James “The Amazing” Randi is a world-renowned magician, skeptic and investigator of paranormal claims and is a central figure in the founding of the world-wide skeptical movement. Perhaps best known for the One Million Dollar Challenge, in which his educational foundation awards $1,000,000 to anyone who is able to show evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event, under test conditions agreed to by both parties. Randi has appeared widely in the media, including on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show at least 22 times and he is also a regular on Penn and Teller’s Showtime series, Bullshit! He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the MacArthur Genius Grant, and the American Physical Society’s Forum Award for Promoting Public Understanding of the Relation of Physics to Society. He is the author of many books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, Flim-Flam! and The Faith Healers.
In this interview with D.J. Grothe, James Randi talks about the future of The Amazing Meeting, his annual popular critical thinking convention in Las Vegas. He also discusses various faith healers he has investigated, and his real motivations in doing so. He talks about the first faith healer he exposed in Toronto as a teenager. He explores reasons why faith healers he has debunked still persist in their TV empires. He shares his views of Ernest Angley. He recounts his expose of Peter Popoff, including Popoff’s use of an earpiece to receive information about his congregants that they believed was revealed by the Holy Spirit. He explains why people believe in faith healers despite evidence to the contrary. Other faith healers he criticizes include Pat Robertson and his “Words of Knowledge,” V.A. Grant, Oral Roberts, and Filipino psychic surgeons, recounting some of their deceptive methods they use to beguile believers. He talks about the special place “psychic surgery” has in the Pentecostal Church. He compares faith healers’ methods to the methods of psychics and “cold readers” such as John Edward, and explores whether faith healers are deliberately deceptive or are merely self-deceptive. He also debates whether faith healing might actually work on occasion, due to psychological phenomena such as the placebo effect. And he talks about the role that magicians should play in exposing frauds in the public interest.
Also in this interview, James Underdown, scientific paranormal investigator and executive director of CFI’s Hollywood branch, recounts his experiences with Benny Hinn’s healing crusades, and talks about how Benny Hinn may or may not be like Adolph Hitler.