Randi does Big Think

By Phil Plait | June 9, 2010 12:00 pm

James Randi — conjourer, critical thinker, skeptic, and friend — did a series of great interviews on Big Think. Here’s one where he talks about spending his life attacking antiscience and its purveyors, specifically Uri Geller and Sylvia Browne.

The interviews are all short, just a few minutes long, and you can access all of them on the Big Think site. It’s well worth your time to hear from this giant of skepticism.

Bonus: the James Randi Educational Foundation just announced they have education grants available! If you’re an educator developing or disseminating critical thinking materials, take a look.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Debunking, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: Big Think, James Randi

Comments (47)

  1. Albert Bakker

    Nice! I’ll be seeing him this friday in the Netherlands as part of his European tour. He’ll be giving a lecture called The Sleep Of Reason. It will be taped and can be viewed via or linked from this website: http://www.skepsis.nl/james-randi-in-utrecht.html

  2. Following is a totally unbiased opinion (NOT!!!): “Awesome! Absolutely AWESOME!!!”

  3. mike burkhart

    I would like to ask James Randi about Uri Gellers calim that he got his powers from a UFO encounter. The Story (acording to Geller) is that one day he was takeing a nap in a garden when he was awaken by a noise he saw UFO land, a creature got out and shot him with a ray from a gun it was carrying .Geller says he was in a coma for weeks and that when he woke up he had his powers.But wait the story gets weirder : one night wile driving with a friend he pulled over the car and the UFO came back the creature got out and comunicated with Gellers mind saying that the UFO was called the “spectris” and that he had been chosen to recieve the powers . Geller has claimed that he has recieved other mind comunications from the aliens and has seen the “spectris” several times.Geller should of became a scifi writer this might make a good movie.

  4. SMo

    Ugh, the section this is in, “Believe it or Not”, has some real winners:

    Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, A Plausible Argument for God?
    The philosopher explains the “moral argument” for the existence of God

    David Gelernter, The Danger of Crusading Atheists
    The Yale computer guru decries the dangerous trend of know-it-all scientists (Richard Dawkins?) telling people that “religion is trash.”

    Robert Wright, Finding Harmony With Cosmic Order
    “Reconciliation is possible” between science and faith, though it will mean defining the latter by its moral truths and not its supernatural claims.

    even a video from Karen Armstrong. Yeesh.

    You know, just because there’s two sides to an argument, doesn’t mean the truth is somewhere in the middle, or that each side deserves equal time.

    SMBC Theater – Both Sides
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGArqoF0TpQ

  5. Oli

    Of course those people don’t knock on the door for the million dollars. They already have enough money, earnt by deceiving people.

  6. Randi does a great job, indeed. However, science benefits much more when scientists look into the mirror of self-criticism. For example, Einstein’s promoters should have taken a closer look at Einstein’s physics than they have done in the past. If they had, they would have discovered that one of the requirements of relativity, the existence of a time dimension, is totally bogus.

    The problem is that a time dimension makes motion impossible. Surprise! This means that nothing can move in spacetime and all those physicists (Kip Thorne, Stephen Hawking, Ronald Mallett, etc.) who insist on promoting the possibility of time travel are pseudo-scientists. They do much more harm to science than all the voodoo doctors and palm readers of the world combined.

    Sir Karl Popper compared Einstein to Parmenides of Elea who, along with his famous pupil Zeno, claimed that change does not exist. Popper wrote that spacetime is “Einstein’s block universe in which nothing happens (source: Conjectures and Refutations). Nobody dared contradict Popper on this issue because he would have ripped them a new orifice. Is James Randi aware of this little truth about one of the most celebrated scientific theories in history? Can he see the crackpottery in the concept of a time dimension or is he biased beyond redemption?

