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In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

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

Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby really? » 05 Nov 2011, 21:11

Banachek now oversees the MDC. If I were a betting man I'd bet the same distrust will be levied against him once Randi dies. It's not the man per say, though it does play some role too causing this distrust, but the incorrectly perceived goal of the MDC of which I suspect is thought many detractors to be nothing more than a way to discredit all claims of the paranormal.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 05 Nov 2011, 21:59

I bring up Zammit's challenge because it is a way to turn the argument around and show the more enlightened skeptics what happens when the MDC argument is turned against them. All the same unreasonable tactics can be used.

Randi: "If you were really psychic you would take the challenge."

Zammit: "If you had a real skeptical argument you would take the challenge."

Randi and Zammit: "Because you haven't taken the challenge you must be a fraud (delusional, an idiot, etc.)."

All arguments about unfairness can be dismissed with a wave of the hand. "You're just a bunch of sniveling losers making lame excuses." No attempt needs to be made to understand that the issues might be far more complex than they appear. "Hey. What's your problem? Just walk right up, win the challenge and walk away with the money . . . you poser."

The truth, of course, is that both challenges are media stunts and grandstanding. Their prize will never be claimed. They might be different, but they are both unfair in their own ways.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 05 Nov 2011, 23:24

craig weiler wrote:I bring up Zammit's challenge because it is a way to turn the argument around and show the more enlightened skeptics what happens when the MDC argument is turned against them. All the same unreasonable tactics can be used.


On the most superficial read one might think so. But like I said: I've dissected those rules and there are some major differences in the rules that make the two contests completely different.

I'm willing to go through it with you to show you just how different they are. You might want to re-read Zammit's rules first. You might not be so keen on them after you do. You may not have really read them the first time and assumed it was just a clever play on the MDC. Let me know once you have, and then I'll defend my position and you defend yours. Deal?
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 05 Nov 2011, 23:39

Arouet,
I appreciate your attention to detail, but it is unnecessary here. Neither challenge is valid. You can easily show that the Zammit challenge is unfair and I can do the same with the Randi challenge. The fact that they are unfair in different ways is immaterial.

I'm aware that the Zammit challenge is insanely strict. I'm not defending it as a reasonable challenge. All that I'm pointing out is that using either of these challenges as talking points proves nothing.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 06 Nov 2011, 00:43

I'll agree with you that using the MDC as a talking point proves nothing. It is a fallacy that because someone does not want to take the MDC that it must be because they are afraid of being found out for a fraud. Certainly that applies to some, but by no means all, and I think its a weak argument.

That said, a number of people have worked out mutually agreed upon protocols with the JREF where the results would not need subjective adjudication to determine whether they passed or not. I agree that in some other cases negotiations broke down - sometimes it was justified, other times I thought JREF could have handled it much better. But I have yet to hear of a single case where someone said they should have passed the preliminary challenge but were judged to have failed.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 06 Nov 2011, 01:11

I haven't heard of that happening either. There is one case I know of where JREF made mistakes on the protocol and refused to re-test and another where a young girl was succeeding and Randi kept intervening, tweaking the process until he succeeded in breaking her concentration. There is, of course, no appeal.

It's also a high pressure, high stakes challenge presented by people who are hoping that you'll fail, which is the exact opposite of the conditions most suitable for psi. Based on that alone I would expect people to fail.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Craig Browning » 06 Nov 2011, 01:43

ProfWag wrote:
Craig Browning wrote: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.

Really? Since no one has ever made it far enough along to actually take the challenge, I'm not quite sure how they could get rich off of TV and books for not winning.


It doesn't matter if you "win" the the mythical cash, you simply gain popularity by being a victim of the tyrants and being able to share with others how "they" stack the deck and make it impossible for anyone to live up to their standards. Similarly, they testify as to how cunning MDC organizers are when getting you to agree to "minor changes" here and there, which cumulatively stack the deck to their favor.

