Testing a Pseudo Science Claim
Those of you who know me know that I am a hard core skeptic. The claims of para-normal things like psychic energy fields, ghosts, mind-reading, psychic/faith healing and generally anything else that falls within the wide world of woo are things that I have severe problems with. (And in the interest of full disclosure I did used to believe in some of these things. All I can say is I got better.)
The James Randi Educational Foundation is an organization that has long been dedicated to debunking such claims. They have, over the years, offered a 1 Million Dollar challenge which has been the bane of most claims. I personally have used the threat of the 1 Million Dollar challenge on people who have told me that they have or know of someone who has paranormal abilities or paranormal experiences.
But the reality is that there are people who have tried to win the challenge. People who either thought they could scam their way through the test or who genuinely thought they had a real “gift.”
As a magician I know a lot about the way to fake these “gifts.” I’ve done it. Without even trying I have convinced people that I have the ability to read their aura and to tell their future. I’ve even once had a person request that I contact their dead pet.
I’m also familiar with how we fool ourselves into believing we might have such “gifts.”
I’ve read, for years, many of the reports of how various challenges have been tested by the James Randi Educational Foundation, but I’ve never actually witnessed a test.
Recently they actually ran through a real challenge and recorded the whole procedure. It’s a long video (1 hour and 45 minutes), but if you are interested it’s worth taking a look. Or at the very least you can skim it since the reason it is so long is that they repeat the same basic test 20 times to collect the data (not actually all 20 but enough to make it long). Once you’ve watched the procedure a few times you’ll understand the whole protocol.
The follow up after the test is over, the Q&A afterwards and the information about “off the shelf tests” is very interesting.