Posts Tagged ‘JREF’
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 14, 2016
One of my biggest skeptical heroes is James Randi. I’ve read many of his books (I highly recommend them – here’s a good list), I have had the good fortune to meet him a few times, and for a time I even worked with his organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation. He is a small man with a big laugh, an even bigger heart, and an even bigger love for the pursuit of skeptical analysis into all manner of paranormal, mystical, or odd-ball claims. For Randi, no questions are off limits and skepticism knows no bounds; he and his legacy are one of the primary reasons why I am here, doing what I do on this blog and in my daily life as a skeptic and teacher, and I know his work has reached and inspired countless others. Now a movie, called “An Honest Liar”, which documents his life and his legacy will be coming to the Public Broadcasting Service on March 28, 2016…
About the Film
For the last half-century, James “The Amazing” Randi has entertained millions with his dazzling feats of magic, escape, and trickery. Along the way he discovered that faith healers, fortune-tellers, and psychics were using his beloved magician’s tricks to swindle money from the credulous. Fed up with the fraud, he dedicated his life to exposing con artists with a wit and over-the-top showmanship all his own. An Honest Liar is part detective story, part biography, and a bit of a magic act itself.
An acolyte of Harry Houdini, Randi became a famed magician-turned-debunker of psychics and mediums in his own right with a series of unparalleled investigations and elaborate hoaxes. These grand schemes fooled scientists, the media, and a gullible public, but always in service of demonstrating the importance of skepticism and the dangers of magical thinking. Randi was a frequent guest on TV variety and talk shows, most notably The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, uncloaking high profile scams, like the “spoonbending” of illusionist Uri Geller. Eventually Randi’s efforts won him the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Award.
When dealing with a master deceiver, however, the truth can be elusive. A sudden and shocking revelation threatens to bring down Randi’s own house of cards, and the magician who spent his life exposing phonies may be the victim of a devastating deceit himself.
An Honest Liar is told through interviews with Randi, vintage footage of his TV appearances, and interviews with illusionists, performers, and skeptics alike, including Adam Savage, Penn & Teller, Bill Nye, Geller, Alice Cooper, and more.
Watch the trailer, pass it on to your friends (even if they aren’t card-carrying skeptics), and spread the word. This is a film which everyone should see, because as Randi himself states, “No matter how smart or well-educated you are, you can be deceived.”
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, debunking, deception, documentary, film, fraud, independent, indie, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, lies, life, magic, magicians, movie, paranormal, PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, public television, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 25, 2015
I’ve been teaching physics, astronomy, and math at both the high school and college level for about 18 years. And in that time I’ve made a number of contributions to the intersection of skepticism and education. I’m proud to say that one of them is a my part in a new ebook published by the James Randi Educational Foundation, available for free download. Please pass this along to any educator whom you know is interested in preserving and encouraging scientific and critical thinking in the classroom
The JREF is pleased to offer a new eBook for educators
Magic in the Classroom is a collection of essays by educators across the curriculum who are using extraordinary claims to teach critical thinking. Editor Robert Blaskiewicz gathers the contributions of fourteen authors from the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Swift Blog who write on topics ranging from popular culture, psychology, linguistics, evolution, exobiology, history, folklore, and many more. Together these essays represent the work of a vibrant skeptical culture in education that is bringing critical thinking skills to students across the curriculum.
DOWNLOAD FOR FREE!
Posted in creationism, education, skeptical community | Tagged: articles, book, creationism, critical thinking, digital, download, ebook, education, educators, essays, evolution, free, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, public schools, Robert Blaskiewicz, school, teachers, teaching | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 4, 2014
I have used up many electrons on this blog discussing the problem of anti-science and science denial regarding creationist and climate science denier movements. I have also discussed many times about how those movements seek to destroy the credibility of science in order to prop up either their religious or political worldviews, which usually tend to be quite right-wing in nature.
However, lest we cease to be critical thinkers about the problem of anti-science and science denial, let us not over simplify the issue in to being a problem of only the political right. Case in point: many of the worst of the anti-vaccination movement (AVM) are strongly left-leaning in their politics. This is emphasized rather hilariously in this recent Daily Show segment:
No, this chart isn’t the idiocy. The idiotic part is that anyone would seriously deny that vaccinations are the reason why these deadly diseases went away.
