On Wednesday Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller) did a radio interview with The Amazing Randi, whom Penn calls "the most important person in the world to me; the person who changed my life the most." Toward the end (~36:00), we find this exchange, which suggests to me that Penn has a better grasp of the issues, and his own limitations:
Penn: "The definition of an intellectual is someone who can change their mind given facts …"
Randi: "This doesn’t happen with the believer, … they cannot be unconvinced … based on experience with thousands of them"
Penn: "What is the biggest thing you have ever changed your mind on, what is the deepest belief you held that you were wrong on?"
Randi: "Oh boy. Hard to say now, I’ve never been posed with that question before." He never answers the question.
Penn: Explains his mom became atheist in her 80s, a few years before she died. "… There isn’t like a political point or a point like that that you shifted on over the years? "
Randi: "Well. I think that it takes a certain amount of intelligence and education to be able to do this, a reversal of this kind. But the key phrase here is that its not that they want this to be true, they need it to be true. … If they have to say they are wrong, to reverse their minds, they have to be essentially saying they think (I don’t this is true) `I’m really stupid.’ No, naive and uniformed is not stupid."
Penn: "Also victim is not stupid. … People always say how stupid do you have to be to believe in a psychic, and I always say how hot do you have to be to be raped. … we tend to blame the victim … I think that anyone can be duped, and be duped badly; you must blame the perpetrator and not the victim … when you say they need to believe this, you have to explain that more because one way of looking at this is, if someone needs something like need food or water, and you are coming in to try to take that away from them, what you are doing is wrong, so you can’t mean "need" in the traditional sense"
Randi: "You’re right. …. I haven’t had a moment as a child or as an adult ever that I would have believed any of this sort of thing, any more than I would have believed in Santa Claus. .. immediately I knew it was a myth."
Penn: Says that age 10 or 11 he believed in Chariot of the Gods style UFOs, he was religious and believer in all sorts of stuff until 16 or 17.
Randi: "I don’t have any need or want; people say do you want it to be true and I say I don’t care; all I want to know is, is it true, yes or no? I just want to know what the truth is and I have no fear of the answer."