Doubtful News has posted a statement they received from James Randi in response to comments he made on a JREF swift blog and in an interview with journalist Will Storr for his book Heretics.
The reported statement from Randi is as follows:
“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 Hayley Stevens took the time to contact Storr and he played her the interview with Randi over the phone. Her blog on this can be found here.
“when this was published I got in touch with Will to let him know what had been said and that’s when our phone call took place. I listened to the interview being played to me over the phone and I heard James Randi talk about how he believed that those addicted to substances should be allowed to “do themselves in“. He then said ‘I’m a believer in, if you call that Social Darwinism, I would have to generally agree”. There’s a pause and then Storr points out that many would consider such a belief to be a right wing view of other people. The conversation continues.”
Now it would take someone remarkably uncharitable to believe Hayley has any agenda to push against Randi and that her account is anything other than the truth. But no doubt some will take this view. We do not.
We note that Randi has demanded that Storr refer him to the original source of the quotes that he substantiate the claims Randi made and denying he made them.
Hayley notes that Randi could simply have forgotten what he said in the interview or that in the heat of the moment may have said thing he doesn’t mean. But this does not explain the remarkably similar views authored from Randi appearing on the JREFs own swift blog.
What Randi needs to do now is contact Storr listen to the interview and we suspect retract his statements. It may be tempting by many to paint Storr as the bad guy, and it remains possible that he conducted the interview in such a way so as to provoke such an utterance. But that would not excuse denying the utterance is made.
He shouldn’t feel the need to apologise for his political views, no matter how unpalatable they are to many, but the onus is on Randi to listen to the interview and if appropriate retract his denial.
It’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to hold unpalatable views. It is not ok to pretend you don’t.