• Paranormalia is written by Robert McLuhan, a journalist and author based in London. Please contact me at robertmcluhan@gmail.com

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December 14, 2010

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I may not be typical but I tend to buy books recommended by friends or on forums like this if I am looking for something in this genre. I doubt I'd be put off by a 1-star review from a stranger with no real analysis and more than a gushing 4-star review would make me more inclined to but it on that basis as personal opinion can be so different from one to another. If I think the reviewer might be genuine I look for other reviews by them.

I suspect that those likely to be I interested in Randi's Prize won't be buying it by chance and won't be so easily put off. Perhaps those who have read it and like it will post a more balanced review.

Sorry didn't preview. Should be and=any, but=buy lol

You can rate reviews as helpful or unhelpful, and I think people look at those ratings as much as they do the stars the pseudo-reviewers give. If people see that others think reviewers are unhelpful, hopefully they will tend to discount the reviewers' opinions.

But as you say, in bulk there could be an effect. The side effect is that people tend to be more interested in books that generate a lot of comments, so oddly negative reviews may help.

This sort of thing goes on all the time, and not just as blatantly as Orlando Figes puffing his own books - I've seen books by academics with endorsements from their mates.

Well the guy who wrote that review is clearly a skeptic. Bad logic and bad spelling all in one review :)

I just submitted a 5-star review to Amazon.com, though it may take a couple of days to appear on the site. I'll use this review as the basis for a longer review on my blog in the near future.

In the meantime, don't let the naysayers get you down. "The dogs bark, but the caravan passes on."

Thanks for the support Michael! I look forward to seeing the reviews.

Although the Amazon UK reader's comment is really too inane to respond to, it might be worth highlighting the silliness of this passage:

"No one would be more delighted than Randi if the prize was won - think about it - he'd get the Nobel prize for proving telepathy, teleporting or whatever really existed."

In one sentence the reader manages to betray an awe-inspiring ignorance of both the rudiments of psychology and the basics of the scientific method.

First, Randi would not win a Nobel Prize if he had to pay out the million dollars. A single, unreplicated experiment would not prove anything to the scientific community.

Second, to believe that Randi sincerely wants to find evidence of psi is akin to believing that young-Earth creationists sincerely want to find evidence of evolution. Randi is a propagandist who has devoted much of his life to debunking psi and related claims. His reputation, his worldview, and his ego are wholly bound up in this cause.

I'm not tarring all skeptics with this brush; there are some, like Eric Dingwall, Milbourne Christopher, and Susan Blackmore, who are more honest and less angry. But Randi's bias - in fact, his blistering, blustering hostility toward any unconventional claim - should be obvious to anyone who's read him.

Yes, the Nobel prize thing is funny.

What's the source of this hostility? I've always assumed in Randi's case it was the magician thing, the insight that people can be fooled - distracted into seeing stuff that didn't really happen - and that this susceptibility explains paranormal claims. He does talk about, in his early career, seeing other entertainers pretending to do 'psychic' stuff, and evangelists performing 'miracles'.

But earlier I was watching a clip of him talking briefly about his family, and his father falling for the Bates method for improving eyesight, which even at the time he was convinced was nonsense, and was distracting his father from getting real medical attention. (He implies that it cost him his sight and later his life). That's another very common reason for vocal scepticism, and one that I can completely understand. That anger can last a lifetime, and seemingly trumps mere scientific curiosity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyY34EJfRTs&feature=related

"In one sentence the reader manages to betray an awe-inspiring ignorance of both the rudiments of psychology and the basics of the scientific method."

Yeah, just like you, Prescott, when talking about conspiracy theories. It is really elitist of you to think that it is not okay for skeptics to do this to subjects that they think are crazy and you like, but okay for you to do this sort of thing to subjects that you think are crazy - and not the good kind of elitism. We all have to play by the rules...

I agree with Michael Prescott’s comment (broadly speaking); it looks to me to be a case of “poisoning the well,” which is something I deplore. If the commenter has not read the book, then he or she should not comment at all.

I don’t think it will affect sales of the book, though. Those who support the paranormal hypothesis are likely to buy it, and a few sceptics (like me) will also buy it (that is on my post-Christmas list of things to do). Like many other things, though, word of mouth recommendation is probably the key rather than reviews on Amazon.

I’ll make one point, however: Randi’s prize is often misunderstood, and more often misrepresented. It is Randi’s PERSONAL challenge to anyone who claims to have paranormal powers, not a definitive scientific test, even though scientists devise and administer the test. And Michael is quite correct – a single successful test will not prove the existence of the paranormal. But a failure to pass the test will also not disprove the existence of the paranormal, and Randi acknowledges that.

If I remember correctly, Randi’s original challenge (many years ago) was only one thousand dollars, but it has grown since then. As it happens, I have my own personal challenge for anyone who claims to be psychic, and there is no money involved. When I meet someone who purports to have psychic powers, I just ask them to “do something psychic.” Anything they want to do that can be tested. But it is like holding a cross up to a vampire: they back off immediately. Apparently it doesn’t work like that: sceptics upset the vibrations, it can’t be called up at will, etc., etc., etc. Stage and TV psychics never seem to have that trouble, however, and they are the very ones who refuse to take the million dollar challenge. Strange that the very people who can call up spirits at will are the ones who refuse to take the challenge.

Robert – I won’t comment on anything in your book until I have read it. I suspect we are going to disagree with each other when I do, but at least I will try, as I always do, to tackle it on the arguments put forward. (Cue Kris: “...law of the excluded middle,” etc., ad nauseam...).

Well Harley if you would stop making so many logical fallacies I and others would not have to point them out. This is not our fault. If it is our fault , why is it our fault?

However in this case it seems you have chosen to burn a straw man for your logical fallacy this time.

You did not state the argument against Randi correctly.

This is the correct argument:

1.)Randi has a vested interest in his prize not being won.

