The Best Proof that Paranormal Phenomena do not Exist

Blog topic: 
Alleged paranormal phenomena tend to pop-up from time to time. The best example is probably that of Uri Geller. He became famous in the 70's with his "abilities" to bend spoons, read thoughts, etc. Unfortunately, Uri Geller decided to return back to his native Israel, and worse, got a prime time television program, presumably to find an heir.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my office and out of the blue, a guy (who apparently has nothing to do with the university), popped in. He wanted to know what does science think of the "Uri Geller Phenomenon". I told him that science doesn't even waste time on this kind of rubbish. It wasn't enough for him. So, given that I didn't want him to leave the office thinking that science doesn't have an answer, and given that my time is precious, I quickly tried to find the optimal answer. Here it is.

If any person claiming to have paranormal ability did in fact poses it, he, or she, would easily be able to claim the James Randi Education Foundation's million dollar challenge offering a prize US$1,000,000 to anyone who can demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event, under test conditions agreed to by both parties. Anyone possessing a genuine paranormal ability should easily be able to reach an agreement on the test criteria with James Randi (aka "The Amazing Randi"). No one was able to claim the award, so no one posses any provable paranormal ability. Period.

As for Uri Geller, I showed the guy a nice video segment by James Randi demonstrating how Uri Geller could do his tricks. He explains how Uri Geller could using conventional means bend spoons, keys, "mentally" read drawings and so forth. The segement even shows how under controlled conditions at the Tonight Show, Uri geller couldn't perform.

The guy at my office then said. "So why do people listen and believe all those Charlatans?".

"Good question!" I told him. "I don't think however I have the time to answer that one."

Anyway, one nice book I did find on the topic was "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer. Its a nice book which tries to explain the psychological phenomena behind the reasonas why people are so gullible.

Always remember, just because you don't know of a reasonable explanation to something doesn't mean that there isn't one!


Comments (48)

  • anon

    Paranormal abilities dont exist because someone has not tried to claim a million dollar prize?? That is about the worst explanation i have ever heard. Let me read your mind for you.....hang on...just as i thought..absolutely nothing to read. have a nice day

    Mar 06, 2007
  • anon

    I'll disregard your derogatory remarks. This is typical to (anonymous) cowards who can't substantiate their claims.

    Obviously if someone did have, oops, meant to write, "think that he has" paranormal abilities, he would find it VERY useful to win the million dollars. Even if he was already rich, it would make him famous for proving James Randi wrong, and demonstrating that he is not a charletan.

    Between 1964 and 1982, over 650 people had applied, 360 of them between 1997 and 2005. None of them could prove they have paranormal abilities under objective experimental setup.

    Now let me guess, you believe that paranormal abilities exist? Ignorance is bliss. Have a nice day.

    Mar 06, 2007
  • anon
    Jacob Shapiro (not verified)

    While I too resent the disrespect that was expressed by the grandparent, I tend to agree with him/her on the main issue.
    The main point being, that just like you say that "just because you can't explain something doesn't mean there's no explanation" applies here as well.

    See, the fact is, it is possible that there are people existing within our universe that do indeed possses paranormal abilities, AND that these people disregard the monetary world and do not care for simple materialistic pleasures such as fame or glory -- or even disproving someone who calls them charlatans.

    In fact, it would even make more sense, if you think about it, that the group of people who posses paranormal abilities (given such group exists) will be deeply enmeshed in the spiritual life. In fact, their paranormal abilities maybe connected to other, greater causes, that make $1,000,000 or simple matters of pride dwarf in comparison.

    In the end of the day, there is no knowing. Perhaps you are right in thinking science "doesn't even waste time on these things." But to disregard it completely would be ignorance as well. One should always have a doubt in one's heart.


    Apr 12, 2007
  • anon
    James Randi (not verified)

    I completely agree that nothing is proven from the fact that the hundreds of amateurs - note, no professionals! - who have applied to win the JREF million-dollar prize, have all failed. I only have to wonder at why none of the pros have applied! We at the JREF are open to evidence, in fact we're a million dollars worth open to it. I love the often-played alibi that there are people out there who can do the miracles, but none bother to apply. Then why would they not win the prize and feed starving kids or solve the HIV/AIDS problem? No one answers that question!

