Friday, August 7, 2015

How Many Lies Does It Take For A "Skeptic" To Be Discredited?

Note:  This is the first of the pieces I wrote about James Randi, his cult, his lies, his crimes, his sleaze and his phony PR machine.  Randi is a good example to use in looking at the pseudo-skeptics and the "skepticism" industry which is such a big part of organized, evangelical atheism because his position as one of its figureheads is as hypocritical as having a corrupt cult figure as a representative of religion,  Probably more so in that I'm unaware of any influential criticism of Randi in organized atheism or the "skepticism" industry whereas any cult figure in religion will have many critics within religion, often within the denomination they are a part of.   As the columns by Richard McBrien which I've been posting show, a Catholic priest and a theologian teaching at one of the major Catholic universities in the world published newspaper columns, which appeared almost exclusively in Catholic newspapers, most of them controlled by bishops, was far more critical of popes, bishops, cardinals, priests, and who regularly talked about the scandals current and past which have marred the history of Catholicism, which is regularly presented as the quintessential example of totalitarian religion, and Richard McBrien kept his job and, though some of the bishops appointed by John Paul II made sure their papers dropped his column, was published in the Catholic media until his death.  McBrien's textbooks were and, I suspect, still are widely used in Catholic universities and colleges.  I can't imagine anyone in organized "skepticism" acting like that kind of internal critic of their own denomination and being able to keep work in it.

Whenever I refer to the pseudo-skeptics and the skepticism industry I put the word in quotes because such people are not skeptics anymore than Randi is a figure of science.  The "skeptics" and "skepticism" as a movement are rigid fundamentalists who have no doubt about their position, no matter what evidence collected under some of the most rigorously controlled experiments, no matter how massive the statistical basis the conclusions rest on, they will not abandon their wall of denial of that or their campaign of lies and vilification.  

They have become the side that the mainstream media goes to for those areas because of the fear of science reporters and others that the "skeptics" know science, which the reporters and their editors seldom do, and that if they don't kow tow to the "skeptics" they will go after them and ruin their careers.  The media's promotion of what is supposed to be science on the basis of fear, intimidation and, most of all, ignorance of the methods and mathematical basis of science is well illustrated by looking at the presentation of Randi and the "skeptics" by the media.  As I mention in the series, that also shines a light on the tactics used by the tabacco, oil, coal, gas and other industries as well as climate change denialists who use many of the same tactics as the "skeptics" to attack rigorously conducted scientific research.  It's important for that, if nothing else.

I would say that, beyond any doubt, the most famous "Skeptic"/atheist in the world is probably James "The Amazing" Randi.   His "Educational" Forum is one of the larger and most often visited "Skeptical" websites, his YouTube propaganda operation is probably the largest of any single individual and he is still honored as a reliable authority by other large "rational" "scientific" entities such as "Big Think".    If you have never delved even a centimeter behind the surface of  the James Randi persona, you could be forgiven for mistaking him as a serious voice of science and reason.  That is how he is promoted by himself, his associates, the "Skepticism" industry and the media who seldom have looked at him with the tools of genuine skepticism.  If you did look past the promotion and PR, you would see he has a documented and large record of lying, incompetence, dishonesty and even criminal fraud.

The arrest of his long time lover on a serious charge of identity theft, which was far from a victimless crime, should have exposed the fraud that James Randi has been, but it hasn't.  James Randi cannot escape the documented fact that he knew of that fraud and that he participated in it.  It would seem that among the self-congratulating "rational class" the "fact based" and "science based, PR can entirely overtake the truth and ideological promotion is entirely more important than honesty.   I have found few former admirers of James Randi  and almost none who will apply skepticism to their icon of "Skepticism", few scientists who will break with him.

I will be taking some time to expose some of the known instances of dishonesty and lying by the icon, presented as a personification of truth and evidence based inquiry.  I do that not in any expectation that it will change anything about the "Skepticism" industry or cause any defections in the Randi cult, but to expose those for the obvious fraud they are.   The numerous exposures of Randi's lies, dishonesty and sleaze, over the thirty-two years since Dennis Rawlins exposed him in his sTARBABY article haven't done that.  I don't think it's going to be done, not anytime in the near future.  But something being true is an entirely sufficient reason for anyone saying it.  I'm not going to be saying anything that isn't documented by others in the past.   The number of lies James Randi has gotten away with while being the figure head of organized "Skepticism" might be a good start at answering the question in the title.  Eventually it might be able to enumerate a unit for measuring this phenomenon,  The Randi",  the number of lies one can still tell and be presented as a credible voice of science, truth and reason.   I can think of many practical applications in many fields.  Especially in measuring media credulousness.   Working on a measurement of irony might follow, close on.

UPDATE:  What fun.  An anonymous message tells me that they'll come after me if I go after the great and powerful amazing one. I think it's supposed to be a threat  instead of a warning but as it's written with the typical coherence of a commentator at a "Skeptical"/atheist website, it's hard to tell.  I'll go change my passwords just in case.  I always use ones that are very hard to break.   I'd be interested in knowing of anyone who has had problems like that after being critical of his amazingness.

Update July 7, 2015  "Jacob" noted the other day that since I didn't post the comment that made that threat,  he has to take it on my word that the threat was made.  I guess I didn't post the comment because it violated my refusal to post libel against other people, the major reason I deleted comments in the past and why I moderate comments now.  That doesn't mean I won't use what is sent to me on my own terms.  I've got no qualms about doing that.

I don't really care if you believe I received the threat or not, the record of James Randi's cult going after his critics is well established.  His cult is almost certainly the largest in the atheism industry, today, the longest in development and the beneficiary of the most blatant and shameless PR campaign.   If you read the comments on his "Educational" Foundation website you'll see what they're capable of doing in that area.   The James Randi fan base is a cult and like all cults it won't tolerate a realistic critique of its central personality.  It is one of the most telling aspects of the "skepticism" industry and the new atheism how cult like it is, how it is based in bigotry and ignorance and idol worship.  It's easy to be a "skeptic" you just have to parrot the lines the "skepticism" industry hands you, it's a lot harder to be skeptical of the "skeptics" because you have to learn a little math and actually read some scientific papers and analyses.  The scientists involved in the con are an interesting case in themselves, but they aren't much dealt with in looking at the James Randi cult.

1 comment:

  1. "Skeptic" largely seems to mean "You must prove it to ME!" And proof, of course, is impossible; as Hume, the great empiricist, well...proved. But not everyone accepts Hume's proof, especially illiterate "skeptics."

    So "proof" is the gold standard, except it's also the most subjective standard possible. I had a commenter at RD tell me I wasn't objective because I went to seminary (on subjects religious at least). This same commenter had said religion continues in the world only because of African savages and illiterate Chinese rice farmers.

    Objectivity means very subjective (and racist) attitudes toward others is okay, because it's objective! And skeptical!

    There's a reason these people are ignored by legitimate thinkers. What's sad is when, as one of your posts pointed out, supposedly legitimate groups recognize people like Pharyngula (can't recall the guy's name, but on matters outside the narrow range of the science he learned, he's an idiot).

    Again, pastors learn science (sociology, for starters) and learn to accept the validity of science (miracles are more awesome that way, not less), while scientists never learn even the rudiments of the empiricism that is the basis of their work. Pastors and philosophers ask "which leg comes after which;" scientists never bother, lest their weltanschaaung be challenged.

    Anglo-American scientists, anyway.....