There’s been a lot of talk about James Randi’s Million dollar challenge. In this challenge, Randi promises a prize of one million dollars to anyone proving his paranormal abilities. Skeptics of anything paranormal use the fact that no one got the prize that they are right and nothing paranormal exists all claiming otherwise are either misguided or frauds. I’ve written about Randi before in James Randi attacks Uri Geller again.

Some good write-ups about Randi’s prize are available from these sources:

Michael Prescott’s blog – Prescott posted a series of article’s about Randi’s challenge. You can read his posts in The challenge, part one and in The challenge, part two. In these posts Michael Prescott reviews the FAQ of the JREF Million Dollar Challenge. JREF stands for James Randi Educational Foundation. One of the things going against the challenge is that it’s hard to apply and to get to the part where you actually have to prove something. In the review of the FAQ Prescott shows various parts of the challenge that demonstrate the nature of the prize offer, where some claims are not even considered because they are being pre-decided as being false claims. Read those posts.

PsiPog’s founder Sean (aka Peebrain) wrote about his try to take and win the million dollars. Sean describes how his question about the nature of the Million dollars (offered in some kind of bonds) was left unanswered and his correspondence with the foundation was edited to remove foul language of the foundation’s representative and an email which he never wrote was posted on the forum as being written by him. This is a very interesting evidence of how hard it is to apply and how the foundation treats the applicants. Read Beware Pseudo-Skepticism.

Jaime Licauco from Inquirer – wrote about his correspondence with James Randi, where Randi answers some of his previous claims. It’s a short and interesting read. One quote:

Randi: “I have never said that Uri Geller was a ‘fake psychic.’ Geller never filed any harassment suit against me. In the one case he did file, he lost and had to pay $150,000 in sanctions.”

He may not have called Geller a fake psychic, but he certainly hounded him for years, saying what Geller was doing was plain trickery that he could duplicate anytime.

Let me quote Dr. Broughton again (from the above mentioned book “Parapsychology”): “The research on Geller’s alleged PK abilities has received severe criticism, primarily from James Randi and others with conjuring and sleight-of-hand experience. In fact, Randi has made something of a career as Geller’s debunker, having risen from relative obscurity to national prominence through books and television appearances in which he claims to expose Geller’s tricks. Randi and other critics claim that all scientists who observed Geller’s demonstrations were simply duped by conjuring tricks.”

Another interesting quote is about CSICOP, which is the organization which Randi headed sometime during his carreer:

Fate Magazine said in its September 1983 issue, “They call themselves the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. In fact, they are a group of would-be de-bunkers who bungled their major investigation, falsified the results, covered up their errors and gave the boot to a colleague (Dennis Rawlins) who threatened to tell the truth.”

Jeffrey Mishlove – Doctor of parapsychology, whom I interviewed in Interview with Jeffrey Mishlove wrote this on his blog entry Objections to ESP:

Although on the popular media scene many magicians-such as the Amazing Randi have claimed that they can duplicate parapsychological effects using magic tricks, they have consistently been unable or unwilling to do so under controlled laboratory conditions (Eisenbud 1975).

In another entry on his blog “The “Pigasus Award Ironies … he writes:

But, I believe Randi’s offer is a scam. And, I will say why I believe it to be so, in very simple terms.

First of all, there is no doubt that Randi has used his alleged offer – over a period of many years – to generate enormous publicity for himself and his cult of debunkers.

Second of all, Randi’s offer sets himself up as judge and jury. And, of course, he has not the slightest interest in losing the very game that he has created. A true prize would have an independent panel of neutral judges – and these judges, not Randi, should be in control of prize money, to determine if and when it shall be released.

So while James Randi and his cult go around accusing the general public of falling for a wide variety of psychic scams, they themselves are engaged in perpetrating a scam of an equal and opposite sort. The final irony is that they are the very near a mirror image of the phonies they try to expose.

As long as they set about exposing the true frauds and schemes in the psychic world, they do the world a service. And, I applaud Randi and his ilk for that. But, in their fanatical zeal, they sometimes endeavor to put a stop to legitimate scientific and academic inquiry. (I know this, first hand, as they attempted to interfere with my own doctoral degree program in parapsychology at the University of California, Berkeley.) When they go this far, as they did with Brenda Dunne, they simply reveal the philosophical and moral emptiness of their position.

What are your thoughts on the Randi Million Dollars Challenge?