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The Myth of James Randi's Million Dollar Challenge

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posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:04 PM

For ten years, the modern skeptical movement has wielded a cudgel against claims of the paranormal: the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge. In many debates over the possibility of psi abilities, the Challenge provides a final word for one side..."has so-and-so applied for the Challenge?" The financial reward offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation is seen by many skeptics as providing an irresistible motivation for anybody with paranormal ability - after all, if someone could genuinely exhibit such powers, surely they would step forward to take the million?

I personally don't think James Randi's million dollar challenge is legit. After he backed out of the challenge with Homeopath George Vithoulkas and told the people on his site that George backed out. Turns out even though, Randi is not investigating George, some of his colleagues are and so far the experiments are still going on.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:06 PM
I always tell people to never do this. The government use this to just find people, stay away, no one will ever win.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:09 PM
Why is alternative medicine even considered for the 1 million?

I didn't actually see anything that would suggest Randi has backed out, maybe he is stalling, but I don't see where he wont test this guy.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:09 PM
I got the vibe from JREF that even if evidence hit them in the face about paranormal activity they would still disreguard it.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:13 PM
I've heard that the million is in the form of a bond and isn't worth much real money and I think the challenge has to pay for the validation tests designed by Randi as I say just what a mate said he saw on tv so I'm just throwing it out there.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:30 PM
reply to post by Maddogkull
Although I doubt anyone could provide evidence to pass the Randi Challenge, his requirements are fairly limited. Naturally, he wants to avoid entertaining an endless queue of freaks, wierdos and chancers looking for a quick buck. Nevertheless, the 12th clause of the terms limits the field...

12. This offer is not open to any and all persons. Before being considered as an applicant, the person applying must satisfy two conditions: First, he/she must have a “media presence,” which means having been published, written about, or known to the media in regard to his/her claimed abilities or powers. This can be established by producing articles, videos, books, or other published material that specifically addresses the person’s abilities. Second, he/she must produce at least one signed document from an academic who has witnessed the powers or abilities of the person, and will validate that these powers or abilities have been verified.
Application for Status of Claimant

The only people he'll entertain are famous with a letter from an academic.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 03:45 PM
Sounds like a trap to me. That and just another way for people to say "if it existed the money would be claimed!". Its his money, he can decide to refuse to give it away. I wouldn't be surprised if hes turned people away who clearly proved that it exists.

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 04:06 PM
James Randi's orginization CSICOP has been caught falsifying data in the past in order to discredit certain claims. Like the supposed astrological link between Mars and athletes.

I USED to believe it was simply a figment of the National Enquirer's weekly imagination that the Science Establishment would cover up evidence for the occult. But that was in the era B.C. -- Before the Committee. I refer to the "Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal" (CSICOP), of which I am a cofounder and on whose ruling Executive Council (generally called the Council) I served for some years. I am still skeptical of the occult beliefs CSICOP was created to debunk. But I have changed my mind about the integrity of some of those who make a career of opposing occultism. I now believe that if a flying saucer landed in the backyard of a leading anti-UFO spokesman, he might hide the incident from the public (for the public's own good, of course). He might swiftly convince himself that the landing was a hoax, a delusion or an "unfortunate" interpretation of mundane phenomena that could be explained away with "further research."

posted on May, 1 2010 @ 06:21 PM
Randi comes up a lot on the web. And the truth about the challenge falls about half way between the opposing claims.

First thing for sure is that unlike many other challenge prizes (and there are many legitimate challenge prizes, for a variety of feats in engineering or mathematics, or annual prizes like the Nobels), this one is offered with neither the intention nor the expectation that it will ever be awarded. Nobody really disputes that. It is simply not a "legitimate" challenge prize.

Second, it's legal in the United States to be illegitimate in that sense. Look in the automotive section of a newspaper. Good chance that you'll find an ad that says "We'll match any competitor's written offer, OR WE'LL GIVE YOU THE CAR FOR FREE." Take a breath, reckon the odds that that means anybody ever gets a free car, and know that those are the same odds of anybody ever getting Randi's million.

What they offer is an agreement to negotiate an agreement. Yes, that will be at your expense. They are not obligated to reach any agreement with anybody, and the only standard of success in any agreed-upon test is that in their opinion, and only their opinion, you did something they would feel like paying you a million for having done.

In other words, Jesus couldn't count on winning the cash, nor even count on getting an agreed-upon testing protocol.

Speaking of Jesus, there is a publicity requirement to apply, which has varied over the many years of the challenge. This provision reflects the purpose and heritage of the challenge. Randi continues Houdini's mission of exposing exploiters of the grieving and media fakes. That's God's work, in my opinion. Nobody cares whether Grandma still talks with Grandpa whose been six feet under for a decade. A John Edwards clone who'll hook Grandma up for a fee is more the concern.

On the other hand, there's not a lot of focus. Yes, Randi has a bug up his hindquarter about alternative medicine, so it's "paranormal." As I recall, he is also an audiophile, and seiously or not, at least once offered the million to a speaker manufacturer if it could back up some performance claims for its premium line of speakers - to his satisfaction.

As to the reality of the million, anybody can pull JREF's 990 (what tax exempts file instead of tax returns in the United States), either from JREF itself or Guidestar (free registration required). Last time I bothered to do so, the million was there. Yes, it's a bond. So what? You'd keep a million in cash? Even if you would, the IRS would object. Trustees have a duty to preserve the assets of the chairty, and inflation bites (even when officially there isn't any).

That nobody has ever won the prize is uniformative about the prevalence of paranormal phenomena. It isn't really looking for the genuine variety, and the law ensures that there's really no way forcibly to part JREF from Randi's million. Even if the prize crew screwed up, and gave Jesus a protocol, they can always allege fraud when he spins the Empire State Building thrice around on its axis, and send the matter to court. The depositions alone will take years.

Bottom line: it's a stunt, not a scientific investigation. Nobody gets the money, because the money is just bait, and conversation lubricant.

After all, how did Randi earn the million in the first place? As a stage magician, a professional creator of the illusion that something interesting is happening when really nothing's happening at all. He's retired now, but pitching BS is like riding a bicycle, once you learn, you never forget how.

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