America, the Beautiful (And Nutty): A Skeptic’s Lament
by James Randi
Almost one-third of Americans believe the ancient Mayan prediction of global calamity this December is “somewhat true,” according to a recent National Geographic poll.
The prediction is based on a huge stone calendar wheel but exact nature of the disaster — already the subject of major motion pictures and fodder for a Super Bowl ad of remarkably black humor — is an open question. Perhaps an apocalypse will be sparked by expensive gasoline or another Charlie Sheen tantrum. Or maybe those early Mexicans just ran out of stone.
I’m a magician by profession, now retired and dedicated to communicating the facts about the so-called paranormal and the occult, and the supernatural people, claims, and stories that abound. My organization — The James Randi Educational Foundation — serves as a source of information about what I call “woo woo.” We work with a large number scientists, statisticians, and experts to evaluate and debunk for the benefit of the media, scientists, writers, students, and the merely curious.
Our efforts have brought JREF to the forefront of the world skeptical movement, following in the footsteps of Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Martin Gardner, Richard Feynman, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and so many others — and I’m proud to say that I knew them all well.
We do this day in and day out. And humans aren’t born crazy. But somehow nonsense science has what seems like a permanent foothold in our culture.