The League of Extraordinary Skeptics: James Randi

The League of Extraordinary Skeptics (did anyone get the Allan Moore reference?) is a new segment that I am introducing to the Skeptical Samurai blog.  The purpose of this segment is to feature a known (or not so known) individual within the skeptical community, and highlight that individual’s contributions to skepticism, and I can think of no better person to kick this new segment off with then…

The man…

The myth…

The legend…

The one and only…

James Randi

James Randi (JR) began his career as magician under the stage name, “The Amazing Randi”.  Through years of hard work and dedication, JR built a reputation as one of the best magicians and escape artists in the world.  JR has performed all over the world, for a variety of different audiences.  Two of my favourite JR stories from this time in his career (taken from The Amazing Show Podcast, featuring James Randi), are as follows:

JR discusses coming face to face with segregation in Florida in the 1960’s.

http://itricks.com/randishow/?p=25

JR discusses life on the road with Alice Cooper.

Part 1: http://itricks.com/randishow/?p=13

Part 2: http://itricks.com/randishow/?p=14

JR broke into popular culture in the 1970’s when he publically challenged a young Uri Geller (at a time when Geller was arguably at the height of his popularity) regarding Geller’s claims of para-normal abilities and powers.  JR claimed that Mr. Geller was performing simple magic tricks (spoon bending being his most known “ability”) and passing them off as para-normal abilities/powers (full a full account of JR’s dealings with Geller, check out JR’s 1st book, “The Truth About Uri Geller”).  Here is a short clip of JR (behind the scenes) helping Johnny Carson expose Geller’s lack of para-normal abilities on the Tonight Show: 

JR had the courage to challenge Geller at a time when many in the media where making him out to be some sort of demi-god.  This is just one of many examples of why JR has gained so much respect and admiration both within and outside of the skeptical community.    

On the heels of his expose of Uri Geller, JR quickly became the “go to guy” that many media outlets would use in order to test individuals claiming to have para-normal abilities/powers.  Here are some examples: 

JR exposing James Hydrick, a “martial artist” who claimed to have the power of telekinesis

JR debunking Peter Popoff, a popular TV evangelist of the 1980’s

Over the years JR has become one of, if not the most, well known personalities within the skeptical community.  JR was arguably the 1st skeptical “celebrity” to cross over and gain main stream acceptance.  Being the amazing person that he is, JR did not use his new found fame for personal gain, but instead he used his fame as a platform to promote science, reason, logic, rationale thinking and skepticism.  In 1996, JR founded the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF) which is a non profit organization that is working to develop a new generation of critical thinkers/skeptics and works to further science and skepticism by supporting as well as conducting research into para-normal claims. 

Other notable contributions to skepticism include the numerous books that JR has authored (a detailed bibliography can be found here: http://www.randi.org/documents/randiresume.pdf ), all of which are essential reading for any card carrying skeptic!  Additionally, JR and the JREF also host a yearly event called “The Amazing Meeting”, which has quickly become “the event” for skeptics around the globe to attend.  Registration for this year’s event is already open (http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/tam-8-registration.html)

And what article about JR would be complete without mention of the $1,000,000 challenge!  Put simply JR puts his money where his mouth is!  JR offers a prize of $1,000,000 to any individual (or individuals) that are able to demonstrate real para-normal powers under proper, observed + scientific conditions.  That is right, $1,000,000!  So next time you encounter an individual claiming to have para-normal powers/abilities, please direct them to JR’s website (info included below), as the JREF would be more than happy to test any individual that claims to have para-normal powers/abilities!    

