James Randi Educational Foundation

James Randi Educational Foundation
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November 2011

Help to Make The Season Bright

The James Randi Educational Foundation’s annual end-of-year fundraising initiative, The Season of Reason, supports our important work combating harmful paranormal and pseudoscientific beliefs.

Over half of our annual support comes during this critical year-end period and we couldn't continue our operations without it. This year, we are asking you to help us raise $220,000 to support the JREF’s grassroots and educational programs that will be the backbone of the JREF’s work in 2012.

The JREF is an independent non-profit and all donations are used for the sole purpose of promoting critical thinking to the public and advancing our skeptical, pro-science mission. Your Season of Reason contribution will help us teach students to think critically about the world, support skeptical grassroots campaigns, and take on public figures and celebrities who promote dangerous nonsense.

Donate today to help us reach our goal!

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Make a one-time donation of $100 or more or pledge an on-going monthly donation of $25 or more during the Season of Reason and you will receive this limited-edition, hand-made, three inch diameter, ceramic ornament. The design on the 2011 Season of Reason ornament is James Randi as "SkeptiClaus" based on a fantastic photo taken at The Amazing Meeting 2011 by Ingrid Laas. Randi really enjoys the design.

Our annual Season of Reason ornaments are a collector’s item. Hundreds of JREF supporters participated in last year’s Season of Reason, and by doing so again this year, you will add to your collection. Don't miss your chance to keep your collection, and the JREF, going strong.

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Zombies Bring Challenge to Celebrity “Psychic Medium”

James Van Praagh has made himself rich by claiming he talks to the dead on daytime TV and at pricey ticketed seances—but he wouldn’t talk at all when ‘the dead’ actually turned up at his $100-a-head seminar to ask why he won’t prove his psychic powers. The JREF brought a small horde of costumed ‘zombies’ to a resort in Laguna Beach where Van Praagh’s “Spirit Circle” was set to begin. Our video of the encounter has been featured at the  Los Angeles Times, Forbes, the OC Weekly, the Laguna Beach Patch, and the Huffington Post.

Watch the video at Randi.org and see behind-the-scenes photos from the event.

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For Good Reason returns: Richard Dawkins on Faith, Biology, and Skepticism

JREF president D.J. Grothe’s For Good Reason podcast returns this week with a wide-ranging conversation with Richard Dawkins at The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas. Dawkins talks about applying skepticism to religious claims. He explores the concept of “untestable” claims and how to address them in a scientific way. He also discusses whether atheism is a necessary result of skepticism. He says anyone should be willing to accept the reality of a claim if it is proven through scientific testing. He also discusses exobiology, including the likelihood that life exists elsewhere in the universe and whether or not it has been shaped by evolution through natural selection. Plus, he touches on storytelling and whether fantastical stories can make children more credulous.

Listen now!

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“Psychic Sally” Backs Down From U.K. Challenge

For Halloween, the JREF threw our million dollars behind a challenge to infamous U.K. medium Sally Morgan. Morgan has been mired in controversy since attendees at her events reported hearing people in the back of the theater who seemed to be feeding her lines, presumably through a hidden earpiece.

Science writer Simon Singh, in collaboration with the Merseyside Skeptics and parapsychologist Chris French, devised a test based on contacting spirits via photographs of the deceased, a feat that Morgan claims to perform in each of her stage shows. Morgan predictably declined the challenge via her attorney—and The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Liverpool Echo exposed her retreat.

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JREF’s 2011 Educator Grants Awarded

The JREF provides grants each year to help educators develop and improve critical thinking and scientific skepticism programs in the classroom and beyond. We’re proud to provide support for two very exciting projects this year, by Brian Barnes of the University of Louisville, KY, and David Robinson of Wilson High School in Western New York. Barnes is developing a critical thinking rubric for paranormal investigation and leading a series of student trips to the “haunted” Waverly Hills Sanitarium to put those skills into practice. Robinson is bringing new materials and equipment into his earth science classroom to expand his curriculum on astrology.

Read more about their projects!

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A New Volunteer In The Philippines

People all over the world gain money and fame by claiming supernatural powers and abilities, and the JREF challenges them to put their powers to the test. We at the JREF are very excited to announce that Red Tani, a skeptical leader involved with the Filipino Freethinkers, has volunteered to help create a stronger presence for the Million Dollar Challenge in the Philippines.

Read more.

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Kyle Hill Appointed JREF Research Fellow

The JREF is pleased to announce the appointment of Kyle Hill as our latest research fellow. Hill graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Communication with a focus on science, health, environment, and sustainability. As a fellow, Kyle Hill will conduct research on the ways people process science information they discover online, with the goal of applying his findings to the JREF’s mission of promoting skepticism and critical thinking.

