The Million Dollar Challenge, in case you don’t know, is an offer by “The Amazing Randi” a magician who offered a million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal ability such as moving an object with his/her mind.
“At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. … All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the “applicant” becomes a “claimant.”
To date, no one has passed the preliminary tests.” – randi.org
Robert McLuhan writes:
I’ve been listening to a conversation between organisers of James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge. They were discussing a test of psychics that they organised for ABC’s Primetime Nightline show last summer. It was quite revealing.
The test was set up by the stage magician Banacheck, DJ Grothe (president of the James Randi Educational Foundation), and Jamy Ian Swiss, also a magician and one of JREF’S resident experts on psychics. The clip can’t be viewed outside the US, so I can’t comment on how it went. But I was struck by the comments of Grothe and Swiss afterwards.
They categorise psychics in three ways. First there are the celebrities, led by the ‘Unholy Trinity’ of John Edward, James van Praagh and Sylvia Browne. Such people do great harm and make big bucks scamming ordinary people, they complain. They’re desperate for scientific endorsement – if they get one they’ll never stop talking about it – yet at the same time they’re ‘desperately afraid’ to submit themselves to proper scientific testing. That’s why none of them ever pitches for the million dollars.
Then there are the ‘store-front’ psychics, who offer quick readings off the street for a token fee, then try to bilk their customers with expensive cures for invented ills. The JREF folks were dismayed to learn that Nightline was targeting these people as potential participants, as of course none would submit to testing – and none did.
However they got a number of takers from their third category. These are psychics in the spirituality and New Age community, some of whom accidentally found out about the show and were keen to take part. Swiss calls them ‘shut-eyes’, by which he means people who actually believe that their psychic powers are real.
Grothe was fascinated by this. The idea of a faker who doesn’t realise he/she is faking seemed to be a new idea for him. The psychics he met in the studio were all warm, sincere and kind-hearted, he commented with surprise. It’s true, there really are such people, Swiss explained; they just don’t realise that what they do is illusory.
Swiss went on to comment that sceptics are far too quick to assume they know what is going on in other people’s minds. I’d say that hardly states the case. If they weren’t so stuck in their ideological bubble these guys would know that psychic vision isn’t just a game played by con artists – it’s a mental process that people experience – more often than one would think.
My experience ( see Xeno’s Tree Dream) leads me to believe that we have, occasionally, perceptions outside of the normal flow of time. Also, people do benefit from the advice of psychics, priests or anyone else who takes time speaking to a lot of other people about problems. I have a toe in the paranormal belief camp, but I take a lot of convincing. If people are living a lie but don’t know it and end up helping others with their imagined psychic superpowers, the benefits people get are still real. For example, I know someone who may have been cured of a deadly cancer by John of God… Or not by him, but by her belief in him mobilizing her immune system in some miraculous way.