2.) If his prize is won he will be shown to be wrong, his life work is ruined, he will lose his job and be out 1 million dolllars.

3.)Randi is judge jury and executioner. With the problems mentioned earlier only a fool would take his challenge seriously. Randi has way way too much lose for one to trust his objectivity.

You only mentioned that failure of people to meet it does not disprove the paranormal. Also certain types of paranormal research would not lend itself to being tested by Randi. For example NDEs and Poltergeist come to mind.

In conclusion

1.) failure to meet Randi's challenge does nothing to to disprove the Paranormal ( even you agree to that)
2.) Many forms of paranormal cannot be tested by Randi's challenge.
3.) Randi is in a position where it is questionable that he can ever be objective about the paranormal.

Now Harley, would you address the correct argument this time without using logical fallacies.


Harley, glad to hear you plan to read the book :) Yes I'm sure you will disagree but will be interested to hear your reasons.

'Randi’s prize is often misunderstood, and more often misrepresented. It is Randi’s PERSONAL challenge to anyone who claims to have paranormal powers...' Only up to a point. Randi's schtick is that scientists are as easily fooled by trickery as anyone else, and that it takes a magician to understand it. Many scientists and sceptics go along with this, to the extent that they consider his Challenge to be THE way to test psychic claims. So it has a lot of public influence - and far more than it really merits. Agree with Kris's points too.

"Yeah, just like you, Prescott, when talking about conspiracy theories." -Rygar

This is probably in reference to a recent comments thread on Skeptiko, where I pronounced myself unimpressed with a conspiracy theorist who believes, among other things, that there is good reason to doubt the Apollo moon landings, that 9-11 was an inside job, and that the World Trade Center may have been vaporized by laser beams from outer space!

Since the guy was obviously a goofball, I just listed some of his wilder opinions and let people decide for themselves if he was worth listening to.

I admit this approach has something in common with the debunking efforts of paranormal skeptics, but, you know, we all have our "boggle threshold." I generally hit mine around the time someone suggests that NASA faked the moon landings on a soundstage.

YMMV, of course.

"This is probably in reference to a recent comments thread on Skeptiko"

Yeah, and also when you flipped out on your own website about the 9/11 truth movement - and any other time that you may have flipped out that I am currently unaware, if there are any. Hitting your "boggle threshold" does not justify this type of behavior. I do not think that anything that you wrote in your last post, Prescott, weakens my main point. If you act like you just did in your last post, then you (and everyone else associated with you) are going to have a difficult, if not impossible, time arguing that it is not acceptable for the skeptics to do the same thing. We all have to play by the rules.

Rygar, I hear what you're saying, but I don't agree. I would say that open-mindedness is a good thing, but not if it leads us to embrace conjectures that have no plausibility at all. For instance, if someone is open-minded enough to give serious consideration to the Flat Earth Society, then I think he needs to balance his open-mindedness with critical thinking and (true) skepticism.

I admit that the line between "bizarre but not inconceivable" and "too absurd to bother with" is subjective. It's a judgment call. I would place (for instance) David Ickes' "theory" that members of the British Royal Family are shape-shifting alien lizards on the far side of that line. I would place the evidence for ESP and postmortem survival on the near side. Other people will draw their own lines.

I don't have much objection to casual skeptics who say, "I think the paranormal is a lot of hooey, and I would never waste my time on it." Although I think they're mistaken, they have a perfect right to decide that certain claims are just too far-fetched to take seriously. We all have that right - the right to draw our own lines. (Which is really the right to decide how we're going to use our time.)

What does bother me a little are the professional or hardcore skeptics who claim to be experts on the paranormal - people who claim they've spent years studying it and can offer an authoritative opinion - yet who misrepresent the evidence by distortion or omission, and who, in many cases, seem only glancingly familiar with the literature. These are the sorts of people targeted by Robert McLuhan's new book.

If I were writing a book about the "Truther" movement, I'd have to immerse myself in their "evidence" and arguments in order to counter their claims as effectively as possible. But if I merely think Trutherism is idiotic and not worth any reasonable person's time, I'm not obliged to investigate further. My only obligation is not to pose as an expert on the subject.

So I do think everyone should play by the same rules, but that doesn't mean everyone has to grant respectful attention to any claim, no matter how silly or crazy. On the contrary, it means all of us are free to ignore, dismiss, or ridicule any claim (which is all that many outre claims deserve), so long as we don't make a pretense of an expertise we haven't earned.

There are a lot of things in your last post that I could take issue with, but I feel compelled to highlight this:

"I would say that open-mindedness is a good thing, but not if it leads us to embrace conjectures that have no plausibility at all."

Now, unless you are using a very different definition of open-minded then I am, this seems to me to be pretty clearly contradictory. You can't be open-minded and then turn around and say that something has "no plausibility at all." I am game for continuing this conversation, if you want, but before we do so I would like an acknowledgement of the contradictory nature of this statement. If you do not believe that the statement is contradictory, then can you please explain to me precisely what your definition of open-minded is, assuming that it is significantly different from the definition that I am using?

Rygar, my entire previous comment was devoted to explaining what I meant.

For the record, I don't think there's any contradiction. Think of it this way: Generosity is a virtue, but that doesn't mean you have to give away everything you own. Courage is a virtue, but that doesn't mean you have to take suicidal risks. Open-mindedness is a virtue, but that doesn't mean you have to grant credibility to every claim.

In other words, practice the Golden Mean.

Happy Holidays!

Oh, I forgot you wanted a definition. Here are my impromptu definitions of closed-mindedness and open-mindedness.

Closed-mindedness: an unwillingness to consider new or challenging points of view.

Open-mindedness: a willingness to consider new or challenging points of view.

Keep in mind that, in any definition, a lot has to be left out. Both closed-mindedness and open-mindedness exist on a sliding scale. Nobody can be completely closed-minded about everything or completely open-minded about everything. It's always a matter of degree.

