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FLIM-FLAM! by James Randi

FLIM-FLAM!

By James Randi

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1980
Publisher: Lippincott & Crowell

The pace is brisk and the message clear: parapsychology is dead. Long live the skeptics! Indefatigable James (Amazing) Randi is the executioner, moving rapidly from the pair of English schoolgirls who fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with their fairies-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden photos, down to a vast horde of contemporary self-deceivers or outright fakes. At first the reader may find the style abrasive, the sarcasm heavy-handed, but by the time Randi has set forth the shameless frauds and money-making schemes, the outrageous misstatements and falsifications of data in respected scientific journals, the righteous harangue seems warranted. The early parts of the book dispose of UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, Erich von Daniken, and levitation. (The latter chapter is largely an attack on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. Here Randi might be faulted for letting his wrath at the commercialism of TM rub off on legitimate explorations of meditative techniques.) Stanford experimenters Puthoff and Targ are put down in a chapter exposing the sloppy design and faulty controls of their studies (loopholes not revealed in the pair's published works). And on Randi goes to Geller and associates, in what is now a twice-told tale. Toward the end of the book Randi elaborates on particular cases of clairvoyance, dowsing, and other paranormal feats in which he was called in as an expert or judge. These parts are absorbing and go far to prove Randi's (and Martin Gardner's and C. E. M. Hansel's) essential point; if you design the experiment adequately, no extraordinary powers are demonstrated. Here the reader also learns some tricks of the trade: how to guess cards, tilt tables, read though blindfolded, produce photographs, etc. By the end of the book, Randi's personal offer of $10,000 to be paid to anyone who successfully demonstrates paranormal abilities under proper test conditions seems safe beyond a doubt. More to come in a sequel on Kirlian photography and the like. Eye-opening fun.