This is so painful for me: Hayley Stevens has posted a measured critique of James Randi. It’s all true: Randi did flirt favorably with eugenics and climate change denial. He was a stage magician, not a scientist, and I can say from personal experience, from multiple long conversations with him, that it’s true. He would shy away from such ideas if he knew he was talking to a scientist, but he’d let the nonsense leak out, still. He had a poor reputation with women — he didn’t have much to do with them, which obviously didn’t affect me much, directly, but it did mean he was much more comfortable with us Old Boys and led to underrepresentation of women in the movement. He occasionally let that slip out, too, like his remark downplaying the sexual assaults of Michael Shermer, “Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion”. He personally introduced me to Lawrence Krauss, and was part of a conversation in which Krauss asked me to not criticize a certain guy named Jeffrey Epstein; Randi just knew Epstein as someone who liked sexy women and who donated to Krauss’s science efforts. Randi was immensely popular, but his lasting influence could have so much greater if he hadn’t been so narrow in many of his views. I hate to say it, but Stevens characterizes that movement entirely accurately.
This one isn’t so painful: Eiynah has a podcast titled “Woking Up” in which she totally shreds Sam Harris. Without reservation, I’d say that Harris’s ongoing popularity has been a disaster for atheism or the “New Atheism”, whatever that is, and she exposes the fact that he’s awfully supportive of racists and makes terribly bad arguments against the Left. I enjoyed that one, since I’ve never been a fan of the Harris school of deceptive reasonableness in the service of the worst possible takes. It’s easy to see right through him, and the people who can’t simply favor his polite racism.
No gods, no masters, and no goddamn hero worship.