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Randi's Challenge

by Loyd Auerback


A Big So What?


Source: www.victorzammit.com/

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Loyd Auerbach, M.S., is the Director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations. He is a Consulting Editor and columnist for FATE Magazine, an adjunct Professor at JFK University and President of The Psychic Entertainers Association. He holds a degree in Cultural Anthropology from Northwestern University and a graduate degree in Parapsychology from JFK University.
He is the author of a number of books on the paranormal including Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal, Hauntings & Poltergeists: A Ghost Hunterís Guide and Mind Over Matter, besides videos and CDs.
His website is http://www.mindreader.com/


I might actually title this essay "Why I no longer care about Randi's One Million Dollar Challenge," but honestly "So What!" sums up my feelings these days.

Over the last several years, I've been somewhat outspoken about the specific details of the rules of Randi's challenge. But recently, when being harassed by yet another disbelieving type about the test, some kind of light - an epiphany of sorts - went on in my head. The individual made a statement, with a question, that I often hear in variations from self-described Skeptics (actually disbelievers):
"The Amazing Randi offers one million dollars for anyone who can demonstrate something paranormal. If psychic abilities are real, why has no one won the prize?"

Rather than responding as I have in the past with a discourse as to why I don't believe anyone will win that money, I spontaneously switched gears. [The following is an approximation of the conversation]

"What would that prove?" I asked.

"Huh?" said the Skeptic.

"Why is Randi offering the money?" I asked.

"For anyone who can prove something paranormal," said the Skeptic.

"If someone did win the million, what would that actually prove?" I asked.

"Huh?" said the Skeptic.

"I mean, if a psychic won the million dollars, other than the psychic walking away one million dollars richer, what would that prove to the skeptical community or to Science?" I asked.

"That someone could do something psychic," said the Skeptic with some confusion in his voice.

"Would it? If someone won Randi's million dollars, would YOU accept that psychic abilities are real? Or even just possible?" I asked.

"Huh?" said the Skeptic.

"Would mainstream Science accept the probability of psi, if not the reality, if some psychic won Randi's million?" I asked.

"Uh-uh-huh?" said the Skeptic.

"Would the organized Skeptics accept that psi is real, or would they be more likely to believe that Randi was simply fooled, scammed out of his million? Would you?" I asked.

I received a blank stare from the Skeptic, then saw confusion appearing on his face.
I continued to push at him. "The fact is that people who do not accept the laboratory and other evidence for psi that already exists are unlikely to change their minds or their beliefs simply because someone beats Randi's challenge and wins Randi's money. In the name of Science, many keep raising the issue of parsimony, of Occam's Razor where psi is concerned. In this case, wouldn't the simpler explanation as far as the Skeptics are concerned be that Randi was scammed out of the money? In the name of Science, many raise the issue of repeatability. If someone beat Randi's Challenge once, how does this meet the criteria of repeatability? What does this prove?"

The Skeptic was silent, confusion and frustration (and a little anger) continuing on his face.

I finished with "If you can honestly tell me - I mean look me in the eye and tell me honestly - that you would be open to psi's existence if a psychic won Randi's money, I'll give you 20 dollars right here and now. It's not a million, but to be honest, your opinion isn't worth that much to me."

He walked away (okay, he stormed off).

I've since used this argument on a few others, whenever Randi's Challenge is raised like a weapon against the field of Parapsychology, and against the existence (real or just potential) of psi.

To recap: If someone wins Randi's million, he/she will be one million dollars richer. However, as far as Science and the Skeptics are concerned, the simpler answer to this conundrum is that Randi (or his chosen panel of judges) was fooled.

In other words, So What if someone wins the money. It won't change the prevailing attitudes towards parapsychology, or the prevailing beliefs of most who waiver to the disbelieving side of the center where psi is concerned.

As this is the case (prove me wrong, somebody - please!), we waste our time even giving Randi's Challenge the time of day.

It's not a benchmark for Science, or even the Skeptics. Why should we care?

So What!

Loyd Auerback

Media Skeptics... James Randi
The Randi Prize
Beware Pseudo-Skepticism

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