Did James Randi find someone with skills

James Randi, icon of skepticism, is dead

The Canadian James Randi, who became famous as the uncoverer of pseudosciences and an icon of skepticism, is dead. As the "New York Times" reports, Randi died on October 20th at the age of 92 in Florida.

Born in Toronto in 1928 as Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, Randi became interested in magic tricks as a child. As a stage magician and escape artist, he embarked on a professional career that his later work did not seem to suggest. And yet this was precisely where the nucleus of what would become his legacy lay. Because in the course of his stage career Randi learned all the tricks with which people are supposed to be fooled into something that does not stand up to close inspection.

From the magician ...

"The Amazing Randi", as his stage name is, began to differentiate itself more and more in the following decades from colleagues who marketed their feats as the product of supernatural powers. Randi targeted spiritualists as well as astrologers and faith healers. It caused a particular sensation when he exposed the stage magician Uri Geller or the television preacher Peter Popoff.

His million dollar challenge to prove paranormal abilities under objective conditions also became well known. Originally, in 1964, he had promised $ 1,000 out of pocket to anyone who could do this - in vain. In the course of time the offer got higher and higher, but no one was ever able to pick up the price. The challenge was continued until 2015 by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) founded by Randi in 1996. Finally, the Board of Trustees decided to use the money to support projects that encourage critical thinking.

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As a founding member of the CSI, the American Society for the Study of Parasciences, the former magician became a figurehead of rationalism. He had long been so well-versed in the critical questioning of allegations that at the end of the 1980s even the science magazine "Nature" asked him for help. A French research group believed that they had actually demonstrated a mechanism of action for homeopathy. When Randi and the scientists repeated the experiment, carefully excluding all possibilities of (self-) deception, the supposed effect promptly failed to materialize.

By the time he retired into private life, Randi published ten books, including "An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural." In his honor, an asteroid was named after him, and Randi has also received awards from the American Physical Society, the MacArthur Foundation and various humanistic and skeptical organizations. In 2016 James Randi received the Heinz Oberhummer Award in Austria. (red, October 23, 2020)