Thursday 22 October 2020

It's good to be sceptical

James Randi has died. It comes as no great shock - he was 92, after all, but I'm sad nonetheless, for Randi was something of a hero to me.

Starting his career as a magician, he quickly developed a style in which he told the audience that he was tricking them, rather than performing magic. It seemed a logical progression, then, to move from performing tricks to debunking others who claimed that they were magical, or paranormal or, in the case of Peter Popoff, receiving messages from God. Randi famously exposed Uri Geller on TV in the Seventies as a complete chancer (hooray!) - but it speaks volumes about people's gullibility and willingness (desperation?) to believe in something (anything?) that Geller continues to profit from his bunkum to this day (boo!). Depressingly, even Popoff was able to make a comeback. There will always be some who prefer snake oil to science, I guess...

A few years ago there was a BBC Storyville documentary about James that is most definitely worth watching. It's currently unavailable on the iPlayer, sadly, but you never know, they might reshow it now he's died, so keep an eyes on those BBC4 schedules. There's also the film An Honest Liar, which covers a lot of the same ground (and takes its title from a decription Randi applied to himself as a trickster who was open about the fact that he was tricking...)

There's oodles on YouTube too, of course... like his TED talk, for example:

And there's loads more. You can do your own search, I guess. You won't regret it, but you might find you've been on YouTube a lot longer than you'd planned. Sorry (not sorry) about that.

Oh, and James's One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which offered a prize of a million US dollars to anyone who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties, remained unclaimed at the time of his death. James Randi, RIP, after a life well led.

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