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The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Discussions about the James Randi Educational Foundation and its Million Dollar Challenge.

The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Scepcop » Tue Jun 02, 2009 11:20 am

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An article by one of my best friends, Michael Goodspeed.

The Relentless Hypocrisy
Of James Randi
By Michael Goodspeed
goodspeed743@aol.com
3-31-4


Everyone knows there's no such thing as Magic - at least no REAL Magic. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Magic is: "The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature." This certainly does not fit with the garden variety "magic" one can find on any given night in a stale Vegas casino. Rather, this most basic definition of Magic evokes images in the mind's eye of Gandalf casting demons into fiery pits with a single strike of his mighty sceptre.

I see a certain irony in the fact that some of the world's most famous magicians are often skeptics and/or debunkers of the paranormal. It would seem that some of these performers, having learned the secrets of common stage magic, have come to believe that there are no unknowns, no mysteries remaining in the natural world. Some of these people even display a contempt for the intelligence of the average person, using terms like "the unwashed public" to describe the common man. Their thought process seems to go like this: If people can be duped into believing that a rabbit really was pulled from a hat, then they are ready and willing to believe anything - a flying saucer crashed in Roswell, a man-like beast named Bigfoot roams the forests of the northwest, a psychic medium can put them in touch with their departed loved ones.

Indeed, contempt for the human condition (or at least the condition of the pitiable "unwashed public") seems the very crux of the debunker ideology. It is this contempt which leads them to belittle eye witness accounts of "paranormal" phenomena as "anecdotal testimony," and which causes them to reject with a sneer and a curse the research of eminently qualified scholars like Dr. Gary Schwartz as "biased" and "unreliable." It is also this contempt which has driven the most noted skeptic/debunker of them all, the so-called "Amazing Randi," to stake a million dollars of other peoples' money on his assertion that no paranormal, supernatural, or occult phenomena can be proven by responsible scientists.

The James Randi Educational Foundation's "million dollar psychic challenge," has, if nothing else, succeeded in garnering Randi a great deal of publicity. He has appeared regularly on the Larry King show opposite alleged psychics Sylvia Browne and Rosemary Altea. It is Randi's assertion that Browne refuses to submit to a fair testing by his organization. Since his most recent public sparring match with Browne, Randi has had posted on his website a "Sylvia Countdown" clock, where he tracks the number of days that have passed since the mutually agreed upon deadline of Browne's testing.

Many Randi critics have labeled the Challenge "biased" and "unscientific." Randi often refers to paranormal proponents as "frauds," and/or "self-deluded fools," and inspite of Randi's stated basis, it is JREF which ultimately must approve all testing protocols. Unfortunately, in many ways, the Challenge remains too much of an unknown to come under any real scrutiny, as JREF asserts that numerous applicants, after failing the mandatory "preliminary testing," have asked that their identities be kept secret. It is also JREF's assertion that no applicant to date has ever passed the preliminary testing.

We can argue over the competency and/or impartiality of the JREF organization, but the issue of the Challenge's credibility is affected far more by the words and behavior of Randi himself. Repeatedly, Randi has shown himself to be not only contradictory and hypocritical but eminently illogical in his defense of the Challenge's application process. Bear in mind that Randi asserts there is no valid evidence to support any paranormal, supernatural, or occult phenomena. This obviously includes Sylvia Browne's claim that she can contact the dead, predict the future, and read minds. However, on Randi's most recent appearance on the Larry King show, King asked Randi: "Is one of the possibilities that Sylvia is telling the truth?" Randi's response to this was: "Absolutely." It would seem that Randi would have us believe that he has not yet made up his mind about Browne's alleged "abilities," and only wants to see her tested fairly. If this is Randi's attitude about Browne, then why does he not apply the same logic to others who have attempted to apply for the Challenge?

In June of 1999 a German man named Rico Kolodzey attempted to apply for the Challenge as a self-described "breatharian." Kolodzey calims he can live on nothing but water and "prana" - a supposed divine form of "life energy." This certainly would qualify as a claim of the "paranormal," and on the surface, does not seem any less plausible than Sylvia Browne's claim of psychic powers. However, Randi immediately and categorically rejected Kolodzey's application. The problem for Randi is the logic - or total lack thereof - he displayed in defending this rejection. Randi's email to Kolodzey reads: (from http://www.alternativescience.com/randi_retreats.htm):
Date: 6/18/99 12:03 PM

Mr. Kolodzey:

Don't treat us like children. We only respond to responsible claims.
Are you actually claiming that you have not consumed any food products except water, since the end of 1998? If this is what you are saying, did you think for one moment that we would believe it?

