The Myth of the Million Dollar Challenge

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?

However, after ten years, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) says nobody has even got past their preliminary testing. Furthermore, none of the 'big fish' - medium John Edward, spoon-bender Uri Geller, psychic Sylvia Browne - have applied (although Sylvia Browne did accept James Randi's direct challenge on Larry King Live, without going any further). And now, perhaps as a result of that fact, James Randi has announced that the Challenge will come to an end in two years, on March 6th, 2010.

But does the challenge really make a statement about the existence of the paranormal and/or psi abilities? According to paranormal investigator Loyd Auerbach (who, like Randi, is a member of the magic fraternity):

The suggestion that ending the Challenge after 10 years supports any statement that psi does not exist or someone would have won the challenge, is absurd on many levels.

The procedures for the Challenge included several hurdles in favor of, and multiple "outs" for Randi and the JREF that any discerning individual capable of any kind of extraordinary human performance would think twice about (and here I'm not just referring to psychics and the like).

What are these hurdles that Auerbach refers to?

Chances, of Anything...

First, and perhaps the most important, is the effect size required to win the challenge. While the JREF says that "all tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant", this does not mean that the tests are fair scientific tests. The JREF need to protect a very large amount of money from possible "long-range shots", and as such they ask for extremely significant results before paying out - much higher than are generally accepted in scientific research (and if you don’t agree to terms, your application is rejected). In the case of parapsychological research, however, where effect size is often small (though apparently robust), this means most researchers would have to go to extraordinary lengths to win the million dollars. As one psi researcher pointed out to me:

In the ganzfeld telepathy test the meta-analytic hit rate with unselected subjects is 32% where chance expectation is 25%. If that 32% hit rate is the "real" telepathy effect, then for us to have a 99% chance of getting a significant effect at p < 0.005, we would need to run 989 trials. One ganzfeld session lasts about 1.5 hours, or about 1,483 total hours. Previous experiments show that it is not advisable to run more than one session per day. So we have to potentially recruit 989 x 2 people to participate, an experimenter who will spend 4+ years running these people day in and day out, and at the end we'll end up with p < 0.005. Randi will say those results aren't good enough, because you could get such a result by chance 5 in 1,000 times. Thus, he will require odds against chance of at least a million to 1 to pay out $1 million, and then the amount of time and money it would take to get a significant result would be far in excess of $1 million.

Furthermore, applicants must first pass a 'preliminary test', before they are allowed to progress to the actual 'formal' test which pays the million dollars. So an applicant must first show positive results in a preliminary test (yielding results against chance of at least 1000 to 1, apparently), then once through to the next stage they would then have to show positive results against much higher odds to claim the prize (by all reports, at odds of around 1 million to 1). Failure in either test means no cash prize, and a fail beside their name. It many respects it would be like telling a professional golfer to shoot 63 around Augusta National, then come back and shoot 59, to prove that he can play golf. In the words of Chris Carter, author of Parapsychology and the Skeptics:

If Randi were genuinely interested in testing unusual claims, then he would also not insist upon odds of at least one million to one against chance for the results. Anyone familiar with scientific studies will be aware that experimental results against chance of say, 800,000 to one would be considered extraordinary; but results this high would be, according to Randi, a “failure.”

Dr Michael Sudduth of San Francisco State University also pointed out to me a wonderful irony in one of the rules. Challenge rule #3 states: "We have no interest in theories nor explanations of how the claimed powers might work." As Sudduth puts it: “Curiously, Randi's challenge itself is saddled with assumptions of this very kind. The challenge makes little sense unless we assume that psi is the sort of thing that, if genuine, can be produced on demand, or at least is likely to manifest itself in some perspicuous manner under the conditions specified by the challenge.”

Researchers Step Up to the Plate

As a consequence, you might well say "no wonder no serious researcher has applied for the Challenge." Interestingly, this is not the case. Dr Dick Bierman, who has a PhD in physics, informed me that he did in fact approach James Randi about the Million Dollar Challenge in late 1998. Bierman reported a success in replicating the presentiment experiments of Dr Dean Radin (where human reactions seem to occur marginally before an event occurs), and was subsequently asked by Stanley Klein of the University of California why, if his results for psi effects were positive and replicable, he didn't respond to Randi's challenge. Bierman replied that he would rather invest his time in good scientific research, rather than convincing skeptics in a one-off test. However, after further discussion, he decided that he may be able to combine the two:

After some exchange of ideas I was brought into contact with Randi. Randi sounded sincerely interested and I worked out a proposal for an interesting experiment that would last about a year. Experimental effects in this type of research are small and require a lot of measurements to reach the required statistical significance (I think Randi wanted a p-value of 0.000001).

Note that he didn't insist on showing the effect on stage. Rather I proposed to do a kind of precognition (actually presentiment) experiment on-line over Internet where he or some other independent skeptic could generate the targets once the responses were communicated over the Internet (all this would be done automatically on a computer under his control within a second). This would prevent cheating from the experimenter's side but we still had to work out how to prevent cheating from the Randi-side.

At that point Randi mentioned that before proceeding he had to submit this preliminary proposal to his scientific board or committee. And basically that was the end of it. I have no idea where the process was obstructed but I must confess that I was glad that I could devote myself purely to science rather than having to deal with the skeptics and the associated media hypes.

Bierman said I should also contact Suitbert Ertel, Professor Emeritus of Georg-August-University of Göttingent, who has developed a new type of parapsychology experiment which seems to facilitate large-scale psi effects - which would be much more suited to the Randi challenge. Ertel, I was told, had apparently also discussed the challenge with James Randi, after his results had been replicated by other skeptical researchers. Ertel replied to my query by explaining his involvement with not just Randi's challenge, but also a separate 'Prize Challenge' offered by a German skeptical group:

My first approach [to Randi] was made because I thought the prize might be achieved by the Gauquelin planetary effect, a statistical "paranormal" or "neo-astrological" effect, with which I was very familiar as researcher. The problem was that decisions regarding the sample which would amount to 1000 natal charts was dependent on much informed thought, and Randi didn't know how to deal with the conditions. So the correspondence came to an end.

The second approach was made because I had applied to win the prize of 10,000 EURO which the German GWUP promised to give to someone who would be able to demonstrate large psi effects. Winning this prize would have been considered by Randi as passing his preliminary test, his first test which must be passed before someone is allowed to apply for Randi's main $1 000 000 test.

