The Amazing Randi RIP

A long and amazing life comes to an end.


James Randi, aka "The Amazing Randi," noted magician, skeptic, and debunker of supernatural nonsense, has died at the age of 92.

The NYT obituary for Randi begins:

James Randi, a MacArthur award-winning magician who turned his formidable savvy to investigating claims of spoon bending, mind reading, fortunetelling, ghost whispering, water dowsing, faith healing, U.F.O. spotting and sundry varieties of bamboozlement, bunco, chicanery, flimflam, flummery, humbuggery, mountebankery, pettifoggery and out-and-out quacksalvery, as he quite often saw fit to call them, died on Tuesday at his home in Plantation, Fla. . . .

Randi was known for exposing those who claimed to possess supernatural powers, most famously Uri Geller, who claimed the ability to bend spoons with his mind.

From the NYT obit:

Much as the biologist and author Thomas Henry Huxley had done in the late 19th century (though with markedly more pizazz), he made it his mission to bring the world of scientific rationalism to laypeople.

What roiled his blood, and was the driving impetus of his existence, Mr. Randi often said, was pseudoscience, in all its immoral irrationality.

"People who are stealing money from the public, cheating them and misinforming them — that's the kind of thing that I've been fighting all my life," he said in the 2014 documentary "An Honest Liar," directed by Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein. "Magicians are the most honest people in the world: They tell you they're going to fool you, and then they do it."

Randi was an amazing man who led an amazing life. He will be missed.

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  1. I saw a lengthy interview of him, in the long-defunct Omni Magazine, in the early 1980’s. Truly, a gifted individual.

  2. I interviewed the Amazing Randi four decades ago. We extended our time together by going for a meal and wonderful discussion. He was a lively, earnest, pleasant, fascinating man who did important work and provided an entertaining performance. He strove — forcefully, doggedly, and good-naturedly — to unmask charlatans and to try to help the gullible avoid stupidity.

    1. I’m envious, although I wasn’t around back then.

      Growing up, I had a period where I was pretty into UFOs. My Dad gave me Randi’s books and a subscription to The Skeptical Inquirer.

      Formative stuff.

      1. Randi conducted a presentation — a good magic show, with admonition not to fall for supernatural or paranormal claims — for students at a local university. I wrote the feature for the next day’s newspaper.

        I found and read that article today. It reminded me that Randi asked me to send the article to him — this was pre-internet — and that he was one of maybe three people who had asked for an article after an interview.

        Another was a former NFL player, a pleasant, enthusiastic fellow who years later was found stabbed to death in a creek. He wanted the article for his mother. I learned a minute or two ago that a parole hearing for his killer is to be conducted next month.

        The third was a police detective whom I had asked one of the two stupidest questions of my journalism career. I was relatively new to the police beat and asked the detective, ‘would you consider this fugitive dangerous?’

        ‘Dangerous? Well, let’s see,’ the detective said, stroking his chin with a good-natured condescension . . . ‘he castrated himself to get out of prison, then beat the hell out of three attendants and threw them out of the ambulance he drove here, and yesterday he shot at a police officer . . . what do you think he would do you if you got in his way?’

        ‘I’ll put him down as dangerous, detective,’ I said. He then asked me to send an autographed copy of my article to his office, which I did. Years later, when I was quoted in the newspaper after winning a case for a police officer in federal court, that detective called to tell me I was better at making news than reporting it.

    2. WOW. I can’t believe that I found something to agree with Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland on. I welcome everything he said about Randi.

  3. Randi was known as a debunker of extraordinary claims, but preferred to think of himself as an investigator.

    He pointed out that some claims he looked into were not debunked but rather verified. An example was the guy who claimed to be able to identify pieces of classical music by visually inspecting LP record grooves. After extensive testing, Randi concluded the ability was genuine.

    He certainly enjoyed and excelled at exposing charlatans, but he seemed even more passionate about giving people the tools and gumption to better find truth wherever it led.

  4. He was a force for enlightenment.

    1. Yes, in fact Randi wonderfully personified Enlightenment values.

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