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Old 20th February 2009, 06:36 PM   #1
Limbo
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Has Anyone Read: The Trickster and the Paranormal?

The Trickster and the Paranormal

Anyone read it? It's a very good book. Here is a little bit of a review:

"This book is an ambitious examination of the sociology of the paranormal. It is an accomplished effort to situate the problematic of psi in the context of some leading currents of modern thought, drawing liberally on the ideas of Max Weber, Victor Turner, structuralists, deconstructionists, anthropology, philosophy, and a good deal more. For Weber, social evolution is the product of two converging, though antithetical, forces: charisma and rationalization.

The direction is toward greater rationalization, in which charisma and supernatural power are progressively institutionalized and domesticated. History is a trend toward disenchantment--away from magic, miracle, and the supernatural. This bodes ill for parapsychology, which we might characterize as an attempt to make a science of enchantment, an oxymoronic venture by Weber's lights, which therefore can only draw the quixotic few to its ranks."

[...]

Here is a small excerpt:

Chapter 11 - Conjurers and The Paranormal

[...]

Exemplar Magician-Tricksters

"Magicians heavily involved in paranormal controversies often manifest strong trickster qualities, and their biographies can be particularly illuminating. A number of such persons could be examined, but three exemplars are James Randi, Tony 'Doc' Shiels, and Eric J. Dingwall - the debunker, the hoaxer, and the investigator, respectively. All are extreme types, and all have had an intense, almost life-long involvement in the paranormal. The three are exceedingly bright, creative, and controversial, and each has published a number of books. Each displays a trickster constellation in almost archetypal form. The all-too-brief sketches that follow emphasize trickster qualities to the exclusion of others.

James Randi

James (The Amazing) Randi (born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, 1928) is the individual most widely associated with the modern-day skeptical movement, and he has made countless public appearances, the world over, as a debunker. Randi has many fans among high-status scientists. In 1986 the MacArthur Foundation bestowed upon him a "genius" award along with $286,000, and in 1989 he was given an award by the American Physical Society for "promoting public understanding of the relation of physics to society." Randi has been involved with the paranormal almost his entire life, and his entry in Current Biography Yearbook 1987 tells how he publicly confronted phony spiritualists when he was a teenager. In his early days he produced a newspaper astrology column and pretended to be a psychic. He abandoned that and eventually achieved fame with his attacks on Uri Geller. In 1976 The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) was formed, and Randi quickly became one of its most visible members.

In the early 1980s Randi began his Project Alpha. He recruited two teenage magicians, Steve Shaw and Michael Edwards, who posed as psychics and visited a number of researchers, demonstrating their purported abilities of psychically bending spoons, producing psychic photographs, and moving small objects. They were able to convince a few nonprofessional investigators of their talents, but many professionals remained unconvinced by the boys, some vocally so. Nevertheless, in January 1983 Randi called a well-attended press conference and claimed that he had fooled the parapsychologists. This garnered wide coverage by TV, newspapers, and magazines, and the project helped to ridicule and marginalize parapsychology.

Like many tricksters, some of Randi's antics have caused problems for himself. He was forced to resign from CSICOP because his accusations provoked lawsuits against the Committee. One of the most publicized involved physicist Eldon Byrd, a friend of Uri Geller. On May 10, 1988 Randi made a presentation for the New York Area Skeptics in Manhattan. After his lecture, during the question and answer period, a member of the audience confronted him with a tape recording, which allegedly had Randi speaking in explicit sexual terms with young men (the recording was not played during the public meeting). I was present and watched as pandemonium almost broke out. Randi had not completely regained his composure. He accused Byrd of distributing the tape and went on to claim that Byrd was a child molester and that he was in prison. He made the same assertion in an interview with Twilight Zone Magazine. This was untrue, and in a jury trial he was found guilt of defaming Byrd.

Randi has never been married, but his sex life has received published comment regarding rumors of pederasty, including from a long-time friend James Moseley. Randi threatened lawsuits over them, but he never carried through.

Randi has written a number of books on the paranormal, and they are not known for their accuracy. I documented some of his errors in my overviews article on CSICOP. He was infuriated by that and wrote me an unpleasant letter demanding a correction. I asked him to explain any mistakes I made, but he was unable to do so, and I didn't hear from him again.

He allied himself with atheistic causes, and much of his life has been devoted to battles with supernatural ideas, at considerable personal sacrifice. The fights left their mark, and Carl Sagan's (sympathetic) introduction to Randi's book The Faith Healers (1987) described Randi as an angry man and labeled his book a "tirade." All in all, Randi is more a Promethean figure than a Hermetic one."

