Here at Consumer Affairs we’re acutely aware of our own limitations which is why, when investigating various claims or complaints made by our readers, we generally stick with the standard mainstream, scientifically-accepted human senses: things we can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Claims of psychic phenomena or extra-sensory perception (ESP) are, by definition, excluded from this list because if psychic talents do exist, they have not been bestowed upon us.
We mention this because, when we checked our email today, we found a press release offering a review copy of a self-published book claiming to discuss psychic phenomena. “Author warns of government harnessing the ‘God Spot’,” read the email’s subject heading, and the text assured us that “many people today experience psychic phenomena and have no real way to talk about or document them,” which means that “government intervention and destruction of privacy could eventually take place not only on social media and telephones but also psychic abilities targeted in the brain.”
A new plateau in surveillance
In other words, the author is warning that, besides eavesdropping on our telephone calls, emails and social media activities, the government may soon be looking inside our minds to see what we're thinking.
You can, of course, find people roaming the streets of any big city, already claiming that the government is reading their thoughts. Our editor once narrowly escaped being stabbed by a butcher-knife-wielding woman who accused him of broadcasting her dreams on the local all-news radio station.
Nevertheless, this does pique our interest. After all: if psychic, supernatural or extrasensory powers can be proven to exist, that would arguably be the greatest scientific discovery in history. Unfortunately, as we said already, we’re utterly unqualified to investigate such claims ourselves.
However, there is an established non-profit organization that not only investigates psychic or supernatural claims under controlled laboratory conditions, but has established a million-dollar trust fund payable to anyone capable of demonstrating genuine psychic or extra-sensory abilities under these conditions.
The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is “an educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscientific and the supernatural” which for several years now has sponsored the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. (Actually, JREF’s financial records show that, thanks to compound interest, the account balance had grown to over $1.4 million by March 2013.)
The ground rules for the million-dollar challenge are pretty straightforward. JREF’s website says:
“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.’”
The application form and a more detailed copy of the rules can be found on JREF’s website here. We're not recommending this, mind you. Merely passing it along for what it's worth.