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I knew Randi was a fraud and an egomaniac however this really drops him into the category of a sociopath.thanks for this Michael.

The one thing that sets apart the skeptical movement and the actual paranormal research, is that in the skeptical movement, everybody knows everybody. You see a famous skeptic, changes are they are affiliated with JREF and such. But with serious paranormal researchers, you see something that you don't see with these guys, which is genuine autonomy (aside from the general sharing of ideas and such.

Storr, by the way, always capitalizes the words Skeptic and Skeptical, a neat way to subtly convey the quasi-religious overtones of the organized debunking movement. I may start doing this myself.
I've been doing this myself for years. I've also referred to them as "capital-S Skeptics." Also, "scoftics": scoffers posing as skeptics.
Here’s Sheldrake on his longtime bête noire Richard Wiseman: “Wiseman's a stage magician. A conjurer. A skilled deceiver … He's a huge asset to the materialist movement. He's their hitman.” [p. 318]
My characterization: A slimy turd.

Great review.

Tonight on Coast to Coast AM radio at 10PM Pacific:

Consciousness & the Afterlife
Sat 03-16
Filling in for John B. Wells, Dave Schrader (email) welcomes Mark Anthony the 'Psychic Lawyer,' who'll discuss the nature of consciousness, and how this relates with death and the afterlife.

I am finishing a book by Deborah Blum, titled GHOST HUNTERS, WILLIAM JAMES AND THE SEARCH FOR SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF LIFE AFTER DEATH. It is about all the members of the SPR as much as William James.

The most amazing thing to me is how little things have changed in 100-150 years. The Skepticism of the mindless sort seems to be just as bad then as now.

An open mind appears to be a most rare occurrence, probably somewhere around the frequency of honest politicians.

"The most amazing thing to me is how little things have changed in 100-150 years. The Skepticism of the mindless sort seems to be just as bad then as now."

Herb I completely agree. It is almost as if all of the same players have reincarnated to continue the epic battle in the psi wars. Rather than having Williams James, James Hyslop, Oliver Lodge and Frank Prodmore( thought much more skeptical than the former) we have Dean Radin, Loyd Auerbach, Deryl Bem and Rupert Sheldrake. Houdini is not reincarnated as James Randi. I have grown wary of this battle and all these players will be replaced by a new generation and struggle will continue. It really comes down to us lay people doing our own investigation and seeking personal experience and sharing these on truly sceptical arenas like Michael's blog to form an honest opinion on this topic, IMHO.

Houdini is not reincarnated as James Randi

I meant Houdini IS reincarnated as James Randi. Disclaimer I dont actually literally think this is the case I was just making a point.

If Randi were a reincarnated Houdini, he would have gotten out of that safe!

:-)

Even if Randi had escaped the safe, he'll never escape the truly obvious nature of his own personal character.

I'm new to your blog, linked here by a friend. Good review. My friend wants to buy this book now.

of all sides of the psi controversy – paranormal researchers, professional skeptics, loopy true believers, and honestly befuddled laymen

I just wanted to add that this isn't "all sides" -- there are also people like me who happen to be psi and who are just going about our ordinary lives, not caught up in any "controversy" about our existence, and not "loopy." I've always experienced thought transference -- I started writing about it in my diary at the age of seven -- and it never ceases to both amuse and amaze me the lengths some people will go to to deny our existence, the degree of time, energy, fervor and even dishonesty they will put behind their need to act as "gatekeepers" of reality.

The most amazing thing to me is how little things have changed in 100-150 years. The Skepticism ... seems to be just as bad then as now.

This, this as well! The twentieth century brought many social and ideological changes to Western culture, but the "psi-denial" narratives that began in the 1870s or thereabouts somehow remain well-rooted in even many "mainstream" contexts. Although in my (self-conducted) research, I've found that these narratives only became fully accepted and "mainstreamed" in the US after WWII. It was a long process to get to that point, not a self-evident conclusion from the start. It's hard work to convince a society that a group of people (who everyone knows exists) does not actually exist and never has.