The psi effect demanded, even for the GWUP test = Randi's preliminary test, was so large that I was not hopeful that I would be able to show so much of psi, with the help of my psi-gifted students which I selected by my "pingpong ball test". My only goal was to achieve a statistically significant effect so as to make the skeptics admit that they observed a significant psi effect. This goal was achieved by my first test trial (one psi-gifted participant) in 2005. In 2006 another test was conducted with the presence of GWUP people: two of my students, psi-gifted in earlier tests, participated. In this test the effect was not significant.

One of the apparent reasons for this failure was that the skeptics had changed the conditions of this test arbitrarily in many ways so that the participants felt uneasy under strong control - such feelings have psi-reducing effects.

Ertel's first test with the GWUP had a p value of .018. He mentioned however, that two additional students among a number of observers also participated, secretly, during the test. Their results were also significant, giving a total significance p-value of .002. Ertel told me that the GWUP skeptics, to their credit, did note the results of the two students who had participated secretly.

Ertel thinks that the Million Dollar Prize is winnable, though obviously the odds required are not 'fair' scientifically. However, as one of the rules is that applicants must pay all their own expenses, he estimates that he would need at least $US10,000 to make a ‘long shot’ bid for the formal challenge. He would also like to have a personal attorney present and another independent scientist as observer, and would need to select 3-4 psi-gifted participants near the JREF institution where the tests would be performed:

But winning the prize would not be my main concern. My main concern is to achieve high levels of significance under control by the skeptics. Psi effects would have to be acknowledged as existent by the science community if they were achieved, i.e. replicated (because they would have been observed before the Randi test was made) with, say, p = .0001 - it need not be .000001. Winning the Randi prize is no scientific standard for acknowledging the existence of causal effects. P = .0001 or so obtained under control of people who are experts in deception (so that this factor is ruled out) and whose intention and bias is to prove that psi does NOT exist (so bias is also ruled out) would let psi appear existent beyond reasonable doubt.

Would You Trust This Man?

Ertel's mention of the expenses required to engage in Randi's challenge, returns us to to the "hurdles" mentioned by Loyd Auerbach. Perusing the rules of the Million Dollar Challenge would certainly give most people cause for concern. Two of the most important, especially when combined, are rules #4 and #8:

4. Applicant agrees that all data (photographic, recorded, written, etc.) gathered as a result of the setup, the protocol, and the actual testing, may be used freely by the JREF.

8. When entering into this challenge, as far as this may be done by established legal statutes, the applicant surrenders any and all rights to legal action against Mr. Randi, and/or against any persons peripherally involved, and/or against the James Randi Educational Foundation. This applies to injury, and/or accident, and/or any other damage of a physical and/or emotional nature, and/or financial and/or professional loss, and/or damage of any kind. However, this rule in no way affects the awarding of the prize, once it is properly won in accord with the protocol.

In other words, applicants give the JREF/Randi virtually absolute license to use the data as best suits their publicity needs, without any legal recourse for the participant. Not exactly enticing for an applicant, although if James Randi was held in higher esteem by the parapsychology research community then it might not matter so much. However, a number of scientists iterated to me their distrust of Randi...and a number of them appear to have good reason for that judgement. When I asked Rupert Sheldrake about the Million Dollar Challenge – a scientist who has investigated ‘telephone telepathy’, the sense of being stared at, and possible psychic talents in animals, Sheldrake told me quite simply: "I don’t take the prize seriously, and above all I don’t trust Randi since I’ve found him to be dishonest...He is not a scientist, has no scientific credentials, and is essentially a showman and an expert in deception". Sheldrake pointed out a previous confrontation as evidence for his distrust of James Randi:

The January 2000 issue of Dog World magazine included an article on a possible sixth sense in dogs, which discussed some of my research. In this article Randi was quoted as saying that in relation to canine ESP, "We at the JREF [James Randi Educational Foundation] have tested these claims. They fail." No details were given of these tests.

I emailed James Randi to ask for details of this JREF research. He did not reply. He ignored a second request for information too.

I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place "years ago" and were "informal". They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: "I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so."

Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: "Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by." This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape.

Dr Gary Schwartz has often come under attack from James Randi for his research into mediumship. Labelled "Gullible Gary" by Randi, and accused of believing in the tooth fairy, Dr Schwartz refused an invitation from Randi to allow an "independently qualified panel" to hold forth on the data he has collected. According to Dr Schwartz: "He calls it an 'independently qualified panel', but it is composed mostly of people hand-picked to guarantee the decision would likely be a foregone conclusion, merely rubber-stamping his prejudices". In this case, Randi suggested a panel comprising of Ray Hyman (CSICOP Fellow), Marvin Minsky (CSICOP Fellow), Michael Shermer (CSICOP Fellow) and Stanley Krippner (a parapsychologist whom Randi is familiar with). Not exactly “independent”, one would surmise. Unfortunately, according to Dr Schwartz:

James Randi has a history of engaging in the twisting of the truth...Randi's recommendation of Dr. Krippner was certainly acceptable to me. However, when I contacted Dr. Krippner directly to see if Mr. Randi’s statement about him serving on the panel was correct, Dr. Krippner was concerned. Dr. Krippner explained that he had previously emailed Mr. Randi stating that he would not agree to serve on such a committee. The truth is, Dr. Krippner was not willing to serve on the panel, and he made this clear to Mr. Randi.

Lastly, despite James Randi's assurances that applying for the prize is a simple matter, this seems not to be the case. A number of the more 'general' applicants have waited multiple years to have their claim tested; one of the more recent, Carina Landin, went through a 3 year process just to reach the preliminary test, and after failing her test (achieving above chance results, but not to a significant level) found that her protocol had not been adhered to...and so is now waiting to be retested. According to 'Kramer', a former JREF employee who helped with applications:

We experience this a lot, and this most certainly leads many applicants to the conclusion that JREF is "jerking them around", forgetting that no JREF representative is involved in testing, and that tests are determined with Randi's approval, but without his direct involvement, in order to insure absolute impartiality in the testing procedure. JREF cannot guarantee the continued involvement of any third parties who volunteer their time (without any form of compensation) on behalf of The JREF Challenge."

All in all, it's rather easy to see why 'psychic personalities' would ignore the Million Dollar Challenge, irrespective of anyone's opinion as to whether their talents are real or fraudulent. It asks them to risk their careers on a million to one shot (assuming they are not fraudulent), putting all the power into the hands of a man they distrust - and who has been antagonistic towards them over a number of years - with no legal recourse available to them.

On the other hand, although parapsychologists face similar worries, it is now apparent that some are so determined to show the evidence for psi effects that they are willing to risk a failure in order to make an impression. Both Dick Bierman and Suitbert Ertel feel that there is a robust enough effect for them to at least scientifically prove to the skeptics that something interesting is going on. And perhaps others are aware of this fact...

