Randi’s Challenge: Against All Logic

As The Amazing Randi posts changes to the $1M challenge to psychics to prove the existence of their gifts under controlled circumstances, I’m just further struck by how badly he has thought out this plan — that is, if in fact he really does want to prove or disprove conclusively that there is psychic phenomenon.

Clearly, he doesn’t want to do either.

The big so-called psychics are obvious frauds on so many levels. They might have some modicum of talent, but mostly they just know what people want to hear. I have had my own experiences around this, specifically with Sylvia Browne. And I deeply suspect that she’s smart enough to know that she can only do so much — hence her public denunciation of Randi’s challenge on her website.

The people with really strong gifts, on the other hand, do not want media exposure. They know what a circus their life would become if the spotlight ever found them. They quietly go about their lives, doing whatever they do, because otherwise they would be hounded to death’s door by every fucking person who wanted to talk to their dead father or find their missing child. Further, they would be exploited, ridiculed, chased, analyzed…in a word, harassed. A lot.

Can you imagine what would happen to the person who did pass Randi’s challenge? That $1M would disappear like candle smoke towards means to deflect media attention. Forget any potential money to be made: that person would be thrust into public scrutiny in a way very few people can handle. No wonder only nutballs have applied in the past. And no wonder only theater professionals are already in the limelight. The sane people who are haunted by this crap don’t want to be bothered.

At the bottom of the well of intent, I don’t think Randi wants to prove or disprove anything. As much as I admire his devotion to skepticism and logic, even with these changes his challenge is highly flawed — in part, I think, because he doesn’t understand the true nature of what he’s seeking. If he did, he would do so quietly. He would find these people — via the Internet, via word of mouth. He would approach them behind the screen, so to speak, offer them complete anonymity in addition to the money. He’d put on the kid gloves. Be polite. Be discreet. Maybe he feels discretion is undeserved somehow. Or maybe he just digs the embarrassment factor. Regardless, he’s skewing his challenge to reach the least qualified. And by being a jerk about it, he’s not making the challenge any more appealing to those who are.

Of course, if he was this discreet, his credibility would be on the line if he couldn’t produce his alleged specimen. But if you can’t trust the word of the great skeptic Randi, who can you?

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say any of this, and most likely not the last. I just felt like I need to say it.

I just wish he and all other skeptics were really listening.

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