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Old 1st March 2013, 09:28 AM   #1
idoubtit
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Randi and Storr's The Heretic

Will Storr's new book about believers and skeptics includes some questionable quotes by Randi. Here's the latest.

http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/03/jame...rwinism-quote/
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Old 1st March 2013, 04:52 PM   #2
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I just read the actual quote from James Randi.

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/...lowing-up.html

I am appalled and actually thought it was a joke at first. I even checked out the URL to see I wasn’t redirected to a fake website. I never in a million years could imagine Randi to be this stupid and brutal.

First of all Randi displays a total lack of understanding in the principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest. And yes, his actual words are a perfect representation of the social Darwinist viewpoint.
Secondly, the man has absolutely no clue with respect to the causes, underlying principles and propagating factors concerning addiction. For example it is long suspected that addiction and mental illness go hand in hand.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...1203090143.htm

So when Randi is proposing to “weed out those for whom there is no hope except through his forbearance” (his words) he is actually proposing to weed out people with psychiatric disorders? I deliberately ended this sentence with a question mark cause I really can’t believe that is what he actually meant to say, but due to his lack of understanding in the matter he is actually making a very similar point.
Further, those “losers” he wants to “weed” out are someone’s child (and they could as well be his or mine).
By his logic by the way there wouldn’t be any alcohol addicts. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous and addictive substances and one of the hardest to detox from and…it is legal.
So in Randi’s perfect little world we should just let all alcoholics die of liver cirrhosis. That will solve the problem!
But, oh no, the data does not support his uninformed view.
I just took the top two hits from a google search.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_a...ccur_each_year
http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/DACH_ARDI/Default/Default.aspx

Alcoholism is still widespread and people still die daily as the result of this addiction.

God forbid, mr Randi has to support any form of care, research and professional help with his tax money for these losers.

I am still open to the idea I am misinterpreting his words and that he is making a subtle point which is going way over my head, but really, after reading and rereading, I can only come to one conclusion: the man is a total douchebag and yes he seems to be propagating social Darwinism!

Oh, and I am totally in favor of legalizing drugs, but obviously not for the same reasons as Randi.

Last edited by blabla; 1st March 2013 at 05:06 PM. Reason: corrected one of many grammatical errors
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Old 2nd March 2013, 03:05 AM   #3
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blablabla: Um, whoah, yeah... Alcoholics like Ernest Hemingway and many many other authors, drug addicts like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, David Bowie and countless other musicians...
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Old 2nd March 2013, 04:57 AM   #4
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I spoke to Will Storr directly about this, and he played me the interview over the phone and I heard Randi say that he believed drug users should be allowed to "do themselves in" and went on to say that if that was social darwinism then that's what he believed.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 05:55 AM   #5
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There are so many good arguments for decriminalisation of drugs that it particularly annoys me when people come out with this inhuman rubbish.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 09:27 AM   #6
idoubtit
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Everyone, please visit the piece again and look at this comment by Blake Smith.
http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/03/jame...comment-130381
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Old 2nd March 2013, 09:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by idoubtit View Post
Everyone, please visit the piece again and look at this comment by Blake Smith.
http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/03/jame...comment-130381
A good read.

Quote:
I hope Randiís next actions are becoming of a leader.
I hope so, but I doubt it.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 12:02 PM   #8
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Yeah, an excellent examination. I certainly don't think it's a forever damning utterance - I could certainly say something in the same neighbourhood on a bad day in the wrong company, so to speak. I hope Randi will address it.

Still - as long as we can examine our "leaders" with scrutiny like this, I don't think the skeptic movement needs to be afeared.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 12:45 PM   #9
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*shrugs* People can "do themselves in" if they like. It's all part of personal freedom. I think things like this all the time. It's not illegal and I don't do violence to others. Plus, yesterday alone I wished the asshat who deliberately put a dent in my and my husband's new car to leave the gene pool.

In other words...I don't care. Thoughts are thoughts and personal opinions are just personal opinions.
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Old 2nd March 2013, 12:47 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by blabla View Post
A good read.



I hope so, but I doubt it.
*shrugs again* So? I don't particularly care what you "think" any more than you likely care what I think.
Randi may address this - he may not. His choice.
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Last edited by Minarvia; 2nd March 2013 at 12:54 PM. Reason: clarification
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Old 2nd March 2013, 03:26 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Minarvia View Post
*shrugs again* So? I don't particularly care what you "think" any more than you likely care what I think.
Randi may address this - he may not. His choice.
I don’t know where I gave you the idea I feel he may not address this.
He can say what he wants and I can criticize him for it just as anyone can criticize my opinions.