In the segment, the Daily Show interviewer discusses the topic of vaccines with someone who can only be described as an ideological science-denier… who is on the political left. I really like how Orac at Respectful Insolence breaks this down:
In the piece, in particular Bee makes fun of a crunchy lifestyle blogger, Sarah Pope, who, after establishing her liberal-crunchy bona fides (after Bee’s amusing prompts, of course), rattles off pretty much every antivaccine trope and bit of misinformation and pseudoscience in the antivaccine canon, claiming herd immunity is myth, that vaccines cause autism, that they don’t work, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Yesterday, Pope wrote about the interview thusly:
” “The Epidemic of Idiocy” that The Daily Show segment labels the no-vaccination movement is head scratching given that the anti-vaccine movement is being led by the most educated in our society.
Are all those parents with college degrees, master’s degrees, PhDs and, yes, even many MDs that are saying no to shots for their kids complete idiots?
No-vax parents aren’t the real “science deniers”. In fact, they the ones most interested in the science because they are digging into the research and demanding unbiased, objective data to support vaccination, not the slanted version presented by the CDC and conventional pediatricians like Dr. Offit who makes millions supporting the very industry that handsomely maintains his lifestyle.”
No matter how much Ms. Pope wants to claim the mantle of science through the University of Google, she and her fellow antivaccine activists are just as antiscience as anthropogenic global climate change denialists and creationists (a.k.a., evolution denialists). They also share another important trait with people holding those antiscience beliefs. They’re just really, really good atmotivated reasoning, and one reason they’re so good at motivated reasoning is because they are educated and smart, which is why vaccine denialists and other science denialists are sometimes referred to as “smart idiots.” It’s a very apt term. I do, however thank The Daily Showfor making me aware of Ms. Pope. Her blog looks like—shall we say?—a highly “target-rich” environment for potential future blog posts.
However, we should take care to not oversimplify the AVM and the political affiliations of its adherents, because while there are many AVMers who are left-wing, there is also a strong (and apparently growing) right-wing element to vaccine denial. More from Orac:
However, there is also a very strong strain of antivaccine views on the right as well, including General Bert Stubblebine III’s Natural Solutions Foundation, far right libertarians, and others who distrust the government, including government-recommended vaccine schedules.
Indeed, many of the the antivaccine people and groups whom I monitor tend to be anything but liberal politically. For example, The Canary Party, a rabidly antivaccine group that pushes the idea that toxins in vaccines are responsible for autism and all sorts of health issues and that autism “biomed” quackery is the way to cure vaccine injury recently teamed up with the East Bay Tea Party to oppose vaccine mandates in California. Moreover, the Canary Party has also recently been sucking up to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), with one of its major financial backers, Jennifer Larson, contributing a lot of money to Issa’s campaign (indirectly, of course) in order to buy influence and win a hearing by his committee examining autism and focused on vaccines as one potential cause. Fortunately, Issa’s hearing in 2012 was a bust.
So what are we to conclude about this question of anti-vaccination and political affiliation? Well, the answer appears to be “not much” because it seems the question hasn’t been rigorously studied…
Unfortunately, there aren’t actually a lot of good data examining whether there is a correlation between political affiliation and anti-vaccine views. I blogged about this very issue a three years ago, discussing an article by Chris Mooney looking at polling data and doing the best he could to characterize the politics of vaccine denialism.
