January 13, 2007

Psychic Challenge

Along the lines of the previous post, I thought I’d note this:

James Randi is modifying the Psychic Challenge.

For those not in the know, the challenge is an offer of $1 million to people who can prove they have paranormal abilities. Over the years, Randi and his foundation have painstakingly reviewed, processed and moved along hundreds of psychic claims, graduating a number of them to the stage where they test the claims in person.

It takes a lot of time, and many of the claims are problematic. There aren’t just frauds out there. There are legitimately mentally ill people an people who just have themselves fooled.

So, starting in April, the foundation is going to start requiring that you already have gotten some press coverage, or convinced some third party. They’ll then skip the preliminaries and go straight to the final round of tests.

They’re hoping that, by using this media filter, and this speedier method, they can put their investigative muscle to the best use — going after high-profile psychics and revealing them for what they are.

Kudos to Randi and the James Randi Education Foundation.

Psychics: if you love money like you appear to, go for the challenge. If you don’t, then why not go for the challenge anyhow and then donate the money back to some desperate families. Maybe ones you’ve already taken advantage of. Or, hell, give it to Katrina victims.

Or is it that you know that it’s just not possible, what you claim you can do?

Posted by James at January 13, 2007 2:19 PM
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I'm with you on both your posts about James Randi and psychics. In Sylvia Browne's case, this isn't the first time she's totally blown a reading, and she's ducked a Randi challenge before even after public assertions that she'd take it. Why that woman is still famous as an author and frequent guest speaker on talk shows is beyond me.

The problem with a lot of these pyschics (I find the John Edwards guy despicable for his claims about being able to communicate with peoples' decased loved ones) is that I'm not always sure whether or not they're charlatans or suffering from massive self-delusion. The end result is the same, I suppose, but the thought that these people are deliberately preying upon the emotionally vulnerable makes me feel ill.

Posted by: Ariane at January 14, 2007 9:16 AM

There are the charlatans who are outright frauds, and then there are crackpots who have drunk their own kool-aid.

Sadly, as the article points out, Randi has gotten requests from unfortunate people who report symptoms that are disturbingly like the early stages of a psychosis (the guy who can will random objects into existence when he walks down the street).

I don't think he quite expected the flood of those kind of responses that he got. And, of course, just the people who figure they'll take a shot and don't mind wasting the JREF's time.

Originally I think they underestimated the people with too much time on their hands.

Posted by: James at January 14, 2007 9:58 AM

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