The ‘people can do themselves in’ remark is not why I have a problem with Randi. Granted, it is an insensitive thing to say, but hey, no one’s a saint. You might expect a little more strategic common sense from the figurehead of a critical thinking organization but maybe that’s just me. Especially since this comment is made in response to the fact he had been accused of promoting Social Darwinism. A thing most people would be ashamed of. Not Randi though, he doesn’t even try to deny it.

My beef with Randi is regarding his original blog entry on this site which apparently started the whole thing. Have you read it?

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/...lowing-up.html

If you did you might agree with me that he is spouting some impressive pseudoscientific nonsense there.
Isn’t that what this site is all about, discussing the paranormal, pseudoscientific and the supernatural (what a coincidence, it is the motto of the JREF)?

I am going out on a limb here but I suspect if some anonymous woo proponent would start a topic in the science section following Randi’s train of thought he would be ripped apart by the knowledgeable people who reside there, and with good reason.

In short, to me it has been an eye opener to find out that the figurehead of the JREF is, besides an insensitive jerk, also completely ignorant with respect to the principles of evolution and at the same time is advocating Social Darwinism.
To me, that seems pretty relevant to this forum and the motto of the JREF in general.

Also, if Randi can actually prove his strange views on evolution, in my opinion he can collect his own million dollars. It goes against everything we know about evolution and the principles underlying addiction and psychiatric disorders.
How about it mr Randi?

(Note to self: make shorter posts. No one will read!)

Edit: @Minarvia. I think I misunderstood your point stating Randi may or may not address this.
My apologies.

Last edited by blabla; 2nd March 2013 at 04:01 PM. Reason: Misinterpretation
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Old 2nd March 2013, 06:28 PM   #12
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I was being general, Blabla, but basically I'm not worried about political correctness or think that people should have to walk on eggshells over every little thing they say or write. I'm not trying to be insensitive here, but I realise that people have beef with other people all the time.

I'm not saying that feelings about other's words or actions should not be addressed or thought about, or even critisised. It just seems to me that you have some sort of sensitivity to this that I don't quite understand. Heck, if all the people I've sometimes wished out of the gene pool disappeared the planet would be a heck of a lot less populated!

I guess it boils down to all of us being human and we all say things that may be awful from time to time. I just hope you aren't working yourself up overtly. I genuinely mean it when I say that I am worried that you may be working yourself up to a point of anxiety that will depress you. Being a chronic depressive myself I have to work hard to keep myself from stressing out over things like this unless they have special (I know that's objective!) consequence to me.

That said, welcome to the JREF and I hope you stick around. That you started a thread that you know could become uneasy is courageous. I myself lurked for a year or so before I even was able to work up my courage to post at all.

Wow...this is probably one of my most useless thread responses ever.
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Last edited by Minarvia; 2nd March 2013 at 06:54 PM. Reason: clarification brain fuzziness
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Old 2nd March 2013, 08:28 PM   #13
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Thanks for the welcome Minarvia.
I have been here a while though, just usually can’t be bothered to reply. I didn’t start the topic btw, that honor goes to idoubtit. I am not worked up either, nor do I suffer from depression, so don’t worry about me. I am not angry, I am just disappointed .

I find it difficult to imagine not to take offense at his position here and I do agree with the point made in Blake Smith’s post (linked to by idoubtit earlier) that the original comments were horribly insensitive and should have been condemned publicly by prominent skeptics.
His choice of words strongly suggest it is not just a slip of the tongue. Randi chooses his words very clearly and they are not open to interpretation. He uses unambiguous terms as “weeding out” (weed: a plant that is not desired) and he claims to find justification for his beliefs in Darwin’s theory of evolution, showing his incapability to understand the basic underlying concepts as ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’.

I have no respect for people trying to justify their own insensitive point of views and, I am going to say it, quasi-fascistic beliefs with a misguided interpretation of Darwin’s beautiful theory of evolution. The fact that it comes from Randi, a leading figure in the skeptics movement makes it all the more important to speak out against.

By the way, if it would have been David Icke or Sylvia Browne stating something similar, I strongly suspect we would have hit the 100 page mark already , but since it is Randi…ah well…

Last edited by blabla; 2nd March 2013 at 08:30 PM. Reason: grammar..grammar
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Old 2nd March 2013, 10:23 PM   #14
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Sorry, you're right. You didn't start the thread. It was another brain-fart moment.
But yeah, the comments are rather harsh and surprise me and you have a point about if it were Sylvia Browne the thread would be longer. I think that is because Randy has a firm stance against charlatans and building critical thinking skills and not being duped. Browne, Edward, Van Praagh and their type prey upon people every day of their lives.

