James Randi TED talk against Psychics.

Recently, my wife posted a link on a TED talk presented by James Randi against psychic claims. Here is the link (with persian subtitle): http://www.ted.com/talks/james_randi.html

That is very true that with our current scientific knowledge we can not understand everything, and even those things that we (think that we) understand do not provide a good picture of some of the observations.

However, what Randi is suggesting is very pleasing. He is claiming that if anyone could provide some measurable psychic effect, he will give him/her 1 million dollar. As one of the measurable experiment that he has in mind is to make predictions about something like a coin flip. Say they flipped coins many times and psychic person guessed correctly 52% of the time. Given enough trials, that percentage would be enough. Or in one other place he (Randi) asks, if someone just by looking at picture could say the person is dead or alive is another testable measure to win the prize. The experiments look very easy to perform and all are based on deviation from fair random selection.

That is true that there are many things that we do not know, and there are many things that we see and can not explain, but this should be the source of our curiosity and not the source of our deception. Especially, his (Randi’s) emphasize on the role of mass media in spreading “not tested claims” in a nice and fancy cover is very important to notice.

A friend of mine reminded me that there are some experiments suggesting some unexplainable effects, for example PEAR lab in Princeton, however some evidences in some experiments has not much in common with what psychic claims. What I understood is that people like Randi are against those people who makes claims about some (deterministic) “super/unnatural power” while they are not even trying to prove it. Sadly, there are many people who fall for these people. By paying to those people we are supporting them, so they get more powerful and once they have all the power, it is very hard to stop them. For example, homeopathic people should try to explain why he did not fall into deep sleep after taking 22 pills (assuming those pills are what he claims to be).
There is a huge difference between experimenting something and practicing something. In my opinion the path is rather clear. We should move toward understanding what we don’t know based on what we know. However, all society wide practices should be based on what we know, or at least we think we know.
I should have also mentioned that some of the skeptics make it hard (and sometimes impossible) for others to pursue new directions which may deviate from the main stream experiments. However, the presence of experiment such as PEAR lab experiment, shows that there are ongoing experiments in this direction (however not many). Dogmatism is against any progress in understanding and we should stay away from that. However, we should not get confused between being open minded and supporting balloonies. I believe we should continuously reexamine what we consider as “knowledge” and keeping eye for new developments.

12 thoughts on “James Randi TED talk against Psychics.

  1. Dear Fred, I should also add this point that most of the research on controversial subjects, have been funded by privet resources. Thanks to those skeptics it is very very hard to get any fund from a legitimate funding agency (NSERC or NIH) for this topics. In my view, if there is a real science behind any subject or project, that should have a same chance for fund application.
    Also, It seems that like those people who claim having supernatural powers, without any proof, and got lots pf money by fooling people, some famous skeptics oppose anything and in anyway as long as keeps them famous. It is more like a job that attracts many people in the name of science. The cause is good, but the intention is not. They use science and skepticism as a tool to get rich or famous. They do not have any curiosity left for those subjects. They already decided about those subjects and fight against anything relates to them.
    Thanks for your post.

  2. Dear Ali, thanks for your comment. I agree with you to some extent. Skepticism should be for a good cause, and the good cause is to purify fake from real science. Of course, the presence of many heavily exercised practitioner in the psychic world, would make some though and sometimes dogmatic skeptics. To my opinion we should raise people awareness about validity of these things according to the current science, while letting real researches to be undertaken.
    I am not sure the mission of NSERC or NIH fits for this line of research, although I accept there should be some possible government funding for that. One obstacle that I see immediately is that, how to rate the applications if such fund were present?
    I should add that, as I explained in my previous post, NSERC is almost stopped supporting fundamental researches and mostly focused on the applied sciences, let alone semi-scientific or sudo-scientific practices.

    • Mainstream science will never touch this and they will fight tooth and nail to discredit all of it. To do other wise would take billions of dollars away from themselves, Big Pharma. Think about, if we advanced these abilities, one result would be self healing.

