Skeptic News: Randi responds, all is well.

James Randi giving a lectureFrom: Doubtful News

James Randi has left a comment on Doubtful News covering the uproar regarding comments he made to journalist Will Storr in an interview for his book “Heretics”.

We present a few exerts from this below as it is our policy to give equal standing to developments, retractions and explanations of the things we report in Skeptic News should they require clarification. We advise folks to read the whole comment over on doubtful news to avoid any further misinterpretation.

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.

Above Randi provides a fair and reasonable explanation for his previous statement. Human memory is entirely fallible and no one can be expected to remember the exact words they spoke to a journalist in an interview that occurred years ago.

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.

This would chime with the context of the term in the interview and it is gratifying to see that Randi doesn’t wish to stoke ill will against Storr preferring a mitigated mea culpa.

Survival of the fittest works very well. It’s what is responsible for the present success of our own species, despite what individuals try to do to make us fail. In our work with the JREF, my colleagues and I try to get individuals to think about what they’re doing by wasting their lives in acceptance of superstitious nonsense, because there are just no charities or government programs that provide that much-needed service. Folks, we care.

This paragraph seems to be at odds with an earnest and well held belief in Social Darwinism and in the following paragraph (which we shan’t post as it appears on doubtful news and to post too much would be a little rude) Randi reframes his belief as a matter of individual responsibility. An individual responsibility mitigated by social responsibility and admits that his “shoot from the hip” style of speaking may get him into trouble.

Randi ends by saying he hopes the JREF will not be adversely affected by those who would use these comments to decry the good work they do. A sentiment we concur with and applaud. To claim that the JREF followed a social Darwinist agenda would be laughable. Randi, as all good skeptics should, admits that he has made a mistake and that he has considered the criticism aimed at him and determined he was wrong.

One statement from Randis response provides us all with a lesson in how to be a skeptic and how to respond to criticism and how to react when we are wrong. He simply states:

Even at 84, I’m still learning. Please bear with me, folks.

A good skeptic should never stop learning, questioning or exploring even the issues that they make take for granted. If anything good has come out of this latest broohaha than it is a reminder of that lesson.

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