The James Randi Million Dollar Challenge for proof of psychic phenomena has been terminated. The JREF page indicates that it is no longer accepting applications from the general public (celebrity psychics still welcome with TV crew). The foundation is going to be converted into a grant-making fund, however a review of the protocols will be done next year when the application process may be reinstated. Even if the James Randi Prize is permanently terminated, I don’t need to be psychic to know that skeptics will continue to use it as a club to beat up believers for the foreseeable future.
From their site:
Over the years, we have spent a great deal of time dealing with claims ranging from yet another dowsing claim to some VERY eccentric and untestable claims. The overwhelming majority refused to fill out the application or even state a claim that can be tested. Some of them show up in person and demand to be tested while they wait. We can no longer justify the resources to interact with these people.
Effective immediately, JREF will no longer accept applications directly from people claiming to have a paranormal power. Previously available Application Forms shall not be used and will be rejected without any review of the contents. We anticipate providing minimum required protocols for the preliminary test early next year. No one should make any effort to pursue the Challenge until those minimum required protocols are issued. The only exception is that any established psychic may contact JREF via email to be tested directly (preferably with an independent, third party TV crew.)
I’ve heard it a million times on youtube videos, skeptical forums, TV shows, magazine articles..
“If [psychics, mediums, telepathy, ghosts, etc] are real, then why hasn’t anyone won the James Randi 1 million dollar prize?
James Randi, or The Amazing Randi (as he is known professionally) was a magician before he became a closed-minded zealous skeptic and avowed debunker of all things paranormal. He began his challenge in 1964 with a $1,000 dollar prize to anyone who could demonstrate proof of paranormal abilities. By 1996, the James Randi Educational Foundation accepted a donation that raised the prize amount to 1 million dollars. The JREF has stated that over 1,000 people have been tested since 1964. To date, no one has been awarded the money – a fact used by skeptics everywhere to debunk all evidence of the paranormal or psychic phenomena. As you’ll see, however, the Randi prize was never intended to be a fair, scientific measure of paranormal claims. James Randi designed the ‘challenge’ to ensure victory in any circumstance through a variety of ways that we will explore in this post.
Honestly, I don’t know who decided that James Randi of all people should be judging claims of the paranormal; that’s like expecting a fair trial in North Korea. He was quoted as saying “Concerning the challenge, I always have an ‘out’: I’m right!”
To be fair, James Randi is correct in his assumption that there are liars, frauds and charlatans out there claiming to be psychic and I share his rage that they are preying on vulnerable and grieving people. No gets more angry than I do when I spot cold readers making millions distracting grieving people with big hair and 6-inch stilettos because they are ruining the reputation of all of the truly gifted people out there who don’t crave fame and attention. It is quite another thing however to claim that because there are some psychic frauds, that all psychics are frauds.
There have been many people who have looked closely at this challenge and written excellent articles and critiques on it. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so please read Michael Prescott’s excellent, in-depth supported article on his own investigation of the JREF challenge. Also, read this one from the weilerpsiblog which has both facts and real examples which show why the JREF challenge is a scam and a trap. Here’s one more by Daily Grail called “The Myth of the One Million Dollar Challenge” which sums it up pretty nicely as well.
No self-respecting medium or psychic would ever submit themselves to such an egregiously slanted, fraudulent and corrupted display of mockery such as the JREF challenge, and yet skeptics continue to use this straw man argument as a way to flag-wave their own prejudices.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with what the JREF 1 Million Dollar Challenge is really about, here’s a little summary:
The JREF 1 Million Dollar Challenge was offered to anyone who could prove via testing protocols set up in advance by the JREF claims of the paranormal. Anyone who bothered to look closely at the rules by which the contestants were bound could see right away that they were designed to ensure that no one ever won the prize.
First, the James Randi Educational Foundation and the challenge committee themselves are the kind of biased, hard-nosed skeptics that have already made up their mind that evidence of the paranormal doesn’t exist and that’s not a good starting point when claiming that such a test is fair to begin with. But beyond that, there’s a lot of other reasons why the JREF should have never been touted as “THE TEST” for psychic phenomena in the first place, based on the way the test is set up/designed for failure.
The JREF is not a scientific organization, and they never intended to do a real scientific test. The JREF test doesn’t allow repeated trails that can’t be accomplished in the 8 hour time limit. In addition, the JREF can arbitrarily reduce the number of repetitions allowed without any explanation. Repetition is a cornerstone of any scientific test to determine the statistical results against chance. Tests of this nature proved telepathy exists via experiments done by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and were submitted in a real scientific journal. It satisfied the requirements of the scientific method, but would have been refused by the ‘protocols’ of the James Randi Foundation.
Secondly, the application process is also designed to eliminate actual competition or make it impossible for people with real abilities to demonstrate them properly. The foundation ignores or rejects most serious applicants, and yet allows the testing of the frauds and quacks just to make mockery out of them on their website.
Applicants also have to sign away their right to an attorney, and allow James Randi to use the data any way he wishes (this means he can outright change the results or lie about them) and the applicant has no recourse to prove the deception either in a court of law or the court of public opinion.
JREF controls everything – the protocols (which may be changed at any time, even during the test itself), the location, the test design, witnesses, participants, and finally even the results. There are no independent controls to ensure honesty and fair play on the part of the JREF.
The sole purpose of the JREF Million Dollar Challenge was to mock and humiliate applicants. There was never any intention to test applicants fairly, and anyone with half a chance to actually win was simply ignored or refused on a technicality. The JREF designed an unscientific, closed contest with constantly changing rules, no oversight and absolutely no legal contracts or obligations except to give the JREF all of the power and rights. Do you think James Randi EVER intended to lose that million? Not a chance!
Evidence of the paranormal does exist, despite James Randi and his bogus foundation. PSI has been proven and published in real peer-reviewed journals. See these posts on the Global Consciousness Project, Dr. Sheldrake’s Telepathy Experiments and Dr. Julie Beischel’s triple-blind test proving mediumship is accurate.
All of the above are real, scientific studies done using the scientific method and published in real scientific journals, and yet none would have been accepted by the James Randi Educational Foundation based on their protocols for “testing”.
The only thing James Randi accomplished was drawing attention away from real scientific research.
Skeptics, can you please stop using this joke of a ‘challenge’ to browbeat believers?