- James Randi Educational Foundation
James Randi Educational Foundation Founder(s) James Randi Type 501(c)(3) Registration No. 65-0649443 Founded 1996 Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida Key people James Randi, Chairman, Board of Directors
D. J. Grothe, President and CEO
Rick Adams, Secretary, Board of Directors
Daniel "Chip" Denman, Board of Directors
Michael Blanford, Director of Educational Programs
Sadie Crabtree, Director of Communications
Brian Thompson, Field Coordinator
Mission To promote Critical Thinking and Investigate Claims of the Paranormal Revenue US$852,445(2009) 38% on 2008. 17% on 2009 . Volunteers 50 Employees 8 Motto An Educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscientific, and the supernatural Website randi.org
The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 by magician and skeptic James Randi. The JREF's mission includes educating the public and the media on the dangers of accepting unproven claims, and to support research into paranormal claims in controlled scientific experimental conditions.
The organization offers a prize of one million U.S. dollars which it will pay out to anyone who can demonstrate a supernatural or paranormal ability under agreed-upon scientific testing criteria. The JREF also maintains a legal defense fund to assist persons who are attacked as a result of their investigations and criticism of people who make paranormal claims.
The organization is funded through member contributions, grants, and conferences. The JREF website publishes a (nominally daily) blog at randi.org Swift, which includes the latest JREF news and information, as well as exposes of paranormal claimants.
- 1 History of the Foundation
- 2 The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge
- 3 Exploring psychic powers television show
- 4 The Amaz!ng Meeting
- 5 Podcast
- 6 Fellowships and Scholarships
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
History of the Foundation
The James Randi Educational Foundation officially came into existence on April 1, 1996, when it was registered as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Delaware in the United States. On April 3, 1996 James Randi formally announced the creation of the JREF through his email hotline: It is now incorporated in the State of Virginia.
“ THE FOUNDATION IS IN BUSINESS! It is my great pleasure to announce the creation of the James Randi Educational Foundation. This is a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational foundation under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, incorporated in the State of Delaware. The Foundation is generously funded by a sponsor in Washington D.C. who wishes, at this point in time, to remain anonymous. ”
—The Foundation, Randi Hotline, Wed, April 3, 1996
According to the year 2009 Annual Report registration information for the JREF filed March 20, 2009 with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations, the current officers of the JREF were listed as follows:
- Director, Chairman: James Randi, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
- Director, Secretary, Assistant Secretary: Richard L. Adams Jr., Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
- Director, Secretary: Daniel Denman, Silver Spring, Maryland.
On August 4, 2008, it was announced by the Foundation that astronomer Philip Plait was named the new President of the JREF and Randi would become the Chairman of the JREF Board of Directors.
The San Francisco newspaper SF Weekly reported on August 24, 2009 that Randi's annual salary is about $200,000, a figure that has not changed much since the Foundation's inception.
The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge
History of the challenge
In 1968, James Randi was working on a radio program with his friend and parapsychologist Stanley Crypter. During one of the programs, a caller challenged him to "put his money where his mouth is", and Randi offered $100 of his own money to the first person who could provide objective proof of the paranormal. Eventually[when?] this grew to $1,000 and then $10,000. Later, Lexington Broadcasting wanted Randi to do a show called the $100,000 Psychic Prize, so they added $90,000 to the original $10,000 raised by Randi. Finally, in 1996, one of his friends, Internet pioneer Rick Adams donated US $1,000,000 for the prize. As the prize fund grew, the rules that surround claiming the prize became more official and legal. So far, about a thousand people have taken the challenge, and none have been successful.
To claim, one must agree to a protocol for testing, must show in a preliminary test before a foundation representative that they are likely to succeed, and finally make a demonstration in a formal test in front of independent witnesses. To date, over 1,000 applications have been filed but no one has passed a preliminary test, which is set up and agreed upon by both Randi and the applicant.
In the conditions and rules governing the one million U.S.-dollar challenge, Randi plainly states that both parties (himself and the party accepting the challenge) must agree in advance as to what conditions of the test constitute a success and what constitutes a failure. He also refuses to accept any challengers who might suffer serious injury or death as a result of the test they intend to undergo.
Dennis Rawlins claimed the challenge is insincere, and that Randi will ensure he never has to pay out. In the October 1981 issue of Fate, Rawlins quoted him as saying "I always have an out". Randi has stated that Rawlins did not give the entire quotation. Randi actually said "Concerning the challenge, I always have an 'out': I'm right!". Randi states that the phrase "I always have an out" refers to the fact that he does not allow test subjects to cheat. On Larry King Live Randi stated that if such phenomena did exist and someone accurately demonstrated it, he would give them one million dollars.
