24 February 2005

Randi on "John" of "God"



James Randi's latest commentary is devoted to the debunking of "John of God", the Brazilian charlatan recently featured on ABC's Primetime Live. João Teixeira (his real name) is a fakir/faker who pretends to do psychic surgery, faith healing, and the like, to the delight and astonishment of credulous fools who coincidentally often give him money. As Randi says: "ill people from all over the world flock to this place seeking cures" ... but ... "There is zero evidence to show that John of God has ever accomplished anything but revulsion by sticking forceps up a victim's nose! Zero! " Read the whole commentary; it is long and thorough. Notably, ABC gave short shrift to Randi's attempt to provide a skeptical debunking on the air.

I watched a bit of the episode, and quickly moved on. The tricks that "John" of "God" was performing were just a combination of some fairly well-known carny routines, faith healer mumbo jumbo, and seemingly impossible stunts which are actually quite easy (forceps can actually go 4 inches up a person's nose without causing injury ... did you know that?).

I don't really mind that gullible people are wasting their own time, lives, and money on "John" of "God". But when news programs show the charlatans in a reasonable light, it distracts from real medical advances which could have been reported on instead. Additionally, I have a big problem with people involving their minor children in this pseudoscientific claptrap. It's one thing for an adult to risk their own health. It's another thing to risk their child's.