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In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Discussions about the James Randi Educational Foundation and its Million Dollar Challenge.

In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby VisionFromFeeling » 26 Oct 2011, 05:55

There is so much negative criticism in the paranormal community against the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) Paranormal Challenge, also known as Randi's Million Dollar Challenge, and also against its founder James Randi himself. The critique accuses the JREF of dishonesty and fraud, claiming that the challenge exists only to taunt and to discredit "true" practitioners of the paranormal, whereas the mean bad skeptics would ensure that no paranormal claimant is ever allowed to arrive at an acceptable challenge protocol, let alone of ever earning the prize nor resulting certification as a true psychic upon successful completion of the challenge.

The JREF are considered evasive in protocol negotiations, and practitioners of the paranormal claim that due to its inherent corruption, the JREF challenge is not even worthy of the effort.

After years of experiencing and personally trying to find the rational explanation to what seemed to be medical dowsing, I embarked into soliciting the help of the skeptical community, to become one of their paranormal claimants. But first I researched the field of skepticism to see what past cases might teach, what I might expect of the encounter, and how one should go about as a paranormal claimant with the skeptics. I found a sea of documentation between psychics and skeptics as they try to arrive at a protocol, and negotiations were by large messy, ruthless, rude, and ending badly and without any test being arrived at.

So when I entered into skepticism I had to expect the same hostile and futile debates with these narrow-minded bullies who conspire to convince the world that actual paranormal prowess does not exist, as part of their evil plan to deny paranormal practitioners the right or the ability to practice their benevolent gifts.

But what I found instead was friendly, intelligent, and agreeable people, who to my surprise made no attempts to block my efforts of ever arriving at the mutually acceptable testing protocol, nor hindering me from actually taking their test. Protocol negotiations went along swiftly and smoothly, and in no time at all we were having an elaborate paranormal challenge together. I was given a perfectly fair chance to attempt and to demonstrate any paranormal claims that I might have thought that I had. The skeptics did not install any measures of sabotage into the test, and the skeptics have done nothing to distort any positive results in their favor of maintaining that no paranormal powers exist.

So what is the problem? Why does the paranormal community have such aversion toward the skeptics? I claim that it is the psychics' fault. Psychic claimants are either knowingly fraudulent and not willing to have their despicable tricks spotted and exposed, so that they can carry on conning vulnerable innocents of both money and admiration. Yet those who are personally convinced of their abilities, seem to fall into two categories. They are either mentally retarded or illiterate to the effect that they are incapable of engaging in a scientific discourse with members of the skeptical community in negotiating a protocol (as evidenced by the very prevalent lack of language and communication skills seen in many claimants, where typos and other communicative errors and misunderstandings are abundant), which appears to also be the origin of their confusion resulting in the personal experience of something seeming to be paranormal.

The other major category are those who strongly adhere to one or another of testing parameters, which the skeptics are insisting need to be adjusted for the protocol in order for a test to take place. This testing parameter will be one which is absolutely essential in order for the paranormal ability to manifest, yet the skeptics maintain that it is indeed the normal, not paranormal, source of the phenomenon or achievement. And so start the arguments and hostilities, the woo woo refusing to admit that this parameter would be the source of their powers, or insisting that it be a paranormal concept after all, whereas the skeptics diligently and at first very patiently explain and quote to science as to why this parameter does indeed need adjustment in a protocol for a paranormal test. Until one or the other or usually both lose their temper and all manner of courtesy and dignity and the two agree to disagree and skeptics and psychics once again established that they hate each other and are irreconcilable.

The problem, however, is not in the skeptics. The problem is the woos.

The JREF Paranormal Challenge is indeed attainable and any one who demonstrates a true paranormal ability or phenomenon will be able to win the prize. And James Randi is deserving of all honor and respect as he has personally been one of the founders of skepticism, this investigative and socially responsible cousin of science, which acts to prevent the multitude of injury and harm to people which can arise from practice of the paranormal, including vast monetary loss, physical and medical injury, death, and loss of autonomy in an individual. Skepticism also humbly promotes a conscious, intelligent, ethical, humanistic, and scientifically aligned worldview, one which benefits not only minorities, women, homosexuals, and other traditionally oppressed people, but everyone, allowing a person to be free to consciously think for themselves and to live in a world that can be safer and more reasonable.