On Larry King Live, March 6, 2001, Larry King asked Sylvia Browne if she would take the challenge and she agreed. Randi appeared with Browne again on Larry King Live on September 3, 2001 and she again accepted the challenge. However, she has refused to be tested and Randi keeps a clock on his website recording the number of weeks that have passed since Sylvia accepted the challenge without following through. In an appearance on Larry King Live on January 26, 2007, Randi challenged Rosemary Altea to take the one million challenge. On Altea and Randi's June 5, 2001 meeting on the same show, Altea refused to take the challenge, calling it "a trick". Instead Altea, in part, replied "I agree with what he says, that there are many, many people who claim to be spiritual mediums, they claim to talk to the dead. There are many, people, we all know this. There are cheats and charlatans everywhere."
Since April 1, 2007 only those with an already existing media profile and the backing of a reputable academic are allowed to apply for the challenge. The resources freed up by not having to test obscure and possibly mentally ill claimants will then be used to challenge high-profile alleged psychics and mediums such as Sylvia Browne and John Edward with a campaign in the media.
On January 4, 2008 it was announced that the prize would be discontinued on March 6, 2010 in order to free the money for other uses. In the meantime, claimants were welcome to vie for it. One of the reasons offered for its discontinuation is the unwillingness of higher-profile claimants to apply. However, at The Amaz!ng Meeting 7, it was announced that the $1 Million Challenge prize would not expire in 2010. This was also confirmed in the July/August issue of Skeptical Inquirer, in which Randi is additionally quoted as saying: "It was going to terminate... but now it will continue." The Foundation issued a formal update on its website on July 30, 2009 announcing the Challenge's continuation, and stated more information would be provided at a later date on any possible changes to the requirements and procedures.
In 2010 D. J. Grothe indicated his further plans to change and expand the Million Dollar Challenge, including making the application process more transparent, producing more live challenges, being more aggressive with the challenge in order to raise awareness about irresponsible pseudoscientific claims made by institutions, and the like.
On March 8, 2011, the JREF announced that qualifications were being altered to open the Challenge to more applicants. Whereas applicants were previously required to submit press clippings and a letter from an academic institution to qualify, the new rules now require applicants to present either press clippings, a letter from an academic institution, or a public video demonstrating their ability. The JREF explained that these new rules would give people without media or academic documentation a way to be considered for testing, and would allow the JREF to use online video and social media to reach a wider audience.
Judging the results
The official Challenge rules stipulate that the participant must agree, in writing, to the conditions and criteria of their test. Claims that cannot be tested experimentally are not eligible for the Challenge. To ensure that the experimental conditions themselves do not negatively affect a claimant's ability to perform, non-blinded preliminary control tests are often performed. For example, the JREF has dowsers perform a control test, in which the dowser attempts to locate the target substance or object using their dowsing ability, even though the target's location has been revealed to the applicant. Failure to display a 100% success rate in the open test will cause their immediate disqualification. However, claimants are usually able to perform successfully during the open test, confirming that experimental conditions are adequate. According to the JREF, despite success in these open tests, no claimants have yet been able to successfully demonstrate evidence of their claims while blinded under otherwise identical conditions. Some participants have stated afterwards that the threat of disqualification is the main factor in their apparent success in the open test. Randi has said that few unsuccessful applicants ever seriously consider that their failure to perform might be due to the nonexistence of the power they believe they possess. The discussions between the JREF and applicants were at one time posted on a public discussion board for all to see. Since the resignation of Randi's assistant, Mr. Kramer—and subsequent changes to challenge rules requiring applicants to have demonstrated considerable notability—new applications are no longer logged, but the JREF continues to maintain an archive of previous applicants.
Another objection made by critics of the challenge is that the rules prohibit independent judging, making the success or failure of the challenge dependent on whether Randi agrees that the test has been passed. While acknowledging the prohibition of independent judges, JREF staff and affiliates point out that the nature of the experimental design makes subjective judging of results unnecessary. Since claimants agree to readily observable success criteria prior to the test, results are unambiguous and clearly indicate whether or not the criteria have been met. Critics have also claimed that Randi's degree of control over the conditions of the challenge discourages serious applicants from applying, due to a perception of bias. Randi has said that he need not participate in any way with the actual execution of the test, and he has been willing to travel far from the test location to avoid the perception that his anti-paranormal bias could influence the test results. Additionally, claimants are able to influence all aspects of the testing procedure, including location and participants, during the initial negotiation phase of the challenge.
