Crowdfunded doc on the Amazing Randi seeks funding

Justin sez,

In 2010, Boing Boing wrote about about James "The Amazing" Randi coming out of the closet as a gay man. Coming from the famed exposer-of-deception, many found his honesty inspirational. Then, in September of 2011, his live-in partner of 25 years, Jose Alvarez - the man who famously adopted the persona of "Carlos" for their "Carlos Hoax" - was arrested for identity fraud. Carlos, er, Jose, is actually named Deyvi Pena.

Luckily, documentary filmmakers Justin Weinstein (writer, editor of Being Elmo) and Tyler Measom (director, Sons of Perdition) were filming with them for their new doc, An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story. In addition to getting the inside scoop on the Deyvi story, the doc features such greats as Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller, Tim Minchin, Bill Nye, Neal DeGrasse Tyson, Adam Savage, Alice Cooper, and more.

You can help them get the film made by supporting it via Kickstarter (and get some great memorabilia).

An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story (Thanks, Justin!)


  1. Magicians don’t “come out of the closet.” They “Emerge from the Chamber of Mystery!” (To thunderous applause.)

  2. Uh, the man is a textbook perfect pseudo-skeptic with a dishonest agenda. Why are you doing anything to promote him?

      1. Absolutely. A skeptic who has no intention whatsoever to accept information contrary to his faith is as pseudo as they get. Read up, inform yourself. What he’s doing has nothing to do with legitimate scientific examination.

          1. Hmm. I skimmed through that, even though the the scare-strike-thrued ‘amateur’ makes me want to discount the author entirely. 


            Maybe this is because I once worked in particle physics, but a result that you could get by chance with probability 5/1000 really isn’t enough for proving something as extraordinary as psi. You’d want something at least as rigorous as proving the existence of a new particle. I think the going rate for that is 5 sigma, i.e. less than one out of three point five million probability that the observed results happened by chance. If anything, you’d want a higher standard for proving psi than for proving a particle … after all, we were expecting the particle, but finding psi would basically invalidate everything we know about science, so it had better be convincing. In other words, I don’t think Randi’s standard is unreasonable at all. However, I agree it would be very difficult to design a short test that could obtain that type of data. And yes, knowing you are going to be made fun of is a legitimate, if unscientific, reason not to want appear with Randi. I haven’t seen one of his shows, so maybe he does go all Michael-Moore-y with the facts and the editing, so I can’t respond to that. But I’m not convinced by the scientific argument here.

          2. Good one here, as well:


            From the article:

            “The January 2000 issue of Dog World magazine included an article on a possible sixth sense in dogs, which discussed some of my research. In this article Randi was quoted as saying that in relation to canine ESP, “We at the JREF [James Randi Educational Foundation] have tested these claims. They fail.” No details were given of these tests.

            I emailed James Randi to ask for details of this JREF research. He did not reply. He ignored a second request for information too.

            I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place “years ago” and were “informal”. They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: “I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so.”

            Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: “Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by.” This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape.”

            Paragon of honesty, that one!

        1. As a counter-example here’s a video of Randi’s out of body experience where he talks about how he subjectively believed in the experience and how he used rationality to exmine his belief of what he experienced.

    1. Interestingly enough, the guy who coined that term was Marcello Truzzi.  Interesting because he founded the skeptical journal “Explorations” and was one of the co-founders of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) – which was/is the premier skeptical organization.  Well, they ended up kicking him out because he didn’t march perfectly down the party line.  He found those at CSICOP to be demonstrating increasingly unscientific behavior, stating:

      “They tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion. Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them. […] When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts. Then, if the experiment is reputable, they say it’s a mere anomaly.”

      He also was the originator of the phrase “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”, which Carl Sagan is usually credited for (though “proof” is swapped out for “evidence”).  He also saw that the sword cut both ways:

      “In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new “fact”. Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of “conventional science” as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis—saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact—he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof.”

      He ended up promoting the term “zeteticism” as an alternative to “skepticism,” because he thought the later term had been usurped and zeteticism (“I seek; I examine; I strive for”) pointed to a more honest form of inquiry.

      1. The key to science is repeatability and reproducibility. There’s nothing wrong with labelling something an anomaly is it fails these tests.

    1. These are the only two posts Ted Eng has ever made, and they’re both links to sites that other posters links to above. Hmm.

      That “Daily Grail”… just look at the homepage. Crank-tastic!

      And the other link, Mr Steve Volk… is the writer of the Daily Grail article. Oh, and the author of a credulous book about the paranormal.

      So all these links show is that one crank has a vendetta against Mr Randi. There’s a surprise.

  3. I am so confused here. How can one be skeptical about skeptics?  Isn’t the very definition of a skeptic “one who doesn’t automatically believe something, and says, “prove it””?  (See how I closed all my quotes there). :D 

    I don’t know much about dog ESP or anything like that.  But yeah, there are mysteries in the world –  doesn’t mean you can automatically assign them to magic, or god, or ufos or any of that stuff.

  4. Ah, so James Randi is human after all. Capable of making mistakes and being blinded by love.
    Does that automaticly invalidate everything he stands for? Or mean that Boing Boing should not post about an interesting documentary? That seems a bitt harsh.

  5. Anyone who wants to read about the difference between scientific scepticism and SCICOP and the materialist orthodoxy needs to read some Robert Anton Wilson, specifically The New Inquisition.

  6. This thread is a swamp. Can anyone else tell who is saying what? Loads of innuendo though. That is always a sign of truth telling, no?

    1. As far as I can tell, someone (in this case, BB) mentioned Randi, and as if on cue the cranksquad (in this case, Michael D, drokhole and Ted Eng) came crawling out of the woodwork to denounce him, As instructed by their crystal-wielding spirit animals from Alpha Centauri, presumably.

      1. As instructed by their crystal-wielding spirit animals from Alpha Centauri, presumably.

        It’s the Pleiades. Don’t be so ignorant.

Comments are closed.