Friday, January 4, 2008

End of an era

Sadness! The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has for nearly ten years offered $1,000,000 to anyone who could demonstrate supernatural abilities under controlled conditions. For ten years, this has been a thorn in the side of charlatans like Uri Geller, Sylvia Browne, John Edward, and others--even though most of them simply refuse to take the test.

Even before it was the Million-Dollar Challenge, Randi would offer $1,000 or $10,000 checks to people who could perform these demonstrations of their alleged talents. This challenge dates back to 1964, and yet despite all the claims of psychics, mediums, and other woo-woos, no-one has ever passed the test.

Unfortunately, Mr. Randi announced today that he'll be discontinuing the challenge in two years:
The James Randi Educational Foundation Million-Dollar Challenge will be discontinued 24 months from this coming March 6th, and those prize funds will then be available to generally add to our flexibility. This move will free us to do many more projects, which will be announced at that time.

This means that all those wishing to be claimants are required to get their applications in before the deadline, properly filled out and notarized as described in the published rules.

Now, we're sure that there will be those who will offer all kinds of objections to this decision – though they could have simply applied and won the prize. There will be accusations that the JREF is concerned about the safety of the prize money – which was never any sort of concern, I can assure you – and there will be more claims that the money was never there in the first place. I can see the professionals out there sighing in relief that they no longer have to answer questions about why they won't take the prize, and they'll just wait out the remaining period that the prize is available. All that's to be expected.

Ten years is long enough to wait. The hundreds of poorly-constructed applications, and the endless hours of phone, e-mail, and in-person discussions we've had to suffer through, will be things of the past, for us at the JREF.

Those who believe they have mystic powers now have two full years to apply... Let's see what happens.

I understand that a million dollars added to their budget could help them immensely, but it's still sad to see this go. The existence of this challenge has been a constant annoyance to the purveyors of supernatural dishonesty for decades, and it is a shame to see it pass.

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