The James Randi 1 Million Dollar Challenge Finally Terminated

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 pseudo-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 one gets more angry than I do when I spot these fraudsters making millions exploiting grieving people with fishing techniques, cold and hot reading, and even bullying tactics. They are ruining the reputation of the truly gifted, honest mediums who don’t crave fame and attention.  James Randi makes the assumption, however, that because there are some fraudulent psychics and mediums, that all psychics and mediums 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 hardly 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 real scientific tests.   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 the scientific method, especially to determine the statistical results against chance.  Consider the number of trials any pharmaceutical drug must undergo before the results can determine efficacy.  Forcing a person to demonstrate an effect, especially a psychic effect, without allowing repeated trials is simply as unscientific as it gets.

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 for the sole purpose of public mockery.

Applicants also have to sign away their rights 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 always 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 ProjectDr. 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 has ever accomplished with this so-called ‘challenge’ was to draw attention away from real scientific research.

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