James Randi's Million Dollar Challenge to Homeopathy

Magician and skeptic James Randi (The Amazing Randi) has long challenged psychics to prove scientifically their abilities by winning a million dollar prize. So far the spirit talkers and the adepts tuned to ethereal vibrations have failed to win so much as a red cent. Now Randi is challenging the makers of homeopathic remedies to prove that their products cure anything at all. Again, a million dollars is at stake. 

Homeopathy is a form of quackery devised by an 18th century German physician based on the idea that "like cures like" - homeopaths expose sick people to minute quantities of natural substances which would produce the symptoms of the disease in healthy individuals. Upset stomach? Take pills with a very dilute formulation of arsenic. In fact, many homeopathic remedies are so dilute that they contain not even a single atom of the so-called active ingredient. Some homeopaths claim that the water in which the substance was diluted retains a "memory" of the substance which then exercises a therapeutic benefit. 

It's pretty clear that peddlers of homeopathic remedies are taking advantage of the placebo effect. Placebos are inert treatments (often a sugar pill) given to patients which nevertheless makes many of them feel better. Back in December, a new study reported in the journal PLoS One found that even telling patients that they were being given a pill with inert ingredients did not wash out the placebo effect. In the PLoS One study, patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and who were told that they were being given a placebo experienced a reduction of symptoms after three weeks as great as those treated with the most powerful IBS drugs. 

At least the PLoS One researchers didn't lie to their patients. 

Disclosure: I was a speaker at Randi's The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas back in 2007. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Old Salt||

    My mom insisted upon taking several over the counter items that clearly said homeopathy on the side. I explained to her what that means and even showed her some articles but the placebo effect definitely had a grip on her. Finally, she started listening when a doctor I'm dating told her that using witchcraft to treat her cold would be more effective!

  • SIV||

    "Medical science" offers no cure for the common cold so homeopathy and witchcraft fill the gap.

  • sevo||

    ""Medical science" offers no cure for the common cold so homeopathy and witchcraft fill the gap."
    As does 14 days or so.

  • Truth in the Parentheses||

    Finally, she started listening when a doctor I'm dating

  • Zeb||

    The thing is that the placebo effect actually works. Obviously, it is not ethical to knowingly give someone a "medicine" that has no direct effect, but if the shit makes your mom feel better, then it makes her feel better.

  • Brother Wolf||

    The problem is that this crap is marketed as an "alternative" to science-based medicine. That results in diseases going untreated.. sometimes to death.

  • Brother Wolf||

    The problem is that this crap is marketed as an "alternative" to science-based medicine. That results in diseases going untreated.. sometimes to death.

  • ||

    You have to be careful with placebos, though. Overdose on them and you could become permanently duped.

  • db||

    Good for Randi! I just wish he and the other CSICOP'ers would grow some self-awareness and stop blindly accepting leftist economic and political dogma. They have a massive blind spot when it comes to those topics and it undermines their entire message.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    It's amazing how many brilliant, skeptical, insightful, scientifically-oriented thinkers there are who have utterly conventional center/left politics. Randi, Dawkins, Pinker, Wright, Dennett. It makes me pause to reconsider NOTHING.

  • ||

    IH: In re Pinker, you might want to read his Reason interview here.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    You're right. I did read that and must have forgotten. Somehow I got the impression he was a bit of a pinko. Maybe the name.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    your link doesn't work, but i do remember the reason interview now.

  • ||

    Dawkins is a lefty?

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    pretty sure that scattered across a few of his books, I've seen some throwaway anti-market lines that seemed jarringly out of place.

  • ||

    I always got the impression he was right of center. Maybe that is due to his criticism of Islamist extremist, along with other religious beliefs.

  • zoltan||

    He explained his position that evolution is an "ought" not an "is". I don't know why he would compare evolution to the free market though (I think there are some similarities, but there's a lot more fraud and rights violations in evolution).

  • Rather's fight club||

    James Randi is a shill for drug companies now?

  • ||

    If you feel that way, I have a friend who is a Homeopathic Doctor. She will be glad to give you remedies for your migraines, heart disease and cancer so you don't have to deal with those nasty drug companies.

  • robc||

    I read thru the details of Randi's psychic challenge once. While I agree with Randi on psychics and homeopathy, I thought the rules basically made it impossible for a real psychic to win the money.

  • SIV||

    challenged major retailers like CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens to remove the products from their shelves.

    I strongly disagree with Randi's effort to make homeopathic products more difficult to obtain. He strongly implies proposing, without ouright calling for, a ban on a voluntary practice chosen by millions of people who seem to think it works for them.

  • Your Good Buddy Johnny Clarke||

    A "real" psychic, huh? Got any examples?

  • ||

    What real psychics?

  • sevo||

    "What real psychics?"
    ^ beat me to it as did YGBJC

  • robc||

    Hyopthetical real psychics.

    I dont remember the details, but when I read Randi's rules, I imagined a hypothetical psychic power and then tried to figure out how I could prove it under his rules. It was impossible.

  • sevo||

    "I imagined a hypothetical psychic power and then tried to figure out how I could prove it under his rules. It was impossible."
    Uh, well, there's your answer.

