James Randi — one of the founders of the modern skeptical movement, a leading rationalist, thinker, and fighter of antiscience — has made a big announcement: he’s gay.
A lot of us already knew this, although I don’t know how widespread the knowledge is. I imagine this will surprise some folks, but not others. Some may wonder why he waited this long… but he makes it clear why in both his announcement on Swift as well as in his interview with JREF President (and openly gay man) D.J. Grothe on his podcast For Good Reason. D.J.’s interview with Randi is excellent; they discuss how this molded Randi’s life, his thoughts on gay marriage, his frequent mentioning of Sophia Loren (which made me smile), and how this affects (or more accurately, does not affect) the JREF’s mission.
I found out about the announcement right before a friend came to pick me up, and I told him about it. We chatted about it for a moment, and then he asked me, "What difference will this make?"
That’s a darn good question. For me it makes no difference, and wouldn’t had I known or not before the announcement. At some level it’s always interesting to find out personal information about someone you know, or someone you respect — it’s not exactly gossip, just more info that leads to a feeling of knowing someone better. I know most people, certainly an overwhelming majority, will support Randi with this. Some won’t like it, and it may be that a lot of Randi’s detractors will delight in trying to use this against him. I look forward to watching them reap that whirlwind.
In the end, it’s a good thing for the LGBT community, because now yet another person of some stature will lend his own credibility to the movement. Just being open and comfortably gay without making a point of it will establish that this is just another of the many flavors humans come in.
So to answer my friend’s question, this won’t change Randi or the JREF. But there is still a lot of prejudice about homosexuality — and certainly a lot of that comes from "cultural conservatives" as D.J. called them — and the more we have this out in the open, the more people will be used to it. As that happens, that sense of "other" diminishes, and we learn to accept differences and diversity more easily and naturally. And that is a very good thing indeed.
I’m glad Randi has talked about this, and I’m proud of him.
With my friend D.J. Grothe taking the helm of the JREF, the question came up with what would happen with his old podcast, Point of Inquiry, that he did for the Center for Inquiry. The solution is interesting, and doubles your skeptical outlets: D. J. is doing a new podcast for the JREF, and PoI has been handed over to some new folks… with familiar names.
First, D. J. is now podcasting for the JREF on For Good Reason, an appropriately-named ‘cast where he interviews, as usual, leading lights in critical thinking. The premier episode was with Randi hisself, the second with Daniel Loxton (who wrote a kid’s book on evolution I really liked), and the latest is a talk with Richard Dawkins. It’s a good podcast, which is no surprise! You can subscribe to it via iTunes too.
Point of Inquiry is continuing on as well, with new hosts Robert Price and my friends Karen Stollznow and Chris Mooney (who blogs here at the Hive Overmind at The Intersection). The first installment is Chris interviewing Paul Offit on the evils of the antivax movement. I have that one cued up in my iPod and I’m looking forward to listening to it when my schedule allows. I actually don’t have a lot of time to listen to podcasts, but these two are definitely on my subscription list.
If you’re a skeptic, and especially if you’re not, you should give these shows a listen. They may make you laugh, or make you angry… but they’ll definitely make you think.