Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Million Dollar Challenge Challenge

I really should just bite the bullet and write an entry as a starting point for a philosophy – a manifesto, if you must – for Asshole Skepticism... but more pressing matters continue to be a part of my life. And then in between things I feel the need to sound off about keep jumping the queue.

I am going to assume a certain level of knowledge on the reader's part about the JREF Million Dollar Challenge, and if I am wrong (and in some cases I no doubt will be) then you can follow the link.

You may also know that at TAM 7, ten days ago almost exactly as I write this, Connie Sonne took the MDC, putting her dousing abilities to the test. She Failed. Disappointing a room of skeptics who would have been thrilled to have been in the room for the first time anyone managed to pass the preliminary test (which would have meant either she beat the 1000 to 1 odds, or she actually DID present paranormal abilities). I was there. I've written about it elsewhere. It would have been SO cool to see her pass, just because it was so unexpected. Not my intended point, but contrary to many beliefs, most skeptics would be overwhelmed to witness circumstances where their evidenced positions were shattered. It's because we are open-minded, and that our philosophy centres on the process of evidence, not on the result.

Since then Ms. Sonne has made some contentious and insulting comments about the intentions of the JREF and the conductor of the test – mentalist, Banacheck. In brief she claims it was a set-up and a cheat. Plenty has said been said already about the validity of these statements, and I'm not wading in there beyond declaring it ridiculous. Significant hammering out of the legal and ethical implications of this have already been made.

But there is one question that I have yet to see taken seriously.

"What purpose would the JREF have for fixing the test?"

The immediate answer seems to be; "To save a million dollars." Well I have two words to say to that. BULL. SHIT.

That argument does not stand. And here is why:

The million dollars that has been set aside for the MDC has been set aside by a benefactor for one purpose – to legitimately fund the MDC. It has no other purpose. It is there to be lost. It is not being saved for a rainy day. It is the cash-in-the-bank foundation upon which the MDC is built.

Like a person who goes to gamble in Vegas who (wisely) counts their money before they even get on the plane and declare it sent and gone, there IS no loss as it has already been identified as written off. If the JREF wanted to ensure 'not losing a million dollars' the simplest way would be TO NOT OFFER THE MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE!

The suggestion that they'd cheat to save a million bucks is absurd.

Let's say – let's just say – that it turned out that paranormal powers DO exist and it was proven via the MDC. The financial boon that would follow for the association that sponsored the scientifically controlled experiment that proved it would dwarf a million dollars in a laughably short time. I just thought of that angle RIGHT NOW! That is how absurd the idea is that "to save a million dollars" would be their rational for cheating on the test.

Fuck! The simple suggestion otherwise just makes me hot under the collar.

On top of all that – and related to what I said earlier about skeptics being delighted to witness the event disproving their evidence based assertion that paranormal powers are more than likely nothing more than magical thinking (I paraphrase) – the JREF, like practically all skeptics, find great joy in the wonders evident in the real world. There is a lot of amazing shit that really, truly, does occur in the world. If there were more self-identifying skeptics in the world it would be a well-worn cliché that there is way more than enough to marvel at in the world without having to convince yourself of all the garbage that people want to buy into to give themselves acknowledgement and simple answers. I guess it's hard to understand unless you've plumbed the realities that we do understand in the universe, and come to appreciate what we don't understand as just that – things we don't have answers for yet, and that the answers will be in their own right be marvellous without resorting to un-provable balderdash – that the fantastic realities in the world in themselves are virtually magic in their own right. Provable and proven magic of science. That is how amazing they are to our perception and logic impaired minds.

The JREF would be happy to throw that million dollars away (even without the promise of financial gain mentioned earlier for the association that sponsored such a discovery) just to know that dousing or whatever particular paranormal phenomenon under test was real and that it could be scientifically proven. And I agree vociferously. There is very little in the world that would blow my mind in such a positive way than something like Connie Sonne being able to determine where 3 – 6 – a dozen playing cards in a row were with her crystal. That would change everything – and THAT would be the most amazing thing to have ever been alive to witness – ever. Yeah, I'll pay a million dollars for that – personally.

So... I titled this post the "Million Dollar Challenge Challenge" - what do I mean by that?

I challenge the believers of the world to come up with a plausible counter argument to why the JREF would deliberately defraud the world with the MDC. I don't care if your basis is the Connie Sonne challenge and/or Banachek - it can be any challenge past, present, future. I just want someone to try to come up with a believable argument as to why the JREF would try to hide the 'real' results.

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