  • robc||

    And that is the problem. If I had a real psychic power, I should be able to prove it under his rules or its a bogus contest.

    If you are looking at a card from a standard 52 deck and I, in another room, can guess what suit it is 30% of the time (instead of the expected 25%), that is provable scientifically. Under Randi's rules (and its been a few years since I read them), he would not pay off for this.

  • ||

    If you claimed that getting 30% right instead of 25% was your psychic power he would pay off and he has accepted tests of this nature. What he does not accept is a claim that you will get 95% right and then you demand the money when you get 30%.

  • robc||

    If the 30% is done over enough trials to be statistically significant at whatever level is required, I dont see why he wouldnt pay off.

    Heck 25.1% at enough trials is proof of psychic power.

    But thanks for helping prove my point.

  • ||

    Bullshit. The whole point is to back up the psychic's claim. If the pychic lie or exaggerates he loses. Why is that unfair?

  • robc||

    A crappy psychic is still a psychic.

    At 6000 trials, a 30% hit rate is a 6 sigma result. That is proof in my opinion, even if the moron psychic promised 95%. (at 6k trials that would be 78 sigma).

  • ||

    From the website. Let's not argue about what you seem to remember you read.

    1. This is the primary and most important of these rules: Applicant must state clearly in advance, and applicant and JREF will agree upon, what powers and/or abilities will be demonstrated, the limits of the proposed demonstration (so far as time, location and other variables are concerned) and what will constitute both a positive and a negative result.

    2. Only an actual performance of the stated nature and scope, within the agreed-upon limits, will be accepted. Anecdotal accounts or records of previous events are not accepted nor considered.

    3. We will consult competent statisticians when an evaluation of the experimental design, is required. We have no interest in theories nor explanations of how the claimed powers might work; if an applicant provides us with such material, it will be ignored and discarded.

    4. Applicant agrees that all data (photographic, recorded, written, etc.) gathered as a result of the setup, the protocol, and the actual testing, may be used freely by the JREF.

    5. After an agreement is reached on the protocol, no part of the testing procedure may be changed in any way without the further agreement – in writing – of all parties concerned. JR may or may not be present at some preliminary or some formal tests, but he will not interact with the materials used, nor with the protocol, unless specifically requested to do so by the applicant.

    6. In all cases, applicant will be required to perform a preliminary test either before an appointed representative, if distance and time dictate that need, or in a location where a member or representative of the JREF staff can attend. This preliminary test is to determine if the applicant is likely to perform as promised during a formal test, using the agreed-upon protocol. To date, no applicant has passed the preliminary test, and this has eliminated the need for formal testing in those cases. There is no limit on the number of times an applicant may re-apply, but re-application can take place only after 12 months have elapsed since the completion of the preliminary test.

    7. All of the applicant's expenses such as transportation, accommodation, materials, assistants, and/or all other costs for any persons or procedures incurred in pursuit of the reward, are the sole responsibility of the applicant. Neither the JREF nor JR will bear any of the costs.

    8. When entering into this challenge, as far as this may be done by established legal statutes, the applicant surrenders any and all rights to legal action against Mr. Randi, and/or against any persons peripherally involved, and/or against the James Randi Educational Foundation. This applies to injury, and/or accident, and/or any other damage of a physical and/or emotional nature, and/or financial and/or professional loss, and/or damage of any kind. However, this rule in no way affects the awarding of the prize, once it is properly won in accord with the protocol.

    9. At the formal test, in advance, an independent person will be placed in charge of a personal check from James Randi for US$10,000. In the event that the claimant is successful under the agreed-upon terms and conditions, that check shall be immediately surrendered to the claimant, and within ten days the James Randi Educational Foundation will pay to the claimant the remainder of the reward, for a total of US$1,000,000. One million dollars in negotiable bonds is held by an investment firm in New York, in the "James Randi Educational Foundation Prize Account" as surety for the prize funds. Validation of this account and its current status may be obtained by contacting the Foundation by telephone, fax, or e-mail.

    10. Copies of this form are available free of charge to any qualified person who requests it, or it can be downloaded from the Internet, at http://www.randi.org/research/.....ation.pdf.

    11. This offer is made by James Randi through the JREF, on the behalf of no other person, agency or organization. Although others may become involved in the examination of claims and may add their reward money to the total in certain circumstances, James Randi (via the JREF) will carry out the implementation and management of the challenge. JREF will not entertain any demand that the prize money be deposited in escrow, displayed in cash, or otherwise produced in advance of the test being performed.

    12. This offer is not open to any and all persons. Before being considered as an applicant, the person applying must satisfy two conditions: First, he/she must have a “media presence,” which means having been published, written about, or known to the media in regard to his/her claimed abilities or powers. This can be established by producing articles, videos, books, or other published material that specifically addresses the person’s abilities. Second, he/she must produce at least one signed document from an academic who has witnessed the powers or abilities of the person, and will validate that these powers or abilities have been verified.

    13. An applicant can be from or in any part of the world, and gender, age, race, and educational background are not factors for acceptance.

    14. This prize will continue to be offered until it is awarded.

    15. EVERY APPLICANT MUST AGREE UPON WHAT WILL CONSTITUTE A CONCLUSION THAT, ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRELIMINARY OR THE FORMAL TEST, HE OR SHE DID OR DID NOT DEMONSTRATE THE CLAIMED ABILITY OR POWER.

