The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

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The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Sun Jul 29, 2007 6:28 pm

In this edition of the Reasoning Show we explore the nature of the skeptical mind, walk the high wire of doubt and examine the difference between illusion and delusion. In his own inimitable style, Randi discusses self-delusion, credulity, the nature of science, the importance of doubt and evidence and more! Arch nemesis to the self-styled psychic guru, Uri Geller, Randi is as sharp of mind and pointed in his criticism as ever. Get your copy of this show now, before it disappears!

The Skeptical Mind
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:14 am

That was a very good show and a good choice as guest too!

It seems that the hosts get more skilled each time in tuning into the views of the guest and stick with a certain array of topics, which makes everything appear more smoothly and agreeable. Or perhaps the main topic this time made it easier, or it's just the 'beard' factor...

Luckily I still have some criticism though:

Randi didn't seem to get the question about love and romance, or the irrationality around it. By changing to the rational aspects of marriage (the contract) and children this merely deflects the topic. Marriage never needed the current concept of love and romance for many ages, it's a recent development of last centuries and has become way bigger as mass phenomenon in the last century, just like big entertainment and multimedia.

Since this issue is quite important when we want to understand the core problem with the popularity of the supernatural claims and the hostility against scientific thought, I wonder if Randi was not let too easily of the hook. It seems a bit too much like a sacrifice to keep a sense of agreement in place perhaps, or just simplifying the conversation?

Another criticism would be how the topic of certainty was handled. Agreeing on the fact that absolute truths are definitional by its very nature leaves a lot of wiggle room. The law of identity or non-contradiction are not only valid because we define them into existence, like 1+1. Something like 1+1, or 4+4 is a contextual truth (4 golf balls arranged carefully together with 4 planets constitutes 8 spherical items). A sum like 4+4 is only short-hand for the reality it has to reflect, with all of its choices and parameters. An absolute or universal truth is still different from this because it's not short-hand for some application or limited generalization; it goes under all possible circumstances, past and future ones included.

I do understand however that the show is not meant as vehicle to get out Solway's philosophy but I notice a change from earlier shows where the viewpoints of the hosts themselves were often way more clearly profiled and debated. Is this intentional?
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:54 am

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:Luckily I still have some criticism though:


Was there ever any doubt! :)

Randi didn't seem to get the question about love and romance, or the irrationality around it.


That didn't surprise me. Kevin could perhaps have been a little more detailed in his question as it is a paradigm that is rather "out there" for most people. I don't imagine the connection between skepticism and such matters would be immediately apparent to most people, the main reason being their expedient valuing and application of rationality.

By changing to the rational aspects of marriage (the contract) and children this merely deflects the topic. Marriage never needed the current concept of love and romance for many ages, it's a recent development of last centuries and has become way bigger as mass phenomenon in the last century, just like big entertainment and multimedia.


Yes, marriage as we know it is an artifcat of post industrial revolution western society.

Since this issue is quite important when we want to understand the core problem with the popularity of the supernatural claims and the hostility against scientific thought, I wonder if Randi was not let too easily of the hook. It seems a bit too much like a sacrifice to keep a sense of agreement in place perhaps, or just simplifying the conversation?


Well, Kevin tried twice on the issue and I didn't buy into it too much as I could sense that Randi didn't and wasn't really going to - "get it". He did admit, of course, that it was somewhat beyond his usual intellectual sphere of attention. Given he's single at present he may give the issue some further thought.

Another criticism would be how the topic of certainty was handled. Agreeing on the fact that absolute truths are definitional by its very nature leaves a lot of wiggle room. The law of identity or non-contradiction are not only valid because we define them into existence, like 1+1. Something like 1+1, or 4+4 is a contextual truth (4 golf balls arranged carefully together with 4 planets constitutes 8 spherical items). A sum like 4+4 is only short-hand for the reality it has to reflect, with all of its choices and parameters. An absolute or universal truth is still different from this because it's not short-hand for some application or limited generalization; it goes under all possible circumstances, past and future ones included.


I wasn't totally happy with that part either. I did think there was an air of its importance being somewhat trivialised or not properly acknowledged, which is why I inserted the point I made about its significance, but from memory Randi jumped in and cut into my momentum on it. It's hard to backtrack once that's happened.

I do understand however that the show is not meant as vehicle to get out Solway's philosophy but I notice a change from earlier shows where the viewpoints of the hosts themselves were often way more clearly profiled and debated. Is this intentional?


I can only speak for myself here: Randi was a guest I really didn't want to necessarily antagonise or challenge too stridently for a number of reasons - he's not a philosopher or a scientist per se and I knew that in terms of the matter of the skeptical mind we wouldn't have too many points of difference that he would be able to comfortably engage. Basically we got what we could from him. You always think of stuff in hindsight but I'm over that kind of regretful thinking. Some of what he said in the early stages of the discussion actually circumvented a number of my intended questions.

