James Randi

This BoingBoing piece conveys what always made me deeply uneasy about James Randi. He was very good at proving that a lot of people are scam artists and a lot of other people are gullible, but he was actively detrimental to actual scientific investigation of unexplained phenomena and claims of the paranormal – which I believe deserve to be treated with the same rigor and thoroughness as any other observed phenomena, even if the ultimate finding is that they were erroneous… because there are lessons to be learned even in error.

A good example are the occasional mass UFO sightings, such as the ones in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico in 1997. Such events are often dismissed out-of-hand as mass hysteria, and maybe they are… but the idea that hundreds or thousands of people can “hysterically” see the same hallucinatory visions is as interesting in and of itself as any extraterrestrial explanation.