Thursday, April 30, 2020

Book Report

9780879751982 - Flim-Flam! by James Randi

Our group decided to read the book “Flim-Flam!” by James Randi.  The cover of the book itself was enough to catch our eye, along with the title mentioning psychics, ESP, unicorns, and delusions.  James Randi is known as a magician and escape artist, but for the majority of his professional career, he would investigate paranormal and supernatural claims that have been widely spread and believed.  Topics included ESP, psychokinesis, psychic detectives, UFOs, levitation, and many more.  For those who are unable to decide what to believe, Randi explores and exposes ideas that were encouraged by the media and public.  Randi provides us with raw information that would inform and interest anyone who reads it, as well as expose and prove others who claim these supernatural and paranormal thoughts.

The first chapter that I found interesting was the case about the two young girls back in the 1920s who claimed to have played with and taken photos of fairies.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one to believe in the supernatural and came across these photographs and immediately wrote to his friend Edward Gardener to investigate.  Gardener then went on to vouch for the young girls who he claimed to be honest and “came from a family of people who were incapable of guile”.  The photographs that were taken of these fairies were claimed to be real because the thought of these little girls being capable of creating an illusion like this were unlikely.  The girls were asked to take more pictures of the fairies for the photographs to be examined.  After presenting all the real facts to the reader, Randi makes it clear that although it may seem real when presented in the way it was in the 1920s, the photographs were faked with cut-outs from magazines.

Cottingley Fairies - Wikipedia

Another chapter I enjoyed reading was the third titled “All at Sea…”. This chapter introduced the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, which is located in the middle of Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Miami. The myth started in 1945 when five Navy Avenger aircraft flew into the area and reportedly vanished.   A sixth rescue plane then flew into that area and vanished abruptly as well. This tale and every claim to come within the next few years were talked about by an author named Charles Berlitz in his books titled "The Bermuda Triangle", "Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds", and "Without a Trace".  Randi then goes on to give scientific based explanations as to what happened to the 5 navy avengers and the rescue aircrafts that disappeared. “The pilots were understandably lost, flew around in confusion until out of fuel, ditched, and sank in rough seas. The search plane, known to be dangerous because of the frequent presence of gas fumes in the crew area, could easily have exploded and gone down in a perfectly explainable accident…in fact it was seen to explode by personnel on a ship in the area…”  This shows how James Randi would debunk false claims and introduce very possible explanations of what could have happened.

Bermuda Triangle - Wikipedia

There were many topics that were covered in the book which related to the topics that we discussed in our lectures. For example, in the book, the topic of UFOs was covered and Randi talked about how there wasn’t any physical evidence of UFOs and discussed all of his findings that contradicted this theory. This relates to the UFO Abductions topic that was discussed in the lecture where it talked about people who typically believed in UFOs and aliens had other beliefs as well as having a higher rate of fantasy proneness and sleep paralysis.  Another topic that was discussed in the book as well as a lecture was about Uri Gellar and his psychokinesis abilities which Randi disproved. Gellar had claimed that his abilities of paranormal powers were given to him by extraterrestrials, however Randi showed how Gellar’s tricks were staged and easily debunked to stop the spread of his lies of this supernatural ability to the public and media.

James Randi - Home | Facebook

What I enjoyed about this book is that Randi was not afraid to call researchers out about their false claims and research. Randi tells us that we have been misled by scientists who have failed to follow their procedures and requirements. Randi clearly points out sloppy research and evidence for the benefit of the media and our people. All in all I enjoyed the read and would recommend this book to anyone who would find widely believed claims be proven untrue enlightening. 

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