You Say Paranormal, I Say Perinormal

At The Amaz!ng Meeting #3 (TAM3), the JREF-sponsored conference held in January 2005, Richard Dawkins made an intriguing comment during an on-stage chat with James Randi:

About the million dollar prize, I would be worried if I were you because of the fact that we have perinormal possibilities. I mean, what if somebody - what if there really is a perinormal phenomenon which is then embraced within science and will become normal, but at present is classified conventionally as paranormal?

Certainly, suspicious (some might say 'skeptical') minds might wonder whether the influx of positive “perinormal” results - such as from the decades of Ganzfeld telepathy research, replicated presentiment experiments, and Ertel’s new ball-drawing test - may have influenced the JREF’s decision to withdraw the Challenge. It’s interesting to note that Rule #14 of the challenge states:

This prize will continue to be offered until it is awarded. Upon the death of James Randi, the administration of the prize will pass into other hands, and it is intended that it continue in force.

Similarly, in a previous discussion regarding the Challenge, Randi had stated: “...the million dollars is not my million dollars, sir, it belongs to the foundation I represent, and it cannot be used for any purpose other than as prize money in the challenge." It would seem this is no longer the case…

Whatever the reasoning behind the withdrawal of the Million Dollar Challenge, it has little impact on scientific acceptance of psi effects. Even if a challenger took on the risks and won the million dollars – despite Suitbert Ertel’s best intentions - it is doubtful that skeptics would be convinced. According to CSICOP Fellow Dr Ray Hyman:

Scientists don't settle issues with a single test, so even if someone does win a big cash prize in a demonstration, this isn't going to convince anyone. Proof in science happens through replication, not through single experiments.

Ultimately, Irrelevant

It would seem the modern skeptical movement has all bases covered. If you don’t apply, it shows you have no evidence of the paranormal. If you do apply and fail, ditto. If you put your career on the line and apply, beat initial odds of 1000 to 1, and then 1,000,000 to 1, to win the Challenge, then it still offers no proof of the paranormal.

Ironically, paranormal investigator Dr Stephen Braude agrees with Ray Hyman about the merits of the Challenge: “The very idea that there could be a conclusive demonstration to the scientific community of psychic functioning is fundamentally flawed, and the suggestion that a scientifically ignorant showman should decide the matter is simply hilarious.“

Skepticism is certainly demanded in examinations of paranormal claims (not to mention, in all facets of life). However, the JREF Challenge seems to be primarily aimed at providing the modern skeptical movement with a purely rhetorical tool for attacking the topic of the paranormal. In a recent newsletter, James Randi says as much: “The purpose of the challenge has always been to provide an arguing basis for skeptics to point that the claimants just won’t accept the confrontation.” It appears though that some parapsychology researchers are actually more willing than Randi thought...

It seems quite obvious that the Million Dollar challenge does not offer - and has not offered in the past - a fair scientific evaluation of paranormal claims - rather, the statistics employed are primarily based on ensuring the million dollars remains safe. Other rules further stack the deck against participants, by handing control of publicity to the JREF. Suitbert Ertel commented to me:

Randi and those who offer a large monetary prize for psi effect demonstrations are entitled to demand unachievable psi effects. It's their money and they must be careful not to lose it. Everybody must admit that this is reasonable economically. But careful reasoning about money and property is quite a different thing than careful scientific reasoning.

Dr Dean Radin was more blunt in his assessment:

This 'challenge' was like Evel Knievel's steam-powered motorcycle jump over the Snake River Canyon: A great stunt, accompanied by pomp and bluster, but ultimately irrelevant.

-------------------

Update: James Randi has responded to this post in his JREF newsletter dated 29/02/2008: "The Grubbies Attack". While I don't consider this article an "attack" (nor consider myself "grubby"), I do thank Randi for responding. To be clear: I contacted the JREF three times while writing this article, and extended the deadline by a week, to allow for responses and clarifications from Randi (or JREF officials). I would have preferred that, rather than a rhetorical and selective newsletter 'debunking', but Randi is entitled to do what he likes.

Although I would like to leave the article to stand alone, rather than debating points, Randi makes some unfortunate errors in his newsletter, which I feel bound to point out here. Most importantly, in multiple passages, Randi refers to the words of "Loyd Auerbach" - these are not Auerbach's words, they are mine (apart from one short quote from Auerbach). This is unfortunate, as Randi directly addresses Loyd Auerbach in a rhetorical fashion on multiple occasions, when Auerbach did not say the words Randi attributes to him.

Other than that: I am not "chortling" over the end of the challenge, nor is this a "19,000 word tirade" (it doesn't even measure 4000 words, and it is simply an examination of the challenge). Surely Randi is not so sensitive about people offering skeptical analyses (this is his raison d'être, after all) of his own work, as to label them "tirades" (three times no less), when it most obviously isn't?

Randi defines "applied" for the challenge as it suits him. Sylvia Browne "applied", according to Randi, by responding on national TV after being "forced into it" (labeling my statement "wrong" as a consequence). Later, Professor Dick Bierman did not "apply", despite approaching Randi without being forced into it, because "his name appears in none of the application files". For the record, when I queried Randi about his in a private email, he confessed that "Browne never applied."

The passage about "none of the “big fish”" having applied is not a "canard", as Randi labels it - it is in fact a point in favour of the Challenge. For Randi's own edification, I am in agreement with him regarding Sylvia Browne.

In the only correct attribution to Loyd Auerbach, Randi says "we have never said nor even suggested [that the challenge disproves psi]. Loyd invented that, all by himself." Loyd did not claim that Randi made that statement. However, numerous self-described skeptics *have* suggested it. Auerbach had no need to "invent" it (a wonderfully descriptive phrase by Randi though, credit where due for his rhetorical skills).

Randi says "the applicant invests nothing, has nothing to lose, and should be able to beat the odds in the same way that any person could ." This is patently untrue, as the article shows.

Randi: "Again, nonsense. We have NEVER had an applicant fail to come to agreement with us when terms were negotiated, and every one of those applicants simply failed and did not re-apply." I stand corrected.

Randi: "What Auerbach purposely fails to understand – in order to have an argument – is that a pole-vaulter should be able to pole-vault, a cook should be able to cook, and a psychic should be able to do what he/she claims, to better than 1/100 odds."

Nonsense, Randi has no such knowledge that a psychic should do better than his arbitrary 1/100 odds - it is his personal opinion. Would it be snarky of me to point out that in earlier paragraphs Randi claimed to have an "abysmal ignorance of statistics"?