As to the attitude that any psychic not willing to take the challenge is a "win" for the MDC element. . . well, believe what you will but that's purely a biased fantasy and nowhere close to the facts; working psychics simply do have the same carnal views as are found in the skeptic/cynic mind and because of this contrast the latter simply don't understand or identify with the mind-set. But we are talking about spiritually oriented people that have no need to prove themselves or their beliefs on the carnal front; they generally live quiet and modest lives.

YES, there are charlatans that won't take the test simply because they know they will be found out; hell, I've helped bust more than a few such operators over the years, one clown using the same exact Q&A routine I was using 20 miles down the road. The only difference is, I used a Crystal Ball and sold what I did as a Show, where he used a Hollowed out Bible and sold it as being real acts of the Holy Spirit working through him.

Skeptics (the one's that insist on the all powerful validity & value of the MDC joke) will invent "outs" no matter what the case may be; if Moses was standing beside these guys and parted one of the Great Lakes they've bitch and say it was fake because it can't be repeated and more to the point, none of them can replicate it (without a Hollywood set and some seriously high tech pre-sets). I think this is really where the core of their disbelief comes from; their self-absorption over the fact that someone can do something they can't, nor can they explain it in a way that can deliver perfect replication. A great example of this is "Cold Reading" and how it fails to be as concise on certain points that a genuine psychic or even mediumistic encounter can be.

NO, such things can't be replicated in the sense that the naysayers want to see, if that were so it certainly wouldn't prove to be as "novel" and "rare" as it is and too, the "mystic" would no longer be "mystical". . . the goal of personal evolution and self-introspection would become a non-thing and human culture would stagnate rather than evolving on the emotional and intellectual paths we've been negating (as a majority) for a very long time. . . hell, humans have known of the Golden Rule in one of its many forms, for over 5,000 years and we still can't grasp it even though it exist in most all religious traditions and quite a few social & political philosophies. We're a selfish beast that's loaded with arrogance and the belief that we are superior to all that exist; we boldly negate (deny) the fact that we are but monads in the galaxy and on the scheme of time.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Nostradamus » 07 Nov 2011, 09:41

craig weiler wrote:Nostradamus,
I personally would not accept any challenge that was completely controlled by someone I didn't trust. I don't think that anyone else would either.

Zammit has a million dollar challenge of his own for skeptics. I've never heard of a skeptic who thought that one was fair. Just turn the logic around.

Just because someone proposes an unfair challenge does not mean that any other challenge is fair or unfair. There is no turning the logic around that makes sense.

I don't believe this is an issue of not trusting. That may be your opinion and you are entitled to it.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Nostradamus » 07 Nov 2011, 09:44

craig weiler wrote:I haven't heard of that happening either. There is one case I know of where JREF made mistakes on the protocol and refused to re-test and another where a young girl was succeeding and Randi kept intervening, tweaking the process until he succeeded in breaking her concentration. There is, of course, no appeal.

It's also a high pressure, high stakes challenge presented by people who are hoping that you'll fail, which is the exact opposite of the conditions most suitable for psi. Based on that alone I would expect people to fail.


If the people are hoping that someone fails then they are not skeptics.

The challenge is to entice people to come forward and demonstrate an ability.

To suggest that the thoughts of other people have an effect on psi sounds to me like an excuse for the repeated failures of psi.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 07 Nov 2011, 12:07

If the people are hoping that someone fails then they are not skeptics.


Yes, those are pseudo-skeptics.

The challenge is to entice people to come forward and demonstrate an ability.


That's debatable. The challenge has been around quite a while and Randi has a track record of blowing off good challenges while testing no-hopers. It looks a lot more like a publicity stunt than anything else.

To suggest that the thoughts of other people have an effect on psi sounds to me like an excuse for the repeated failures of psi.


I'm sure it does sound like an excuse to you; many skeptics take that position. However, studies have confirmed this to be true. In a landmark staring study with Richard Wiseman and Marilyn Schlitz it was demonstrated that psi scores dropped to chance levels among participants when tested by a skeptic, but the same people tested positive when tested by a believer. These were controlled studies. There were other, earlier studies that confirmed the same thing, but I don't have them handy as a reference.

