Check out this new book I heard about on Skeptiko:http://astore.amazon.com/religion-spiri ... 1848764944
RANDI'S PRIZE: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters
By Robert McLuhan
James 'The Amazing' Randi is a stage magician who says he has a million dollars for anyone who can convince him they have psychic powers. No one has even come close to winning, proof, say sceptical scientists, that there is no such thing as 'the paranormal'. But are they right? In this illuminating and often provocative analysis, Robert McLuhan examines the influence of Randi and other debunking sceptics in shaping scientific opinion about such things as telepathy, psychics, ghosts and near-death experiences. He points out that scientific researchers who investigate these things at first hand overwhelmingly consider them to be genuinely anomalous. But this has shocking implications, for science, for society and for even perhaps for ourselves as individuals. Hence the sceptics' insistence that they should rather be attributed to fraud, imagination and wishful thinking. However, this extraordinary and little understood aspect of consciousness has much to tell us about the human situation, McLuhan suggests. And at a time when militants are polarising the debate about religion, its mystical, spiritual element offers an optimistic and enlightened way forward. Randi's Prize is aimed at anyone interested in spirituality or those curious to know the truth about paranormal claims. It's an intelligent and readable analysis of scientific research into the paranormal which, uniquely, also closely examines the arguments of well-known sceptics.
Most helpful review:
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful.
A superb contribution to an ongoing debate
There are thousands of books about the paranormal, but few of them approach the subject as judiciously as "Randi's Prize," by Robert McLuhan. Though the title suggests that the main focus will be James Randi's Million Dollar Challenge, the book actually ranges much more widely, as McLuhan examines skeptical responses to such reported phenomena as poltergeists, apparitions, telepathy, mediumship, near-death experiences, and children's memories of past lives. In each case he shows that the skeptical explanation, while superficially persuasive, falls apart when subjected to close analysis. His conclusion is that most skeptics do not really engage with the material they are critiquing; in their rush to explain it away, they tend to fasten on the first non-paranormal interpretation they can think of, even if it does not fit all the facts or is grossly implausible in its own right. McLuhan describes this tendency as "rational gravity" - the pull exerted by the "rational," mechanistic worldview that instinctively rejects anomalous phenomena.
The book is crowded with specific cases, examined in detail. For instance, McLuhan looks at an argument made by British skeptic Richard Wiseman, who has claimed that famed "physical medium" Eusapia Palladino could have been assisted by an accomplice who entered the locked seance room through a trapdoor. McLuhan writes, "Much later, when I had spent some time reading and thinking about Palladino, I returned for another look [at the skeptical argument], and it was only then that I grasped how cheeky Wiseman was being. As his critics pointed out, Palladino was tested many times in many different situations and [Wiseman's suggested] modus operandi could not apply to all of them (in the south of France she was tested successfully in the open air). One would think that a method that involves clambering through a hole in the wall a few feet away from three investigators on the look-out for tricks, concealed merely by a flimsy curtain, is hard to sustain. In any case, the report [of Palladino's sittings in Naples] mentions three occasions when the investigators looked behind the curtain, which would at once have given the game away.... On one occasion the phenomena continued after the sitting had ended, when they had turned up the lights and pulled back the curtain." (p. 97)
Again, looking at the case in detail demolishes the skeptical explanation. But skeptics like Wiseman seem to count on the fact that most of their readers are unfamiliar with the details. They are thus free to offer facile interpretations that reassure their audience, even while ignoring troublesome facts that they themselves must be aware of. This may be a clever debating strategy or a useful propaganda ploy, but it hardly looks like a search for truth.
"Randi's Prize" is a brisk, bracing look at this continuing controversy, exhaustively researched and offering 48 pages of endnotes and a 28-page bibliography. It's a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in parapsychology and its critics. Just don't expect a detailed treatment of the Million Dollar Challenge. McLuhan has bigger fish to fry.