James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

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James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby TheVat on October 21st, 2020, 9:34 pm 

James Randi, the internationally acclaimed magician and escape artist, both praised and cursed for devoting much of his career to debunking all things paranormal — from spoon bending and water dowsing to spirit channeling and faith healing — died Oct. 20. He was 92.

[...]

To put his money where his mouth was, Mr. Randi and the research organization he helped found in 1976, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, offered payouts ranging up to $1 million to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal phenomenon under mutually agreed, scientifically controlled conditions. While he had many takers, he said, none of them earned a cent.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ob ... story.html

Non paywall obituary:

https://apnews.com/article/james-randi- ... d029e68f18
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby charon on October 21st, 2020, 9:39 pm 

...
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby TheVat on October 22nd, 2020, 11:05 am 

And a fine three dots to you, too, sir!

(do you want them deleted?)
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby charon on October 22nd, 2020, 1:25 pm 

:-)

One hesitates to speak ill of the dead. Otoh, Randi was a truly ghastly human being.

Serpent will be along shortly to ask me to elaborate.
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby charon on October 22nd, 2020, 1:44 pm 

The million dollar challenge was also a truly ghastly thing.

First, no self-respecting physic would have anything to do with being tempted by tons of filthy lucre. Which doesn't say much for those who tried to win it.

Second, the odds were so stacked against anyone even getting close to it that it was laughable. Again, that information should have been known to prospective entrants. So it doesn't say much for those who did enter it.

Thirdly, even if the entrants did have some psychic ability - and, yes, it does exist - it can't necessarily be trotted out to order, as any decent psychic could tell you.

So, basically, the whole thing was a ghastly gimmick attended only by the foolish on both sides. The money wasn't Randi's anyway, it was put up be someone else.

Ask yourself why any psychic fraud would enter it knowing that they'd obviously be detected. There's your answer.
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby TheVat on October 22nd, 2020, 2:25 pm 

What if you had authentic psychic abilities and wanted a million dollars to help fund an inner city clinic, or a program to dig fresh water wells in the Sahel or a college fund for disadvantaged youth? Why not take a crack at it? If the ambient vibe hurts your powers, you lose nothing and, if you do happen to make your powers function, you've done some good in the world. I would think many self-respecting people would see that as a worthwhile risk.
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby charon on October 22nd, 2020, 3:00 pm 

You have a point, of course, but it was well known among psychics that there was no way they'd ever part with the money. It was a set-up. Even Randi told one of his friends 'I always have an out'.

Let's say you were a genuine psychic who didn't realise the danger of it. You'd apply in good faith and fail. Mud would stick no matter how much you tried to explain it. Not only would you have let the good cause down but your reputation would be adversely affected. You'd be forever called a fraud. Not worth it.
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby TheVat on October 22nd, 2020, 4:08 pm 

I don't really see how a genuine psychic would mind a scientifically controlled ambience or consider that vibe negative. If they are genuine, it would offer the prospect of validation of their view of reality to the world. I know of no evidence that the scientist judges would have rejected a positive "hit" that fell way beyond the realm of chance coincidence or whatever. A true anomaly is an exciting moment for a scientist, calling for fresh hypotheses and new avenues of exploration. Some hearsay comment from Randi doesn't really demonstrate to me that the cards were loaded against psychics.

When Randi said I always have an out perhaps he simply meant that he had only encountered frauds and just expected more of the same. But really why should that stop someone, seated comfortably in a quiet room, from, say, telling an observer what someone in a house miles away just drew on a sheet of paper?

Humans tend to thrive when motivations are supplied in the form of attractive rewards. Why would psychics be so different? If you have a true talent, and you develop it, you tend not to clutch your pearls and fall on the fainting couch when you get a chance to show it off. If this were not the case, there would be verrry few solo musicians or other performing artists or athletes in the world. And those are all disciplines where messing up has far more unpleasant consequences. A pianist misses a beat or an important chord and he can be panned, even lose future gigs. A psychic misses one guess, says he had a headache or the signal was fuzzy, and we cut him slack and allow multiple tries.
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Re: James Randi, arch-skeptic of the paranormal, dies at 92

Postby charon on October 22nd, 2020, 7:04 pm 

I don't really see how a genuine psychic would mind a scientifically controlled ambience or consider that vibe negative. If they are genuine, it would offer the prospect of validation of their view of reality to the world.


If you have a true talent, and you develop it, you tend not to clutch your pearls and fall on the fainting couch when you get a chance to show it off. If this were not the case, there would be very few solo musicians or other performing artists or athletes in the world.


Because being a genuine psychic isn't like being an athlete. It's not something that needs proving. It's not a talent, it's a gift. They're not interested in validating something to the world. What they want to do, if they're genuine, is not to validate themselves but validate survival after death.

Some hearsay comment from Randi doesn't really demonstrate to me that the cards were loaded against psychics
.

Agreed, but everybody knew it was loaded. It was a standing joke among the psychic community.

A psychic misses one guess, says he had a headache or the signal was fuzzy, and we cut him slack and allow multiple tries.


One guess? It's not like that at all. They're not guessing, they're trying to get it right because it's important to the recipient. And the 'signals' aren't usually in clear, they're often in symbolic form.

You have to imagine what it would be like if you could do this. Most of them could do it from childhood. Quite often they thought everyone could do it. Often they didn't tell anyone. Some of them did and were called liars.

It's about sensitivity. It's not like a magician's party or stage act. It's there to help people, not to get applause. Very few people find themselves on a stage. The fact is it's everywhere whether we realise it or not. Lots and lots of people see things, understand things, have experienced things.

I've no hesitation in saying those who went into the Challenge did so for the wrong reasons and paid the price.

There's no answer to the hardened sceptic because they'll always find an answer. Their answers are based on insufficient knowledge, but they don't see that. They have to find out for themselves but usually they don't bother finding out because they've already concluded it's nonsense! It's a vicious circle and it's best not to enter into a fight over it.
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