If this is actually your claim, you're a liar and a fraud. We are not interested in pursuing this further, nor will we exchange correspondence with you on the matter.

Signed, James Randi.
(A hard-copy of this letter will be sent by post to you, today.)
James Randi Educational Foundation
201 S.E. 12th Street (Davie Blvd.)
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316-1815

What exactly is Randi asserting when he writes: "We only respond to responsible claims." Is Sylvia Browne's claim that she can talk to the dead a "responsible" one? What about Uri Geller's assertion that he can bend spoons with the power of his mind? Would Randi have use believe that he views the "abilities" of Browne and Geller as more "plausible" than Kolodzey's? Again, we must remember, it is Randi's assertion that there is NO VALID EVIDENCE of any paranormal or supernatural phenomena, so there really can be no such thing as "degrees of plausibility" in this field. But even more importantly, if Kolodzey IS a liar and a fraud (which he may very well be), then one would think that JREF has all the more reason to accept his application. Isn't that the whole point of the Randi Challenge - to expose dangerous hucksters and/or "self-deluded frauds?"

When Randi asserts CATEGORICALLY and A PRIORI that Mr. Kolodzey is a LIAR and a FRAUD, is he not betraying the sentiment he voiced on the Larry King show - that he hasn't made up his mind, and only wants to find the truth?

It is also worth noting that there may be evidence of human beings surviving without food or even water for extraordinary lengths of time. Recently, the Herald Sun of Australia reported that an Indian man, claiming to have consumed no food or water for 68 years, was observed for ten days by close-circuit cameras at a hospital in Ahmedabad. He was believed to consume nothing, neither food nor drink, during this time, yet suffered no detectable ill effects to his health. Neurologist Sudir Shah stated: "He has evidence of the formation of urine, which was reabsorbed on his bladder wall. The medical committee does not have any scientific explanation.". (Link: http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_
page/0,5478,7960637%255E401,00.html

Randi has publicly responded to this case, writing on his website (www.randi.org): "Mr. Jani, who dresses in the female costume of a devotee of the goddess Ambaji, a red sari-like garment, nose ring, bangles and crimson flowers in his graying hair, offered an explanation, yet to be tested by the doctors. 'I get the elixir of life from the hole in my palate, which enables me to go without food and water,' he said. Okay. That we can test. Or will we? Did those doctors think to look for the hole in his palate? Funny, they didn't mention it, if they did so.

"A number of persons have been asking me why I won't test any more of these claimants who say that they don't eat or drink anything for years on end. There are a few dozen of them out there at this time, and new ones come up every month or so. See above. Such a claim is difficult to test merely because of the time involved and the personnel necessary, and the claimants moan that they can't afford the costs involved. I've been out on a couple of these expeditions in the USA, and I get bored out of my mind sitting in a car in a parking lot waiting for the claimant to emerge from a Holiday Inn room, sneak down the stairs, and visit the local burger joint for the needed nourishment. There's no end to it. And, the claim is just so obviously silly and frivolous, and I'm a grown man - too busy with serious claimants, to spend time on these nut-cases. Yes, I'm aware that doctors - trained medical people - have observed a few of the claimants, but I've yet to see any evidence that these learned observers have the correct and necessary qualifications to detect sleight-of-hand. Until that time, those episodes remain as examples of the naive watching the cunning."

Randi's assertions here are lazy, illogical, hypocritical, laced with immature ad hominem, and patently false. For starters, the observation of a "breatharian" in isolation, while perhaps time consuming, would be LESS complicated, and not nearly so open to dispute, as the testing of an alleged psychic. All one need do is strip the person naked, lock him or her in a room, post guards outside every possible point of exit, and let the cameras roll day after day. If he or she becomes ill or dies...well, gosh, I guess that means he or she fails the challenge. Second, if such an operation would be too "costly" for JREF, then one wonders where they got the million dollars from. Third, if the ability to detect sleight of hand is the only requisite qualification for testing "breatharians," then he and is magician pals should have no problem performing the test themselves. Fourth, one wonders why Randi feels the need to insult Mr. Jani, making fun of his religion and his choice of attire. Fifth, Randi is again making the patently hypocritical assertion that he is "TOO BUSY WITH SERIOUS CLAIMANTS, TO SPEND TIME ON THESE NUT-CASES." Can we glean from this hateful, pinched comment that Sylvia Browne and Uri Geller are NOT nut cases? That there may actually be some validity to their extraordinary claims? Randi has really left no room for doubt that he views ALL paranormal claimants as nut cases...so who ultimately is worthy enough of his precious time to warrant testing?