    Apr 30, 2007
  • anon

    Well, I guess there could be two reasons for why none of the pros actually applied.
    A) They know their unnatural "talents" are fake and don't want to lose their livelihood.
    B) They are really famous rich ego-centrists that need no more fame, nor any extra money to donate to charity.
    Somehow I think option A is the real answer...

    May 01, 2007
  • anon

    I'm sorry but you seem very ignorant. Just because people do not apply for an award and money does not mean they do or do not have an ability. And taking this very small explaination and saying that applies to everything and disproves everything is pretty hilarious. I'm not saying it does or does not exist but I'm not going to be so small minded as to say it absolutely does not exist since to be honest we most likely will never know.

    Feb 22, 2009
  • anon
    Mike (not verified)

    the contest was more widely known it could have gotten a larger net. I have personally never heard of it but admittedly because my knowledge of this field is limited, although I find it interesting (you could perhaps bump me with the masses who might get caught in the gullible). While all the tests and competitions might have shown that paranormal phenomenon does not exist, it is only based on what we have got so far. It is the same as those who do not believe in God, simply because nobody can prove that God really does exist except through a book's claims and individuals who say they speak the voice of God but in their private space they count their stacks of money.

    Jul 17, 2008
  • anon

    However, would you call Uri Geller "deeply enmeshed in the spiritual life"? Obviously, if he made a reality show for a commercial TV channel in Israel, he is deeply enmeshed into making money. A million Dollars from The James Randi Foundation wouldn't hurt this goal of his.

    In fact, it doesn't matter if he made the show for fame (and didn't care about the money) or made the show to prove paranormal abilities exist, any of those reasons would have made him want to win the James Randi prize. But he didn't apply. I wonder why.

    May 01, 2007
  • anon
    Jacob Shapiro (not verified)

    In my original comment I wasn't referring to Uri Geller.
    Although I have no substantial proof of it, all my senses tell me that is he one of the lowest forms of a con artist. I was referring to other people, people who have probably never been on TV.
    In fact, when I saw his appearance in the Late Night show from the 70's it looked so bad (I study psychology and I could read some of his body language cues) that I just had to wonder how come the public hasn't barfed him away to be an outcast due to the sham that he is.

    In another note, James Randi who also commented here made a very ironic comment:
    "...Then why would they not win the prize and feed starving kids or solve the HIV/AIDS problem? No one answers that question!"

    I have two things to say about this:
    1. Perhaps those people also have a general scheme or ideology about the world, that you and I cannot understand. Such a scheme that perhaps sees it fit to have global epidemics such as HIV or starving children. Like a Yin and Yang, you know, people who think that both bad and good are necessary in the world and thus it would be foolish, if not futile, to fight these phenomena with mere measures of money.

    2. It seems very foolish to me that you expect, or wait for these supernatural practiioners to win the JREF prize. Instead, this 1 million dollars could be immediately spent on finding a cure of HIV or feeding starving children, a cause which to me, seems far more important than finding out whether there are, or there aren't, any paranormal phenomenas in this world. Especially if you also believe in this cause, and especially if you are very skeptical about those "mediums".

    Just my two cents.


    May 07, 2007
  • anon

    first off, let me say that by no means am i an expert on paranormal phenomena. i've never even studied anything on the subject. with that being said, this thread/ blog needs a new title. "paranormal means communication without the currently recognized sensory processes; it may also refer to the physical movements without the recognized physical processes" (Ian stevenson, late prof. of psychiatric medicine and paranormal investigator of the uni. of virginia) now tell me, how can you run a contest for that. more on the contest later.

