RIP Barry Williams, skeptic and all round good bloke

Barry Williams died this morning. We were friends for many decades and I am not sure of his age which was probably approaching 80. He was never a prominent mover and shaker although for some years through the ’80s to 2009 he was the public face of the Australian Skeptics, a network of groups ostensibly dedicated to critical thinking.

He was achieved the rank of flight sergeant in the Air Force and later worked in the US Consulate in Sydney doing trade shows until a large bequest to the Skeptics freed him to become the fulltime executive officer in 1995.

This is a fairly good interview. As noted in the interview he was a huge cricket fan with a great knowledge of the game. He wrote an essay on the myth of the “devil’s number” 87 (13 runs short of the century) which was reputed to be a dangerous number when many batsmen succumbed.

My wife painted his portrait.

I mentioned that the organized Skeptics were ostensibly dedicated to critical thinking. That was the case when Barry and I and some other good men and true were on the NSW committee but times have changed. Nowadays the Skeptics (and also the organized Rationalists and Humanists) are warming alarmists.

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21 Responses to RIP Barry Williams, skeptic and all round good bloke

  1. sfw

    He was a very good man, though never a member I was a supporter of the Skeptics but since they ceased being skeptical of AGW I moved on. James Randi once said that he was skeptical of AGW, they turned on him viciously, sadly he lost his mojo and folded.

  2. Tel

    Nowadays the Skeptics (and also the organized Rationalists and Humanists) are warming alarmists.

    They got slack obviously, not as skeptical and rational as they should have been.

    Just between you and me and the entire Internet, I always thought the Humanists were looking for a God-substitute so it makes sense they were open to suggestion on AGW.

  3. Roger

    Nowadays the Skeptics (and also the organized Rationalists and Humanists) are warming alarmists.

    That’s what comes from worshipping at the altar of scientism.


  4. Helen

    Sad days Rafe, when we loose a friend. I will step outside and toast him, and your frienship, in the gloaming.

  5. overburdened

    go you good thing

  6. Ian Plimer

    Barry Williams was a friend of over 30 years. He was a humble moral man with a finely tuned sense of humour, had a great ability to use crystal clear logic to demolish preposterous piffle and was able to demolish water diviners, crystal power healers, creationists, breatharians, psychic healers etc with a devastating wit and logical humorous one-liners. He would sit back like Santa Claus with a smile and a glint in his eye and chew up and spit out these charlatans. He was a huge support for me in my writings, lectures and litigation against creationists and, although I may have been the front man to reduce the influence of creationism, it was Barry who did all the hard work in the back room. As editor of “the skeptic”, he showed great editing and journalistic skills and was highly entertaining in his writings as his alter anagram Sir Jim R. Wallaby. I think he was the sort of person that could have succeeded in a number of careers because of his high intellect, good communication skills, highly tuned bullshit detector, ability to assess personalities quickly and use of a great breadth and depth of knowledge. Besides cricket, Barry had a great love of history and as soon as a charlatan attempted to quote history, Barry showed the weakness of the arguments used. He wrote on a diversity of subjects, some of which were quite left field such as the length of the biblical cubit and the lengths to which some charlatans went to show that the British Imperial cubit was the measurement of God (albeit a God who spoke English). He could mix with US Presidents, Ambassadors, Australian prime ministers, the press, scientists and the average person and he did. Barry was quintessentially a great Australian bloke who could shine in any setting. Over the last few years we had regular mutual moans that the Australian Skeptics which he put on the map were not sceptical of their own ideas and, although the Australian Skeptics commonly attacked religion, they had embraced a new religion of warmism.

    I’ll miss the old bugger.

    Ian Plimer

  7. Garry

    How can anyone who embraces the myth of global warming be a skeptic? Just saying! Shit now I’m going to be pilloried on Twatter, face tube and uber.

  8. alexnoaholdmate

    The Skeptics used to have some good debates in their magazine about global warming – from the “extrapolating such cataclysmic events from such a poor range of data is ridiculous” point of view.

    And then one day – they stopped.

  9. Chris M

    A skeptic no more…. my sympathies to his family and friends including Rafe and Ian.

    As for the unskeptical Skeptics Humanism is a religion, so it’s just another case of fundamentalist intolerance ‘mine is better than yours’.

  10. jupes

    How can anyone who embraces the myth of global warming be a skeptic?

    They obviously can’t. Someone whose raison d’être is supposedly critical thinking can’t then take preposterous buffoons such as Mann, Gore and Flannery at face value.

    They should give themselves an uppercut then disband stat.

  11. C.L.

    Beautiful portrait by Mrs Champion.

  12. Ilajd

    Was looking over past issues of the Skeptic recently and Barry’s articles and editorial skills shine through. Sad the organisation has lost its scepticism.

  13. Rafe Champion

    One of the reasons for the anti-scientific mentality of the Skeptics these days, also the Humanists, is that over a period of 40 years different influential people, notably the editors of their magazines, stood in the way of my efforts to explain and promote the critical/sceptical philosophy of science of Karl Popper. The two groups who should have had the most affinity for his idea and the most to gain by promoting contained key figures who blocked that possibility. I seem to recall a time when the most resolute anti-Popperian was the editor of both the Humanist and the Skeptic at the same time or at least he was the editor of one and influential in the other.
    He was not only implacably opposed to Popper’s science but he was also a leftie and so he allowed contribution on Popper’s anti-Marxism in The Open Society and Its Enemies.

  14. Rafe Champion

    CL you might like to visit the website of Mrs Champion.

    There is a particularly nice sketch of her life and career by Maurice Saxby.

    Cute family pictures as well!

    She kept the family name of Niland in honour of her father Darcy Niland. Her mother was Ruth Park. People approaching 100 years of age will remember some of the books they wrote.

  15. hzhousewife

    People approaching 100 years of age will remember some of the books they wrote.

    People approaching 70 yrs of age remember the books on their parents bookshelves, and inhereted them with great pleasure.

  16. C.L.

    Amazingly beautiful works, Rafe.
    She should be a household name.

    I love Fat Pat!

  17. Truly, one of the greats blessed us with our presence, though his story has ended. We’ll remember him with great fondness.

    — Rick Moen
    [email protected]
    Listadmin, Skeptic mailing list
    Former chair, Bay Area Skeptics

  18. Barry Williams’ rarely if ever took a defensive posture in his dealings with both
    hostile skeptics and true believers. I knew him from his postings to the Skeptic
    mailing list. Our only common bond was serving in the military in Thailand.
    He worked at Ubon Air Base in Northeast Thailand in the late 1960s. I miss
    him now and I will miss him always.

    Terry W. Colvin
    ( a few miles south of Hua Hin, Thailand )

  19. He educated and enlightened each of us. My only off-list
    contact dealt with his service at Ubon Air Base in Thailand.
    My ‘Hand Salute’ to Barry for his service.

    Terry W. Colvin
    ( a few miles south of Hua Hin, Thailand )

  20. If I may quote Ian Plimer, I will also miss the old bugger. Barry Williams and I have been great mates for more than 40 years since we first met at the US Trade Centre in Milsons Point. all the points mad about him are good; a fierce advocate of truth and extraordinarily skillful at demolishing the pseudo science practitioners. We participated in many Trade Exhibitions together, and half the fun was the practical jokes that we dreamed up, to the accompaniment of Baz’s wicked chuckle. He stayed at my place in Melbourne, and I at his house in Sydney. My sons have known him for at least 35 years, and have liked and admired him for that entire time. Now, there will be no more long telephone calls during which the latest cricket topics were dissected, and I feel the poorer for it.

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