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It always seems to me that the 'skeptics' always say that the burden of proof is on the side that tries to prove the positive, but when studies are conducted and have shown some positive results, the researchers were immediately criticzed for their designs and methods.

When I told people that I was a Psychology major in college, I heard them making remark that Psychology is a 'soft' science. I was really bothered by that. Psychological studies have been plauged by criticisms that were not much different from criticisms received in 'paranormal' researches. Studying human social and psychological behaviors are very difficult since most of times the studies rely heavily on surveys and responses of the participants. The skeptics and debunkers alike called those data 'Anecdotal,' thus, making it a soft science.
but if i remember correctly (i even look up the word 'science' in the dictionary just to be sure), science is defined as 'systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.' So, if one applies the systematic approach- hypothesis, design, experiment, data analysis, and conclusion, then it is science. Like Matthew Cromer said, 'science is a method, not a position.'
in essence, when you label something as a 'soft science,' or 'hard science,' you are stating your position about this specific topic in question. thus, you're no longer talking about science, but of your belief. The conclusion is really just a belief of the researcher in trying to figure out what was going on. And as with EVERY research, the scientists always bring up issues and problems in their design, hoping that future research will IMPROVE their current design, not to be attacked for their work.

the truth is, there is no such thing as a perfect design in any experiment. If you read a study where the scientist did not list any issues in his/her study, then that scientist is biased and the study is compromised.

the 'skeptics' LOVE to point out the flaws, and hardly offer any suggestion to improve the design. worst of all, the 'skeptics' further attacked the researchers not in their work or methods, but of their competence and intellectual capacity. Michael said it best, those 'skeptics' bully and make inflammatory comments to not just studies and experiments, but beliefs, ideas, and people. At that point, it's not science anymore. It became a Spanish Inquisition.

to be fair, there are some in the 'paranormal' side who are just as guilty in attacking the skeptics. it only goes to show that these people (whether 'skeptics' or people who believe in anything) are really no different from one another- they're both people of beliefs.

there is no science there, just dogma.

The Pseudo-Skeptics can blindly and gullibly recite about the existence of this challenge and there being no takers of the prize as "proof" that no paranormal phenomenon exists, but like unquestioning Religious Fundamentalists, I doubt many if any of them have actually read their holy book / challenge in whole to actually know what they are actually talking about and what the text is actually saying/suggesting.

In this case, it appears to be impossible to win by any stretch of the imagination, and it seems to be completely in the subjective biased judgements of JREF. Not trustable or reliable at all IMHO. It eliminates many potentially testable areas for no reliable reason, and even suggests that they can eliminate even more at their own subjective discernment.

So much for "seeking the truth", but Pseudo-Skeptics obviously don't care to get to the bottom of things and actually find the truth, they just don't want these things to be true! Bottom line. End of story. Case closed.

I've been asked before by Pseudo-Skeptical friends who are quite taken by my intellegence as to why I even bother honestly researching the Paranormal and embracing Spirituality as opposed to embracing "Atheism / Skepticism", I reply, "Sorry, I just don't have enough blind faith to be a Universal Conspiracy Theorist towards all of the Mysteries and Wonders of Life and The Paranormal of Human Existence."

Of course, that statement doesn't even count my own first hand Paranormal and Spiritual Experiences that I've had over the years. I just like saying that in retort, hah!

Hmmm…”no janitor, dishwashers or busboys.” What about delusional carnival clowns and high school dropouts.
Hehe, priceless.
-B

Bardur-

Ha! Took the words right out of my mouth.

This firmly, in his own words, puts to rest any doubt that James Randi is a true skeptic. His mind is closed tight, and, as others have observed for a long time, there is no standard of proof that would ever be accepted by him. He would always find an out, as he demonstrates here. He is truly, as I have said all along, a "professional denier", not a "skeptic". I also think it's the height of arrogance for him (who didn't even finish high school) to denigrate janitors, dishwashers, and busboys as he does. Are only "professional" people capable of telling the truth or making judgments about events? Does a lawyer have any more qualifications to state they witnessed some event than a busboy does? Do the lawyer's eyes, ears, etc., have a higher level of functioning than the busboy's? And what if the busboy is finishing up his last semester of law school, working to support himself while earning his degree? Is his testimony invalid one week before his graduation but suddenly infallible a week or two later? Not only is Randi a "professional denier", he's also an arrogant idiot.

