James Randi and The Randi Challenge
Magicianian James Randi demands that magicians as well as scientists be included as observers of psychic experiments, to help detect trickery. Professional magicians such as Randi have claimed that the feats performed by people who claim to be psychics can also be achieved by concealed and fraudulent physical manipulation; Randi, Penn & Teller, and other stage magicians often publicly perform such tricks in public, and then explain how they are done.
Parapsychologists note that some parapsychologists are also magicians, and parapsychologists as a group already do in fact work with input from skeptics and fellow parapsychologists alike to continually improve their experimental protocols to continue to reduce the likelihood of fraud or unintentional error. Also, many modern parapsychologists do not study "people who claim to be psychics", so the feats of such claimants are largely irrelevant to their research.
The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a one million U.S. dollars prize to anyone who can demonstrate any psychic or paranormal phenomenon. The foundation has set up a program wherein it approves the test proposed by the parapsychologist, but does not itself judge the results. No one has ever collected the prize. While skeptics make much of Randi's Challenge, many parapsychologists question the sincerity of Randi's offer, and in any case they generally pay little attention to it.
The offering of prizes for demonstrations is not new to the field. Circa 1924, Scientific American magazine offered a $5000 prize to anyone who could produce any "visible psychic manifestation". Medium Mina Crandon, known in the literature as "Margery", made a bid and was tested by a committee set up by the editorial staff. Her performance was such that the committee members were split in their opinions. The magazine published the mixed report in its November 1924 issue, no prize was awarded, and the competition was declared closed the following year. In the early 1900s, the then well-known stage magician and skeptic Howard Thurston was sufficiently impressed by the demonstrations of medium Eusapia Palladino that he advertised in the New York Times his offer of $1000 to charity in the name of any fellow conjuror who could duplicate the feats of Ms. Palladino under similar conditions. He had no takers.
Other Objections to Parapsychology
There are a variety of other objections to parapsychology as well.
Some critics claim that the existence of psi phenomena would violate "the known laws of physics", and some of these critics believe that this is reason enough that such phenomena should not be studied. Parapsychologists respond that "laws of nature" are simply summaries of existing scientific knowledge and do get revised from time to time during the course of scientific progress. If the existence of psi phenomenon were ever proven, explaining how they work might require revising or extending the known laws of physics. Precognition, for example, would challenge commonly held notions about causality and the unidirectional nature of time. However, these commonly held notions are often not physical laws, and are already being challenged by modern physical theories, quite apart from psi phenomena. Skeptics and parapsychologists alike generally agree that, as per Occam's Razor, simple explanations should be preferred for any resulting theories of psi.
- Psi Phenomena as a Violation of the Laws of Physics or Nature
Some believe that paranormal phenomena should not be studied, either because they are forbidden by their religious orientation, or because they believe that to do so opens the investigators to some sort of "spiritual attack".
Some believe that parapsychology should not be pursued because it somehow represents a danger to society. As appears in the Y2000 NSF report
- Parapsychology as a Danger to Society