The Amazing Randi's million dollar skeptical spectacle

3 months ago

randi steemit.jpg

From 1996 to 2017, the James Randi Educational Foundation offered a prize of one million dollars to anyone who could demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under scientific conditions. No one was ever able to claim the prize, and many hard skeptics will point to this as evidence that psychic abilities do not exist. However, these skeptics are rather selective - being very skeptical of psychic abilities, but not so much of people like Randi. As a wise man said, a real skeptic would question whether Randi even has a million dollars, and whether he has any intention of giving it to anyone. In fact, there are many reasons to doubt the idea that Randi’s prize has any bearing on the existence of psychic powers.

No obligation

To get the prize, you had to submit an application. After that, the foundation would decide whether or not you were accepted to negotiate a test for the claimed abilities. At that point, the foundation could just reject every single application, and there would be no legal consequences for them. It’s unclear if any applicant has ever been successful at this stage, however, no applicant has ever passed the stage of preliminary testing.

Randi could literally offer the prize to the whole world, subject to his conditions, reject every applicant, and tell the world about the great evidence he had against psychic phenomena, and it wouldn’t cost him a hand-engraved, plastic-coated wooden dime.

It’s about the money

money-163502_1280.jpg

A condition of the prize was that all costs had to be paid by the applicant. How much does it cost to conduct a scientific experiment? Grants for $100,000 and even $1 MM are common in science, for series of experiments.

In the conditions of the prize, it states “ The final test may be longer, or require more conclusive results through more sets of the test to ensure that the preliminary test was not a fluke.” If the experiment got to that stage, the foundation could have demanded several sets of tests - so many that they knew it would go beyond the budget of the applicant, raising the bet like an open-stakes poker game from a movie.

Lack of transparency

There doesn’t seem to be any public information about how many people have applied, or what their claims were, or what happened during the preliminary tests. The only information we have is the foundation’s word that they all failed.

What do you gain from giving away $1 MM?

To award someone the prize might advance the body of scientific knowledge, which would be a great thing for humanity in general, but it wouldn’t be so great for the JREF itself.

In fact, it would probably be terrible for them. Randi has spent decades of his life rallying against psychics and other paranormal claims. To say he is invested in his beliefs would be an understatement. If he did give away the money, skeptics would decry him as a fool, say he’d been conned or lost his marbles. Just have a look at how Sam Harris was treated when he admitted there were cases of people speaking other languages that science could not explain.

Many people compare the foundation’s prize to the Ansari X prize where ten million dollars were awarded for the creation of a reusable manned spacecraft. The difference is, the X Prize Foundation gains reputation by giving out a prize, whereas the JREF would lose it. If X Prize were maintained and funded by people who spent their lives trying to disprove the possibility space travel, and started the organisation with that intention, then it might be a fair comparison.

So, in the event of the prize being awarded, Randi would lose his money, his reputation, possibly his platform, and not gain any practical knowledge from the experience. In that situation, the satisfaction of helping humanity might seem pretty dismal.

Conclusion

Randi is not a scientist; he is a showman. By offering this prize to the world he has indeed performed a work of magic - creating the illusion that something has been disproven without having to provide any evidence for it, while avoiding scrutiny by those who call themselves “skeptics”.

If we want to look for the truth, we shouldn’t look to extravagant, grandiose gestures from dogmatic doubters with an axe to grind, but to controlled studies from competent and open-minded scientists, and careful, patient examination of our own experience.


About me

kurt robinson in the mountains of puebla

My name is Kurt Robinson. I grew up in Australia, but now I live in Guadalajara, Jalisco. I write interesting things about voluntaryism, futurism, science fiction, travelling Latin America, and psychedelics. Remember to press follow so you can stay up to date with all the cool shit I post, and follow our podcast where we talk about crazy ideas for open-minded people, here: @paradise-paradox, like The Paradise Paradox on Facebook here, and subscribe to The Paradise Paradox on YouTube, and on iTunes

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  trending

Randi seems very unreasonable and dogmatic. Have you read about his interactions with Rupert Sheldrake?

http://www.sheldrake.org/reactions/james-randi-a-conjurer-attempts-to-debunk-research-on-animals

·

Hi Ken. Yes, actually I was thinking of including that in an additional reading section in the article. There seem to be several cases where people confront Randi about his deception and he says "yeah... I lied." He apparently thinks that it's fine to lie to people because he's promoting a greater truth. I don't think he is.