We might define generosity as "a willingness to share one's treasures with others." That doesn't mean a generous person is obligated to give away everything he owns. Generosity exists on a sliding scale, from miserliness at one end to pathological self-abnegation at the other.

Similarly, a commitment to open-mindedness is not an intellectual suicide pact. You can be open-minded in general, but still resistant to particular suggestions that seem transparently absurd. For instance, I doubt that any modern rational person, no matter how open-minded, would seriously consider the idea that the Earth is balanced on the back of turtle!

To me, some of the more far-out conspiracy theories are no more substantive than the "turtle theory." Your mileage may vary; that's what makes it a judgment call.

Indeed, it does seem that you and I are working under different definitions of open-minded. I meant open-mindedness as the condition of having the belief that there is a possibility that you are wrong. I will agree with the stuff you said about it being a scale. I am NOT arguing that we should believe that it is equally likely for us to be wrong about all statements in which we believe. I AM arguing that we should all believe that there is at least some kernel of a chance that we could be wrong about everything, even the idea that the Earth could be on the back of a turtle. When it comes down to it I am not aware of any way that anyone can be absolutely certain about anything. This implies open-mindedness under my definition. I believe that it is fair to say that you have not been open-minded under my definition - you do not believe that there is ANY chance that you may be wrong about certain things, like the possibility that the Earth is on a turtle. Sorry for the confusion about the definitions of open-minded. I probably should have been more clear about what I meant, earlier.

"I believe that it is fair to say that you have not been open-minded under my definition - you do not believe that there is ANY chance that you may be wrong about certain things, like the possibility that the Earth is on a turtle."

Hmm. What I would say is that the chance of the Earth resting on a turtle is so vanishingly small that it would be a waste of my time to try to disprove it. While there is some theoretical nonzero chance that the Earth is resting on a turtle, and that this truth has been concealed from us in some way, the odds are so much against it that I personally wouldn't invest any effort in pursuing it.

It's the same reason I don't play the lottery. It's not that I'm absolutely certain I wouldn't win the jackpot. There's a nonzero chance that I could win, but in my judgment the chance is too low to justify buying a ticket.

I do agree with you that "there is at least some kernel of a chance that we could be wrong about everything." In fact, the older I get, the less certain I feel!

"While there is some theoretical nonzero chance that the Earth is resting on a turtle, and that this truth has been concealed from us in some way, the odds are so much against it that I personally wouldn't invest any effort in pursuing it."

Fair enough, I agree with this statement. I won't push it any further. I would just ask that, in the future, the next time you feel like calling someone names who does want to investigate something you keep in mind that, as you seem to have just acknowledged, 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000001% is different than 0%, even if only slightly. Like the saying goes, "So close, and yet so far away."

I do not play the lottery, either.

Rygar - small point, but why do you keep addressing Michael Prescott by his surname?

Ummm...now that you mention it, I'm not sure. Come to think of it, he is not the only one who I have addressed by his last name on these types of comments sections. It is probably some sort of subconscious impulse. Why do you ask?

It doesn't bother me. I answer to either name. (And to a couple of others, since I've used more than one name in my illustrious, but now defunct, writing career.)

Hi rygar. Clearly Michael doesn't mind but I always find it somewhat impolite. It may just be a cultural thing.

Interesting...I'll keep that in mind for the future.

Robert – yes, I am going to buy and read your book. I am a sceptic, not a denialist or pseudoskeptic, as some people accuse me of. Like the post you made about Eusapia Palladino, I did actually read the online article you provided. Your argument at the time was that sceptics are sceptical only because they have not read the relevant literature; but it seems to me that those who criticised me did not read it themselves. I did. I read paranormal literature so that I know what is going on, but I think it is fair to say that very few believers read anything at all that opposes their views.

Scientists are human, and certainly can be fooled (you must be familiar with Project Alpha). I, too, can be fooled: I enjoy seeing magicians at work, and I am fascinated when I see an illusion being performed by a skilled illusionist. But it is possible to find out how some of these illusions are performed. In fact, last Father’s Day, my son and daughter bought me a (very expensive) levitation trick from an online magic shop. I won’t give any details except to say that I can “levitate” objects close-up or even at a distance, using trickery alone, and at a moment’s notice. That trick is simple in principle, but fiendishly clever in its application. And people who know me as a sceptic say, “Ah, it’s just a trick.” I readily admit to that, but the point here is that no-one can just explain it and say how it is done. People are easy to fool, whether the believers want to admit it or not, but I claim only trickery, not psychic powers. I think it is quite fair to look to experts in trickery to guard against it. And those believers who tell me they “can’t be fooled” are also the people who cannot explain how I do my levitation tricks.

Randi’s challenge is not, as you suggest, the sceptics’ catch-all claim that it is THE way to test psychics. I will say again that Randi’s challenge is his personal challenge, and is not going to be the definitive test any more than my own personal challenge to psychics that I meet is going to be definitive. It just happens to be true that psychics always back off when they are asked (or challenged) to prove their claims (especially by anyone who knows how the tricks are done).

You say you agree with Kris’s comments. He accuses me of using a straw man argument and then trots out a whole series of them himself. But as usual, he makes claims and then fails to back them up with a single piece of evidence. His ill-informed rants are a gift to sceptics who would portray him as a typical believer.

Or were you agreeing with him that my comments are only a series of logical fallacies? (Citations required)

As I have said many times before, no-one can disprove the existence of the paranormal, but the supporters cannot provide any definitive proof that it is true. And that is the crucial point: claims that are not supported by proof (or at least compelling evidence) are just claims. Only last week in my local paper, a news article had the intro: “Evening of clairvoyance cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.” (The story was true enough, but I suspect it was worded that way because of the reporter’s sense of humour. But it was still a surprise to the psychic concerned – which is not, actually, surprising).

