James Randi, the documentary?

#5
I find it entertaining that the irony of the reputation of an illusionist as a truth seeker seems to be completely lost on his fans. How is it that Randi in any way, shape or form has become this media mouthpiece for science and truth? What qualifications does he hold? By what authority does he have to speak for what is truth and what is not?

The fact is, he's an entertainer, not a scientist. I would venture to say he's probably not even very well informed of much of the things he proclaims to be "bullshit" (How very astute!).

I personally found this quote to be the most perplexing of all "sometimes to get the truth you have to bend the truth". You mean, lie...right Randi? What does that even mean?
He's every bit the fraud he proclaims to be fighting against. And his media lapdogs and fanboys just lap it up.
 
#6
I find it entertaining that the irony of the reputation of an illusionist as a truth seeker seems to be completely lost on his fans. How is it that Randi in any way, shape or form has become this media mouthpiece for science and truth? What qualifications does he hold? By what authority does he have to speak for what is truth and what is not?

The fact is, he's an entertainer, not a scientist. I would venture to say he's probably not even very well informed of much of the things he proclaims to be "bullshit" (How very astute!).

I personally found this quote to be the most perplexing of all "sometimes to get the truth you have to bend the truth". You mean, lie...right Randi? What does that even mean?
He's every bit the fraud he proclaims to be fighting against. And his media lapdogs and fanboys just lap it up.
I've been reading about the doc, and apparently they don't pull any punches about his personal deceptions, so that's good. And I'll give him credit for exposing Popoff. Other than that I don't really have much of an opinion about him.
 
#7
Randi is a fraud
He says:
He prefers to describe himself as a scientific investigator. He elaborated: “Because if I were to start out saying, ‘This is not true, and I’m going to prove it’s not true,’ that means I’ve made up my mind in advance. So every project that comes to my attention, I say, ‘I just don’t know what I’m going to find out.’ That may end up — and usually it does end up — as a complete debunking. But I don’t set out to debunk it.”
Then says:
“I have always been an atheist,” he told me. “I think that religion is a very damaging philosophy — because it’s such a retreat from reality.”
And this:
To show how credulous audiences could be in the face of such claims, in 1987 Randi collaborated with the Australian version of “60 Minutes.” He invented Carlos, a 2,000-year-old entity who, his publicity material stated, had last appeared in the body of a 12-year-old boy in Venezuela in 1900 but had now returned to manifest himself through a young American artist named José Alvarez. He prepared to take Alvarez on a tour of Australia.
Alvarez, at the time a 25-year-old student at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, was in fact Randi’s boyfriend, and also his assistant. They met the year before in a Fort Lauderdale public library, where Alvarez was seeking visual references for a ceramics project. Randi, who had only recently relocated to Florida from New Jersey, struck up a conversation with him. They talked all afternoon and moved in together soon afterward.
When the hoax was revealed a few days later on “60 Minutes,” the Australian media was enraged at having been taken in; Randi countered that none of the journalists had bothered with even the most elementary fact-checking measures.
Afterward, Randi and Alvarez returned to Florida together, and Alvarez’s reputation as an artist blossomed. For the next 14 years, he toured the Carlos persona around the world as part of a performance piece, appearing onstage in Padua, Italy, and sitting for photographs on the Great Wall of China re-enacting the hoax. In 2002, the work Alvarez created from the Carlos episode was exhibited at the Whitney Biennial in New York.
And his partner is also a fraud:
Alvarez...had come to the U.S. on a two-year student visa. He met Randi and knew he wanted to stay with him. But when his visa expired, there was no way to renew it. He said he was given the name and Social Security number of José Alvarez by a friend in a Fort Lauderdale nightclub, and used it to apply for a passport in 1987. Alvarez told the agent he was deeply sorry for the trouble he had caused the real Alvarez — who he believed was dead but turned out to be a teacher’s aide living in the Bronx. FNU LNU said his real name was Deyvi Orangel Peña Arteaga.
But no worries, he's got friends in high places:

. At a sentencing hearing in May 2012, the judge considered letters of support from Randi and Peña’s friends from the world of art, science and entertainment, including Richard Dawkins and Penn Jillette, as well as from members of charities to which Peña had given his time and work. The judge considered Peña’s long relationship with Randi, and Randi’s failing health. He gave him a lenient sentence: time served, six months’ house arrest and 150 hours’ community service.
So, what is the lesson here? Fraud isn't fraud if Randi says it isn't. Cause, you know, he's all on the up and up.