Ask yourself if these are the words or behavior of a man who is interested in finding the truth. Is it not more likely that Randi simply relies on the Challenge as a tool to garner publicity for himself and land paid public speaking engagements? If he is a man of "science" (and I've yet to hear how the ability to escape from a straight jacket qualifies this person as a scientist), why does he not apply the same standards and the same logic to all applicants of the Challenge? The problem here again is HYPOCRISY. It would seem that Randi focuses exclusively on more famous paranormal claimants like Browne or Geller because doing so is more likely to get him an appearance on the Larry King show. If you're a common person with an extraordinary claim, don't waste your time and energy applying for the Challenge; Randi clearly is not interested.

I must again remark on the irony of self-described magicians trying so desperately to debunk paranomal phenomena. After all, Magic in its purest form is an embracing of the Unknown, and these people run from it every chance they get.
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Scepcop » Tue Jun 02, 2009 11:44 am

Here are more articles by Michael Goodspeed on pseudo-skepticism. As a paranormal radio show host, he has interviewed many people and done a lot of research into paranormal claims.

On Randi’s hypocrisy: http://www.rense.com/general50/james.htm

On psychic claims and skeptical explanations: http://www.rense.com/general51/ebramce.htm

On UFO phenomenon: http://www.rense.com/general51/embr.htm, http://www.rense.com/general51/seek3.htm

On alien abduction claims and skeptical explanations: http://www.rense.com/general51/ppr.htm

On monsters, creatures, and Bigfoot: http://www.rense.com/general52/seek.htm
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Franc28 » Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:09 am

Even when I posted on the JREF board, I always thought that this rejection by Randi was pretty strange. They said it was due to the legalities of the act, that because he might die, the JREF might be exposed to legal penalties or somesuch. I'm not a legal expert, but I'm pretty sure you could conduct the experiment without killing him anyway.
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby The Professor » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:50 am

This is a perfect example of their MO ....

Just like the so called Blackmail Tapes ... Totally the opposite !!!!!!
THE MAN THE SKEPTICS REFUSED TO TEST FOR A MILLION DOLLARS
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby The Professor » Wed Jul 22, 2009 1:57 am

Listen to the recordings that someone has posted by Randi ... AMAZING !!!!!!

http://www.uploadpedia.com/3015K1KO9LHD ... i-zip.html
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Azrael » Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:46 pm

Franc28 wrote:Even when I posted on the JREF board, I always thought that this rejection by Randi was pretty strange. They said it was due to the legalities of the act, that because he might die, the JREF might be exposed to legal penalties or somesuch. I'm not a legal expert, but I'm pretty sure you could conduct the experiment without killing him anyway.


Your not a legal expert. So tehrefore you do not know. Ill thought out posts help no-one.
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Azrael » Wed Jul 22, 2009 6:51 pm

The Professor is still sore he couldn't win million dollars with a magic act. :lol:
The story about a straitjacket is hilarious.
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby General Zod » Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:30 pm

Scepcop wrote:What exactly is Randi asserting when he writes: "We only respond to responsible claims." Is Sylvia Browne's claim that she can talk to the dead a "responsible" one? What about Uri Geller's assertion that he can bend spoons with the power of his mind? Would Randi have use believe that he views the "abilities" of Browne and Geller as more "plausible" than Kolodzey's? Again, we must remember, it is Randi's assertion that there is NO VALID EVIDENCE of any paranormal or supernatural phenomena, so there really can be no such thing as "degrees of plausibility" in this field. But even more importantly, if Kolodzey IS a liar and a fraud (which he may very well be), then one would think that JREF has all the more reason to accept his application. Isn't that the whole point of the Randi Challenge - to expose dangerous hucksters and/or "self-deluded frauds?"


I'll take a stab at this one. Please note that I'm posting my own opinion, and I don't speak for James Randi or the JREF.

It would be irresponsible to ask a claimant to put their health or life at risk to claim the prize. I might claim that I can jump off a 30 story building without any special equipment and float in the air- which would certainly win the prize, if I could demonstrate my ability. But I doubt that Randi would accept the challenge, and encourage me to plummet to certain death.