At this point, about the only thing I can say is that regardless of the political motivations of those who buy into and promote the dangerous nonsense espoused by the AVM, their lies and pseudoscience must be countered. So how do we do that? How do we in the skeptical and pro-science movement formulate an effective message to counter the AVM’s noise and misinformation? Well, I am happy to say that last year a study was published (via the JREF and Women Thinking, Inc.) on this very question. Please give it a look
Posted in medical woo, politics, skeptical community | Tagged: anti science, anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination movement, anti-vax, AVM, children, conservative, data, denial, doctors, immunization, information, James Randi Educational Foundation, Jon Stewart, JREF, left wing, liberal, medicine, misconceptions, myth, opinion, Orac, parents, politics, research, Respectful Insolence, right wing, science, science denial, survey, The Daily Show, vaccination, vaccines, vax, Women Thinking, WT, WT Inc | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 28, 2014
I just wanted to pass along the news that registration has opened for The Amaz!ng Meeting 2014 in Las Vegas this July. This year’s theme is “Skepticism and The Brain”, and it promises to be an educational and enlightening experience. Read on for more…
We are thrilled to announce that The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) returns in just a few months: July 10-13, 2014 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
Our theme this year – Skepticism and the Brain – is focused on the cognitive and brain sciences and how they inform the project of skepticism. Keynote speakers include the acclaimed philosopher, cognitive scientist, and best selling author Daniel Dennett and Scientific AmericanEditor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina. Other speakers include neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland, Australia’s Dr. Karl, Evolution & Human Behavior Editor-in-Chief Robert Kurzban, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience authors Scott Lilienfeld and Sally Satel, M.D., influential memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, clinical neurologist Steven Novella, M.D., immunologist Paul Offit, M.D., National Center for Science Education’s Eugenie Scott, Skeptic Editor-in-Chief Michael Shermer, psychologists and best selling authors Carol Tavris and Richard Wiseman, and many, many more!
The inimitable George Hrab returns as our Master of Ceremonies. As Pacific Standard magazine recently described, Hrab’s “vaudeville-style” has set the tone for “what is perhaps the world’s preeminent gathering of self-proclaimed skeptics.”
This annual celebration of critical thinking is an unparalleled opportunity to make like-minded friends, enjoy some of the brightest minds on issues important to skeptics, and leave with tools for spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief. TAM has become the must-go-to event for skeptics and science advocates.
Join James Randi and over a thousand other like-minded folks for four days of fun, friendship, and critical thinking!
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: 2014, brain, conference, convention, education, educator, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, meeting, money, neuroscience, science, skeptic, skepticism, Skepticism and The Brain, TAM, TAM2014, teachers, teaching, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on March 17, 2014
As many of you know, there has been an effort to make a movie documentary of the life of one of the greatest skeptical icons, James “The Amazing One” Randi, in recent years. The film is now made, and it will soon be making the rounds on the indie film network. Despite that fact, those who made and now promote the film still need your help; read on to see how…
We are thrilled and proud to announce that AHL was accepted to premiere at the prestigious 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City!
It is thanks to YOU our great supporters that we were able to make this film and we are so thankful for everything you’ve done for us!
The schedule has not yet been announced, but when it is we will pass it along. The Festival runs from April 16 – 27, and AHL will screen several times in that period. AHL is showing in theViewpoints section of the fest.
It will be possible for the general public to buy tickets, but it’s likely the numbers will be limited. Have no fear! We will have additional festival and screening announcements coming soon, and there’s a good chance we’ll be showing the film near you. Keep an eye on our website and sign up for updates if you haven’t for the latest news. …
… We are slaving away – working day and night – to finish the film! We barely eat or drink. We are doing our best to make ourKickstarter backers proud by making the best film you’ve ever seen! We have little to look forward to in these agonizing days of constant headaches, technical issues, archival footage houses sending us the wrong clips. We know it’ll be worth it, but we need a boost. Something to pick us up, to help drive us over the finish line.
Well, YOU can help us – help make all our hard work pay off, help us sleep better at night, and have sweet happy dreams. And it won’t cost you a penny.
MAKE US INDIEWIRE PROJECT OF THE YEAR!!!
Tell all your friends, pass the word around – VOTE FOR AN HONEST LIAR!
For Randi – for the film – for us poor filmmakers – WE CAN DO IT!!!
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, campaign, contribute, debunking, documentary, donation, festival, film, fraud, fundraising, independent, indie, Indiewire, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kickstarter, lies, life, magic, magicians, money, movie, New York City, NYC, paranormal, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, Tribeca Film Festival, trickery | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 17, 2014
One year ago, I wrote a post about a kickstarter project to help fund a film on the life of that skeptical giant, James Randi. The film is titled “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi”, and I’m happy to report that it is nearing completion! But in order to bring it across the finish line, the film’s producers need a little more financial help. Read on for details, and please consider donating if you are able…
The finish line is approaching and we wanted to let you, our supporters, know about our progress. We’ve now completed a fine-cut of the documentary and will be locking it in shortly.
We have now scheduled our post-production (conform, color correct, audio mix, final output etc.) for mid-March and are officially going to complete the film by the end of March, with the aim to premiere An Honest Liar at film festivals beginning in April.
