James Randi in the hospital

By Phil Plait | February 6, 2006 3:54 pm

I just learned that James Randi is in the hospital. He suffered a heart attack late last week, and had to have bypass surgery. His condition is serious but stable– doctors expect him to recover. He’s being sedated right now to aid in his recovery (he’s such a cranky guy that this is certainly for the best).

Randi is a major force in skeptic circles, and is the reason behind The Amaz!ng Meetings (which I blogged about last week here, here, here, and here), and plan to write more about soon). He is also my friend, and so I’ll stay on top of this as much as I can. For more information, go to his website where they will have updates. This is also being discussed on his bulletin board.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Debunking, Science, Skepticism

Comments (53)

  1. KingNor

    Glad to hear he’s in stable condition. Always scary when something like this happens :-

  2. Julian

    Hope he gets better soon. I hope he sets up some sort of “authentication code” like Houdini did. I’m sure that some charlatan will claim to be communicating with him pretty soon after his death. (I know he’s stable and I’m not trying to br ghoulish but this kind of thing reminds me of mortality.)

  3. christian burnham

    Randi continues to be our brightest candle in this demon haunted world. The ‘amazing one’.

  4. Tara Mobley

    James Randi is a great skeptic, and some year I intend to make it to The Amaz!ng Meeting. As worrisome as a heart attack and bypass surgery are, I’m sure he’s getting the best care available. That, and his being stable, make his chances of full recovery very good.

    Here’s to hoping he recovers soon!

  5. Michelle Rochon

    At least he’s in a stable condition. But hey, I’m sure he’s gonna recover!

    Afterall, Mr Randi’s a strong guy. Why wouldn’t he?

  6. I bet that harridan Sylvia Browne wishes she’d predicted this so she could crow about it now. Get well, Randi.

  7. Adria

    Actually, Sylvia Browne told Randi 4 years ago that he’d have trouble with his heart – but she said the left ventricle, and this was the right, not to mention the double bypass. I’m sure that was the first thing he thought when he felt the heart attack coming on – ‘oh please, don’t let it be the left ventricle – don’t give her the satisfaction!’ :)

  8. skeptigirl

    Time to reflect on the miracles of science.

    Hopefully Mr Randi’s initial heart problem didn’t leave a damaged muscle. Get to the right hospital and get there in time and many blocked arteries can be opened with anticoagulants. Then, unless Mr Randi is a victim of the rare but still too many medical mistakes, or iatrogenic or nosocomial diseases, he’ll do just fine. The state of the science of surgical correction of the blood supply to the heart is just excellent. You’re out of the hospital in less than a week.

    I’ve had the privilege of watching the surgery. I’ve watched a heart beating in an open chest. Absolutely incredible.

    Ms Brown will undoubtedly claim false credit for predicting Mr Randi would get one of the most common diseases he would have been at risk for. Can we all say, “big deal”?

    But that’s also a reminder folks, to take advantage of our science. Had your cholesterol screening lately? The cholesterol lowering drugs may just benefit everyone at some point in their life. Squeezing at least a short walk daily into that busy schedule of yours? I got a dog to force me to take those walks. Not ignoring that little chest pain, I hope. Denial is a well studied phenomenon.

    Yep, the miracle of science is providing excellent results every minute of the day. :D

  9. CousinoMacul

    If only my chiropractic accupuncturist could have given him magnetic therapy …

    But in all seriousness, I’m glad to hear he’s stable and I’m hoping he fights on in order to keep up the good fight.

  10. I’ll be trying to help with my psychic powers, if any. It’ll be easy, though, since I’ll be having a LOT of help from doctors and nurses with sexy, wrinkly brains. Kind of like how Uri Geller’s powers get a LOT of help from the muscles in his hands.

  11. Pro Libertate

    Best wishes to Mr. Randi.

  12. Kaptain K

    How long unti the Woo-Woos claim that his “heart attack” was an attempt by TPTB to silence someone who “knows too much”?

  13. I wish James Randi all the best, he is indeed a candle in the dark.

  14. John Miller

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery to James Randi. A rare beacon of sense and determination.

