The James Randi Foundation
has a standing offer of $1M
to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal powers in a controlled scientific experiment. Despite this offer being available for decades, no one has yet been able to win the prize.
The process includes two main steps. The first involves an initial test that is used to seperate this potentially powerful from those whose powers cannot beat out the results of pure chance.
For professional medium Patricia Putt, the first stage test
involved creating personal readings for 10 volunteers she had never met and whose identities, specifically physical characteristics, she was unable to see.
The final protocol required that Mrs Putt write down a reading for each of 10 volunteers she had never met before, all of whom had to wear the bizarre attire described above and sit facing away from her to ensure that the reading did not include any reference to the physical appearance of the volunteer. Once all 10 volunteers had had a reading done, they were called back and each issued with a set of all the readings, each set in a different, randomised order. At this point, of course, they did not know which reading had been produced specifically for them. Their task was simple. They had to read all ten readings and decide which one was most applicable to them. If Mrs Putt had the ability she believed she had, the majority of the volunteers should easily be able to identify their own reading. If five or more of the volunteers chose the correct reading, Mrs Putt would be deemed to have passed the test and arrangements would be made for her to proceed to the formal Million Dollar Challenge.
So did Putt pass the test? Not one subject picked her own reading, a result less than the 1 in 10 pure chance would predict. Despite having a say in the process and procedures, and affirming that the test was fair and that she was capable under the conditions, Putt was unable to deliver anything remotely close to psychic results.
Mrs Putt declared herself "gobsmacked" by the result. She did not try to make any excuses for her failure, in sharp contrast to many others who have found themselves in the same situation.
One has to wonder if Putt will slide back into her normal profession and continue to offer her 'services', or if this experience might send her in a more legitimate direction. On one hand, I feel a bit sorry for her if she genuinely believed herself capable. This had to be a major smack down and one likely to leave her entire worldview in question. I hope she has some support around her if she decides to heed the results and stop offering her paranormal skills to the world.
On the other hand, I wonder how people can so seriously delude themselves into believing they have these extraordinary powers. Wishful thinking and the placebo effect have a lot to do with it, I think, and one has little doubt why so many other paranormals are unwilling to put their own skills to the test in a scientific framework. Likely, every other medium, psychic, and diviner would likewise fail to produce empirical results. For them, it is almost certainly easier to avoid any such invalidation and continue instead to operate under the assumption that the powers are real and the income they generate are even more so.
(cross-posted on my blog: http://davenichols.net/professional-medium-put-test