Perhaps that is why I'm not happy with the remarks, either, but I'm not as upset as I normally would be.

As for "Social Darwinism," I won't even pretend that I know precisely what that means. But if I hazard a guess, isn't it possible that such attitudes ARE part of social evolution? Does it sort of go hand in hand with social altruism? Some individual traits prove detrimental in the long run and others prove beneficial?

Or am I far from the mark? You don't need to answer, blabla, nor does anyone else, because I obviously have not looked up Social Darwinism yet. I'm just guessing and can't but wonder now if the attitudes, as insensitive and harsh as they can be, aren't part of it. I don't like to think so, but I honestly don't know.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 12:57 AM   #15
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I don't see anything pseudo-scientific in his blog post.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 02:55 AM   #16
TubbaBlubba
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Originally Posted by Louigi Verona View Post
I don't see anything pseudo-scientific in his blog post.
Quote:
Third, the principle of Survival of the Fittest would draconically prove itself for a couple of years, after which Natural Selection would weed out those for whom there is no hope except through our forbearance, and I'm very, very, weary of supporting these losers with my tax dollars.
Here. Randi appears to believe in some pop culture version of SotF.

Then there's the plain ignorance of what many drug addicts are like:

Quote:
Second, those individuals who were stupid enough to rush into the arms of the mythical houris and/or Adonis's they would expect to greet them, would simply do so and die - by whatever chemical or biological fate would overcome them.
I have drug addicts of several kinds in my family, and guess what? They're much like everyone else. Most of them work. Some don't. Most have ordinary jobs. Some have high-paying jobs. Some are stupid. Some are brilliant. Some are nice. Some are mean.

A LARGE part of the population are alcoholics, and significant portions abuse prescription drugs (Physicians in particular, perhaps because of availability and the stress of the job - are these part of the people Randi wants to "weed out"?), and many of them can handle life just fine. That's not to say we shouldn't work against alcoholism, but to "weed them out" based on some strawman idea of what an alcoholic is like is just ignorant.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 08:51 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Here. Randi appears to believe in some pop culture version of SotF.
Indeed.

On a different note: Just to illustrate the harshness of Randiís words I have included a a very moving documentary about 4 endstage alcoholics called 'Rain In My Heart'.

Two out of four are quite young and have little hope left, so they fit Randiís profile.
It is quite long though and it seems the documentary maker doesnít have a lot of experience, but I found it well worth watching.
It is quite depressing, so Minarvia, I advise you not to watch .

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 09:03 AM   #18
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I don't think Randi's statement was scientific, meaning - it was not meant to be a statement about science. At least, this is not the way I read it.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 10:08 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Louigi Verona View Post
I don't think Randi's statement was scientific, meaning - it was not meant to be a statement about science. At least, this is not the way I read it.
I'm sorry, but this wriggling is inane. Randi incorrectly characterized an important scientific theory in order to support a stupid idea he had. If he didn't mean to say that evolution supported his solution, why the hell did he refer to not only natural selection or SotF, but Darwin himself?!
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Old 3rd March 2013, 10:35 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by blabla View Post
Indeed.

On a different note: Just to illustrate the harshness of Randiís words I have included a a very moving documentary about 4 endstage alcoholics called 'Rain In My Heart'.

Two out of four are quite young and have little hope left, so they fit Randiís profile.
It is quite long though and it seems the documentary maker doesnít have a lot of experience, but I found it well worth watching.
It is quite depressing, so Minarvia, I advise you not to watch .

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Thanks for the warning, blabla! I won't watch, as I do get depressed to the point of crying very easily.

However, just a brief aside regarding the opposite side of the coin, I recently discovered that two of my ancestors were both alcoholics and into drugs (don't know which sort) and both lead them to murder. One murdered her husband, daughter-in-law and her two newborn twins. Her son (my grandfather) murdered his own brother. Neither was crazy or abnormal before the usage, if family lore is correct (and seems to be supported) so there are those who become very awful and detrimental to those around them. Oh hells, that was FAR more depressing than this video may be...
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Old 3rd March 2013, 10:41 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
I'm sorry, but this wriggling is inane. Randi incorrectly characterized an important scientific theory in order to support a stupid idea he had. If he didn't mean to say that evolution supported his solution, why the hell did he refer to not only natural selection or SotF, but Darwin himself?!
On a different note.
Since Randi obviously hasn't read On the Origin of Species.

