Wendy and I would like to pay tribute to a truly amazing Canadian, The Amazing Randi. James Randi was born on August 7, 1928 in Toronto, Ontario and died on October 21, 2020. He lived most of his life in the United Stated and held dual citizenship.
We saw Randi (and I got his autograph!) at the last ‘Imagine No Religion’ (INR) conference in 2016, held in Vancouver. In his presentation, he told us about his debunking, among others, of Uri Geller, the spoon bender. Geller’s mind-over-matter tricks were debunked on the Johnny Carson show. Randi suggested that Carson switch out Geller’s spoons and other props with store-bought versions. Of course, Geller failed saying that he felt “pressured” and that he was “not strong enough”, that night.
Penn and Teller (magicians, sceptics, and debunkers in their own right) showed up to Randi’s INR appearance and presented him with an award. They happened to be in Vancouver at the same time. It was a fun evening.
Johnny Carson was also a debunker and he had Randi on his show numerous time to promote their skeptical work. I knew of The Amazing Randi as a performer but did not know much of his skeptical and debunking work until we attended the 2016 INR conference. I did not stay up to watch the Tonight Show enough, I guess. Randi was the co-founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) and devoted much of his later life to debunking paranormal activity or what he calls “woo-woo.” Randi publicly criticized and took on faith healers, mediums, and psychics. With the rise of such movements as QAnon, and other conspiracy theories, the world needs more skeptics like James Randi.
To meet him in person was a real treat. He was so smart and down-to-earth, as well as being such a great entertainer. We, in the skeptical world, will miss The Amazing Randi. Goodbye to this amazing debunker.
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