In case you haven't noticed, I've been on a James Randi binge lately. Maybe it's because I'm an inherently trusting person and I very much dislike the notion of people preying on trusting people. Maybe it's because I'm a religious skeptic of sorts. Mostly it's because he's awesome.
While I was perusing some clips from a TV show he did back in 1991, I followed a trail of Youtube videos until I came to one titled "James Randi's Scam". I thought it was about his Project Alpha experiment. It turned out to be the confusing ramblings of a self-proclaimed medium about how Randi is a hack.
I haven't linked the video here, because it honestly doesn't deserve any attention.
However, here is a comment made by a supporter of the video's creator, going by the nickname skepticslayer1234.
I applied to be tested for the million and Randi lied to get out of testing me. He rejected my application saying I wanted no photos taken. Truth is I insisted the whole proceedure be video taped. I have offered Randi ten grand to meet me in public with his proof I wanted no photos but he runs from my "Honesty Challenge". Randi is a cowardly liar. Bill Perron
Now, being the skeptic I am, I needed to investigate this. I happen to know that the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) keeps an online record of all applicants. If this Bill Perron applied, as he claims, he and his application letter would surely be listed on the website.
This is the text of his application, copied here because it needs to be disseminated all over the internet as a casebook example of MWAK.
And I quote the unmodified, untranslated work of Bill Perron (sources following):
USING MY DELL LAPTOP COMPUTER AND LEXMARK PRINTER I WILL PRODUCE HOROSCOPES CONTAINING THE PLANETS, THEIR RELATIVE POSITIONING AND INTERPRETATIONS OF THESE POSITIONS AND WHAT THEY INDICATE ABOUT A PERSON THEIR PERSONALITY, CHARACTERISTICS, AND NATURE. I WILL DO THIS WITH A DEGREE OF ACCURACY THAT WILL BE OBSERABLY BEYOND MATHEMATICAL PROBABILITY.
THEN I WILL OBSERVE HOW MR. RANDI FRAUDENTLY GETS OUT OF PAYING ME THE MILLION DOLLARS THAT I WIN.
MY PREFERED WAY TEST MY HOROSCOPES IS TO GO TO A PUBLIC PLACE PERHAPS A SHOPPING MALL AND ASK TOTAL STRANGERS WHO ARE MARRIED TO ALLOW ME TO DO A HOROSCOPE ON THE HUSBAND AND THEN TO HAVE THE WIFE READ THE 8 PAGES OF THE ANALYSIS OF THE HOROSCOPE AND TELL US HOW ACCURATE IT IS. I HAVE FOUND WIVES TO KNOW THEIR HUSBANDS VERY WELL AND THEY ARE NOT SHY ABOUT BEING VERY CRITICAL OF THEIR SPOUSES IF I GET AT LEAST A 60% OR BETTER ON THE HOROSCOPES THAT IS ABOVE CHANCE SO I WIN. I BELIEVE 5 HOROSCOPES ARE ENOUGH TO TEST THE ACCURACY BUT IF JREF WANT ME TO DO MORE I WILL BE GLAD TO BUT THERE HAS TO BE AN EVENTUAL LIMIT. SINCE JREF BELIEVES ASTROLOGY IS BUNK THEN ONLY ONE ACCURATE HOROSCOPE SHOULD BE SUFFICENT BUT REPEATABILITY IS REQUIRED SO I SUGGESTED 5 ACCURATE HOROSCOPES I WILL BE USING 12 ZODIAC SIGNS ALL THE PLANETS ALL 12 HOUSES PLUS ALL THE ASPECTS TRINES, SQUARES, ETC. THIS JUST FURTHER DOCUMENTS & SUPPORTS THAT MY ACCURACY IS WAY BEYOND CHANCE.
Sources arehere and here.
I'd like to highlight a few things.
Firstly, this application was hand written. I would have said, "this guy is an example of everything that is wrong with the internet", except he actually took a pen and wrote that out, in all caps. I don't know what OBSERABLY, FRAUDENTLY and TRINES are, but they must be the angels of his swift justice against Randi.
Secondly, this man has a computer and printer. It's part of his whole computer horoscope medium profession. Was it impossible for him to type up the letter instead? Would that have jived with the vibes of his electronic equipment or something? Was he afraid that somehow, Randi would be able to infer something about his computer from the paper and sabotage his ability to do horoscopes? It just baffles me that someone claiming to be able to use a computer for something as complex and important as prognosticating intricate information about a person and their future is incapable of typing up a letter and printing it out.
Thirdly, I believe this guy was yelling this out as he wrote it, one word at a time. Maybe he didn't, but it's a hilarious picture to imagine a grown man furiously scribbling in all caps, yelling out each word with long pauses. Pure speculation, humorous image.
Fourthly, I'm wondering if this is the same way he turns in job applications. I'm not sure McDonalds would accept anything written in that style.
Fifthly, I'd be interested in statistics of his accuracy versus the length of marriage + courtship for couples. I wonder if the general assertions of a horoscope are more likely to ring bells with newlyweds over marriages going on 25 years.
Sixthly, as an officer in my guild I have to sort through people submitting applications. Admittedly our process is simply "Talk to us, if you're sane you're probably in", but a surprising number of people fail miserably. Specifically, their conduct and style of writing are expressly indicative of the maturity of a 6 year old child. Given that we're just a guild in a video game, that seems relatively understandable; chances are half of them were 6 years old. However, when someone's applying for a million dollar prize and drops sentences such as, "THEN I WILL OBSERVE HOW MR. RANDI FRAUDENTLY GETS OUT OF PAYING ME THE MILLION DOLLARS THAT I WIN" I can't help but shake my head.
Lastly, the old adage "a person is smart, people are stupid" needs updating. This man defies it, too bad there's no million dollar prize for that.
Thus endeth the first MWAK. I pray there aren't more to come.