  15. Blake Stacey

    I too wish Mr. Randi a happy and speedy recovery. He’s one of the many people who have greatly impressed me from afar — and a clear example that the candle which burns twice as bright doesn’t have to burn half as long.

  16. L Ron Hubbub

    It’s interesting to see all the Best Wishes and messages of hope for James Randi – not to mention the I’m sure he’s gonna recover. Don’t they imply an element of faith? Such sentiments are sure to bother Randi, the relentlessly strident atheist.

  17. HawaiiArmenian

    Skeptigirl, the Cholesterol lowering drugs that you speak so fondly of, are not singularly the key to a healthy heart and lesser risk of cardiovascular disease. The two most important factors are exercise and a healthy general lifestyle (through diet, and reducing preventable risk factors, such as smoking).

    Medicine can and will always help, but let’s not forget that humans didn’t evolve as creatures to live a sedentary lifestyle, eating junk food, among other processed items (like enriched wheat flour, table sugar, etc.). I know it’s not practical to live a hunter/gatherer type of lifestyle, but trying to increase physical activity, and reverting to a diet that’s physically adventageous for us is the least we can do to prevent such cardioavascular risks.

    For those who’s risks of cardiovascular disease are predicated greatly on genetics (such as hyperlipidemia, extremely high cholesterol, often with links on a few key genes), then the additional supplementation of medicine will further reduce the possible risks.

  18. L Ron Hubbub, please don’t split words. If I thought it would help I would offer him my prayers, but I don’t and neither does James Randi.

  19. L Ron Hubbub

    Thomas Siefert, I just expect people to practice what they preach – especially people who pounce on any sign of religious belief like Mr. Randi does.

  20. Dean

    L Ron, you’re mixing up ‘faith’ with ‘trust’. There has been ample evidence that people who have heart attacks and go to proper medical facilities recover. He has a much better chance at recovery there than he would say, at some faith healer in Brazil…

  21. L Ron Hubbub

    Granted, Dean, on closer reading Michelle Rochon‘s surety is trust-based rather than faith-based. But I stand by the best wishes thing. It implies a wish granting agency – very “woo-woo”.

  22. skeptigirl

    L Ron, you are also mixing up expressions of care with expressions of faith.

    HawaiiArmenian, you need to read more recent research on the benefits of lowering one’s cholesterol beyond what exercise and diet can accomplish.

    And, much more importantly, there is no question about the benefits of exercise and proper diet, but the reality is they are extremely difficult to accomplish. After counseling and educating people and researching various ways to motivate and educate them fails to change their behavior, the intelligent thing to do is assess the situation and look for new solutions. It is not intelligent to just keep on telling them to change.

    There is no reason not to take advantage of a “pill” just because one holds an arbitrary belief that “pills” should not be one’s first choice. They should never be a first choice if there is a better option or if they do not provide sufficient benefit to justify risk or cost. But when they do provide a benefit over risk balance, then there is no inherent reason to chose an option with a poorer outcome merely because one thinks “pill” are unnatural (or whatever else you have issue with about them).

  23. CousinoMacul

    L Ron, trust me that I’m faithless when I hope the best for Randi. And neither have I found God, as I now bid you adieu.

  24. monolithfoo

    @L. Ron,

    Huh?

    The definition of a wish that I have is ‘A desire, longing, or strong inclination for a specific thing.’ at dictionary.com.

    Hope is ‘To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.’

    That expectation could be wholly based on his reported good state of health (comparatively, out of several worse possible outcomes) and the knowledge of modern medicine.

    I fail to see where anything supernatural has to come into it at all.

    Those straws are out of your reach.

  25. Blake Stacey

    I second the remarks of CousinoMacul and monolithfoo. My expression of goodwill does not make me a theist, any more than using the word “sunset” makes me a believer in a geocentric universe.

  26. vbloke

    Get well soon Randi. It was great talking to him at TAM – despite his outward crotchety demeanor, he’s a really funny and warm chap. We need more like him!

  27. aiabx

    Our expressions of goodwill are intended to create positive feelings in James Randi and aid in his recovery, and also as expressions of support and appreciation for all the good work he has done so far. No mysticism, no magic.
    Get well soon, Amazing Randi.