Recently I exchanged some emails with someone at the Randi website and I challenged some comments that the amazing Randi had made concerning crop circles. His comment was that those researchers of crop circles should take up something like collecting stamps rather than spend their time doing research on crop circles. This stuck me as someone that was not that interested in applying the scientific method to study possible unexplained phenomena. Granted some crop circles are man made but there appears to be a lot of evidence that suggests not all crop circles are man made.

My point is that professional skeptics hide behind the scientific method as the only means of separating truth from fiction but here we have their most popular spokesperson advocating collecting stamps rather than doing research. Why is it that we humans continually believe that there is nothing left to discover in this complex universe of ours? I am of the opinion that we may not as yet discovered 1% of reality in our universe.

There is an excellent article out there on the net called the pathology of skepticism by David Leiter which helps to explain why skepticism can be as much a faith based religion as a faith based religion. It still amazes me to this day how professional skeptics spend much of their time and effort criticizing religious followers without realizing that they often suffer from the same paradigm paralysis as religious fundamentalists that claim to be the only bearers of truth.

Thank you for an excellent article. I was at a confernce were a skeptic was speaking(against UFOs)he had been a part of the early days of the modern skeptic movemnt and once friends with Phyllip Klass(until he caughthim tapeing his conversations) He basically ask Randi what if someone wins. Randi told him that the way he had laid the conditions out, no one could possibly win. By the way the speaker was still a skeptic.
I am not - seeing is believeing
Joe

AN UNACCEPTABLE NOTARIZED AFFIDAVIT PROVIDER?

O dear, if all notarized affidavits must come from professional individuals only, i.e., the likes of doctors, lawyers, professors; but the likes of janitors, dishwashers or busboys are out, does that mean then I won't be able to give Randi as one of mine?

Oh, come on, people. Wake up! "Not all crop circles have been proven to be man-made". "Calling for professional witnesses is wrong. I want to be able to get my mom's sister to sign an affidavit for me."
Randi: "no-one could possibly win." "Ouija boards might not always be ideomotor reflexes"

Even the blog itself; what a joke: "I couldn't give you the import by using just a few quotes, so here, I'll go ahead and do it anyway.

Grow up. Crying over it won't change the fact that "paranormality" does NOT exist in any form. Million dollar challenge? If it were a billion it would still be intact and nobody would ever try to win it.

The criticisms show that the writer has failed completely to understand.

It is a challenge. Not a popularity contest.

It was initiated by a believer in the super-natural/paranormal challenging him to put his money where his mouth is. Randi did.

Randi is not the judge, the claim should be self evident and not open to interpretation or speculation. If someone claims they can fly (some do), the fact that they float around the room unaided demonstrates their ability...$million won.

The claim, whatever it may be, needs to be testable. How would Mr Prescott suggest the claim of cloud-busting be tested? How would it be possible to test the difference between naturally dissipating clouds and ones allegedly "busted"? It is not a testable claim, the same as those that have claimed that the sun rises each day because they nod their head (a real claim).

Other claims are dangerous and Randi, quite rightly, will not expose himself or the foundation to involvement with claims that may result in death or injury. "Breatharians" have been tested. They got very, very sick (ending the test) provided they were not permitted to sneak out for a quick take-away.

Among those that claim super-natural powers are those that have been caught cheating time and time again. It is sensible that opportunities to cheat are eliminated (X-ray sight that is really peaking through gaps in blindfolds, for example).

The claimant is under an obligation to demonstrate their ability with a protocol that allows no chance to cheat. It is their protocol, not Randi's, their demonstration not Randi's, their requirements, not Randi's.

If a protocol is presented where opportunities for cheating are apparent, is it not reasonable to ask for a change? What value is a demonstration where cheating is possible? In some cases the claimant is completely unaware that they are cheating, or that some other, natural explanation is available to explain their delusion.

Mr. Prescott would seem to be the one that is closed-minded as no amount of evidence, however compelling, would seem to dissuade him from his opinion. Science and sceptisism is the opposite and has shown time and time again that old opinions and ideas can and do change when new, valid evidence compels it. That is open-minded.