Additional criticisms of the test and its rules include:
Randi rejected applicant Rico Kolodzey, stating in the rejection letter that the applicant was "a liar and a fraud." The applicant in question claimed to survive without food via Breatharianism. Randi asserted that Kolodzey's claim was so absurd or untestable on its face that it merited outright rejection. For example, Randi and the JREF explained their outright rejection of Kolodzey based on a policy to reject any applicants who put themselves in grave physical danger. However, this clause was not added to the official Challenge rules until years after the incident. However, on May 19, 2006, Randi made a special exception to that rule due to all of the "raucous fuss" and began private negotiations for testing with Kolodzey. After 100 days of negotiations a test procedure still could not be agreed upon by both parties. In response to the stalled negotiations, Randi publicly commented that Kolodzey was retreating from testing after strenuously objecting to the rejection of his initial application.
Critics have also referred to case of Yellow Bamboo, a group whose members claim they can knock down attackers by shouting. A volunteer was actually knocked to the ground during a test, but this was not accepted by the JREF as they had already severed all ties with the Yellow Bamboo group before the test was carried out. The JREF also pointed out that the test was not conducted according to the proposed protocol, with multiple flaws in the execution including being carried out at night. Upon viewing a set of still shots from the incident, several people experienced with stun-guns suggested that an electroshock weapon could have been used.
Some of the people Randi has offered the Challenge to, such as psychic Rosemary Altea, claim the one million dollars does not exist, or is in the form of pledges or promissory notes. The JREF has stated that the million dollars is in the form of negotiable bonds within a "James Randi Educational Foundation Prize Account" and that validation of the account and the prize amount can be supplied on demand. The money is held in a Goldman, Sachs & Company account. A copy of the JREF investment statement is viewable at SkepticReport, and the foundation has repeatedly mailed this evidence to high-profile claimants.
Several other organisations have offered prizes for evidence of paranormal behaviour, on a similar basis:
- Association for Skeptical Enquiry is offering a £14,000 prize (USD 22,500).
- Australian Skeptics offers AUD $100,000 for proof of psychic or paranormal powers.
- Abraham Kovoor's challenge, an award of Rs. 100,000 for proof of supernatural or miraculous powers.
- The Independent Investigations Group offers $50,000 to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.
- Indian Skeptic 100,000 Paranormal Challenge Indian Rupees 100,000 ($2,500). Sponsored by Basava Premanand.
- Prabir Ghosh of India is offering $50,000.
- Tampa Bay Skeptics $1,000 Challenge US $1,000.
- North Texas Skeptics Paranormal Challenge US $12,000.
- The late Philip J. Klass offered US $10,000 for proof of an extraterrestrial visit to the Earth.
- After investigating psychic phenomena in 1922, Scientific American made two US $2,500 offers: (1) for the first authentic spirit photograph made under test conditions, and (2) for the first psychic to produce a "visible psychic manifestation." (Christopher 1975:180).
- The Swedish Humanist Association is offering a prize of SEK 100,000 that will be awarded to anyone who can demonstrate beyond doubt that they possess a paranormal or supernatural talent that cannot be explained by conventional science.
Example of a test (dowsing)
In 1979 Randi tested four people in Italy for dowsing ability (Mr. Fontana, Dr. Borga, Mr. Stanziola, and Mr. Senatore). The prize at the time was $10,000 of Randi's personal money. The conditions were that a 10 meter by 10 meter test area would be used. There would be water supply and a reservoir just outside the test area. There would be three plastic pipes running underground from the source to the reservoir along different concealed paths. Each pipe would pass through the test area by entering at some point on an edge and exiting at some point on an edge. A pipe would not cross itself but it might cross others. The pipes were 3 centimeters in diameter and were buried 50 centimeters below ground. Valves would select which of the pipes water was running through, and only one would be selected at a time. At least 5 liters per second of water would flow through the selected pipe. The dowser must first check the area to see if there is any natural water or anything else that would interfere with the test, and that would be marked. Additionally, the dowser must demonstrate that the dowsing reaction works on an exposed pipe with the water running. Then one of the three pipes would be selected randomly for each trial. The dowser would place ten to one hundred pegs in the ground along the path he traces as the path of the active pipe. Two-thirds of the pegs placed by the dowser must be within 10 centimeters of the center of the pipe being traced for the trial to be a success. Three trials would be done for the test of each dowser and the dowser must pass two of the three trials to pass the test. A lawyer was present, in possession of Randi's $10,000 check. If a claimant were successful, the lawyer would give him the check. If none were successful, the check would be returned to Randi.