Even better, a few months ago, a local pub that hosts monthly psychic fairs was robbed by masked and armed criminals. Is it not significant that the dozens of psychics who have regular stalls there failed to tip off the manager before it happened? And would you be surprised to know that all of them have failed to identify the perpetrators to the police?

I’ll add one more point about open mindedness/closed mindedness. I will listen when anyone wants to make a claim, however odd it might be. If someone claims to have an invisible fairy at the bottom of their garden, it is obviously an extraordinary claim, but it is not closed-minded of me to ask for some evidence. Believing such a claim without evidence is not being open-minded, it is just gullibility. If someone cannot provide compelling evidence for that claim, then I will dismiss it.

There is a simple bottom line: psychics make claims that they cannot live up to. It’s one thing to write a book criticising sceptics, but produce someone who can really do the paranormal things they claim, and the world is your lobster.

Anyway, I’ll be ordering your book in the first week of the New Year. Till then, best regards, and I wish you a happy new year.

Thanks Harley - I can send you the e-book as well, if you like, as part of the ongoing promotion. Best wishes for 2011

Harley

I have slaughtered you on every subject we have disagreed on for literally years. Is it biological with you? Do you have something in your genetic code that prevents you from engaging in rational thought? I showed why you are engaging in the logical fallacy of burning a straw man when I discussed what you failed to address with the " Randi Challenge" and you failed to address my points. Instead you did ANOTHER logical fallacy this time you engaged in arguing through assertion stating without an iota of evidence that I was burning a straw man about Randi. How am I? Try to explain it Harley.

Here is what I see as the biggest difference between me and Harley. Whenever I hold a view I provide evidence for that view. ( read my earlier arguments about the Lorber study for example. The comments that made Harley go " duh") I have done that for years. When I reject a view I provide reasons both fact based and logic based for my rejection ( for example like I did with the " Randi Challenge"). All Harley has ever done is argue through assertion, engage in circular reasoning, always excludes the middle possibility and burns straw men of the arguments he cannot refute.

Harley I am going to help you out. Edit copy and paste this in your response to me.

I think Kris' arguments about the Randi Challenge are flawed for the following reasons. ( you fill in the blank here) See how this works.

Robert – I’ve ordered your book today from Amazon, and I should have it in 3 or 4 working days. Thanks for your offer of an e-copy, but I am a bit old fashioned that way (there just isn’t anything quite like an actual book to have in one’s hands). I’m looking forward to reading it.

Kris – you have listed your opinions. That’s all. I am beginning to suspect that English is not your first language, so I forgive you for not understanding the nuances of, or being able to construct, a cogent argument.

Oh I figured you would go this route so lets play a little game of true or false and see what happens.

My comment on Randi.

1.) failure to meet Randi's challenge does nothing to to disprove the Paranormal ( even you agree to that)

Did you not say on December 19th at 11:39 PM this statement " But a failure to pass the test will also not disprove the existence of the paranormal, and Randi acknowledges that."?

So is it true of false that my first premise is correct? Why it seems it is TRUE

Next argument of mine

2.) Many forms of paranormal cannot be tested by Randi's challenge.

True or False. NDEs and Poltergeist cannot be realistically tested in a lab setting therefore they cannot be studied by the Randi. This is a TRUE statement

Last argument of mine

3.) Randi is in a position where it is questionable that he can ever be objective about the paranormal.

This is demonstrable with the following facts.

a.) He loses 1 million dollars-TRUE
b.) He loses his job- TRUE
c.) He losses his reputation- TRUE
d.) His life work is ruined.- TRUE

If any one of those is false would explain why?

If any of my arguments are false which one is false.

I will help you again. This would be a great starting sentence for you Harley.

I think the following parts of Kris' arguments are false for the following reasons. ( you explain your reasons here)

Kris – your comments, as usual, exhibit a breathtaking naïveté, so let me put you right on a few things.

A failure to pass Randi’s challenge will not disprove the existence of the paranormal; but someone who can pass the test will not prove it, either. It is possible for someone to pass the test (at one in a million odds against) by pure dumb luck. Anyone who really has the paranormal powers they claim to have will not need luck, of course.

You say that many forms of the paranormal cannot be tested by Randi’s challenge. That might or might not be true, but it is irrelevant; there are countless forms of the paranormal that can be tested – spoon bending being just one that comes to mind. Where are all the takers?

Randi’s objectivity does not come into it. Each test is set up with the agreement of the participant and Randi does not take part in the testing. The results of any test have to stand, and Randi has nothing to do with the outcome.

As for the following “facts” of yours, which themselves are nothing other than baseless assertions (and you have the nerve to accuse ME of arguing by assertion?):

a) He loses a million dollars? FALSE: the money belongs to the JREF; it is not Randi’s personal money to lose. But the challenge is there (talk about putting your money where your mouth is), and the big names in the paranormal keep well away from it. No surprise there.
b) He loses his job? FALSE: the JREF as an organisation takes the (almost non-existent) chance that there is someone out there who can demonstrate paranormal ability. Who is going to fire Randi or anyone else if their challenge is won? The challenge is the whole point.
c) He loses his reputation? FALSE: if Randi can find someone who can demonstrate real paranormal powers, then Randi and the JREF will have achieved what your Dean Radins, Gary Schwartzes, Rupert Sheldrakes and others have singularly failed to do. Nowithstanding the fact that a single success in the Randi challenge will not in itself prove the existence of the paranormal, you can be assured that such a win would make headlines around the world, and would make the general scientific community start to take a serious interest. The current stars of parapsychology research would be quickly forgotten. It is the Gellers, Brownes, van Praaghs, etc., who dare not risk their “reputations.” Funny how they don’t take the risk, isn’t it?
d) His life work is ruined? FALSE: Randi has dedicated his life work to promoting critical thinking and rationality. If it should happen that a real psychic is discovered through that process, then Randi’s life work will be vindicated, not ruined.