    16. This notarized form must be accompanied by a brief, two-paragraph description of what will constitute the demonstration. Upon a protocol being developed, that description may be extended.

  • robc||

    First, he/she must have a “media presence,” which means having been published, written about, or known to the media in regard to his/her claimed abilities or powers.

    See, impossible. I dont have a media presence as a known psychic, because, well, Im not a fucking psychic and even if I were, I wouldnt be doing to publicly.

  • ||

    That is not what you said the problem was with the rules. Now you are on to a different criticism entirely.

    All you have to do on rule 12 is hire a PR firm to write a press release for you, crackpots do it all the time.

    Your threshold for impossiblity is very low.

    Clearly you never read the rules before I posted them here. Others wll read what you wrote, read the rules for themselves, and come to their own conclusions about their fairness.

  • robc||

    I read them years ago, determined I didnt meet the qualifications and forgot why. Thanks for posting them, now I know.

    Your threshold for impossiblity is very low.

    Impossible might have been too strong a word, but yeah. Also, what "legit" academic (not that he requires a legitimate one) would ever sign off on preverifying it?

    I know I wouldnt (not that Im in academia, and what the fuck kind of standard is that?). A scientist in private practice isnt good enough?

  • robc||

    Actually, looking back thru the thread I said "basically impossible" (which implies not quite trule impossible) and "much more difficult than that", which is clearly a step down from impossible.

  • ||

    A claim you have never substantiated. You just keep repeating it. You said the rules make it too difficlt to demonstrate psychic powers. You gave a specific example, calling the suit of a card correctly 30% of the time. Point to the rule that makes a demonstration of that inelegible for the prize, or withdraw your claim.

  • robc||

    Rule #12.

  • T||

    Point to the rule that makes a demonstration of that inelegible for the prize

    Rule 34?

  • ||

    Also, what "legit" academic (not that he requires a legitimate one) would ever sign off on preverifying it?

    Lots of scientists do, you don't know them because you did zero research before shooting off your mouth.

    http://veritas.arizona.edu/

  • ||

    Robs, rule 12 only requires that your ability to call the card 30% of the time has appeared in the news. That could be because you issued a press release.

    According to you, press releases are "basically impossible"?

    If I find a challenge accepted by Randi similar to that which you claim he would never accept, will you withdraw your accusation?

  • robc||


    If I find a challenge accepted by Randi similar to that which you claim he would never accept, will you withdraw your accusation?

    Yes, IF they didnt meet rule 12.

  • robc||

    My hypothetical psychic doesnt seek publicity, that part of the hypothesis.

  • ||

    My hypothetical psychic doesnt seek publicity, that part of the hypothesis.

    You said " basically impossible". You're just moving the goal posts now. What if the psychic's invisible? What if he's blind, deaf, mute and paralyzed. Then he can't win the challenge. What a rigged test!

    Seriously, dude, that's what you're reduced to arguing now.

    The challenge is not, and cannot be reasonably expected, to detect "psychic powers". All it can test are CLAIMS of psychic powers that can be unabiguously demonstrated.

  • ||

    In other words, you only admit you are wrong if Randi waives a rule you didn't know existed when you shot your mouth off about his challenge being "impossible".

    Loser.

  • robc||

    I knew it existed 2-3 years ago.

    All the rules matter or they wouldnt be rules.

    Yes, Randi needs to waive the rule to make his test legitimate.

    The point is, as you pointed out, Randi's reasons for doing the test needs #12 (show up charlatans) which is a bogus reason (IMO) for having the test.

  • robc||

    See, here is the thing, I dont think Randi wants to pay out the million.

    I dont think he would ever have to, but he should want to, because if psychic powers were proved, that would expand the amount of human knowledge. A huge scientific breakthru. Or, if tons of people, including random joes, took the test and failed, that would provide great evidence against the existence of psychic powers.

    Exposing charlatans is nice, but above would be much more meaningful.

    The fact that #12 exists means that Randi doesnt want to do a meaningful test, he excludes most of the population.

  • ||

    The fact that #12 exists means that Randi doesnt want to do a meaningful test, he excludes most of the population.

    That is not what you said orignally. You are moving the goal posts and everyone can see it. Here is what you said:

    If you are looking at a card from a standard 52 deck and I, in another room, can guess what suit it is 30% of the time (instead of the expected 25%), that is provable scientifically. Under Randi's rules (and its been a few years since I read them), he would not pay off for this.

    No mention of Rule 12. No stipulation of a bashful psychic.

    First rule of holes...

    Like the fakers exposed by Randi, first you make a strong claim and then you switch to a much weaker one when the strong one doesn't pan out, and claim vindication.

  • ||

    This is the sort of challenge that JREF gets. Notice how difficult it is to get the psychic to specify what it is he will do. When a protocol was finally agreed upon by the psychic and the experimenter (not Randi), the psychic dropped out. And note that Rule 12 never even comes up in this account, because rule 12 doesn't have anything to do with setting up an experiment to test psychic powers.

    http://www.theness.com/index.p.....challenge/

    The first contestant to come our way had a very simple claim—that he could mentally control the outcome of random coin flips. Well, his claim started out as very simple. There is a tendency for such psychic claims to become increasingly complex once the process of designing a rigorous test begins.

