I was rather dismayed, though not entirely surprised, to see a South African publication uncritically promoting the views of psychics to describe the coming year. This was particularly frustrating as it came just after hearing about how the UK’s The Guardian has recently been promoting the pseudoscience of astrology (see accounts here and here). At least in the case of The Guardian they published a letter from John Zarnecki, former president of the Royal Astronomical Society, which is clear that astrology should not be taken seriously. Just as with astrology, there is little to no scientific evidence to support the existence of psychic powers nor any supernatural ability to predict the future.
Claims of psychic powers are often debunked, particularly by magicians who are well aware of how to fool people, but more keep popping up all the time. The video below is of the late James Randi showing that James Hydrick‘s alleged telekinesis is not a psychic power but merely a simple trick.
Magic in the Middle Ages is a Coursera course offered by the Universitat de Barcelona. It is actually the fifth course from Coursera that I have done and the third one done purely for my own interest. I was initially quite excited because of the topic but, since completing it, I have lost a fair bit of enthusiasm. That’s not to say that it is entirely without merit but I think that, currently, it is not taking advantage of the format and could be aimed better for a Coursera audience.
The course aims to teach students about magic in the middle ages, this includes how magic was perceived, different magical practices and the treatment of magic in both Christianity and Islam. As with most of these courses, it primarily consists of a series of short video lectures followed by a multiple choice quiz each week. There are also two short essays in this course which are judged by your peers. Continue reading →