James Randi, magician and investigator of psychic phenomena, explores the world of the paranormal and tests claims of supernatural powers.
In this episode, Randi travels to Russia to challenge psychics never before seen in the west. After decades of research, can we
finally discover the secrets of the psychics?
Note Card Assignment
Prepare a single, personally-prepared, 3-inch x 5-inch note card.
Your note card may be used during the exam. Submit it for credit when turning in exam form. (one point).
Recommendation (NOT an assignment): Print these study questions. Then as you move through the reading or video, jot down short answers. Keep your answers VERY short, a few key words or phrases to prompt your memory. Remember, this activity is a study aid to help you prepare for the exam. Do what you need to do, but don't overdo it. You are NOT submitting your answers for points.
Reading assignment study questions
Define/desscribe "natural reality."
Give an original example of a phenomenon of natural reality that is publicly verifiable.
Describe an "objective" viewpoint.
What is "objectivity?"
Describe "confirmation bias."
Describe "willful ignorance."
What is "false equivalence?"
Why is false equivalence a problem?
Without objectivity in the courts and legilatures, what is the problem?
In the overall scheme of things in our modern civilization, what are the interconnected roles of: 1) science; 2) technology; 3) commerce; and 4) public oversight?
What is the point of the philosophy of science?
When we think about science, why do we think about the fields of biology, physics, and chemistry?
Why do some peoples of the world worship bears, and wolves, and the rain?
Scientific thinking helped in the emergence of what technical enterprise in ancient China and India?
Where was Mesopotamia? What rewarding technical enterprise emerged with the growth of scientific thought there?
What three intellectual milestones did the ancient Greeks achieve?
What is "natural philosophy"?
Although full of insight, why were the beliefs of most early natural philosophers usually incomplete, and sometimes dead wrong?
What was Heraclitus's fatal philosophical mistake?
What was the valuable insight made by Empedocles as he watched children playing with a clepsydra (water theif).
What were the key advances made by Empedocles?
What is the difference between fact and inference?
Hippocrates gathered detailed observations of his patients. Why?
What were the key advances made by Hippocrates?
Who established the ancient Alexandria Library, and where was it?
How did Eratosthenes estimate the size and shape of the Earth?
Regarding the practice of science, what is the main lesson to be learned from the work of Eratosthenes?
What finally ended the Alexandria Library?
The Middle Ages was a time when scientific exploration stopped in Europe. Why did it stop?
Intellectual pursuits are risky in a world dominated by "traditional thinking." Why? (HINT: Socrates and Aristotle)
How was the printing press important in supporting the Renaissance in Europe?
What were the three main elements of Sir Francis Bacon's approach to science?
What was the significance of Sir Francis Bacon's emphasis on negative instances?
What is the difference between subjective(personal) realities and objective(publicly verifiable) realities?
What is the significance of the "Box of empiricism" as it relates to science and all of our experience?
What happens when we try to use scientific rules (empiricism) to argue against spiritualism (and vice versa)? This brings up the "Box of empiricism" idea again.
How can our objective self coexist with our subjective self, or can they?
What are some of the classic supernatural phenomena that clash with the scientific way of knowing?
Why do we so quickly believe in mysterious powers such as mind-reading, and UFOs?
How does science deal with absolute truths?
What is meant by the statement that "science is a paradox of conservatism seeking revolution?"
What is the importance of the observation that nature happens in constant and repeating patterns (more or less)?
What is the role of creative thinking and speculation in science?
What is the role of evidence in science? How do scientists regard ideas that are presented without evidence?
Do ALL ideas deserve equal consideration and discussion in the media?
Review the 8 points about what science does.
Review the 4 points about what science does not do.
Bacon again. What was the core of Sir Francis Bacon's revolutionary approach to science?
What did the science of Phrenology demonstrate about bias and preconceived notions?
What are the shortcomings of the scientific method? Why is the so-called scientific method not practiced in all scientific investigations?
What is serendipity and how do scientists increase their chances of encountering it?
How do scientific journals act to filter out bad scientific work?
Why was the Cold Fusion Fiasco a fiasco?
What made the Piltdown hoax possible? What does it say about science and human nature?
Who is the ultimate authority in science?
Give a simple and original example of an observation / characterization investigation
Give a simple and original example of a controlled disturbance experiment
Regarding explanation-seeking experiments, be able to distinguish between: causal (not casual) questions, hypotheses, predictions, and the execution of the experiment.
What is William Ockham's Law of Parsimony (Ockam's Razor) and how can it be useful in your everyday life? (By the way, I've got next week's winning Lotto numbers I can sell you for just $20. Hurry, they won't last long at these prices.)
Why must hypotheses be falsifiable in order to be legitimate?
Consider the following hypothesis. "The sky is blue because the air is filled with blue bubbles". Why is this a legitimate hypothesis, even though it is obviously a wrong hypothesis?
Why do explanation-seeking experiments test one factor at a time?
What is the difference between a hypothesis and a guess. Which is more powerful?
Give a simple and original example of a causal question.
Give a simple and original example of a question that is NOT a causal question.
Give a simple and original example of a hypothesis.
Give a simple and original example of a prediction.
Why does personal bias contaminate the scientific process?
What does a scientific theory do?
How can some theories be incorrect, but still be theories?
How useful are wrong theories to science?
What is meant by the term, embedded theory? Give examples.
Science is constantly seeking new understandings. Do scientific ideas ever reach a point at which they are relatively secure?
How is the everyday use of the word, "theory", different from the way scientists use the word?
What is the significance of science in the existence of democracy?
How can popular public opinion influence the behavior of natural reality?
How can science be useful in your personal life?
