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The Grubbies Growl and Grumble-Pt.1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Randi   
There exists an online discussion forum titled “Parapsychology and alternative medicine forum” focused on the Skeptiko podcast, which has previously featured JREF president D.J. Grothe as a guest, where the interview focused on the JREF’s Million Dollar Challenge. On this forum, there is a lengthy discussion about me and the JREF. As we might expect, I seem to be the classical “thorn in the side” for them, a convenient focus for their ire and their fear.

I’ve selected the first two full pages of their complaints, criticisms and comments, and over the next week or so, I’ll make my observations on them, correcting the spelling grammar, and punctuation – for clarity –  and removing any names found there.

Since I found that the first 14 items I came upon flaunt most of the misconceptions held about me and the Foundation, dealing with those just may clear the air a bit in this respect. These items are taken in the order they came up on the site. There are 14…
“MDC” refers to the James Randi Educational Foundation – JREF’s – Million Dollar Challenge. So here goes, no holds barred, as they say. We’ll handle the first 8…

James Randi is a key figure in atheist-materialist ideology. Look at YouTube comments accompanying unusual phenomena and it won't be long before someone claims the subject is bunk because Randi's MDC is still intact. The conjurer's invitation is a central motif of skepticism and as such, it – and he – deserve scrutiny.

Oh, that’s been claimed many times already, I assure you, but that’s only a good indication – not any sort of proof – that there are no paranormal powers. The JREF doesn’t ever try to prove negatives such as the non-existence of the supernatural; we only challenge those claims and hold out the prize to invite the Believers to prove their claims. And yes, I certainly need, and welcome, scrutiny.

“Skeptic” and “debunker” aren't closely-defined terms, but the latter suggests someone for whom any alternative explanation is sufficient, no matter how improbable, so long as it involves reductionism.

Well, I’ve never accepted the designation “debunker,” because that would imply that I enter an investigation with the presupposition that what I’m about to witness or examine doesn’t exist, or is a fraud. Mind you, I tend to suspect that, but I’m always bound to the rules: the evidence speaks, and cannot be ignored. If it proves the claim, the prize will be awarded. Any person who doubts the existence of the million dollars, is invited to request proof, which will be provided via email, a personal letter, or any other specified means.

Of course he [Randi] is not a skeptic in the true sense of the word. He is only skeptical about anything which lies outside the current scientific paradigm. That is not skepticism but ideology. Whatever claims of personal integrity he had were totally destroyed by him harboring for years in his home an illegal alien who was his lover and was using false identification belonging to another man.

No, I’m skeptical about anything that appears to fly in the face of reason. It may prove to be real, and would then be embraced by “the current scientific paradigm.” As for my partnership, there was no “harboring” involved, and that’s a matter that is being handled, thank you. With recognition of alternate lifestyles becoming better and more easily accepted, we look for a reasonable resolution of the matter. And no, this poster’s introduction of this situation is not a problem for me, it’s simply a rough part of my life, and I have to see it through. What I did was to save a life that is very dear to me, and I have no shame about it, at all. Any decent human being would have done the same. Now, it may have been a move to question my character, but it’s true, so I’ve no objection. Moving right along…  

I'd like to ignore Randi too, but sometimes you have to stand up against the kind of attacks he does against people whose only "crime" is having psi experiences. He is dishonest. He will break the law when it suits him. And he discriminates against and tries to censor a particular segment of society based on who they are. He has even formed an organization to facilitate these actions. So long as Randi attacks us, we have to fight back.

Okay, this really puzzles me. My “attacks” are not, and never have been, against persons who believe they’ve had a paranormal experience. I and my Foundation have been fighting the swindlers who perpetrate these frauds and take advantage – financial and emotional – of those who don’t know any better. We at the JREF fight misinformation and put up the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge as an indication of our belief and purpose. We’re the “good guys,” and we’re proud of it.  Hey, we’re on your side, pal! No “censoring,” ever, but lots of discussion, reasoning, and assistance. No “attacks,” either, since we only go after The Bad Guys. If you’re one of those, beware, but if you’re one of those who just want to know more, get in touch…

The problem here is that Randi's challenge constitutes the only game in town for measuring the claims of psychics. The fact that it is totally rigged, is beside the point. It is a niche that is being exploited. There is nowhere else to turn.

That sound you hear is my growl. We get this “rigged” accusation thrown at us so often, but when I respond by simply asking for one example of this, you can hear the crickets… Anyone can read the rules, and it’s clear: there’s no way any “rigging” can possibly be done! So, we are patiently waiting. Anyone who believes they have paranormal abilities care to respond…?

I would love to be able to ignore the atrocities of the leadership of my specific ideology. Unfortunately, that's not exactly honest. Maybe the whole Randi thing will end when the skeptical community decides to force him to step down. Wasn't it Dawkins who was trying to get the pope arrested for crimes against humanity? Start a petition to force Randi to step down. When he does, we'll shut up about it.

And how do you suggest that I be “forced” to “step down”? Yes, it was Richard who suggested the pope be arrested, and the Holy See of course ignored this, because they’re the gang in charge. I applauded the suggestion, while knowing that though Richard was right, he was up against forces he could not – unfortunately – budge. Can you imagine the future of any official who might have stood on his side? I welcome a petition, though I can’t imagine to whom it would be presented… And what are my “atrocities,” please?

…it's the skeptics' fault that the proponents keep bringing up Randi. It couldn't possibly be that the proponents simply cannot stop gnawing the bone.

Sorry, I don’t follow this one… Moving on to #8…

The MDC is not Randi. That is, the validity/usefulness of the Challenge is not the same thing as "is this person a dick?" And I have no responsibility to the skeptic movement, so it's not up to me to throw anyone under the bus.

