They’re Not Just Stupid, They’re Dangerous

Really. Trust us. Everything's fine.
Really. Trust us. Everything's fine.
Here at the World News Center we’ve taken it upon ourselves to cry out against stupidity and fraud as often and as loudly as possible. I’ll grant it’s kind of tough to work up any appreciable volume with a keyboard, but the concept is valid. In the few short months since I joined Hippo online we’ve tackled everything from ghost hunting frauds to psychics to charlatans of many stripes. Sure, there are those self deluded folks who truly believe the crap they’re spewing, but most know they’re accomplishing only one thing; defrauding you out of your hard earned money and self respect.

What’s most galling is that these cons have been around for centuries, in one form or another, and people still fall for them. I’m sorry, but if your Great Aunt Zena wanted to chat with you from beyond the grave wouldn’t she just contact you? Why would she require that you spend a few hundred bucks to sit in a dark room and hold hands with a stranger?

I know, I know, Madame Esper (not her real name) has “THE POWER” and you don’t. The only “power” that Madame Esper, or anyone else who purports the impossible for that matter, has is the power to separate you from your money.

While it is true, and incredibly fascinating, that people can see 3 seconds into the future in certain circumstances, that does not equal contacting the dead or chatting with protoplasm. It just means that mankind is developing a true sense of the fourth dimension that surrounds us. Given that evolution is all about adapting to circumstances, and that we have become more aware of time as the centuries have passed, this is a logical development, not voodoo.

So, it is with great pleasure that I share with you an article by Lee Spiegal concerning James Randi’s 2011 Flying Pig Awards.

When NASA astrobiologist Richard Hoover announced, again, last month that he’d found evidence of microscopic life on meteorites, he probably didn’t expect to receive the high honor of a Flying Pig Award.

But now, the man who some claim is the scientific equivalent of the boy who cried wolf, is getting honored for an achievement some say is dubious.

Every April 1, the James Randi Educational Foundation hands out Flying Pig Awards to dubiously honor what founder James Randi describes as “the most deserving charlatans, swindlers, psychics, pseudo-scientists and faith healers — and on their credulous enablers, too.”

Hoover’s theory is that life began before the first stars formed and was spread throughout the early universe on meteors. Although AOL News and others reported on his findings, Randi’s foundation points out that the theory is unsupported by scientific evidence — or by many scientists.

It doesn’t take a pseudo-psychic to predict that Hoover, who is based in Huntsville, Ala., is not amused by the honor.

“I’ve never heard of them, but they might be able to make more intelligent claims if they actually read the paper,” Hoover told AOL News. “There are a number of papers in peer-reviewed literature detailing this research. There’s nothing that hasn’t already been reported by independent research.”

And while the Randi Foundation has never paid out on its standing offer of $1 million to anyone who can prove psychic ability under laboratory conditions, it’s predictable that Hoover will not be mentioning his Flying Pig Award on his curriculum vitae.

“I stand by what I said, but I don’t want to get into mud slinging,” he said. “I showed images of micro-fossils in meteorites that experts in the field recognize as the fossilized remains of prokaryotic microorganisms.”

But while Hoover claims his work has been peer-reviewed, it should be noted that Paul Hertz, chief scientist of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, made a point to distance the agency from the research because it hadn’t been “thoroughly examined by other qualified experts.”

Besides Hoover, the Randi Foundation is handing out a Pigasus Award to TV doctor Mehmet Oz. Randi is amazed that the Harvard-educated cardiac physician insists on promoting faith healing and quack “energy medicine” such as Reiki on his syndicated TV show.

“This year, he really went off the deep end,” Randi said. “In March 2011, Dr. Oz endorsed ‘psychic’ huckster and past Pigasus winner John Edward, who pretends to talk to dead people. Oz even suggested that bereaved families should visit psychic mediums to receive (faked) messages from their dead relatives as a form of grief counseling.”

Oz also won the dubious honor last year but Randi says he is so uniquely deserving that he will be the first person to win a Pigasus two years in a row.

Other Flying Pig Awards and their recipients:

“The Funder Pigasus Award” goes to CVS/pharmacy, which Randi says continues to sell “homeopathic” medications despite clinical trials that prove homeopathy is useless.

“The Performer Pigasus Award” goes to televangelist Peter Popoff, who recently made $23.5 million in one year by offering “supernatural debt relief” through infomercials on BET. However, Popoff went bankrupt in 1987 after Randi exposed him for using a secret earpiece to receive information about audience members from his wife.

“The Refusal to Face Reality Award” goes to debunked autism researcher Andrew Wakefield, who launched the modern anti-vaccine panic with unfounded statements linking the MMR vaccine with autism that were not borne out by any research, even his own. Although various respected medical journals have called his work an outright fraud, and evidence suggests he falsified data in order to exploit the panic for financial gain, Randi says Wakefield continues to believe he is the victim.

Although the awards are announced publicly on April 1, Randi says he traditionally lets the winners know in advance through telepathy.

To date, none of them have responded back.

The dangers posed by the “winners” listed in the bottom of the article are obvious. They are pure cons. But what makes Richard Hoover’s claims so odious is that they require millions of taxpayer’s dollars to confirm or deny. Mostly deny. The “growths and traces” he cites in his his papers resemble more closely micro fissures you’d find in any natural rocky surface. He’s never found one trace of organic material to support his claims. Even terrestrial fossils have some traces even though they’ve been buried for millenia. In the vacuum of space, such organisms would be easily preserved.

Besides, who cares about ancient microbes when SETI actually captured a radio signal from a different world? And as a bonus, the guy who found it was a volunteer and didn’t charge anyone a dime.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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