Re: testing psi

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Jan 02 2006 - 18:25:41 MST

>I withdraw my "It takes money to psi make money" qualifier as well. This
>million seems pretty easy to reach, even allowing psi researchers to set
>the preconditions.

No, sadly. Randi, unlike professional parapsychologists, is not a
scientist, he is a showman. If you think his offer is genuine, you're more
gullible than fudley's caricature of a parapsychologist.

His stock in trade is demonstrating that deluded dowsers are... gee...
deluded. That people who claim to see auras are deluded or fraudulent
(usually the former). Big deal.

If anybody has actually been reading my posts, they will know that lab
parapsychology almost always deals with small deviations from chance. To
the extent that these can be induced reliably, it takes an inordinate
number of events to reach statistical significance. The Randi challenge
demands a probability of one in a million.

Such p values have been obtained in well conducted tests, but for obvious
reasons, with a low-power effect, these tests need to run for weeks or
months -- apparently unacceptable to Randi, despite his claim that
researchers can set the conditions. Worse, I have read detailed accounts of
attempts by parapsychologists to have their protocols accepted, see Randi
or his representatives agree, only to find them nibbled away bit by bit in
the run-up to the test.

It remains possible that somebody will meet this showbiz challenge, but you
can be sure in advance that Randi will find a way out of paying up.
Skepticism is his business. (I've met the man, he can be perfectly
charming, but he's a shark, and a very entertaining one.)

Damien Broderick

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