Anyway, why go on about the Randi challenge in particular? Sceptical organisations around the world have similar challenges on offer – from relatively small amounts to quite handsome purses. In fact, the total amount of prize money available from them comes to a sum that makes the million dollar challenge look like small potatoes. Surely some enterprising psychic could just go around them all and wipe them out? (Sound of crickets)

Or just win the lottery every week – that would be impressive.

It’s not really going to happen, though, is it? And that is what you are stuck with.

Kris – your comments, as usual, exhibit a breathtaking naïveté, so let me put you right on a few things.

KK Well this should be interesting considering Harley's normal track record of failure in discussions with anyone informed on parapsychology.

A failure to pass Randi’s challenge will not disprove the existence of the paranormal; but someone who can pass the test will not prove it, either. It is possible for someone to pass the test (at one in a million odds against) by pure dumb luck. Anyone who really has the paranormal powers they claim to have will not need luck, of course.

KK That is one of the reasons people like me consider the test to be worthless, which is what people like me keep telling Randiods.

You say that many forms of the paranormal cannot be tested by Randi’s challenge. That might or might not be true, but it is irrelevant; there are countless forms of the paranormal that can be tested – spoon bending being just one that comes to mind. Where are all the takers?

KK How is that not a true statement? Can you think of a Randi style test for NDEs, poltergeists and apparitions? However of course no one in their right mind will take a test where one person ( or organization) is judge, jury and executioner.

Randi’s objectivity does not come into it. Each test is set up with the agreement of the participant and Randi does not take part in the testing. The results of any test have to stand, and Randi has nothing to do with the outcome.

KK The James Randi Society ultimately determines success or failure. Who owns this society. I will give you a hint, who is it named after?

As for the following “facts” of yours, which themselves are nothing other than baseless assertions (and you have the nerve to accuse ME of arguing by assertion?):

KK I do not accuse you of doing this have I shown you doing it for literally years.

a) He loses a million dollars? FALSE: the money belongs to the JREF; it is not Randi’s personal money to lose.

KK So his organization losses a million dollars, do you think it can afford to do that? So yes Randi and his organization have an obvious vested interests in always coming back with negative results for obvious reasons.

But the challenge is there (talk about putting your money where your mouth is), and the big names in the paranormal keep well away from it. No surprise there.

KK Because they realize this is a pseudo challenge that no amount of evidence can change the outcome. Do you think evolutionist are afraid of the Hovind Challenge because none of them answer it. No they realize it is a fraud.


b) He loses his job? FALSE: the JREF as an organisation takes the (almost non-existent) chance that there is someone out there who can demonstrate paranormal ability. Who is going to fire Randi or anyone else if their challenge is won? The challenge is the whole point.

KK And if the challenge is met then obviously The James Randi association will lose support and supporters putting him in the ranks of the unemployed.


c) He loses his reputation? FALSE: if Randi can find someone who can demonstrate real paranormal powers, then Randi and the JREF will have achieved what your Dean Radins, Gary Schwartzes, Rupert Sheldrakes and others have singularly failed to do.

KK If he accepts the paranormal then he obviously is no longer a paranormal debunker and therefore loses his reputation. As you have already stated passing this test will not prove the paranormal, so in the end his followers would just conclude he has reached his dotage. Of course we cannot have a Harley argument with Harley insulting authors he has never read and never will.

Nowithstanding the fact that a single success in the Randi challenge will not in itself prove the existence of the paranormal, you can be assured that such a win would make headlines around the world, and would make the general scientific community start to take a serious interest.

KK This is just an argument from assertion as you said it would not prove the paranormal so why would this change anything at all? Only thing that would happen is people would think an old man is losing it.

The current stars of parapsychology research would be quickly forgotten.

KK Why if anything going with your logic this would support their credibility and make once skeptical people reconsider them.

It is the Gellers

KK You mean someone tested by real scientists in lab conditions instead of being tested by a High School drop out.

Let's see what the real scientist have to say:

"I tested Uri Geller myself under laboratory-controlled conditions and saw with my own eyes the bending of a key which was not touched by Geller at any time. There was a group of people present during the experiment who all witnessed the key bending in eleven seconds to an angle of thirty degrees. Afterwards we tested the key in a scientific laboratory using devices such as electron microscopes and X-rays and found that there was no chemical, manual or mechanical forces involved in the bending of the key." Professor Helmut Hoffmann (Department of Electrical Engineering, Technical University of Vienna, Austria)

"Through intense concentration, Uri was able to bend a 3/8" cold rolled steel bar under controlled conditions, as he rubbed the top of it with his forefinger. I was sitting very close to him during this experiment. On another occasion, a radish seed sprouted and grew 1/2" as he held it in his hand. I watched this very closely as well. " Jean Millay PhD. (Saybrook Institute U.S.A.)

"Uri Geller was tested in my laboratory at UCLA. During the experiments in Kirlian photography and after hundreds of trials, he produced three extraordinary photographs in which flashes of energy were clearly visible. What wonderfully welcome sights they were! I have also tested Uri's watch-fixing and metal-bending abilities. He has demonstrated these to me under controlled scientific conditions, in a most convincing manner". Dr. Thelma Moss (Professor of psychology at UCLA and one of the first U.S. researchers to experiment with Kirlian photography - U.S.A.)

"Uri bent a strong heat-treated alloy bar held by myself and my assistant at each end. There was absolutely no pressure exerted by Uri while the bar was bending. All the controlled experiments I conducted with Uri Geller have been described in Sciences et Avenir, No. 345, pp. 1108-1113."