He's also a liar:
For almost 60 years, he has been offering up a cash reward to anyone who could demonstrate scientific evidence of paranormal activity, and no one had ever received a single penny.
But he hates to see them lose, he said. “They’re always rationalizing,” Randi told me as we walked to dinner at the casino steakhouse. “There are always reasons prevailing why they can’t do it. They call it the resilience of the duped. It’s with intense regret that you watch them go down the tubes.”
Yes, I'm sure he's just heartbroken.
When I asked Randi how much he knew about Peña’s true identity before the federal agents came to his door, he demurred, citing legal concerns. “This is something I don’t think I’d like to get into detailed discussion about,” Randi said. “Simply because it could prejudice our status in some way.”
. When it came to Sheldrake he said, “What specific experiments are you referring to?”
“The ones you told Dog World magazine you’d done,” I said. “In New York. The owner was killed, the dogs are in Mexico and you lost the files in a flood.”

“That was one of the hurricane floods,” he nodded

So what prompted these tests?

“I must admit to you that I don’t recall having said that these tests were even done. But I’m willing to see the evidence for it.”

I handed him the emails Sheldrake provided.

“Oh,” he said.
But before we parted, I told him my research painted a picture of a clever man who is often right, but who has a certain element to his personality which leads him to overstate.
“Oh I agree,” he said.

“And sometimes lie. Get carried away.”

“Oh I agree. No question of that. I don’t know whether the lies are conscious lies all the time,” he said. “But there can be untruths.”
And just an all around jerk:

When I asked him why he believed other people needed religion, Randi was at his most caustic.

“They need it because they’re weak,” he said. “And they fall for authority. They choose to believe it because it’s easy.”
Even more surprising, though, was what Randi had to say when challenged about his wish to see survival of the fittest being allowed ‘draconically prove itself’ on drug users. It sounded a lot like Social Darwinism. “The survival of the fittest, yes,” he said. “The strong survive… I think people with mental aberrations who have family histories of inherited diseases and such, that something should be done seriously to educate them to prevent them from procreating. I think they should be gathered together in a suitable place and have it demonstrated for them what their procreation would mean for the human race. It would be very harmful.”
And his "million dollar challenge" is a joke:

When Fei Wang, a 32-year-old Chinese salesman, stepped onto the stage, they fell silent. Wang had a shaved head and steel-framed glasses. He wore a polo shirt, denim shorts and socks. He claimed to have a peculiar talent: from his right hand, he could transmit a mysterious force a distance of three feet, unhindered by wood, metal, plastic or cardboard. The energy, he said, could be felt by others as heat, pressure, magnetism or simply “an indescribable change.” Tonight, if he could demonstrate the existence of his ability under scientific test conditions, he stood to win $1 million.
The Challenge organizers had spent weeks negotiating with Wang and fine-tuning the protocol for the evening’s test. A succession of nine blindfolded subjects would come onstage and place their hands in a cardboard box. From behind a curtain, Wang would transmit his energy into the box. If the subjects could successfully detect Wang’s energy on eight out of nine occasions, the trial would confirm Wang’s psychic power. “I think he’ll get four or five,” Randi told me. “That’s my bet.”.....The first subject, a heavyset blond woman in flip-flops, stepped up and placed her hands in the box. After two minutes, she was followed by a second woman who had a blue streak in her hair and, like the first, looked mildly nonplused by the proceedings. Each failed to detect the mystic force. “Which means, at this point, we are done,” the M.C. announced. With two failures in a row, it was impossible for Wang to succeed. The Million Dollar Challenge was already over....The day before the challenge, Randi was wandering the halls of the casino, posing for snapshots and signing autographs. The convention began in 2003 in Fort Lauderdale, with 150 people in attendance, including staff. This year, it attracted more than 1,000 skeptics from as far away as South Africa and Japan. Often male and middle-aged, and frequently wearing ponytails or Tevas or novelty slogan T-shirts (product of evolution; stop making stupid people famous; atheist), they came to genuflect before their idol, drawn by both his legendary feats as an illusionist and his renown as an icon of global skepticism.
Imagine that, he had to get 9 out of ten "hits" which is incredibly high, even for accepted phenomena. And is it any wonder none of the "participants" felt anything? Would they even admit it if they had? Yeah, this is really scientific. An act on a stage surrounded by people who "know" this guy is already "bullshit" and sure enough, it turns out exactly as expected for the room full of "skeptics" and Randi idolizers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/09/m...ble-skepticism-of-the-amazing-randi.html?_r=0
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/...andi-debunking-the-king-of-the-debunkers.html
 