    In this case, through the course of discussion, I learned that the coin-tosser could not so much “control” the outcome of coin flips as “influence” them. You see, he believes he can increase the percentage of flips that turn out heads or tails, but he can’t control which it will be. He discovered that if he flips a coin hundreds of times either heads or tails will show up more frequently then would be predicted by chance alone. I understand the CIA is considering spending 20 million dollars to see if they can put this impressive ability to the work of espionage. Never-the-less, at least this claim is easily testable.

    Although this may be a false dichotomy, we frequently ask ourselves if an individual who claims to have psychic ability is self-deluded or a con-artist. When I finally fully understood the nature of the claim I began to suspect that the coin-tosser was simply a victim of statistical naiveté, a common trait in our species. This belief was confirmed, in my opinion, when I further learned that in order to obtain his statistical results, the coin-tosser must “warm up” for an undetermined amount of time, and his powers wear off after a while. In other words, he was engaging in good-old-fashioned optional starting and stopping.

    Optional starting and stopping is a favorite of ESP researhcers. (In fairness, serious researchers have abandoned this method years ago, but it still crops up with less rigorous researchers.) Basically, you run a long series of trials and pick some stretch of data in the middle that, taken by itself, is statistically different from chance results. This, of course, completely invalidates the analysis, because if you can choose any chunk of data you wish from a large sample you can achieve whatever results you desire. Legitimate researchers have a different term for this—fraud.

    Our coin-tosser also rediscovered another favorite of ESP researchers—that of counting negative hits. That’s right, sometimes psychics miss the target more often than one would predict by chance (again, only if looked at in isolation, and the decision to count misses is made only after the data is analyzed). The coin-tosser’s equivalent of this strategy was counting heads or tails, and allowing himself the luxury of deciding which only after the fact.

    In the final analysis, all of these questionable statistical strategies achieve the same thing. They increase the probability that there will be some random fluctuation in the data that, if looked at in isolation, would seem to defy chance, and they allow for the selection of this subset of data after the fact.

    So, I patiently explained this to the coin-tosser and together we designed a protocol that would set out, prior to the acquisition of any data, the exact way the data would be analyzed and the criteria for considering the test positive. Once this was all painstakingly worked out, the coin-tosser decided that he would abandon coin tossing and perhaps he would work on a system of influencing random numbers generated by a computer. I haven’t heard from him yet, I wonder how that’s working for him.

    One final testament to the coin-tosser’s inability to grapple with statistics— he was somewhat disappointed with the fact that Randi would not award him the 1 million dollar prize for proving his abilities to a P-value of 0.05 (which basically means that the probability of the results being due to chance alone is 5%). If that’s good enough for medical research, he argued, then why wouldn’t it be good enough to prove his abilities. I tried to explain to him that Randi has no intention of handing 1 million dollars to every 20th person (on average) who takes the challenge. He didn’t get it (literally and figuratively).

  • robc||

    This is the sort of challenge that JREF gets.

    That is the sort of challenge I would expect them to get...and you notice I specified 6 sigma (or 78 sigma), not two, like this guy wanted.

  • robc||

    That is not what I originally said. The 52 card deck was a secondary post as an example, it wasnt my original example from years ago.


    I dont remember the details, but when I read Randi's rules, I imagined a hypothetical psychic power and then tried to figure out how I could prove it under his rules. It was impossible.

  • robc||

    And after you posted the rules, I figured out which rule orginally stood in my way.

  • Pip||

    Did John and MNG just change handles here?

  • Ivan||

    For what it's worth.
    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Randi
    "Starting on April 1, 2007, only those with an already existing media profile and the backing of a reputable academic were allowed to apply for the challenge.[65] The resources freed up by not having to test obscure and possibly mentally ill claimants will then be used to more aggressively challenge notorious high-profile alleged psychics and mediums such as Sylvia Browne, Allison DuBois and John Edward with a campaign in the media.[65]"

  • ||

    Nevermind the fact that your revised argument is a major fail as well. If your hypothetical psychic did not want public attention he/she would not be pursuing the prize in the first place. What do you think would happen the moment the psychic entered? Hell what do you think would happen the moment that psychic successfully passed the preliminary test? Massive amounts of public attention. The JREF isn't going to keep that under wraps, and if that psychic won? So yeah, the rules basically rule out the bashful psychic, but they did anyway by suggesting that the JREF could use any material collected from the tests as they saw fit. Rule 12 was put in place to reduce the number of claimants that the JREF got every year, it was added about 2 years ago when Randi was still wavering on whether to keep the challenge going or not. Rule 12 allowed him and his beleagurued volunteers to go through a reduced number of applications so they could better handle the challenge as well as allowing them to take on the fakes, frauds and charlatans most likely to cause great harm. This does nothing to invalidate the challenge in any way just removes the crackpots unwilling to do the additional legwork.

  • Spiny Norman||

    If I were a real psychic, I'd forget about Randi and spend my days at the racetrack.

  • ||

    real psychic

    "Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless."
    Larry Niven

    That's because if they existed, natural selection would have favored them and we'd all be psychics.

