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Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other…

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and other Delusions (1982)

by James Randi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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If Martin Gardner is the Godfather of skepticism, James Randi is the crude, but effective enforcer. He prefers to debunk by empirical means (as opposed to Gardner's thorough intellectual dismantling) and Randi hides no disdain, calling the "psychics" and other frauds charlatans and more while explaining how he handled the would be para-whatevers. And, he has yet to be proven wrong. Who best to out a trickster than a professional magician? ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Magician and skeptic extraordinaire James "the Amazing" Randi examines and debunks all kinds of way-out-there stuff, from people who claim they can levitate by means of meditation, to "psychic surgery," to the Bermuda Triangle. He also details a number of experiments he conducted to test whether people with claimed paranormal powers could demonstrate them under controlled conditions. (Spoiler alert: They couldn't.)

Parts of this book, mostly chapters that focus closely on one particular topic, are in-depth, fascinating, and entertaining to read. (Although I suspect that whether one finds the tone of humor-laced curmudgeonliness Randi takes throughout charming or irritating is likely to depend upon one's predisposition.) Other parts are rather disjointed, choose odd details to focus on, and display, perhaps, more passion than polish in the writing. It's also kind of dated, as it was first published in the 80s and features a number of subjects that were big topics then, but have been replaced with new pseudoscientific fads since. (When was the last time you heard anybody talking about biorhythms?)

Still, uneven or not, I deeply appreciate the fact that this book, and other books like it, exist, and that Randi is and has been out there doing the things he does. His book about Uri Geller, in which he devastatingly exposed all the famous spoonbender's tricks, was a real eye-opener for me as a youngster. I started reading it as someone who'd always simply accepted psychic claims (as well as any number of other dubious phenomena) at face value, and finished it as a more mature and significantly less gullible thinker. I say we need more books that can do that sort of thing. Many, many more. ( )
1 vote bragan | Jul 16, 2014 |
Sure, I'm interest in the paranormal but I also have an open, critical mind to it all. Both sides believes and views are fascinating. But the book was just boring. Nothing against the subject itself. Didn't catch my interest with the writing, is all. ( )
  Wilwarin | Apr 7, 2013 |
This book systematically takes psuedoscience from the 60s and 70s and smashes it with the hammer of science. It can seem a little outdated, talking about pyramids, the Bermuda triangle, etc, until you start to see the patterns that are still around today. No one may be trying to pass off photoshopped pictures of fairies as real anymore, but there are plenty of people who believe in "power hologram" rubber bracelets, homeopathy, astrology, numerology, fung shui, tarot cards, palm reading, acupuncture, and any number of other hoaxes. This book teaches you to see these things like a magician sees them, to look for the trick, and to see them like a scientist sees them, as a phenomenon that, if genuine, is testable. ( )
1 vote Hegemellman | Apr 2, 2013 |
Originally published in the early 80's the book covers things that are outside today's new age sphere. Spending time on ufology,the Bermuda triangle, and von daniken's aliens as gods theory.

It is also quite a dry read as Randi assembles facts and uses them to debunk or demolish various stories & psychics.

Chapter 13 in which he presents attempts on the (then) $10,000(*) Randi prize, is whilst enlightening quite depresssing. Self delusion, chicanery & charlatanism parade by. If you are a magician or want to be there are some nice things you can probably take away from it though.

(*) now $1,000,000 and still unclaimed. ( )
  anamuk | Jan 24, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Randiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Asimov, IsaacIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dick, TravisCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And the crowd was stilled. One elderly man, wondering at the sudden silence, turned to the Child and asked him to repeat what he had said. Wide-eyed, the Child raised his voice and said once again, "Why, the Emperor has no clothes! He is naked!" - "The Emperor's New Clothes"
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The last ten years have seen a great resurgence of interest in the paranormal.
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James Randi is internationally known as a magician and escape artist. But for the past thirty-five years of his professional life, he has also been active as an investigator of the paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims that have impressed the thinking of the public for a generation: ESP, psychokinesis, psychic detectives, levitation, psychic surgery, UFOs, dowsing, astrology, and many others. Those of us unable to discriminate between genuine scientific research and the pseudoscientific nonsense that has resulted in fantastic theories and fancies have long needed James Randi and Flim-Flam!

In this book, Randi explores and exposes what he believes to be the outrageous deception that has been promoted widely in the media. Unafraid to call researchers to account for their failures and impostures, Randi tells us that we have been badly served by scientists who have failed to follow the procedures required by their training and traditions. Here he shows us how what he views as sloppy research has been followed by rationalizations of evident failures, and we see these errors and misrepresentations clearly pointed out. Mr. Randi provides us with a compelling and convincing document that will certainly startle and enlighten all who read it.
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