A very small man Jewish kid illegitimate, at a time there was much prejudice. Randi a lot of inner hate directed at others. He is crying out for a psychologist to do a patho biography.

Really enjoyed this book, the chapter on "Morgellons" stood out for me as I'd never heard of the subject before. The story about the young woman who became convinced that her parents were Satanists was deeply sad and disturbing, too.

I was somewhat amused by that moment when Storr was at Guy Lyon Playfair's place, and was a little dubious upon seeing a copy of the UFO magazine Saucer Smear - not realising that the cover blurb was actually satirical, as the magazine always had a humorous tone.

To the person at "The Sun" who went and picked up the drill and decided to use it to get Randi out... I question.. WHY!

On a serious note.. I would think twice myself but I would still save Randi's life. Unlike Randi I don't believe in Social Darwinism... because if it did exist they would have been burying Randi in with that safe.

Hi,

While I appreciate the quality of this blog, I think that labelling and condemning personalities, rather than what they have done, is a serious transgression - which I'd be circumspect to avoid even when angry. As far as I can see it's in no one's interest, and regularly does a psychological harm to those involved the judge, the judged and the witnesses. Whether a successful defense for Randi or Irving could be summoned or not is of negligible importance here.

I wish you'll keep the blog's elevated perspective, and possibly improve it.

All I wanna say - the best deceiver is a self-deceiver!

Michael as magicians both Randi and Wiseman seem to be convinced the technique of deflection's justified even in science. If they can manage to confuse the issue of what sort of experiment was done what results were produced or what they're significance is then as far as they're concerned the facts no longer count.

Wiseman who actually has a first rate mind when addressing anything but this particular bee in his bonnet is also the living proof statistics can be massaged to say anything you want and in many regards the pair of them remind me of the types who believe it doesn't matter how wrong your arguments are only that you appear to win the argument ie born politicians.

One of the most telling aspects of the "Skeptics" is their complete inability to apply any skeptical techniques to the heroes of "Skepticism". Especially James Randi, who is deified by "Skeptics" in a way I've never seen any parapsychologist regarded. He is the center of one of the more absurd cults, held to be above criticism, even above close inspection. He is a fraudster more complete than all but one of those I'm aware of him criticizing, the fake faith healer.

A very interesting read - thanks for the recommendation. Apart from the vignettes of the individuals, there were some good insights into the way people deal with information that conflicts with their beliefs and pre-conceptions.

At £1.75 on the Kindle you can't argue it's not good value for money either :)

Sorry I don't know where to appropriately put this but for those of you who are stuck next to a computer all day or on the road the Forever Family Foundation has TONS of great interviews with mediums, scientist, parapsychologist and paranormal investigators. It sure beats what is being played on the radio nowadays!

http://www.foreverfamilyfoundation.org/signsofliferadio.htm

Thanks Ray - great!

Great post, Michael!

"What is it that makes Randi so nasty to behold? Is it his undeserved arrogance? His completely transparent misleading Million Dollar Challenge as a “scientific” statement about psychic ability? His slimy demeanor?"- MU
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You know I've thought about this. Why is that so many materialist/skeptic/atheists always seem so angry and why do they so readily resort to belittling and demeaning language while debating or arguing with those of us who are believers? It's like they never learned how to be nice?

I come from a dysfunctional family. Growing up there was a lot of anger and we never really learned how to communicate in a pleasant non-confrontational way.

So later on in life I "married into" a Christian Church of Christ family. Even though I am a "believer" I am not a typical western Christian type Christian when it comes to doctrine. I have my own beliefs.

But one thing I will say is that by attending church with my wife's family I learned how to be functional. I learned how to be pleasant and nice and kind, loving, compassionate, and communicate without sarcasm and tossing barbs at people.

Perhaps this is what atheist lack is any kind of love for others? They alienate themselves and live in a world where they are the center of their Universe and perhaps they don't really care that their anger and language makes other people want to avoid being around them?