(page 142)
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"Faith in what?" he asked himself, adrift in limbo.

"Faith in faith," he replied. "It isn't necessary to have something to believe in. It's only necessary to believe that somewhere there's something worthy of belief."

Last edited by Limbo; 20th February 2009 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 20th February 2009, 06:59 PM   #2
plumjam
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Well, I'm certainly not a fan of Randi, but I'd say that coming here to paste old rather vague allegations that he's a pederast is rather a cheap shot.
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Old 20th February 2009, 07:44 PM   #3
Limbo
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Originally Posted by plumjam View Post
Well, I'm certainly not a fan of Randi, but I'd say that coming here to paste old rather vague allegations that he's a pederast is rather a cheap shot.

Sorry, my heart goes out to the guy if my suspicion is true. Maybe Randi was abused as a child. Maybe he buried the memories? Maybe that's why he is involved with the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is he not? After all, if his tragic memories are false, then the abuse didn't happen? Maybe it's a psychological defense mechanism on his part?

Who knows...maybe he came across a psychic or a medium one day...a real one who didn't let those painful memories of his stay buried in his unconscious. Maybe that hurt and infuriated young Randi, thus beginning his life-long crusade against the paranormal, and his involvement in false memory syndrome.
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"Faith in what?" he asked himself, adrift in limbo.

"Faith in faith," he replied. "It isn't necessary to have something to believe in. It's only necessary to believe that somewhere there's something worthy of belief."

Last edited by Limbo; 20th February 2009 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 20th February 2009, 07:58 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by plumjam View Post
I'd say that coming here to paste old rather vague allegations that he's a pederast is rather a cheap shot.
Agreed.
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Old 20th February 2009, 08:23 PM   #5
plumjam
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Originally Posted by Limbo View Post
Sorry, my heart goes out to the guy if my suspicion is true. Maybe Randi was abused as a child. Maybe he buried the memories? Maybe that's why he is involved with the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is he not? After all, if his tragic memories are false, then the abuse didn't happen? Maybe it's a psychological defense mechanism on his part?

Who knows...maybe he came across a psychic or a medium one day...a real one who didn't let those painful memories of his stay buried in his unconscious. Maybe that hurt and infuriated young Randi, thus beginning his life-long crusade against the paranormal, and his involvement in false memory syndrome.
Six 'maybe's there. The problem is that such allegations are very difficult to defend against. Kind of the modern version of calling someone a witch. How are you going to go about proving to anyone that you aren't a pederast?
Even if you could, it's inevitable that quite a bit of the mud that was flung is going to stick (in some people's minds).
Therefore it's an easy allegation to make, an egregiously difficult one to survive with your former reputation intact. Therefore people should not be making such allegations without very strong evidence... just out of common human decency.
Limbo, I have liked your previous threads. I agree with your position on most things, but this one is rather a lapse on your part.. amounting to nothing more than 'nudge nudge, wink wink'.
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Old 20th February 2009, 08:36 PM   #6
Jeff Corey
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Originally Posted by Limbo View Post
Sorry, my heart goes out to the guy if my suspicion is true. Maybe Randi was abused as a child. Maybe he buried the memories? Maybe that's why he is involved with the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is he not? After all, if his tragic memories are false, then the abuse didn't happen? Maybe it's a psychological defense mechanism on his part?

Who knows...maybe he came across a psychic or a medium one day...a real one who didn't let those painful memories of his stay buried in his unconscious. Maybe that hurt and infuriated young Randi, thus beginning his life-long crusade against the paranormal, and his involvement in false memory syndrome.
"Your suspicion" is just that. A suspicion. Consequently, all the other stuff you just spewed is meaningless psychobabble with a bunch of other mindless speculation thrown in.
You sound like a psycho anal ist.
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Old 20th February 2009, 08:48 PM   #7
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Oh. That Eldon Byrd.

Does The Trickster and the Paranormal? go on to say that Mr Byrd sued Randi?

Because, if it did, it might note that:

Quote:
Testimony adduced at the trial revealed that, in fact, Mr. Byrd had not been convicted of the crime of child molestation as suggested by Mr. Randi, but instead had been arrested for possession with intent to distribute obscene materials involving children, and had plead guilty to a reduced charge of possession with intent to distribute obscene materials.

The jury also heard testimony that Byrd had sexually molested, and later married, his sister-in-law. Despite this, Byrd won the case, but received no monetary judgment.
http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/James_Randi

If it did not, then it is an attempt smear Randi.

