Saint of Skepticism James Randi is profiled in the current issue of the SF Weekly. The reporter attended Randi's annual Las Vegas conference, the Amazing Meeting, which sounds like a cult revival for unwavering disbelievers and anti-Forteans. From the SF Weekly:
Randi has debunked more than 100 psychics and faith healers in a quest to rid the world of hucksters. It also makes him the subject of scorn among purveyors of the paranormal, true believers who say Randi has made himself rich, pulling in nearly $200,000 a year from his foundation, at the expense of others' careers.
His foundation has been hemorrhaging money, and Randi, who has spent his career challenging the notion of an afterlife, now faces his own mortality. He has intestinal cancer and may not have long to live. He has been a commanding presence for four decades, but it's unclear who could fill his role as the face of the skeptic community...
The James Randi Foundation put together its first skeptics' conference in 2003. That first year in Fort Lauderdale, the event drew just 150 attendees. In the years since, it has grown to become the largest gathering of critical thinkers, doubters, heretics, and nonbelievers in the world. More than 1,100 conferees paid about $300 each for admission this year. They come to hear some of the most famous voices in critical thinking – Adam Savage, San Francisco–based cohost of the Discovery Channel's MythBusters; Bill Prady, cocreator of CBS' The Big Bang Theory – and to discuss Randi's favorite topic, skeptical inquiry, a discipline devoted to debunking psychics, faith healers, con artists, and ghost whisperers through the holy miracle of old-fashioned science.
The Amazing Meeting attendees are mostly white males with glasses, facial hair, and a healthy appreciation of physics and Monty Python. They come from as far away as Australia and Japan. There are college students, bloggers, and rambunctious computer scientists. In the halls of the conference, they banter about the psychological phenomenon known as "the ideomotor effect," the pseudoscience behind the instant sommelier (a contraption that can supposedly age wine to perfection in 30 minutes), and – a favorite conversation topic – getting wasted at the hotel bar.
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