Professor Charles Crussard (Professor of Metallurgy, School of Mines, Paris, and Scientific Director of Pecheney, France)

"Uri Geller, as a psychic genius, has been able to demonstrate the repeatability of controlled scientific psychic experiments. Thereby he has proved the reality of psychic phenomena (such as telekinesis, clairvoyance and telepathy)." Professor P. Plum, MD (Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, University of Copenhagen, former chairman of the Danish Medical Research Council - Denmark)

"We have observed certain phenomena with the subjects [including Uri Geller] for which we have no scientific explanation. As a result of Geller's success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal, perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner." (The results of these experiments were published in the respected British journal Nature, Vol. 251, No. 5). Dr Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ (Stanford Research Institute - California, U.S.A.) "Laser physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff of Menlo Park's Stanford Research Institute admit their kind of research invites chicanery and trickery. They have taken special precautions, they said, to conduct the Stanford Research experiments under doubly strict laboratory conditions." "Under these conditions, they said, no magician has been able to duplicate through trickery the psychic feat performed by Uri Geller and others. Some won't even try." Los Angeles Times, Monday July 28, 1975

"I have personally witnessed and experienced on two occasions the metal bending abilities of Uri Geller. These experiments were conducted under rigorous laboratory conditions. In these two experiments the thick steel rod I was holding and observing carefully bent, and continued to bend, in my own hand. One rod bent to 90 degrees during a period of approximately six minutes while I was holding it. The other steel rod bent after Uri Geller stroked it and continued bending on a glass table without anyone touching it. The steel rods were provided by myself. I consider the Geller effect to be a phenomena which should be studied seriously by science. " "A scientist would have to be either massively ignorant or a confirmed bigot to deny the evidence that the human mind can make connection with space, time and matter in ways which have nothing to do with the ordinary senses. Further, he cannot deny that these connections are compatible with current thinking in physics, and may in the future become accepted as a part of an extended science in which the description 'paranormal' no longer applies, and can be replaced by 'normal'." Dr. Kit Pedler, (Head of the Electron Microscopy department, University of London:)


Brownes, van Praaghs, etc., who dare not risk their “reputations.” Funny how they don’t take the risk, isn’t it?

KK Why is it funny that no one is interested in pseudo challenges. Funny how all those evolutionist are just afraid of Kent Hovind right.

d) His life work is ruined? FALSE: Randi has dedicated his life work to promoting critical thinking and rationality.

KK See I do not think Randi promotes critical thinking. I just think he is a self serving debunker. If he was serious about his challenge to the paranormal he would allow outside neutral parties to take part in the challenge.

Now lets look at how an honest skeptic in the past operated.

This was written by Robert Ingersoll in an article called the Vindication of Thomas Paine

To the Editor of the N.Y. Observer:

SIR: Last June in San Francisco, I offered a thousand dollars in gold -- not as a wager, but as a gift -- to any one who would substantiate the absurd story that Thomas Paine died in agony and fear, frightened by the clanking chains of devils. I also offered the same amount to any minister who would prove that Voltaire did not pass away as serenely as the coming of the dawn. Afterward I was informed that you had accepted the offer, and had called upon me to deposit the money. Acting upon this information, I sent you the following letter:

Peoria, Ill., August 31st, 1877.

To the Editor of the New York Observer:

I have been informed that you accepted, in your paper, an offer made by me to any clergyman in San Francisco. That offer was, that I would pay one thousand dollars in gold to any minister in that city who would prove that Thomas Paine died in terror because of religious opinions he had expressed, or that Voltaire did not pass away serenely as the coming of the dawn.

For many years religious journals and ministers have been circulating certain pretended accounts of the frightful agonies endured by Paine and Voltaire when dying; that these great men at the moment of death were terrified because they had given their honest opinions upon the subject of religion to their fellow-men. The imagination of the religious world has been taxed to the utmost in inventing absurd and infamous accounts of the last moments of these intellectual giants. Every Sunday school paper, thousands of idiotic tracts, and countless stupidities called sermons, have been filled with these calumnies.

Paine and Voltaire both believed in God -- both hoped for immortality -- both believed in special providence. But both denied the inspiration of the Scriptures -- both denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. While theologians most cheerfully admit that most murderers die without fear, they deny the possibility of any man who has expressed his disbelief in the inspiration of the Bible dying except in an agony of terror. These stories are used in revivals and in Sunday schools, and have long been considered of great value.

I am anxious that these slanders shall cease. I am desirous of seeing justice done, even at this late day, to the dead.

For the purpose of ascertaining the evidence upon which these death-bed accounts really rest, I make to you the following proposition: --

First -- AS TO THOMAS PAINE: I will deposit with the First National Bank of Peoria, Illinois, one thousand dollars in gold, upon the following conditions: This money shall be subject to your order when you shall, in the manner hereinafter provided, substantiate that Thomas Paine admitted the Bible to be an inspired book, or that he recanted his Infidel opinions -- or that he died regretting that he had disbelieved the Bible -- or that he died calling upon Jesus Christ in any religious sense whatever.

In order that a tribunal may be created to try this question, you may select one man, I will select another, and the two thus chosen shall select a third, and any two of the three may decide the matter.

As there will be certain costs and expenditures on both sides, such costs and expenditures shall be paid by the defeated party.

In addition to the one thousand dollars in gold, I will deposit a bond with good and sufficient security in the sum of two thousand dollars, conditioned for the payment of all costs in case I am defeated. I shall require of you a like bond.

From the date of accepting this offer you may have ninety days to collect and present your testimony, giving me notice of time and place of taking depositions. I shall have a like time to take evidence upon my side, giving you like notice, and you shall then have thirty days to take further testimony in reply to what I may offer. The case shall then be argued before the persons chosen; and their decisions shall be final as to us.

If the arbitrator chosen by me shall die, I shall have the right to choose another. You shall have the same right. If the third one, chosen by our two, shall die, the two shall choose another; and all vacancies, from whatever cause, shall be filled upon the same principle.

The arbitrators shall sit when and where a majority shall determine, and shall have full power to pass upon all questions arising as to competency of evidence, and upon all subjects.