Randi says: "And, I have to wonder why Dr. Bierman did not press me to pursue the matter, since he reports that it seems to have simply vanished. We’ve had many of such disappearances, in which apparently interested persons, scientists among them such as Dr. Wayne E. Carr – also a PhD, so we know he’s a real scientist – who negotiated with us literally for years before backing out. "

Randi turns this around rather deftly with some rhetorical sleight-of-hand. According to Dr Bierman, the ball was in Randi's court when the application "disappeared"; Bierman did not "back out". Randi need not have "wondered" why Bierman did not follow up - Bierman says himself in the article. Further, Randi says his correspondence with Bierman terminated in 1983...I'm not sure of this date, as Bierman's email correspondence about presentiment was in 1998.

[The mention of Victor Zammit's own attack mid-response is nothing to do with my article.]

However, I am glad to see that my article has prompted Randi to lower the odds (to 1 in 100 for the preliminary, and 1 in 100,000 for the main challenge). This may make the Challenge a more attractive proposition for parapsychology researchers. It certainly remedies (to a degree) one of the main problems with the challenge - that the odds are so long. One in one hundred thousand is still no easy task however.

--------------

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anthonynorth's picture
Member since:
13 April 2007
Last activity:
9 years 1 week

I'm quite dismayed by this thread. All I'm reading are idiots on each side (Greg excepted).
Egoism personified. Is anyone actually interested in understanding what is going on in the paranormal?
As the messenger, I stand, here, waiting to be shot.

...

I'm fanatical about moderation

Anthony North

Colette M. Dowell's picture
Member since:
26 February 2005
Last activity:
7 years 48 weeks

Do you really expect anything different?

In the movie Lawrence of Arabia, the journalist asks Lawrence a question and he answers it as any yokel would have that thinks he is out to save the world - and ends with, "And I going to give it to them." The journalist replies to him, " There's one born every minute."

Dr. Colette M. Dowell ND
Circular Times
www.circulartimes.org
www.robertschoch.net

tihz_ho's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
4 weeks 3 days

Being an idiot is only from another's point of view. Therefore it is only YOUR point of view and others who share your view that there are idiots on each side.

Trust in the fact that everyone including you, me and Greg are idiots to someone else.

It is what it is.

Calling people "idiots" simply for not having the same "good sense" to share your point of view is...just as idiotic as the people you judged to be.

There is no high moral ground that you stood on to be shot about - you just made an idiotic statement is all. We all do that from time to time.

Cheers

Greg's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
18 hours 23 min
tihz_ho wrote:

Calling people "idiots" simply for not having the same "good sense" to share your point of view is...just as idiotic as the people you judged to be.

I think you just defined Randi as the King of All Idiots.
;)

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things

tihz_ho's picture
Member since:
30 April 2004
Last activity:
4 weeks 3 days

It is what it is... :)

The measure of how stupid we are depends on where we happen to be at that time.

Frankly all these issues are just part of the human condition. People follow and believe what they see as fulfilling their needs whether is is religion, politics, paranormal, UFOs, Apple Macs et al.

One can argue that a person is stupid for shelling out $700 to Sylvia Browne for a worthless "reading". However if the person shelling out $700 to Sylvia Browne feels good about the "reading" then its not worthless to them, is it? Perhaps later that person may wake up one day feeling quite the idiot to pay $700 for nothing.

This is the problem - there are consumer laws which protect people from wasting their money on worthless things.

I see no problems with enforcing the same consumer laws on anything involving monetary transactions be it psychic readings, "Chi" bracelets, holistic medicines, faith healing - whatever.

In addition psychic readings, "Chi" bracelets, holistic medicines, faith healing et al all have mandatory caution labeling as something which is not proved excepting anecdotal evidence or for entertainment purposes only.

At such time when something is proved then the caution label comes off.

In this way people who are prone to crystal healing, Q-Ray, CD quantum energizers, Sylvia Browne, UFO lens flare photos ad nauseam, can continue to be happy in their world while people who are not prone to such things are cautioned.

Yes, I am suggesting we must protect the general public from "Crunchy (real dead) Frog" confectioneries...(with lark's vomit)

Cheers

Colette M. Dowell's picture
Member since:
26 February 2005
Last activity:
7 years 48 weeks

I myself thought the statement to fall under the category of Martyr.....and, well, I think we all have opinions...... I do not like dishonesty, I do not like too much ego .....(one needs some ego to be out in the world I think) .....I do not like ultimatums.

I do not think myself that science as it has been labled is equpped at this point in time to deal with things that are relative to few.......they want masses - a status quo. I feel there are some people who have more abilties, however, the majority of people go without recognizing their own little abilities. If there were not miraculous events taking place, they would not have been written about .....even the Bible has paranormal occurences in it. Science argues the Bible and look how many people believe in it? So, I feel that it is perception. A belief system either way that some one is comfortable with. (And I can be wrong about that too as that is my perception) As in abortion, some agree, some do not. It is personal choice whether to believe or feel a certain way. It is a pity though at times "beliefs" (good and bad -weird and otherwise) are crammed down us and we are ram rodded into "pretending to think " a certain way or we have to follow course (and we must follow suit at times - others, go underground and live multiple realities) .....that is the greatest maipulation of all. Governing laws of any kind, where it be in science or the church that are not equipped to fully answer what truth is - just give an opinion - and like idiots, there are a lot of them.

Dr. Colette M. Dowell ND
Circular Times
www.circulartimes.org
www.robertschoch.net

Mark Roberts's picture
Member since:
23 February 2008
Last activity:
9 years 17 weeks
anthonynorth wrote:

Is anyone actually interested in understanding what is going on in the paranormal?

You betcha! First you'll need to demonstrate that paranormal abilities exist. Then we can discuss what's "going on" with them. Plan on getting to that any time soon? I'd be interested to review your experiments.

anthonynorth's picture
Member since:
13 April 2007
Last activity:
9 years 1 week

Hi Mark,
There is absolutely no doubt that something goes on in the mind of people who claim to experience the 'paranormal'. We know that because people say so. They have experiences, feelings, etc.
Is this 'evidence'? When someone goes to a doctor saying they're depressed, they receive treatment based on the person's feelings, etc, without definite scientific 'evidence'.
This is the way things work in the real world. The 'science' often has to accept what it cannot understand. Once that acceptance comes, THEN we can move on to theory. And once theory is placed, data can then be collected. As to what the answer will be, who knows - we haven't done the science.
But demanding that we 'demonstrate' paranormal abilities is something that can never happen concerning the human mind until this process is taken. And even then perhaps not. It is the way with the mind.
Sceptics conveniently side-step this.

...