Mr. Prescott should think to himself what practical evidence would compel him to give up one of his cherished beliefs. If he can think of nothing, he will become aware of how closed-minded he really is.


Finally, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" and Randi has never claimed otherwise even though evidence has been conspicuously absent during test he has been involved with. Mr. Prescott is disingenuous to suggest Randi thinks differently.

Since the author, Michael Prescott, obviously does not use all available information on the JREF Challenge, his critique seems not really relevant. Especially since he seems to take quotes out of context and misrepresent them.
An obvious and simple example:

"[...]In his Personal FAQ at the end of the document, Randi observes,

The [applicants'] claims are sometimes interesting variations on very old misconceptions or delusions, but seldom is there anything that surprises us or that requires very much heavy analysis.

No analysis is needed, since the claimants are delusional.[...]"

a) Mr. Prescott obliterates the word "sometimes" in reference to Mr. Randi's quote.

b) Mr. Prescott obliterates the words "seldom" and "very much heavy" in reference to Mr. Randi's quote.
a) and b) clearly distort Mr. Randi's statements, don't they?

c) Mr. Prescott confuses "applicant" with "claimant".
I quote from http://www.randi.org/research/index.html "[...]Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant". To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests."

He should have his blog entries checked by his editor.

Like most people, I consider the JREF Challenge and its execution far from perfect.
However, any valid claim from any applicant would pass the Challenge with flying colours.

Mr. Geller? Ms. Browne? Hello? (Sound of crickets)

>a) Mr. Prescott obliterates the word "sometimes" in reference to Mr. Randi's quote.

>b) Mr. Prescott obliterates the words "seldom" and "very much heavy" in reference to Mr. Randi's quote.

I quoted the statement in full. In fact, "very much heavy analysis" is in bold. In the very next sentence, summarizing the quote, I assumed the reader didn't need the entire thing reiterated word for word. I suppose someone suffering from ADD might need the reminder ...

>"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" and Randi has never claimed otherwise even though evidence has been conspicuously absent during test he has been involved with. Mr. Prescott is disingenuous to suggest Randi thinks differently.

The FAQ says that "some claims ... are far too implausible to warrant any serious examination" since "Science conclusively tells us all we need to know about such matters." It adds, "Other claims ... are rejected because they have been definitively proven to be the result of hoaxes or mass hysteria." Sounds to me as if JREF has made up its mind on at least some of these issues.

>How would Mr Prescott suggest the claim of cloud-busting be tested?

Require the applicant to show that he can make clouds dissipate on command, with a success rate that exceeds chance expectations by an agreed-upon amount. Determine chance expectations by doing control experiments in which no cloud-busting is attempted.

quote: Require the applicant to show that he can make clouds dissipate on command, with a success rate that exceeds chance expectations by an agreed-upon amount. Determine chance expectations by doing control experiments in which no cloud-busting is attempted.
:end quote

In that control experiment, it would turn out that chance expectation of any given cloud dissipating over time would be 100%

How is the applicant to exceed 100%?

Anyone can pick a cloud and watch as it dissipates over time, there's nothing paranormal about that. That's the way clouds behave. If they didn't in fact dissipate, we would never see the sun :)

I am dumbfounded at Mr. Prescott's ignorance.

M.

>How is the applicant to exceed 100%?

Obviously there would have to be a window of time, agreed upon in advance, during which the phenomenon would occur.

It seems to me that these skeptical objections are, as usual, only nitpicking semantic arguments (along with the predictable name-calling, insults, and bluster). Skeptics tend to be rationalizers who think that by manipulating words they can prove something about reality. That's why debating with skeptics typically turns into a series of word games and rarely accomplishes anything.

For better or worse, my four-part overview of the JREF Challenge FAQ is my best attempt at a critique. If it fails to persuade some readers, I doubt that anything I add to it will change their minds. Accordingly, I don't plan to get caught up in a long debate about it, though others are welcome to do so if they wish. As for me, I've done my hitch.

In my previous comment, I meant to say:

Mr. Prescott obliterates the words "sometimes", "seldom" and "very much heavy" in his summary.