Why don't we all just chip in and buy him a copy.
Maybe he can underline the passages supporting his views

Last edited by blabla; 3rd March 2013 at 10:42 AM. Reason: brainfart: Got Darwins bookname wrong...
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Old 3rd March 2013, 10:46 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
I'm sorry, but this wriggling is inane. Randi incorrectly characterized an important scientific theory in order to support a stupid idea he had. If he didn't mean to say that evolution supported his solution, why the hell did he refer to not only natural selection or SotF, but Darwin himself?!
It sounds like you are absolutely right. I agree.

However, since I tend to (a character flaw I have) try to give the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he, as I sometimes do, use a name or concept as a basis for attempting to express my PoV. For example, I would mention Darwin to draw the person I am talking to into the "idea" of what I am trying to express. I am not dropping the name to be exactly what Darwin expressed, but to use as a basic framework simply in trying to formulate my thoughts.

Now, if Randi seems very certain, than he does indeed need to read up more and be precise. If he means/meant to be a bit more general, then he should say so.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 10:57 AM   #23
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And now it is time for me to eat humble pie.

While I was rambling on and on, Randi apparently addressed the issue here:
http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/03/jame...rwinism-quote/

It seems a well written response and I applaud him for it.
Case closed as far as I am concerned. I am back to being a Randi fanboy.


Since I don't know how to link to his exact post itself I have included it here.

Quote:
Allow me to address the present brouhaha that has arisen about some very much misunderstood and misconstrued comments that have been assembled to produce an unfortunate situation involving reporter Will Storr and myself. I offer you less than 800 words to plow throughÖ

Until just recently, I did not recall having spoken with Mr. Storr years ago about certain comments posted on randi.org, and I barely recall that event, even now This is an understandable lapse, since Iím constantly being interviewed, and often under circumstances that call for my attention to be otherwise directed, Also, some interviews occurred during a time of my life in recent years when my health Ė and thus my cognition Ė were not at their best. The unfair suggestion that Mr. Storr tried to provoke me, or that heís a ďbad guy,Ē is something I must dismiss, since I believe I would have remembered that sort of behavior. In any case, I now know much more about the described encounter, and I maintain that I would never have said I was a Social Darwinist, since I only recently learned in detail what that term really means, and in fact I was quite ignorant of the history of the movement organized around that false idea. Iíve been surprised that this was not obvious to people discussing the matter, but I accept that the conversation with Mr. Storr went just as described. No problem with that.

I have said, many times, that I would do anything to prevent any young person from taking up drugs, and in fact I have had two instances in years past when I spent a lot of my time and money trying to do just that, and I failed. One of these people died, and the other, I was told a few years ago, is still a barely-surviving and tortured addict. That failure on my part still haunts me.
Survival of the fittest works very well. Itís what is responsible for the present success of our own species, despite what individuals try to do to make us fail. In our work with the JREF, my colleagues and I try to get individuals to think about what theyíre doing by wasting their lives in acceptance of superstitious nonsense, because there are just no charities or government programs that provide that much-needed service. Folks, we care.

Though my Foundation is small, weíve had a measurable and important effect on both young and old, internationally, and countless persons have expressed their thanks to us for educating them against false beliefs and attitudes. There are few greater rewards than that.

Now, contrast that with the fact that there are massively-funded, very widely publicized, very active charities and agencies that constantly demonstrate to the public the damage done to them by narcotics or alcohol, the dangers of using them, the dire results on individuals and on families, and the very real penalties Ė health-wise and financially Ė that are thus incurred. I have always believed that people should be held accountable for the bad decisions they make, especially when society spends so much in time and resources to warn them of the likely consequences. I cannot understand how any informed adult who is aware of the facts may still choose to misuse drugs or alcohol. I believe that they should simply get out of the way of those who want a cleaner, better, safer and productive environment in which to raise their families.

Iím well aware that I sometimes ďshoot from the hipĒ and speak on things about which I know very little. In this present situation, I published my personal opinions about drug addiction without knowing very much about the neuroscience behind addiction, or the addiction recovery field. Not only did I say some deeply regrettable and insensitive things, but as Iíve learned more about the questions and issues at hand, I accept that I have been wrongheaded on a number of topics related to these issues. Even at 84, Iím still learning. Please bear with me, folks.

I also want to express that Iím angry, very angry, at those who attribute motives of anything but altruism and charity to the JREF, because I know that my valued colleagues are of like mind with me. Again, we deeply care.

I ask you to care, too. When itís pointed out to me that Iím wrong, as it has been by my colleagues in this instance, I admit my mistakes, only asking that the JREF and I not be treated as targets, fun objects to attack. I never make apologies for expressing my honest opinions, Iíve never even hinted that Iím perfect, and I have recognized faults, Iíve made errors, and I know it. I can only hope that my earnest and honorable efforts will survive my peccadilloesÖ

AgreedÖ?

