The Homeopathy-James Randi "challenge"  dispute

  By Bruce Kettler

Latest update of this page May 2005


This is a summary of the discussion between Syd Baumel, James Randi and others, both from USENET and private e-mail communication.  I participated in both.

Aug. 4, 2000 update -- questions answered about the protocol, and exactly who avoided tests with the JREF.
                                  I, Dan Kettler, was involved in this sci.skeptic USENET discussion, and John Benneth
                                  placed answers to questions that were brought up.

November 24, 2000 update -- The question had been brought up, repeatedly, as to who's fault it was that Benneth was not tested.
                                               Here, Syd Baumel discusses the matter with John Benneth in an e-mail communication amongst a group.
                                            .  Later, I posted the facts about this discussion to USENET, and I including a reference to the debate copy
                                               on this page.  A discussion came from that, and a shortened version of it is here.

July 4, 2002 update -- As I wrote above, the question had been brought up, repeatedly, as to who's fault it was that Benneth was not tested. Here, "Happy Dog" brings it up again, and he's again defeated by facts and logic.

The USENET portion of this discussion began with my posting of John Benneth's statement from his web page.

The remarks are edited for brevity without notation for missing or changed words, either in John's ("JB") statement, or in the discussion.

        The "challenge" is that if anyone can prove
        the paranormal, or homeopathy as valid, they
        will be awarded 1 million dollars...

       There is a link to The JREF which reports they will award the money, at...

       http://www.psicounsel.com/randicha.shtml



 

First, the news as of May 4, 1999:

The latest reason given from James Randi, for not getting on with the challenge, had been
a supposed negotiation with Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Josephson.  BJ denies any such
negotiation in process with James Randi.
Syd Baumel reports...
It turns out Randi's homeopathic challenge involving the Nobel Laureate
physicist Brian Josephson was only a dream on Randi's part, not a tentative
deal as his earlier posts implied.
Here's how it all came out, as reported by Syd Baumel:
On April 21, I emailed Prof. Josephson and told him of my involvement in the would-be Benneth challenge, of my interest as a writer and editor in his related initiative, and asked him to "keep me in the loop," if he could.  He promptly replied that this was the first he'd ever heard of his
supposed involvement in Randi's JREF Challenge...

...Randi did [reply]!  He was very disappointed that I had [supposedly] "misrepresented" him to Josephson, because, he said, he indeed had not thrown down the Challenge gauntlet.

Syd Baumel to James Randi:
 
I'm confused.  I gathered from your posts last week that Prof. Josephson
had already been involved in preliminary negotiations with you to take the
Challenge 2000 and that you were already predicting that he would try and
weasel out...
Then, on May 3, James Randi replied, quoting himself:
 " . . . we have a tentative offer of Brian Josephson, Nobel
Laureate, to conduct a test of homeopathy!  It would be based upon
Benveniste's claim that the homeopathic magic can be transmitted
via wire. This is only in the very first stages, but it just might happen.  The
Americal Physical Society has been asked to participate, and the JREF
prize is being offered."
Randi goes on to comment:
...That's not only exactly what I wrote, but it's also exactly correct.  Syd,
what's your problem?  You write: "It turns out Randi's homeopathic
challenge involving the Nobel Laureate physicist Brian Josephson
was only a dream on Randi's part . . . "  Not at all!  It was, and is, a
very real possibility...

James Randi wrote to me, Dan Kettler, the administrator of these web pages,
and it is here copied only in part for brevity so these web pages contain
text that is directly to the point.  This reply was placed on "the proving"
Homeopathy "OneList" mailing list maintained by John Benneth whose web site is
/marius/index.html


I replied:

At 01:26 PM 8/16/99 -0400, you wrote:
JR:
>Dan Kettler: I'm told that you have some sort of account dealing with
>persons who I have refused to test, or who I have tested and then refused
>to pay the million-dollar prize.  This is of great interest to me.  May I
>see this account, please? <snip>


DK:

           http://www.psicounsel.com/artbellclub/bdkspage.html

I never stated you refused to test anyone, nor have I stated you tested
and refused to pay the prize.