All of the dowsers agreed with the conditions of the test and stated that they felt able to perform the test that day and that the water flow was sufficient. Before the test they were asked how sure they were that they would succeed. All said either "99 percent" or "100 percent" certain. They were asked what they would conclude if the water flow was 90 degrees from what they thought it was and all said that it was impossible. After the test they were asked how confident they were that they had passed the test. Three answered "100 percent" and one answered that he had not completed the test.
When all of the tests were over and the location of the pipes was revealed, none of the dowsers had passed the test. Dr. Borga had placed his markers carefully, but the nearest was a full 8 feet from the water pipe. Borga said, "We are lost", but within two minutes he started blaming his failure on many things such as sunspots and geomagnetic variables. Two of the dowsers thought they had found natural water before the test started, but disagreed with each other about where it was, as well as with the ones who found no natural water.
Exploring psychic powers television show
Exploring Psychic Powers Live! was a television show aired live on June 7, 1989, wherein Randi examined several people claiming psychic powers. The show offered $100,000 (Randi's then $10,000 prize plus $90,000 put up by the show's syndicator, Lexington Broadcasting) to anyone who could demonstrate genuine psychic powers.
- An astrologer claimed that he was able to ascertain a person's astrological sign after talking with them for a few minutes. He was presented with twelve people, one at a time, each with a different astrological sign. The people could not tell the astrologer their astrological sign or birth date, nor could they wear anything that would indicate it. After the astrologer talked to the people, he had them sit in front of a sign that the astrologer thought was theirs. By agreement, the astrologer needed to get ten of them correct to win. He got none correct.
- The next psychic claimed to be able to read auras around people. The psychic claimed that auras were visible at least five inches from the people. The psychic chose ten people who had a clearly visible aura. The people were to stand behind screens and the psychic agreed that the aura would be visible above the screens. The screens were numbered 1 through 10, and people were selected whether or not to stand behind their screen at random. The psychic was to tell whether or not a person was standing behind each screen, by seeing the aura above. Since random guessing would be expected to get about five correct, the psychic needed to get eight of the ten right. The psychic stated that she saw an aura over all ten screens, but people were behind only four of the screens.
- A dowser claimed that he could locate water, even in a bottle inside a sealed cardboard box. He was shown twenty boxes and the dowser was to indicate which boxes contained a water bottle. He indicated that eight of the boxes contained water, but only five did.
- A psychometric psychic claimed to be able to receive personal information about the owner of an object from the object. In order to avoid ambiguous statements, the psychic agreed to be presented with a watch and a key from twelve different people. The psychic was to match keys and watches belonging to the same person. According to the prior agreement, the psychic had to match nine out of the twelve sets, but she succeeded in only two of the cases.
- During the program, another psychic was doing a run of 250 Zener cards, guessing which of the five symbols was on each one. Random guessing should result in about fifty correct predictions, so it was agreed in advance that the psychic had to be right on at least eighty-two cards in order to demonstrate an ability greater than chance. However, she was able to get only fifty predictions correct, which is no better than random guessing (Polidoro 2003:19–24).
The Amaz!ng Meeting
Since 2003, the JREF has annually hosted The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM), a gathering of scientists, skeptics, and atheists. Perennial speakers include Richard Dawkins, Penn & Teller, Phil Plait, Michael Shermer and Adam Savage.
The JREF is affiliated with The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, where James Randi sometimes speaks in a format reminiscent of a column, recounting adventures from his career as a debunker of psychics; as well as For Good Reason, hosted by JREF president D.J. Grothe. The Foundation produced its own "Internet Audio Show" which ran from January-December 2002 and was broadcast via a live stream. The archive can be found as mp3 files on their website and as a podcast on iTunes.
Fellowships and Scholarships
- America's Psychic Challenge
- An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural (by Randi)
- List of prizes for evidence of the paranormal
- Pigasus Award
- Rationalist Prabir Ghosh increases his challenge amount to $50,000 against any claim of paranormal, after surviving nine assassination attempts.
