An Open Letter to the Amazing Randi

David Berlinski
Discovery Institute
June 13, 2005
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Dear Amazing Randi:
I just read your widely publicized letter to the Smithsonian about its decision to air The Privileged Planet, Discovery Institute's film on intelligent design. You find it "impossible to comprehend" why the Smithsonian has chosen to screen such a film. And, I see that you are willing to pay the Smithsonian Institute $20,000 so that they don't do it.

I want you to know, you're doing the right thing. I figure the American people are dumb as posts. Who knows what ideas a film like that could put into their heads? You haven't seen the film either, am I right? See no evil, see no evil is what I always say.

But here's the thing, Randi. I was sort of planning to screen the film right here in my apartment in Paris. I've got a little screening room I call The Smithsonian right between the bathroom and the kitchen, I sort of figured I'd invite some friends over, open a couple cans of suds, sort of kick back and enjoy. Now you fork over $20,000 to the Smithsonian not to show the film and right away I'm showing the film here in Paris — that's just not going to work for you, if you catch my drift.

But hey, what are friends for? I mean for $20,000, I can make my screening of the The Privileged Planet go away too. An extra $10,000 and we spend the evening reading aloud from Daniel Dennett's autobiography. I hear it's a real snoozer, no chance at all that anyone's going to walk away from an evening like that with poor thoughts about the cosmos or anything like that. You handle the refreshments — nothing much, some cocktail franks maybe, a few kegs of French beer — and I knock ten percent off the price. What do you say?

Now I know what you're thinking, Randi, because to tell you the truth, I've been thinking the same thing. You;re thinking, hey, I'm out forty thousand seminolas to can this film in Washington DC and Paris, and right away, some yutz is going to figure it's show time in Oklahoma or Nebraska or even in New York, and what do I do then? I'm way ahead of you on this one. I've talked with my buddies at the Discovery Institute and for the right kind of donation, we poleax the film completely. That's right. It disappears itself, if you catch my drift. You get to keep the negatives, we keep the director's cut in our safe for insurance. Is this some sort of deal, or what? Now I know what you're thinking because I've been there myself. I know what you're thinking, the Discovery Institute? Bunch of right-wing weirdoes, am I right? Hey, it's not like that at all, Randi, I got to tell you. We here at the Discovery Institute, we're businessmen, if you catch my drift. We want to do the right thing and we want to do it at the right price. Look at it this way. The right kind of donation gets you total peace of mind. You really can't buy that kind of protection, only in this case you can.

So give me a ring, or send me a note. I'd like to tell you we take checks, but you're a businessmen, too, am I right? It's got to be cash. More than you've got lying around? Not a problem. Just give George Soros a call. Tell him it's for a friend. Do it now.

You'll sleep better at night.

Your admirer,

David Berlinski

PS: I write a lot of stuff for Commentary, too. For the right price, I don't have to write anything at all. Think it over. Let me know.


David Berlinski received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University.