I have hinted at possible stalling tactics, which is what JB is
saying, but there is no way for me to conclude that from the
events I know of thus far.

For the most part, the URL information consists of links to other sites.

There is a 4 point summary about the events involving the Art Bell
Show, and Ed Dames.

Then, there is a summary of events involving the Benneth interactions.

It's all at the above site, and DEJANEWS shows some recent postings
of mine...   http://www.deja.com (use "power search")
 

JR
 
> I really should publish -- with your permission, of course --
> this account on my web page (www.randi.org) and
> discuss each aspect of it.
DK:
Well, in my experience, most of the people who post to USENET
of the pseudo-skeptic persuasion (fanatics, not skeptics) do
not accurately represent what the other person has said or
written, in their so-called "answers."

Just look at the distorted account of my writing you have received,
probably from Dan Pressnell, a fanatic if I've ever read one.
He is one of the most illogical writers to USENET I've read.
You might check him out through DEJANEWS.  His recent posts
are, lately, quite "off-the-wall."  How he imagines that I have
some responsibility for the activities of Uri Geller, I'll
never know, and what makes him think what I've written of the
JB affair and you, has anything to do with Geller, I cannot
see.

Can I be sure you will represent my writing accurately?

Taking out of context is misrepresentation.  I don't mind if you quote
a sentence, just as long as that sentence does not show a different
meaning than it would when quoted with other writing.

JR:
>I'm confident that we can thereby remove the
>delusion that you may labor under, in this regard.
DK:
Well, I deal with facts, and where there is speculation I write
it as such.  No, there is no delusion.

If you want to put something on your web site, and you want me to
say, "yes, that's fine," please send me the HTML code which I will
view in my browser, and as long as it's accurate, I'll state that
it's fine for you to have it there

I don't care of your differences of opinion, only that I not be
misrepresented.

So, if you reply as if I'd said a certain thing that I'd never said,
that will be misrepresenting me.  It does not have to be direct
misrepresentation to portray an inaccurate meaning of what I'd
written.

Remember, I've encountered much deception and misrepresentation from
pseudo-skeptics on USENET, for some years, so I'm familiar with
such tactics.



Then, James Randi replied, and here it is copied only in part for brevity so
these web pages contain text that is directly to the point. This reply was also
placed on "the proving" Homeopathy mailing list maintained by John Benneth
whose web site is /marius/index.html

JR:

Return-Path: <JamesRandi@compuserve.com>
Received: from hpamgaad.compuserve.com (ah-img-4.compuserve.com [149.174.217.158])
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 00:23:53 -0400
Subject: Randi wants to "clear the air"

Mr. Kettler:  this posting went out to my Star List, which reaches some
9,000 persons around the world ... <snip>

...I received a long explanation from Dan Kettler, saying in part:

DK:
 
"I never stated you refused to test anyone, nor have I stated you tested
and refused to pay the prize.  I have hinted at possible stalling
tactics, which is what JB [John Benneth] is saying, but there is no way for
me to conclude that from the events I know of thus far."
JR:
Okay, that's a better picture.  As I might have expected, this was a
mis-quotation... <snip>


DK:

You write of those who...
"...have a hard time even approaching an actual
confrontation with the rules and regulations of the
prize offer."
DK:
The principal rule that you saw violated, as I recall, was attempted negotiation with
the JREF without first filing an application according to certain specifications.
Another was submission to the JREF of fake names.
JR:
But I must say to Mr. Kettler that when he takes such people as Art Bell
and Ed Dames seriously, rather than as media clowns, he is demonstrating a
certain lack of judgment.  These posturing characters thrive on such
attention, and must be highly amused that some otherwise responsible
persons take their antics to be worth notice.
DK:
What Art Bell and Ed Dames are, or what their true intent was, is not relevant to
the facts I've presented.

It is not relevant whether they were serious in their actual intent. Certain events
did take place in 1997, as shown at this web location...

            http://www.psicounsel.com/artbellclub/bdkspage.html#dames

The meaning of those events is controversial, not the facts.

The matter of how serious they were could have been ascertained if you had followed up on
their offer to discuss details on-the-air.  One question could have been asked, directly,
by you: "Why will you not apply according to the rules"?