    A child who remebers a past life is a paranormal phenomena. there have been cases where these children have shared birthmarks or birth defects with the person from the prior life. another instance is a near death experince or an out of body experience. none of these phenomena can be tested, but all are indeed paranormal. if you wish to learn more on this subject ( like documented cases ) search for works from ian stevenson.

    now onto this million dollar prize that seems to be so conclusive. it was stated earlier that 350 applications were recieved from 1998 to 2005. There are billions of people on this planet, and 350 cases speaks for the entire population? you would have an easier time trying to convince me that president bush is the best president this country has ever seen.... yeah i said it. many of the population can't even speak english. How can these people possibly know about a contest going on here. reading this post is the first time i have ever heard of this contest, so it's not like it's the most publicized event of the century. personally, i think you would do much better taking that million and spending it on the research this field so desperately needs.

    now for my last segment. i saw this guy on t.v. a while ago ( discovery i believe). this guy is a reknowned mathematician, but it has been so long that i can't remeber his name. anyways, this guy (his brain i should say) has the unique ability to do extremely complex equations by visualizing different objects and colors. it's been quite a while since i saw this program so i'm not positive about specifics. all i know is that he didn't do the equation in his head like we would do. instead he would see an object and a color and he knew what number(s) to say or put down. research him if you get a chance. i just found his name and i don't feel like editing since i had to rewrite this three times so his name is Daniel Tammet. i know this borders the line of paranormal, but my point is that there is too much unknown out there to simply say something doesn't exist. remember they used to think the earth was flat. people actually got killed because they disputed it. let's just be happy that we live in a society that let's us explore new boundaries, and try not to be too skeptical about ideas that may seem off the wall.

    May 13, 2007
  • anon

    Personally I think it is very commendable to invest 1 million dollars to the cause of disproving all the false healers, or to attract a genuine supernatural healer.
    If there is a true supernatural healer, with repeatable measurable results, then the best thing for humankind is to seek him/her out and to try to integrate his experience and knowledge into the mainstream medical practice for the benefit of everyone.
    If there are no supernatural healers, then we can discuss if it is morally acceptable or punishable for the ones that make such far fetched claims to bring (false?) hope to sick people.
    Let's say it's not a JREF investment, but the society's. Compare it to the society's investment into:
    - all the "miracle cures" (a.k.a. food supplements, labeled so because they are "restricted about the overly bureaucratic procedures” regulating true medicines).
    - all the “miracle workers” healing people who are blind or paralyzed, but mostly on television shows where they raise money for the “promotion of their own, humanitarian, work”
    I say, if somebody claims to have higher powers and claims that he displays them for the benefit of others, then let him prove it and let’s not lose time otherwise.
    I’m not interested in powers that work sometimes, and only if the person is “really really believing”. That sort of preaching was used by shamans and the likes for centuries, while it was only the modern pharmaceuticals that cured so many of the old diseases.

    Let’s protect the people who are desperate and vulnerable from the vultures.


    Jul 10, 2007
  • anon

    couldn't agree more.

    Jul 13, 2007
  • anon

    May i suggest you read The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin, and The End of Materialism by Charles Tart. Both of these authors are serious scientists who have statistically valid evidence of psi phenomena. Speaking as a person trained in the life sciences, I am wary of anyone's scientific credentials who mock things that they do not accept simply because they do not fit into their paradigm. That is not science, but scientism, a form of intolerance and dogmatism.

    Jul 07, 2011
  • anon

    truly if someone did have paranormal abilities lets just give them the benefit of doubt that they are materialistic, I'm sure they would have found a far better use for such powers, like to help other people......

    Oct 25, 2011
  • anon

    The reason no one has ever proven the paranormal to not only Randi is because it is something that is not to be let not made known, as in just like why there are no proofs of UFO's either and they even have a video of why because it will mess up religion and their way of keeping everyone in slavery. I can prove the para and have but been told what I do and or how I do prove the para because I can and not fair or somehow unetheical as they said. Now, you go figure? But, I know...WHY!

    May 13, 2012
  • anon

    There are so many people posting here speculating about why someone with a paranormal ability would not apply for the million dollar prize.