I don't know. I've seen Mr. Randi on TV and he seems like a very angry and sad person. I wonder what kind of support group he has around him? Does he have family? Loved ones? Wife? Children? People who honestly love him unconditionally? Or is he only what we see on TV? Is there something more to him?

"I wonder what kind of support group he has around him? Does he have family? Loved ones? Wife? Children? "

Randi, who is gay, has a longtime life partner who faced serious legal trouble not long ago (he's an illegal immigrant who had been using a stolen Social Security number). He seems to be surrounded by sycophants who belong to the organized Skeptic movement. He strikes me as deeply unhappy, but I think this is the inevitable result of an ego-centered life. The same thing happened to Ayn Rand in her later years. In fact, the parallels between Rand and Randi are interesting, and go beyond the similarity of names.

My best friend happens to be gay so I certainly don't hold that against Mr. Randi but when he is on TV at least he seems to be angry at those of us who are believers. I have another friend that is an atheist and when he gets wound up debating or arguing her resorts to those same belittling and demeaning tactics that Mr. Randi uses. Comparing belief in a Creator and life after death to belief in the Easter Bunny and/or Santa Klaus, trying to make those of us who believe sound like idiots because we believe in something greater than ourselves? I can almost see him sneering while he says it.

On the aside I don't see how anyone who reads about and studies death bed visions can't be moved. I'm just here to tell you - death bed visions are awesome! I find them incredibly uplifting and comforting.

As I have mentioned on another forum, I think Randi has his good points. He was a necessary corrective to the more extreme pro-psi claims that were being made some years ago, and has done good work in exposing out-and-out frauds.

That said, I agree that he seems an extraordinarily angry and bitter individual. In this context I found Storr's discussion of Randi's childhood quite revealing; Randi seems to have had a very poor relationship with his father.

This ties in perfectly with the work of psychologist Paul Vitz, who wrote a book about atheism entitled "The Faith of the Fatherless". Vitz makes a strong case for dogmatic atheism being common amongst people who lacked a strong father-figure in their formative years.

The person's father could be "absent" through death or divorce, or he could be "absent" through weakness or indifference.

Vitz suggests that the person then rejects their father altogether, and remains angry with him throughout life. If the father has died or is not around anymore, the person takes out their resentment on the ultimate father-figure - God.

Randi's rage and bile certainly seem to fit the bill here; another factor might be his sexuality. If Randi was raised in a religious-fundamentalist milieu, then not only would he feel abandoned by his own father, but abandoned by God as well - at least according to literalist Christianity and its attitude to homosexuals.

The more I think about this the more I feel sorry for Randi; he probably felt pretty lonely as a child and had no faith in anyone but himself.

I do remember seeing Randi demonstrating some card tricks on TV many years ago. Just for a moment he was detached from his "skeptic" persona and his inner need to rage against God, and just for once he came across as a nice, gentle, loveable old guy - a "favourite uncle" kind of figure.

Perhaps we should all be a bit more charitable toward Randi and perhaps think twice before judging him.

The skeptic community is much larger than James Randi. I, for one, am a part of this community and I know very little about Randi, having never met him or read anything he has written.

To the commenter who suggests what atheists lack is love for others. Please come to my blog and read the comments I get from blood-washed Jesus loving Christians. The lack of love for others club has plenty of members, and most of them are Christians.

Bruce, Randi is a pretty big deal in the community of skeptics of the paranormal. He's one of the very few whose names would be known to the average educated person. But if you're talking about skeptics of religion, then I'd say people like Dawkins, Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens are much bigger figures.

As far as lack of love is concerned, I think it can be a problem for anyone, regardless of belief system. One of the interesting things about near-death experiences (specifically the life review) is that most people report learning that their beliefs were unimportant; what mattered was how they had treated other people. Most NDErs become less committed to organized religion and more committed to personal spirituality and acts of kindness.

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