  28. Michelle Rochon

    # L Ron Hubbub Says:
    February 7th, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Granted, Dean, on closer reading Michelle Rochon’s surety is trust-based rather than faith-based. But I stand by the best wishes thing. It implies a wish granting agency – very “woo-woo”.
    ——————————————–

    A-buh? What did I do? I’m not religious for one little bit, I can assure you that. I just say that Mr. Randi is a tough guy and he surely can get through this.

    You misread me a whole lot here. I send him my best wishes, not my prayers.

  29. SFwriter

    Well, I, for one, am an atheist — swear to God!

    Get well soon, Randi…

  30. SFwriter

    Sorry, I lied about being an atheist. I’m really a born-again secular humanist. :-)

  31. Kevin from NYC

    OT and posted below but I wanted you to see this.

    WAIT WAIT!

    IT GETS WORSE!

    http://scientificactivist.blogspot.com/2006/02/breaking-news-george-deutsch-did-not.html

    yikes! gee think we coulda guessed that?

  32. fyreflye

    Best wishes to The Amazing One, with sincere hope for a full recovery. He does need to lose some weight, though.

  33. HawaiiArmenian

    I have ready plenty of research on the benefits of diet, exercise, as well as cholesterol lowering pills such as lipitor. The long term effect of which, are still not completely well understood. Just as in the cases of Vioxx and Celebrex, touted for years as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, that don’t cause excessive GI problems, yet eliminate the depenency based on opiates, Statins — among other cholesterol lowering drugs can still be detrimental over the long term. Recent studies show long term hepatic changes associated with Lipitor. After many years of usage, liver function tests show abnormal levels, and in fact, the liver itself can become become enlarged and fatty (steatosis). This is why drugs are no substitute for diet and exercise, and should not be the first option given to those with high cholesterol. Furthermore, outside the United States, physicians are more inclined to prescribe lifestyle changes first, and cholesterol lowering drugs second. Thanks to pharmaceutical companies freely bedding with the medical industry (without much government accountability), and advertising much more freely then in other countries of the world, diagnostic and treatment techniques are altered. As a molecular biologist, I’ve frequently dealt with faulty and inconclusive research associated with new pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, the epidemiological studies on the long-term effects of certain drugs are often flawed, with bias inserted before the research has even started. Again, thanks to pharmaceutical companies, with little accountability, attempting to attain certain conclusions and results about their new miracle drugs (having already inserted an inherent bias in the modality of the testing methods).

  34. HawaiiArmenian

    Almost forgot to wish James Randi a quick and complication-free recovery. We need the likes of him now, more then ever before. BA, you’re spearheading the movement in the right direction, but a few more generals, like James Randi, in this battle for scientific freedom couldn’t hurt.

  35. Woo

    Well, I don’t care if some find it woo-woo. Mr. Randi, I wish you a speedy recovery. I enjoyed TAM4, and I’ll be bringing more people to TAM5. I’ll see you there.

    (Wishes DO exist, to some extent. It’s the effectiveness that is dubious)

    May His noodly appendage touch you.

  36. skeptigirl

    HawaiiArmenian, you may exercise and eat right to your ‘heart’s’ content as I said. But in the real world, most people can’t. You can argue with me and blame them for their lack of will power despite the overwhelming research that the vast majority of overweight people who try to diet fail, suggesting maybe they are not all weak willed inferior humans. Rather, it appears it is very difficult to eat less and very easy to eat more.

    In the real world, in this case, the statins are turning out to be very useful in the population that can’t quite meet those healthy living standards you seem to think merely educating people about will result in them adopting. And, for many people who do eat right, the statins can overcome their genetic limits for cholesterol levels.

    Permit me to also comment on your partially correct, but painted with too broad a brush, comments about pharmaceutical products. Not all drugs are evil. Not all drug companies are evil, though the corporate system in capitalist societies does work against the long term benefit of humans a bit too often.

    Yes, all drugs have risks. So does driving my car but there is a benefit to weigh that risk against. Yes, it is best to avoid newer drugs when there are older alternatives. New drugs are tested on a few thousand people. If a side effect occurs in 1 per 100,000 people, it will not show up until the drug is on the market. The drug companies don’t even have to be evil for that to happen.

