3 of 12
3
The Amazing Randi - A Question
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
Five Star Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1624
Joined  2006-05-20
Wicked - 05 July 2007 03:02 PM

Look, not that I am a big believer in the paranormal BUT given the fact that Randi’s challenge is biased and not scientifically sound I don’t think I would agree to it either.

How is it biased?

The exact protocol for a test depends entirely on what claim is being made.  In fact, the protocol has to be offered by the applicant, then agreed to by JREF.  The expertise Randi brings is NOT the science (he’ll ask statisticians, for example, to tell how many hits might be required to rule out guessing at a specific confidence level*).  His expertise is in ruling out cheating.

Hypothesizing the effect of a successful proof of a paranormal test is fun, but merely speculation.  I suspect that you’re wrong about Randi’s attitude toward this.  I think he would be thrilled no end to have conclusive proof of one of these claims.  (He has stated as much numerous times.) 

If it happened, I’m sure he’d cash in as well.  If, for example, a psychic ability were actually proven, it would be in all the headlines around the world, and they’d all mention that it was proven in the JREF Million Dollar Challenge. (Funny, despite all the “research” by believers into parapsychology and so on, they’ve never proven conclusively that any such phenomenon exists.  PEAR, for instance, spent a ton of money and came up with barely detectable effect that wasn’t reproducible by anyone else before throwing in the towel.)

I suggested people who criticize the Million Dollar Challenge to read the actual application here:  http://randi.org/research/challenge.html

Unfortunately, the FAQs are down because they’re being re-done to accommodate the recent changes (having to do with the “media presence” requirement).

*Note: many of these claimants start off saying that they can ALWAYS do what they claim—100% of the time.

 Signature 

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.

  —Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

[color=green]“That is a very graphic analogy which aids understanding wonderfully while being, strictly speaking, wrong in every possible way.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
Five Star Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4243
Joined  2005-06-05

Exactly. You do not need a control group, or for the experimenters not to know who the psychic is because neither they nor (s)he should know what constitutes a correct answer at the time of the test (which would be a double-blind test), that way the experimenter can neither bias the results[*] nor give away the answer consciously or otherwise.

[* Except by something like jotting down random answers instead of the psychic’s ones, hence ensuring a no better than chance outcome (assuming the experimenter isn’t psychic). But there are ways to stop that. Like filming the whole thing and automatic recorders for example.]

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  110
Joined  2007-02-23

How can you say Randi or JREF is NOT biased?  the whole concept of the challenge was not because Randi was on the fence about psychics and wanted to learn more.  IMHO, it was invented specifically to expose them as frauds.


I know he has removed himself from the ultimate rewarding of the money.  I say his personal involvement in the outcome is in the money he makes off of books and lecture tours regarding his debunking of psychic phenomenon, which I think would dry up if someone was able to pass the test.  Add to that his very public admissions that psychic phenomenon is fake.  Put those together and I can’t see a true unbiased test being agreed to on his side.  I think it would be great if he completely removed JREF’s involvement in awarding money to anyone who can pass the “challenge” and use the funds to fund a grant aimed at large scale testing of psychic phenomenon by a respected institution. Now, before anybody asks I don’t have any certain way to set up the studies or any institution in mind, but I think the idea is great and I feel it would shut up both sides who feel that the current test is biased and unfair.  I also believe that if you lay it at the feet of the psychics to participate in a scientific attempt to validate their claims, their true colors will certainly shine if they turn down the scientific community as opposed to them turning down JREF.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
Five Star Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4243
Joined  2005-06-05

Sometimes what looks like showmanship has a purpose.

For example, when testing dowsers it is useful to get them to walk across a turfed test grid with a hose on it and determine whether the water is running or not when they can clearly see the man operate the tap. More likely than not they’ll get a perfect score. Next you hide the tap operator and repeat the experiment.

Let’s assume they now do no better than chance:

Clearly, they were previously able to detect the running water in the apparatus, so can’t say that it is unsuitable for testing. Similarly, they were able to determine the water had stopped the moment the tap was shut off, hence were not confused by ‘eddies’ in the pipes or ‘residual signals’ from the water, and so on.

Properly done, the only difference between the first and second experiment will be the presence of a screen preventing the dowser having prior knowledge of the answer. If their success rate suddenly tumbles, it is a reasonable conclusion that it was previously above chance solely because of this prior knowledge.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
Five Star Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4243
Joined  2005-06-05
Wicked - 05 July 2007 07:31 PM

How can you say Randi or JREF is NOT biased?  the whole concept of the challenge was not because Randi was on the fence about psychics and wanted to learn more.  IMHO, it was invented specifically to expose them as frauds.

And frauds shouldn’t be exposed?

Randi and JREF might not believe (on the weight of evidence) in psychic powers, but that is a different thing from deliberately making the test impossible, which would be scientific fraud. Everyone is biased over just about everything, and a good experiment will be designed in such a way that the experimenters’ biases cannot effect the outcome.

How else do you think psychologists do their work?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  110
Joined  2007-02-23
JoeDaJuggler - 05 July 2007 07:21 PM
Wicked - 05 July 2007 03:02 PM

In fact, the protocol has to be offered by the applicant, then agreed to by JREF.

Reread your quote now that I put in bold the loophole, designed by Randi.  I’m sorry I’m not trying to beat a dead horse.  I think all of you have very valid points.  I just can’t help but feel that the challenge is brilliantly designed to never fail.  JREF should not have the final say-so in the protocol since they are so obviously biased.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
Five Star Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1624
Joined  2006-05-20
Wicked - 05 July 2007 07:31 PM

How can you say Randi or JREF is NOT biased?  the whole concept of the challenge was not because Randi was on the fence about psychics and wanted to learn more.  IMHO, it was invented specifically to expose them as frauds.