Between now and then, we’ll be refining the edit, working with our composer on the score, sourcing the archival footage we use (there’s a TON…) transferring it and re-inserting it into the cut, completing graphics, animations, and titles, and when it’s all done, popping open a bottle of champagne.
(BTW – if you have any videotapes of old Randi shows, let us know!)
EXCEPT for people getting the digital download/DVD/Blu-ray and movie posters, everyone should have gotten their Kickstarter rewards. We have gotten a number of returned packages for people who may have moved, so if you haven’t gotten your reward please message us.
We still need additional support. The licensing of some of the archival footage is incredibly expensive, but it’s rare and great material that we can’t pass up. If you missed out on donating or know someone who wanted to, we can still use help. Plus, you can still get many of the Kickstarter rewards we offered – while they still last. Just go to our website to donate and choose rewards.
Finally, below is a bonus clip that isn’t going to be in the final film, but we just couldn’t leave on the edit room floor.
Thanks again to all our supporters!
– The Honest Liar team
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: An Honest Liar, biography, campaign, contribute, debunking, documentary, donation, film, fraud, fundraising, investigation, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Kickstarter, lies, life, magic, magicians, money, movie, paranormal, Randi, science, skepticism, story, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi Story, trickery | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 27, 2013
This time of year it seems that just about everyone celebrates some kind of holiday. Some are explicitly religious in nature, such as Christmas or Hanukkah, while some secular holidays are being celebrated at about the same time. It is in the spirit (pardon the pun) of furthering critical thinking & skepticism among the population at large that I share with you the JREF’s annual Season of Reason initiative. Whether you are religious or not, I think we can all agree that reason is something we need more of in our society, so I hope that you consider donating to this worthy cause…
The James Randi Educational Foundation invites you to give during our annual Season of Reason fundraising campaign. Over half of our annual support comes during this critical year-end period and we couldn’t continue fighting charlatans and promoting critical thinking without it.
This year, we’re asking you to help us raise a total of $200,000 to support our unique educational mission in 2014. Such support helps the JREF to continue to extend the important work of James Randi, influential skeptic and social critic who has for decades stood against the prevailing cults of nonsense and supernatural charlatans of every stripe.
Every dollar counts! Your Season of Reason 2013 contribution will help us equip more educators to teach students skepticism, support more grassroots campaigns to fight charlatanry, and take on more public figures and celebrities who promote dangerous nonsense. To make a tax-deductible donation to the JREF right now, please fill out and submit the form below.
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: 2013, 2014, charity, donate, donation, education, giving, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, outreach, Randi, reason, Santa, santa claus, season, Season of Reason, skeptic, skeptical community, skepticism, tax deductible, taxes | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 17, 2013
This past Sunday evening, I was interviewed on The Pink Atheist podcast/radio show. The topics of discussion were the vaccine survey research I was involved with and the importance of promoting a good pro-vaccine message, as well as talking about some of the physics behind various crazy demonstrations I perform both in and out of the classroom.
Click the link below for the full audio of my interview, which starts at the 20:25 mark. Enjoy!
Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vax, atheism, atheist, bed of nails, children, data, discussion, God, immunization, information, interview, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, Las Vegas, martial arts, medicine, miracle, misconceptions, mysticism, myth, opinion, parents, physics, podcast, pressure, radio, religion, research, science, show, skepticism, survey, talk, TAM7, The Amazing Meeting, The Pink Atheist, vaccination, vaccines, vax, Women Thinking, WT, WT Inc | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 13, 2013
Over the last few years, one of the things I’ve done is to work on the Educational Advisory Board of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). One of this board’s functions is to help assemble a variety of lesson plans and modules which emphasize skepticism and critical thinking that can be distributed to teachers everywhere.
I am happy to pass along to you some of the latest lessons from our work at the JREF. Please feel free to share these as you see fit
New “JREF in The Classroom” Lesson Plans!
The James Randi Educational Foundation is pleased to announce the release of four new additions to our JREF in the Classroom offerings:
Pareidolia: Do You See What You Think You See?
Teacher Edition [PDF] | Student Edition [PDF]
Illusions: Our Visual System
Teacher Edition [PDF]
Cognition: Are You Rational?
Teacher Edition [PDF]
Power Balance: Sports Enhancement, or Placebo?