    And, that corporate system encourages drug companies to develop new drugs for problems which older drugs already exist to treat. Taking market share of an existing market is safer than developing a drug for a new market. So we get a lot of R&D money wasted developing very similar products which are not always significant improvements. Thus, stick to the older drugs and, “Let Mikey try [the new ones]” as the commercial cliche’ says, is a good idea.

    But as to the concern that there might be a risk with a new drug for which there is no older version, verses a disease process we know is a risk, that requires a bit more analysis than to just brush it off with the mantra, “don’t take drugs because some drug companies have been bad boys in the past”, (not so distant past at that).

    That’s why I have a license to prescribe drugs. My job is to help my patients decide whether they want to take the drug, ignore the disease risk, or if they are of the rare breed you think everyone should be, [sarcasm]sigh, if only they would just try[/sarcasm], they could eat the perfect diet, exercise, and live the perfect life, or maybe die trying.

    So, we have a disease process we know contributes to the leading killer of women, (in the US at least), and one of the leading killers of men**, we have a drug that lowers that risk with rapid measurable results, we have an unknown factor of potential long term risks that have not shown up in a decade or more of use of the drugs, we have the ability to monitor for side effects and manage them or discontinue the drug, and finally, we have patients who aren’t going to change their lifestyle and eating habits whether they want to or not.

    That risk benefit analysis leans heavily toward recommending the statins. I take one myself. I don’t hold any drug company stock unless the Vanguard Fund I have has any, I haven’t checked. I grew up suspicious of corporations and I read a voracious amount about everything concerning my practice and more. I believe whole’heart’edly in evidence based medicine to the point of practically preaching it to colleagues and consumers.

    I’m glad you are able to exercise and eat a proper diet. If your total cholesterol is under 200 and your ratios are good, then the potential for unknown future risk of statins may not be the right choice for you. But for everyone to whom diet and exercise are elusive: heart disease -clearly bad– statins- pretty darn promising.

    **Interesting side note: when long term studies looked at lowering heart disease fatalities in men, they made up the difference by killing themselves and each other so no net gain in longevity was seen. I believe that was in the Framingham Heart Study if anyone is interested.

    I have another philosophy which, as long as I’m preaching to take care of yourself now so you don’t need that bypass later, I’ll describe. There’s a lot of prevention that could be done but in spite of what we know, a lot of preventable disease and accidents still occur.

    You cannot avoid all risk. But at least avoid the risk that is easy to avoid. Working smoke alarms and seat belts come to mind as the easiest risks to avoid that often aren’t avoided. Hand washing is probably the next easiest thing that doesn’t happen. With Bird Flu now occurring in a broader geographic area and with at least some genetic changes showing up that increase the virus’ affinity for human lung tissue, hand washing habits really need improvement now.

    It is hard to do all those wonderful things in the Healthy People Handbook that we are admonished to do. But there are so many little things that have the potential for incredible improvement in our health statistics. Just look around and see what hazards you are at risk for that would be gone with a very small effort. That’s where to start.

    Oh, and wash your hands after you finish using the keyboard while you’re at it. ;)

  37. Evolving Squid

    There is research that is starting to lead to the conclusion that, in fact, we’re too clean – especially as children, leading us to be weaker adults that are more susceptible to disease.

    That would suggest that sometimes you need to not avoid risk.

  38. MarkS

    My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting James Randi some years ago at a Usenix conference and it certainly was one instance of not being disappointed in meeting your hero. He was gracious and charming in the extreme. I remember him commenting that the people he loves were dropping off at an alarming rate: Asimov, Feynman, Sagan… . He said that he kept telling Martin Gardner to take good care of himself. Sounds like Randi’s doing well and here’s hoping he follows his own advice. I want him around a lot longer.

  39. Coming from the Faith community I too wish to see Mr Randi recover.

    Believe it or not, if you excuse this rampant bit of partizanship, but Christianity in some senses does encourage scepticism. In Berea, although they listened to the Apostle Paul, they checked what he was saying against the scriptures and for this they were comended. In the Johnine letters, we are told to test the spirits.

    Randi is a star because he does do the checking out, especially of those making psychic claims. This helps reduce those who go after a false spirituality.