  • ||

    @albo Not necessarily. Magic powers would have to offer a reproductive advantage before natural selection could act on it.

  • robc||

    True. Maybe psychics are also sterile.

  • db||

    Heinlein addressed a parallel point in Methuselah's Children

  • ||

    They would.

    *Casts love spell over Jessica Alba*

  • ||

    "*Casts love spell over Jessica Alba*"

    Ok, you have convinced me that magic power would have a reproductive advantage;-)

  • robc||

    The results of the love spell might be awesome in this case, but if you are also sterile, it doesnt provide any reproductive advantage.

  • ||

    Okay. If you can assume psychics to be real, you can also assume them to be sterile if you like.

    Any more assumptions to pile on for argument? Psychics are gingers? Or bad tippers?

  • robc||

    Sterile backs up the Niven quote. As we dont have a huge amount of psychics floating around casting love spells on Alba, if they exist, they must be sterile.

  • Boxbot||

    Unless Jessica Alba is actually really plain looking and no one's noticed because she cast a glamour upon us all.

  • ||

    In a world where magic exists that lets someone put a love spell on Jessica Alba I would imagine an anti-sterility spell would be trivial. So natural selection FTW!

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Love spells would have nullified sexual selection and we'd all be uglier and less funny.

  • Winston Smith||

    I always thought the two were inversely proportional. Look at any comedian, ugly as all get out.

  • It doesn't take a psychic to..||

    ...call you a racist!

  • It doesn't take a psychic to..||

    add anti-Semite!*

    *Playing a Joo in the movees counts.

  • It doesn't take a psychic to..||

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I could win his prize, but my psychic ability tells me he would refuse to pay, so I won't bother.

  • sevo||

    "I could win his prize, but my psychic ability tells me he would refuse to pay, so I won't bother."
    Strange.
    Every other contestant has come to the same "revelation"!

  • ||

    Do you care to elaborate on why you believe it would be impossible for a real psychic, if there were such a thing, to win the money?

    I have read through many of the protocols used to test people that took the challenge and they seem fine to me. All a real psychic has to do is to be tested using scientific methods to demonstrate their claimed gift.

  • robc||

    I dont remember the details, but this isnt true:

    All a real psychic has to do is to be tested using scientific methods to demonstrate their claimed gift.

    It was much more difficult that that.

  • sevo||

    "It was much more difficult that that."
    Saying "i don't think so" ain't gonna cut it.
    Please back up your claims or admit you don't have any.

  • robc||

    Fuck you. Its been years since I read the rules. And he cancelled that contest too instead of leaving it open ended.

  • sevo||

    "robc|2.7.11 @ 11:45AM|#
    Fuck you."

    No, fuck you, asshole.
    Idiotic claims about how it's "unfair" to test charlatans seem to suit you quite well.
    I'm pretty sure either "ignoramus" or liar" applies your sort of asshsolery.

  • robc||

    Unfair? You and Gabriel have both used that word. Where did I ever say it was unfair?

    I said "basically impossible" and "much more difficult that that".

    Strawmen are unbecoming.

  • ||

    I've posted the rules above. robc couldn't be bothered to type "randi challenge rules" into the google before shooting off his mouth. So we can all read them for ourselves.

    The point of the challenge is not, and never has been, to prove or disprove that psychich powers exists. The point is to expose charlatans. People who go around claiming they have powers and tkaing money for them, people like John Edwards. Who invariably refuse the challenge, or, like robc, claim that the rules are rigged.

    No psychic makes money by calling the right card a little more often than chance allows. That's why challenges of that nature are rarely proposed, not because Randi's rigged the game a against it.

  • robc||

    Bullshit (actually, true that I couldnt be bothered to google).

    The point of the challenge is not, and never has been, to prove or disprove that psychich powers exists. The point is to expose charlatans.

    And that, I think, is my ultimate problem with Randi. I would prefer a fucking scientific approach, not a mock the charlatans approach (not that there is anything wrong with that).

    Requiring media publicity defeats the point of the challenge. A random dude should be able to win it, if he can prove his power legitimately.

  • ||

    A random dude should be able to win it, if he can prove his power legitimately.

    HE CAN IF HE ISSUES A PRESS RELEASE FIRST.

    You keep saying this is impossible. IT IS NOT.

    http://service.prweb.com/go/ps.....KgodswnWDQ

    There are any number of PR firms happy to do this for you.

  • robc||

    Random dude refuses to issue a press release first. That is part of his requirements.

  • ||

    You really don't remember what you wrote originally, do you? You are engaged in the logical fallacy known as "moving the goal post".

    If there were ever a genuine psychic the least of their problems would be getting a media presence.

  • Zeb||

    If you want to scientifically test claims of psychic powers, you really shouldn't go into it assuming that they are charlatans. It may be common sense to think they are all charlatans (I certainly do), but it is not good science to do so if you are trying to test their supposed abilities.

  • robc||

    Exactly. But Randi isnt trying to test it scientifically, which is a problem. But, then again, scientists dont usually offer bounties. Thats more engineering (like the X prize).

  • ||

    I listened to an interview with Randi, and he said he approaches each and every applicant as if they could be true. He knows that they are not, but he sets up his tests as if they could be.

