Almost every time I write something like “There’s no proof of anything beyond the physical” I get challenged by believers in ESP, astral projection, life after death, or other supernatural phenomena.
That’s fine. I love challenges. If I wanted to have everything that I say accepted without question, I wouldn’t be a blogger. Nor would I have been married for thirty-five years.
But here’s the thing: when I say “proof” I mean proof. The real deal. Scientific confirmation. Controlled studies. Replicated studies worthy of being published in a major journal. Proof that makes skeptics into believers.
The James Randi Educational Foundation has a One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. Yes, a million bucks awaits anyone “who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.”
So if you know someone who can demonstrate a paranormal ability, or if you can do this yourself, check out the application procedure. And remember me if you win the prize. Sending 5% my way would be a nice thank-you for cluing you in to the Challenge.
I promise that I’ll put a personalized plate on the convertible Mini that I’ll buy with my share: ESPTRU, or whatever you want.
Now, I realize there are lots of supposed scientific studies that claim evidence of the supernatural. A Church of the Churchless comment led me to the “Science is a method, not a position” blog, where I dutifully clicked away on links that purport to shed light on the blind spots of reductionist materialism.
I wanted to find the proof that I’m looking for. After all, I’m made of matter. And I’m not wild about the prospect of being reduced to nothing when I die. So any evidence to the contrary is going to grab my attention.
Unfortunately, I came away empty-handed, my skepticism still intact. I read about the dog who seems to know when his owner is coming home. I’d seen this feat demonstrated on a TV special and it certainly raises questions. But answers? No.
Ditto with this study of telephone telepathy, also by Rupert Sheldrake. There was a 1 in 20 chance that the results were a statistical fluke. Without replication by independent researchers, telepathy remains highly questionable.
One of Randi’s FAQs is “Scientific papers have been written supporting paranormal events and talents. Therefore, how can you deny them?” His answer:
Scientists can be wrong — sometimes, very wrong. The history of science is replete with serious errors of judgment, bad research, faked results, and simple mistakes, made by scientists in every field. The beauty of science is that it corrects itself by its own nature and design. By this means, science provides us with increasingly clearer views of how the world works. Unfortunately, though science itself is self-correcting, sometimes the scientists involved do not correct themselves. And there is not a single example of a scientific discovery in the field of parapsychology that has been independently replicated. That makes parapsychology absolutely unique in the world of science.
Some say that scientists aren’t willing to even consider evidence for paranormal phenomena. That doesn’t make sense. Scientists are driven by a desire for fame and fortune just like other people. To make a discovery that turns the world upside down—as would solid proof of the supernatural—that’s the dream of most scientists.
Carl Sagan said that one of the most important functions in science is to reward those who disprove our most closely held beliefs. Randi is taking this function literally. A million dollars literally.
There’s no excuse for not taking the Randi Challenge. Claus Larsen has come up with an answer to the most common excuses, such as “I don’t do this for personal gain.” Like he says, you can always give away the million dollars to a worthy cause.
May I suggest my Mini-Cooper Convertible Fund?