That would have been interesting.

The matter of an application having not been filled out by Ed Dames is the main
controversy.  I, and others, were engaged in that controversy in the news group
sci.skeptic, as to the significance of that fact.  I will not, at this time, deal with that
controversy again.

The controversy took place during 1997, and Dejanews has records of those
posts.  Click at "power search."

Here is one posting, linked here to Dejanews.

Here is another.

And another.

There are many more.  See Dejanews.

JR:
I've stretched my patience to new limits with this man John Benneth...<snip>
DK:
The remainder of the above statement was sent to the Homeopathy mailing
list, and the copy should be recorded by many, in full.

I will reply that much of the detail you write of John Benneth is
controversy between you, he, and others.  I'm not so concerned
with the controversy, as I am with the facts.  When I see clear
statements which are verifiable, those I report.  Examples are the
events involving Ed Dames and Art Bell. Another is the statement
about Goldman Sachs (8/20/99)  from John Benneth.  I cannot state
conclusively that what he suggests is true, but the statement is clear
and facts surrounding it can be verified.

Some of my writing is opinion, and it's clear that those statements
of mine are opinion.

JR:
In order to bring this nuisance to a more rapid close, I've agreed to have
him [Benneth] do a simple double-blind preliminary "demonstration" rather
than an actual test... <snip>
DK:
Thank you for the update.
JR:
Please, if you see references to the prize that claim I've refused to pay,
that the prize isn't there, that I've avoided claimants who are sure to
take the prize, or have offered to pay them off to escape having to pay,
just take the references in stride.  They're untrue, and the result of the
frustration invoked by the prize itself.
DK:
I know of no person yet who says you refused to pay something won.
Indeed, as stated by John Benneth, we have yet to see evidence of
an actual claimant having been tested.

As for the matter of the prize being "there," that's proven by time
and communication from Goldman Sachs.

As for avoiding, I only report what others experienced, or what they
said was experienced.

As for an offer of "pay [ing] them off" that's on another URL.
Anything on another URL is between you and other people, not me.

Unless I misquote, the quotes of what others have stated, also, is
between you and they.  The only thing between you and I are my hints
and opinions.  Why even discuss them when I've reported them as
opinions?

The remainder of this saga will be proven by time.  Will you actually
test John Benneth within a reasonable time, like even 2 years from
now?  Will your future proposals be considered fair by a significant
number of others, or by the press?  Will your proposals offer top security
against the possibility of cheating by both the claimant and the JREF
offering the prize?

Finally, will the claimant actually collect the money, assuming he
meets the challenge?

Time will tell.  There is no real controversy between you and I at
this time.
 

JR:
... reports of my demise -- which have also been put out, perhaps in hopes
that Jimminy Cricket will grant the wish -- are also untrue.  Believe that only
if it comes directly from me, okay?
DK:
I believe you are physically alive.  It would be difficult to believe you could
pass from this existence without first resolving certain public matters. They are
not yet resolved, in my opinion.
JR:
We continue to look forward to your comments and suggestions for the web
page.  So far, excellent reactions and ideas.  Thank you.

                                        Randi

DK:
 
I suggest you include this entire dialogue, above, verbatim, on your web
pages, or a link to http://www.psicounsel.com/randiuse.html#randidk

As for your proposal to "discuss each aspect of it" I suggest you discuss
any or all of these matters with those who are directly involved and have
made statements, and then place that dialogue on your web pages, assuming
your quotes give fair and complete representation about their position.

Thank you.

                                     Dan Kettler


JR:
 

James Randi Educational Foundation
201 S.E. 12th Street (Davie Blvd.)
Fort Lauderdale FL 33316-1815

phone:    (954) 467 1112

fax:      (954) 467 1660

http://www.randi.org




In August 1999, James Randi had been discussing procedures for a test of  John Benneth,
then Aug. 20, 1999 this came up -- posted to sci.skeptic amongst other newsgroups:
 

Subject: [theproving] Randi: Who is Richard Adams the Third?

From: John Benneth <gian@cyberhighway.net>

Since Goldman Sachs has reported ignorance of your award, and you have
confessed to there being no account under your name or the James Randi
Educational Foundation, perhaps you would care to tell us who is
personally responsible, besides yourself, for your one million dollar
offer as detailed at your web site and referenced at
http://www.marius.net.

