Roger Knights contributed a couple of comments in the "Running in Circles" thread that probably deserve to get their own post. So here they are.
All of what follows is Roger's commentary, simply pieced together by me.
I think the bad faith and extremist mentality of the Skeptical crusaders is brought out in some of the excellent sallies in Craig Weiler's just-out $7 Kindle book, PSI Wars: TED, Wikipedia and the Battle for the Internet.
Here is the most damning passage in the book, starting at Kindle location 1789:
Around May of 2007 Pavel Ziborov contacted JREF to apply for the challenge. After two years and almost 900 forum posts plus e-mails and letters, he and the volunteers had agreed on a straightforward protocol. Zibarov was to determine whether envelopes held a black or white piece of paper (50% chance) with 100 trials. It was agreed that he needed 67% correct answers to win (odds of that being chance are 1000 to 1). When this was submitted to Randi, it was changed to 20 trials with this explanation to Pavel: ...
“Suggest that he merely identify for us which of two photos are in an envelope, 20 times. We cannot satisfy each and every whim, and it’s too expensive. I’d say, if he refuses, he’s refused to be tested.”
This is straight up unethical. In addition to framing Pavel’s possible refusal as chickening out:
1. Randi violated his own rule that applicants have eight hours to complete their challenge.
2. Pavel still had to comply with the 1000 to 1 odds, so in order to achieve this with 20 trials, he would have had to have a success rate of 80%, where he had claimed to be able to achieve 67%. He was being asked to succeed at something he never said he could do.
3. The take it or leave it demand violates the condition that “both parties have to agree to the protocol.”
4. All of the JREF volunteers who had worked with Pavel were thrown under the bus as JREF blithely disregarded the protocol they had come up with ...
Rather than show their warts, JREF has produced a handy little synopsis of the outcome of the Ziberov application:
"In accordance with the suggestions item from other JREF staff, Pavel was given one last opportunity to simplify his protocol. He has declined, and his Challenge file has been closed.
"Pavel will have the opportunity to re-apply for the Challenge in one year, assuming he qualifies under the guidelines governing the Challenge at that time."
This kind of dissembling is an indication that the JREF organization doesn’t take their own challenge seriously. While they have acknowledged that it is a publicity stunt, it is this sort of organizational behavior that demonstrates something worse: outright dishonesty.
No wonder, with Randi taking heat like this, that he is shutting down the Challenge!
It would make a great mainstream TV episode to show Pavel Ziberov taking the 100-envelopes test. As a start, he could be tested and YouTube video’d by a neutral testing organization, with a few skeptics overseeing the preparations, venue, etc. Such a video would attract a lot of attention and might provoke a big TV network to do a rerun.
Not only would success vindicate Pavel and psi, it would severely discredit the MDC (Million Dollar Challenge)—and the gullibility of the Skeptics who cited it as the bulwark of their faith.
But what if Pavel gets only 62 hits, say? Then both sides could claim victory. Here's a way around that problem. If Pavel can regularly (90% of the time, say) obtain a 60% hit rate in 100 trials (of guessing if an envelope contains a black or white card), or even a 55% hit rate, and if he could acquire a YouTube channel, then he could post a video every month or two showing him achieving that result—and under Skeptic auspices. The "kicker" would be that those Skeptics conducting the experiment would have to donate $1000 (say - the amount could vary for each challenge) to a psi-research outfit like the one Radin works at if Pavel succeeded. Pavel, or those backing him, would have to make a similar donation to JREF or CSI if he failed. It could be dubbed The Double-Dare-You Counter Challenge.
Maybe there are others who could achieve a 55% hit rate reliably. If so, maybe the testee needn't be the same person every time. (Varying the person would make the YouTube videos more interesting, and would undermine any Skeptical claims that the testee was some undetectable super-magician. It would also dodge the Decline Effect, if one testee’s powers showed signs of fading in pre-session test-runs. Substituting testees isn’t something Skeptics should have a rational objection to.)
This standing challenge would give Skeptics no "out." They couldn't dismiss results by saying that a 60% or 55% hit rate isn't "proof" because it's only beating odds of 1 in 200 or 1 in 50 or so, because betting against Pavel repeatedly should be a long-term winning strategy.
They couldn't claim that the results were somehow due to the incompetence or worse of paranormal investigators, because the show would be under Skeptic control (with maybe a neutral or Believer observer present), and because any flaws in the procedure could be corrected in the next iteration of the bet.
They couldn't claim it's not worth their trouble to get involved, because their chance of winning would be over 98%, and because JREF could surely do with a free $1000 (at a minimum) every other month.
Their last ditch defense might be to claim (absurdly) that Bayesian statistics should be used instead of Frequentist statistics. But that claim would go down to defeat too, if the testee could demonstrate repeated success.
Or maybe they would claim that Derren Brown (say) could replicate Pavel's success. He might--but not if he were tested with parapsychologists in control of the experiment. (Unless he actually has psychic powers!)
A year or two ago I argued in one or more threads on this site that it would be terrific to turn the tables on the Skeptics with a Counter-Challenge of this sort. I'm very happy to have discovered (I hope) that there is a person like Pavel who has the skill my DDYCC would require.