Apostate Skepticism

Skeptic James 'The Amazing' Randi seems to be a little upset that other 'skeptics' aren't conforming to his particular doctrine, with more words directed at high profile atheist Sam Harris in Randi's latest newsletter. Back in September last year - when Randi was in a first-name relationship with 'Sam' - he decried Harris's "romance with woo-woo" , due to comments in his book The End of Faith (Amazon US and UK) which were generally supportive of Dean Radin's parapsychology research, and the reincarnation investigations of Ian Stevenson. In his latest remarks, Randi takes Harris to task with some dismissive remarks about Rupert Sheldrake and Dean Radin:

It’s very evident that Mr. Harris has not carefully examined either Radin’s book, or anything written by Sheldrake. If he had subjected that material to the same proper scrutiny which he applied to religion and the “God” question he so well handled, I’m sure he’d have come to the same conclusions that I have – that there’s nothing in them, that there’s no “reality” to psychic phenomena, nor to reincarnation, other than the conviction of some incautious or seriously deluded individuals who can attract publishers who know the naivety of the book market.

It certainly would be a welcome change to see Randi deconstruct Dean Radin's evidence, rather than engage in ad hominem. Meanwhile, Sam Harris has previously responded to criticism of his stance on his website, where he has said:

While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out.

Seems that Harris has been declared an apostate by the high priests of the CSICOPian faith - we can't have scientists investigating things now can we? Radin has previously commented on the Harris-parapsychology controversy on his blog, I wonder whether he'll judge it a worthwhile investment of time to address Randi's comments.

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anthonynorth's picture
Member since:
13 April 2007
Last activity:
6 years 18 weeks

How many sceptics does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. They prefer to remain in the dark.
(With the odd exception, of course)

...

Reality, like time, is relative to the observer.

Anthony North

pacificwhim's picture
Member since:
21 June 2007
Last activity:
1 year 29 weeks

I've corresponded with Dr. Radin about Randi and he regards him like we do: as a tiresome crank more interested in personal attacks and protecting his "empire" than in actual inquiry. I wouldn't expect to see much on Radin's blog about Randi. But it would be fun if he did rip him a new one.

As you state so nicely, most pseudoskeptics (pardon my crude American spelling) have such a visceral hatred of anything "woo-woo" that they would rather suppress inquiry into anything with which they don't agree.

Um, you gents with "scientific" in your acronym? That attitude is utterly ANTITHETICAL to science.

pacificwhim's picture
Member since:
21 June 2007
Last activity:
1 year 29 weeks

Let's not anoint Harris the poster boy for the open-minded atheist just yet. In reading his blog, this is the continuation of the quote posted above, showing a lot of a priori bias:

However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists.

Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
2 hours 58 min
pacificwhim wrote:

Let's not anoint Harris the poster boy for the open-minded atheist just yet.

No, certainly not. I found that passage rather amusing...on the one hand he suggests Radin could be on to something - if so, one of the great scientific paradigm changes. Yet he doesn't think it 'worthy of time'. Much better to rip into tired fundamentalist religion, than look into paradigm-changing research...

What I found interesting is that Randi is so bothered by any deviation from his norm that he would drop Harris 'in it' without the slightest hesitation.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things

pacificwhim's picture
Member since:
21 June 2007
Last activity:
1 year 29 weeks

Greg, Harris' comment says to me that above all else, he's lazy. It's easy to take potshots at religion because there's not a lot of research required. Just look at the Bible and say, "What a crock of garbage." But to look into the mountain of rigorous psi research alone would require contacting researchers, reading journal papers and so on. It could take HOURS! Obviously Sam has other things to do. But you have to love the guy for yanking Randi's chain as much as he has.

Peace,

Tim