  • ||

    I don't believe you read the rules. If you did, you'd know that the psychic has to propose the protocols. The whole point of the challenge is to get psychics to clearly explain what they will do so they can't pass off vague pronouncements as hits ("I'm getting an M, or maybe an N", that sort of thing). That's why professionals won't do it and amateurs who believe in their powers fail the challenge..

  • robc||

    That was not my interpretation of the rules (partly true, of course).

  • sevo||

    robc|2.7.11 @ 11:47AM|#
    "That was not my interpretation of the rules..."
    So.................
    what?

  • robc||

    In fact, my interpretation was correct, proposing the protocols and that meeting that standard isnt enough, there is also a PR aspect to it.

  • ||

    No, your interpetation is not correct. You said under Randis' rules it is "basically impossible" for a real psychic to demonstrate a psychic power and win the prize. You have not substantiated this statement. I have posted the rules and anyone who cares can read them. Please point to the rule that makes the example you suggested--calling a card suit correctly 30% of the time--invalid.

    You can't. Fact is, you shot your mouth off and you got called on it and you can't back it up.

    If I find a test accepted by Randi similar to that which you claimed would never be accepted, will you admit you were wrong?

  • robc||

    Rule #12. I keep repeating this.

  • ||

    That's not what you said. You said this:

    If you are looking at a card from a standard 52 deck and I, in another room, can guess what suit it is 30% of the time (instead of the expected 25%), that is provable scientifically. Under Randi's rules (and its been a few years since I read them), he would not pay off for this.

    No mention of rule 12, no stipulation of a bashful psychic. You said Randi would refuse to pay off on this challenge under his rules. You never said anything about having the power and refusing to allow any publicity.

    All your doing here is niggling on a rule that has nothing to do with what you originally said. You are flagrantly moving the goal posts after the fact, as so many psychics do when tested.

  • robc||

    You are flagrantly moving the goal posts

    Bullshit. I claimed a rule made it basically impossible but didnt remember the details. You posted the rules, I pointed out which rule was the problem. You go batshit insane because your views on privacy apparently differ from mine.

  • ||

    The rules basically stipulate a double blind test. The details of said test are up to the psychic and Randi to agree upon. There's a lot of verbalese because there's a million dollars at stake.

  • ||

    An easy way to settle this is for robc to put up his one million dollars and leave out Rule #12. Then let the psychics come claim their money.

  • SIV||

    "Consumers have the right to know what they are buying," he said. "No one should walk out of a drugstore with a homeopathic product without knowing these basic facts: There is no credible evidence that the product does what it says. There is not one bit -- not a single atom -- of the claimed 'active ingredient' in the package, and no U.S. health agency has tested or approved the product."

    Why does The Amazing Randi hate sick people?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: SIV,

    "[...]and no U.S. health agency has tested or approved the product."


    Unfortunately, Randi can't simply defend several ideas at the same time, he had to choose his battles long ago. He is a pretty libertarian fellow, nevertheless.

  • sevo||

    "He is a pretty libertarian fellow, nevertheless."
    Especially compared to Paul Kurtz.

  • SIV||

    Randi is no libertarian.

    "Consumers have the right to know what they're buying," Randi said. "No one should walk out of a drugstore with a homeopathic product without knowing these basic facts: there is no credible evidence that the product does what it says; there is not one bit—not a single atom—of the claimed "active ingredient" in the package; and no U.S. health agency has tested or approved the product. It should be a crime for retail corporations to profit by denying the public this critical information about the products on their shelves."

    Providing false information on the package would be fraud. Randi says not providing information should be a crime.

  • Chuck||

    Seems to me he's saying it's fraudulent nondisclosure, which is already a crime, just like positive fraud.

  • ||

    In the 18th century, this stuff was much better for you than what the other physicians were prescribing, but I think it's time to move on now.

  • sarcasmic||

    Back then it probably contained cocaine or opium.

    You BETCHA you were feeling better.

  • Doctor in 1660||

    Here! Drink this mercury, then we'll bleed you until you feel better.

  • ||

    So, would this challenge include known homeopathic remedies such as Red Rice Yeast for cholesterol, Turmeric for inflammation, and Witch-hazel for hemorrhoids? just to name a few.
    Even Willow Bark Tea will get rid of a headache (natural form of aspirin)

  • robc||

    Willow Bark Tea wont get rid of a headache if you dilute it by a factor of 1E10.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    That's why you have to give the water a molecule of ginko biloba so that it can remember to have a good memory so it can remember the willow bark.

  • robc||

    The most disgusting thing about homeopathy is how much my water company dilutes the shit out of the water. Damn them for making the shit stronger.

  • robc||

    I think you are confusing herbal remedies with homeopathic remedies.

  • ||

    My label of red rice yeast says homeopathic on the label. Perhaps, Randi (who I respect very much) should reconsider the wording of his bet. I am sure many homeopathic remedies are quackery but many herbal remedies that work are labeled as homeopathic.

  • robc||

    Homeopathy (also spelled homoeopathy[1] or homœopathy) is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners treat patients using highly diluted[2][3] preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient.