This results in the distortion I addressed. I regret my inaccuracy.

Mr. Prescott, do you really accuse skeptics of name-calling, after having written: "[...]I suppose someone suffering from ADD might need the reminder ...[...]"?

Really?

Excellent article, Mr. Prescott!!

Cloud-busting is certainly testable in theory, but it would be an awful lot of work to come up with an objective way of measuring it. It would take days or weeks to collect the data, and I can see why Mr. Randi might not want to go through that much trouble.

And think about what cloud-busting is: According to this http://www.wsi.com/corporate/newsroom/newsletter/md2/CloudWeight.html>link, even a small cloud contains 500 tons of water. If someone can use telekinesis to sling around that much weight from hundreds of yards away, shouldn't it be just as easy to control the steam from a teakettle that's right in front of them? That's a test you can do in 5 minutes!

It's a lot easier to believe that cloud-busters are deluding themselves...that they just stare at a random cloud and sooner or later it vanishes on its own.

But I'll bet that Mr. Randi would change his mind and allow the claim if you did all of the hard work. You'd need to film the sky for many days with and without the "cloudbusting" effect applied, preferably with the help of a disinterested observer who could certify that the tapes hadn't been selectively edited. With some solid baseline data to go off of, it would only take two or three more days to do a formal test.

It seems to me that these skeptical objections are, as usual, only nitpicking semantic arguments (along with the predictable name-calling, insults, and bluster). Skeptics tend to be rationalizers who think that by manipulating words they can prove something about reality.

That's odd. The skeptics I meet (with a few notable exceptions) tend to be intelligent, insightful, and soft-spoken. They're courageous fighters against injustice, willing to confront reality in even its harshest forms. They're kind to animals and children, and respectful to elders and to their betters (if they have any).

It sounds like you've been hanging out with an unusally low class of skeptic. You should try to widen your circle of friends.

Mr. Prescott proposed a protocol for cloud busting, was shown an obvious flaw and then corrected it.

He must have seen that it was a reasonable objection as it was, as he said, "Obviously", in need of change and then added to it.

Why does he have objection to flaws in protocols, like his own "obvious" flaw, being pointed out to applicants?

It is curious to note that many applicants run away, just as Mr. Prescott has, when reasonable flaws, errors or deceptions are pointed out in their protocols.

This, if anything, is the common characteristic of those that are closed-minded to compelling evidence or suggestions of errors.

Well done Mr. Prescott.


BTW, was your comment on ADD meant to be rude, insulting, derogatory and degrading to someone with ADD or rude, insulting, derogatory and degrading to someone without ADD?

It wasn't clear.

Please let us know.

.

Well I have heard/read both pro and con on the paranormal stuff. So explain to me why the heck do we have so many unsolved crimes? Hay, get some of those people together and come up with some real answers for a change.Get the psychics tuned into the UFOs and have some good contact.Of the 5th kind maybe? I have lived a long time and I have been to many places and I have yet to have seen or have someone convince me that there are psychics/UFOs/orbs/ghosts/ or other whatevers.I know I am really no one of any importance,and my opinion means zilch, but boy it does feel good to "offer" it anyway. Lighen up.

congratulations! on writing the biggest load of crap on the web today,
if i could move things with my mind or talk to the dead,i would have randi's million in a moment, whatever the rules,but then i can't can i?, but then no-one can , can they?. isn't THAT the reason he still has it?!

i will speak for james randi. if you want my millions you have to perform the paranormal esp and everything psychic to me in my home or office for 1000 times. if you miss 999 a number below 1000 you lose all the cash with no return for a second try. at the chalenge. this is put in writing that you agree to do it a number of times randi tells you to do it and you agree to the rules you lose. if you miss one point. james agrea your psychic but the contest is to make sure randi cant duplicate your psychic powers. thats why its so hard to get the jfeds cash.

If he is so unfair, then you shouldn't have any problem producing a single challenge unfairly rejected.

