I have a confession to make. Before I started writing for Disinfo about a year and a half ago, I wasn’t really familiar with James Randi. I’d heard his name come up a few times on the internet in comments threads regarding fringe spirituality, but that was about it. Much like Carl Sagan’s utterly retarded book The Demon Haunted World (which I make fun of here), I wasn’t super familiar with his M.O., but the more I delved into this stuff, the more I realized I was always going to have to deal with superstitious idiots referencing his “work”. So finally, a couple of weeks ago I decided to spend a minor amount of time on the interwebs actually digging into who this loser is and how he convinced a bunch of seemingly at least semi-intelligent people to passionately raise their pitchforks at anyone insinuating the legitimacy of psi. After roughly an hour digging I’d had enough and more to the point, all I can say is, errrr, wow, really? This fucking guy? You’re joking right?
Sadly, no. James Randi isn’t the sad internet joke he should be. People take this halfwit seriously (and all the world’s problems come down to men taking shit way too seriously I might point out). Lord, they’re even having a dumbass conference held in his honor later this week. They might as well call it the Wrong Side of History Conference, and guess what? He’s even got a feature film about his big brave adventures in being a closed minded twat coming out. With those things in mind, now seems like as good a time as any for me to point out that if you bring up James Randi in any sort of argument regarding the reality of psi-phenomenon or the potentialities of altered states of consciousness…ever, you’re making yourself look like a total philistine. Here’s why:
James Randi Isn’t a Scientist, Hell, He Doesn’t Even Have a College Education
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a scientist either and I’m also by no means super proud of my educational background. I have a B.A. in psychology from a football school for God’s sake (go Buckeyes!), but that’d be the thing, I wanted to study basic aspects of human psychology such as altered states of consciousness in a higher educational setting. In attempting to do so I realized it was essentially impossible at the time due partially to the efforts of hardline materialist crusaders like Randi. He lectures at universities quite often apparently. So Randi isn’t a scientist, then what is his background then? Get this, he’s a stage magician. No, really. A fucking stage magician i.e. a practitioner of one of the most increasingly irrelevant forms of entertainment imaginable. I’m guessing stage magic currently ranks like maybe #508 in the top grossing fields of performance entertainment right behind, I don’t know, snowmobile jumping and agility competitions for dogs or something. I just looked at the entertainment section of both the local Seattle alt weeklies. Gajillions of music shows, stand up comedy events, literature readings, films, etc. Didn’t even find a single listing for stage magic. Not even on the depressing casino circuit. Can’t say I’ve ever voluntarily gone to see a magic show in my adult life. Not once.
And what is stage magic really? Creating illusions, which is sort of why it’s become so irrelevant. You see, back in the day a lot of people watching stage magic did so under the impression that its practitioners were in possession of legitimate mystical powers. Now we know it’s smoke and mirrors. I mention this because it cuts to the heart of the problem with Randi. Part of the reason we know it’s all smoke and mirrors has to do with the efforts of people like Harry Houdini pointing that out to the public quite exhaustively. For a long time, when this sort of endeavor was far more profitable, there was a horde of acts in the field pulling the wool over the public’s eyes and claiming to have legit supernatural abilities. That’s how they made their cash. We all sort of forget this long history, because these acts don’t really exist anymore. I’ve not once in my life watched a stage magician who claimed he was doing anything outside the bounds of conventionally accepted science. But that’s where the history of Randi’s shtick is rooted, in magicians rivalry really, and that’d be the funny thing, it’s not even his own shtick. Randi just said, oh hey, Harry Houdini is so cool for exposing other magicians as frauds and being a staunch disbeliever in psi-anything. I want to do the EXACT SAME THING.
The problem is again, that I don’t see any stage magicians claiming supernatural abilities in this day and age, so why on earth would I be listening to a stage magician’s opinions on matters of science? Goes right in tune with why on earth would I be listening to an evolutionary biologist’s opinions on spirituality? More to the point, doesn’t this guy’s entire skill set and business acumen involve calculatedly creating illusions? Think about that for a minute and let it sink in. Under that guise, let’s review his famous million dollar challenge. This ruse is supposedly a triumph of rationality and science over superstition, but the fact that it’s done by a freaking illusionist should make it beyond suspect to anyone with even a thread of critical thinking skills. All of the “experiments” have to be done by his methods and using his equipment. That’s apparently a part of the challenge as I found out. No, it’s really that stupid and here’s where it gets spectacularly irrational. Three teams of scientists have studied psi-phenomenon at various institutions and concluded that there’s something there. We’ve got a team of scientists at the Sony Corporation, PEAR research labs at Princeton, and the remote viewing studies done by the US Military. Same conclusions. There’s something going on that doesn’t fit into our current paradigm of irresponsible consumerism. Another way of putting that would be, we know psi-phenomenon is real, but we don’t understand it much at all because we can’t find the profit margin which would pay for more research. Goes against everything we believe in.