This is what the JREF, and James Randi, really stand for, in my opinion. Truth, ethics, autonomy, and safety. The sad thing is that many paranormal practitioners do not stand for these things, and that is, I believe, where these vast clashes arise that are between the skepticism, and the paranormal.

*In 2009 I had a Paranormal Challenge with the Independent Investigations Group IIG, which is a skeptical organization that runs on the same basic principles as does the JREF and its challenge. I have not pursued the Million Dollar Challenge, but I can only assume that it operates in the same manner as the IIG does, and those are entirely legit, and attainable offers of testing and prizes.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 26 Oct 2011, 20:47

No offense VFF, but the following statement:
VisionFromFeeling wrote:I have not pursued the Million Dollar Challenge, but I can only assume that it operates in the same manner as the IIG does, and those are entirely legit, and attainable offers of testing and prizes.


seems to contradict what you said in another thread:

"...and one with the James Randi Educational Foundation JREF at their TAM8 convention in July 2010 http://www.visionfromfeeling.com/tamtest.html. The test results in either were not perfect, but were still interesting enough and far better than what random chance would predict."

Unless, of course, you wouldn't have been eligible for the next step in the MDC had you been successful...
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby VisionFromFeeling » 26 Oct 2011, 22:38

Ah, but I was not the one pursuing to have a test with the JREF! I have never contacted the JREF about having a test with them, rather I was invited by the JREF to perform a small demonstration at their TAM8 convention, which I accepted. The demonstration I had at TAM8 was also not part of the MDC Challenge; it was not the preliminary, and yes had I passed the TAM8 demonstration (which was a mere 1 in 5 guess) I would not have moved on to a formal MDC test.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 27 Oct 2011, 03:57

VisionFromFeeling wrote:Ah, but I was not the one pursuing to have a test with the JREF! I have never contacted the JREF about having a test with them, rather I was invited by the JREF to perform a small demonstration at their TAM8 convention, which I accepted. The demonstration I had at TAM8 was also not part of the MDC Challenge; it was not the preliminary, and yes had I passed the TAM8 demonstration (which was a mere 1 in 5 guess) I would not have moved on to a formal MDC test.

Ahhhh, okey dokey. I knew I remembered there was an MDC that year, but that was Connie Chung or Sonny Liston, or something like that if I'm not mistaken.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Craig Browning » 28 Oct 2011, 00:22

As much as I go head to head with skeptics. . . and particularly the JREF and CSICOP sort stems more from their Evangelic members than it does the people behind the scenes; Rick Maue & Steven Shaw being a bit more than just acquaintances of mine and more than not, we agree on things. Even the old per himself has helped me when investigating would be dangerous operators here and there. I honestly believe more of "us" (psychic & spiritual types) need to step across said bridge because of the need to remove one's blinders but more so, to stop buying into the fantasy of being Psychic and recognizing it from the more pragmatic perspective as well; our willingness to do this WILL make the naysayer far more compliant and open to our experiences and theories. It is only when the two are blended that we begin to not just glimpse the truth, but we start laying a foundation for balance and thus, evolution.

I still hold to the fact that bias exists within the MDC and it's a pure PR machine and little more. There's just far too much evidence to state otherwise, in my book. But that's just one "denomination" if you would, in a sea of theologies sharing the skeptic's suit.

As one that's been dowsing and working with ideomotor methodology for some 40 years now (part of a 4 generation long practice, I might add)I can't completely accept that it's all pure bio-physics; I've simply seen and experience far too much when using these techniques & tools to accept that hypothesis even though I will agree with the fact that well over 75% of the time such is the case. I likewise feel that to some extent, there is a heavy subconscious sense of "digestion" when it comes to environment (for an example) that aids in locating well water sites; that is to say, the dowser's yoke reactions are based on unconsciously interpreted information found in the foliage, topography, etc.