    I realise we do not see eye to eye, but that does not stop me from seeing the good work he has done

    Get Well Soon Randi

  40. Leon

    I’d like to join the ranks of those wishing James Randi a speedy and full recovery.

    Hey, maybe he could celebrate by performing open-heart psychic surgery at his next performance! ;-)

  41. fyreflye

    “Recent studies show long term hepatic changes associated with Lipitor. After many years of usage, liver function tests show abnormal levels, and in fact, the liver itself can become become enlarged and fatty (steatosis).”

    I’ve been taking Zocor for the past five years and my cholesterol count has gone down from 240 to 167. I had been running a high cholesterol count for years despite the fact that I exercised regularly and rarely ate animal products. But my problem wasn’t a result of excess cholesterol in my food but of my body’s tendency to produce it in excess. Damaged liver function is certainly a concern, but my health plan (Kaiser Permanente) deals with it with a blood test every three months for the cholesterol count plus an SGOT test for liver inflamation. This seems like such an obvious thing to do that you have to wonder why so many other doctors and health plans don’t.

  42. HawaiiArmenian

    I wasn’t speaking in absolulte terms that all pharmaceutical companies are evil. They just have more political power and sway in the United States then they do in other parts of the world. And as I said, the use of Statins and other products should not be eliminated, but far too many doctors prescribe them without a moment’s notice. For example, perhaps the recommendation of diet and exercise will only benefit 10% of patients, yet those very same 10% who would be able to naturally lower their cholesterol levels still continue to medicate on statins.
    You are totally correct about the risk/benefit analysis, but it’s difficult to be unskeptical when you wonder if lower the total cholesterol cut-off from 250 to 200 as they’ve done in the last decade was meant to sell more statins, then it was to treat cardiovascular disease. I can think of myraid examples of overprescription that result in far more problems then they’re meant to solve. The current drug resistance built up by bacteria is but one example. A patient comes in, complains of cold-like symptoms, next thing you know, the physician provides free samples of whatever type of antibiotic as they see fit. Chances are, the patient has a virus, and the only thing an antibiotic will do is allow the chance for greater resistance, and maybe some peace of mind. One of the many reasons I remain highly skeptical of the pharmaceutical industry. I’m not a christian scientist though, and I do believe that medicine, when taken appropriately, can help improve the quality of life. After all, we’re both scientifically minded, so we’re not having this discussion based some irrational fear, just maybe more skepticism on my part.

  43. skeptigirl

    fyreflye, you make my point exactly. BTW, consuming cholesterol is not the problem. It is indeed diet and genetics and one’s own production of the substance. We haven’t done the best job of educating the public on that fact.

    HA, your clarification is helpful. Those who have successfully dieted to lose weight is actually less than 5% but your point is correct.

    As to the establishment of the target cholesterol level, that is not something statin manufacturers had much to do with. Keep in mind there are many sources of research dollars not connected to drug companies. The American Heart Association is a non-profit group supported in a large part by private donations. They fund a lot of research. Universities, while they may have problems when their research dollars are withdrawn after corporate pressure on government funding, still carry on an enormous amount of independent research. And, the US certainly has no monopoly on research. Corporations might have international ties but they don’t necessarily have control of all international research. I trust the new cholesterol target guidelines.

    As for the problem of over prescribing antibiotics and antiviral drugs, that would require pages of comments to address all the issues there. Free samples and drug companies pushing new antibiotic choices is one small part that is probably the easiest to address. There is a CDC campaign to educate doctors about over prescribing anti-infectives and to conserve newly developed drugs for resistant organisms. It’s an uphill battle.

    Your skeptcism is justified. I call it buyer beware. The more you know about the medicine you need, the more likely you are to get the best care.

  44. Irishman

    One new problem to contend with is the direct advertising of medications to the “consumers” via print, television, radio. It’s brand marketing on health concerns. Suddenly we all know the names Lipitor, Crestor, Cialis, etc. Even when the ads aren’t specific about what the drug is for, just “Ask your doctor if XXX is right for you.” For what?