And then you have Randi who doesn’t acknowledge the existence of any of these studies from what I can tell (hasn’t even looked at the data), but uses the calculated sleight of hand of his million dollar challenge to create the illusion that all this stuff has been proven to be nonsense scientifically. It’s a pretty convincing illusion, created by a professional illusionist (not a scientist mind you) with a stated bias against psi and a blatant monetary motive for inventing and perpetuating such a trick. People still bring it up to this day, just like they bring up how Doug and Dave created all the crop circles in the UK even though that turned out to be 100% crap. We want to believe in happy little lies so badly that creating these illusions is incredibly profitable (unlike psi), but from a truly scientific perspective, what’s more rational? Listening to the teams of scientists who studied conjoined mind telepathy, reading the data carefully, and talking about the implications of their research? Or instead continually citing the results of a magic trick perpetuated by a professional stage magician because you want to believe in the illusion the trick creates so desperately?
I shouldn’t have to tell you, but I will say this. Randi and his cronies’ illusion casting has now extended to the internet where they spend their time feverishly finding loopholes and editing Wikipedia pages to eliminate traces of the legitimate psi-research that has quite amazingly been conducted thus far, despite the insane cultural bias. Again, if they didn’t have anything to hide, then why are they spending a ton of time and energy hiding shit? Answer: because they’re sad little dorks who want the internet to reflect the great illusion they’ve devoted their entire lives to. The idea that people are just meat robots and that all forms of altered states of consciousness are meaningless. That humans are the center of the universe and that there is no greater intelligence beyond sober waking reality. Which brings me to my next point.
The Skeptical Community are By and Large a Ginormous Bunch of Pussies
The tagline to this retardo conference actually includes the phrase:
“spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief.”
And yet when I looked, there didn’t seem to be a single talk about how religion is a bunch of bullshit or corresponding discussion on how to bring it down (or at least transform it into something positive). This is an area where I have to give Richard Dawkins an enormous amount of credit. Now, don’t get me wrong, as someone who was told recently that I’m a spirit medium in an incredibly odd astral contact encounter (which I wrote about on Facebook, friend me), it’s not like I think all professional psychics are on the level. Quite the opposite. My experience calculatedly throwing myself into states of supernormal high madness has given me the distinct impression that most of the people claiming to be psychic or spirit mediums are at least partial frauds. Seriously, Jon Edward is a complete hack. I watched maybe 3 minutes of that Long Island Medium chick on some talk show one day and was instantly calling bullshit before flipping the channel. The second they go into that cold reading routine, it should be a pretty good indication that they’re at least mostly full of shite. My honest take is that a lot of these people have legitimate psi-abilities, but lie about them and exaggerate their accuracy to turn a buck. I suppose some thanks are in order to James Randi and his ilk for pointing that out, but the real question would be why?
Seriously, how much harm do these people do in the grand scheme of things? Pretty much nil in comparison to the massive wave of hyper-violence and sexual repression wrought by organized religion daily. If you were paying attention, in America alone, organized religion was recently used as a pretext to double the size of the military industrial complex (please don’t forget George W Bush got into office by pandering to evangelicals in an unprecedented manner). Lord, religion was just used as a justification to deny contraception to women, by the Supreme fucking Court. Now, did the Supreme Court decide that people who believe in UFO’s can set back women’s rights? Nope. How many wars have been started in the name of aliens exactly? Psychics? How about the Occult?
None is the only answer to those questions, which is precisely my point. If you were a true skeptic with a concern for vulnerable people being manipulated by charlatans, then you’d spend all your time pointing out how little evidence there is for a historical Jesus and how most of the stories in the Bible are derived from pre-existing shamanic sun God wisdom. Maybe you’d do experiments proving that we can’t raise the dead, turn water into wine, or walk on water. Maybe you’d mention that Jesus never touches abortion or homosexuality in the Bible and that those have become huge political issues for some bizarre reason. You’d probably also spend a great deal of your energy pointing out how many times the Bible has been translated throughout history, how iffy a process translating texts is, and how those translations were often done for purely political reasons. You’d take on all the world’s popular faiths in a similar manner and you’d expend most of your efforts spreading this message in any way you could.
