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Richard Imwalle, President
University of Arizona Foundation
P.O. Box 210109
Tucson AZ 85721-0109
March 27, 2001
Dear President Imwalle:
I write you from the office of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am James Randi, the founder and president.
As I'm sure you are aware, international attention has recently been given to research on "human energy systems" conducted at the University of Arizona by Dr. Gary E. R. Schwartz. The general interpretation of that research, though understandably hyperbolized by the media, is that evidence may have been produced to show that some persons have the ability to communicate with the spirits of deceased persons. This is a subject that greatly interests this Foundation.
This Foundation offers a million-dollar challenge to those who believe they can offer evidence of paranormal, occult, or supernatural matters. Dr. Schwartz has expressed no interest in taking this prize on behalf of the University, because of the terminology used. He writes:
Randi's prize is for "paranormal" research. We do not use the term "paranormal" or "supernatural." We use the term "human energy systems" which is based upon contemporary physics and systems science....Randi could always claim that our findings were not "paranormal" using these theories, and therefore not award the prize.
Dr. Schwartz also has told us that:
... we do not apply for prizes. We conduct research. It is a fact that we apply for grants....The University of Arizona will accept gifts for credible things by anyone, including us.
President Imwalle, I assure you that the JREF would never choose to withhold the prize by taking refuge in the terminology, as Dr. Schwartz suggests. And we understand that the word "prize" might be rather unsatisfactory to describe an academic goal, though the word "Nobel" does spring to mind. However, Dr. Schwartz has drawn the lines clearly, and we feel an obligation to try to meet his needs in the matter.
To circumvent these problems, this Foundation will include "human energy systems" as an acceptable term to be included among those for which we will award our prize, subject of course to a more detailed description of what that term would encompass in any specified protocol. In addition, we will choose to re-designate our "prize" as a "grant," so that it might be more favorably considered.
The amount in question is one million U.S. dollars (US$1,000,000) presently held in the form of negotiable bonds. We are prepared to offer this grant to the University of Arizona, to be used for any purpose, without qualification, that the Directors of the University may designate. This offer is subject to the following conditions:
1. The data already gathered by the Schwartz group (transcripts, videos, audio recordings, notes, protocols, etc.) should be submitted to an independent Qualified Panel (see below) for evaluation.
2. Dr. Schwartz and/or his co-workers should be prepared to respond to specific inquiries made by the Qualified Panel following their examination of the data submitted to them.
3. Should that data and the responses to any questions be satisfactory to the Qualified Panel, the JREF will agree that the "preliminary examination" as designated in our official offer (see www.randi.org/research/challenge.html) has been accomplished. The next step would be to refine a protocol that would be satisfactory to the Qualified Panel and to the needs of Dr. Schwartz, to proceed with the formal test of the "human energy systems" phenomena.
As for the "Qualified Panel" we suggest, it would include these persons:
1. Stanley Krippner, Ph.D./psychology, Northwestern University. Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies, Saybrook Institute, San Francisco. Member of the American Society for Psychical Research. Author, and President of the Parapsychological Association, 1983.
2. Marvin Minsky, Ph.D./mathematics, Princeton. Mathematician, educator, author. Fellow of I.E.E.E., American Academy of Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Science. Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, MIT.
3. Ray Hyman, Ph.D./psychology, Johns Hopkins. Professor emeritus of psychology, University of Oregon. Author and founding member of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Consultant, U.S. Government, Department of Defense, CIA, inquiries into "remote viewing."
4. Michael Shermer, Ph.D./History of Science, Claremont Graduate School. Editor and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, columnist for Scientific American Magazine, multiple author, host of the Caltech Science Lecture Series.
This is our suggested "Qualified Panel" of Ph.D. scientists who have agreed with this Foundation to examine the data gathered by Dr. Schwartz. They are all informed, willing, specialists, who I believe will be acceptable to Dr. Schwartz. I, James Randi, would not be involved in any evaluations made by the Panel.
Dr. Imwalle, this is a legitimate offer made by the James Randi Educational Foundation and its Board of Directors. We are genuinely interested in knowing more about the research data generated by Dr. E. R. Schwartz, and we feel that the public and the media should be properly informed of the quality and extent of the work being done at the University, rather than making uninformed assumptions. And, we believe that Dr. Schwartz will agree with us that we should "follow the data where they lead."
I await your response with great interest. Thank you for considering this suggestion.
Editor's note: Later, Randi posted this commentary on his website:
I have received a most courteous letter from Dr. Imwalle at the University of Arizona, in response to my inquiry about whether the University would accept a grant of one million dollars from the JREF following a positive independent evaluation of Dr. Gary Schwartz's data. This was described here on the May 4th update, two weeks back. Dr. Imwalle informs us that he reviewed the offer with his colleagues on campus, and concluded that "the University is not prepared at this time to pursue the matter." He suggested that I "talk directly with Dr. Schwartz" about the "many issues [that] need to be discussed and resolved."
My final comment: Why would a researcher duck the issue if he had any faith in what he was doing? The researcher if he fails would be no worse off than before, but if he succeeded would win fame for himself and his university and would shut the skeptics down. What a victory! But alas, he pussies out as expected.