James Randi is a Canadian stage magician who is famous for investigating claims of paranormal, and for exposing pseudoscience. Among his notable exposes is that of Peter Popoff, who claimed to perform miraculous healings and to receive "words from God" about people (Randi exposed that Popoff had a hidden earpiece where he heard information from an associate).
He received multiple awards including Joseph A. Burton Forum Award from American Physical Society and Philip J. Klass Award, and he was twice featured in the Guinness World Records. The asteroid 3163 Randi discovered in 1981 by astronomer Charles T. Kowal is named in honor of James Randi.
View on religion
Although Randi is a scathing critic of the New age movement, he is a prominent atheist and equally virulent critic of religion. In his essay Why I Deny Religion, How Silly and Fantastic It Is, and Why I'm a Dedicated and Vociferous Bright, he critiqued religion and claimed religion is the cause behind many major tragedies of humanity. He writes:
|“||We find religion in so much of our history, our philosophy, our everyday lives, and our legal system. Miscegenation was banned based on Biblical rules, slavery was justified by the same book.||”|
JREF is a leading atheist activist organisaztion and is behind the annual atheist TAM conferences held around the world. Although JREF has lost some of its prestige in the atheist community over the last couple of years, Randi himself is universally admired and respected by the likes of Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and Penn Jillette
James Randi and deception
The Daily Grail declared:
|“|| Just a few months later, the previously Teflon-coated James 'The Amazing' Randi was caught at the center of his own scandal when his partner of more than two decades, Jose Alvarez, was caught and pleaded guilty to identity theft, after overstaying his visa in the 1980s. Though many felt sympathy for both Randi and his partner's dilemma, there were also questions over how much Randi knew or was involved in the crime - a not-particularly-good look for the much celebrated champion of truth and honesty.
Randi's credibility devolved further earlier this year when Will Storr's book The Heretics brought Randi's Social Darwinist-like philosophies into the spotlight, as well as Randi's own confession that he sometimes lies to win his arguments.
According to The Daily Telegraph:
|“|| Following a burst of publicity for [Dr. Rupert] Sheldrake, Randi told a journalist, “We at JREF have tested these claims. They fail.” But when I met Sheldrake, at his Hampstead home, he made a serious charge. “Randi’s a liar and a cheat,” he said. “When I asked him for the data, he had to admit he hadn’t done any tests.”
According to Sheldrake, his direct requests for data were twice ignored. After appealing to others at the JREF, Randi eventually wrote back, explaining that he couldn’t supply the data because it got washed away in a flood and that the dogs he tested are now in Mexico and their owner was “tragically killed last year in a dreadful accident.”
Unusually for Randi, he was polite. “I over-stated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained,” he wrote. “It was rash and improper of me to do so. I apologise sincerely.”
But, publicly, Randi then attacked Sheldrake. Of his own failure to provide the data he wrote, “A search of our site would have supplied [Sheldrake] with all the details he could possibly wish. Alternately, I could have supplied them, if only he had issued a request. That’s what we do at the JREF.”
In 2011, I travelled to Las Vegas to Randi’s annual fan convention, The Amaz!ng Meeting, to ask him about several of these claims of dishonesty. He countered most either with denials or appeals to the fact that the events happened a long time ago. 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.
Pressed about his treatment of Sheldrake, he insisted he didn’t lie because when he made the offer to send the data it hadn’t yet been destroyed by Hurricane Wilma. It was only after our meeting I realised Wilma took place four years before he stated that the data was available. 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.”
Randi publicly declares he is a homosexual. Report of sexual immorality by Brian Thompson, former James Randi Educational Foundation Outreach Coordinator
In 2014, Brian Thompson, former James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Outreach Coordinator, wrote:
|“|| But I no longer identify with this community of benevolent know-it-alls, because not all of them are the best folks in the world. In fact, a good percentage of the top ten worst humans I’ve ever met are prominent members of the skeptics’ club. They’re dishonest, mean-spirited, narcissistic, misogynistic. Pick a personality flaw, and I can probably point you to someone who epitomizes it. And that person has probably had a speaking slot at a major skeptical conference.
I grew particularly disgusted with the boys’ club attitude I saw among skeptical leaders and luminaries. The kind of attitude that’s dismissive of women, sexually predatory, and downright gross. When I first started going to skeptical conferences as a fresh-faced know-it-all, I started hearing things about people I once admired. Then I started seeing things myself. Then I got a job with the JREF, and the pattern continued...
I’m tired of this. I’m tired of hearing about sexual predators like Mr. Bicycle Shorts, who has yet again been invited to speak at the JREF’s annual conference.
Thompson also indicated that heard a report that Randi acted in a sexually inappropriate manner in a car and then Randi said "he would be 'presidentially displeased' if [redacted] didn’t give my old boss a kiss."
The Daily Telegraph on the James Randi Foundation
The Daily Telegraph declared:
|“|| More recently I’ve begun to wonder about his educational foundation, the JREF, which claims tax exempt status in the US and is partly dependant on public donations. I wondered what actual educative work the organisation - which between 2011 and 2013 had an average revenue of $1.2 million per year - did. Financial documents reveal just $5,100, on average, being spent on grants.
There are some e-books, videos and lesson plans on subjects such as fairies on their website. They organise an annual fan convention. James Randi, over that period, has been paid an average annual salary of $195,000. My requests for details of the educational foundation’s educational activities, over the last 12 months, were dodged and then ignored.
- Deepak Chopra offers $1 million to atheists who can explain how a thought is formed, Christianity Today
- Patricia Orwen, The Amazing Randi, Toronto Star, August 23, 1986
- Why I Deny Religion, How Silly and Fantastic It Is, and Why I'm a Dedicated and Vociferous Bright.
- Is This the Week that Organized Skepticism Imploded?
- James Randi: debunking the king of the debunkers, The Telegraph
- [James Randi comes out of the closet], Discover Magazine
- When will this situation improve?