Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Book Report: Flim Flam

In the beginning of the semester when we were given the choice to choose our favored book, I was interested in Flim-Flam not only because was interesting, but also because the author, James Randi, was a respected magician in his prime. I was curious as to how he would disprove certain phenomena that people were coaxed into believing. Flim-Flam is a compilation of Randi’s process in disproving common myths or beliefs that the masses may believe in. While the whole book was interesting and enlightening, I’ll be talking about only a few of the chapters.

The first chapter that stuck with me after reading this book was Chapter 2: Fairies at the Foot of the Garden. Randi dives deep into instances people may or may not have seen fairies. The reason this chapter stuck out to me the most because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, was subject to this belief and actually defended it when given the chance. As a fan of his writing, I was shocked to hear that this was the case. You would think that someone who used logic and deductive reasoning well would be able to tell a fake image from a real one. Following, Randi proceeds to discuss the case of Doyle’s friend, Edward L. Gardner, who claimed to have photographic evidence of fairies’ existence. Randi then explains how these images are in fact fake. Below you can see one of the photos, which was displayed in the Kodak Museum in the United Kingdom. 

The next chapter to catch my eye was Chapter 4: Into the Air, Junior Birdmen. In this chapter, Randi discusses the idea of Astrology and how it is anything but fact. It is an old belief that the ancients used, and all it does is push blame that should be placed in human hands, onto the planets. Personally, I am interested in the ideology of Astrology and why people believe in it, so this chapter was perfect for me. Some people use it for conversation while others genuinely believe that everything is because of and up to the alignment of the stars. Randi brings up a good point when he says that between the 12 signs there is no way there is a way to decipher all people’s personalities. And what about people who were born in the same place at the same time? Usually their personalities aren’t exactly the same. While I love looking into the Zodiac, I agree with Randi when he says that it may not be a completely sound way of determining what a person may be like. If you’re still interested in Astrology, click right here!

The last chapter that caught my attention the most was Chapter 10: The Will to Believe. At first, I could only think of philosopher William James’ work with the same title. As I read through it, I could tell it was much different than James’ interpretation of belief. In this chapter, Randi explains that most desirable beliefs are not based in evidence. This is not only in paranormal beliefs, but ones in science as well. Randi begins this chapter with the example of the N Ray, created by French physicist René Blondlot. Long story short, the N Ray was a hoax that many people in the scientific community fell for. He then spoke about a woman named Sue Wallace, a “Doctor of Magneto-Theropy”. Randi watched her as she “diagnosed” people to find that she used similar diagnosis types on people of similar age and stature. Like psychics, she used very vague terms in order to fool her customers. Here is a video of a lecture Wallace gave back in January of 2019. 

After taking the time to complete this book, I would definitely recommend it to others who are interested in finding out whether different paranormal or common beliefs are truly believable. It is an easy book to read and there are so many different topics to look into. Randi does an accretion all job in explaining complicated evidence to the common reader, which is greatly appreciated. The only thing that concerns me about this is that Randi presents many examples of belief that seem fake enough to not believe from the beginning. It’s concerning to see how many people fall for these kinds of ruses that people put on fir fame and for show. Other than that concern, I definitely believe this book is worth looking into. 

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