Read more about Hill and his projects as a JREF fellow.

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Calling All Teachers!

If you are a teacher who makes critical thinking, skepticism, or information literacy part of your curriculum, we want to hear from you. Whether it's kindergarten or graduate school, many educators have battle-tested lists of books, movies, videos clips, demonstrations, games, and activities used to make the skeptical perspective more accessible and compelling. It may be YouTube, Scooby-Doo, Flim-Flam!, Encyclopedia Brown, or The Demon Haunted World. Tell us what you are using and how you use it!

Email education@jref.org and let us know what’s in your skeptical education toolkit. We’ll share your great ideas and experience with other teachers and parents, and use what you know works to improve the JREF’s educational materials.

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Fighting Witchcraft Allegations in Africa

The JREF will be working with Nigerian skeptical activist Leo Igwe and other activists on the continent of Africa to execute a public enlightenment campaign in the region and to lobby both African governments and international institutions such as the UN to take measures to stop witch hunts and witchcraft accusations and to protect victims of witchcraft-related abuse. Read more about the situation in these Randi.org posts by Leo Igwe:

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JREF Supports SkeptiCamps in Washington, D.C. and New Hampshire

The JREF has been a big supporter of SkeptiCamps all over the world, ever since the second SkeptiCamp more than three years ago in Castle Rock, Colorado. SkeptiCamps are free, participant-driven conferences for skeptics who wish to share their expertise and ideas with each other.  All registrants help make the conference happen, whether by delivering a presentation themselves or by helping with logistics. They always turn out to be educational, inspirational, and a ton of fun. In the last month, the JREF has supported SkeptiCamps in Washington, D.C. and New Hampshire.

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Beth Goodbody Wins JREF iPad and eBook

Congratulations to Beth Goodbody of Virginia, who won an iPad 2 and eBook version of James Randi's classic Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions. Beth's name was selected at random out of 5987 total contest entries. Thank you to everyone who participated!

The JREF has been working to digitize the classic works of skepticism for modern eBook audiences. If you’d like to see the books we have on offer and read them for yourself, visit our download page!

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JREF Events

  • November 12: James Randi gave the keynote presentation at the Carl Sagan Day celebration at Broward College North Campus in Florida.
  • November 19-20: Visit the JREF table at Skepticon IV! (with Michael Blanford and JREF volunteers)
  • November 28: Max Maven interviews James Randi at the World-Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, Ca.
  • December 7: James Randi speaks at University of Colorado Physics Department's science colloquium.

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Top Posts from the Randi.org Blog

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JREF In The News

  • Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2011
    Want to Bust Some Ghosts? There's an App for That
    D.J. Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation in Los Angeles, which promotes critical thinking, likens ghostly apps to tea leaves. "Just five years ago, ghost hunters were the silly goofballs trying to spook themselves with a night camera," Mr. Grothe says. "Now they're the old fuddy-duddies who are trying to keep the status quo."
  • The Drum | ABC News 24 Australia, November 3, 2011
    Paranormal success is a psychic's only power
    Hundreds have applied, but so far no applicant has won the prize. This, says Randi, is because these healers, psychics and astrologers are either deluded or deceptive. The "cruel farce" of paranormal business, he argues, relies on tricks, suspension of disbelief, ignorance and desperation: grieving or unhappy customers, paying good money for consolation or hope.
  • USA Today, October 28, 2011
    Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus
    "It isn't automatic that if you learn magic you'll become a skeptic of the supernatural," said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi. "But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result."
  • The Guardian, October 27, 2011
    Sally Morgan challenged to prove her psychic powers on Halloween
    The Halloween challenge is backed by the US paranormal investigator James Randi, and qualifies as the first step towards claiming a million-dollar prize established by the James Randi Educational Foundation for any psychic who can prove their "gift" to be real.
  • Gizmodo Australia, October 23, 2011 | Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss And More Talk Higgs Boson, Private Space Ventures And Pluto
    ...this panel from TAM 2011, held earlier this year in Las Vegas, contains a great deal of intriguing discussion on a number of topics, ranging from global warming, the Higgs Boson and privately-funded space exploration.

  • McGill Daily, November 7, 2011
    The bullshit detector
    The tradition of magicians using their experience in trickery to expose duplicitous frauds continues to this day, most notably with James Randi.... The JREF puts its money where its mouth is, and offers a million U.S. dollars for any claim that holds up under double-blind testing. The foundation takes every claim at face value, and asks the question: “If this is true, then how can we prove it?”

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