Skip to main content

James Randi

If you don't know who James, "The Amazing", Randi is, you should.

Randi is a magician, MacArthur Foundation genius, tireless exposer of frauds, fakes and fakirs and scourge of spoon killer, Uri Geller and faith-healer Peter Popoff.

Today, at age 81, he came out of the closest, announcing that he is gay.

Apparently, Randi's sexuality was well known among his friends in the the skeptic community.  But I was still a little surprised when I saw his announcement today (via Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer).  That's mostly because I'd never thought about Randi's sexual preference and certainly wasn't thinking about him when I saw Phil's blog.

Of course, if you'd asked me yesterday if Randi was straight or gay, I would have said "Gay" without hesitation.  But that's just because if he was straight, you probably won't have asked the question.

Skeptical Investigator Par Excellence
I started reading Randi in the 80s.  I was in college and was starting to see through the "woo" (Randi's word for flim-flam and hockum).  Randi, along with Martin Gardner and several others, helped me recognize the value of skeptical thinking.  When I wrote this, there's a bit of Randi coming through.

I had the pleasure of meeting Randi once, at a Smithsonian lecture series.  I'll always remember one important point Randi made that evening, "I am not a psychic debunker.  I'm a psychic investigator.  It's not my fault it always turns out to be bunk."

Randi was surly, cantankerous and irascible, but also funny, entertaining and very educational.  I suspect some of the grump was part of his act.  The rest was the natural reaction to a thankless lifetime of fighting con-artists.

The Habit of Skeptical Thought
D.J. Grothe, who is also gay, conducted Randi's coming out interview (linked above), so naturally the topic turned to skeptical thought and gay rights.  Grothe asked if gay rights are a skeptical issue.  He pointed to the number of junk science arguments the hard right uses to attack gays and compared these to other anti-science issues.

Randi agreed, but then made a very important point: skepticism isn't about a set of issues, like physics, ghost-hunters or even is homosexuality natural.  Instead, skepticism is a habit of thought which can be applied to any issue.  From "Does the evidence support anthropomorphicgenic climate change?" to "Can people bend spoons with their minds?" to "Does God hate gays?", open and honest questioning will always help you find the right answer.

One regret about his announcement
I'm happy Randi finally came out, if for no other reason than it gave me an excuse to write about him.  OTOH, I have one regret.  When Randi first announced his Million Dollar prize for anyone who could demonstrate a psychic power under properly controlled conditions, I was one of the original $1,000 sponsors (no one has ever claimed the prize, BTW, so that $1,000 is still in my pocket).

Registering as a sponsor got me a really cool ID card with a picture of Pigasus, the flying pig.  Looking around today, I can't find that card for the life of me.  Dang.

Here's Randi talking about his work, including Uri Geller's disasterous appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Enjoy.

Originally posted to VA Classical Liberal on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:16 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site