Article About James Randi and JREF August 29, 2009

Article About James Randi and JREF

***Update***: A few changes have been made to this posting since I first put it up.

Here’s an extensive article about James Randi and JREF, courtesy of Michael J. Mooney of The Riverfront Times, an alternative newspaper in St. Louis.

The highlight of the weekend for most of the skeptics here is the chance to meet the man dubbed “The King of Debunking.” Randi is a five-and-a-half-foot-tall command performance, with his characteristic white beard, brow and penchant for zingers. On each morning of the conference, Randi is brought into the main lecture hall in a wheelchair. A slow-moving pack of swooning disciples gathers around him. Pictures are taken. Hands are shaken. A little girl asks him to sign her straitjacket. A booth sells little James Randi dolls with glasses, bushy white beards and tiny handcuffs. Some conferees come with questions they’ve been dying to ask for years (“Mr. Randi, when you flew in upside down over Japan, did you have any plan in the event of an auto-rotation ditch?”). But most want to give thanks to the man who got them sober to the ways of the world: “Hi, I saw you speak in Toronto, and you changed my life.” “You let me know it was OK to question my own beliefs.”

The article focuses on what will become of JREF after Randi passes away (it’s not very optimistic). But plenty of organizations are built around certain leaders and find a way to continue well after the founder moves on or passes away. The Amazing Meeting will continue with or without Randi, and skeptics will hopefully stick with JREF and provide it with the funding it needs to continue the work of debunking psychics/frauds and promoting skepticism.

JREF hasn’t issued a response yet, but it seems there are some inaccuracies in it that will be addressed by them.

(via Dangerous Intersection)

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  • Kris

    I can’t help but notice that add for in the header. I have to wonder what makes an advertiser think that a bunch of atheists and skeptics would be interested in such nonsense…

    P.S. Just wondering why comments here are moderated.

  • I can’t help but notice that add for in the header. I have to wonder what makes an advertiser think that a bunch of atheists and skeptics would be interested in such nonsense…

    P.S. Just wondering why comments here are moderated.

    The ads work off of keywords. If I write about church, it’s likely an ad for churches could come up. Ditto with Scientology.

    Comments are moderated to make sure the people writing are human and contributing to the discussion. I try not to moderate beyond that.

  • It’s true. Everytime Hemant writes about gay rights issues, I get ads urging me to take a gay-only cruise.

  • gwen

    It must be comforting for theist to immagine that Randi is the one driving force in the atheist ‘fad’ movement and that it will dissipate into a puff of smoke once he is conveiniently out of the way! Nope, they are wrong, the atheist movement is sooo much bigger than just Randi and will grow just fine after he is gone. For theist to put it into perspective, just remind them that christianity did not die when their leader did….and Randi is hardly our ‘leader’, a prophet maybe, but there IS no leader.

  • BathTub

    The description doesn’t match up with the Randi that was present at TAM. Perhaps this is based on impressions closer to his previous surgery.

  • I’m not a member of the JREF inner circle, but as a casual member one of the best things about the JREF that I’ve been able to see is that (unlike some other organizations I could mention) Randi appears to be going out of his way to find and prepare talented young people to carry on his work when he’s gone by letting them do a lot of the work and make a lot of the major decisions right now. The JREF has James Randi’s name, but it’s not *about* James Randi.

    When James Randi dies he will be missed, but I suspect the JREF itself won’t miss a beat. And that continuity with be Randi’s most towering legacy.

  • Erika Price

    Yeah, this article seems a little off, especially in how it portrays the JREF as useless without its leader. Penn and Teller, the SGU, and many others have had a hand in JREF activites for quite some time. This article also ignores the fact that the million dollar prize is being redirected to something else- I think a scholarship program? Randi talked about it on SGU.

    Anyway, I’m a writer at DI and I’m going to be at the Saturday Skeptics meet-up in Chicago, so I was really pumped to see that you were linking to us, Hemant!

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