Link to the $1,000,000 Challenge Application: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge/challenge-application.html

Link to the bank document proving the authenticity of the $1,000,000 (many people falsely claim that JR does not actually have the funds available for the challenge): http://www.randi.org/challenge/goldmansachs.pdf

Link to answers to frequently asked questions about the $1,000,000 Challenge: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/component/content/article/37-static/254-jref-challenge-faq.html

Link to the JREF log of actually applicants for the $1,000,000 Challenge:  http://forums.randi.org/forumdisplay.php?f=43

JR’s official website can be found here: http://www.randi.org/site/

Mr. James Randi…

The skeptical samurai gracefully bows to you and all of your amazing accomplishments

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

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11 Responses to “The League of Extraordinary Skeptics: James Randi”

  1. Mr. James Randi’s world is a little dark, if some mystrerious truth can’t be investigted just because his action of uncover pseudoscience.
    Telepath phenomena happens around me and could be proved repeatedly.
    radwind.wordpress.com

  2. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    I will repost this response on your blog. To my readers who would like additional information on RadWind (and his claims) please check out RadWind’s blog (the link is attached to this signature).

    Radwind (real name, Yang Jiandong)

    What exactly is your claim? I am not sure if it simply a matter of a language barrier, but your blog post is extremely difficult to understand.

    Are you claiming that you have the ability to see/sense some sort of previously undetected presence? Or are you claiming to have discovered some sort of extra perception (the ability to sense what others are doing at a distance) that is innate in all individuals? Again, your blog post is extremely difficult to follow. I would suggest fine tuning what your claim is prior to submitting to any testing. This will make it much easier on yourself, and will greatly increase the likelihood of serious researchers being open to testing your claims.

    Regarding your explanation of how your claim “works”…

    This section is also rather unintelligible. Your description (or lack thereof) demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the scientific theory. No where do you demonstrate an understanding of current scientific theory or how your claim (which you never clearly state) differs from current scientific theory and could therefore better explain the phenomena (again, which you never clearly state) that you claim to have discovered. I would suggest investing a little more time in developing an understanding of basic science before you propose changes to well established theories/rules. Additionally, it may be wise to prove that your phenomenon actually exists before attempting to explain how it might work.

    Regarding your proposed testing by Mr James Randi

    The process to be tested by Mr Randi is rather simple. Please see the section on his website labelled the $1,000,000 challenge. The guidelines for testing are clearly laid out here (for your convenience I have attached a link for you): http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge/challenge-application.html
    You also offer 20,000 Yuan (which is roughly 3000 dollars Canadian) to anyone willing to test your claims (again, which are never clearly stated). I have a suggestion for you. Follow the guidelines set up by the JREF and then use this money to travel to JREF and you can be tested the JREF staff. Conversely, you can follow the JREF guidelines and then use this money to facilitate a JREF representative testing you in China. I mean hey, if you are going to be $1,000,000 richer at the end of the test, what is a measly $3,000, right!

    I look forward to hearing from you

    The Skeptical Samurai

  3. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    RadWind’s reponse was as follows:

    Would you like come to China investigate me? Have you ever met Mr. James Randi?

    The most hard thing to challenge Mr. Randi is to find officials sign for me, I don’t know where and how to find one.

    If officials and authorities dont want truly paranormal phenomena to be published, both skeptics and Randi will be fooled by them. Tell Mr. Randi make sure not be fooled by Sima Nan, a friend of Randi who also promised a large amount of prize. But when my claim apears in the internet in China his promise disappeared soon. It says something. It might be that, he had secretly invesitgated me, having known my claim is true and could be proved repeatedly, he deleted his website http://www.simanan.com.cn where announces his prize, fears of losing his money, so he fools skeptics and Mr. Randi. If it is not so, why Sima Nan dare not face to me and deleted his promise of prize.

    Hope you would like help me publish my claim in a famous news paper and challenge Mr. Randi

  4. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    My reply as posted on RadWind’s Blog:

    RadWind,

    I would be happy to come to China to investigate you. All you have to do is pay my airfare, accommodations, travel expenses, and compensation for time lost at work!

    Sorry for the sarcasm, but do you realize how ridiculous this request is? You are the one claiming para-normal powers (as I said before, you have not clearly outlined what your claim/ability is), but somehow you think that it is up to me to come to China to test you? Does that not strike you as a bit strange?
    To answer your question, no I have never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Randi, but I do hope to meet him someday soon. I am not familiar with Sima Nan. After conducting a bit of research, I am under the impression that Nan is a skeptic much like Randi. However, my knowledge of him is doomed to be limited, as most of the literature about him that I have been able to find is in Chinese (which sadly, I am unable to speak or read).