The Woos really don't like to be called on their Woodom, do they?
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Old 21st February 2009, 11:59 AM   #8
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Whether accused of being a pederast, podiatrist, periwinkle or pincushion, Mr. Randi's work stands on its own, and no amount of name-calling detracts one iota from its veracity.

Shame on you, Limbo.


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Old 22nd February 2009, 09:57 PM   #9
Ernie M
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Limbo, in my opinion, your OP and subsequent post are inappropriate. Some of the information quoted from the book has been distorted.

The George Hansen quote seems distorted. For example, in paragraph six:
The Trickster and the Paranormal > Chapter 11 - Conjurers and The Paranormal > James Randi

Quote:
The fights left their mark, and Carl Sagan's (sympathetic) introduction to Randi's book The Faith Healers (1987) described Randi as an angry man and labeled his book a "tirade."

I think Mr. Hansen distorted Carl Sagan's quote, and you are complicit by reproducing it here. If you consider yourself a skeptic, how come you donít check the accuracy of your sources?

Take a look for yourself.

Here is part of Carl Sagan's foreword which appeared in James Randi's, The Faith Healers:

Quote:
Few rise to this challenge as fearlessly as James Randi, accurately self-described as an angry man. Randi is angry not so much about the survival into our day of antediluvian mysticism and superstition, but about how this mysticism and superstition work to defraud, to humiliate, and sometimes even to kill.

And what was referred to as a ďtirade,Ē I believe was intended as respect and admiration. Carl Sagan continues later in his foreword:

Quote:
In this book, which can properly be described as a tirade, Randi turns his attention to faith-healers. He has done more than anyone else in recent times to expose pretensions and fraud in this lucrative business.

Mr. Hansenís negative comments about James Randi were made by cherry-picking words from Carl Saganís foreword, then twisting them to change their context.

Carl Sagan took his personal time to write a foreword for James Randi. That doesnít seem to be the act of an enemy.

Besides, if Carl Sagan didnít like Mr. Randi, how come he referenced two books of Mr. Randiís, The Faith Healers, and Flimflam!: The Truth About Unicorns, Parapsychology & Other Delusions, in Chapter 13 of his book The Demon-Haunted World? That seems to indicate sincere and caring recognition.

I agree with fellow Forumites who posted their thoughts about alleged pederast. Your "maybe's" and "suspicion" are way out of line.

You should consider posting an apology.
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Old 22nd February 2009, 10:16 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Limbo View Post
Sorry, my heart goes out to the guy if my suspicion is true. Maybe Randi was abused as a child. Maybe he buried the memories? Maybe that's why he is involved with the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is he not? After all, if his tragic memories are false, then the abuse didn't happen? Maybe it's a psychological defense mechanism on his part?

Who knows...maybe he came across a psychic or a medium one day...a real one who didn't let those painful memories of his stay buried in his unconscious. Maybe that hurt and infuriated young Randi, thus beginning his life-long crusade against the paranormal, and his involvement in false memory syndrome.
Maybe you're projecting onto the big bad skeptic numbero uno.

See, speculation can be useful, but baseless speculation with vague allegations isn't.

Also, I can't help but wonder about the use of the word 'pederast'. I had to look it up to make sure it mean what I thought it meant (thankfully my little Latin hasn't failed me, not Ricki Martian). Is it supposed to be more 'polite' than boy **********? Is it supposed to show off a wide ranging vocabulary? Is it used only because of how specific it is? See, this is useful speculation because while it still involves talking about the anal violation of a boy, it doesn't accuse anyone of it.
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Old 23rd February 2009, 10:27 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Limbo View Post
"All in all, Randi is more a Promethean figure than a Hermetic one."
High praise indeed!
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Old 23rd February 2009, 11:26 PM   #12
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I notice that Limbo hasn't been back for a couple of days. Fine with me. That sort of scurrulous (thank Bog for spellcheck) innuendo really pisses me off. I want to attack the poster, but the recent spate of mod actions has made me afeared to do so. :} So I will just state that the posts were feculant, pustulant, steaming piles of bat guano.

Last edited by Jeff Corey; 23rd February 2009 at 11:28 PM.
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Old 24th February 2009, 04:00 PM   #13
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Aside from the unsubstantiated pederasty accusations, this "attack" on Randi, like other would-be attacks on skeptics Limbo has quoted, isn't very damning. Yes, Randi gets angry at charlatans and con-artists. That's a good thing. And as I said in an earlier post, comparing him to Prometheus is not only a compliment but a very nice one. Prometheus is one of the most positive figures in Greek mythology. It's hard to think of a situation where calling someone "Promethean" would be construed as an insult.

Is praising with faint damnation the opposite of damning with faint praise?
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