I hope I'm as motivated and mentally sharp when I'm 80.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Kevin Solway » Mon Jul 30, 2007 12:16 pm

I thought Randi was very evasive when it came to the topic of the irrationality of love and romance. He's obviously not skeptical about these things at all. I brought the conversation back to the subject of love and romance, but he made it clear that he didn't want to talk about it. I thought that was illustrative enough that even Randi has blind faith in some things.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:03 pm

I couldn't tell if was he being evasive or just didn't get the concept. I seriously doubt the idea of skeptically analysing such a thing has ever occured to him before, or, indeed, has ever been put to him before. Obviously he's not alone in that, however.

I mean, what has love and marriage got to do with beliefs that may be false? :)
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby David Quinn » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:17 pm

He even gloated over the way he fantasizes about Sophie Loren.

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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby David Quinn » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:19 pm

One thing that puzzled me was his idea that he liked to think about 4+4 instead of 1+1. He implied that it was somehow a superior or more challenging thing to think about, for reasons that escape me.

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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:35 pm

I think it may be for similar reasons to what Victor raised in his podcast - you can toss 2 + 2 objects together and not end up with 4 objects. Or something like that; can't say I was paying a hell of a lot attention when Victor was making his point.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Ataraxia » Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:34 pm

The reasoning show is certainly managing to get a good array of quality guest.Have always been a fan of Randi's work,the world could do with more of his ilk.Personally he was very much 'preaching to the choir'.I share whoever it was disgust at the Edwards the connectionsdude.

i did like his sposition that religion is suibtable for a class of people not given to thinking too hard.Hard to disagree.

HIs Las Vegas analogy was excellent in regards of suspension of belief.Having a statistical background myself ,peoples understanding of probability is in general attrocious.Bell curve 'outliers' is a very good example.

I understand where QSR is coming from in regard to relationships, but his take on marriage seemed reasonable.Marriage may start out all romantic but 'romance' is a natural phenomina to extend the species even though emotionally driven. Over the long term marriage amounts to a mutually beneficial(hopefully) 'contract' once the 7 year itch kicks in(or what ever one wants to call it).If one recognises 'romance' for what it is -a burst of emotions(temporary false thoughts if you like) and sees marriage as a contract, can it not be rational?

Is it too much to hope for that the reasoning show may get an high profile atheist like Dawkins ,Harris or Hitchins in the future?
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:56 pm

I've yet to approach Hitchens - I frankly don't like him much. Dawkins has not replied and Harris is not currently available. We are in the markert for an atheist guest, however. Problem is some of those who might provide a suitable person have their own competing podcasts.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:39 pm

I was quite impressed with Randi's statements about science in the early stages of the show. That expressed a degree of cognizance and courage for me.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby keenobserver » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:27 pm

understand where QSR is coming from in regard to relationships, but his take on marriage seemed reasonable.Marriage may start out all romantic but 'romance' is a natural phenomina to extend the species even though emotionally driven. Over the long term marriage amounts to a mutually beneficial(hopefully) 'contract' once the 7 year itch kicks in(or what ever one wants to call it).If one recognises 'romance' for what it is -a burst of emotions(temporary false thoughts if you like) and sees marriage as a contract, can it not be rational?

Totally unnecessary, romance, marriage too, "to extend the species", all it did/does is give the woman more of a say of what she'll give birth to.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:36 pm

Ataraxia wrote:...'romance' is a natural phenomina to extend the species even though emotionally driven.


Not sure how 'natural' it is since it only showed up somewhere during the Middle Ages in our cultures (Tristan and Isolde), slowly getting more 'mainstream' throughout the last ages. The really ancient 'love' stories mostly revolve around conquest, status and beauty ('perceived value').
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:45 pm

Dan Rowden wrote:I was quite impressed with Randi's statements about science in the early stages of the show. That expressed a degree of cognizance and courage for me.


Yet at the same time it seems to be also pure caution that makes people stress these things. While science might not be meant to provide any real certainty or religious type of worldview, it seems for many to provide one anyway. It's visible in the actions - like what I'd call technocracy, the tendency to see technology, efficiency or optimized methodologies as a solution for every problem instead of higher quality existential thought or philosophy.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:54 pm

Yes, it's intellectual quality ceases where an examination of Physicalism begins. This is outside of James Randi's sphere of engagement, but, it shouldn't be, and that's the real issue for me.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Elizabeth Isabelle » Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:17 am

David Quinn wrote:One thing that puzzled me was his idea that he liked to think about 4+4 instead of 1+1. He implied that it was somehow a superior or more challenging thing to think about, for reasons that escape me.