    If your claim (again, I am still not sure what your actual claim is) is indeed true, you should have no trouble finding someone to “sign for you” (as you put it). If you abilities are as amazing as you seem to think they are, than you should have no trouble finding an individual (or individuals) will to study you and report on your abilities. Is it possible that your lack of success in finding someone to study, and subsequently report on you, might have something to do with your lack of a para-normal ability?

    And at this point, I have to ask…could you please clarify what your ability is?
    You claim that Mr. Sima Nan’s website disappeared soon after you posted your claims on “the internet”. I found Nan’s website/blog by conducting a simple search. For your convenience I have included a link to the blog: http://blog.sina.com.cn/simanan. I am unable to read it (as it is in Chinese), but it appears that I was last updated several months ago. When did you originally post your claim? According your blog, you posted your claim on July 10/10, and Nan’s website/blog appears to still be active, so I am unsure what to make of your claim.

    Additionally, your claim that Nan removed his website (which I can find no evidence of) makes me worry about your mental health. You seen to fear that Nan has somehow secretly investigated you, may I ask what makes you think that? Additionally, what benefit would this serve Nan? Individuals such as Randi and Nan do not disappear in the face of such claims. They meet them head on. If your claim of para-normal abilities are true (and you pursue the simple conditions outlined by Randi and the JREF) Randi (and the JREF) would happily to test you in a manner that was agreeable to both yourself and the JREF.

    I would like to make it clear at this point, that I will not be helping you to publish your claim/ability in any form of media. You are the one who is claiming to have some sort of ability (again I am not sure what ability you claim to have) so the work to prove such a claim is up to you, not me.

    I look forward to hearing from you

    The Skeptical Samurai

  5. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    RadWind’s Reponse
    (he also had a post explaining his “powers/abilities” that he seems to have deleted)

    Yes, it will be a milestone and breakthrough to the science if my claim is true.
    I know MR. Sima Nan’ blog, but there is no any concern to the challenge or prize information in the blog.

    In fact, he deleted his website http://www.simannan.net.cn several years ago, after I claim the phenomena in internet in China. Maybe he had a secret investigation to me, having know the phenomena is true, he deleted his site, fearing of losing his huge number of money. If it is so, please tell these people who have conection with him, I would like return his money if I win it.
    Where are you now? Will you introduce your profile to me? Which contry is your hometown?

    Do you have some freinds offen trip to China or Chinese friends? First, let they do a oral investigation through these people they connected, if the answer is yes, and they can easily tell you more informaiton about me, it says something, it mean at least they had heard of me.

    The first journalist who reports such phenomena might could get the Pulitzer Prizes, if my claim is true. At least it happens uniquely in the world, so far as I know. You might also be able to have the mysterious sense when you are not far from me.

  6. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    And my response,

    Sorry i had not seen the short reponse you posted prior to my last post. So you are claiming that people around you can sense your thoughts, movements, sense of smell, and dreams? Is that your claim?

    Interesting…And sounds easily testable. However, as i said to you before, you are the one making the claim, so it is up to you to presue reasonable means of having your claim tested. Having me expend my own time, money and resources to come to China to test you is not at all reasonable.

    At this point i feel that i need to address the communication breakdown that seems to be occurring. Specifically, you ask me a question and i answer it. However, when i ask a question, you seem to ignore it. This is making communicating with you extremely difficult and frustrating. I am not sure if it is simply a matter of a language barrier, but it if keeps up, there is really no reason to continue this discussion.

    Again, your obsession with Nan worries me. It worries me, like i said in my previous blog post, in the sense that i worry about your mental health. Regardless of the current state of Nan’s prize money (which i am unable to research/verify because i lack the ability to communicate in Chinese), you have not demonstrated any reasonable evidence to suggest that Nan is even aware of your presence. Furthermore, you have not presented any evidence that suggests that Nan has “secretly” attempted to “test your abilities. If fact this seems extremely out of character for Nan, from the research i have been able to conduct, he seems to be extremely forth coming and up front in his investigations. If you are going to continue with this train of thought, please provide some actual evidence.