    Firstly, it's nice to pretend that it is remotely possible that an entire group of people all think exactly alike, but it's as ignorant an assumption as any racist assumption ever was. Do you REALLY believe that having a paranormal ability could possibly strictly define your personality to make you above the desire for monetary gain or personal recognition? If that is so, then you must also believe that all psychics on television are, in fact, frauds, as well as any psychic whose name you know because that is the opposite of the presumed profile for a 'real' psychic.

    Then there's an unusual argument I have never seen for the paranormal before. I have only seen it used to explain God. That argument is that we cannot possibly understand them. They are somehow gods, I guess...well, I guess they do try to relieve you of your cash, much like most gods I've ever heard of...

    Then we have the idea that maybe psychics don't want this money because it is pointless to fight hunger. It goes against the plan of the universe, so why bother fighting it? If it's the plan of the universe for hundreds of thousands of children to go to bed tonight having eaten nothing the entire day, @#$# the universe and %$#$ it's plan!

    Next we move on to my favorite, the personal attack. This is the sign of a true ignoramus with no real argument. I mean, come on! The point of the opposition is invalid because James Randi could spend that money fighting hunger instead of waiting for a psychic to win it to fight hunger? That train of thought is irrelevant and there is no argument there at all, just flailing and spitting. Yes, everybody, James Randi is a vile, evil man who wants nothing more than to kill Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and, of course, he's currently hot on the trail of the Easter Bunny. What a jerk! Do you know WHY James Randi is offering this reward? It is not just to shoot down your fantasy world. He is out to stop fake psychics from ripping off gullible people, such as some of those posting here. Believe it or not, the more you hate him, the more likely he has helped to protect you!

    Could someone tell me what the difference between an amateur and professional psychic is? Is it that a professional has ripped more people off, or just that he's smart enough not to back himself into a corner by taking the challenge. In fact, some professional psychics have agreed to take the challenge. Those 'professionals' usually take less than a week to backtrack, saying they have nothing to prove to anyone, once they realize what they said and what it will cost them when they are proven to be frauds.

    Enough with the circular logic, already. Could the paranormal exist? Sure, it's possible. Could Elvis still be alive, working under cover for the CIA? Equally as possible. You really can't completely rule out either one, though, given the evidence at hand, neither is very likely. The fact is that in the millennia of claims of the paranormal there hasn't been a single validated case. It is not because those making the claims haven't tried to seek validation. It is not because those making the claims don't want fame. It is not because those making the claims are too enlightened to desire a million dollars. It's because those making the claims don't have the abilities to back up those claims.

    Do you REALLY want to know which side is right here? All you have to do is get your hands on some UFO photos. Photoshop them yourself if you have to. Submit them to half a dozen believers and half a dozen skeptics. Check back next week. You will have half a dozen believers saying, "Look! It's a UFO! I told you!" You will have half a dozen skeptics saying, "I analyzed your photos and here's how you made them."

    Do you want to do good in this field and help to convince people there might be something to it? That's easy enough. DON'T BE AN IDIOT! There is nothing more damning to the side of the believer than the true believer himself! The ignorant arguments and circular logic will only convince the ignorant and alienate those with brains. If you want to convince me, argue intelligently, without personal attacks and idle speculation about those with supernatural powers being 'beyond my understanding'. I'll tell you something, they may be beyond yours, but I know exactly what they're all about.

    Jul 31, 2007
  • anon

    Here is a test. One which you will never see a so-called Psychic perform. Take an audience of 100 people. Have them sit in silence, neither nodding or shaking their heads, or making any kind of movement which could be construed as agreeing or disagreeing with what is said by anyone. Have a psychic come on stage and tell any one person in the audience 5 facts about themselves. For example, their name, their town of birth, date of birth etc, etc. Surely out of all those people they would be able to find a few simple facts about one person, in fact, make it 1000 people, surely to prove that psychic abilities exist, their spirit guide would be trying their very best to show the world the truth. Conditions not right? Do it every night for a week, a month, in any venue the medium chooses, the only stipulation being that the medium asks no questions, and the audience give no response. What do you think would happen, any prizes for guessing?

