Posts Tagged ‘James Randi Educational Foundation’

Derren Brown: Messiah

26/04/2010

After watching this, manicstreetpreacher wonders why all religious people think that their prophet or saviour is the only genuine one in an ocean of mountebanks, charlatans and frauds.  Must be why they call it faith.

I recently re-watched the YouTube videos on my post “Refuting William Lane Craig’s five ‘arguments’ for the existence of God” and in video three, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the narrator recommends watching this programme (RichardDawkins.net / Wikipedia) by British illusionist and arch-sceptic Derren Brown (Homepage / Wikipedia) first broadcast in 2005 as he tours America assuming various false identities convincing supposed experts in the supernatural that he has special powers.

Brown pretends to five separate sets of people that he is respectively a psychic, an evangelical preacher capable of instantly converting hardened atheists, a survivor of alien abduction who can now tell a person’s medical history by touching them, the inventor of a machine that can record people’s dreams and a clairvoyant who is able to talk to people beyond the grave.  In each of the scenarios Brown aims for these people to endorse him publically as the real deal, but if they ask him directly whether he is faking it, he will own up to them.  None of them asked whether this was a con and indeed all swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Like James Randi, Brown is a self-confessed sceptic of the paranormal and admits that he uses hypnotism, cold-reading and various other behavioural manipulation techniques to get his spectacular results from his subjects.  Only sporadically does he reveal his secrets and I very much recommend his full uncut interview with Richard Dawkins filmed for The Enemies of Reason for a backstage look at cold-reading.

YouTube playlist

YouGoogle Part 3 of 6 (since irritatingly at the time of publication, YouTube Part 3 and only Part 3 was blocked with the message “This video contains content from Channel 4, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds”?!)

I post these videos to make the point that the miraculous deeds of Jesus and countless other “messiahs” can easily be replicated by sceptics using mind tricks on gullible and credulous people; effectively mental sleight of hand.  If you are reading minds, contacting the dead or bending metal objects using magic powers, you’re doing it the hard way.

So why do people believe that any of them are genuine?