Imagine George Takei’s voice here: "Oh, my!"  Folks, if the MDC were a fake, and if I were what this commenter designated, I think I’d voluntarily jump under the bus rather than struggle along in a community that so reviles me. Tell ya what, folks: just find a psychic, any psychic, who has the guts to show up for the MDC – at the next Amaz!ng Meeting, for example. (You can see our live MDC event from last year, featuring Banachek and many others, here.) Let said psychic snap up the prize, thereby making me enter a bout of terminal teeth-gnashing, and prove your point! With the literally thousands of “psychics” out there, where are they?

Beats me…

More next week, or maybe sooner!


James Randi is the founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Comments (6)Add Comment
written by metzomagic, March 01, 2013
Well said, Randi. Grubbies. Ha ha. Speaking of funny, doesn't it just say it all when not one of the 'professional' skeptics, the ones who make money off of other people's misery, have ever applied for the MDC. They can't because they know in their own hearts they are fakes, and all it would accomplish would be for them to fail at the task and lose their gravy train of rubes.

For people who aren't skeptical of the so-called 'psychics', please reflect on this. If they were for real, they could apply for and walk away with *1 million spondulicks*. So why haven't they? Hmm?
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Me thinks...
written by Stanfr, March 01, 2013
you might want to correct the mistake in the first line of your comment, metzomagic, so there's no unnecessary confusion smilies/wink.gif

Personally, while I think the MDC is a terrific idea and a useful response to get alleged psychics and their ilk to clam up, it really isn't necessary in today's era. Anyone with any authentic ability who would qualify for the MDC could probably easily make an order of magnitude more $ by proving it through anyunbiased method, then hit the airwaves for tons of endorsements and a world tour to boot. If I were a 'genuine psychic' I'd already make my first billion dollars selling my secret of success to the masses. I mean, if fake psychics can generate all this income--just think of what a 'real' psychic could do! It would only be an afterthought of mine to grab up Randi's prize...
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written by metzomagic, March 01, 2013
Thanks for the heads-up, Stanfr. How did I ever do that? Of course, I meant to say professional *psychics*, not skeptics. Doh!
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Why would it be rigged?
written by TheDavid, March 01, 2013
Psychics should examine their argument that the MDC is rigged; it makes no sense. Why would you need to rig a test for a phenomenom that you believe almost certainly does not exist? But the main point is that if Randi and gang rigged the MDC, it means that if such phenomenom can be proven to exist, they would rather that no one find that out.

What possible reason could psychics give for why Randi et al. would suppress truth like that? I imagine it would be some nonsense that Randi only wants to believe in science, real-world stuff. But if someone passed enough tests like Randi's then their 'psychic' abilities would no longer be considered paranormal; they would be a normal, measurable part of the world we live in, in short: science.

- David
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Money isn't everything (no, really)
written by ianmacm, March 01, 2013
In this day and age, when bankers expect huge bonuses for screwing up the economy, being paid $1 million to bend a spoon by stroking it lightly would be a minor reward. What really matters, as other commenters have pointed out, is that anyone who could perform a paranormal feat under strict conditions would rewrite the laws of physics, become world famous and could then name their own price. Free energy is a good example here. Anyone who could build a machine with more than 100% of the energy coming out of it would be regarded as one of the greatest geniuses in human history. Nobel Prizes and multimillion dollar contracts would flow like water. Of course, no-one has ever done this or is likely to, but the MDC stands as an important challenge to anyone who makes a claim which contradicts well tested laws of physics.
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A little history about the MDC
written by feldesq, March 03, 2013
The MDC is a useful promotional and educational tool. It was intended to be eye-catching and dramatic. It originated along with the basic dare, the “put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is” type of challenge. The first known mention of such a challenge, in the context of modern media and skepticism, appears to go back to something Jackie Gleason is attributed to have offered: a million dollar “prize” to anyone who could produce proof of UFOs (in the context of "little green men" not swamp gas) or other supernatural claims. At least on one occasion Gleason was supposed to have made the offer when he was a guest on the Long John Nebel radio program (on WOR) in New York (circa 195smilies/cool.gif.
The JREF Challenge was originally a James Randi challenge (I think Randi carried around a $1,000 check in his wallet, and it may have grown to be $10,000 at some point). But in any event, when the JREF was founded by Randi, the challenge coalesced into its present million-dollar form. A generous donor put up the money, and the JREF set up the prize in a restricted “MDC prize” account, so that any challenger who might attack the bona fides of the challenge (as did Sylvia Browne) could be readily directed to the fund (then at Goldman Sachs). In that the JREF is a 501(c)(3) organization, it must follow certain IRS-disclosure rules, so any member of the interested public can check out the JREF’s financial disclosure statement. To “play games” with such a fund would be to immediately jeopardize the JREF’s tax-exempt status.
It would be useful and interesting if the powers that be at the JREF were to more fully and accurately post an article on the origins and evolution of the MDC and – even more interestingly – post some of the stories regarding some of the applicants, not to degrade or humiliate them, but to illuminate how the MDC works and even how on occasion an applicant will be prompted to see the error of their own ways. Of course, more often the applicant, once thwarted by science and reason, will turn on the examiner and the examination process (and the JREF and Randi personally, even though Randi does not take part in the MDC challenge process). The applicant most often will claim “foul!” On few occasions the “applicant” states that she is looking forward to accepting the challenge, but then obfuscates ad naseum (again, a la Sylvia Browne on several appearances on the Larry King Show). Sadly, a million dollars is not what it used to be, so it would be nice to see the MDC changed to the “BDC.” Perhaps with a billion-dollar prize a few more folks would take a bit more interest in it (and thereby keep the promotional and educational benefits center stage).
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