I'm sorry, Ronald, but you have it wrong. First of all, it does not have to be done in Randi's office, or even in Florida (where his office is located.) Secondly, it doesn't have to be in front of Randi -- although he likes to be present at the testing, he doesn't have to be, just a representative of the JREF. Thirdly, you completely misunderstand the nature of the challenge. Randi (or the JREF) does not create the pass/fail criteria. The applicant does. If the applicant says "I can do it 100% of the time" then (s)he had better be ready to do so -- which is why the JREF does make suggested changes to the protocol. In a case like you present, they would suggest, for example, a test of 1000 trials with 80% positive indicating success, and less than that indicating failure. So, if one were to perform said action 999 times out of 1000, it would be considered "success."

Please, don't rely on Mr. Prescott's summation of the challenge -- go to www.randi.org and read it through for yourself. Be skeptical! Don't believe what only one person tells you, do the research for yourself! (That's what a "true skeptic" is -- someone who doesn't believe blindly, but seeks the facts for themselves, and then - and ONLY then - makes a decision as to the veracity thereof!)

James Randi said before that he will always have a way out also let's not forget he also is a liar misinteprets everything that his worldview can't handle. He is one miserable small old man.

God, Randi must get awfully tired of listening to the same old excuses.

The challenge boils down to this: You make a specific paranormal claim. You demonstrate said claim, under conditions that eliminate the possibility of cheating or getting lucky. You get a million dollars.

The test protocol is designed and agreed to by BOTH PARTIES UP FRONT. The test must be designed in such away that the results be self-evident, with no subjective judging necessary.

A predictor of coin flips, for example, might agree up front that 15 correctly predicted flips out of 20 constitutes success. The disingenuous cloud dispersing example, on the other hand, does not fulfil this criterion since deciding exactly what constitutes a "dispersal" is anything but self-evident.

As Randi is the one with the million, it is his prerogative to reject applications that are vague, hard to test or dangerous. Sure, this means some applications will be rejected -- utterly irrelevant, since it is Randi's challenge, his million. In any case, the vast majority of paranormal claims remain suitable for testing.

Please .. PLEASE .. Would ONE of the countless psychics, dowsers, astrologists, homeopaths or others who make testable paranormal claims PLEASE just take the challenge and claim the million, and shut the skeptics up for all time. Enough of the endless parade of excuses.


I am not a psychic, dowser, astrologist or even a member of a religious organization. I took a degree in science and enjoy reading about the latest breakthroughs in understanding our universe.

I also consider James Randi, his fanboi club and strong atheists to be deeply arrogant and narrow-minded.

The_Athiest, I would recommend, for the sake of all real skeptics, or even debunkers, that you don't post again. You completely fail to make any valid point, and instead just throw a bunch of quotations at us, and then proceed to insult the poster of the blog, and then insult, without any backing points, everyone for believing in paranormal phenomena.

Fact of the matter is the blogger in uestion does bring up a very valid point: The wording makes bias clear. Weather or not this bias is reflected in the testing process itself, once a claimant is tested, is another question entirely. However, they already sign off phenomena like crop-circles and UFO sightings as completely invalid.

Further more, I would like to point out that the JREF's record isn't that clean. it took a whole mass of critisism to getthe organization to reveal the details of the bonds by which most of the prize is payed in. Further more, the primary source of correspondance, Kramer, is guilty of editing the e-mails before posting them on the forum threads. Where-as in the thread ersions he appears polite but stern, the terminology in actua correspondance. in at least one case, was actauly quiet rude. Then there's at least one e-mail that was completely fabricated, apparently done so that Kramer could avoid the issue. (This was the thing that started the whole 'What are the bonds' details?' fiasco.)

So, if JREF has lied before over something that minor, what's to stop them from saying that the applicant was 'clearly displaying signs of severe dellusion' or that they where saying 'slanderous things about the JREF'?

I would love it if someone applied and prooved them wrong. But my personnal oppinion is that life is too short. The majority of psychics out there aren't so good that they get perfect or nearly perfect results most of the time, so those don't have the motivation to do it. Quiet alot of the applicants are not real anyways, they are looking for easy money or self-validation. When it comes down to it, the ones that are real just don't have any desire to waste months of their time to proove abilities that they are very certain they have for someone who doesn't even consider them as possible i nthe first place. (I get the impression that if a legitimate psychokinetic display, on something like a brick or trash-can, was show to Randi, he would convince himself that he himself had gone crazy.)

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