Tag Archives: James Randi

Andrés Rieznik

James Randi, ilusionista estadounidense, fue el principal responsable de dejar en claro que el mentalista israelí Uri Geller no tenía poderes paranormales. Geller se hizo mundialmente famoso en la década del ochenta doblando cucharas y arreglando relojes por televisión. Proclamaba poseer dotes mentales sobrenaturales. Gracias a James Randi sus afirmaciones quedaron en ridículo, y su influencia sobre el pensamiento académico fue neutralizada en momentos en que muchos investigadores comenzaban a conjeturar la existencia de leyes ocultas de la física que merecían estudios e inversiones científicas, olvidando hacerse una pregunta prudente ante cualquier clase de afirmación extraordinaria: ¿Qué es más probable, que todas las leyes de la física que conocemos estén equivocadas o que una persona mienta para hacerse rica y famosa?

Andrés Rieznik, Neuromagia: qué pueden ensenarnos los magos (y la ciencia) sobre el funcionamiento del cerebro, Buenos Aires, 2015, p. 32

Douglas Hubbard

James Randi, retired magician and renowned skeptic, set up this foundation for investigating paranormal claims scientifically. (He advised Emily on some issues of experimental protocol.) Randi created the $1 million “Randi Prize” for anyone who can scientifically prove extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, dowsing, and the like. Randi dislikes labeling his efforts as “debunking” paranormal claims since he just assesses the claim with scientific objectivity. But since hundreds of applicants have been un- able to claim the prize by passing simple scientific tests of their paranormal claims, debunking has been the net effect. Even before Emily’s experiment was published, Randi was also interested in therapeutic touch and was trying to test it. But, unlike Emily, he managed to recruit only one therapist who would agree to an objective test—and that person failed.

After these results were published, therapeutic touch proponents stated a variety of objections to the experimental method, claiming it proved nothing. Some stated that the distance of the energy field was really one to three inches, not the four or five inches Emily used in her experiment. Others stated that the energy field was fluid, not static, and Emily’s unmoving hand was an unfair test (despite the fact that patients usually lie still during their “treatment”). None of this surprises Randi. “People always have excuses afterward,” he says. “But prior to the experiment every one of the therapists were asked if they agreed with the conditions of the experiment. Not only did they agree, but they felt confident they would do well.” Of course, the best refutation of Emily’s results would simply be to set up a controlled, valid experiment that conclusively proves therapeutic touch does work. No such refutation has yet been offered.

Randi has run into retroactive excuses to explain failures to demonstrate paranormal skills so often that he has added another small demonstration to his tests. Prior to taking the test, Randi has subjects sign an affidavit stating that they agreed to the conditions of the test, that they would later offer no objections to the test, and that, in fact, they expected to do well under the stated conditions. At that point Randi hands them a sealed envelope. After the test, when they attempt to reject the outcome as poor experimental design, he asks them to open the envelope. The letter in the envelope simply states “You have agreed that the conditions were optimum and that you would offer no excuses after the test. You have now offered those excuses.”

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business, Hoboken, 2012, 2nd ed., pp. 15-16