Germany's 'Society for the Scientific Investigation of Para-Sciences' Offers $11,700 Prize for Proof of Psychic Ability
German skeptic organization the Society for the Scientific Investigation of Para-Sciences (GWUP) offers a yearly prize of $11,700 to anyone capable of proving to the organization’s standards that they possess psychic abilities—so far, no one has claimed the prize.
The GWUP is comprised of German physicists, biologists, and psychologists who seek to study those who claim to have psychic abilities, such as telekinesis, telepathy, or the ability to find hidden objects or water through remote viewing or divining. The scientists invite hopeful psychic practitioners to the University of Würzburg in Germany each year to test their claims, and offer the prize if they can prove the validity of their abilities.
Rainer Wolf is a perceptual researcher at the university, and the man who oversees the yearly tests.
“We’re not here to make people look ridiculous,” Wolf said in a recent documentary. “We just want to show that many such claims are nonsense.”
According to Wolf, the tests overseen by the GWUP are designed for impartiality and to reduce the effect of random chance—one example being the 2017 testing of Marcel Polte, a man convinced that he possesses telekinetic powers. Polte was asked to move a piece of foil balanced on a pin using only his mind; a glass case was placed over the setup to prevent any stray air currents from affecting the foil, and Polte was ultimately unable to move it.
Wolf said that he and his colleagues don’t necessarily believe that the aspirant psychics are purposely deceptive, but rather that they are trapped in a belief system that they have built up over time. Furthermore, this belief becomes even more entrenched when challenged, and believers are more likely to excuse their own failures—if they remember them at all.
Believers in psychic abilities and those who are themselves skeptical of GWUP’s motivation behind the tests are dubious of the organization’s methods.
For instance, in one test a man who believed himself to have the ability to divine the location of water failed to choose which of ten buckets placed before him contained the liquid, but the question was raised of whether or not it was the laboratory environment that was to blame.
"How do they know that the pipes and water under the ground isn't effecting the results?" asked one viewer of the documentary. "These should be done in the desert or a field."
Still others questioned whether the beliefs of the scientists might be affecting the psychic phenomenon on a quantum, probabilistic level.
"The observers affected the results. Quantum physics. They all consciously expected him to fail," commented another dissenting viewer.
In the end, the one conclusion upon which both skeptics and believers seem to agree is that no one’s mind is likely to be changed by GWUP’s research.