    Regarding the information you requested about me, this information is all available on my blog. Might i remind you that you are the one who came to my blog. For your convience i have posted a link here: https://theskepticalsamurai.wordpress.com/

    Regarding traveling to China, I have no interest in doing that. Let me rephrase that, i have no interest in traveling to China with the sole purpose of testing your claim. You are the one who sought me out. You are the one making the claim. It is on you to do the foot work to prove your claim, not on me to disprove it.

    Look forward to hearing from you

    The Skeptical Samurai

  7. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    RadWind’s response (http://radwind.wordpress.com/2010/07/10/telepath-phenomena-happens-around-me-and-could-be-proved-repeatedly/#comment-16)

    They can see a naked body but can’t use a camera or any other moden tool to record it. They can hear my thoughts but they can’t record it with any tool.
    This is different to all those claimed alleged paranormal phenomena just could be proved by a photo, it happens day by day and could be proved repeatedly.
    They can sense all my activity, include sense of smell, dreams etc.
    Where are you now? Which contry is your hometown? Do you have some holiday?

  8. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    to which i replied

    I think we about done at this point.

    You continue to respond to my posts, but refuse to actually answer, or even address any of my questions.
    Regarding your claim about seeing “naked bodies” that no one else can see or photograph…

    That claim is impossible to test. You claim to see things that one else can see or photograph, to invoke the great Carl Sagan, your claim is the same as telling me that you have a dragon in your garage, but when I ask to see said dragon, you tell me it is invisible. When I propose that we spread flour on the floor to mark the dragon’s footsteps, you inform me that the dragon floats in the air and does not touch the ground. When I propose that we spray paint the dragon, you inform me that this is an incorporeal dragon and such a demonstration will not work. Do you see what I am getting at?

    Regarding your claim that people can hear your thoughts/you can hear people’s thoughts; that sounds testable claim. If you indeed serious about this claim, I would encourage you to review the guidelines for the $1,000,000 challenge as outline on the JREF website, and when finished go forth with the preliminary tests.

    You state that your claim is different than“all those claimed alleged paranormal phenomena just could be proved by a photo”. I would argue that your claim is not at all different; in fact it is exactly the same. You have made a claim would be considered para-normal, outside the well established understanding of the natural world. Instead of doing the research/foot work to prove your claim true, you put the responsibility on me (and others) to come to you to prove you wrong. Again to invoke the great Carl Sagan, extraordinary claims call for extraordinary evidence, and it is up to you to provide that evidence, not me.

    As I have said previously, my personal information is quite easily found my blog. I suggest that you look there for it. Lastly, let me state this one more time, I have no interest in coming to China to test you and your claims.

  9. Hi,theskepticalsamurai,
    Have you ever meet a paranormal phenomena, and do you want to meet one?
    If yes, investigate me, you might also can meet one if you are not far from me.
    My real address, my prize contrary to Mr.Randi’s prize, only one prize that dare contrary to Mr.Randi’s prize. It says something.
    If you have some journalists friend in China or offen trip to China, try to have a investigate, the first one journalist who report such phenomena might could get the Pulitzer Prize, at least it happens uniquely in the would. Do not trust these alleged skeptics or their ‘friends’ or ‘follows’ or alleged ‘brothers’.

  10. theskepticalsamurai Says:

    Your posts lead me to believe that you are not actually even reading my posts/responses. That, or you are simply refusing to respond to the issues that i have brought up. Initially i found this interaction amusing, but now it is downright annoying. You have essentially refused to engage me in any sort of conversation or debate. You post something, and then i respond. Then you post something that reads as if you have not read my last post.

    Honestly i am tired of this. Nothing (not even some healthy debate) has come of this, so i am done. Unless you are willing to actual engage in some form of debate (or actually respond to my questions), quick wasting both of our time, and do not bother posting on my blog again.

    Take care and best of luck to you

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