Sunday, 22 July 2007

Who is James Randi?

James Randi is a stage magician, illusionist and well known skeptic of the paranormal. He has spent over 30 years of his life debunking paranormal and supernatural claims, that mystics often hold-up as real phenomena within physical reality. They claim to have powers such as Crystal Healing, Mind Reading, The ability to move and bend objects, water divining, spiritual healing, Tarot Card reading, talking to the dead (Michael Shermer, of Skeptics Magazine, made the humorous comment that: "Talking to the dead is easy, getting them to talk back, is the hard part"). ...The list of paranormal and supernatural claims goes on and on.

The James Randi institute, has held up a cash prize for many years, to anyone who can prove supernatural or paranormal phenomena, and at the moment, it stands at One Million US dollars (The $1 million challenge). As James Randi has said himself, once these individuals attempt to prove their claim for special powers, under scientific testing, 'the phenomena strangely disappears'.

Randi started out as a stage magician and illusionist and did some rather remarkable magic stunts, his career really took off, after showing two policeman, that he could break out of their handcuffs... utterly amazed, they gave him a dare, to try and break out of a prison cell, he did, he became a media sensation and his career took off. His daring escapades, led to comparisons with Harry Houdini (Randi wrote Houdini's biography). One of Randi's earlier stunts was an escape from a straight jacket, while suspended over Niagara Falls.

Randi drew his biggest media attention though, in his confrontation with Uri Geller, in the 1970's. Exposing him as a fraud. Geller sued Randi for $15000,000 dollars, Geller's suit was thrown out in 1995 and he was forced to pay $120,000 for filing a 'trivial' lawsuit.

Geller made a name for himself, through the apparently paranormal ability to effect objects. For example, Through his spoon bending trickery and other magical shenanigans, such as stopping watches, moving compass needles and mind reading... that still to this day, Geller claim are real paranormal phenomena and that he really does have special powers, to effect objects.

Geller was set to appear on America's, NBC, Johnny Carson Tonight Show. Carson had been a magician himself and was highly skeptical, he phoned James Randi up, the night before the show in which Geller was to appear. Randi advised Carson that they should provide their own props for Geller to work with and not let any of Geller's staff near them. The props included drawings sealed in an envelope and little metal cups with lids on (it was Geller's job to 'mentally deduce' which did not have water inside, just by passing his hands over them). It was painfully embarrassing to watch, almost cringe-worthy. Geller looked like a lost child and his attempts at psychic powers utterly failed (of course, if you don't use your own props, you cannot rig them).

What is startling, is that this event did not effect Geller's career, if anything it made Geller more popular, people seem to have an obsession with the 'mysterious'. As Randi himself said: "Even after this event, 'it still takes time for Geller's star to fade'.

I guess the real reason that Geller's popularity faded, is that you can only interest people with spoon bending so many times, the novelty soon wears off... Of course he had other gimmicks as well, such as moving compass needles and stopping watches, but they have all been shown to be magicians tricks and if you repeat the same trick over and over, people get bored.

Randi has had a highly successful media career and had several highly successful TV shows, that were networked in different countries. These programs revolved around, individuals claiming to have supernatural/paranormal abilities. They would come on his show, and going through a test set up by Randi, to prove or disprove their abilities. Such abilities of course have never been proved and the Randi Foundation Prize is still up for grabs.

In the days when Uri Geller was at the heights of his success, he had hoodwinked many individuals into believing he really did have paranormal abilities. He even fooled many scientists into believing his claims for such ability. But Randi made an important point, that scientists are not the best people to rely on, in trusting their 'common sense' when it comes to paranormal claims. Scientists seem to be just as capable of being hoodwinked as anyone else...

As Randi said, the best person to expose a charlatan, who is merely using a magician's trickery, is another magician and of course that is exactly what Randi does, in exposing fakers. The paranormal 'events', such as bending spoons with the mind, will be presented by the mystic and then James Randi will come along and do the same 'trick' ...But the difference is, he stands up and says it's just a magic trick, not only that, he shows the audience how the trick is done.

In one big stunt on Australian TV, he set up a water divining test. The ground was dug-up, water pipes were placed in holes and they were filled back in. This was all done 'behind-the-backs' of the water diviners, so they had no idea where the pipes were. The pipes were filled with water, it was then a water diviners job to dowse for water. The results came in and were negative for the dowsers.

So why does James Randi do it. Well, he believes that these individuals who make claims for paranormal/supernatural powers, often set themselves up as authority figures and exploit the vulnerable. The healer for example may claim to have the ability to cure cancers and other diseases. What is so pitiful is that this exploitation is often usually aimed at the desperate and vulnerable. These individuals are often at their wits end and out of desperation, will try anything.

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Anonymous said...

To see how we stopped Randi's Million Dollar Challenge

Anonymous said...

For Dawkins and Randi and the rest of the so-called "critical thinkers"...

The *MODEL* of mental health:

"Look at the ANGLE OF THE KEY....see that, see that...."

what a fucking idiot this Randi is.....a REAL CRITICAL THINKER.....


to see how we stopped James Randi's fraudulent MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL challenge.....

watch carefully the consequences of Randi's *idea*…..

For over 40 years James Randi Zwigert (is this even a REAL NAME?) has had total control over who and how the testing was conducted, yet despite all this he has terminated the challenge.

The ONLY REASON why the challenge was stopped is because he lost and refused to pay.

PS: Love the IRONY of the BULLSHI*T sign over Randi's ugly little head