Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge

Most people have heard of the challenge by James Randi offering $1 million to anyone who can demonstrate psychic powers.On the face of it, Randi’s challenge must be a good thing mustn’t it? There’s a million dollars just sitting there waiting to be picked up, and all anyone has to do to win it is perform under controlled conditions the kind of claim we read about every day in the newspapers — spoon bending, mind-reading, remote viewing.

So doesn’t the mere fact that no-one has won Randi’s challenge prove that such things are impossible? As usual in the murky world of “skepticism”, things are not exactly what they appear to be.

Randi’s $1M challenge was unveiled on 1st April 1996. You can read its terms in full at the website of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) the organisation administering the challenge.*

A quick glance through the provisions seems to show an eminently reasonable and fair challenge. But now go back and look again a little more carefully, this time with the kind of critical eye that Randi brings to exposing cheats and frauds. What you find are some ambiguities that are likely to make any serious claimant uneasy to say the least.

The first such ambiguity is contained in the preamble where it says, “Since claims vary greatly in character and scope, specific rules must be formulated for each applicant.”

Read more….

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