Reality, like time, is relative to the observer

Anthony North

Mark Roberts's picture
Member since:
23 February 2008
Last activity:
9 years 17 weeks
anthonynorth wrote:

Hi Mark,
There is absolutely no doubt that something goes on in the mind of people who claim to experience the 'paranormal'. We know that because people say so. They have experiences, feelings, etc.
Is this 'evidence'? When someone goes to a doctor saying they're depressed, they receive treatment based on the person's feelings, etc, without definite scientific 'evidence'.
This is the way things work in the real world. The 'science' often has to accept what it cannot understand. Once that acceptance comes, THEN we can move on to theory. And once theory is placed, data can then be collected. As to what the answer will be, who knows - we haven't done the science.
But demanding that we 'demonstrate' paranormal abilities is something that can never happen concerning the human mind until this process is taken. And even then perhaps not. It is the way with the mind.
Sceptics conveniently side-step this.

...

Reality, like time, is relative to the observer

Anthony North

Anthony, this isn't about squeezing someone's brain to see if there's paranormal stuff in there. It's about asking people who make SPECIFIC CLAIMS of paranormal abilities to back them up with verifiable evidence. No one has done so.

anthonynorth's picture
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Hi Mark,
I think this is the point I make below. The whole idea of 'proving' paranormal abilities is a red herring devised by sceptics so science doesn't need to take the subject seriously.
Similarly, I don't have much patience with the so-called psi-stars. Like the sceptics, you are both part of the entertainment industry. Some day there has to be a meeting of minds here. There are thousands of perceived paranormal experiences going on now. Extreme stances on both sides fail these people.

...

I'm fanatical about moderation

Anthony North

Mark Roberts's picture
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etcorngods wrote:

Six years or so ago, i was introduced to Randi over the phone. I told him that I wanted to accept his "challenge". He heard what I had to say and hung up on me.
Recently I went on his Forum. I introduced the ET Corn Gods language in a thread. Once those Randi-ites realized that what I had couldn't be debunked, they all Piled on. Those guys are worse than a bunch of Born Again Baptists.
Better believe the way they believe, or they tar and feather you.
I sued Randi and his "educational foundation" in federal court. Withdrew the suit after Randi had spent about $20,000.
You guys might might want to see the ET Corn Gods language/game -- www.etcorngods.com -- am also setting up a blog -- not running yet -- ufoetblog.com.
The ET Corn Gods language is an extensive language embedded in the English language -- brutal in it's messages. There is a God -- he/she has chosen to reveal him/herself through our language (preplanned by God/UFO/ET)
George Simpson

You sued the JREF and 15 forum members because the forum members showed that your lunatic etcorngods code and claims are complete nonsense. You also threatened people with violence. People are welcome to read the court documents and judge for themselves whether or not you are sane: http://simpsonlitigation.googlepages.com/

Please get help.

C.E. ONeill's picture
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etcorngods wrote:

I sued Randi and his "educational foundation" in federal court. Withdrew the suit after Randi had spent about $20,000.

It sounds like you're saying that you sued them just for the purpose of making them spend money rather than for the purpose of proving your case or for the purpose of establishing the authenticity of the ET Corn Gods language. That seems kind of self-defeating.

If you really believe in what you say, why would you just withdraw your suit?

Panzees's picture
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You are such a joke, as is your pathetic code and your silly self serving book.

"rut rut rut"

rjh01's picture
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"The JREF need to protect a very large amount of money from possible "long-range shots", and as such they ask for extremely significant results before paying out - much higher than are generally accepted in scientific research
"

I find it hard to believe that it would be easier to publish a scientific peer reviewed paper with strong evidence of psychic powers and then successfully defend it then win the MDC as what the paper suggests.

"If Randi were genuinely interested in testing unusual claims, then he would also not insist upon odds of at least one million to one against chance for the results. Anyone familiar with scientific studies will be aware that experimental results against chance of say, 800,000 to one would be considered extraordinary; but results this high would be, according to Randi, a “failure.” "

In fact I have never seen a science acticle that gives the odds of something being right. They look for a 'smoking gun.' Something what has been observed that can only be explained by one theory and not another. Then they can say that within certain parameters certain things are true and others are false.

"Challenge rule #3 states: "We have no interest in theories nor explanations of how the claimed powers might work." As Sudduth puts it: “Curiously, Randi's challenge itself is saddled with assumptions of this very kind. The challenge makes little sense unless we assume that psi is the sort of thing that, if genuine, can be produced on demand, or at least is likely to manifest itself in some perspicuous manner under the conditions specified by the challenge.” "

What are you saying, that psi cannot be produced on demand? In other words does not exist? How does this argument relate to the rule #3?

"Lastly, despite James Randi's assurances that applying for the prize is a simple matter, this seems not to be the case. A number of the more 'general' applicants have waited multiple years to have their claim tested; one of the more recent, Carina Landin, went through a 3 year process just to reach the preliminary test, and after failing her test (achieving above chance results, but not to a significant level) found that her protocol had not been adhered to... "

Facts
She only got 12 / 20 right. What does chance results mean? Having 20 guesses on a yes no question you are unlikely to get exactly 10 right.
She scored better on the old diaries, something she said she could not do.
The cause of the delay was nothing to do with JREF.
The protocol was ambiguous. It is not correct to say it was not adhered to.

Here is the link to the thread CARINA LANDIN, Swedish Friend of the DEAD http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t...

jhskulk's picture
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"In fact I have never seen a science acticle that gives the odds of something being right."

Guess you haven't seen many science papers. Much of conventional medicine is assessed by odds and probability on whether or not they actually work or not. Statistical analysis is one of the biggest tools of analyzing things that aren't "hard" sciences.

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Good morning everyone,
Here's my pitch on the sceptic/believer controversy. The beauty of scepticism, such as employed by Randi, is that it throws a pebble into the pool. This creates ripples, the result being that everyone takes a more extreme stance than they otherwise would do. The result is puppets playing to a puppetmaster.
Extreme stances result in too much 'ego' on both sides, and in the end, it is not about trying to understand anything at all. It is about reputation and personality.
If this is what people want the 'paranormal' field to be, all well and good. But don't call it research and theorising. It's a branch of the entertainment industry.

...

I'm fanatical about moderation

Anthony North

Mark Roberts's picture
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No, Anthony, the beauty of skepticism is that it teaches one how to separate fact from fiction. With so many people and organizations trying to fool us about one thing or another, that's an extremely important ability to cultivate.

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Mark Roberts wrote:

No, Anthony, the beauty of skepticism is that it teaches one how to separate fact from fiction. With so many people and organizations trying to fool us about one thing or another, that's an extremely important ability to cultivate.

