I was sent this article, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/magazine/the-unbelievable-skepticism-of-the-amazing-randi.html?_r=0 It's about James Randi and his million dollar challenge to prove psychic phenomenon.
After reading just the first couple of paragraphs, I started getting fired up. The following post is my commentary as I read through it. The bold quotes are from the article, followed by my thoughts. I'd suggest reading the article first then the rest of the blog so you will have a sense of what the quotes are referring to.
"A succession of nine blindfolded subjects would come onstage and place their hands in a cardboard box."
-Who's to say these subjects are aware enough to be conscious of the energy? Anyone who has actually tried to learn about and experience this energy knows that while it can be extremely powerful, it can also be extremely subtle. It can take a lot of work to become familiar with it. Additionally, this energy type stuff doesn't necessarily fall into the "Newtonian Physics" realm, so creating this type of standardize test is a flawed method to begin with. Expecting it to behave in one way and designing a test around those expectations is a setup for failure.
"If the subjects could successfully detect Wang’s energy on eight out of nine occasions, the trial would confirm Wang’s psychic power."
-Yeah, because 8 out of 9 is the statistically significant number! I'm not a statistician but wouldn't 4.5 (so let's round up to 5) be the probability of just guessing correctly? Shouldn't getting 6 correct be significant then?
-This reminds me of a book I read from Rupert Sheldrake called Science Set Free. I think he actually mentions Randi in it, but one thing he does bring up is the unbalanced standards things like paranormal research are expected to live up to. The bar seems to be set much higher for paranormal research then in other scientific fields of study. It's a really great book! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uD2qScZlvYE
“I think he’ll get four or five,” Randi told me. “That’s my bet.”
-uhh...yep. That's a pretty safe bet.
"it attracted more than 1,000 skeptics"
-Put a black comedian on stage in a theater full of white supremacists...you think the comedian has a chance? I can't even imagine the unwelcoming energy in that room; everyone hoping and expecting you to fail. And again, that brings me back to the first quote, is it a failure of the sender of the energy or the receiver of the energy.
“It literally changed my life,” he told me, and explained that he now hopes to help teach skepticism in Indian schools."
-Are they teaching skepticism or something more? This reminds me of an article I read from the website http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org/ I haven't explored the website at all, just read the one article, but what it basically said is that there is a difference between skeptics and non-believers. Nothing you do will change the non-believers mind while the skeptic is still open.
-It's like this...Now that the pope has given the thumbs up to evolution, basically saying how it and god can co-exist; it's not like all the bible fundamentalists are all of a sudden going to stop believing the world is only 6000 years old.
"But no matter how many times he assured his audiences that such stunts were a result of subterfuge and legerdemain, he found there were always believers."
-There are extremes on both ends. That's pretty much all I have to say about that. Let's accept it and move on.
“I am a little bit obsessed with having the right time,” he said. “I’ve always been very, very, big on knowing what time it is. That’s one of my connections with reality.”
-That's kind of like he's saying there is another reality, he just doesn't want to acknowledge it. What's up with the reality he's trying to stay away from so desperately? Seems like he's spending a lot of energy on doing that. How exhausting. I wonder what that does to someone energetically?
"That fixation on science and the rational life — and a corresponding desire to crusade for the truth — has a long history among magicians"
-There has got to be a balance in all things right? It's good to have people out there who will call out frauds. I think "rational" is the term that could be up for debate though.
“I have always been an atheist,” he told me. “I think that religion is a very damaging philosophy — because it’s such a retreat from reality.”
-It seems like he has a very rigid definition of reality. Someone who is colorblind lives in a different reality. To them, the sky may not be blue, or at least what YOU know blue to be.
-Also, I think religion is separate from the idea of energy. Lumping the two together is narrow-minded.
In regards to his friend talking about the afterlife...“Oh, no, I have no fear of my demise whatsoever. I really feel that sincerely.”
-Where's the proof that there isn't an afterlife? I understand he doesn't believe in anything like mediums or probably even accounts of near-death experiences, but not believing in that stuff isn't proof that there isn't an afterlife. Does that make sense? If anything, there's only proof of an afterlife regardless of whether you believe the findings or not.
-I understand that it's pretty much impossible to prove there isn't an afterlife. How would you you design a test for something like that? Because of this though, how can someone be 100% certain there isn't an afterlife? You can be skeptical about it because of the lack of proof; that makes sense. To be certain of such a thing though without proof is actually somewhat delusional. (Sorry for all the underlined words. I needed to emphasis them for myself to make sure I was writing everything correctly!)
"Later, when the opiates and the anaesthetic wore off, Randi looked at the notes he had written. They were indecipherable."
-I wonder what the notes actually looked like? Where they just indecipherable to him since he has his own, very strong filter of reality?
-Regardless, have you ever tried to write when in a spiritual state? It's really tough for me! The thoughts are coming so quick it does make the writing hard to read, but it also is hard to really portray the the sort of revelation/epiphany moment that happens, especially when reading it back. There's something to the saying about "being in the moment"...and I don't mean constantly checking your watch to see what time it is like Randi!
(Disclaimer: In general, I foresee these posts to be mostly spiritual in nature.)