    On the one hand it can get people’s attention about medical problems they might not realize they have and get them to talk to their doctor. On the other hand, you get people coming in and requesting (demanding!) a specific medication by name. What if the doctor looks at their condition and determines that they don’t really need it, or that it isn’t really the best medication for them? One hopes that doctors are able to counsel their patients and the patients listen. But if I’ve heard of Crestor, I might prefer it over Lipitor (or vice versa) simply because the commercials are more memorable (and in Dr. Seuss) rather than any real better performance, and sometimes even in the face of poorer performance. (Can’t I try Crestor instead?)

  45. SFwriter

    MarkS: Isaac Asimov, a friend of mine, died from complications of AIDS. It was acquired due to poor practices during his quadruple bypass heart surgery.

    skeptigirl & HawaiiArmenian (et al): Yes, antibiotics are over-prescribed and doctors are LAX at !insisting! that people take the ENTIRE prescription even if they feel better; and yes, occasional hand-washing is a good idea… However, the incidence of allergies to peanuts (et al) is mind-boggling in the last 10 years. In the 1950-1970s it was practically UNHEARD OF. Much as I hate cats, did you know that by the simple expedient of being exposed to them as a child (pets in the house), incidents of allergies and asthma developing are reduced by 75% over a lifetime? Antibacterial soap should be illegal except in doctor’s offices and Hospitals! Our health has become FAR too “delicate” lately, and I think it is drug over-use that is at the root of it.

    Incidentally, I, and others of my acquaintance, have EASILY shed excess weight with the Atkin’s plan. Myself, 35 pounds in 6½ weeks (barely in ketosis, never in acidosis); my friend, 50 pounds in the same period). Losing weight is SIMPLE if you’re not hidebound about anitquated nutrition “rules”.

    Now, I have to ask you both: What has this to do with the subject: Wishing James Randi good health? ;-) :-) )

  46. Gary Ansorge

    I must admit to having this thing called “faith”.

    For example, I have faith that the earth will continue to follow the Laws of Gravitaion and will remain in orbit around the sun,,,

    I have faith that reason is a better arbiter of reality than blind acceptance of some old shepards observations.

    I have faith that evolution will continue to create new models of humanity, some of which will be fun to play with.

    ,,,and I have faith that James Randi is, like me, to damn tough to give up and die. Chaos will just have to drop an asteroid on us to take us out,,,
    ,,,oh, wait, chaos HAS NO PLAN,,,because it’s not intelligent.

    Keep on trucking James, your chips aren’t cashed in just yet,,,

    Gary 7

  47. Irishman

    Gary, faith is “belief without evidence”. I think there is pretty good evidence that the Laws of Gravitation will remain in effect. I think experience demonstrates that reason works better than blind acceptance (think of a used-car salesman). I think the evidence for Evolution suggests that humanity will continue to change – perhaps through intentional means, but also through unintentional ones.

    You are probably correct that it is faith that allows you to think that the new models of humanity will be fun to play with. But experience dictates that some models of humanity are currently fun to play with, and it isn’t a stretch to think that will remain so for some time.

    But you probably are relying on faith to think that Randi is “too damn tough to give up and die”. I wouldn’t expect him to just give up, but dying will eventually happen to us all, it’s only a matter of time and circumstances.

  48. Mike Birbeck

    As a UK fan of Mr Randi’s catankerous scepticism (he would of course immediately edit the word with the mid Atlantic K), I am sorry to hear he has fallen foul of the laws of thermodynamics.

    As for prayer (for Mr Randi or anybody else for that matter) I am apt to fall back on Pascal’s Wager…

    “God is, or He is not. But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up…Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.”

    Whatever the case I am apt to try and hedge my bet and therefore will say a sceptical prayer for Mr Rand :-) May he get well soon.

    Mike Birbeck
    Ongar
    England

  49. Gary Ansorge

    Irishman: Good points, one and all. One small addendum, about “giving up”.
    I’ve seen death in both small critters(dogs,cats,etc) and large(human).
    At least in the human, death can be defered by an act of will, to some extant. People often will not die until some desired person is present or some other emotionally significant event has transpired, such as an aniversary, birthday of a child, etc. Lifeboat survivor tales recount how some “give up” and die and others hang on ’til rescue, regardless of how unpleasant that effort may be. Of course this does not apply(I think) with a totally unexpected death, such as the proverbial piano falling from an airplane,,,so I expect that tough old goats such as Randi and I will hang on despite the most logical choice being to ” relax, and go with the flow, dude”,,,into the dark unknown.