·
·

Yes. It's unfortunate and ironic that so many "skeptics" buy into his BS. They see him as some kind of authority on science and reason, when he's neither a scientist nor all that reasonable.

Did you happen to listen to the recent episode of Joe Rogan with Graham Hancock and Michael Shermer? Great debate. Shermer is the editor of Skeptic magazine. He and one of his writers were shown to be very biased and deceptive in an article they published about Hancock. There was nothing Shermer could do but apologize and promise to retract the article. It was brilliant.

When "skeptics" are shown to be disingenuous and deceptive, we've got to realize it's because they're invested in these phenomena not being real, and more often than not dismiss any evidence without even actually investigating it.

·
·
·

That's awesome, I haven't heard that one yet.

Yeah if you call yourself a skeptic you get a free pass on a lot of things. Seems like Randi knows that and has pushed its limits. But people won't be fooled forever

·
·
·
·

Exactly. He knows how easily people can be fooled, but instead of fooling them with fake psychic abilities, he's fooling them with fake skeptical abilities. A brilliant angle to take, as the fake psychic market is saturated.

So who are the reasonable skeptics? Michael Shermer seemed semi-reasonable and was willing to change his position after being proved wrong. I'm sure there others, but they're probably a lot more low key than people like Randi.

·
·
·
·
·

Yes. One thing I notice sometimes, in the moment someone can say "Oh I've been proven wrong" and then later they change back to how they were... Everyone's guilty of it a little. Hopefully Shermer doesn't do that.

Sheldrake talks about a skeptic who he admires a lot, but I can't remember the fellow's name. They've worked together and shared a stage. The guy doesn't believe in psi phenomena at all, but he's always open-minded to consider other ideas. I'll see if I can remember his name.

·
·
·
·
·
·

Yes, I've read that too, and I can't remember his name either.

Like Houdini, I think he wanted to believe in the super natural so badly he wanted to make contact with his mama in the afterlife, but ran into so many fake mediums & then started to weed out all the hoaxsters and wanted to find the real deal. Maybe that is why Randi wants to find a real medium because he wants to believe :)

I know some candidates to be supernaturally dumb)))

·

Dumb enough to be fooled, smart enough to fool themselves...

You can make much more money without any extraordinary efforts as a showman than as a scientist. It's much harder to be a scientist than to call yourself such.

This guy was always a magician, looks like he never stopped doing tricks.

Not sure what your point is. People made specific claims as to their paranormal abilities and applied for the million bucks (it was 10000 or 100000 back in the 60s or 70s when he first started). The tests performed for Randi's prize were agreed upon by the claimant and Randi's group, concessions were likely made on both sides for some of them. Each applicant tested failed to demonstrate beyond any doubt that they had paranormal ability. Often Randi even demonstrated techniques that charlatans use to perform the same or similar tasks that certainly don't require a suspension of physical laws. Besides all of that, it is Randi's money and he can lay on whatever terms and conditions to winning his prize as he wishes.

·

@p-x Thanks for your comment.

I'm not surprised that you're unsure of my point, because it sounds like you didn't really read my article. He can lay whatever terms and conditions on the prize, and I didn't state otherwise. If you'd like to know my point, my suggestion is to take a few deep breaths and read again.

💸💸💸💸💸💸💷💶💳💵💵💵💲💲💲💲💲💲

Thank you for such a great article! The not-so-amazing Randi has been caught on several occassions lying about the results of his tests with his subjects. He is neither a scientist or a sceptic. He is a debunker who has already made his mind up before the tests have even begun and has no real interest in finding the truth.