Teacher Edition [PDF] | Student Edition [PDF]
These are downloadable lesson plans for use in high school and junior high school science and psychology classes that use topics in pseudoscience and the paranormal to teach critical thinking, skepticism, and scientific inquiry. Each lesson is designed to expose students to concepts identified in the National Science Content Standards and AAAS science literacy benchmarks.
These free lesson plans for teachers (and parents) are additions to JREF’s growing catalog of grade-specific standards-focused resources including lesson plans, activity guides, multimedia materials, and more. JREF’s aim with these free resources is to inspire an investigative spirit in the next generation of critical thinkers, providing the intellectual toolkit needed to navigate a life full of difficult decisions, confusing information, and conflicting claims.
Teachers can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a free printed classroom kit for any of the eight topics available so far, and to get more information on ways to incorporate JREF’s critical thinking materials into their classrooms.
More information on these and other classroom resources can be found here ≫
And don’t miss JREF President D.J. Grothe’s appearance on the syndicated radio show America Weekend where he discusses JREF’s new free classroom resources. Listen now ≫
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: advisory, board, classroom, content, critical thinking, education, educators, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, lesson plans, modules, school, skepticism, standards, student, teacher | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on September 18, 2013
I am very pleased to announce that a ground-breaking survey conducted on the issue of people’s opinions regarding vaccines and vaccination has been published; the work was a joint project of the James Randi Educational Foundation and Women Thinking, Inc. and it gets to the heart of how those of us who support good science-based medicine can communicate a more positive message on vaccines.
In addition, I am happy to say that I took a personal role in this research during my time with the Women Thinking, Inc. organization
[**Addendum: My skeptical colleague, Jamie Bernstein, wrote a wonderful piece on this survey research over at Skepchick, and she outlines there just how many people were involved in this process over the last few years. Check it out!]
So, without further ado, I would like to link to the JREF’s press-release on the survey; please note that you can download the full paper at this link, so please share it!
The James Randi Educational Foundation and Women Thinking, Inc. have come together for an opinion survey aimed at better understanding the spread of the unfounded “vaccine panic” that prevents some parents from getting important immunizations for their children. The project, Immunization: Myths, Misconceptions, and Misinformation, explores better ways to communicate a “vaccine-positive” message.
“Vaccine misconceptions have been running rampant, which should not only be concerning to science advocates but to parents and the greater public,” said WTinc President Louise Kellar. “Previously it had been unclear which misconceptions had been taking a toll on parents. Through this survey that the JREF funded, we hope that that science advocates and educators will be able to focus their outreach efforts, thereby helping children have the best start in life and hopefully saving some lives in the process.”
The joint project is an opinion survey that includes data from hundreds of parents of young children. The survey data was collected by volunteers at events where parents may be especially vulnerable to “anti-vaccine” messages. The JREF and Women Thinking, Inc. is happy to make the results freely available to public health and science advocates to help inform their efforts to support childhood immunity.
“There are some provocative conclusions that may be drawn from the survey data,” said JREF President D.J. Grothe. “Although the scientific community has done a good job refuting the misinformation of the most vocal anti-scientific anti-vaccine campaigners, the survey data suggests that most parents do understand the importance of ‘herd immunity,’ but just consider this a greater risk than possible harm to their children coming from vaccination. We hope the information from the survey will help science educators and activists better understand parents’ concerns in order to help them make the healthiest choices regarding childhood immunity from dangerous diseases.”
The JREF-WTinc survey, conducted over the last two years and released to the public today, aims to help science advocates fill gaps in the public’s understanding of the vaccine panic. The opinion survey asked specific questions about parents’ beliefs and fears about immunization, their media consumption, and their conversations with friends, family, and doctors. From the report: “The most effective anti-vaccination arguments are those that induce fear in parents by naming frightening ingredients and by greatly exaggerating the risks of vaccinations. The best pro-vaccination arguments were those that focused on a good-parenting message, such as suggesting that not immunizing your child is equivalent to putting them in a car without a car seat.”
You may download a copy of Immunization: Myths, Misconceptions, and Misinformation here.
Click here to read the rest of the press-release
Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vax, children, data, immunization, information, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, medicine, misconceptions, myth, opinion, parents, research, science, survey, vaccination, vaccines, vax, Women Thinking, WT, WT Inc | 1 Comment »