:| I've become so distracted in trying to get this post done that I can't complete my thoughts, but you get the gist of things, I hope
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Elhardt » 28 Oct 2011, 06:14

If needed I could find videos on youtube of James Randi's lies and some of his false debunking practices. And that's the problem. He is neither honest nor unbiased. He may do some good things, like expose frauds, but that gets cancelled out by being a fraud himself. He has said he will never believe in anything paranormal, so obviously then, no test will ever convince him. In one lame dowsing test Randi ran involving a bunch of people of whose water dowsing abilities and history were unknown (don't test people who you know can do it), he mixed all of their results together including dowsing for metal, watering down the outcome. Then he claimed nothing significant beyond chance. Arthur C. Clarke stepped in and pointed out if you removed the metal dowsing tests (apparently dowsing for metal doesn't work), then the water dowsing tests were significant. It's this kind of typical Randi crap that we have to put up with. Manipulation, lying by omission, setting up tests to fail, claiming something is a magic trick even if he can't replicate it, are all things he does. And since he's the face of the MDC, perhaps people see Randi's behavior as representing all those involved in the MDC.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 28 Oct 2011, 07:20

Elhardt wrote: He has said he will never believe in anything paranormal


Really? That would surprise me.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Jayhawker30 » 28 Oct 2011, 21:22

Image

It's pretty much what he has for the cover of his book. And the fact that he is amazing.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 28 Oct 2011, 21:56

I have no doubt that he doesn't currently believe in the paranormal. What you said was that he said he would NEVER believe in anything paranormal - that no matter what evidence came down the line he'd reject it no matter what. That's what I would be surprised about if he had made comments like that.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Craig Browning » 28 Oct 2011, 22:18

Arouet wrote:I have no doubt that he doesn't currently believe in the paranormal. What you said was that he said he would NEVER believe in anything paranormal - that no matter what evidence came down the line he'd reject it no matter what. That's what I would be surprised about if he had made comments like that.


Yet, it is fact, he and others in his cult have echoed this time and again, one of the reasons I have the attitudes I have towards Randi specifically and skeptics in general.

Let me clarify. . . as Craig W has pointed out, there is a big difference between the "true" skeptic vs. what most who relate to that title in today's world depict (which is more of an evangelic cynicism -- an extension of their personal atheism). I am a skeptic, I take most all things involved with the psychic/paranormal & religious world with a small Ukrainian Salt Mine but as I've stated numerous times, I've seen and experienced far too much to see it all with contempt & cynicism which is very common with Randi and others.

James Randi is a very bitter, angry old man. I've shared plenty about his dark side on this forum and not just his pervert-antics. While I've known kind interactions with him off and on, when our focus is on the same thing, I'm typically in stark opposition to his games and that of his cohorts; they only want to generate some sense of self-importance under the guise of "high morality" but, like most puritans their closets are packed with skeletons as well as greater truths.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 28 Oct 2011, 23:37

Craig Browning wrote:Yet, it is fact, he and others in his cult have echoed this time and again, one of the reasons I have the attitudes I have towards Randi specifically and skeptics in general.


I'd ask you to provide a quote, but I know you don't like doing that. I'll do the same: I've heard Randi in interviews say the opposite: that he would believe if there was sufficient evidence. i also don't feel like going back and digging up every interview he's ever made to find an example.

James Randi is a very bitter, angry old man.


Quite possibly. I don't particularly like the guy. But I'm pretty skeptical that he's said that he would reject any evidence, no matter what it was. Possible I guess, but unlikely IMO.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 29 Oct 2011, 07:20

Visionfromfeeling,

You should not mistake the attitudes of some of the members of JREF for Randi's attitude. They have no say in the ultimate decision of the challenge and Randi can and does change the protocol to suit his whims. It's all there in the forums.

The members who sort out the challengers for the MDC are generally less aggressive and more knowledgeable than the average JREF sort and seem to be fairly objective. However, like most skeptics, they maintain an active disbelief in the existence of psi. Active disbelief is not really skepticism, it is more of its own belief system than anything else and comes with a set of unconscious biases.