    Aug 16, 2007
  • anon

    The so-called $1,000,000.00 Challenge that James Randi is promoting is nothing more than that-a promotion to enhance the fame of his institution and himself, of course.

    I applied to take the "challenge" and was rewarded with scorn and derision. Of course, I replied with same.

    Mr. Randi is nothing more than an opportunist, skilled in the art of illusion and deception. He never would have offered the prize if he had any intention of letting someone who could actually win the prize have the opportunity to do so.

    Mr Randi is in for a nasty surprise when I prove that I predicted the future.

    I can prove that music is not what it seems. I have photographic evidence that everything I say on this subject is the truth.

    I can prove that James Randi is what he says he is-a liar with no honor or scruples. He is a septic skeptic who knows the tricks but not the truth who wants to keep everyone in suspense, which makes no sense.

    I could help many people with that money. Why not give me a shot. He could set up the prescreen test with the University of Alberta and it would essentially cost them nothing. But it would cost him and the person that actually put up the money $1,000,000.00.

    We'll see.

    Oct 16, 2007
  • anon

    I'm pretty sure anyone that wins that contest would be badgered by the government to be used as a weapon. You know how humans react to the unknown, make it ours or kill it.

    Dec 26, 2007
  • anon

    Interesting conversation. A bit vituperative for my blood at times, but interesting nonetheless.

    I am writing a book for a major publisher (yeah, i'll tell you if you ask) that is exploring the science (real science, people) of alleged out-of-body experiences and remote viewing, etc. I've been a journalist for 10 years and have written for mags and newspapers that all of you read all the time. I am a skeptic, and, as a REAL skeptic, I'm not inclined to believe or disbelieve any of this stuff. I'm just accruing the facts.

    If you read this, Kevin Gardner, please contact me:

    I've heard of others applying for the Randi challenge and getting the same run-around. I want to investigate if he is seriously committed to investigating these phenomena or just digs the self-promotion.

    Thanks, y'all.

    Nov 03, 2009
  • anon

    What if apples fell from the sky?

    Nov 24, 2007
  • anon
    Frank (not verified)

    My favorite is when people explain that the 'magic' doesn't exist because you don't have faith. Oh please now! Faith! Talk about horrible horrible reasoning, or lack there of. People that claim this garbage kill me.

    Apr 04, 2009
  • anon

    They doooooo if your a blind person :)

    Nov 24, 2007
  • anon
    R.Larsen (not verified)

    I have studied the paranormal for almost nine years now and I can’t PROVE anything yet. This does not mean I have not experienced what I believe to be paranormal phenomenon, only that I cannot prove what it is. Trust me, it is not ignorance guiding my studies, but quite the opposite. I began as a skeptic out to see for myself. Upon experiencing situations, to which I have yet to find plausible scientific explanations for, my curiosity grew and I began serious study and experimentation. The biggest problem with proving the paranormal is creating the controlled environment.
    My main interest at this point is E.V.P. (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). I have ruled out random radio waves or signals due to receiving completely relative answers and comments to questions and situations, among other processes. These have been documented, studied and repeated in as controlled an environment as I have found possible at this time. I will not go into specifics on my findings here, however I had written an article a few years back that discussed E.V.P. specifically. I pointed out that even E.V.P. does not prove the afterlife, it only proves that something anomalous is taking place.
    I must partially agree on the statement that the paranormal does not exist, only due to the fact that I believe that what some view as the paranormal now is completely scientific. Everything that exists is scientific. What science does not have an answer for now, it is likely that it one day will, even if that science includes the existence of spirits, demons, or an afterlife.
    So no, I do not have any “gift”, only a tape recorder and documentation. I am more critical of my own research than most other researchers I have dealt with, and am trying myself to rationalize the anomaly. I however believe that it cannot be done with current science and rational.
    Yes I could use the money, and you can bet that if I find a way to present this in a controlled situation, I will put in for the million quicker than you can put a stamp on an envelope.
    To believe without proof is as ignorant as to disbelieve without proof.
    Keep an open mind, but not so open your brains spill out.

