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Excellent analysis, Michael!

Randi's terms remind me of the rigged games at a carnival. He's still a carny at heart, isn't he?

Mark

A documentary here recently about that 15 year old Nepalese boy who has supposedly been meditating constantly without food or water for months featured video of an Indian ascetic who did so under controlled conditions for 10 days, as well as an interview with the neurologist heading the study.

Details here.

The medical report!

And then what of this guy who consumed only water for 411 days?

Would a repeat demonstration of this qualify as paranormal phenomena? If I actually believed the challenge winnable I'd seriously consider going off to India to persuade this guy to come to America and be judged by Supreme Arbiter Randi.

Upon reading Darryn's link, I found this article that tried to debunk it-

http://www.skepticwiki.org/wiki/index.php/Breatharianism

i particularly find the last paragraph interesting:

Apparently, the perceived ability to live without food or water can be duplicated by illusionists and stage magicians. Randi has often suggested that scientific testing of supernatural abilities should be done with the consultation of a magician who understands the effect.

So magician can go replicate the 'illusion' of Breatharianism under controlled setting?

I would LOVE to see that- if not to see how they can demonstrate it, but also seeing them ruining their health.

but then, it seems to Randi that for all the scientific studies in paranormal, we should hire a magician- looks like he's helping magician to find more job opportunities!

obviously, those scientists who are educated and spent years in conducting studies know absolutely nothing whe it comes to experimentation.

sigh.

>If I actually believed the challenge winnable I'd seriously consider going off to India to persuade this guy to come to America and be judged by Supreme Arbiter Randi.

Except Randi's already said that he will reject any "Breatherian"-style claims out of hand ... (See the first of my four posts.) Interesting data, though!

Michael,

This series is an absolutely devastating eviceration of the heart of the "challenge". Thanks for doing it.

Psychic phenomena are affected by negative energy. Just having people around who are "skeptics" can affect the outcome. If "thoughts are things" and consciousness creates reality, being around people who are doubters can affect the outcome. I remember reading in The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin that when people who were being tested got bored their psychic scores lowered. I imagine that any kind of negative energy, hate, anger, jealousy, rage, disbelief, could affect the outcome of a test. That's probably why tests might work one place and not somewhere else.

A recommended website on the behaviour of ''skeptics'' (not only Randi):
http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/home.htm

Hey Michael Prescott -- thanks for the excellent excerpts from Magic Randi's mentally "challenge"d application status.

Poor Magic Randi. I, myself, went 8 days without food and water. Proper full-lotus training definitely creates paranormal powers -- telepathy, telekinesis and precognition!

http://springforestqigong.com

I just stumbled into this discussion on the world of James Randi by a very circuitous route of hyperlinks. Thank you for the enlightenment.

I read something about Mr. Randi's Million Dollar Challenge about three years ago and wrote to him to express my opinion that it's a hoax, since it seems to me that what might be considered 'psychic or paranormal experiences' tend to be spontaneous and unpredictable - and therefore are very difficult to 'pin down' - while his challenge is weighted so firmly in the direction of an unreasonable expectation of performance on demand (included allowing yourself to be surrounded by people who are almost willing you to fail), anybody who's had or is capable of having genuine 'psychic or paranormal experiences' would surely stay well away from it.

As somebody has already pointed out, Mr. Randi appears not to be as concerned with the scientific process as with a crusade against people whose view of reality he disagrees with. I'd be interested to know, in fact, what real scientists generally think of his challenge protocol. Does JREF qualify as a religious cult, I wonder?

Incidentally, I joined the JREF Forum earlier this year after the MDC came up again in something else I was interested in and I still pay an occasional visit to see 'what's cooking'. I have to say Mr. Randi's very good at catching out scammmers and what I call 'woo woo mongers' - that's his strength, perhaps, that comes from his own background - and I believe he should be applauded for that. However, I'm less than impressed by his constant suggestions that anything metaphysical - as in, outside that which can be physically observed and measured - is by default a supernatural fantasy. I can't say I'm a believer in the paranormal myself - in fact, I was involved in a series of skirmishes earlier this year on the subject of what exactly quantum physics tells us, or not, and sided with the skeptics. However, sensible people, I do believe, can appreciate that many areas of the human experience exist in what is currently nothing more than 'uncharted territory' and it doesn't necessarily follow that researchers in those areas are 'away with the fairies' - the perception that Mr. Randi seems intent on foisting upon us.

My ten cents worth in passing. :)

You know, to prove something paranormal you don't have to go to Randi. If you believe that Randi is faking the challenge, there are other people who are willing to test you. But still, every time these things are tested by proper scientist, the people claiming to be capable of flying or whatever, backs out, or are proven a fraud.

And of course, the "bad energy from the skeptic affects the test"? Come on.. Surely you can come up with a better excuse than that one. In my opinion, "it only works if you believe in it" is a load of...

An excellent critique! Thanks.

With these Rules, Randi is merely ensuring that his time is not wasted. Someone who has a legitimate claim to the prize and applies for it correctly should have no problem. People certainly -have- successfully applied in the past. The reason we haven't heard anything is because when it finally got to the experimental phase, they failed to demonstrate their ability.

