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skeptical - update

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  • eric krieg
    Some good news, the parents of Emily Rosa (the girl who got national press coverage for debunking TT) have helped get a crackpot practitioner behind bars for
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 19, 2001
      Some good news, the parents of Emily Rosa (the girl who got national press coverage for
      debunking TT) have helped get a crackpot practitioner behind bars for 16 years.  This
      was from an incident where a young girl died during a rebirthing treatment.

      In other news, Once again, I highly recommend any connoisseur of kooks to check out
      Dennis Lee during his 50 state tour this year.  The only thing more astounding than this
      guys claims is that the audience will be full of people who buy it. The tour schedule is at:
      I'm looking for a volunteer in each state to alert the press as to a great investigative story.

      here's an announcement - a camp for psychic kids:

      Tom Napier came up with a good quote, "skepticism is to the mind what Consumers
      Reports is for consumers".
      Here's a responsible web page, the Philly Ghost Hunters Society has a list of
      ways that people can misinterpret photographic artifacts as ghosts:

      A psychology honors student is conducting research of people's
      belief in extraordinary things.  He asks people to fill out a 15 minute
      questionnaire at:

      The following is a repost:

      Edgar Cayce, a forerunner of the
                        New Age, is the subject of a new
                        biography, Edgar Cayce: An
                        American Prophet, by Sidney
                        Kirkpatrick. (amazon.com)
                                             An American Prophet
                                             Yeah, Right!

                                             By John Allen Paulos
                                             Special to ABCNEWS.com

                                             May 1 — James van Praagh, John Edward and Sylvia
                                             Browne are only the most well-known of the large
                                             current crop of on-air psychics and mediums. They
                                             deliver their flapdoodle on TV with seeming
                                             sincerity and often claim to speak with the dead.
                                              STORY HIGHLIGHTS
                             Nail in Head, Stick in Testicle   Into a Trance   Stock Market, Oil Wells

                                 One of the dead they may now more easily commune with is their spiritual
                                 ancestor, Edgar Cayce, the subject of a huge new biography, Edgar Cayce: An
                                 American Prophet, by Sidney K. Kirkpatrick (Riverhead Books).

                                 Cayce is considered by many to be the forerunner of the New Age movement
                                 for his alleged medical clairvoyance, scientific insights, and much else. If one
                                 100th of the claims implicit in his biography were warranted, this book review
                       would not be appearing here, but rather would be trumpeted on all the network news shows
                       and emblazoned on the front page of every newspaper in the country. Still, he was an
                       interesting character.

                       Nail in Head, Stick in Testicle

                       Born on a Kentucky farm in 1877, Edgar Cayce was very religious, sensitive, and given to
                       frolicking with imaginary playmates and angels.

                       Thought to be rather peculiar even at a young age, Cayce suffered a number of strange
                       childhood mishaps — a nail penetrating his head, a baseball thrown into his spine, and a stick
                       piercing his testicle.

                       Despite these unusual misfortunes, the outline of his early life is simple. He grows up, becomes
                       a photographer, marries his hometown sweetheart, moves from one small Southern city to
                       another, starts a family, and struggles financially. Gradually, however, he becomes convinced of
                       his mystical gifts and medical intuitions.

                       The author was given unlimited access to Cayce's files and the results are unfortunate. Perhaps
                       to generate credibility, the book relentlessly recites detail after superficial detail: apartments lived
                       in, houses bought and sold, jobs taken, businesses invested in, financial arrangements and
                       partners, city streets and scenes.

                       There are descriptions of acquaintances of all sorts — including quite tenuous connections to
                       Edison, Woodrow Wilson, Tesla, Lindbergh, Houdini, Hemingway, Earhart — and, most of all,
                       readings of medical cases.

                       Into a Trance

                       The readings were analyses of people who went to Cayce (or whose stories were told to him)
                       for medical advice. He would famously drop into a trance with the help of various facilitators and
                       while in this state would channel whatever the "Source" said about the person's medical
                       condition, usually concluding with a prescription for therapy, often unconventional. Many of the
                       readings sound very much like the nebulous prescriptions of present-day mediums.

                       The book's completely uncritical reporting is disappointing and most exasperating. Kirkpatrick
                       seems to reject nothing, never demurs at anything, establishes no critical distance, and provides
                       little feel for what made Cayce tick. The good news is that eventually this approach becomes
                       amusing, and the reader eagerly anticipates the next outlandish achievement and its straight

                       Kirkpatrick's idea of proof is to cite scads of testimonials, including many from doctors and
                       celebrities. Testimonials, however, are notoriously unreliable, and there are no discussions of
                       statistics or methodological issues.

                       Apparently, no statistics on the percentage of cases cured exist, and the reader must decide
                       whether the "cures" recorded were due to Cayce's miraculous psychic insight or to a
                       combination of the placebo effect, natural recoveries, patient selection, good common sense,
                       dumb luck, cold reading techniques, and vague changes counted as successes.

                       Not surprisingly, excuses for the failure of readings abound in the book. Indeed, Cayce couldn't
                       save his own son or various other members of his family.

                       Stock Market, Oil Wells

                       As he grew older, Cayce did not limit himself to medical readings. He consulted the Source
                       extensively on behalf of credulous business partners interested in Texas oil wells, the stock
                       market, horse races, and even Hollywood screenplays. All of his get-rich-quick schemes failed,
                       and he retreated once again to medical readings and less falsifiable prophecies.

                       Still, he never met a pseudoscience he didn't like and was an ardent believer in astrology,
                       reincarnation, perpetual motion machines, the fabled city of Atlantis, and prophetic dreams.
                       Moreover, his beliefs, visions, and readings were bizarrely interconnected.

                       The reason, for example, for the technological advances of the present age is that many people
                       living today are reincarnations of the technologically savvy denizens of Atlantis.

                       Kirkpatrick tells us that Cayce had the astonishing ability to lay his head on a book and thereby
                       absorb its contents without formally reading it. As I slogged through this ungainly, preposterous,
                       and absurdly detailed book, I found myself longing for the same facility.

                       The book does have one use, however. You can throw it at your TV when psychics start
                       relaying silly messages from viewers' dead relatives.

                       Professor of mathematics at Temple University, John Allen Paulos is the author of several
                       best-selling books, including Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. His
                       Who’s Counting? column on ABCNEWS.com appears on the first day of every month.


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