A very specific question about Randi's million-dollar challenge

Is there any evidence to support the notion that Randi (or his organisation) would purposely move the goalposts to exclude a person who earnestly claimed to have empirically-testable paranormal powers? - i.e. that he would explain it away as ‘not paranormal’?

Please note, I’m specifically talking about someone who took the challenge expecting to demonstrate a paranormal ability (such as extinguishing streetlights by one’s presence).

Not that I’ve tried it, but I’ve read his web site a little and it’s my understanding that the terms of the challenge are decided in advance by agreement between both the challenger and Randi’s testing committee(s). (I vaguely recall there being a few successive tests, with different judges.) IIRC from what I read on the site, nobody has yet been able to agree on a set of terms agreeable to both the testing committee and the challenger.

If that’s correct, then the problem isn’t that they’re moving the goalposts, but rather that they can’t agree where the goalposts are in the first place.

(And, again, this is all based on my memory of what I read on his website, so if you don’t trust him (or me) to be honest, then that’s your perogative.)

Here’s what Randi’s site sez:

Just for reference, I started this thread because of Peter Morris’ claim in post #25 of this thread:

Since paranormal is just false, like perpetual motion machines, the main reason to seek a test is for publicity. If the headline hunter has nothing to lose, then there are loads of applicants. So serious screening must take place or it will be like the California governors race where every washed up TV star wants a chance in the spotlight.

No, there is no such evidence. **Peter **claims that Randi, by making general statements in public settings over the years, is actually issuing a specific challenge to him, and that since the word “challenge” is used, it must by needs be the Million Dollar Challenge. Therefore, if Randi refuses to concede that **Peter **has been challenged, he must be moving the goal posts.

Of course, Peter has made other outlandish claims. In this exchange, he claims to have searched high and low, with no success, for information that is prominent in the Challenge rules; a Challenge that he himself is a claimant for.

How can it be that Peter, who has almost made a career out of nitpicking Randi to death, could miss such an easy bit of evidence? Is there a chance that he is not the careful researcher he claims to be? Is there a chance that he is not 100% honest in his assertions? Is there a chance that he makes claims that seem demonstrably false? Perhaps he will explain how he such “claims by Randi fans” are so difficult for him to verify.

Thanks for that, however, I don’t really want this thread to veer off on a tangent about Peter’s own challenge application (which wasn’t paranormal anyway), or to need to be moved to the pit.

Sorry. I felt that it was germane to the “moving the posts” claim by Peter, as you linked it from the other thread. Please everyone, **Peter **included, ignore my contribution if you can. Mea culpa.

I think it’s useful background information to know that Peter made a non-paranormal attempt at the prize (there are probably quite a few new members who know nothing about that) - I just didn’t want the thread to veer off in that direction, at least before we’ve heard from him - it may be that he has such an example of a person whose claims were paranormal, but denied that status by Randi.

I don’t think that’s true. Plenty of claimants have taken the preliminary test, although none have passed it.

As evidenced in the thread where Peter accused you of continuing an argument when you actually did no such thing, he has particularly poor reading comprehension. His whole beef with Randi is caused by poor comprehension. Once you realise this, you’ll realise that ANY discussion about anything related to Randi is a waste of time.

I’ve read many of the Randi’s challenges and posted for a while on the site.

Randi certainly sets out the conditions for the million dollars as best he can, given the extraordinary range of claims that have been presented.
These are not only in, but have been tested in the preliminary challenge:

Psychic viewing
divining locations

These are some claimed abilities:

  • paranormally forcing urination
  • mental image transmission
  • remote viewing
  • remote healing
  • emitting magnetism
  • psychic
  • telepathy
  • moving clouds
  • spontaneous generation of paperclips
  • living on a diet of air alone (Breatharian)
  • street light control
  • homeopathy

If you read how these claims progress, you see that almost all applicants can’t do at least one of the following:

  • actually say what they can do
  • agree how to test it so as to exclude cheating or chance
  • turn up for the test
  • write coherently
  • understand the conditions of the challenge

The lack of decent applicants alone means there is no need to resort to underhand tactics. And of course all aplicants have failed, either by being exposed as cheats or by only achieving chance results.

When you see psychic viewers using badly fitting blindfolds to ‘see’ (who then complain when Randi adds some tape), or when dowsers (who Randi says genuinely believe in their talent) score 100% when allowed to see their targets, but instantly drop to expected chance levels when the target is concealed, you have to wonder why anyone thinks the paranormal exists.

Mangetout’s question comes from this thread, which was itself inspired by one of Cecil’s columns.

Note, in the linked thread some people offer ideas that might explain the phenomenon. For example, one person said :

Another said :

Now, I don’t know in any great detail how streetlights work. Maybe they can be affected by reflected light, maybe not. Maybe they can be affected by radios, maybe not. I’d be interested to hear from people who know and understand these things. And there was a nice little discussion going on on the subject, some usefull information being exchanged. Ineresting and informative to read.

And then Mangetout derailed the thread by citing Randi. An interesting discussion effectively brought to an end. As always happens when Randi is cited.

Now, Mangetout, you were the one who brought Randi into the equation. Let us take an entirely hypothetical scenario. Just suppose the following happens:

  1. Randi shares your disbelief. He expresses disbelief that anyone can put out lights by walking under them.

  2. he then issues a formal challenge to prove it true, backed by the million dollars.

  3. Someone accepts the challenge, stating from the start that it isn’t paranormal, but perfectly logical explanation for it, as given above.

Now, Mangetout, in such a scenario what should Randi do? Should he agree to test the claim made, or should he say “it’s not paranormal” and refuse to test it?

What if he agrees to perform the test. The applicant successfully extinguishes some street lights under controlled conditions. Not by paranormal means, merely by reflected light affecting the light sensor.

In that scenario should Randi actually pay out the prize? After all, if the claim is true, then it isn’t paranormal.

And what would you think of an applicant for such a claim? would you support him or oppose him? Would you abuse him and tell him that he’s cheating because his claim isn’t paranormal? Or would you say that this is the challenge issued by Randi, and Randi’s own lookout?

What if you go ahead and try to submit this challenge to JREF and let us know what happens, instead of basing your arguments on what-ifs?

cite? I have no idea what you are talking about.

No, my beef with Randi is that he is dishonest and stupid, his challengew has no credibility whatsoever, and damages the sceptical movement FAR more than he damages any phony psychics.
As a lifelong sceptic I have to object to that.


If the challenger stated from the start that it wasn’t paranormal, then Randi would not be interested.


Really? Are you sure about that?

Really really sure?

Only because you can’t shut the fuck about him and beat that dead horse with your massive hard-on for Randi until everyone else in the thread throws up their arms in disgust. You show me one, just ONE, thread which was “effectively brought to an end” because someone cited Randi that did not involve your continual hijacking with your tiresome anti-Randi screeds. Go on, I’ll wait.

Randi started his challenge so he gets to make up the rules for it. He’s made those rules publically available for anyone who’s interested to read. If other people want to have a challenge with their rules, they should start their own challenge.

I have a feeling that Randi would flake in the end. It’s just human nature.

Randi strikes me as a close-minded bigot who happens to be in the right.

In general, I think those “challenges” where large sums of money are offered to people who can prove something are a bit of a scam. My sense is that the person offering the money doesn’t seriously intend anyone to claim it.

Sort of like Steve Milloy’s $100,000 global warming challenge. Personally, I think that anthropogenic global warming is most likely BS, but even if convincing proof came out next week, I doubt that anyone would end up with Milloy’s $100k.