The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘James Van Praagh’

2012 Pigasus Awards are Here!

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 1, 2012

As is the skeptical tradition, every April Fool’s Day the James Randi Educational Foundation releases its annual Pigasus awards (so named for the notion that certain crazy ideas are to be believed “when pigs fly”).  Below is James Randi himself announcing this year’s winners… or are they losers? 😉

Read more about each of these recipients and their related nonsense:

Daryl Bem

Facilitated Communication at Syracuse University

The Long-Island Medium on TLC

James Van Praagh

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ABC News’s “Beyond Belief” Illustrates How Badly Psychics Fail

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 25, 2011

In a welcome break from some of the usual credulousness that seems to permeate the modern media landscape regarding all things paranormal, recently ABC News did an episode of “Beyond Belief” on the topic of psychics and mediums.  Titled “Can Psychics Really Talk to the Dead?”, the episode focused upon famed dead-talker James Van Praagh.  The interview of Van Praagh by Josh Elliot is excellent, as Elliot is respectful but appropriately skeptical of Van Praagh’s claims, especially when he conducts a bit of a deeper investigation beyond simply swallowing Van Praagh’s parlor act whole.  In the interview, Elliot even nails Van Praagh for using time-tested tricks such as cold reading


Another well-done segment in the show focused on the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge to anyone who can display, under a properly controlled setting, evidence of supernatural or paranormal abilities.  It is important to note that in the following video, all of the claimants agreed to the conditions of the tests they underwent before the tests took place.  After agreeing to these conditions, it is telling that upon seeing their obvious failure, the psychics still insisted they had legitimate psychic powers and also complained about how the test “wasn’t fair” (even though they agreed it was fair before they failed).  Take a look at this segment at this link (it’s the video at the bottom of the article).

So, even though they agreed to the test ahead of time, were fully informed of the conditions of the test and what was required to declare success and the million dollars, and the fact they were predicting (quite confidently in some cases) that they were “sure to win the money”, they all failed – and failed spectacularly.  But then they turn around and blame the skeptics for not making the test fair; I’m sure that if they had won the million dollars they’d be saying the test was fair!

To read more about the entire show and get a skeptical perspective on how it went, check out the JREF’s blog post on the matter.

Posted in psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Skepticism & Love: “I Married a Woo!”

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 13, 2009

Recently, I saw a post on the JREF Forum by Robert Lancaster, a skeptic who is widely known for his website – dedicated to exposing supposed psychic Sylvia Browne for being a fraud.  It is fair to say that Robert is a hardcore skeptic, willing to go to extraordinary lengths to expose fakery and hold such liars to account for their actions (like willfully deceiving & bilking the credulous).

However, the content of his post is not what you might think… it is his account of how he met his current wife, Susan, and how he – a hardened skeptic – and she – a believer – gradually grew to love each other to the point of getting married.  In the process, Robert showed how his patience & understanding and willingness to carefully & thoughtfully express his skepticism to one who did not share it eventually won her over.  I think there are lessons here from which many of us can learn…


I Married a Woo!

Read the rest of this entry »

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