And if you think about it, it makes sense. Telepathy isn't necessarily choosey.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Craig Browning » 09 Nov 2011, 00:03

I'm sure it does sound like an excuse to you; many skeptics take that position. However, studies have confirmed this to be true. In a landmark staring study with Richard Wiseman and Marilyn Schlitz it was demonstrated that psi scores dropped to chance levels among participants when tested by a skeptic, but the same people tested positive when tested by a believer. These were controlled studies. There were other, earlier studies that confirmed the same thing, but I don't have them handy as a reference.

And if you think about it, it makes sense. Telepathy isn't necessarily choosey.


I love this bit in that it is soooo true and too, the whole Telepathic influence around "tests" is an argument I believe to be more than viable as would be Telekinetic influences (though in far more subtle ways).

As I keep stating, it is impossible to obtain a non-biased test result and thus, everyone's right. :mrgreen:
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 09 Nov 2011, 01:14

Right, but we have to be careful of making the claims non-falsifiable.

I would imagine that we could design a test to control for this. Involve both skeptic and proponent researchers, and divide the trials to be overseen by separate ones. Blind the participants to which researcher is overseeing who. You would have to make sure that the protocols remained identical for each researcher. What do you think?
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 09 Nov 2011, 10:46

It's been done. That was the Wiseman and Schlitz study I was referring to. Wiseman is a skeptic and Schlitz is a believer. These studies are extremely well controlled as is the case for most parapsychology studies. (They always have skeptics on their asses, they have to be good.)
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Nostradamus » 09 Nov 2011, 11:50

high stakes challenge presented by people who are hoping that you'll fail,

Yes, those are pseudo-skeptics.

First you post an unsubstantiated opinion and now you give it a name. It is meaningless.

The challenge has been around quite a while and Randi has a track record of blowing off good challenges while testing no-hopers.

More unsubstantiated opinion. Just because someone accepts the challenge does not mean they are no-hopers. Just because someone is unable to accept a protocol does not mean they are able.

However, studies have confirmed this to be true.

What studies? Please post a link to the study or provide something else a little more substantial.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1348/000712605X80704/abstract
Here is the abstract from a joint 2005 paper.
A large body of research has examined the possible existence of psychic ability. Proponents claim that some of this work supports the existence of such abilities; skeptics argue that such studies suffer from potential flaws and artifacts. As with other controversial areas of psychology, researchers on both sides of the debate have tended to collaborate only with colleagues who hold the same beliefs about the phenomena in question. This is unfortunate, as skeptic-proponent collaborations offer the potential for resolving key areas of disagreement. The first author, a proponent, and the second, a skeptic, have been conducting a systematic program of collaborative skeptic-proponent research in parapsychology. This involved carrying out joint experiments in which each investigator individually attempted to mentally influence the electrodermal activity of participants at a distant location. In the first two collaborations, experiments conducted by the proponent obtained significant results but those conducted by the skeptic did not. This paper describes a new collaborative study that attempted to replicate our previous findings and explore potential explanations for past results. The new study failed to replicate our previous findings. The implications of this work are discussed, along with the benefits of conducting collaborative work for resolving disagreements in other controversial areas of psychology.


Bolding is mine.

The second paper reported that the findings from the first paper were not replicated. This is not unusual. That is why experiments need to be repeated.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Nostradamus » 09 Nov 2011, 12:04

Let me correct my previous post. It seems that the only person having positive results was the believer. As the testing was became better controlled the 'effect' went away. This was experiment 3.

What is interesting is that when I look up comments on the studies I find that believers do not mention the failure. Skeptics mention all 3 and even discuss the possibility that in experiment 3 maybe Schlitz held back and thus reduce her positive effect on the outcome. I don't see such open mindedness on the part of the believers.

An example of this can be seen in this commentary:
URL purposely not given
See a most interesting example of the EXPERIMENTER EFFECT > Dr. Marilyn Schlitz neutral experimenter obtained positive results and Dr Richard Wiseman, who has a historical track record of finding against psychics - doing the same experiment as Dr Schlitz consistently obtained negative results

Bolding mine.

This is the sort of weird commentary I see from believers. Schlitz is anything but a neutral experimenter.
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