I thought he was joking.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Nick Treklis » Tue Jul 31, 2007 5:42 am

I thought the most ridiculous thing he said was claiming that he was getting closer to the Truth, even though he admitted he doesn't know what the Truth is. It's impossible to tell if your getting closer to something if you don't know what that something is. It's more or less an accident when one comes face to face with the Truth, kind of like walking around in the dark and suddenly running into a brick wall. If anything he had better hope he's getting closer to the Truth at his age.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Ataraxia » Tue Jul 31, 2007 10:25 am

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:Not sure how 'natural' it is since it only showed up somewhere during the Middle Ages in our cultures (Tristan and Isolde), slowly getting more 'mainstream' throughout the last ages. The really ancient 'love' stories mostly revolve around conquest, status and beauty ('perceived value').

I take your point,but men and women have fallen in love for millenia.Just because Mills and Boon weren't writing about it didn't mean it didn't occur.

Oedepus unwittingly falls in love with his mother as an example.

The philosopher can deny the pull of hormones and pheremones all they like, but they have ever been thus.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:01 am

Nick Treklis wrote:I thought the most ridiculous thing he said was claiming that he was getting closer to the Truth, even though he admitted he doesn't know what the Truth is. It's impossible to tell if your getting closer to something if you don't know what that something is. It's more or less an accident when one comes face to face with the Truth, kind of like walking around in the dark and suddenly running into a brick wall. If anything he had better hope he's getting closer to the Truth at his age.


This point of view is mistaken for two reasons: the one you mention and also that empiricism cannot provide us with truth or absolute knowledge - as Randi himself said. So, I'm not sure what the nature of this "truth" is that he sees us as working towards. It doesn't seem to make any sense to suggest you are getting incrementally closer to something that can't exist.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:34 am

Ataraxia wrote:I take your point,but men and women have fallen in love for millenia.Just because Mills and Boon weren't writing about it didn't mean it didn't occur.


Hmm, I'd love to hear some good examples.

Oedepus unwittingly falls in love with his mother as an example.


I think in the classics he only marries her. And that's not the issue. Neither is just any desire.

The philosopher can deny the pull of hormones and pheremones all they like, but they have ever been thus.


On the contrary, the philosopher knows them inside out. This sets him apart from the people who only dabble with the tip of that iceberg thinking all the while they have lived and loved in any significant way.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Ataraxia » Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:39 pm

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
Ataraxia wrote:I take your point,but men and women have fallen in love for millenia.Just because Mills and Boon weren't writing about it didn't mean it didn't occur.


Hmm, I'd love to hear some good examples.
Do you mean examples in pre-middle ages literature?If so, in greek mythology there is Eros -the god of love,would be one that quickly comes to mind.

ataraxia:The philosopher can deny the pull of hormones and pheremones all they like, but they have ever been thus.

Deibert:On the contrary, the philosopher knows them inside out. This sets him apart from the people who only dabble with the tip of that iceberg thinking all the while they have lived and loved in any significant way.
Not really sure what your saying.Can you elaborate?
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:37 am

Ataraxia wrote:in greek mythology there is Eros -the god of love,would be one that quickly comes to mind.


It seems to me that Eros was a god representing masculine desire, his passion that made relationships possible. No matter if that desire was for possessing beauty, wealth or having healthy children.

It's interesting you bring up the ancient gods as example, wouldn't this link romance with religion? Wouldn't it make the case that the origin of romance and love lies in its religious meaning? This should be food for thought, when we see religion as a (misinterpreted) symbolic description of the workings of our own consciousness, our own 'fallen' existence.

The Greeks had their gods on Olympus, we have our own myths, like romance. But like in every age, it takes courage so see them for what they are and how deep it runs into a society and daily life - even outside relationships between people.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Ataraxia » Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:31 am

It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation isn't it,Deibert.

Did Greek man include a god of love/passion because he felt these emotions and thought it was important enough to have its own god?

Or did man create a god of love within his religion to initiate the concept?As Nietzsche would have it, early signs of mans move to a slave morality.

It also has Apollonian/Dionysian connotations.

You seem to believe it's the later.You could be right.
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Carico » Sat Aug 25, 2007 3:04 pm

Dan Rowden wrote:In this edition of the Reasoning Show we explore the nature of the skeptical mind, walk the high wire of doubt and examine the difference between illusion and delusion. In his own inimitable style, Randi discusses self-delusion, credulity, the nature of science, the importance of doubt and evidence and more! Arch nemesis to the self-styled psychic guru, Uri Geller, Randi is as sharp of mind and pointed in his criticism as ever. Get your copy of this show now, before it disappears!

The Skeptical Mind


So why should anyone listen to someone who doubts what the truth is? He's already admitted he has no clue what's true or false. So sorry, but if he himself doesn't know what the truth is, then he certainly can't convince anyone else!
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Re: The Skeptical Mind - James Randi

Postby Dan Rowden » Sat Aug 25, 2007 3:43 pm

Randi's trade is exposing bullshit. He doesn't have to know what the Truth is to do that. Does one need to know the Truth to show how faith healers deceive?
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