You can chalk it up to "it comes and goes" or "negative energy" from the skeptic... either way the test was failed, and no paranormal ability was demonstrated.

Nothing you have quoted from the FAQ is indicative of the challenge being disingenuous, it merely establishes that the JREF is being very scrupulous about the claims and claimants it accepts--something that actually makes the challenge more meaningful. If someone did apply for and win the prize, it would be very difficult for other skeptics to say that the challenge was rigged, or the claimant somehow tricked Randi. The scientific and skeptical communities would be forced to deal with the fact that a paranormal ability has been proven by science.

Dissecting the JREF's FAQ is not the way to go about it. A better approach, if you want to prove that the challenge is a hoax, would be to actually find someone who has a valid, testable paranormal ability and go through the application process. Part of the process is designing an experiment to which both the JREF and the claimant must agree. If the JREF then backs out of the deal, or refuses to acknowledge that your claimant passed the test, then you can take that very experiment to an impartial third party who can carefully perform it, and then have a media field day when your claimant passes it.

As soon as someone does that, then I'll believe that Randi's challenge is fake. Until then, it's just people fishing for ways to validate their paranormal beliefs in the face of the inability to scientifically prove them.

A very interesting critique. Next time I hear, "Well, if it was real, they would have a million dollars from Radi." And there does seem to be good evidence for some phychic phenomenon, Dean Randin's work for example. A lot is done by scientific methods with the nature of inquiry in mind, a philosophy not in agreement to Randi's sideshowesque presentation. Great suggestion about using an independent monitor. Then again, a falty sweepstakes may not be the best way to go about exploring the world around us.

The research of Dr. Gary Schwartz appears to support some psychic readers, despite the sceptic's mantra of "cold-reading" etc.

Gary has a reply to Randi here:
http://www.dailygrail.com/node/1311

He also has an excellent reply to the much-more-credible sceptic, James Hyman

It is the JREF's game and their rules. If you don't like it take your imaginary ball and go play somewhere else.

LLH

"It is the JREF's game and their rules. If you don't like it take your imaginary ball and go play somewhere else."

with this in mind, the skeptics then should stop bringing up the 'if the paranormal is true, why has no one won the million-dollar challenge' tenent.

it's a game to them, and just because most of researchers don't want to play their game, that doesnt mean that the ball is 'imaginary.'

Mind you, the whole point of Michael's discussion is in response to why many serious researchers don't take Randi's challenge seriously, and are simply fed up by the 'skeptics' insistence on playing the game their ways.

Once the researchers give the skeptics the reason why they don't want to particpate, the skeptics then proceed to label those researchers as phonies or whiners.

either way, the researchers just can't win.

it's a good thing that some people are acknowledging that the Randi's challenge is just a game the skeptics like to play to bully people.

What's really sad is that PZ Myer's http://pharyngula.org blog (rated one of the top 10 science blogs by the journal Nature) is a big promoter of Magic Randi (along with other top science blogs).

I've found that "hard science" wannabes on the internet are extremely close-minded to the point of being cultish.

I just got kicked off the UK transhumanists yahoo group after pointing out that the person who coined the term "transhumanist" was big into the Theosophist scene and that there's a lot of paranormal research tied to transhumanism.

Oliver L. Reiser was close buddies with Julian Huxley. http://nonduality.com/hempel.htm

If Mr Prescott believes that Randi’s challenge is merely a publicity stunt and not made made in good faith then the solution is clear. He should lobby amongst proponents of the paranormal and start a subscription to fund a million dollar counter challenge. To that challenge all the disgruntled spoon benders, breatharians, cloud seeders, dowsers, remote viewers, etc. (i.e. all those whose claims Randi apparently refuses to consider) could apply and have their talents properly tested.

Should Mr Prescott sponsor such a challenge he might indeed find that some of Randi’s rules for his challenge are well-founded.

"with this in mind, the skeptics then should stop bringing up the 'if the paranormal is true, why has no one won the million-dollar challenge' tenent."

Skeptics don't require or rely on this to make their case. Skepticism just entails not accepting something without scientific data to back it up. If something is not backed up by scientific data, then anyone who is well versed in the skill of critical thought should rightly be skeptical of it. Even in the absence of Randi's challenge, people should still be skeptical of claims that can not be supported by the data.

I guess the above comment depends on person to person. But I cannot count the number of times I have personally heard the "If it was real then the Randi..." retort followed by a very common smuggness, almost to state, "End Game"
Then again, being a skeptic doesn't mean anything in itself. A person can be skeptical about alot of things. In terms of this discussion, there does seem to be ample evidence of something going on that we do not have answers for yet. But science nor inquiry should rely on promisary notes or idealilogical stand points. This goes for fundemental relgion and materlism. They are world view assumptions. I had a prof once that said science is about solving small (t)ruths, not (T)ruths. Proving or disproving larger questions such as these is not the function of the methodology.
I suggest reading Thomas Khun as an eye opening view on the sociolgical aspect of science. Paradigms are something no social instition is able to free itself in. Even scientists are human.

Michael, after reading all the positive comments on the "challenge" series, all I can say is "ditto." Actually, "super ditto."

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