    From wikipedia. Maybe your red rice yeast should consider relabeling, since it is using the word wrong.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    You keep using this word homeopathic. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • sevo||

    "You keep using this word homeopathic. I do not think it means what you think it means."
    Please tell us.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Directed at red rice yeast packaging claims not robc.

  • Zeb||

    Things can be homeopathic, but not part of the practice of homeopathy. There are most definitely some remedies that are homeopathic and which are extremely effective. Vaccines come to mind immediately. Arnica, I believe is also scientifically demonstrated to work topically and is a homeopathic remedy (or so it says on the package).

    The practice of homeopathic medicine is definitely quackery, but there are definitely things that work that can accurately be described as homeopathic.

  • ||

    Vaccines are not "accurately described" as homeopathic. They are not designed by, nor do they operate on, homeopathic principles.

    A vaccine contains dead or weakened germs, which lets the immune system develop a response to an illness before you contract. A homeopathic remedy is based on dilution and succussation, which is banging the remedy against a yielding surface several times. Homeopathic remedies are considered MORE potent the more strongly they are diluted--even if the dilutions are so extreme that none of the original substance remains, diluting it in half again makes it more potent, according to a homeopath. Vaccines do not work this way--dliute a vaccine below the point at which germs are present and it is useless.

    Vaccines contain germs identified as causing an illness, that operate in specified ways on the human immune system. Homeopathic remedies are based on 300 year old compendiums of anecdotes which operate according to known principle. Vaccines work most of the time, and homeoptahic remedies cannot be distinguished from placebo.

  • ||

    Ok....had to go home and look in the wife's medicine cabinet ....many things that are "herbal" also seem to be labeled as homeopathic...while the definition on wiki may be correct...it would seem that a great many companies are using the word "homeopathic" as a catch all when it comes to herbal remedies...This Zycam nasal spray in my pocket says homeopathic....it works...that's all that matters to me. Don't really care anyway...Randi will get no takers

  • pmains||

    Randi has already gotten takers. Some of the world's most famous homeopathic doctors attempted to prove their claims after much cajoling by the BBC. Of course, they were shown to be charlatans.

  • Lamarck's Giraffe||

    "would this challenge include known homeopathic remedies such as..." [followed by a bunch of things that are NOT homeopathic remedies]

    Clearly, no one is going to give you $1mil for proving that naturally existing chemicals have active ingredients, with medicinal effects. Guess what, humans have been snorting, chewing, drinking and eating all sorts of shit for tens of thousands of years. We've known chemicals have effects on our bodies just as long. Modern science can now explain the hows and whys. It also can tell us that homeopathy -- the real kind, not your bogus definition -- has zero active ingredients. Homeopathy's only effect can be derived from sugar pills, or any other placebo. Unfortunatly, homeopathy does in fact have a dangerous side-effect. People who could benefit from real medicine may choose not get it. Even worse, those without any choice (like children) may die as a result of imminently treatable illnesses because mom and dad trust the homeopath/naturalpath/chiropracter more than Pfizer and Merck!

  • Old Mexican||

    One of the things I love about Randi is how he puts his money where his mouth is.

  • robc||

    See my comment above, he doesnt really.

  • sevo||

    "See my comment above, he doesnt really."
    See the comments following your; evidenced,please.

  • robc||

    see my replies to the comments following my comments.

  • sevo||

    "see my replies to the comments following my comments."

    I do. You simply say, 'well, I don't agree'.
    I say, 'well, bullshit'.

  • robc||

    And I call bullshit on your bullshit.

  • "||

    Jesus, somebody just nuke this site already.

  • sevo||

    "robc|2.7.11 @ 11:47AM|#
    And I call bullshit on your bullshit."

    Ignormauses lacking evidence tend to do that, asshole.

  • robc||

    I gave evidence. Step 12.

  • ||

    That's not what you said. You saidf this:

    If you are looking at a card from a standard 52 deck and I, in another room, can guess what suit it is 30% of the time (instead of the expected 25%), that is provable scientifically. Under Randi's rules (and its been a few years since I read them), he would not pay off for this.

    No mention of rule 12. You said Randit would refuse to pay off on this challenge under his rules. You ne3ver said anything about having the power and reefusing to allow any publicity.

    All your doing here is niggling on a rule that has nothing to do with what you originally said.

  • robc||

    See above, that wasnt my "original" claim.

  • robc||

    All your doing here is niggling on a rule that has nothing to do with what you originally said.

    All rules matter. Any and all can get in the way, and in this case, it was a rule you think is unimportant but I find dealbreaking.

  • pmains||

    Stop it, robc. You never connected your original claims to rule 12. Also, I seem to recall Randi explaining why rule 12 was added. Basically, it weeded out the more obvious frauds. It's not a high bar to set, but it requires a bit of seriousness.

  • ||

    What real psychics?

  • Spiny Norman||

    Threaded commenting has made your comment irrelevant.

  • ||

    What threaded commenting?

  • SIV||

    I like how when you click on the James Randi link you get the Quack image.

  • ||

    SIV: Unintentionally funny. Fixed now.

  • ||

    Let's see if I got this right. Sugar cures a lot of ailments, lots of people don't know what "inert" means, and the most powerful IBS drugs aren't worth more than sugar and water? Got it.