Understanding Different Kinds of Scientific Investigations
Rank the following kinds of scientific investigations from least sophisticated to most sophisticated:
Controlled disturbance experiment
Observational / characterization investigation
Given the following scenarios, what kind of scientific investigation should happen next?
Your car won't start. It could be because of several failed components like your battery, battery cables, starter, coil, spark plugs, distributor, fuel pump or fuel filter. This comes at a terrible time for you because you have very little money. You can afford to fix only ONE component.
Your car won't start. It could be because of several failed components like your battery, battery cables, starter, coil, spark plugs, distributor, fuel pump or fuel filter. This comes at a terrible time for you because you are on your way to a new job that pays $400,000 a year.
You are a daredevil. You are 40-years old with a loving family and lots to live for. You also have many years of experience jumping your motorcycle over 50-foot long stacks of burning Madonna albums. But now you want to try something more daring. You are considering jumping over a 100-foot long pond filled with very hungry Great White Sharks.
You open up the iTunes Store for no particular reason.
You are a three-year-old child. Your parent tells you not to touch the remote control. Then they go out to get some beer, cigarettes and a lottery ticket.
You notice that your best friend always has cute dates and you don't.
You have been a student at Fullerton College for three years. But next semester you are transferring to Cal State Fullerton. You want to be sure not to be late for class on the first day.
You are the manager for a struggling sea food restaurant. Recently, you have been receiving complaints from your outside diners that sea gulls are harassing them, and even pooping on them. If this situation persists, you could go out of business.
1. Penelope's car stalled on the way to work. She developed two hypotheses to explain why her car stopped. One was that her battery was bad, and the other was that her fuel pump was bad. She replaced both parts at the same time then successfully started her car. What principle does this demonstrate?
a. that none of her hypotheses was supported
b. when tested at the same time, it is not possible to tell which hypothesis is supported
c. that both of her hypotheses were supported
d. her predictions were correct
2. While on your front yard, you encounter a man walking his dog and he initiates a conversation. The conversation leads to the idea of psychic powers, which the man claims to possess. He even demonstrates by telling you details about yourself, your family and your job. Next he invites you to consult his psychic powers -- for a small fee. What would be the most reasonable hypothesis according to the Law of Parsimony (Ockham's Razor)?
a. The psychic used supernatural powers to reveal your life.
b. You must have some psychic abilities too, in order for this psychic to tap into your life so easily.
c. Maybe your encounter with this remarkable man was meant to be -- part of the script of your life
d. Maybe the man is a con artist and a heel. He staged the encounter and you fell for it. He obtained personal information about you beforehand, then made it look like a chance encounter. Don't be a SAP!
3. Which of the below statements is a legitimate scientific hypothesis?
a. Earth is special because it is the only place in the Universe where life exists
b. When I looked under my pillow, I didn't find money in place of my tooth because the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist
c. Life is on Earth because God put it here
d. The sun will rise tomorrow
4. Which of the below statements is a causal question?
a. Did the Tooth Fairy leave money under my pillow?
b. Why did I find money under my pillow where my tooth once was?
c. Who put the money under my pillow?
d. There is money under my pillow because Mommy put it there when I was sleeping
5. You are a chef at a Vietnamese restaurant. You have lots of experience preparing tasty dishes from authentic Vietnamese recipes. You were informed today that tomorrow your restaurant will be visited by the food critic from the L.A. Times newspaper. What next?
a. Observational / characterization investigation
b. Controlled disturbance experiment
c. Explanation-seeking experiment
d. Modeling experiment
Video assignment study questions
Uri Gellar appeared on the Mike Douglas show and demonstrated his amazing spoon-bending technique. After giving instructions on spoon-bending to the show's host, how did Gellar react when the host actually tried it?
What was Peter Popoff's the "real world" connection that helped make him so convincing?
What is the probable trick with the technique of doing surgery without knives?
Horoscopes. Randi identified three tricks to make them believable. List them.
Randi's palm-reading friend told his clients the opposite of what he was supposed to. What was the result, and what does it mean?
At the the Moscow Institute of the Brain, Why did Randi insist that the psychics and the scientists be separated and out of communication during the experiment?
At the Traditional Medical Clinic in Moscow, what was the ultimate unique property of the "charged water" that kept Randi from performing his tests?
Why did Randi refuse to ask questions of the two photo psychics?
There is something odd about the situations described below. See if you can identify the problem(s).
A man knocks on your front door. You have never seen him before. In a very friendly voice he says, "Hi! I'm Jason Featherly. My mom is Glenda. She lives a couple of blocks over. You've probably seen her walking her black lab."
For the last year, you have gone to the same Starbucks every morning on your way to school. Today, a woman you have never seen before accidentally bumps into you and says, "I'm so sorry, <fill in your name here>." You reply, "How did you know my name?" She says, "I didn't until the moment I touched you."
A scientist and employee of a large pharmaceutical company in charge of clinical testing of a new medicine appears on Oprah one day. She claims that this new drug is the most advanced anti-cancer drug in 20 years.
A scientist at a major university calls a press conference to announce his ability to produce nuclear fusion at room temperature.
A commercial for sugary kids cereal, "Lucky Charms," claims that Lucky Charms cereal is "part of a nutritious breakfast."
You receive a phone call one evening. A friendly voice informs you that you are a "winner." You have won a chance to enter a contest for a new car.
A travel brochure arrives in the mail offering you a fabulous and unbelievably cheap summertime vacation in southern Australia this June.
Your church pastor telephoned all members and asked you to come to church this Sunday ready to donate a minimum of $100 to a new orphanage project in Ecuador. The plane is on the tarmac and these donations are needed now to buy medicine and food. Monday will be too late.
Your child becomes unexplainably ill. A friend insists that you avoid doctors and instead try herbal remedies and meditation.