James Randi is retiring, and he’s irreplaceable. Apparently the JREF board agrees, and isn’t even going to try — they’ve announced a change in focus for the organization. I presume that means there will be no more Amazing Meetings; they’re going to shift to becoming a grant distributing organization, and are no longer accepting membership applications or donations.
I have mixed feelings about that. TAM was always the best and worst of organized skepticism — early on they had the most inclusive and diverse meetings of any group. Rather than old academics droning on, they had showmanship and enthusiasm, and brought in a younger, livelier audience. I think they inspired a lot of other organizations and influenced the new wave of skeptic and atheist meetings.
But TAM was also a refuge for reactionary skeptics: the ones who despised atheists, who had a bizarrely narrow view of what was acceptable “skepticism” (which didn’t align well with science at all), who actively resented new ideas even as they were courting a younger audience. This was the TAM that hated the idea of openly displaying policies of attendee conduct, preferring secret proceedings, and claimed that there was no harassment of any kind going on, because they clamped down on any news and dishonestly denied any problems.
I’m not going to miss the latter TAM at all. But the former TAM is a real loss. I guess we’ll all have to go to Skepticon instead.