#8
I've been reading about the doc, and apparently they don't pull any punches about his personal deceptions, so that's good. And I'll give him credit for exposing Popoff. Other than that I don't really have much of an opinion about him.
Well, to be honest, I side with Vault313 on this one. I joined the JREF forum a number of years ago (maybe 10?) having just discovered Randi and being reasonably impressed. And I lost that over time when he clearly was lying under conditions when he shouldn't have been. I don't mean the deception over his partner's identity or the deception of sending in some magicians for the Alpha Project. He plagiarized the work of a forum member and when caught out on it, he lied about the cause and chastised forum members for finding this concerning. He misrepresented the success of the Alpha project and the Carlos hoax. There were several occasions when he referred to performing research and tests which he had never undertaken. I don't think he acts in good faith when negotiating tests of MDC challengers (although there is still the possibility that this is done out of ignorance, rather than maleficence, but then he shouldn't represent the process as though it is vetted by people with expertise). I haven't met the man and I don't know him. And there are others whose opinions I respect who have met him and hold him in regard. But my direct experiences where his honesty becomes relevant have not been positive.

Linda
 
#11
Well, to be honest, I side with Vault313 on this one. I joined the JREF forum a number of years ago (maybe 10?) having just discovered Randi and being reasonably impressed. And I lost that over time when he clearly was lying under conditions when he shouldn't have been. I don't mean the deception over his partner's identity or the deception of sending in some magicians for the Alpha Project. He plagiarized the work of a forum member and when caught out on it, he lied about the cause and chastised forum members for finding this concerning. He misrepresented the success of the Alpha project and the Carlos hoax. There were several occasions when he referred to performing research and tests which he had never undertaken. I don't think he acts in good faith when negotiating tests of MDC challengers (although there is still the possibility that this is done out of ignorance, rather than maleficence, but then he shouldn't represent the process as though it is vetted by people with expertise). I haven't met the man and I don't know him. And there are others whose opinions I respect who have met him and hold him in regard. But my direct experiences where his honesty becomes relevant have not been positive.

Linda
Thanks for putting this out there. I really wasn't aware of any of these things.
 
#13
I hope Randi becomes convinced (deluded) of any particular evidence one day, then dishes out the non-existent prize.
Rather than the fictional scientific 'community' welcoming this great achievement in the history of discovery;
All the skeptics would immediately disown him & he would become one of us .
 
#14
#15
He's not perfect. He's a showman. Worse person than Geller? I don't know how you could measure... He has exposed some total douchebags in his time though.
 
#16
Oh, I know they are! I was one, remember? :)
To be honest, no. Most proponents start out saying "I used to be a skeptic". Don't know why they do that.

I personally could never stand Randi, so smug and arrogant. I'm just surprised that JREF members would stand for it at all, not just some of them (but kudos to those who didn't).
Some people are surprised when it turns out prejudices based on stereotypes are wrong. Don't know why.

Linda
 
#17
He's not perfect. He's a showman. Worse person than Geller? I don't know how you could measure... He has exposed some total douchebags in his time though.
Yeah, I don't see him in that light. I think it matters that I identify with some of what he's about, so I'm more critical of Randi than of someone whose behaviour is worse but unrelated to me.

(Kinda the opposite of giving people a free-pass if they agree with you.)

Linda
 
#18
To be honest, no. Most proponents start out saying "I used to be a skeptic". Don't know why they do that.
Really? Well, as someone who has said it multiple times, I can shed some light on why-

It is to make it clear that I am already familiar with the skeptic movement. I know about the people involved, I've heard the arguments, and I intimately understand the viewpoint and methodology. Not just as an outsider, but as a member of the club. And after being deeply invested in it, I have chosen to reject it and move on.

An analogy:
Imagine you were a scientologist who eventually came to see that the organization was not what you thought it was. You become disillusioned and leave the church.

A year later you find yourself in a discussion with scientologists. Wouldn't it make sense to say "Look, I used to be a scientologist, I know what it's about and I don't buy it." It saves a lot of time. The scientologists would know they don't need to explain their position to you, because you probably already understand it as well as they do.
 
#19
Really? Well, as someone who has said it multiple times, I can shed some light on why-

It is to make it clear that I am already familiar with the skeptic movement. I know about the people involved, I've heard the arguments, and I intimately understand the viewpoint and methodology. Not just as an outsider, but as a member of the club. And after being deeply invested in it, I have chosen to reject it and move on.

An analogy:
Imagine you were a scientologist who eventually came to see that the organization was not what you thought it was. You become disillusioned and leave the church.

A year later you find yourself in a discussion with scientologists. Wouldn't it make sense to say "Look, I used to be a scientologist, I know what it's about and I don't buy it." It saves a lot of time. The scientologists would know they don't need to explain their position to you, because you probably already understand it as well as they do.
Ah, so I should be introducing myself as "I'm not a Skeptic and never have been."

Thanks.

Linda
 
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