- Skeptic's Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll
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- ^ "The James Randi Educational Foundation Scholarships". Randi.org. 2009-04-20. http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-scholarships.html. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- Christopher, Milbourne (1975). Mediums, Mystics, & the Occult. Thomas Y. Crowell Co.. ISBN 0-690-00476-1
- Polidoro, Massimo (2003). Secrets of the Psychics: Investigating Paranormal Claims. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-59102-086-7
- Randi, James (1982). Flim-Flam!. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-198-3
James Randi Educational Foundation
- James Randi Educational Foundation — Official website
- The Amaz!ng Meeting — information on past and upcoming Amaz!ng Meetings and Amaz!ng Adventures.
- The Amaz!ng Meeting youtube videos
- Videos from The Amazing meeting on Vimeo
- An "Amazing" Time — Review of 2003's "Amazing Meeting" by Marc Berard
- James Randi in Australia - Episode from an Australian TV show shot in the 1980s showing Randi conducting a test of water dowsers for his earlier $10,000 challenge
- MySpace — The officially approved MySpace tribute page.
- Discover Magazine Phil Plait named as President of JREF
- randi.org D.J. Grothe named as President of JREF
One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge
- The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge — Official website
- Current contenders for the prize, discussed in a public chat forum as their applications come in.
- NESS Participates in the Randi Psychic Challenge — Describes the type of testing performed for the One million dollar challenge
- Top Excuses for not taking the Randi Challenge
- Randi's response to criticism of Randi's Challenge by Richard Milton of 'Alternative Science'
- James Randi's Million Dollar Hustle
- The Myth of the Million Dollar Challenge, and Randi's rebuttal.
- Beware Pseudo-Skepticism — Skeptical Investigations
Skeptic organizations USA CanadaCentre for Inquiry Canada · India Other Pseudoscience Terminology Examples
AIDS denialism • Astrology • Body memory • Bogdanov Affair • Creation Science • Dianetics • Faith healing • Homeopathy • Intelligent design • Japhetic theory • Lunar effect • Lysenkoism • Melanin theory • Moon landing conspiracy theories • Nibiru collision • Parapsychology • Perpetual motion • Ufology
ResourcesList of topics characterized as pseudoscience
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James Randi Educational Foundation — 26° 06′ 28″ N 80° 08′ 27″ W / 26.10788, 80.14085 … Wikipédia en Français
James Randi Educational Foundation — Die James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) ist eine gemeinnützige Organisation, die 1996 von James Randi gegründet wurde, nachdem dieser 1994 aus der CSICOP ausgetreten war. Die Ziele der Gesellschaft sind die wissenschaftliche Erforschung von … Deutsch Wikipedia
James Randi — (né Randall James Hamilton Zwinge, le 7 août 1928 à Toronto, Ontario, Canada), plus connu sous l appellation Randi le stupéfiant (The Amazing Randi), est un illusionniste professionnel. Il est notamment connu comme un démystificateur des pseudo… … Wikipédia en Français
James Randi — (* 7. August 1928 in Toronto, Ontario; Geburtsname Randall James Hamilton Zwinge) ist ein Zauberkünstler und ein prominentes Mitglied der Skeptics Society. Der Gegner von Pseudowissenschaften wurde bekannt durch seine Eine Million Dollar… … Deutsch Wikipedia
James Randi — (Toronto, 7 de agosto de 1928) es un mago, escéptico, ateo y declarado enemigo de la parapsicología. James Randi. Contenido 1 … Wikipedia Español
James Randi — Infobox Celebrity name = James Randi size = caption = birth name = Randall James Hamilton Zwinge birth date = birth date and age|1928|8|7 birth place = Toronto, Ontario, Canada death date = death place = occupation = Magician, skeptic, writer… … Wikipedia
Fundación Educativa James Randi — La Fundación Educativa James Randi (en inglés James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF), es una organización no lucrativa fundada en 1996 por el mago y escéptico James Randi. La misión de la FEJR abarca la educación del público y de los medios de … Wikipedia Español
James Hydrick — James Alan Hydrick (born February 28, 1959) is an American criminal and fraudster. A self described psychic, Hydrick claimed to be able to perform telekinesis. Following a nationally televised demonstration of his abilities at That s Incredible! … Wikipedia
The Amazing Randi — James Randi James Randi (* 7. August 1928 in Toronto (Kanada); Geburtsname Randall James Hamilton Zwinge) ist ein Zauberkünstler und ein prominentes Mitglied der Skeptics Society. Der Gegner von Pseudowissenschaften wurde bekannt durch seine Eine … Deutsch Wikipedia
Freedom From Religion Foundation — Abbreviation FFRF Formation 1978 Type Non prof … Wikipedia