Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sceptical about sceptics’ $2m paranormal challenge

Sceptical about sceptics’ $2m paranormal challenge

Challenges achieve very little in the world of the paranormal – apart from gaining dubious publicity for those who issue them. In fact, challenges thrown down by believers and sceptics virtually cancel themselves out.

A new and sceptical NZ$2 million (around £750,000) challenge was recently thrown down by a New Zealand organisation targeting the four mediums who star in the TV series Sensing Murder – Kelvin Cruickshank, Sue Nicholson, Scott Russell Hill and Deb Webber (above, left to right). But it has rightly been castigated, not by believers but by a website devoted to reality TV.

It reveals (21 September 2007) that “the folks at Immortality, under the pseudonym ‘atheist’, have written to four of the psychics from Sensing Murder inviting them to participate in their challenge and prove their psychic ability under controlled conditions. The prize is NZ$1 million to the psychic, with a further NZ$1 million on offer to charity.”

“Atheist”, however, is hardly an open-minded investigator. Referring to the psychics’ alleged ability to communicate with the dead, he or she declares: “I claim that you are a liar and can do no such thing.”

“So who,” wonders, “are Immortality and do they even have $2 million? It’s a darn good question, and it doesn’t do their credibility much good that their online forum for discussing the $2m paranormal challenge links to an online community discussing horse racing.”

In fact, Immortality’s website is anonymous. It has no contact details, nor does it reveal who are the people behind it. But has dug deep and discovered that it is registered to Charman Consulting Ltd of Botany/Golflands, and the named owners/employees are Alan Charman, his wife Rhonda Charman and Dave McClure.

“This seems to be an eclectic business which boasts a recruitment business, personal loan referrals, accommodation for the rugby world cup, psychological profiling and charity,” says he website. Eclectic, it adds, could also be interpreted as “people who dabble in anything they think they can make a buck from”.

The Charman Group says it is committed to helping people “in circumstances less fortunate than ours” and the companies in the Charman Group “sponsor young Kenyan children, to ensure that they have access to water, education, medicine and food”.

A laudable ambition. But then it then offers “details of children currently being sponsored”.

“Yep, it’s blank,” says “Apparently they were too busy with the gee gees. Another black mark for their credibility.”

Finally, showing much more level-headedness than the sceptical challengers, the reality TV website concludes:

“We do agree that it would be interesting to watch the Sensing Murder psychics operate under controlled conditions. Although the producers state that the process was laid bare to self-professed sceptic Nigel Latta, it can only be an objective test of the psychic’s abilities if the independent observer sets the environment and conditions.

“Perhaps next time a police officer could conduct the test without telling the producer or camera crew the name of the individual or the crime being investigated?”

As for the people behind “Immortality” it says: “A sceptic might wonder whether [they] have a spare $2 million to splash around. We say show us the money!”

It’s a timely reminder that the challenges issued by sceptics are seldom what they claim to be. Which is why neither the Sensing Murder mediums nor any other psychics are likely to respond

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