Skepticism is an excellent tool. I would just like to see the skeptical 'movement' applying it to itself a little more.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things

anthonynorth's picture
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No, Mark, scepticism - which I use all the time - is about not believing, and using this as an analytical tool to examine all avenues of a phenomenon, and rejecting those that don't apply at that time. By 'at that time', I mean data is compared to theory. Theory changes, and can give new meaning to data previously rejected.
The sceptic of the paranormal - a thing I call 'septic' in order to show the difference - stops at the first comma. By not completing the process this thus becomes a contradiction, and he can have nothing other than a belief.

...

I'm fanatical about moderation

Anthony North

Richard's picture
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Doesn`t it.

Greg's picture
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rjh01 wrote:

Facts
She only got 12 / 20 right. What does chance results mean? Having 20 guesses on a yes no question you are unlikely to get exactly 10 right.
She scored better on the old diaries, something she said she could not do.
The cause of the delay was nothing to do with JREF.
The protocol was ambiguous. It is not correct to say it was not adhered to.

Here is the link to the thread CARINA LANDIN, Swedish Friend of the DEAD http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t...

Welp, I did actually include the link to the thread in my article, so I'm not sure why you thought we needed it reposted. On the other points:

a) Yes, 12 out of 20 is above chance in a binary test (such as the one she underwent) - chance is 10 out of 20. Guessing 12 out of 20 is roughly a 1 in 4 shot. It's just not significant as a one-off. If she average 12 out of 20 for 1000 tests, then it would be significant.

b) The delay is everything to do with the challenge, as the JREF uses third party investigators to do the initial test. Nothing you say disputes my point that, contra Randi, applying is not "simple".

c) The protocol may have been ambiguous, but including a diary from the 18th century was as close to not adhering to it as you could imagine (considering she asked that diaries should be from the late 19th century onwards).

None of which says that I believe she is genuine. Just stating some rather plain facts.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things

red pill junkie's picture
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and one thing only...

Is that Elvis the guy Randi keeps locked inside his vault, in the picture????

Could it be that the actual form of the famous prize? Not cash or bonds, but the King in person? :-)

-----
It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie

drmabusa's picture
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watch carefully the consequences of Randi’s *great idea*…..

Please visit:

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/v...

to see how we stopped James Randi's Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

For over 40 years James Randi (is this even a REAL NAME?) has had total control over who and how the testing was conducted, yet despite all this he has terminated the challenge.

The ONLY REASON why the challenge was stopped is because he lost and refused to pay.

Apparently, Randi likes to break the rules when it serves him:

http://www.randi.org/joom/content/view/4...

"14. This prize will continue to be offered until it is awarded. Upon the death of James Randi, the administration of the prize will pass into other hands, and it is intended that it continue in force. "

Great force.....it's over......

where is my MILLION DOLLARS, you LITTLE NO-NAME FRAUD

Greg's picture
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drmabusa wrote:

Please visit:

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/v...

to see how we stopped James Randi's Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

Please. Stop. All you are doing is enabling the belief system of fundamentalist skeptics.

Kind regards,
Greg
-------------------------------------------
You monkeys only think you're running things

IDontNeedNoStinkinUsername's picture
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They, like all fundamentalist proselytizers, are beholden to a belief system, incapable of looking at anything that might upset their world view with even the slightest bit of objectivity. Sheldrake's story is telling. The most dishonest, unpleasant people I've dealt with are true believers- those filled with a smug certainty that they posses the truth and the rest of us should get in line.

Richard's picture
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Possessing the truth and others getting in line.

This is the war of ideologies and ideologies fight for supremacy trough the human mind.

It is the story of humanity since that story has been that of ignorance as well.

Knowledge, information, is the real value. It is not oil, money or whatever other material good that universally is the value, it is always knowledge or information.

But on a planet such as this one, when absolute knowledge, when absolute information, when they are not available, you get what appears to be the next best thing, you use common sense, the sense of the greatest number that is, you create a access fee or you get a patent.

But first, you must insure that your ideology prevails and when there is competition, it is 'no quarter'.

Some people get paid to take themselves way too seriously.

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The article says that one in a thousand odds are too hard for a psychic to beat. That would be true. Under good test conditions they have not done better than what you would expect if they were just guessing.

Richard's picture
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Tests related to the paranormal don't necessarily take into consideration one thing, that thing being twofold in that the 'psychic' may not have control over the phenomena and that there may be forces controlling the output that do not wish to be recognized, yet.

Generally, it appears that people consider that so called psychic powers or phenomena must come from the material individual, and therefore if true should be under the control of those individuals if their brain is wired this or that way or what not.

But the material person cannot have more impact on its environment than a rock may have an impact over life events, unless it is put in your way so that you break a leg.

DeanP's picture
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rjh01 wrote:

The article says that one in a thousand odds are too hard for a psychic to beat. That would be true. Under good test conditions they have not done better than what you would expect if they were just guessing.

What silliness. Under good test conditions, even ordinary people, on average do better than guessing. I know some on this forum would love to wish Ganzfeld and presentiment experiments away, but I'm afraid that is not possible. Pathological disbelief hardly equals skepticism.

Roger Knights's picture
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It's been suggested by Greg that Dennett's comment a couple of years ago at a scoftics' coven (that Randi's $1M was at risk if the presentiment experiments of Radin panned out) may have been what was behind the withdrawing of Randi's Challenge: His backers might have got cold feet.

It's just occurred to me that this sort of worry could also be what motivated CSICOP to drop "COP" from its name half a year or so ago. (COP stands for "Claims Of the Paranormal.") They may be ducking a bullet that's on its way by disassociating themselves from denying Paranormalism, retreating to the more defensible position of a generalized skeptical stance.

I doubt that this was their whole reason, or even their main reason, for their name change. But I suspect it was a weight on the scales--maybe 10% or 20% of the total weight.

Or maybe it was an unconscious presentiment :-)

Roger Knights's picture
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Here's a naughty (teasing) neologism, one a Believers' organization or website or conference should consider adopting: COP (Claims Of the Paranormal). It's been orphaned after CSICOP dropped it to become CSI, so now it's in the public domain.

Roger Knights's picture
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It would provide an indication of how stringent Randi's test conditions are if he were to post the level of success he would require for certain "standard" psi tests.

These levels would become less stringent as the number of trials in each test increased. That is, in a coin-toss test, it might be reasonable to require 90% success in a test with just ten tosses, but only 60% success in a test with 1000 tosses. Therefore, for each test, Randi might post several "hit %" requirements, each associated with a differing number of trials.

