A few weeks back I posted about some controversial comments made by James ‘The Amazing’ Randi to author Will Storr which had Social Darwinist overtones. Over the weekend Randi has responded, initially by explicitly disputing the account as presented by Storr in his book The Heretics:
The statement “I’m a believer in social Darwinism,” did not come from me. In fact, I had to look up the expression to learn what was being referred to. This attack appears to be calling me a Nazi, nothing less. I demand that Mr. Storr refer me to the original sources to which we assume he has referred. Until then, I’ll only say that he has carefully selected phrases and statements out of context, not the sort of referencing that I would have expected from him.
However, not long after this statement from Randi, skeptic Hayley Stevens posted that she had heard the actual taped audio from the interview, and that Randi appeared to be wrong. She may also have put Randi or the JREF in direct communication with Will Storr, because earlier today Randi posted a reply in the comments thread to the story on Doubtful News:
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 I’m 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 – and thus my cognition – were not at their best. The unfair suggestion that Mr. Storr tried to provoke me, or that he’s a “bad guy,” 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. I’ve 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.
The entire post is a wee bit long to reproduce here in its entirety, so please head to Doubtful News read the entire thing. Personally, although I’m glad to see that Randi addressed the controversy, and came at it as a mea culpa (admittedly, belatedly), I have to say that I’m not overly impressed with it overall as a response: it seems to be a bit of a not-pology, contains some (to me) staggering hypocrisy, and has a number of the ‘sleight-of-hand‘ tricks that I know Randi is skilful at weaving into his posts. But I’m also rather weary of this whole saga, and I imagine most others are too, so I’ll just post my personal thoughts in the comments below for readers that are interested in the topic.