We have heard reports that someone named Richard Adams III (Richard
the Third?) is your financial backer. Who is this person? Is this a real
individual?

John R. Benneth, CEO
Intelligence Data, Inc.
Information Designs for the Internet

Find relevance at http://www.marius.net
 
 

Subject: [theproving] ZWINGE: WHAT DOES GS BACKOUT MEAN?

From: John Benneth <gian@cyberhighway.net>

What does Goldman Sachs' order to have their name dropped from
http://www.randi.org and the matter turned over to their legal
department mean to the credibility of your offer?

John Benneth
Research?
http://www.marius.net
is your new start page.
Go there now.

Find relevance at http://www.marius.net


Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999
From: Dan Kettler <dan (at) psicounsel.com>

See DEJANEWS: www.dejanews.com for "sci.skeptic" and other news group postings

The entire text for the following may be read at John Benneth's site.
 

The following written by John Benneth, as revised in mid April 1999:


                 R E V I E W

         of the Good and Honorable Doctor

                  James "the Amazing" Randi

                  his "educational foundation"

  and the "Million Dollar" Challenge it poses to the world.
 
 

We've taken The JREF and the supporting skeptics up on their
claim, by saying that the motive force of homeopathy is a
radiant phenomenon that can be detected, and that
homeopathic solutions by their intrinsic nature, can be
identified as such and picked out of a crowd of chemically
identical but homeopathically inert substances.

We've discovered in response to our application to the JREF
challenge, and the analysis of reports by others who have
applied, is what seems to us to be a process of defamation
of the applicant and evasiveness.

Some self-styled scientists side with JREF, and use this
claim to continually defame a growing doctrine of medicine.

We made the application, stating that we were accepting it as
being made in good faith, and that we would make every
reasonable effort to hold the "challenger" to articles of
good faith,  and thus we submitted it,  and as of April
16th 1999 we're still waiting for JREF to return it.

What's so difficult about simply returning it? Now we're informed
indirectly by inferences that Dr. Randi has waylaid our claim in
favor of others to try first.

On April 10th, 1999, the renowned Swiss homeopath, Alain
Jean-Mairet  proposed that we produce the protocol that
Randi has said was necessary to be completed for a trial,
a protocol the application to the challenge says is to be
completed in agreement with him, and that we would be
given a week to produce this protocol, or our application
would be considered invalid.

Randi then would be given another week to propose three
dates to conduct a trial of our claim, and that if he failed, his
challenge would be considered invalid.

This offer was copied to a group of people, including Dr. Randi.

We readily accepted. But no response was received by us from
Dr. Randi accepting this proposal, nor was any response to this
proposal known to us to have been received by anyone.

We nevertheless constructed the requested protocol and posted
it a day early.

As of this date, Dr. Randi and the JREF have not acknowledged receipt
of the Jean-Mairet  proposal, nor have they commented on the protocol.

These are the questions that we think good investigators public and private
would be putting to Dr. Randi:

   Our application was mailed to JREF on January 24th.
   Inquiries to JREF have been made but have been rebuffed
   with what has seemed to us, outright hostility.

   So we've put together a list of questions for information
   about JREF.

==============================================================

1. What is the stated mission of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)?
 

2. What is the Challenge as a legal instrument? Who made the legal review?

As of April 14th, 1999, we don't know. The information isn't offered to the
applicant of the Psychic Challenge.
3. What record is there of JREF and the offer made by it at the Florida AG's
office, the Charitable Better Business Bureau and the Better Business Bureau?
Are there any prior complaints?
4. Why won't JREF reveal records of previous applications?
We've asked, but indications are that they either don't exist or are being
withheld. Why aren't they kept for review by those who ask?
5. Why doesn't JREF have a standardized "protocol," an open known testing
procedure for claims? If it has one, it hasn't been presented to us as
of April 14th, 1999.
6. Why won't a JREF officer sign and return the application to the Psychic
    Challenge, or acknowledge it's receipt?