Here are a few standard tests that occur to me off the top of my head. I urge others to make additional suggestions:

Zenor cards.
Coin toss.
Ganzfield.
Telephone telepathy.
Presentiment.
Ping-pong ball matching.
Remote viewing.

davidmabus7777's picture
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comparing a MONSTER LIKE *NOSTRADAMUS* TO A LITTLE *GEEK* LIKE DAWKINS:

http://www.middle-fork.org/archives/dSpi...

and FINALLY:

guess what is inside angel's ENVELOPE:

See video

these *UGLY GEEKS* should stick to BIOLOGY
_________________________________________

FINAL DRAFT FOR WORLD-WIDE CIRCULATION:

now with EMBEDDED VIDEOS!

please FWD all your appreciations to [email]randi@randi.org[/email] and
[email]richard.dawkins@oum.ox.ac.uk[/email] and [email]myersp@morris.umn.edu[/email]

SEE HOW WE CAUSED THE PRESIDENT OF AMERICAN ATHEISTS, ELLEN JOHNSON,
TO QUIT HER JOB AND STOPPED RANDI'S MILLION DOLLAR PARANORMAL
CHALLENGE:

for randi & dawkins and all the so-called "critical thinkers"

the ORIGINAL *KING OF TERROR* VIDEO.....

See video

the *MODEL* of mental health:

See video

"Look at the ANGLE OF THE KEY....see that, see that...."

Editor: Parts of this post have been removed. Please post intelligently without throwing insults around.

earthling's picture
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Suppose you can make $2 million from your fake (or even real) story, and you would make less money if you actually challenge Randi and win.

Why bother, if you can make more money, ignoring Randi?

I bet that many people who are not honest have made more than $1 million.

And if there are honest people, they get bad publicity from having to deal with Randi.

I say many more millions were made by the dishonest people.

Even if not millions, Uri Geller makes a decent living, with his small enterprise. Why be too greedy?

----
if everything is under control, you are not going fast enough (Mario Andretti)

it's not how fast you go, it's who gets there first

Roger Knights's picture
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An even better teasing acronym than COP, which I suggested above, would be COPSI: Claims of Psi.

SolomonKane's picture
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Hi Greg.

I made an italian translation of your post and, if you give me permission, it will published in "Quaderni di Parapsicologia", a parapsychology review issued by the CSP (Centro Studi Parapsicologici, Bologna).
Please contact me as soon as possible:

robdean@tiscali.it

Thanks!

psiexploration's picture
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This site is posted as a link a great deal on Yahoo Answers by those seeking to counter the Randi challenge as proof that that the paranormal doesn't exist. It seems odd to me that the challenge is brought up most often by the skeptics that claim to be representing science when even the skeptics among the scientist like Ray Hyman have dismissed this challenge as useless in any scientific way.

Anyway I would like to invite everyone to
Yahoo Answers:Science&Mathematics:Paranormal
be prepared for a few very vocal pseudo skeptics with multiple accounts (I recently got 20 thumbs down for providing an answer with links to scientific evidence).

Thanks for this great site that tries to tell it like it is not as people want to believe it is.

Andyzon1's picture
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Hi All,

HERE IS GENUINE SCIENTIFIC PROOF OF PSYCHIC ABILITIES.

"RetroPsychoKinesis Pendulum Experiment" video.
http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?doci...

RetroPsychoKinesis Pendulum Experiment Log Report ONLY.
http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?doci...

"Magical Mind Analyzer" score.
http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?doci...

Love,

Andyzon1

http://www.grillflame.net/forums/viewtop...
_______________
http://www.ascensionnow.bravehost.com
http://www.ascensionlightningpath.braveh...

Perhaps the greatest myth being purveyed,
is that myths are just myths.

Roger Knights's picture
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I notice that Randi was referred to above as a showman. Instead of gnashing our teeth about the razz-ma-tazz effectiveness of his Million Dollar Challenge, let's put on our carny-hat and devise an equally effective Anti-Randi Challenge.

Here's how I envisage it. Members of CSICOP would be challenged to attend simple tests of psychic ability involving psi-talented subjects guessing about ping-pong-balls, Zener cards (ideally color-coded), being stared at, etc., and to bet against their achieving over-chance results. At the end of a series of trials, each "hit" above the range of chance (one standard deviation, say) would take something out of their hide; each "miss" (within that range, or below it), would win them something.

If skeptics wound up getting stung on balance, or if they chickened out, it would wrench away JREFers’ right to say, "Nyah-Nyah, you couldn't pass the test" and bestow it on our side. E.g., we could challenge any obnoxious online skeptic to attend a psi-test and put his money where his mouth is.

Details:

CSICOP member(s) would be involved in designing the test set-up, and ideally also in overseeing the circumstances of each test.

If stricter controls were requested, such as a body-scan of participants or use of a Faraday cage, skeptics would have to pay for them, being recompensed if the guessers failed under those conditions.

Closed-circuit TV, which is available on many campuses, should be employed where available to eliminate data leakage and prevent skeptics from having an "out."

Challenge-tests could be sponsored by one or more parapsychological organizations on a quarterly basis (say). (More frequent tests would be an imposition on psi-gifted subjects.) And/or perhaps psychology professors could oversee demonstrations on-stage in their school auditoriums.

Bettors could select the "chip size" that fits their means, up to some upper limit. If anti-gambling laws were a problem, losses and winnings could be pledges to CSICOP (if the skeptic won) or IONS (say), or play-markers like donuts could be used.

These events could be televised (broadcast and/or streamed on the Internet) and archived on YouTube.

****

My inspiration for the proposal above was this Greg-quoted statement by Suitbert Ertel, Professor Emeritus of Georg-August-University of Göttingent:

“My main concern is to achieve high levels of significance under control by the skeptics. … with the help of my psi-gifted students which I selected by my ‘ping-pong ball test.’ My only goal was to achieve a statistically significant effect so as to make the skeptics admit that they observed a significant psi effect.”

But I worry how to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise on test conditions. I hope that skeptics don’t insist on such unnecessarily inhibitory controls as prof. Ertel lamented:

“One of the apparent reasons for this failure was that the skeptics had changed the conditions of this test arbitrarily in many ways so that the participants felt uneasy under strong control - such feelings have psi-reducing effects.”

William1965's picture
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The new rules actually put to rest any counterarguments here. This shows me you don't quite understand the intention of the MDC, and are simply looking for an easy out yourself.

frankmat's picture
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@William1965 You do realise... the last comment before yours was over 1 year ago.... well BEFORE Randi moved the goalposts because he was found out. I hope other skeptic have greater investigative ability than yourself.

emlong's picture
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http://www.vithoulkas.com/en/research/cl...

