Randi published his 2008 Pigasus Awards today, and I must say, some of them had me scratching my head a bit. Here are the awards and the winners – see what you think:
1. To the Scientist who said or did the silliest thing relating to parapsychology in the preceding twelve months.
- Dr. Colin Ross, who can shoot electromagnetic radiation from his eyes
Hum, well OK, I guess he qualifies. What he’s claiming is very silly. I’m not sure if it’s strictly “parapsychology”, but he apparently is a scientist and seems like a nut.
I’m afraid the rest are not so good, though.
2. To the Funding Organization that supports the most useless parapsychological study during the year.
- The Producers of the movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
Huh? The movie Expelled could not any way be called a “study”. It was a film pushing creationism. Certainly not a study and nothing “parapsychological” about it either. Plus, the producers of Expelled are not a “funding organization”. It was certainly a piece of crap, but a “parapsychological study”? No. And yet there were several actual parapsychological studies he could have picked from 2008. For example, this one. So why didn’t he?
3. To the Media outlet that reported as fact the most outrageous paranormal claim.
- Late night cable TV stations
This seems a bit of a cop out to me. If Randi wants to shame the makers of Enzyte then OK, but then he's criticizing phony advertising and not a media outlet per se. They hardly even seem that outrageous either. Unlike (for example) this.
The next one makes no sense at all:
4. To the "Psychic" performer who fools the greatest number of people with the least effort in that twelve-month period.
- Jenny McCarthy; who has written books and appeared on countless TV shows promoting measles
Jenny McCarthy is certainly a bubble head anti-science moron who deserves to be shamed more than just about anyone else I can think of, but “psychic”? When did she ever claim to be psychic? And there are plenty of real (ie pretend) psychics out there who could have been named. McCarthy could perhaps have been named in the next award - the most persistent refusal to face reality – that she certainly would qualify for. But psychic? It just makes no sense. Couldn’t Randi think of one actual pretend psychic to shame? Not one? In the whole year?
5. For the most persistent refusal to face reality.
- Kevin Trudeau; who sold quack books even after the government fined him for it
Actually, I think Trudeau has a pretty good grip on reality. He knows he’s selling crap, and he knows exactly how to keep making money at it despite numerous attempts to shut him down. No, the people with the most persistent refusal to face reality are the ones who continue to buy Trudeau’s books and videos, despite the fact that they are complete crap. But certainly not Trudeau himself. Douchebag? Yes. Refusal to face reality? Not really.
I hate to say this, but I think this years Pigasus’s are a fail. The purpose if these awards, I imagine, is to ridicule these bozos and have a laugh at them ourselves. But that only works if the things the awards are for, are for things the person actually did. If they are about a straw man version (eg Jenny McCarthy – psychic), then they fall flat. In fact, the recipient could easily laugh back at these rather absurd categorizations. I’m afraid this list just looks like Randi picked five people who had done stupid things in the year, and then randomly assigned them to one of his five categories. Which doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Read my Golden Woo awards from January – in my totally unbiased view, much better suited candidates.
April 2 - edited to add:
Well Randi edited some of the category descriptions - the main one being to remove the "psychic" label from the Jenny McCarthy award (see Phil Plait's comment below). That's certainly an improvement. But I still think it doesn't make any sense to call McCarthy a "performer", and I still think none of the awards (apart from #1) fit the category descriptions. Admittedly it's not a major issue in the grand scheme of things, but if a thing's worth doing it's worth doing right.