    Dec 03, 2007
  • anon

    The second to the last sentence there really got my attention. It is ignorant to disbelieve without proof? I don't mean to offend, but that single statement undermines your entire credibility as a "scientific" researcher. To even suggest that you need proof to believe something does not exist says mountains about how you operate. You cannot prove that fairies don't exist. You cannot prove that there is not a green blob under my bed, but only when nobody's looking. You cannot prove that Jason doesn't magically poof into my closet with his bloody machete when I'm alone and going to bed. It is the claim FOR which has to be proven, not the claim AGAINST. If I claim fairies exist, I am the one who has to prove it. If I claim they do not, case closed until you can prove otherwise. Why? Because something that doesn't exist doesn't leave behind proof that it doesn't exist. You can't dusty for fairy anti-fingerprints which only show up when something WASN'T there. By that statement, I would have to except the possibility that every crazy story I ever heard or read MAY be true until it's proven to be false. Yeah, I guess I am pretty ignorant for not believing my cousin when he told me he had a black light laser sight which actually put a black dot on the target. I suppose it is possible he has a glorified flashlight which violates a few laws of physics. I never did PROVE he didn't. You see how stupid that sounds?

    And, I'm sorry, but there is nothing REMOTELY, much less COMPLETELY scientific about ANYTHING paranormal. Everything that exists is NOT scientific. Sciency things are scientific. Everything that exists is existific. And you can't magically make ghosts exist by first stating that the paranormal is scientific followed by the statement that everything 'that exists' is scientific.

    And for the Randi hater, yeah, Randi turns down a lot of people because it was costing a fortune to sort through all the wackos and frauds. I have had very limited contact with him. He is kind of a dick, but his heart is in the right place. If you have so much power that you can prove to James Randi that you are paranormal it should be no problem for you to use your "power" to get yourself a TV show. Look at that piece of crap, John Edwards. He has no power AND no talent and he still has a show.

    Dec 29, 2007
  • anon

    "To believe without proof is as ignorant to disbelieve without proof" I think is not such a far fetched statement. I will admit I am pro paranormal but that does not mean I approach my research without skepticism. You say that there is nothing remotely scientific about said previous statement. And forgive me if I haven't got your gist quite right but isn't the point of a scientific experiment to have the ability to be disproved before it can be accepted as fact. So in effect we can't definitively say that the paranormal doesn't exist without proving it doesn't.

    Not all paranormal believers are as gullible as you think, I myself despise John Edwards and his like. What's so wrong with hope though?

    Aug 08, 2008
  • anon
    G1 Android Acce... (not verified)

    To me it is all the same mind games. Mind readers, people who take the Bible literally, all these people have convinced themselves that something that cannot be proven is real.

    Nov 08, 2008
  • anon
    EVP'S (not verified)

    Can anyone explain evps other than the possibility that they are random radio waves. We have so many frequencys being used these days, there are quite a few sounds all around us - but some are rather compelling.

    This is really an issue of - If you belive you will always belive, if you dont belive it may just take an actual spirit to walk infront of you to make you belive, even then you could find it to simply be excess carbon monoxide in a building.

    Nov 25, 2008
  • anon

    if you seek proof then seek out those aided by the man in black in london september 1998 he predicted every event that has now affected this world in the last 10 years from the twin towers to the tsunami of phukket the drowning of new orleans even the recent fall of northern rock and the recession world wide his true name is known by many of your worlds celebrities from avril lavigne to the residents of number ten downing street from terry prattchet to the producers of lord of the rings harry potter and numerous other hits he has seen to the capture of over 1000 pedophiles and dozens of murderers as far as new zealand and america and has never left english shores if you seek proof then seek it dont pretend that your tests are perfect in this imperfect world oh and by the way uri now lives about 1 hour from the man in blacks door

    Nov 19, 2008