  • sevo||

    "the most powerful IBS drugs aren't worth more than sugar and water? "
    That's what the evidence says.

  • ||

    Right. I wasn't being sarcastic.

  • ||

    The real psychics are the ones that predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Haitian earthquakes, the political turmoil in Egypt, the Kennedy's and MLK assassinations etc. and...oh wait they didn't. Thanks for nothing "real" psychics.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    If there were even just a few real psychics, all casinos bookies and lotteries would be bankrupt.

  • ||

    If I had psychic powers, I wouldn't tell anybody. What benefit would there be to it?

  • robc||

    Exactly, and hence you dont meet the qualifications for rule #12.

  • robc||

    If I had a serious psychic power, I sure wouldnt let anyone know, unless you want to disappear into an NSA breeding program.

  • ||

    Depends on the girl psychics they already have.

  • Abdul||

    They're those bald chicks from Minority Report. Blech. Better off using the psychic ability to pick up girls by reading their minds: "Samantha from sex in the city has the best shoe collection! I never met another man who thought the same thing! Let's screw."

  • NSA||

    Where do you live sir?

  • ||

    patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and who were told that they were being given a placebo experienced a reduction of symptoms after three weeks as great as those treated with the most powerful IBS drugs.

    Do these people not understand what a placebo is? Is it even a placebo if you know you're not getting anything?

  • Robert||

    They had it explained. And this isn't the first time the placebo effect has been demonstrated when the subjects were told; I heard of another about 15 yrs. ago.

  • robc||

    On an entirely unrelated note:

    Six Sigma has been accepted to mean a 4.5-sigma process, not “true six sigma” process.

    Fuck you, General Electric!

  • ||

    Why doesn't the water retain the memory of all of the fish crap its been in contact with? Wouldn't that skew the cure?

  • ||

    ...idea that "like cures like"...

    A similar - tho apparently valid - idea is "hormesis", especially with radiation.

    Google [radiation exposure Taiwan apartments] to see how radiation increased life-span and decreased cancer (a lot!), and similarly a lack of exposure to parasites tends to cause modern auto-immune conditions.

    +10 for James Randi while we're at it.

  • stuartl||

    Some homeopaths claim that the water in which the substance was diluted retains a "memory" of the substance which then exercises a therapeutic benefit.

    And then the manufacturers dehydrate the mixture so all that is left is sugar and other inert substances. So the water memory has evaporated.

  • Robert||

    Randi's money is worthless because he makes himself the judge in each case, rather than putting it before independent arbitrators.

  • ||

    From the JREF website:
    "All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant."

    What's yer problem Hobgoblin?

  • ||

    Absolutely not true. The results are judged by someone who is agreed upon in advance by JREF and the claimant, as are the standards by which the claimant's performance is to be judged. No challenge goes forward unless and until the claimant has specified in advance what he is to do and in advance how success or failure is to be judged.

    Professional psychics and their dupes spread these talking points about Randi being the sole judge and rigging the rules so no one can win. Seen them all before.

  • ||

    False.

    You agree to their terms, or you don't qualify. Then, when forced to agree to their terms, to claim the terms are agreed to is, well, stupid.

  • ||

    From a libertarian perspective, I'm actually cool with homeopathic remedies.

    Fuck the whole FDA approval process, you know.

    I use a toothpaste, Biotene, that doesn't bear the stamp of the ADA and it works a thousand time better than the standard floride goo. And it definitely isn't a placebo effect kind of thing, either.

    Not that homeopathic remedies necessarily all work, but it should be permissible for someone to independently test and sell a product instead of going through official channels. And people like Randi are there to police that market, without any government prompting.

    So imagine a medical marketplace where anyone can do their own researhc and sell a product, that is policed by sceptics and critics, on a dozen different wiki sites, funded by nobody but the marketers and critics combing over eachother's data.

  • ||

    As an avowed Social Darwinist, I am all in favor of allowing people to obtain and use homeopathic remedies whenever they choose. (As long as I don't have to buy it for them.)

  • ||

    I have no problem with homeopaths per say. I have a huge problem with homeopaths committing FRAUD by claming medical efficacy. Last I checked fraud was still a libertarian no-no.

    I have no qualms with someone suing a homeopath for damages. Their remedies are wholly unscientific, no shred of verifiable research to their efficacy, pure bunk. Maybe a homeopath can fool me into taking it, but he is still making false claims of efficacy and in libertopia I would be able to sue the shit out of him.

  • ||

    WRT Randi's Million Dollar Offer:

    If I had genuine psychic powers, I sure wouldn't be pissing around trying to win a measly million.

  • ||

    The homeopathic system, sir, just suits me to a tittle,
    It proves of physic, anyhow, you cannot take too little;
    If it be good in all complaints to take a dose so small,
    It surely must be better still, to take no dose at all.
    Honest Herbal V. Tyler PhD (third edition)

  • Maria Myrback - Blog Editor||

    The JREF petition to get homeopathy out of stores is still available for signing here: http://www.change.org/petition.....c-products

    Please take action. You CAN make a difference.

  • ||

    NO, there is no million dollars at stake, because:

    (a) there is no million dollars,

    (b) it is not at stake.

    It's a hoax. Ground rules make winning impossible, and you can't sue.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement