Posted by: Craig Woolheater on June 21st, 2014
I read yesterday that there is movie coming out that will no doubt be something many here would like to see. The title is An Honest Liar. The film takes a look at the life and secrets of James Randi the king of debunking. The reviewer of the film, whose article I read, interestingly called Randi a pseudo-skeptic which is something I have never seen anybody do.
It is a fit and apt title because the kind of skepticicm Randi has engendered is not skepticism at all. Anything that has overtones of emotionalism rather than barenaked facts does not qualify as skepticism. Randi and his followers don’t own the word “skepticism”, the English language does and it is by that we define Randi who is an unabashed debunker. Randi has spawned a host of followers over the years and I know a number of them personally. Some are great people, others not so much. The film shows some of the secrets that he has been harbouring for years, and I don’t mean his sexual orientation. He has been up front about that and that is not an issue anyway.
My own opinion is that what Randi and his followers have done is not skepticism, but rather debunking. Skepticism is healthy, debunking is agenda based and reeks of emotionalism.
We get a lot of flak from debunkers, but when you use facts to refute their debunking, they fall silent. I recently reviewed a book written by skeptics on the subject of cryptozoology which had a lot of good science in it, but was poor in terms of the arguments it presented against the viability of cryptids. The worst part was a lack of knowledge by the authors about the subject matter, because in this field we constantly update our files, discarding data that no longer works or fits. Skeptics don’t kee p up with developments but revert back to old stuff we’ve long left behind. Also their own hypotheses were flawed beyond belief and the amount of strawman building was unbelievable.
I am going to see An Honest Liar and recommend that you do too. It will give you an insight in these “Paragons of Critical Thinking” who seem to really have another agenda than science – their own.
The review I refereed to. Very incisive indeed. Yes, I read left of centre newspapers and watch MSNBC. i certainly don’t watch Fox News.
To call James Randi divisive would be something of an understatement. As far as his adherents are concerned, the retired stage magician known as the Amazing Randi is a symbol of rationalism in a world beset by fools, charlatans, and magical thinking. To his critics, he’s a cantankerous bully and a pseudo-skeptic whose tactics have become an affront to true scientific inquiry. Even though the documentary An Honest Liar hews strongly to the first position, it deserves to be seen by both sides. As the title implies, while James Randi was very publicly debunking—with a true showman’s flair—such figures as fraudulent faith healer Peter Popoff, he was also concealing a few heavy truths about his own life. And for the first time in a long career, the legendarily arrogant 85-year-old conjurer appears vulnerable.
Watch the trailer for An Honest Liar.
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.