James Randi
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Old 3rd March 2013, 11:01 AM   #24
TubbaBlubba
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Originally Posted by Minarvia View Post
It sounds like you are absolutely right. I agree.

However, since I tend to (a character flaw I have) try to give the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he, as I sometimes do, use a name or concept as a basis for attempting to express my PoV. For example, I would mention Darwin to draw the person I am talking to into the "idea" of what I am trying to express. I am not dropping the name to be exactly what Darwin expressed, but to use as a basic framework simply in trying to formulate my thoughts.

Now, if Randi seems very certain, than he does indeed need to read up more and be precise. If he means/meant to be a bit more general, then he should say so.
I would guess that he just had a lapse, didn't really think the whole eugenics idea through and forgot that the popular culture idea of "Darwinism" is essentially pseudoscientific and only bears superficial resemblance to the theory of natural selection - especially the modern one.

I mean the basics of natural selection, and why it's important not to mix them up with degenerated popular culture derivatives, and why applying the latter is pseudoscientific, are basically scepticism 101.

It's a mistake that the best of make for sure, but we have to expect that we be called on it, and admit to having made a mistake, if we do happen to make one. ESPECIALLY someone like Randi (or, for example, Penn) who is perceived as an... authority of scepticism in many eyes is the committer of said mistake.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 11:04 AM   #25
TubbaBlubba
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Originally Posted by blabla View Post
And now it is time for me to eat humble pie.

While I was rambling on and on, Randi apparently addressed the issue here:
http://doubtfulnews.com/2013/03/jame...rwinism-quote/

It seems a well written response and I applaud him for it.
Case closed as far as I am concerned. I am back to being a Randi fanboy.


Since I don't know how to link to his exact post itself I have included it here.
Good enough for me - he was called on it, explained where he was coming from, and admitted to having made a mistake. Time to move on...
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Old 3rd March 2013, 11:13 AM   #26
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I'll indeed move on! I have to just thank blabla and TubbaBubba for their comments and research into the matter. I really appreciate the quote you posted, blabla and I feel much better, too.

TellaBubba, he does indeed to have had a lapse and the fact that he honestly admits to being "wrong-headed" at times is a relief, not to mention refreshing. I'm also glad to know he is still, at his age, health, and personal problems, ready and willing to be called out.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 11:37 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Good enough for me - he was called on it, explained where he was coming from, and admitted to having made a mistake. Time to move on...
He still seems to have a weird interpretation of the concepts of evolution though. But I get that a lot. It seems very difficult for people to realize evolution is what it is: a passive, non-teleological process with no morals or judgement. There is no better, or worse in evolution. Just some species that survive and some that don't.

Randi still seems to believe that evolution implies us to actively be a stronger species or something.
It doesn't, evolution just explains by what mechanisms organisms have evolved over time. It is a descriptive theory describing the rules of the game. Nowhere does it imply we will build a better society if we implement some of these principles in a societal context.
If anything we should stay away from implementing anything remotely close to principles like survival of the fittest.

If there is any hope for the human species it is in cultivating and cherishing differences and yes, weaknesses too and furthering our understanding of the world.
Just my utopic 10 cents.
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Old 3rd March 2013, 11:55 AM   #28
TubbaBlubba
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Originally Posted by blabla View Post
He still seems to have a weird interpretation of the concepts of evolution though. But I get that a lot. It seems very difficult for people to realize evolution is what it is: a passive, non-teleological process with no morals or judgement. There is no better, or worse in evolution. Just some species that survive and some that don't.

Randi still seems to believe that evolution implies us to actively be a stronger species or something.
It doesn't, evolution just explains by what mechanisms organisms have evolved over time. It is a descriptive theory describing the rules of the game. Nowhere does it imply we will build a better society if we implement some of these principles in a societal context.
If anything we should stay away from implementing anything remotely close to principles like survival of the fittest.

If there is any hope for the human species it is in cultivating and cherishing differences and yes, weaknesses too and furthering our understanding of the world.
Just my utopic 10 cents.
I agree, but that's a debate for another day...

The only thing that hasn't been discussed clearly was the fundamental attribution error, which Randi hinted at. It's not as simple as "remove the alcoholic alleles", because drug abuse arises from many different factors, and many things outside one's control influence it - I would hazard a guess that genetics are a pretty minor component.

There is actually a somewhat amusing irony in it... If survival of the fittest really worked on that, then there would have to be drug abuser alleles. People can't control their genetics, and somehow these people would be similar to the disabled or mentally ill, which most sane people nowadays do not think we should weed out.
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