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Randi's Prize: What Sceptics Say About the Paranormal, Why They Are Wrong, and Why It Matters [Paperback]

Robert McLuhan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Nov 2010
James 'The Amazing' Randi is a stage magician who says he has a million dollars for anyone who can convince him they have psychic powers. No one has even come close to winning, proof, say sceptical scientists, that there is no such thing as 'the paranormal'. But are they right? In this illuminating and often provocative analysis, Robert McLuhan examines the influence of Randi and other debunking sceptics in shaping scientific opinion about such things as telepathy, psychics, ghosts and near-death experiences. He points out that scientific researchers who investigate these things at first hand overwhelmingly consider them to be genuinely anomalous. But this has shocking implications, for science, for society and for even perhaps for ourselves as individuals. Hence the sceptics' insistence that they should rather be attributed to fraud, imagination and wishful thinking. However, this extraordinary and little understood aspect of consciousness has much to tell us about the human situation, McLuhan suggests. And at a time when militants are polarising the debate about religion, its mystical, spiritual element offers an optimistic and enlightened way forward. Randi's Prize is aimed at anyone interested in spirituality or those curious to know the truth about paranormal claims. It's an intelligent and readable analysis of scientific research into the paranormal which, uniquely, also closely examines the arguments of well-known sceptics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 430 pages
  • Publisher: Matador (1 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848764944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848764941
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 288,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Robert McLuhan gained a First in English Literature at Oxford, then worked as a foreign correspondent for the Guardian in Spain and Portugal. He now works as a freelance journalist. He has been a member of the Society for Psychical Research since 1993, blogging and lecturing on paranormal topics.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reality Check for Skeptics. 13 Mar 2012
Randi's Prize by Robert McLuhan joins the also excellent Parapsychology and the Skeptics by Chris Carter, in what could be the start of a long overdue response in book form to the free ride that organised, militant `skepticism' has had in the media for too long now. It is superbly researched and written in a gently humorous, thoughtful and penetrating style that manages to carry the considerable weight of the complex issues it discusses extremely well. The issues in question are, of course, the way in which skeptics have either polemicised in opposition to serious scientific research into `paranormal' (psi) phenomena when this has suggested that `there might be something in it'. Or, have simply not mentioned such work at all in their more public pronouncements, being content to give the impression that `science', or that which they like, has actually shown that psi cannot exist.

As others have remarked, the book is very even-handed in the way that it handles the issues involved. Yet despite this, according to precedent, I suspect that the eminently `sceptical' McLuhan will be subjected to hectoring, knee-jerk accusations by skeptics that he is a `believer', merely because he has dared to question the skeptical oeuvre.

Now we've got the synopsis out of the way, in the spirit of its last sentence, you might like to try the following: -

1) Read the one star reviews of this book. 2) Read some of the five star reviews. 3) Read the book. 4) Reflect for a while as to which set of reviewers show the most evidence of actually having read it - at all, let alone `properly'.

Forgive me if `1' to `3' seem a little obvious.
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A counterblast to ignorance 24 Mar 2011
Randi's Prize is a long overdue counter argument to the ocean of "skeptical" books on the market with titles in endless variation of "Why people are a bit thick for believing stuff".

It's central conceit is one of the author recounting his own thought processes as he studied and compared the sceptics/skeptics responses - both general and specific - to reported data on psi-related phenomenon, and how these observations and comparisons have lead him personally to accept the probability of psi as a genuine and established phenomenon with convincing scientific credentials to back them up.

He acknowledges from the outset what most of us have experienced - a swaying back and forth as we read one book or another promoting or debunking strange phenomenon, each leaving us utterly convinced of their case until we read the next and finding ourselves reneging on our previous convictions. He acknowledges too that any impression his own book will leave on you may be just as temporary. With this in mind Mcluhan is meticulous in presenting the sceptical view of the issues under scrutiny. Every argument, every fraud, every suspicion, every failing - real or potential - in the scientific papers or parapsychological case studies is laid bare, before Mcluhan places them in context and asks just how rational these objections really are in relation to the actual data, and just how far removed the skeptical reconstruction of events usually is from the accounts or experiments they attempt to debunk.

While his own conclusions are known from the start - they are of course revealed in the book's title - his account of how he came to them as an intrigued layman is as objective and rational as its possible to be without staying permanently impaled upon the fence.
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33 of 44 people found the following review helpful
By Sun Dog
I greatly enjoyed Robert McLuhan's fine new book "Randi's Prize" - it's packed with accurate information while at the same time is surprisingly engaging and fun to read. I'd like to say I couldn't put it down but I actually did put it down late in the evening and picked it up the next morning to finish.

If you haven't investigated the scientific research regarding psychic (now generally called "psi") phenomena objectively and are curious, I assure you it's an amazing adventure and "Randi's Prize" is an excellent place to start. Incidentally, McLuhan is taking some flack because his book doesn't spend a lot of time talking about the prize per se, but because a large part of the book deals with the Skeptic vs Scientist "debate" that is symbolized by the prize, I thought the name was appropriate. (By the way, since most humans could surely be considered to be "skeptics" or we would have died out long ago, that term doesn't convey much information; we really need another name for an extreme close-minded "Skeptic" who believes that the ends (obliterating this branch of science) justify the means (including personal attacks), perhaps something more like "Antibeliever" or "Denouncer").

As it happens, I have a strong background in science (PhD Geophysics, 20 years in research with teams of nuclear physicists and other highly-qualified scientists), so I understand science and, like you no doubt, I also recognize hot air and hype when I see them. I didn't know anything about the scientific study of psi phenomena until I stumbled onto some of the scientific research three or four years ago.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
Sound research and thought provoking.
Published 1 month ago by Jak Sanderson
3.0 out of 5 stars Randi's prize is safe on this evidence
Robert McLuhan issues the following invitation to a sceptic: "Still unsure what to believe? Then why not do as I did? Read the research and see what you think." Hmm... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Gadfly
4.0 out of 5 stars A challenge for a sceptic
McLuhan's book is interesting, well researched and quite challenging for a confirmed sceptic like myself. Read more
Published 17 months ago by M. Isham
5.0 out of 5 stars What Sceptics Say About the Paranormal, Why They Are Wrong, and Why It...
Since I basically concur with the positive reviews here, I don't need to repeat well-written plaudits but will concentrate on answering the best-regarded negative review. Read more
Published on 21 Jun 2012 by Lucy Skywalker
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reference book but preaching to the converted
Robert very kindly made this book available to me for free early last year and I told him I'd soon get back to him. Read more
Published on 16 Feb 2012 by J. I. De Beresford
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible in Its Field!
This book is simply a must for anyone interested in the controversial field of contemporary parapsychology and its detractors. In fact it's a gem; a veritable gift from the Gods. Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2012 by Mrs. J. Baxter
4.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful and thought-provoking work
This was one of those accidental finds on Amazon, the online equivalent of wandering aimlessly around a bookstore. Read more
Published on 8 Aug 2011 by Mrs. Pauline M. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars a spotlight on foul play
I would emplore people of a rational disposition to read this book. Paranormal phenomena and parapsychology (i will refer to as 'psi') is a domain that many would fear to... Read more
Published on 24 Jun 2011 by Mr. Greg Sawers
1.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly poor standards of evidence
I was fooled by the blurb into thinking this might be an evidence-based account employing standard best-practice methodologies. Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2011 by Suggsy
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly intelligent book
Robert McLuhan's book is one of the best and most insightful I have read on the subject of the 'Psi war'. Read more
Published on 18 May 2011 by Dennis Picknett
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