    How Einstein Shot Physics in the Foot:
    http://rebelscience.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-einstein-shot-physics-in-foot-part.html

    How to Falsify Einstein’s Physics, For Dummies
    http://rebelscience.blogspot.com/2010/06/how-to-falsify-einsteins-physics-for.html

    Nothing Can Move in Spacetime:
    http://rebelscience.blogspot.com/2008/02/nothing-can-move-in-spacetime.html

    Conjectures and Refutations:
    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/popper_falsification.html

    PS. to Phil. Can you refute my argument that a time dimension makes motion impossible? Better yet, do you have the courage to print my comment and the links?

  7. Louis Savain (#6): The “courage” to print your comment.

    Pbbbt.

    Do you have the courage to understand and internalize that Relativity has passed every single test that has ever been put in front of it?

    Or I could just say: GPS. Explain how those satellites work without relativity, then collect your Nobel.

  8. [My previous comment was rejected as spam, possibly because of the links to my blog that I added at the end. Let’s see if this one makes it. I took out the links]

    Please ignore. I see that you changed your mind. I was about to write a scathing article on my blog. LOL.

  9. SMo

    6. Louis Savain Says: “Randi does a great job, indeed. However, science benefits much more when scientists look into the mirror of self-criticism. For example, Einstein’s promoters should have taken a closer look at Einstein’s physics than they have done in the past. ”

    WOW, I vote that for non sequitur of the day.

  10. Phil Plait (#7):

    “Do you have the courage to understand and internalize that Relativity has passed every single test that has ever been put in front of it?”

    Not really. I already mentioned that one of the assumptions of relativity, the time dimension, is easily refuted (deny at your own detriment). GR also predicts the existence of gravity waves and that gravity travels at the speed of light. Neither have been demonstrated via experiments. Also, physicists are predicting the existence of dark matter and dark energy (a huge percentage of the universe matter and energy) on the basis of Einstein’s physics. They have remained undetectable and not for the lack of trying.

    As far as making predictions is concerned, consider that my dog makes correct predictions all the time and she is not even a scientist. Ptolemaic epicycles could make accurate predictions as well. In fact, epicycles could be adjusted indefinitely to make predictions as accurate as any other theory. That does mean that they are correct, though.

    Please refute my argument that a time dimension, one of the corner stones of modern physics, is bogus. And also mention it to Randi so that he, too, can have a stab at it.

  11. Ah, I see. Well, we’re done here. If you deny the existence of dark matter, after it’s been detected unequivocally, then there’s not much use taking this any further.

  12. NewEnglandBob

    SMo said:

    “Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, A Plausible Argument for God?”

    Her answer is an emphatic NO. You should listen to something before you criticize it.

  13. “there’s not much use taking this any further.”

    Yeah, I can see that I wasted my time and yours. This is really bad astronomy. See you around.

    PS. Maybe Randi can take up the challenge. LOL.

  14. TheMark

    Re: #3 (Mike Burkhart)
    “Geller should of became a scifi writer this might make a good movie.”

    Oh please. Don’t we all know what really happened? Some alien popping in out of nowhere? “Spectris / Ray gun?” Sounds like someone’s been mis-hearding “Tardis” and mistook “Sonic screwdriver” for a “Ray gun” ;)

    (Yeah, so I’ve recently discovered Dr. Who on DVD. So what?) ;)

  15. jcm

    I just finished watching it. It is awesome. You might also be interested with this interview with Stephen Hawkings: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Technology/stephen-hawking-religion-science-win/story?id=10830164

  16. breadfred

    @Louis Salvan: Please substantiate your rebuttals – I notice from your website http://www.rebelscience.org/ (that is you, isn’t it?) that you like to endorse ‘alternative science’ with personal attacks on scientists, but without any proper ie scientific proof. Keep putting your hands over your ears and sing ‘LALALALALA’ very loud.

  17. Kiss my @ss, breadfred. How about that?

  18. Thanks for posting this. Mr. Randi is a national treasure.

    Instead of falling for this psychic hooey and giving a fortune away to charlatans, it would be so much cheaper, and edifying, to just buy some dvds and books from a magic publisher, like L&L or Richard Kaufman, and educate oneself on how this stuff works. Learning about how magicians weave their magic is much, much more interesting than believing any two bit hustler who just “happens” to show up on one’s doorstep or TV set promising pie in the sky.