So assuming for the moment that we had a way to verify a claimant could survive for years on nothing but water (would we lock him in a room and keep him under surveillance at all times?) I would find it irresponsible to make a bet with someone that essentially says, "If you can manage to starve yourself for long enough without dying or going to the hospital, I'll pay you a million dollars. By the way, I'm sure enough that you'll harm yourself that I don't consider the money to be at risk."

In contrast, it would be very easy to put Sylvia Browne's claims to an objective test that would harm no one, if she was unable to prove herself.
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Eteponge » Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:40 pm

General Zod wrote:It would be irresponsible to ask a claimant to put their health or life at risk to claim the prize. I might claim that I can jump off a 30 story building without any special equipment and float in the air- which would certainly win the prize, if I could demonstrate my ability. But I doubt that Randi would accept the challenge, and encourage me to plummet to certain death.

So assuming for the moment that we had a way to verify a claimant could survive for years on nothing but water (would we lock him in a room and keep him under surveillance at all times?) I would find it irresponsible to make a bet with someone that essentially says, "If you can manage to starve yourself for long enough without dying or going to the hospital, I'll pay you a million dollars. By the way, I'm sure enough that you'll harm yourself that I don't consider the money to be at risk."

I find this to be a very reasonable explanation to not test such claims. However, they could possibly agree to having a medical doctor examine the person every day of the experiment to make sure their health is not seriously suffering in the attempt, to be able call it off if it looks like it will seriously harm the person's health. If the days pass, and the person is doing fine, it could continue. If the person's health starts to deteriorate, it would be called off.

General Zod wrote:In contrast, it would be very easy to put Sylvia Browne's claims to an objective test that would harm no one, if she was unable to prove herself.

Sylvia Browne doesn't have a very good track record. As I've stated on another forum regarding her...

"The thing about Sylvia Brown is, I don't think I can recall ANY substantial hits she's had at all, in ANY particular case (beyond typical general information that can be chalked up to cold reading and lucky guesses). On the Montel Williams Show, she spouts stuff off to people, and you don't generally get to hear from these people again later to see if the information turned out to be correct.

I haven't heard of her contributing anything worthwhile at all to Psychic Detective work either. Just those few cases where she got things totally ridiculously embarrassingly wrong. I haven't heard of ANY substantial hits of hers in those types of cases.

I've read plenty of skeptic articles and skeptic websites presenting her worst blunders, but I haven't seen ANY websites defending her with valid counter information, or presenting ANY good hits she's had on significant cases.

That masses of people can be convinced someone is Psychic without any interesting substantial hits, and mountains of embarrassing misses, and nothing really defending the person, just shows the level of gullibility prevalent today."
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby General Zod » Thu Jul 23, 2009 3:35 am

Eteponge wrote:I find this to be a very reasonable explanation to not test such claims. However, they could possibly agree to having a medical doctor examine the person every day of the experiment to make sure their health is not seriously suffering in the attempt, to be able call it off if it looks like it will seriously harm the person's health. If the days pass, and the person is doing fine, it could continue. If the person's health starts to deteriorate, it would be called off.


Perhaps. Let's say that a qualified medical doctor, whose credentials and neutrality were accepted by both sides, were to monitor the situation. Let's also say there's a way to keep continual surveillance on the subject, to eliminate the possibility of cheating. If the subject agreed to halt the experiment immediately on the doctor's recommendation, I suppose that would alleviate the risk. This would be an expensive (and in my opinion pointless) undertaking, and of course the subject would have to pay for it.

Since I don't speak for the JREF, I couldn't say if this arrangement would be agreeable to them.

Eteponge wrote:Sylvia Browne doesn't have a very good track record. As I've stated on another forum regarding her...

"The thing about Sylvia Brown is, I don't think I can recall ANY substantial hits she's had at all, in ANY particular case (beyond typical general information that can be chalked up to cold reading and lucky guesses). On the Montel Williams Show, she spouts stuff off to people, and you don't generally get to hear from these people again later to see if the information turned out to be correct.

I haven't heard of her contributing anything worthwhile at all to Psychic Detective work either. Just those few cases where she got things totally ridiculously embarrassingly wrong. I haven't heard of ANY substantial hits of hers in those types of cases.

I've read plenty of skeptic articles and skeptic websites presenting her worst blunders, but I haven't seen ANY websites defending her with valid counter information, or presenting ANY good hits she's had on significant cases.

That masses of people can be convinced someone is Psychic without any interesting substantial hits, and mountains of embarrassing misses, and nothing really defending the person, just shows the level of gullibility prevalent today."


