A Skeptic Vs. Psychic event is set to take place in Bangalore on the 31st of this month. The meeting will attempt to resolve a challenge proposed by Yogi Ashwini of the Dhyan Foundation to rationalist Narendra Nayak, president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations. The Yogi claims that his representative from the foundation can accurately diagnose the health-condition/disease of people from just their photographs. Here are the details of the event:
Date: 31st May, 2009 at 11:00 AM.
Venue: Ashoka Shishu Vihara at Shankarapuram, Bangalore.
Description: The psychic will attempt to accurately diagnose the current health of 10 people, from their photographs alone.
Contact: Narendra Nayak: 94482 16343
The challenge was proposed when Yogi Ashwini (often seen in his PR photos as posing with a mace for dramatic effect) contacted Narendra Nayak, the president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, in regards to the astrology challenge announced here. (Note: A report on the abysmal failure of the astrologers who participated in that event to predict the election results can be found here.) There was a back-and-forth by email between the two, from which this challenge emerged. It was first proposed by Ashwini himself. The press has been invited to cover this event. The Yogi, who is peddling superstition in Europe at the moment, will not be present at the challenge. His representatives from the Dhyan Foundation will represent the psychic yoga side.
Here are some specifics: Narendra Nayak will provide the pictures in sealed envelopes to be opened at the time of the event. The medical reports of the persons in the pictures will be also be provided in sealed envelopes. After the envelopes containing the photos are opened on the spot in the presence of the press and representatives from both sides, and after the diagnosis is made by the psychics, the envelopes containing the medical reports will be opened. Yogi Ashwini has requested that there be 10 photos, 5 being of persons seriously ill (cancer or something similar), living or dead, and the other 5 being of healthy individuals. He has said that the pictures of the sick individuals may be from an earlier time when they were healthy. He has claimed that his representative will be able to say who is sick and who is not with 100% certainty. (It is my personal conviction that a statistically significant result should suffice in our estimation that yoga is indeed a powerful diagnostic tool, although such a statistical result would require multiple trials in order to lower the margin of error).
One comment from the email exchange struck me as peculiar. The Yogi accused Narendra Nayak of having “no faith in his culture“. It is amusing that pseudosciences such as astrology and psychic yoga are considered Indian culture by these con-artists, while reason, rationality and skepticism are not. The Yogi needs to get educated about India’s long tradition in dialectical philosophy and materialism, before he slanders India as a land of superstitions by implying that reason was never part of our traditions. It can be said that he has no faith in his culture, in the same vein, because he rejects those aspects of our culture that are truly great. In truth, the Yogi seems to be ignorant of what science is, because in another email he states unequivocally that “Astrology is a perfect science”! Not only does he not know the history of India, but he also has no clue as to what science constitutes.
If this challenge demonstrates that the claims of the psychic yogis are false, will they concede that psychic predictions don’t work and will they close down their profitable organizations? Somehow I doubt that they will. It’s more likely that they will come up with some excuse to justify their failure. I invite our readers to suggest excuses in order to save them the mental strain of using their brains.
Update: The representatives of the foundation are now demanding that the FIRA send them the photos by mail and that they will deliver us the results at the venue! Of course, this is not acceptable, simply because it is not what was agreed to. The propaganda machine of the foundation is trying to spin this by saying that WE are the ones who are scared and backing away. Have you ever heard of any test where the people getting tested are the ones who set up the conditions of the test? These challenges between skeptics and so-called psychics follow well-established protocols. For example, James Randi in the US has been performing such challenges for decades. In all these cases, it is the rationalists who provide fool-proof conditions where these “psychics” cannot resort to tricks. We are all aware of the resourcefulness of charlatans in their trickery. So, unless the Dhyan foundation abides by the rules agreed to by both parties, this is a victory for rationalism and our claim that the yogi Ashwini is a con-man will be established.