Monday, May 01, 2006

Are You A Super-Hero?

If you are, then you have a chance to prove it and make $1 Million dollars!

The $1 Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

The James Randi Foundation

The Foundation is committed to providing reliable information about paranormal claims. It both supports and conducts original research into such claims.

At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."

To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests.
James Randi, aka The Amazing Randi, is my personal hero. A professional stage magician, James Randi has made a career out of de-bunking those charlatans who prey on the gullible, hopeful or bereaved.

He is probably most famous for his expose of Uri Geller, who rose to fame by claiming to use his 'powers' to bend keys and spoons. Randi showed he could easily duplicate any of Geller's feats and has made it his mission in life to expose 'psychics' like Geller, Sylvia Browne and John Edwards. He also debunked the 'miracle messages' of televangelist Peter Popoff.

He promotes public awareness not only of self-claimed psychics, but quack medicine, machines and superstition. He also supports and promotes the critical and scientific examination of claims and backs it up with his $1 million dollar prize.

If you read the faq you'll see that all these people who claim extraordinary powers are unable to perform the simplest feats in a controlled environment.

To me, the idea that a person with the psychic power to mentally drill through space and time to foresee the future, but who's power fails when in the vicinity of a skeptic's 'negative waves', is laughable.

As Randi points out; To be fair many of the people probably honestly believe that they have special abilities but when put under testing are unable to perform. That can be a little sad.

Interestingly, the big name psychics usually avoid the Foundation and Randi at all costs. Sylvia Browne, who gets aided and abetted by Larry King and Montel Williams, made the career-error of accepting the Paranormal Challenge on TV. As you can see here, it has been over 5 years since she accepted and has failed to respond to prove her claim.

Almost all the applicants withdraw their claim or disappear. Which doesn't make sense to me at all. If you can bend a spoon with your mind, then do it and walk away a rich person (or a better person who did some good by donating the 'dirty money' to some worthwhile cause).

There is only one answer to the question "Are psychic powers real?"

That answer is "No, they are not".

The Comic Book Connection

The basic premise of the super-hero comic book universe is that the characters have powers and abilities beyond that of ordinary persons. That's all well and good and I enjoy reading about it. Still, I was disgusted to see that Marvel Comics unfortunately featured Uri Geller in an issue of Daredevil.
I was a rabid comic book reader then, and this book almost made me quit.

For those of you who can, check out your copy of Daredevil, v1, #133 (May 1976).

Uri Geller and Daredevil fight the very lame villain...Mind Wave! What made this issue so bad was not the art and story, but that Marvel (or Marv Wolfman) presented Geller as a person with real powers. Even though the story is set in a fictional universe the issue and the editorial reads like a paid advertisement for Uri Geller.

Once you are done reading that issue (if you still have an IQ left) don't miss James Randi's rebuttal to that issue in DD #137's letters page. Uri also chimes in quoting some PhD's that 'proved' his psychic abilities were real (and that were later shown to have either been fooled or were party to the event). Apparently sensitive to the reactions he must have known were coming Uri must have wrote in as soon as #133 was published.

Also, a good letter from Mark Evanier appears (who also worked in comics at the time). There is a statement in the letters implying that Marv watched Geller carefully and there was no trick. But that quote isn't actually from Marv so if true, that means Marv was fooled or making up stuff to add to the entertainment value of the book. That's not a crime, but a disclaimer would have been helpful.

You can view some of Daredevil #133 and the letters page for DD #137 here at flickr.

Senses-shattering origin!

Kitty!

Nothing's happening! Duh.

Confusing internal dialog or telepathy?

No, Daredevil! Don't beat up that cop!

The smackdown letters page!


I also have a memory that there was an entry somewhere in a Marvel Handbook or something of the time, that described the Marvel Comics character of Geller as 'having mental powers, unlike the Uri Geller of real life' or something like that. I'd like to find where that appeared.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, that was interesting. The lettercol was the best part. Mark Evanier is only slightly less cool than James Randi, and Uri Geller is full of shit. Great scans!

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  2. Wow. I mean...wow. I've read comics off and on since the late 60s and that...was...really...bad.

    This is what comic book blogs are all about!!!

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  3. That's great. I love the part where Uri tries to help Daredevil by bending the guy's pipe-"My pipe bent!" Luckily he was holding the very thing Uri likes to bend best!

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  4. "Luckily he was holding the very thing Uri likes to bend best!"

    I'm surprised the villain wasn't the dreaded SPOONMAN.

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  5. I was going through your older posts and came to this one about the Amazing Randi {whom I met once in a NYC magic shop} and his Million Dollar Challenge. I also had a long time relationship with a healer who specialized in treating cancer patients most of whom came to her after the doctors had given up.
    Her "five year survival rate" was about 25% and she was sure she could have done better if they had come to her before they underwent months {or years} of being cut up and being fed poisons {Chemotherapy is essentially giving a very sick person poisons in the hope that it will kill the cancer before it kills them}.
    The doctors declared everyone one of them {about 50} during a 4 year period as being "spontaneous remissions".
    Having read the JREF rules I doubt if she could pass this test unless Randi himself had the cancer. Then he would believe!

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