          To our knowledge, no one of the over 100 reported applicants has ever
          received a signed copy of the agreement from Dr. Randi, yet
          Dr. Randi apparently has every test of an applicant without it.
 

7. Why does The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) insist on
     maintaining a hostile attitude towards applicants?

Most of the correspondence received by us from  Dr. Randi has been
accompanied by name calling.
8.  Why does The JREF refuse to schedule a trial?
We've asked repeatedly for JREF to schedule a trial and have been met with
either silence or accusations that we're trying to avoid one.
9. Why does JREF demand irrelevant information from an applicant, and
    then ignore it when it's rendered?
The crux of the trial rests on results, not on the method. Yet
JREF has demanded to know what science will be used after
admitting that any method used to make the determination
is acceptable.
10. Why does JREF accuse the applicant of stalling on the test without
       providing the applicant with the information he needs to complete
       the test?
JREF has been repeatedly asked for clarification on the meaning of protocol,
and has been repeatedly asked for suggestions regarding time and place
of the test.
11. What prior stories, records, lawsuits or incidents are there that can be found
       regarding James Randi and The JREF?
According to reknowned late night talk show host Art Bell, it is the history of
Dr. Randi to argue over the conditions of the test until the applicant gives up.
This report is consistent with our experience.
           http://www.coasttocoastam.com
 

12. Who's the manager of the Goldman Sachs account? What does she or he say?

There's reportedly a million dollars in negotiable bonds kept
at Goldman Sachs as collateral that back up the claim. What
instructions do they have for the disposition of the million dollars
in negotiable bonds that back up the Challenge? Is there another
purpose for this money other than to support the Challenge?
Who receives the interest from that account? How is the interest
from  that money spent within the stated  mission of The JREF?
13.  Why does The JREF conduct every trial informally?

          The rules to the challenge state that anecdotal evidence will not be accepted
          in determining the merit of a claim. However, without  a formal trial of a claim,
          managed by fair and impartial observers, the evidence gathered by JREF in
          support of the Psychic Challenge is in itself merely anecdotal.


It is our opinion that without the guidance of fair and impartial managers, the Challenge is not being conducted in a forthright and fair way. We ask the reader for a review of this.

Current medical science denies homeopathy's validity, and discourages people from availing themselves to it, pointing to its lack of proof.  If it works, they say, why hasn't anyone collected the million? But in our experience, even with proof in hand,  collecting the million appears to be impossible. To us it's been like a rigged carney game. As serious applicants asking for a fair trial of our claim we are instead subjected to running a gauntlet of ad hominem abuse.

And so the question we're posing here is whether the Psychic Challenge is being administered within the context of the inferred mission of an educational foundation, or are people being systematically victimized by this constructed public "offer" for the purpose of furthering a career and avoiding taxes?

What effect does the Challenge have on the greater public interest? Is it dissuading people from availing themselves to an effective form of medical treatment?



END OF (JB) John Benneth QUOTE

           http://www.psicounsel.com/artbellclub/bdkspage.html

           for links to the "JB" site, and other
           WWW sites, along with information about the
           experience of others with this "challenge."


The following are excerpts of the discussion about this "challenge," both on USENET and in e-mail.

In the following writing, there is reference to exchanges of private e-mail which many received copies of, including the mainstream media such as NBC, CNN, etc.  They are all witnesses to the content of this discussion which I participate in.


Partial showing of the discussion:

From: "Syd Baumel" <sgb@escape.ca>

Subject: Re: Randi and the $1 Mill challenge--is it real?
Date: 18 Apr 99 13:44:22 -0600

The JREF application contains a clause in which the applicant waives all right to sue Randi regarding the Challenge.  Also, judging by John Benneth's experience so far (he's the homeopathic challenger) and mine as the "impartial participant" described in earlier posts who helped initiate this particular attempted challenge, it remains unknown if Randi (or some other JREF official) ever signs the application.

JB sent a notarized application form to JREF nearly three months ago, entirely by the rules, and despite repeated requests by him that Randi sign a copy and return it to him (using the return postage JB sent, as applicants are requested to do), Randi has not done so, nor has he explained why or when he will, if ever, despite repeated queries from JB and from me.  In fact, the latest communication I have from him (JB wasn't copied as usual) is that he's suspending any further discussion/negotiation regarding JB's application until he negotiates a homeopathic challenge with a certain Nobel laureate who has since jumped into the picture.