Randi tightly controls the actual challenge and there is sufficient evidence from a variety of sources that it is not objective . . . at all.

Before you defend the challenge you should at least read the criticism in detail. It is compelling.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Craig Browning » 29 Oct 2011, 22:55

I'd ask you to provide a quote, but I know you don't like doing that. I'll do the same: I've heard Randi in interviews say the opposite: that he would believe if there was sufficient evidence.


And there's the rub; there will NEVER be "sufficient evidence" in that every time someone meets the demand the rules get changed. The biggest cop-out being the term "Coincidence" as an explanation when said don't exist, not even in the science world; if something happens there must be something that caused the reaction or manifestation. This is as true in the physical as it is the metaphysical worlds, metaphysicians however don't allow the concept to exist it's against Hermetic Law as is Paradox.

We all know there are ways of saying something without stating it in neon sign-age and I'd believe that anyone that has studied fake psychics work for as long as Randi and his various afterbirth friends claim to be would be quite aware of the linguistic and Eriksonian methods Mind Readers use let alone educated psychics.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Nostradamus » 03 Nov 2011, 09:17

I have read quite a bit about the MDC and I find that the testing is done so that there is a limited possibility that guessing can lead passing the challenge. I do see a continuous rancor from those that have failed the test and especially from the whiners that refuse proper testing.

Testing is not often easy to set up. In a recent test I read about a person was tested to see if they could figure out if they could actually look inside a person and decide if a kidney was missing. The person involved in the test always guessed the left kidney was missing. Why? It seems that in kidney donation the left kidney is chosen. I do not know why. Maybe it has something to do with the layout of blood vessels. It doesn't really matter why. What is important is knowing this so that the test can be adjusted to avoid such preferential knowledge.

In a dowsing test I read about a group agreed to changes in the testing to avoid problems that the dowser claimed might exist. When the test was over the dowser was astonished at how poorly they performed. Everyone agreed the test was fair. The outcome was deemed not in favor of the dowser by all involved.

In a recent report I learned that Europe has water under 94% of its land. The trick one person claimed was to ask a dowser to find a dry spot since finding any water at all is a near certainty.

Check below for the "Top excuses for not taking the Randi Challenge"
http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=503

My favorite is “James Randi judges the outcome/I want an independent judge.”

The JREF reply is "There is no judging. The result must be self-evident."

Many of the whiners I see want to be judged because they rely on people being hoodwinked by their con games.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Craig Browning » 03 Nov 2011, 17:39

The joke within the Psychic Community is that the MDC is a retirement program for psychics; you take the challenge and use the experience as a marketing vehicle that will sell books, get you on TV and booked for lots of lectures. . . I'm not kidding, even in loosing the challenge you win! You likewise have valuable feedback for the Psi Community itself as to what goes on in the testing, the attitudes, etc.

The MDC situation as I understand it, is fluid by its nature and for years Randi had final say, not the very small handful of "research scientists" that were involved with each study. . . and when it comes to peer review, some of these papered "scientists" weren't exactly A level students; the majority of them are very pronounced cynics that have their minds made up even before the tests begin. That in and of itself reveals unfair bias.

After the book "Magicians Who Believe in the Paranormal" came out the wordage and other key weaknesses that revealed the duplicity of the challenge were "corrected" and yet, we still hear the mantra as to how fair and legit it is. . . just as it was before the expose' and of course, before the FATE magazine's inference to things.

The MDC is nothing more than a PR gimmick for Randi that gives him a tax exempt status by way of his own Cult (JREF). He may as well be Jim Jones in that his whole operation is essentially the same structure as is the apparent infallibility of the Grand Pubah himself. By all pretense and observation the JREF fits the literal definition of being a Cult and worse, a Dangerous Cult, it's even been tabled for inclusion on at least one Cult Watch list that I'm aware of because of the radical antics of its membership. Given the MDCs close affiliation with said group I would believe it fare to say that it is as tainted and stained and if actually investigated by outside sources, would prove exceptionally bogus. . . or so goes the rumor in various circles of the academic world.
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