Dikkii's really keen to get hold of Randi's million dollars. Unfortunately, I can't help. Still, I did go through the rules of Randi's challenge, just to see.
Now to those rules. I see they’ve been updated since last I browsed his site (yes, I do go there occasionally. He has more information than he realizes in there).
Rule 1 is pretty much a rule I’d impose myself. No argument there.
Rule 2 is also fair, but it has implications for my line of work. Only an actual demonstration will do. If you can demonstrate telepathy or telekinesis, something along those lines, you’re in with a chance. I’d have to present him with a full-form apparition. Photos won’t do, nor video, nor sound. Only the real thing will win the game.
Rule 3. Statisticians and experimental design – fine – and he cares nothing for the mechanism. How it works doesn’t matter to him, he just wants proof that it does. I don't agree with that attitude, but can't argue with the rule.
Rule 4 is a killer. Everything in that experiment is the property of Randi. You can’t argue with that – he’s paid you a million dollars for it, after all. Still, it means you’ve just sold your proof to him. He’s a smart one – if nobody succeeds, he keeps the money. If anyone wins, he gets the proof to profit from in any way he chooses. At a bargain price, I think.
Rules 5 and 6 – no argument from me. The preliminary test is to make sure he’s not going to be forever wasting his time wandering the globe. Fair enough.
Rule 7. The applicant pays all costs. If I have to ship Randi and possibly others from the US to the UK, and provide full room and board, then that’s going to make a dent in that million dollars before I even start. I do see his point. He can’t be running around the world at his own expense every time a crank claims he can levitate cutlery. Still, it cuts down the value of that money.
Rule 8. No legal action of any kind, ever. Sounds okay, but it does give him carte blanche to call you any name he wants in the press, and you can’t touch him for it. There is no reciprocal arrangement. I guess you could insist on it, in the interests of fairness.
Rules 9, 10 and 11, cash and form details. Nothing that needs any comment.
Rule 12. You must have a ‘media presence’. Your abilities or claims must have been reported in the press somewhere. Hmm. Precisely what I’d avoid doing. If I put all my info up on the blog, much less in a newspaper, I’d blow my chances of getting into a good journal. It counts as published, and journals need to be first with the news, not second. None of the big journals would touch something that’s already in the public domain.
The remaining rules are technical details, nothing to argue about.
Well, I can’t meet rule 12 unless I forget about later publication. I would have problems with rule 2 – I can’t guarantee an apparition, nor that everyone present will see it. That latter issue could be taken care of by agreeing that, say, fifty percent of those present are able to see at least fifty percent of a figure. But I still can’t guarantee one will show up.
Rule 4, well I’m not going to agree to that. No way. So I rule myself out of this competition on that point alone.
In fact, I'd put it to you that you would have a harder time passing peer-review than winning Randi's challenge.
Very likely true. That’s how I do things though, the methodical, non-sensational way.
I'm not going to make that call either. But what I will do is this: Can I have the evidence you've compiled? I'd rather like Randi's money. I promise that I'll keep your name secret, as you don't appear to want to go near the public domain?
Evidence won’t cut it with that competition. You have to demonstrate an actual event. Photos, recordings, videos, none of them will win it. I can’t complain about that because as I’ve said, there are ways to fake all those things. Evidence is not proof. It won’t cut it in a publication at this stage either. So I’ll wait and collect data, and look for a way to produce incontestable proof. I don’t want to make the same mistake Benveniste did. Nothing gets out until I’ve checked, double-checked and then checked all over again.
Mistakes happen. It's really only just occurred to me that a videotape might retain a previous image. Tom's comment that he's experienced a similar effect with audio tape is going to make a good few EVP-collectors bang their heads off the wall. There are likely to be other sources of error out there, and I need to know them all.
It won’t be easy. Suppose I invented a machine that could trap, dissect and analyse a ghost? That would lead to proof, sure, but also to serious ethical issues. If ghosts are human spirits, then it’s a form of torture. Even if they’re not, if I were to do that while working on the assumption that they are, then I’d be in a serious ethical dilemma anyway. I wouldn’t know if I was right or wrong until the ghost was in pieces, and what then? Can I reverse what I did? Do I just say ‘Sorry’ and send him on his way? Even if it turns out to be something non-human, if it was in any way intelligent then it’s no different to tormenting people.
That machine would win Randi’s competition. But I couldn’t use it, even if it existed. Okay, my assumption of dead-people is restricting my actions, but if I assume the opposite--that all phenomena are non-human and therefore fair game for any kind of dissection--then what happens if they turn out to be human after all? It's better to take the cautious approach. Yes, it takes longer but the options are simple. Do it faster, or do it properly.
One gadget high on my wish-list is a device than can detect, for example, the energy fields that define the presence of such a spirit. Electrical, magnetic, some other form, a combination, who knows? Yet. Then I can track them. I can work out whether they are permanently around or whether they are transient. Do they just vanish from sight, or do they disappear altogether? I’ll know where to concentrate investigations. From my point of view, that would at least mean a lot less time spent in cold and damp places on the off-chance that somebody’s sighting might be real.
Just think – at the moment, every investigator is doing just that. Spending a lot of time in places where hauntings are reported, and finding nothing at all at least 90% of the time. When something comes up, the effect doesn’t hang around too long. What if you could follow the effect, or what if you could scan a building to see if there’s a particular ‘signature’ set of localized fields before you set up for the night? That 90% timewasting rate immediately drops to, perhaps, 10%. All those investigators would be spending 90% of their time collecting data rather than spending 90% of it catching colds.
So, what fields? Which wavelengths? What meter(s) to use? Range? Sensitivity? The answer to all that can only come from an accumulation of data, and unfortunately that’s only getting collected 10% of the time, or less. Much less since most people buying things like EMF meters don’t really know what they’re measuring. Eventually, though, there’ll be enough.
Finally, sorry, no. I’m not going to throw all that data around just yet. I don’t even know which parts are the most important, and which are going to eventually end up binned. Besides, it would do you no good. To win Randi’s prize in this field, you’ll have to show him a ghost.
That's especially difficult if you don't believe they exist.