Randi's skullduggery with the homeopathy trials. The guy is as big a trickster as any fraud out there. These fundamentalist skeptics have absolutely no interest in scientific procedure.

Randi is a circus barker - always has been. "Lowering the bar" just means that he will be able to pick from a larger pool of apllicants not likely to succeed.
I always think back to the Russian "girl with X ray eyes" fiasco which almost grabbed the million bucks. After taking the girl out of her usual procedures and making sure she was working in exhaustion from her transoceanic flight, she still got 4 out of 7 correct. Had it been 5 she would have been a winner, However, 4 out of 7 correct diagnoses from a dead start was already way, way beyond guessing chance.
Randi has absolutely no interest in furthering research into anything. He is just another high profile gatekeeper for the forces attempting to quash evolving human potential and awareness.

Daniel Eb's picture
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I remember as a kid seeing Randi and thinking he was cool and that he must *know* that there was no such thing as ESP or other paranormal powers, but I do now wonder if he has a million dollars to spare, and whether he'd pay out if someone did accept his challenge and win.

I guess that the tests can be made unwinnable to a large degree - not suggesting of course that he does that, but with lots of people out there who truly do believe they have special powers, you'd have thought they'd be queuing round the block to have a go at winning the money.

red pill junkie's picture
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As Greg explains it, the challenge involves tremendously high stakes. For 'professional' psychics there's the risk of losing credibility. And for actual parapsychologists doing lab research, there's no real payoff in submitting themselves to Randi's conditions.

BTW, welcome to The Grail :)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

Jesse M.'s picture
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The anonymous psi researcher quoted in the article said:

"In the ganzfeld telepathy test the meta-analytic hit rate with unselected subjects is 32% where chance expectation is 25%. If that 32% hit rate is the ‘real’ telepathy effect, then for us to have a 99% chance of getting a significant effect at p < 0.005, we would need to run 989 trials. One ganzfeld session lasts about 1.5 hours, or about 1,483 total hours. Previous experiments show that it is not advisable to run more than one session per day. So we have to potentially recruit 989 x 2 people to participate, an experimenter who will spend 4+ years running these people day in and day out, and at the end we’ll end up with p < 0.005."

This guy's math doesn't seem to make sense! If 989 sessions are needed to get that level of statistical significance, why would you have to recruit 989 x 2 people (he doesn't explain where the x2 factor comes from) and make each person do 989 sessions? (which is presumably where the "about 1,483 total hours" figure comes from, since he said each session is 1.5 hours and 989*1.5=1483.5) Wouldn't 989 participants mean all of them could do a single session on the same day and get the needed significance level? And he says it would take about 4 years, which seems to assume one hour per day since 1483 hours divided by 365 hours per year gives 4.06 years, but he just through saying a session lasts 1.5 hours and experimenters should do "one session per day", so that would mean 365*1.5=547.5 hours per year, and 1483.5/547.5 is 2.7 years (you can also get that figure by doing 989 sessions / 365 sessions per year = 2.7 years).

Aside from those issues, I think I understand where the figure of 989 trials comes from, but once you understand the math behind it, it totally undermines the guy's claim that it would be extraordinarily difficult to pass Randi's challenge even if psi effects are real. It appears he is using what statisticians call the "binomial distribution", which is used to answer questions along the lines of "if I have a 25% chance of success on a single trial, and I do 1000 trials, what is the probability of getting 300 or more successes?" In this case, he says that if the results were pure chance the probability of success on a trial would be 0.25, but due to supposed psi effects the probability of success per trial goes up to 0.32.

So when he says "for us to have a 99% chance of getting a significant effect at p < 0.005", he's using two different binomial distributions. p < 0.005 refers to the probability you'd get a certain number of successes by chance (under the assumption the probability of success is 0.25), and 99% is the probability you'd get that same number of successes if the psi effect he describes is real (in which case the probability is 0.32). Note that Randi's requirements deal only with the first "p" number (for his first test he requires p < 0.001, to win the million dollar prize he requires p < 0.000001), the 99% part was just chosen arbitrarily by the psi researcher as the probability the whole experiment will actually reach the desired p-value.

In this case, the binomial calculator at http://stattrek.com/online-calculator/bi... shows that if the probability of success due to random chance is 0.25, and number of trials is 989, and the target number of successes is chosen as 284, in that case the probability of getting greater than or equal to 284 successes is 0.0043, which satisfies p < 0.005. Then if you change the probability of success to 0.32 (assuming the psi effect is real), while keeping the number of trials as 989 and the target as 284, in that case the calculator says that the probability of getting greater than or equal to 284 is 0.988, or about 99%. So this seems to be where he gets the numbers from.

But if you just wanted better-than-even chance the experiment will pass one or both of Randi's tests, rather than 99% chance it'll pass them, then the requirements aren't so stringent. For example, if you wanted p < 0.001 (passing Randi's first test, and a more significant effect than p < 0.005 which the commenter used), then with 600 trials, the probability of getting greater than or equal to 184 successes by chance would be 0.00098, which satisfies p < 0.001. But the probability of getting 184 or more if the psi effect is real would be 0.77, so in that case you'd have a 77% chance of passing Randi's first test.

Passing Randi's second test of p < 0.000001 and winning the million dollars is of course harder, but not that much harder. If we assume 999 trials (since the binomial calculator I linked to only goes up to 1000), then the probability of getting 317 or more successes by chance should be 0.000000987, which satisfies p < 0.000001. And if the psi effect is real, the probability of getting 317 or more successes out of 999 goes up to 0.58. So, almost a 60% chance of winning a million dollars, pretty good odds—I'm sure if you offered to split the money you could find 999 participants (and staff to run the tests in parallel), and you could do that many trials in a single day! Or you could get 333 participants and do it in 3 days, 50 participants and do it in 20 days, etc. I'm sure if you picked a somewhat larger number of trials, say 1500, then the corresponding probability of passing the p > 0.000001 test and winning the million (under the assumption that the psychic effect is real) would be significantly higher than 60%.

almasdar's picture
Member since:
6 August 2016
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46 weeks 7 hours

A true scientifically minded individual would verify his claims before making categorical statements.

That is where the problem lies with confrontation.

Everybody thinks he holds a truth without being the sightlessly involved with the subject at hand.

People think this way so they assume this way.

I am going to say this though. An individual with real ties to what we call the paranormal does not feel the need to prove it and does not need the confirmation of anyone to appreciate the reality of his experience. He can be lied from within the experience and misinterpret information, but should not need recognition of the phenomena by others who are trying to interpret something that lies outside of their own field of conscious experience.

There are a lot of people out there that don't give to whom what Randy may be thinking. What he thinks is his business and what others think is none of his.