    Besides, professional magicians like Eugene Burger and Derren Brown are also infinitely more entertaining, as well as just plain better “psychics. ” It’s just that they don’t pretend to be anything other than entertainers.

  19. @ Louis Savain,

    Proverbs 18:6 A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

    How about that?

  20. SMo

    “12. NewEnglandBob Says:
    June 9th, 2010 at 3:16 pm
    SMo said:
    “Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, A Plausible Argument for God?”
    Her answer is an emphatic NO. You should listen to something before you criticize it.”

    You’re absolutely right. I was having a knee-jerk reaction without absorbing the facts. I only watched half of her video, and it seemed she was in favour of the argument for god she later refuted. As they say egg, and my face, were in alignment.

    I still think the crux of what I was saying stands, even though I was admittedly being too reactionary.

  21. @ Rev. I. P. Freeley

    I got your Proverbs hanging. How about them apples? LOL.

  22. Cotiio

    I love James Randi, he’s skepticism’s grumpy old man in a rocking chair.

  23. Surferosad

    Come on, don’t feed the troll… Specially if the troll is also a crank.

  24. @ Surferosad

    Did you know that a time dimension makes motion impossible and that nothing moves in spacetime for this reason? Of course not. Instead of being grateful that I taught you something that you did not know, you attack me personally. Why? Because I am contradicting your precious world view. For those of you who are more interested in the truth than propaganda., here is what a relativist has to say about spacetime:

    “There is no dynamics within space-time itself: nothing ever moves therein; nothing happens; nothing changes. […] In particular, one does not think of particles as “moving through” space-time, or as “following along” their world-lines. Rather, particles are just “in” space-time, once and for all, and the world-line represents, all at once the complete life history of the particle.”

    From “Relativity from A to B” by Dr. Robert Geroch, U. of Chicago

    And he is not the only one. Of course, Geroch cannot say that this falsifies GR because that would put an end to his career.

    At any rate, I am still waiting for Plait and Randi (or anybody else) to refute my argument that Einstein’s time dimension makes motion impossible. Any takers? Or are you all a bunch of gutless cowards as I suspected?

    Skepticism is best when it is directed at one’s own beliefs. Right Randi?

  25. Louis Savain:

    At any rate, I am still waiting for Plait and Randi (or anybody else) to refute my argument that Einstein’s time dimension makes motion impossible. Any takers? Or are you all a bunch of gutless cowards as I suspected?

    Proverbs 23:9 Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.

  26. Mike Mullen

    “At any rate, I am still waiting for Plait and Randi (or anybody else) to refute my argument that Einstein’s time dimension makes motion impossible. Any takers? Or are you all a bunch of gutless cowards as I suspected?”

    give me a T…Give me a R…Give me an O..Give me a; oh you get the idea.

  27. Stan9FOS

    Hi Louis. Thanks for the links. Hilarious.

    Phil is obviously holding out on us. He’s not in the business of laughter therapy. Not surprising, given the general “critical thinking” and “rationality” he likes to espouse. Thanks for playing, though.

  28. Grand Lunar

    James Randi is made of WIN and AWESOME.

    Has he done much on these paranormal “investigators”?
    The ‘Ghost Hunters’ type?
    I’ve only seen one reference on the JREF channel on YouTube.

    I ask because I’m upset by how much my family is into this stuff.
    I had hoped the woo-woo world would not come into my life. It angers me that it did.
    Even worse, they’re also into “Pychic Kids”. The one with Chip Coffey.

  29. Teshi

    EDIT: Changed my mind, thought better of it.

  30. Grand Lunar

    Concerning this “conversation” with this Louis person and his appearent denial of GR reminds me of a quote that was used in Neil Tyson’s book.