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  4. Why should this cost money to carry out? I don’t understand! I’m simply asking ANY “psychic” to do what he or she claims that he or she can do, and the James Randi Educational Foundation will pay that person ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Where are these thousands of “psychics” who claim to have such powers? Why do they not apply? They do not invest anything, they can be tested – under their own rules and claims – wherever they are, anywhere in the world, but they WILL NOT APPLY! Are they shy? We can ask scholars – independently – to conduct any required tests, BUT THE SO-CALLED “PSYCHICS” REFUSE TO APPLY…!

    I think the answers to these questions are obvious. They cannot do what they claim,

    James Randi.

    • Because if one really is “a psychic” they wouldn’t comply. Psychic 101 explicitly states that using these abilities for monetary gain, power or celebrity taints it. It is like saying if Dolphins are mammals, why don’t they walk on land like the rest of us? It is a concept that exist outside of your current perception. It is like saying why won’t the AM radio stations come through on my TV? They would come through on your TV if you altered it’s perception by increasing the bandwidth so it could receive those frequencies. Read up on some pop physics, electromagnitism and dna.
      Now that science is seeing the structure behind what used to be superstition, a lot has changed. And if you want to know about speaking with the dead, read Blavatsky. She was blackballed by the spiritualists of the later part of the 19th century because she had proof why it is not possible. Her campaign interfered with the seance holders lively hoods and so they destroyed her credibility. But, the same woman also knew the physics behind latent human abilities, which should never be put into the same category as talking to dead people.

  5. Dear Fred, I am so sorry that you saw this unfortunate talk. I am even more sorry that out of the many important and enlightened talks that TED have banned, they kept this one. You must have empathy for this Randi person because, for what ever reason he came to this life with little or no species specific evolution. I am nobody, so remember that what I am about to say is from a self taught student. What ever faith you may be, let me ask you to put it aside for a moment. I think we can agree though, that humans are composed of both a spiritual and animal nature. Both those natures are intertwined with a physical vehicle. Your body. Science have become a very dark thing. What used to be for the betterment of man has become a temple worshiping only money and power. Science have discovered the tip of the iceberg of how the universe is made. Even modern dna has discovered that what they no about dna is so miniscule that it borders on dangerous more than helpful. But they have decided that they have a small understanding of 10% of what dna is or what 10% of it does. They have the arrogance to call the remaining 90% Junk DNA. Well, now they are learning – or starting to learn what that “Junk” DNA is and what it implies. It implies that for one thing, humans, and for all we know, all things are born with innumerable amounts of innate dormant functions. Think of it like this. You own a computer and all you know how to do is send email and you believe that’s all a computer can do. Anyway, you are completely empowered by the nature of what you are to find the truth. If you believe that you can activate your dormant and more spiritually compatible hidden abilities you can. The first thing to realize is that when you come across some one like Randi, feel bad for him and walk away. You will also come across charlatans too. If you put your emotions aside and memorize the energy that you feel when you are in their presence you will see that it is the same as that of people like Randi. This is subtle and may take time. What you are in essence doing is recognizing non truth. You can teach your body and perception what the vibration of non truth feels like. It is a discipline and it knows no color, faith or other prejudice. Non truth is a non working energy field. Like when a light switch doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. It is not connected to a working reality. Information is exactly the same. On the flip side, you will start to recognize what truth feels like. You may here the most fantastic thing ever, yet if you have developed your subtle inner senses, you will know instantly whether it is true or not, just by the way it makes you vibrate. You have heard the expression “that really resonated with me” Well that is a pop culture version of the same basic idea. If you look into modern physics, how electromagnitism works, along with other similar principals you will have a better understanding of how this is nothing to do with magic or even religion. In my opinion, if there is a connection to religion, it is only based on the fact that when you purify your heart, you are in a better position to understand your subtle senses and see the potential that we were given. I also believe all humans were born with one right. The right for each to evolve at their own pace. That way it seems that God made the earth perfect. Perfect because there is a custom made situation for everyone to approach enlightenment without interference from others who can not take personal responsibility for the situation they have created for themselves and what to drag others into their confusion. (oh, and by the way- when it comes to using “psychic” abilities and other of these innate abilities, the ancients who had other names for these things, along with a much more clouded understanding all agree on one thing- using them for monetary gain or control, taints the gift. That would explain why many of the concepts Randi talks about are in fact charlatans. The real ones usually don’t take money and tend to shrink away from notoriety- there are exceptions of course.) All the best.

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