Randi's Million Dollar Challenge

James Randi

James Randi is a professional magician - "The Amazing Randi" - who is perhaps more famous as a skeptic and debunker of paranormal claims.

Randi's style is decribed as "uncompromising" by his supporters and "caustic" by his critics. He was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) although he has now parted company with the organisation. In 1996 he established the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF).

The Challenge

The Randi challenge began in 1964 with a prize fund of $1000. Since then it has grown to the current $1 million prize and is administered by the JREF according to a strict set of rules. According to JREF the money:
"is held in the form of immediately negotiable bonds held by Goldman Sachs"
and the prize will go to anyone who:
"can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event"
Of the 1000+ applicants since 1964 none has even passed the preliminary test let alone the formal challenge.

Skeptics like to argue that the fact nobody has claimed the prize is proof that paranormal phenomena do not exist - with such a tempting prize on offer, someone would have grabbed it by now.

On the other side of the argument, some believers argue that absence of proof is not proof of absence. The fact that no-one has passed the test proves only that no-one has yet convinced skeptic James Randi that the paranormal exists.

Others simply say: "So what?". Even if someone passed the test, would hardline skeptics accept that psi powers etc are real? Or would they simply assume that someone very clever had fooled James Randi?