Sunday, March 11, 2012

James Randi — Skepticism's Great Achilles

From an interesting report in the Daily Grail: "... one of the greatest hypocrites of this or any other generation ...."




20 comments:

fabkebab said...

Am I missing something? What has James Randi's sidekick have to do with the truth/fake debate about PSI and related phenomena?

Dean Radin said...

If he knew that his "sidekick" was a fraud and said nothing, then this questions his character and reputation for fierce honesty. If he didn't know, then this questions his competence as a fraudbuster.

djbarney said...

A well written journalistic article there. Have to see how this plays out but this has the makings of (already is?) a huge scandal. It's tempting to get accusatory and "I told you so" but let's remember what's at stake here; True critical thinking which is so desperately needed in our world in so many places.

The Thought Criminal said...

James Randi has been a fraud all along. As Dennis Rawlins showed in "sTARBABY" Randi (and a number of other CSICOP giltterati) didn't have even a smattering of statistical knowledge that would have been necessary for them to begin to understand PSI research, never mind refute it. Apparently even some of the CSICOP scientific "experts" at prestigious universities were quite deficient in a knowledge of statistics.

This scandal is just one of a number that Randi has survived because his fan base doesn't care about the truth, they care about their ideological position and, I'm ever more convinced, the permission Randi gives them to feel superior, expending no effort other than mocking refusal to look at the controlled research into PSI. Conceit is the primary motivation of the "skeptics", their ideology is, primarily, a vehicle of self-esteem. And the professionals among them use that as a means of self-promotion and profit. Few if any of the "skeptics" would be anything but obscure without that racket.

Ehsaun said...

Hey I have recently heard that the military is engaging into telepathic research. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/05/pentagon-preps-soldier-telepathy-push/
I was wondering if this was the same kind of telepathy that you have been researching or if it is completely different. If it is similar then how do skeptics respond to this? Thanks.

Michael said...

Since ultimately Randi's appeal for those who like him has nothing to do with truth, I doubt his fans will be affected by this news.

Dean Radin said...

> the military is engaging into telepathic research.

The DOD's interest is in "synthetic" telepathy. This is a conventional neuroscience application of brain-computer interface research. My studies focus on direct mind-matter interactions.

Arouet said...

I wonder though, if you found out your husband/wife had done something similar, would you have called the cops? I don't think its as simple as protecting one's reputation for fierce honesty when its the person you love who has committed the criminal act.

Not that its an honest act but we should be cautious about generalizing it to his greater character.

Dean Radin said...

I agree that turning in a loved one is never a simple matter. However, for someone whose entire career has involved aggressively attacking others for perceived dishonesty, this complex issue becomes rather simple -- it's a matter of credibility.

Just like preachers who rant over the supposed evils of homosexuality, and then turn out to be secretly gay, the revelation of their hypocrisy utterly destroys their credibility.

Arouet said...

Well, I think a better analogy would be the preacher who rants over the evils of homosexuality publicly but stays quiet when he finds out his son is gay.

Dean Radin said...

Yes, that's a good analogy. In either case one hopes that this episode is a teaching moment both for him and his followers. A career built on intolerance, ridicule, and bullying is headed for a bad ending.

Michael said...

Just an observation here: the people who are the most devoted finger pointers are very often trying to distract you from their own problems in those same areas. For instance, to pick extremely fertile ground, Republicans who are vehemently anti-gay, or Speakers of the House who leap on a President's infidelity (Gingrich/Clinton).

It doesn't surprise me a bit that Randi would be hiding a fraud.

Arouet said...

Huh? You think he's put together this entire career (which he started before he knew Pena) in order to cover the fact that he was hiding his boyfriend's fraud? Seems a stretch.

Or are you saying he has a habit of helping immigrants steal identities and uses public skepticism as a cover?

Sandy said...

Perhaps Michael is suggesting that since Randi is gay, and was not openly so until recently, he found another group to attack to make up for the fact that he belonged to a group traditionally under attack. Like the stereotypical abused child who grows up to be an abuser.

John said...

As someone who is both psychic and "rational", I am pleased to read these comments. I think the Thought Criminal hit the nail on the head. At the end of the day, people like J. Randi and M. Shermer offer no real analysis of anything other than that of the simplest and most reductionistic. Their refutations of all things outside of their ideology amount to repetitive, banal posturing, thus serving to block genuine inquiry.

Since Randi came out of the closet a couple of years ago and was living with the young "Jose", it seems fair to say that he was likely his lover, and he knew all about the identity theft, and probability statistics would dictate that he was probably the one that helped him carry it out and conceal it for all this time, even after it was uncovered.

Unfortunately, that, and his lack of credible expertise other than fooling audiences onstage, makes him a liar, a cheat, and a disingenuous spokesperson in general. But he certainly pulled the wool over everyone's eyes.

Dean Radin said...

I don't mind the passions of the professional deniers (they're not really skeptics) as much as the uncritical acceptance of their rhetoric by scientists who should know better.

Then again, when I was in graduate school it never occurred to me to take a course in the history, philosophy or sociology of science. In most schools those courses aren't even considered to be important enough to be listed as electives for future scientists.

So it's not surprising that many working scientists maintain a highly simplistic view of what science is all about. In hindsight if I were creating a science curriculum today I would add those courses as absolute requirements.

Much of what passes for professional naysaying today, in light of history, is laughable.

Russ said...

Quote of the Day
Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.
Abraham Joshua Heschel

Skeptics are guilty of 'Logical Closure' an error of thought in formal Philosophy, hence a prominent mainstream psychology skeptic said the brain couldn't have quantum events happening because it was all wet or damp inside - total ignorance of quantum physics.

Einstein said, "Imagination is more important then Knowledge" , because if you just think about what is known it severely limits your options to find out new truths.

Keep up the great work Dean... Cheers Russ

Dean Radin said...

Steve Volk's comment:

http://stevevolk.com/archives/952

Adele Wang said...

Hi Dean,
I like your blog. I thought I'd contribute an experience I had as a healer and in talking with skeptics about this issue...at least the person I was talking to wasn't a jerk like James Randi, just an open minded but skeptical scientist, and I do like scientists. :) What Creates Consciousness - a blurb to a skeptic

I tried to explain to this person how and why psi research on healing is so difficult. So much seems to depend on the consciousness level of the researcher, not just the subjects or situation he thinks he is studying, lol. Ironic, isn't it.

Not sure I did a very good job with my blurb, but I do love science and I did my best even though I am a healer working in a woo field that doesn't have that much data yet. I hope the future will include more research. It would really help healers and scientists both. Thanks! Adele Wang, SafehavenHealing.net

landl47 said...

The problem with attacking Randi's credibility because of some personal shortcomings is that Randi doesn't make any claims which require his credibility. His position is 'prove it'.

Attacking his credibility by demonstrating paranormal phenomena under controlled conditions would be a much more effective challenge.