Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Skeptic Lives

When Indian guru Pandit Surender Sharma claimed he could kill another man with only his mind, Sanal Edamaruku said, "Kill me."

Edamaruku is not a suicidal nutjob. He's the Indian skeptic equivalent of James Randi. Remarkably, the guru accepted the challenge. A TV channel carried the whole thing live, even preempting other programming as the showdown went on, hour after hour. In the end, of course, Edamaruku is still alive.

Eric Keith sent me this story because he found it as satisfying as I did, and added that his favorite part was this paragraph:

"When the guru’s initial efforts failed, he accused Mr. Edamaruku of praying to gods to protect him. "No, I’m an atheist," came the response. The holy man then said he needed to conduct a ritual that could only be done at night, outdoors, and after he had slept with a woman, drunk alcohol and rubbed himself in ash."
Not wanting Sharma to have any excuses for his failure, Edamaruku accompanied him to an outdoor studio, where the farce continued until midnight, when the TV station's host declared it over.

We don't get many opportunities to show these mystics to be the fakes they really are, so Edamaruku really hit a home run for reason with this demonstration. It's particularly important in a nation like India, where huge number of the poor and uneducated (and plenty of rich smart people) fall for this sort of nonsense every day. Considering how gullible Americans are in this realm, it's even worse in a nation with nearly four times the population.

You don't have to fool all of the people some of the time to get rich through what Randi calls the old flim-flam.