At the beginning of this year (2011) I obtained an e-book edition of Randi’s Prize from the author who was so kind as to perform a give away for new year.
The sub-title is: What Sceptics Say About the Paranormal, Why They Are Wrong, and Why It Matters.
The first half of the book relates supposedly paranormal incidences and experiments, both from the point of view of skeptics and believers interspersed with the authors thoughts. As you can guess from the sub-title, the author almost invariably sides with the believers.
The second half of the book deals more with the question of how people can be so wrong, why the paranormal is not accepted, what would happen if it was accepted and related musings. This is mostly opinion. I found that part self-indulgent, boring and hard to get through.
Nevertheless I quite enjoyed the first half. I think it offers a great insight into the reasoning of someone who is seemingly sane and does not have first-hand psychic experiences and still comes to belief. The underlying arguments are, to me, transparently fallacious but they are also, judging from my online debating, common.
Skeptical writers often focus on coming up with explanations for supposedly inexplicable incidents. This is sensible, for these incidents are posed as riddles and an answer is demanded. Yet such answers fail to address the underlying errors in reasoning, chief among them the non sequitur: Unexplained equals explainable only after a scientific revolution that vindicates age-old superstitions.
I fear that even some skeptics fail to realize how broadly wrong the underlying reasoning is. What’s worse is that this failure leads to unrealistic expectations among believers.
I will write a series taking on McLuhan’s book in detail. I will not give any detailed normal explanations of the supposedly paranormal. That would be pointless, especially since McLuhan himself does a good job of summarizing skeptical objections. I will merely point out the false conclusions.