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James Randi is dead — and won't be totally missed here

So-called "movement skepticism" isn't in general missed in these corners, but, for the less informed, let me explain why the (Not so) Amazing Randi, aka, The Amazing (Deceiver) Randi, won't be missed here after his death at 92 last week. (Hat tip Kuff in his weekly roundup for noting this.) A better, but not perfect, NYT obit is here.

From lesser to greater?

There's his libertarianism that enabled the likes of Penn and Teller to be denialist about secondhand smoke as a carcinogen, and to still be denialist about things like climate change. That's too common in Movement Skepticism; Michael Shermer is yet another prominent member, at least partially influenced by Randi, who has conflated some version of modern movement (it's NOT "scientific," per the above, so I don't call it that) skepticism with philosophical and political libertarianism.

Next, there's his condoning of #MeToo related problems in movement skepticism. (And, allegedly, Shermer was part of those problems, too.)

Finally, Randi almost certainly knew that his long-time lover, Devyi Peña, was an identity theft. Hiring him at JREF, the nepotism wouldn't look good even without the above. All this in this graf, plus Shermer's history, is documented here. More on Shermer here. That documentation notes that this goes back to the time of Paul Kurtz as founder of CFI. (Randi as founder of JREF, as much as Kurtz at CFI, also fell willing victim to founders syndrome.)

So, contra Penn Jillette, I won't love him forever. "Flim Flam," his first famous book? Might be a good title for his biography.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing Randi on the Tonight Show and being interested.

As a much younger adult, doing intellectual judo on my seminary education, he and other skeptics were of a bit of help, though not nearly as much as Messrs. Hume and Wittgenstein, followed by some atheistic (but not "Gnu") philosophers.

As I got older yet, though, and moved left politically, and developed my own skepticism, though, I took a look at Randi's movement. And, even before the MeToo antics, the more and more I saw, the less and less I liked.

And moved on.

Probably why I didn't hear of Randi's death until four days after it happened.

This all said, since an announcement of his death is one of just two announcements posted to JREF in the past six months, I may not be missing much anyway.

This post first appeared on SocraticGadfly, please read the originial post: here

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James Randi is dead — and won't be totally missed here


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