But that’s not what these supposed “skeptics” do. They take on little fish who aren’t actually a threat to anyone. Why? Because they’re pussies, pure and simple. Maybe pussies is a bit harsh and/or sexist. Conformists would be a better word. They’re taking on fringe ideas that very few people take seriously and attacking people with very little cultural influence or power because it’s easy and people cheer for them when they do. Let’s kick sand on some nerds faces because it’ll make the jocks and cheerleaders like us. We so desperately want to be accepted by the jocks and cheerleaders. Cowardice and conformity pure and simple.
And speaking of conformity and cowardice, in my brief internet research on Randi I stumbled upon something odd. The guy’s been gay his entire adult life but just came out recently, apparently partially due to the brilliant biopic Milk. This means that the dude was gay and alive during the height of the Harvey Milk’s gay rights activism, but was too afraid to admit to such publically. But 30 years later, when they made a Hollywood film about it, he finally felt comfortable admitting this to society. How courageous. How many psychic and/or alien cults have been suppressing homosexuality throughout the ages? On another note, rather than writing a book denouncing religion, Carl Sagan took on John Mack’s work with alien contactees instead. What a big brave choice for him as a scientist.
Skeptics Ain’t Got Nothin’ on Shamanism
Shamanism can be defined in a billion different ways and ventures into all kinds of freaky esoteric enclaves, but at its core involves the idea that humans can intentionally induce profound spiritual experiences through the ritualistic use of hallucinogenic compounds. Skeptics cannot and will not address whether or not this claim is valid, despite the fact that it runs contrary to everything they believe. Are you going to say that taking DMT doesn’t make people trip balls? Yeah, but it does. There’s really no argument there. You know how many studies have been done on it? One. That’s right, freaking one, and the results seemingly confirmed what shamans have been telling us throughout history. Then there was the John Hopkins Christian mushroom study. How’d that turn out? Well, it seems like mushrooms do in fact induce spiritual experiences in those who ingest them, thusly verifying the long standing shamanic claim.
I suppose if you’re a skeptic, your take on this is that our minds (if you must insist it’s our minds) do all this crazy exotic shit for exactly no reason. Hmmm, yeah, that’s rational. Oh wait, no, it’s psychotically superstitious. In fact, it seems utterly insane that our brains would do all these weird things like lucid dreaming and going out of body, and that all of these weird things have exactly no meaning. Why have we let this incredibly illogical belief persist for so long? Well, it’s culturally sanctioned, that’s why. We’re so utterly terrified by the potentiality of psychedelics that we went and made them illegal. This illegality has made it essentially impossible to study them in an academic setting, although that’s loosened slightly in the last 5 years or so. Where’s the logic there? Seems like some supremely superstitious bullshit to me, particularly in a culture where big business is cramming narcotics and speed down our throats with an increasingly wreckless devil may care abandon. Much like psi-phenomenon, we don’t know how to fit these things into a consumerist box, whereas getting people hooked on Adderall is obviously crazy profitable.
What do skeptics say when you ask them why science should be government’s bitch? Why should the government be able to tell scientists what they can and cannot study? That’s where we’ve been with even weed for the most part…for the last 40 years or so. To say it’s set us back would be a bit of an understatement and this is the superstitious lens through which the common skeptic sees the world.
With that in mind, I devised my own challenge for any supposed true skeptic (maybe in time I’ll be rich enough to offer up a massive cash reward for this sort of thing). I’ve said for years that whether or not psi stuff is physically “real” or not is completely fucking irrelevant. What’s important is that behavior is a physical thing, and that those who experience powerful transpersonal states will often also experience a corresponding change in attitude or behavior, which are decidedly measurable. Maybe it’s my background in psychology that lead me to think about science in this manner as it’s how we study most other psychoactive medications in the mental health world. So here’s the challenge:
1. Take a lie detector test confirming that you are in fact a hard line skeptical atheist
2. Smoke DMT
3. Experiment with Robert Monroe’s techniques for astral projection
4. Try an acid based sex magick ritual designed per my specifications (this must be performed precisely per my specifications for it to count)
5. Pass a lie detector test confirming that you’re still a hard line skeptical atheist.
I truly doubt that anyone would make much past step 2 and be able to get through step 5, but anyway, I digress. That’s about enough of my energy on James Randi and his idiot minions. Since the guy’s roughly a hundred, I’ll end this with a special message from Nathan Explosion.
That’s right fucker, YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, and soon I might point out. Have fun confronting the fact that your life was devoted to superstitious flim flam. It’ll all seem insanely hilarious from your elevated perspective I’m sure, but on a final note, did I taunt Randi and his conference more or less effectively than Deepak Chopra?
Let me know in the comments sections and on the Facebooks. Occultist out.