Entertainment brief: James Randi at the University of Calgary

By Nicole Dionne

James Randi is liar. One of the best, in fact. After all– it’s his profession.

“On stage I lie. I always do, yes. But I’m doing it for purposes of entertainment. I never tell people, and neither do most magicians, that I have real magical powers. We’re being honest with people,” said Randi during a Q and A session at Club Sapien before his lecture.

Originally from Toronto, “The Amazing Randi” is a conjurer and escape artist by trade. Randi has been a prolific member of the skeptical community. Throughout his career he has been a de-mystifier of what he calls “woo-woo”– exposing tricks used by charlatans and swindlers to convince people of their legitimacy. His repertoire of investigations and exposes include those involving faith-healer Peter Popoff, psychic surgeons and homeopathy. In 1996 he founded the James Randi Educational Foundation, which carries on his endeavours to promote critical thinking by reaching out to the public and media with reliable information about paranormal and supernatural ideas.

This past weekend, Randi came to the University of Calgary to give a lecture about being fooled.

“Now don’t think that you can’t be fooled,” Randi warned the audience, “I’ve already fooled you. See, this is not a microphone. My microphone is beneath my tie here. You noticed when I picked this up I tapped it on my chest. You thought I was testing this mic when really, I was testing the one under my tie.”

At 83 years old, Randi is a veteran of the skeptical movement. When asked why he continues doing what he’s doing, Randi responded, “There’s always somebody else being swindled and I want to try to stop that as much as possible.”

Randi made a point that the skeptical movement is not about actively disproving things or telling people they’re wrong, but rather applying critical thinking to claims made in all areas of life– from health, to the supernatural and technology.

“Don’t believe what I say, but think about what I said and find out whether you can believe it,” said Randi.

All of the proceeds from the sold-out event went to support Centre for Inquiry Canada.

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