Second. -- AS TO VOLTAIRE: I make the same proposition, if you will substantiate that Voltaire died expressing remorse or showing in any way that he was in mental agony because he had attacked Catholicism -- or because he had denied the inspiration of the Bible -- or because he had denied the divinity of Christ.

I make these propositions because I want you to stop slandering the dead.

If the propositions do not suit you in any particular, please state your objections, and I will modify them in any way consistent with the object in view.

If Paine and Voltaire died filled with childish and silly fear, I want to know it, and I want the world to know it. On the other hand, if the believers in superstition have made and circulated these cruel slanders concerning the mighty dead, I want the world to know that.

As soon as you notify me of the acceptance of these propositions I will send you the certificate of the bank that the money has been deposited upon the foregoing conditions, together with copies of bonds for costs.

I want you to notice this sentence

In order that a tribunal may be created to try this question, you may select one man, I will select another, and the two thus chosen shall select a third, and any two of the three may decide the matter.

Ingersoll made it possible for the people he challenged to have a fair hearing, unlike James Randi. The Ingersoll challenge is a real challenge, offered in the spirit of fairness. The Randi Challenge is simply a PR stunt.


If it should happen that a real psychic is discovered through that process, then Randi’s life work will be vindicated, not ruined.

KK So vindicating his claim that the paranormal does not exist is now in fact proving the paranormal does exist. That is akin to vindicating a man accused of murder by finding DNA evidence that he did it.

Anyway, why go on about the Randi challenge in particular? Sceptical organisations around the world have similar challenges on offer – from relatively small amounts to quite handsome purses.

KK Cause the one being discussed being is the Randi challenge of course why should we think any of these other challenges are any more real then the Randi Challenge?

In fact, the total amount of prize money available from them comes to a sum that makes the million dollar challenge look like small potatoes. Surely some enterprising psychic could just go around them all and wipe them out? (Sound of crickets)

KK I think the cricket sound you are hearing is the sound of crickets from evolutionist refusing to take on creationist challenges.... One absurd argument deserves another.

Or just win the lottery every week – that would be impressive.

It’s not really going to happen, though, is it? And that is what you are stuck with.

KK This is called burning a straw man. No one claims psychics can do that.

So normal Harley argument. Poor reasoning, straw men and embracing arguments that could just as easily be used to refute things Harley agrees with. I have noticed Harley normally takes a few days to respond. I will admit I have wondered if it really takes him days to write out the lame arguments he always brings here. If it does that is seriously pathetic.

after all disadvantage. Game in third quarter end phase, the lakers leading superiority already exceeded 20 points, that makes the game early into the garbage time.

Kris – cut and paste is not an argument. You have given a couple of references that are not easy for me to follow up without going to a university library – which I do not have the time or the inclination to do. It is, however, the age of the internet, so why not supply relevant links?

I will take issue with one point you made: “KK So vindicating his claim that the paranormal does not exist is now in fact proving the paranormal does exist.”

In fact, I said clearly that Randi’s life work is the promotion of critical and rational thinking. You have misrepresented what I said, but I will not accuse you of dishonesty, I assume that you are just not able to understand plain English.

A further point: you say, “I have noticed Harley normally takes a few days to respond. I will admit I have wondered if it really takes him days to write out the lame arguments he always brings here. If it does that is seriously pathetic.”

In fact, I am a business owner and I typically work seven days a week, not to mention the fact that it is a number of years since I have been able to take a holiday (or vacation, to you). Free time is a rare and precious commodity for me, but I enjoy what I do, I like to spend time with my family, and I am not obliged to answer you within any fixed timetable. You are not important enough to me, just an amusement. If you can ever refrain from talking ex recto, I might start to take you seriously.

In the last couple of years here in the UK, the consumer protection laws were amended to include psychics, astrologers, and all the rest of them. In other words, a psychic is no different than a double glazing salesman in the eyes of the law. Which means that the claims they make have to be true, and they have to be able to prove it or else face the possibility of up to two years in jail for false representation. Guess what? ALL of them now promote their shows with a disclaimer, which always includes the phrase, “For entertainment purposes only.” It’s not a legal requirement that they insert a disclaimer, they just do it because they know they are possibly going to do time if someone makes a complaint. None of them can demonstrate objectively that they have the paranormal abilities they say they have.

In the real world, however, things are different. We expect people who advertise their trades or professions to be able to do the things they claim. I don’t think I’d want to have a surgical procedure from a doctor or surgeon who claimed that what he does is for “entertainment purposes only.” It might make me think he is not a real doctor.

But the bottom line is still there: produce someone who can demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously that they have the psychic powers they claim to have. Anecdotes and meta-analyses do not count as evidence, nor do any psychic claims that can be reproduced using trickery. And the usual excuses for inevitable failure are not acceptable, either. (And a disclaimer is definitely out!)

Kris – cut and paste is not an argument. You have given a couple of references that are not easy for me to follow up without going to a university library – which I do not have the time or the inclination to do. It is, however, the age of the internet, so why not supply relevant links?

KK Google it? Surely you cannot be this backward.

I will take issue with one point you made: “KK So vindicating his claim that the paranormal does not exist is now in fact proving the paranormal does exist.”

In fact, I said clearly that Randi’s life work is the promotion of critical and rational thinking. You have misrepresented what I said, but I will not accuse you of dishonesty, I assume that you are just not able to understand plain English.

KK And I for one do not think that is Randi's life work. That to me is like saying Kent Hovind's life work is promoting biology. It flies in the face of all the evidence. I for one just consider Randi to be a charlatan with a pseudo challenge.

A further point: you say, “I have noticed Harley normally takes a few days to respond. I will admit I have wondered if it really takes him days to write out the lame arguments he always brings here. If it does that is seriously pathetic.”

In fact, I am a business owner and I typically work seven days a week, not to mention the fact that it is a number of years since I have been able to take a holiday (or vacation, to you). Free time is a rare and precious commodity for me, but I enjoy what I do, I like to spend time with my family, and I am not obliged to answer you within any fixed timetable. You are not important enough to me, just an amusement. If you can ever refrain from talking ex recto, I might start to take you seriously.