    I knew Tim Leary, saw him at the northern Calif. Hog Farm commune in ’94 when he was supposed to have a mere 6 weeks to live,,,I guess he was having too much fun, despite his having prostate cancer he lived another 18 months.

    Another anecdotal story of survival.

    Peace to you, Randi,,,

    Gary 7

  50. Irishman

    Gary Ansorge Said:
    >At least in the human, death can be defered by an act of will, to some extant. People often will not die until some desired person is present or some other emotionally significant event has transpired, such as an aniversary, birthday of a child, etc. Lifeboat survivor tales recount how some “give up” and die and others hang on ’til rescue, regardless of how unpleasant that effort may be. Of course this does not apply(I think) with a totally unexpected death, such as the proverbial piano falling from an airplane,,,so I expect that tough old goats such as Randi and I will hang on despite the most logical choice being to ” relax, and go with the flow, dude”,,,into the dark unknown.

    You are correct, sometimes death can be postponed by an act of will, and sometimes the will to live is gone and the person dies from what could have been survived. In the lifeboat situation, the survivor is typically able to be returned to health once rescued. With deaths due to aging that are temporarily postponed, there is no ability to return to health, so eventually they give in, but the delay happens because of some near-term goal of significance, such as reaching 100th birthday, or making in through the family gathering for the holidays.

    What is the applicability to Randi? I think he can pull through this heart attack. Treatment exists that can help him back to the health he had prior to the event. But the long-term situation is that everyone dies, it’s only a matter of time. We’re all terminal, some of us just have longer prognoses than others. ;-)

    I wish him well, and hope he’s around for a lot longer.

  51. Randi’s illness raises an issue that has bothered me for a long time.

    The “skeptical community” or whatever you want to call it seems to be as totally locked into a Cult of Personality as Stalinist Russia ever was. The dismal SKEPTICAL INQUIRER is still heartily pimping poor old Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov many, many years after their deaths… see the July/August 2005 issue of SI for example, which appears to have Sagan’s disinterred corpse on the cover.

    To come to the immediate point, what happens to the James Randi Educational Foundation when Randi dies (as he almost just did)?

    Aren’t there any people younger than 65 (or 75 or 85) who could be considered leaders of the fight against fraud, pseudoscience and con-games? If not, the battle is lost. [Don't look at me,
    I'm 66 myself.]

  52. Irishman

    A person’s words, especially recorded in print or video/film, do not expire when said person does. It is perfectly valid to speak of influential people and their ideas even though they are no longer with us.

    I’m not certain for the future of the JREF. I think Randi has made provisions for the staff to continue, though it certainly seems questionable now how that could happen without the “Old Man” at the helm. But I think Randi’s probably put some thought into that matter himself, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone pick up the mantel – Shermer and Penn come to mind as candidates with popular recognition.

    Which also speaks to the identity of younger people. Other aging names that come to mind – Paul Kurtz, Phil Klass (deceased), Joe Nickell. Some relatively younger folks include Micheal Shermer, Penn Jillette (and his non-vocal Teller), but also Phil Plait, Massimo Pigliucci, and Massimo Polidoro. You are correct that a lot of the visible community of skeptical leaders are aging – it is a phenomenon not solely faced by the skeptical community. I think part of the problem is that the younger generation (of which I am a member) don’t know how to get involved in a meaningful way, or feel over-committed to the daily grind of jobs, relationships, families, etc. I also think that part of the problem is that in order for someone to make a name for herself, she must establish credentials and work her way up from the bottom to gain experience. Thus by the time someone is ready to enter the public arena at a national level, they have also achieved some age with that experience. I know of a few younger people who have taken an interest, but have not yet broken into the “big stage” yet.

    I think there is an opportunity for active and well-known skeptics to begin mentoring younger folks who are interested but don’t know where to begin. It may already be occurring and just not be visible to us from the outside.

  53. They fund a lot of research. Universities, while they may have problems when their research dollars are withdrawn after corporate pressure on government funding, still carry on an enormous amount of independent research. And, the US certainly has no monopoly on research. Corporations might have international ties but they don’t necessarily have control of all international research.

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