I just found out about an open challenge to prove anything paranormal (their FAQ has a definition of what they consider paranormal) and receive one million dollars. The offer was originally made in 1964, but it was only for $1,000 and has since grown to $1,000,000. So far, no one has ever made it through the preliminary tests.
It brings into question anyone who claims they’re a psychic or has powers to do things like levitate, bend spoons and so on. I realize not everyone would necessarily want to be put through a battery of tests, but with all the people claiming to have psychic powers and abilities, you would think someone would have stepped up over the past 40 years to prove their abilities and make a million bucks.
While it doesn’t prove anything, learning about this challenge has pushed me even farther in the skeptical direction. I’ve always wondered if there was any truth to people having psychic abilities, or that people could have ESP, or any of the many other things we’re shown on TV and in movies. This news makes me less credulous of any of those things. After being awestruck by magicians, only to learn how basic and rudimentary the actual tricks were, I’m inclined to believe the same is true for someone who appears to have supernatural powers.
The site also has The Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural freely available. I’d suggest starting at the index to see all of the subjects it covers.
It’s amazing how our perception of things shapes the reality we experience, and the power that can be exerted over people by tricking their perception. We had a discussion during lunch today about the power of the placebo effect and the part it played in the recent study that showed the ineffectiveness of echinacea at curing colds. Though no one in the study knew whether they actually received the herb or a placebo, those that thought they received it reported a reduction of symptoms.
Although there are a large range of perceptual effects that disappear under scientific scrutiny, they can be ‘real’ in the effects they have upon the human mind, and by extension, the human body. Actually harnessing that effect in a useful and ethical way would be a serious breakthrough for medicine, and probably other fields as well.
Wow. Dan, you stated that paranormalities are becoming less credulous to you because of this challenge, but I find something very ironic.
Last night I spent about 2 hours reading the archives at randi.org and read over the challenge and everything — what’s even more odd is that I had a vision that you were going to write about this million dollar challenge soon.
ISN’T THAT WEIRD?
I swear I’m not bullsh—ing you. You can check my internet history from last night. Coincidence? Maybe. But that is so strange. I often vision things before they happen. Some things just cannot be explained.
Nice try Chad, but my credulous days are over. ;)
Lol… well you have to admit, it is quite strange that I had a feeling you were going to write about the challenge before you did it. But I am the same way with all the paranormal hype. However, Criss Angel on A&E is pretty amazing — illusions or not.
I haven’t seen Criss Angel, but I have a feeling that his tricks wouldn’t be nearly as amazing if you knew how they worked. In some cases I’d rather not know how they work and remain blissfully mystified and entertained.
Criss Angel is likely going to make more than a million dollars with this MindFreak business, which is probably why other magicians haven’t taken anyone up on the offer. It’s more lucrative to get money for fooling people. :-)
The mystique is what’s good for the psychic/magic business, after all.
That’s a good point, but what it implies is that none of these performers do anything legitimately paranormal. That alone makes it much less mystical.