KK You obviously take me seriously you respond. As it is I wish you would actually deal with your arguments made against you. However if I was you I try to actually refute my opponents arguments, even if it took me a few days. I have said before Harley and I will say again you are one of the weakest most ill informed skeptics I have ever come across. Refuting you is just play time for me.

In the last couple of years here in the UK, the consumer protection laws were amended to include psychics, astrologers, and all the rest of them. In other words, a psychic is no different than a double glazing salesman in the eyes of the law. Which means that the claims they make have to be true, and they have to be able to prove it or else face the possibility of up to two years in jail for false representation. Guess what? ALL of them now promote their shows with a disclaimer, which always includes the phrase, “For entertainment purposes only.” It’s not a legal requirement that they insert a disclaimer, they just do it because they know they are possibly going to do time if someone makes a complaint. None of them can demonstrate objectively that they have the paranormal abilities they say they have.

KK This now proves Randi's challenge is legit how? This means Randi's challenge can test all forms of the paranormal now? This has nothing what so ever to do with my arguments.

In the real world, however, things are different. We expect people who advertise their trades or professions to be able to do the things they claim. I don’t think I’d want to have a surgical procedure from a doctor or surgeon who claimed that what he does is for “entertainment purposes only.” It might make me think he is not a real doctor.

KK This helps James Randi how?

But the bottom line is still there: produce someone who can demonstrate, clearly and unambiguously that they have the psychic powers they claim to have. Anecdotes and meta-analyses do not count as evidence, nor do any psychic claims that can be reproduced using trickery. And the usual excuses for inevitable failure are not acceptable, either. (And a disclaimer is definitely out!)

KK So properly explaining the event in question is out as a priori?

What is wrong with Meta-analysis besides the fact it disproves your arguments? They are perfectly acceptable evidences in all other areas of research.

Normal Harley. Misses the point, refutes things that were not be discussed and thinks that just because he does not like a method of research it is worthless.

Kris – no, I do not take you seriously, and I don’t think anyone with a working brain does either. I said that you are an amusement. I dally with things that amuse me, that’s all.

Anyway, you have completely missed my point, so let me put it another way. No alleged psychic is under any obligation to take Randi’s challenge. The legitimacy of it can be verified quite easily, however (did you say something about “Google it”?). What is significant is the never-ending list of excuses that psychics utilise to get out of it. You know the sort of thing – “I’m already a millionaire; I don’t need the money”; “These powers can’t be called up at will”; “The presence of sceptics upsets the vibrations”; “The energy is weak”; yadda yadda.

In the UK, however, we have consumer protection laws. Psychics put on their shows with the protection of a disclaimer. Why don’t you explain to me why they do that if they are the real deal?

It is the case that if a stage or TV psychic were to actually claim (without a dis-CLAIM-er) to have those paranormal abilities, then there would be certain to be someone who would call them on it by complaining to the relevant statutory agency. But unlike Randi’s challenge, which is voluntary, the full force of the law can be brought to bear on anyone who makes misleading or dishonest claims. No-one can be forced to take up the million dollar challenge, but a psychic in the UK can be forced to prove their claims in a court of law, or else face the possibility of a significant jail sentence. (I suspect they really can foresee the future in that sense, but clairvoyance is not needed)

So forget Randi’s challenge, which is voluntary, and explain to me why “real” psychics have to hide behind a disclaimer in the UK. There can surely be no reason why a genuine psychic has to say his show is “for entertainment purposes only,” and “results are not guaranteed”; why don’t they have a sign put up at their shows that says, “I am a genuine psychic who will contact your dead loved ones?”

Show me a psychic who works behind a disclaimer and I will show you a psychic who cannot demonstrate psychic powers, either in the million dollar challenge or in a UK court of law. But I prefer the second – it’s about time a few charlatans did time for bilking gullible marks.

So here is a challenge to all UK psychics – put on your shows without a disclaimer, and then prove your claims in court. (There’s no prize money at stake – just your liberty)

So Harley wants me to forget Randi's challenge which was our initial point of disagreement this time and like he always does when he gets blistered on a subject he tries to change it to something else. I do not care about tabloid psychics which I have never defended. Lets stick on the Randi Challenge which was our area of disagreement and which I have refuted you again and again.

My focus from the beginning of this conversation on this blog post was about the fraudulent pseudo challenge offered by James Randi.

I have pretty much shown to all reasonable minded people that the Randi challenge is worthless because it could not test all forms of the paranormal, even people such as you concede it does not disprove the paranormal, if it ever did come up positive skeptics would not accept the claim of the paranormal anyways and Randi has far to much vested in his position to ever be considered a fair judge of the paranormal. This is why his challenge is no better then Kent Hovind's challenge against evolution. It is useless and is only used by the uninformed and the dishonest.

I do not care about tabloid psychics or any of your other diversions Harley. The fact you want to move away from the Randi Fraud ( err Challenge) tells me even you know this fraud on the public cannot be defended.

As I always say I will let people read our disagreements and come to their own view on who is the idiot.

Kris – you are hysterical. Calm down.

Randi’s challenge is legitimate. Nothing you have said refutes that.

No-one has ever demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that they have paranormal abilities.

It’s that simple.

Harley your ability to type Randi's Challenge is legitimate is not a substitute for a rational response to my arguments explaining why it is not. I so wish my world view allowed me to make the logic and fact free " rebuttals" Harley uses.

Note this, first Harley tries to change the conversation then he tries to simply argue through assertion ( In all fairness Harley has done this for years now, it just wouldn't be a Harley response without some logical fallacy). But then again that is all he can do because the Randi Challenge is a fraud on the public and he has no answer that will stand up under scrutiny on why it is not.

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  • ‘These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in.’ Alan Turing, computer scientist.

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