I know he has removed himself from the ultimate rewarding of the money.  I say his personal involvement in the outcome is in the money he makes off of books and lecture tours regarding his debunking of psychic phenomenon, which I think would dry up if someone was able to pass the test.  Add to that his very public admissions that psychic phenomenon is fake.  Put those together and I can’t see a true unbiased test being agreed to on his side.  I think it would be great if he completely removed JREF’s involvement in awarding money to anyone who can pass the “challenge” and use the funds to fund a grant aimed at large scale testing of psychic phenomenon by a respected institution. Now, before anybody asks I don’t have any certain way to set up the studies or any institution in mind, but I think the idea is great and I feel it would shut up both sides who feel that the current test is biased and unfair.  I also believe that if you lay it at the feet of the psychics to participate in a scientific attempt to validate their claims, their true colors will certainly shine if they turn down the scientific community as opposed to them turning down JREF.

Again, you’ve failed to show how any testing done by the JREF is biased.  Please, provide one case of a biased test.

You say that Randi would lose money if ever someone passed the Challenge, and I just don’t buy that argument.  For one, it’s assuming that there are paranormal powers and the Challenge can be won (which is begging the question).  For another, as I said before, Randi is probably NOT motivated to see yet another failure.  And finally, even if you are right (and I’m not saying you are) that Randi has an interest in no one ever winning the Challenge, it remains to be proven how that interest puts a bias into the testing.

 Signature 

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.

  —Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

[color=green]“That is a very graphic analogy which aids understanding wonderfully while being, strictly speaking, wrong in every possible way.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
Five Star Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4243
Joined  2005-06-05
Wicked - 05 July 2007 07:42 PM

Reread your quote now that I put in bold the loophole, designed by Randi.  I’m sorry I’m not trying to beat a dead horse.  I think all of you have very valid points.  I just can’t help but feel that the challenge is brilliantly designed to never fail.  JREF should not have the final say-so in the protocol since they are so obviously biased.

Because JREF is going to agree to close its eyes, put its fingers in its ears and sing “LALALA” very loudly for three minutes while someone miraculously turns water into wine, otherwise it isn’t fair?!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
Member
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  110
Joined  2007-02-23
David B. - 05 July 2007 07:41 PM
Wicked - 05 July 2007 07:31 PM

How can you say Randi or JREF is NOT biased?  the whole concept of the challenge was not because Randi was on the fence about psychics and wanted to learn more.  IMHO, it was invented specifically to expose them as frauds.

And frauds shouldn’t be exposed?

Randi and JREF might not believe (on the weight of evidence) in psychic powers, but that is a different thing from deliberately making the test impossible, which would be scientific fraud. Everyone is biased over just about everything, and a good experiment will be designed in such a way that the experimenters’ biases cannot effect the outcome.

How else do you think psychologists do their work?

If research psychologists were truly biased in their opinions then we would still think people with schizophrenia were possessed by the devil.  A theory is not a bias.  Someone with a bias does not make a good researcher.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
Five Star Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  61098
Joined  2005-04-14
Wicked - 05 July 2007 07:42 PM
JoeDaJuggler - 05 July 2007 07:21 PM

In fact, the protocol has to be offered by the applicant, then agreed to by JREF.

Reread your quote now that I put in bold the loophole, designed by Randi.  I’m sorry I’m not trying to beat a dead horse.  I think all of you have very valid points.  I just can’t help but feel that the challenge is brilliantly designed to never fail.  JREF should not have the final say-so in the protocol since they are so obviously biased.

Somebody has to have the final say-so.  If both sides of the thing agree to a set protocol, then how more unbiased can you get?

 Signature 

“If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 July 2007 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  26044
Joined  2004-11-08

Randi and the JREF definitely are biased.  Just as the claimant is biased.  Just as every person who ever might be associated with any testing would be.  That’s why the precedures are set so as to eliminate or at least minimise the affects of such bias.

And even if one person did ever pass the test that wouldn’t stop fraud - in fact it would grant it an air of legitimacy.  Fraud would skyrocket because people would be able to ride on the coattails of that one successful person.  And equally there would be just as much business busting that fraud.  Both sides make money though the paranormal side makes far more, fiction being much more interesting than fact.  But the income potential for psychic and skeptic alike from just one successful claimant would create an atmosphere where anything goes. 

As far as the JREF’s involvement - are you saying psychics can only prove themselves when they stand to win lots of money?  The Million Dollar Challenge isn’t the only game in town.  It was created to mainly to remove any excuses people would have for having their claims tested.  It in no way is the only way for a psychic to prove his or her talents.  Any properly conducted test, anywhere in the world could do it.  And many of them do - there are research programs going on in the scientific community all the time that have nothing to do with the JREF.  I’m unsure why you think this challenge is the only avenue people have.  It’s simply the most public.  Even if James Randi announced on international television that he was going to personally see to it that no psychic ever won the challenge it wouldn’t mean squat to anyone else in the field.  Or is Randi the secret head of an international skeptic conspiracy?

 Signature 

Heaven must be really boring, if you think about it logically.
All the angels must be snoring.  Who could stand perfection for eternity?

Not me. - George Hrab

Profile
 
 
   
3 of 12
3
 
‹‹ voting dog      Email hoax? ››