From April 1st 2023 the NZ Skeptics, along with the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists, are offering a one hundred thousand dollar (NZ $100,000) prize as part of the NZ Skeptics Challenge – and this is definitely not an April Fool’s joke!
Until recently the well known skeptic Stuart Landsborough, of Wanaka’s Puzzling World, offered a $100,000 psychic challenge. After three decades of supposed mind readers and spirit talkers attempting to win his prize and failing, he ended the challenge upon his retirement. The NZ Skeptics consider their new challenge to be the “spiritual” successor of his amazing work.
To celebrate this event, the NZ Skeptics are publicly challenging three prominent Kiwis, all of whom are profiting from making unproven claims, to apply for the prize money:
- Ken Ring, who claims he can predict the weather and earthquakes by looking at the moon (his predictions are available in his $120 almanac)
- Kelvin Cruickshank, psychic, who believes he can communicate with the spirits of dead people
- Kirsten Taylor, naturopath and herbalist, who sells a homeopathic, herbal and flower essence remedy that she advertises as being able to help people sleep
To win the prize, and conclusively prove skeptics wrong, these people would need to agree to a controlled testing protocol, where their ability would be examined scientifically and rigorously. An independent judge would oversee the testing to ensure both parties followed the agreed protocol.
Craig Shearer, chair of the NZ Skeptics, has had enough of people making bold claims but not backing them up with evidence.
“Far too often, we see people make the news because they have a supposed special ability that defies science. We’re pretty sure that science is right, and they’re wrong – and we’re putting our money on the line to show this. We’re willing to put in the effort to test these people, and if they can show they’re real, they deserve the money. We see plenty of claims, backed up by testimonials from “satisfied” customers, but these anecdotes don’t constitute good evidence.”
Hema Paterson, president of the Rationalists, agrees.
“If anyone’s going to talk about how they can speak to ghosts, heal the sick through prayer, or see auras, they’d better have some pretty good proof that they’re not deliberately or accidentally deceiving people.”
Although the challenge is available through invite only, the public are welcome to submit their name and the details of their ability to the NZ Skeptics if they think they can do something that defies well-established science. Or they can send in the name of someone else they think is pulling the wool over people’s eyes. Anyone can send the Skeptics a tip-off by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting https://skeptics.nz/challenge. The rules of the challenge can be read at https://skeptics.nz/challenge/rules.