    IIRC, it goes “The only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier”.

    Seems appropiate here.

  31. Keith (the first one)

    Skepticism is best when it is directed at one’s own beliefs. Right Louis?

    Teshi I thought your original post was fine. I should have copied it.

  32. Teshi

    I don’t think it’s a battle that needs fighting.

  33. Answer the question: Can anything move in spacetime, yes or no?

    Plait and Randi, you are two gutless cowards and you know it. You ignore the question because you know you would look like fools if you tried to answer it. Your brainless, boot-licking cheerleaders are not helping your case either.

    I am still waiting. LOL.

    Sitting on a Mountain of Crap, Wasting Time:
    http://rebelscience.blogspot.com/2010/05/sitting-on-mountain-of-crap-wasting.html

  34. JerWah

    Hopefully Louis Savin has left the building already, but I did some googling on his “theory” and found this:

    http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2008/01/the_nasty_little_truth_about_i.php

    which fairly well destroys his “prove me wrong” Ok someone did 2 years ago…

  35. Keith (the first one)

    You’re right Teshi. It’s not worth it.

    JerWah was on the case anyway. Well done.

  36. JerWah,

    You and Keith (the first one) are both brain-dead fools. And so is Dr. Mark Chu-Carroll, PhD Computer Scientist. LOL.

    Nothing Can Move in Spacetime:
    http://rebelscience.blogspot.com/2008/02/nothing-can-move-in-spacetime.html

  37. Teshi

    On the upside, I now know the internet history of someone I have no real need to know about. Hurrah!

    EDIT: Still not worth it. Stop it, Teshi! You’re wasting your time!

  38. Congrats to Louis Savain, who has managed to be the latest troll to break my one commenting rule. From now on, all his posts will be marked as spam.

  39. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Here we have Louis Savain as The Black Knight:

    The Black Knight
    Plait and Randi, you are two gutless cowards and you know it. You ignore the question because you know you would look like fools if you tried to answer it. Your brainless, boot-licking cheerleaders are not helping your case either.
  40. Grand Lunar

    Nice one, IVAN3MAN AT LARGE.

    I suppose one can prove this alternative idea wrong simply by moving 1 meter to the right (or left). You move in space. And since you’re moving at one second per second, you’ve also moved in time.

    Hence, it is possible to move in spacetime. :D

    Why is it people like this Louis person become so insulting?

  41. stereox112

    @Everyone:

    Don’t mind Louis Savain, he’s a crackpot. The GPS argument seems to work well against him, it’s funny how he tries his best to ignore it while talking nonsese about relativity. I guess experimental evidence works on crackpots like holy water on vampires.

    Also, stay tuned for his new theory on gravity (as a non-local, instantaneous phenomenon). He’s been working alone on that one for the past decade or something.

  42. Conzar

    @stereox112
    “I guess experimental evidence works on crackpots like holy water on vampires.”
    Holy water and vampires are fictional just like time travel. But I guess crackpots like using fictitious examples to “prove” their points.

  43. Stevie

    Louis Savain used to go around the net attacking people under the name “nemesis”. He is certainly a nut case because he fails to see that his use of the word spacetime is referencing the block universe model which looks at all of spacetime as being frozen, however, if you are in spacetime, everything is active and time, motion and change do exist.

  44. Beelzebud

    He’s like a more sophisticated version of the timecube guy. :D

    His site is good for some laughs though. He’s right and everyone on the planet is wrong, according to him. Oh and the truth about quantum mechanics is in the bible! :D

  45. mish

    I agree, that Savain guy by the way he’s going on and on and on and on is irritating… but I’m curious in knowing if what he’s saying has any merits at all…
    Does the mistake that he’s talking about exists?

    I’m not a physics expert but I’m just curious!

  46. Richard Woods

    @38

    Phil, the link to your comment policy needs to have ” target=” pruned off the end.

  47. SXS

    When we are going to see that worm hole in action ?
    I want to see nanny again.

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