In 1946, he began his public career as an illusionist and magician. He performed admirably in this role for many years and as time went on, he was no longer satisfied with simply astounding people, he wanted people to think. Think about what they were seeing and be critical of it instead of blindly being overwhelmed by awe. As Randi made moves to promote the skeptic movement he became the voice and beard of investigative and rational explorations into various paranormal claims. Hucksters and con-men ran to hide from the light shone on the industry by Randi and the infamous Uri Geller learned, like many others, that you do not fuck with the Amazing Randi. In case you don’t know, Uri Geller was a “psychic” working predominately in the 70's and early 80's who would bend spoons, stop watches and perform other typical slight of hand and illusionary acts. Geller was gaining quite a reputation internationally in a climate where people wanted to believe in the paranormal and the psychic powers of the mind. Randi came to show that every display of power Geller performed was just that, a performance. Randi was armed with a thorough knowledge of illusionary and stage magic tools and saw Geller for the charlatan he was…and oh man, did he ever make it a goal to crush Uri. If Randi’s late night talk show appearances and various demonstrations exposing Geller’s “skills” weren’t enough, he wrote “the Truth about Uri Geller” in the early 80’s. This exposé pretty much destroyed the career of Geller and while multiple lawsuits were filed against Randi by him, none really succeeded and Geller ended up having to pay those he brought suits against. Yes! The Amazing Randi strikes again! While he has written numerous books on the topic of scams and the paranormal, worth seeking out is “Flim-Flam”, published in 1982, which endeavours to promote skepticism and scientific method in the investigations into far flung claims.
The One Million Dollar Challenge remains a brilliant PR tactic by Randi to allow those that announce they have fantastic powers to prove as much (Influenced by the earlier Skeptic P.T. Barnum 's The Humbugs of the World Challenge) . This test simply asks that people who make incredible claims should be able to provide the proof under simple, clearly controlled, agreed upon parameters. This call out was initially started in 1964 at $1000 dollars (from Randi's own pocket) but has since been bulked up by donors, eventually reaching the now one million value. Many have tried but none have succeeded in claiming it…not even close. Once the “psychic” is put into a controlled environment, all the slights and trickery are exposed, each and every time. The JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) has been the overseers of the challenge since 1996, with the criteria to even get their attention being refined. Too many whacks, cranks and freak shows were wasting the foundations time and resources so now it is expected that if you want to take the challenge, you must go through some basic preliminary testing. None have made it past the preliminaries. Not a one.
We all want to believe in wondrous abilities and strange capabilities of the brain, but the fact of the matter is that the real powers of the human mind lie in its observational and deductive capacities. Bullshit claims and unprovable nonsense only distract us and numb us from our real strengths that should be encouraged. Strengths and assets like logical thinking and the utilization of criticality to gain invaluable insights into truths. James Randi has shaken the world of scam artists and cheats for the betterment of everyone and reminds people that believing in yourself and the certainty of provable facts can lift all of us from the murky, darkened depths of ignorance. Thanks again to the Amazing Randi for opening minds and slamming doors in the faces of those that would deceive and take advantage of the naiveté that so many of us hold.
Check out the James Randi Educational Foundation HERE.