An international phenomenon....

James Randi --- Wizard (
Thu, 18 Dec 1997 11:15:05 -0800 (PST)

Chinese novelist Han Suyin (b. 1917) is best known to Western readers
as the author of "A Many-splendored Thing," which was made into a film
in 1955. In her earliest autobiographical account, "The Crippled
Tree," she tells of two ram figures flanking the door to the main
building of a 1200-year-old temple at Chengtu (Chengdu), a city about
150 miles west of Chunking (Chongqing). The figure on the right, she
writes, has "claws like a tiger, a tail like a lion, the body of a
deer, and only one horn" (hardly a "ram," I would venture), and is
said by the temple priests to have been brought there by Confucious
(Laotze) himself. Miraculous powers are claimed for this object. Han
Suyin writes, "For it is said that those who want revenge against an
enemy need only tell the ram his name and their story, because this
ram is also a militant avenger of wrongs. At night in a dream the ram
leaves the temple and goes to butt the evildoer, who thereupon falls
sick and occasionally dies." Furthermore, "Anyone with any sickness
had but to touch the rams, either one, to be healed." Those who
whispered to the figure to ask a favor always left an appropriate
contribution in the temple coffers.

As we might suspect, there were a few skeptics lurking about, asking
into this story. A local scholar took a good close look at the ram
and found that it was actually a 400-year-old incense burner bearing
on its chest the seal of a shop in the Peking (Beijing) market, where
it has been purchased by a cabinet minister and was subsequently given
to the temple by him. The shop mark had not been totally erased by
the Taoist priests, who noticed that after the myth of the
perambulating, vengeful, and beneficent ram became firmly established,
the temple experienced an economical improvement of remarkable

It appears that our naivety is not only cross-cultural, but extends far
back into history and across great geographical distances. No surprise.


Shock Department....

An employee of Bell Labs (Lucent Technologies) has communicated this
to me.....

Lately I have noticed that even here [at Lucent Technologies] we are
required to attend an increasing number of lectures based on
pseudo-science. In fact, last month, I was required to attend a two
day seminar taught by someone who based her methods on the fact that
we have "human energy fields." We were told that merely by thinking
positive or negative thoughts about someone we could affect their
strength. She demonstrated: As a volunteer came to the front she
asked everyone in the room to think terrible thoughts about him (as if
we really could). She then demonstrated that it was easy for HER to
push down his arm when we thought "negative thoughts." Then we were
told to think positive thoughts about him. To the amazement of the
audience (most of whom are highly educated) it was now difficult for
her to push down his arm. I was disappointed to note that not one
single person (engineers, scientists, etc.) questioned her methods. I
finally could remain silent no longer. I pointed out that first of
all, we couldn't possibly think negative thoughts about someone we
knew, worked with, and liked, on command.

I then asked for them both to turn around so they couldn't see the
sign of how we were thinking (positive or negative) which was
signified by a thumbs up or thumbs down by a CHOSEN person in the
audience. Of course, her results were now what would be expected
statistically. She said I was, "too cynical" and "not open-minded
enough." To my surprise (or maybe not), I got the distinct impression
that the rest of the audience thought I was just some kind of
trouble-maker or something.

Of course, to truly test her ridiculous claims (just think of the
ramifications if what she claimed were true), even more controls would
be needed. But she failed miserably under the minimum of test
controls. I guess it was my fault. I was producing negative "vibes"
or something.

I have just been told that we are required to attend another two day
lecture by this same woman next month. This is Bell Laboratories,
arguably the premier industrial research lab in the world - the people
who brought us the laser, the transistor, etc. The company that is
issued more patents per day than any company in the world.

I find all of this disappointing.


We also find this disappointing, though not surprising, except for
where it's taking place. Is there any way that we could reach the
Pooh-Bahs at Lucent Technologies who endorse this witchcraft, and tell
them how incredibly naive, unscientific, foolish, and irresponsible it
makes the organization look? Depend on it, this sorceress will flaunt
her association with Lucent as validation of her nonsense. She will
advertise that she was invited to inform the Lucent employees of this
marvellous scientific discovery. Incidentally, the arm-pushing
quackery is very old, and is known to the occultists as "Applied
Reflexology." It has long ago been tested and discarded as a fallacy.

I hereby formally offer to this woman the JREF challenge for US$1.1
million, if she can pass a simple, direct test such as suggested
above. That silence you hear is her anticipated response, lubricated
by endless alibis and excuses for not attempting to take the prize,
which she will offer Lucent authorities. I should also mention that a
major TV program and TIME Magazine have expressed their interest in
covering any positive response to the challenge -- unless the
claimant(s) think such attention would influence their delicate
powers, in which case a test would be carried out without that


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