and the only results they really uncovered were ones that you would see within a regular yoga or meditation class. Even then, it is said that average yoga goers performed better that those who did Transcendental Meditation. In addition to that, Randi also reveals that a lot of the tests done to analyze this were TM supporters already, so they thus tried to make the results look as good as possible for them. If you look on, you can see that despite it being debunked, people still attempt to practice it today. Countless books, videos and websites are all still made in support and there is even a live chat option on the website where you can talk to “professionals” about it and its supposed health benefits.

                I also enjoyed Chapter 9 which covers all the medical claims. “The Medical Humbugs” goes over what is called psychic surgery, which was widely publicized and practiced all over. Randi thus took a trip to Brazil in attempt to be present while one of these surgeries was going on. He was denied immediately. He then offered money and was told that the decision was up to the surgeon and spiritualists. He soon discovered that the permission was not obtainable. Randi name drops tons of surgeons claiming that any miracle that they credited to psychic ability was simply slight  of hand that was shown on video and did not actually happen for real.  Below I have included a video of a more modern explanation and debunking of the fraud: They demonstrate how the fake blood and organs are made and how you cane make it look as real as possible. I would include a picture regarding the subject, but even being fake, it is still a little too graphic even for me.

                Overall, I liked this book. James Randi gave a good amount of information on each topic and helped readers really understand what they were looking at. My only complaint though is I feel like he should have included a little bit more of their side of the story. It was clear that these things could all be debunked and that Randi was correct in his assumptions, but it would have been interesting to see a little more background in each situation that was being presented. Other than that, I feel like he covered a lot of intriguing topics and exposed a lot of different people   

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