Well said. Spoken like a skeptic!
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Eteponge » Thu Jul 23, 2009 4:05 am

General Zod wrote:
Eteponge wrote:I find this to be a very reasonable explanation to not test such claims. However, they could possibly agree to having a medical doctor examine the person every day of the experiment to make sure their health is not seriously suffering in the attempt, to be able call it off if it looks like it will seriously harm the person's health. If the days pass, and the person is doing fine, it could continue. If the person's health starts to deteriorate, it would be called off.


Perhaps. Let's say that a qualified medical doctor, whose credentials and neutrality were accepted by both sides, were to monitor the situation. Let's also say there's a way to keep continual surveillance on the subject, to eliminate the possibility of cheating. If the subject agreed to halt the experiment immediately on the doctor's recommendation, I suppose that would alleviate the risk. This would be an expensive (and in my opinion pointless) undertaking, and of course the subject would have to pay for it.

Since I don't speak for the JREF, I couldn't say if this arrangement would be agreeable to them.

Yes, I figured it would be very expensive to do this, and yes, it should all be paid for by the subject making the claim, not the JREF. AND it would be a neutral doctor accepted by all sides. That could indeed possibly work.
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Scepcop » Thu Jul 23, 2009 1:54 pm

Even with a doctor, there is still risk, as the doctor could make a mistake in his diagnosis. Not all bodies are the same. Some are more sensitive and unstable than others. Doctors may be qualified, but they are not infallible.

Eteponge, what do you think of George Anderson? He is considered undebunked and gets highly specific hits that cold reading or lucky guesses can not get.

What about Jonathan Edwards? He gets some highly specific hits, but also misses sometimes either. We cannot expect them to be 100 percent accurate, can we?
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Azrael » Thu Jul 23, 2009 5:00 pm

Scepcop wrote:Even with a doctor, there is still risk, as the doctor could make a mistake in his diagnosis. Not all bodies are the same. Some are more sensitive and unstable than others. Doctors may be qualified, but they are not infallible.

Eteponge, what do you think of George Anderson? He is considered undebunked and gets highly specific hits that cold reading or lucky guesses can not get.

Not heard of him but unlesss he has been double blind scientificly tested he is a fraud.
http://www.skepdic.com/medium.html

What about Jonathan Edwards? He gets some highly specific hits, but also misses sometimes either. We cannot expect them to be 100 percent accurate, can we?


John Edwards debunked here: http://www.ianrowland.com/TheVault/JohnEdward1.html Anyone can get specific hits when the audience give it to them!
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Eteponge » Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:39 pm

Scepcop wrote:Eteponge, what do you think of George Anderson? He is considered undebunked and gets highly specific hits that cold reading or lucky guesses can not get.

I've seriously been thinking of writing an indepth article on him like I did with Dorothy Allison. He's got some amazing veridical cases.

Here's a very intriguing set of videos which deal with some of his most interesting cases (it highlights Dorothy Allison and several other mediums in the first minute of the video) ...





Scepcop wrote:What about Jonathan Edwards? He gets some highly specific hits, but also misses sometimes either. We cannot expect them to be 100 percent accurate, can we?

There's some intriguing things about him...

http://michaelprescott.net/hits.htm

http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/somethoughts.htm

http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/morethoughts.htm

One of the more interesting hits of John Edward was one during a random call in on Larry King Live, where John mentioned to a female caller that her father had passed (true), that she buried him with cigarettes in his pocket (true), that they were the wrong brand (true), and that this was a private joke (true).

That cannot be attributed to cold reading, because he just shot off this stuff out of his mouth as he was getting it, and it was during a live call in, a random caller.

Part of the actual transcript I was able to find online ...

John Edward: OK. He's telling me -- this is strange, but did you bury him with cigarettes?

Sitter: Yes.

John Edward: OK. He's telling me -- I know this is going to sound strange -- was this the wrong brand?

Sitter: Yeah.
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Re: The Relentless Hypocrisy of James Randi

Postby Azrael » Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:02 pm

So were expected to take a TV show about the paranormal(which is edited and researched beforehand) as proof of these mediums? Ridiculous.

Show me the full broadcast of John Edward's "amazing " hits on Larry King. Two lines doesn't impress. But then I know he's a fake.

Not found videobut found analysis of full slot on Larry King where the cigarettes statement was made.Seems it was his only hit in an hour!
http://www.insolitology.com/rationally/edward2.htm
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