I put it to you, dear true disbelievers: If an applicant waives the right to sue, if s/he is not accorded any legal record of JREF's acceptance of the application, if s/he CAN'T win the first trial because Randi says that every single applicant so far (well over 100, he says) has first been screened by means of a preliminary trial, if Randi refuses to provide any publicly reviewable record of previous challenges other than the less than adequate (for purposes of scientific or forensic review) sampling that he shows on his TV specials and a couple that he briefly described in the course of the JB-related correspondence (one of which raised questions of tester bias, which Randi didn't respond to), wouldn't you be a little apprehensive about the possibility of being unfairly humiliated should you take the Challenge?

Syd Baumel
Editor, The Aquarian
http://www.escape.ca/~sgb
 
 

From: "Syd Baumel" <sgb@escape.ca>
Subject: Re: Randi and the $1 Mill challenge--is it real?

References: <3719E4A8.F437A318@psicounsel.com>
                      <7fctt8$ta$1@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>
                      <4508.777T1105T8244309sgb@escape.ca>
                      <7fdhjq$hu9$1@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>
                      <9806.777T1468T13924360sgb@escape.ca>
                      <7fg0m8$jbf$1@newsmaster.cc.columbia.edu>

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999

NEWSGROUPS:

sci.skeptic
alt.paranet.skeptic
alt.fan.art-bell
misc.health.alternative
alt.news-media
alt.paranormal
Skeptic writes:

               The challenger claimed to have psychic abilities, and
               the test was of the reading psychic cards variety.
               According to Randi, his colleague(s) reported
                back to him that the woman scored no better
                than chance.

                So where, exactly, is the observer bias? Just because Randi
                didn't do the test himself, but two of his collegues did it - and
                he believes what they say? Why shouldn't he believe them?
 

Syd writes:

The question is why should anyone else "believe" them?  Is this about faith
or fact?
 

Skeptic writes:

>Randi didn't just ask these two guys whether they think or believe this
>person had paranormal abilities, took their word as proof, and based his
>claim that she doesn't on their subjective opinion. THAT would be bias
>indeed.

>He asked them to objectively test her and see. They objectively tested
>her, found the test shows no paranormal powers, and reported
>the result back to Randi. If the test was done objectively - and I'll bet
>it was, and that the protocol and its results are publically available, and
>that there were disinterested witnesses that recorded it.
 
 

Syd replies:

I find it impossible to tell from Randi's only post on the subject, which
(with his permission), I reproduce here, as quoted completely in
my reply to it:

Date: 10 Mar 99

From: "Syd Baumel" <sgb@escape.ca>
To: "James Randi" <JamesRandi@compuserve.com>
Subject: Re: White Hole

Syd wrote to Randi:

The following message only made it to my mailbox, so I'm reposting
it to the entire list, along with my reply:
 

Randi wrote:

>It appears to me that Benneth has achieved his goal.  He wants this thing
>to dissolve in chaos, so that he can rise from the ashes and declare
>victory...
 

Syd wrote:

I actually think he wants it to happen.  But "JB" is being very particular.
 
 

Randi wrote:

I don't think Syd really believes that the challenge is used by myself, and others, to prove that anything we donít believe in is false.    This is a damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't scenario.  When I didn't offer a prize, they howled for me to put my money where my mouth is.  I did.  Now they screech that it's a cheap stunt.  I have NEVER expressed the stance that anything I don't believe in is false.   That would be an incredible position to take.
 

Syd:

My point is that your challenge would have much more credibility if you would also produce a "peer reviewable" (i.e. concise, but adequately detailed) record of it.

Certainly, people consider no-one passing the challenge is "proof" that anyone who makes a claim in the paranormal/alt med area that has not passed the goldplated Randi acid test is making an - almost "by definition" - false claim.

The skeptics say:

"If it were true, the believers would have collected Randi's $1 million by now... Why haven't they? Doesn't that bother you?..."

These pages will, later, contain more information.  They are under construction.


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