I'm asked this often... "What if someone won the JREF $1,000,000 Challenge?"
Well, what if? Let's consider. In order for someone to win the challenge, one of two things would have to happen. Either someone would have to fool us into believing they had paranormal powers, or they'd actually have them.
The first situation is carefully guarded against. The claimant's protocols are reviewed by magicians and statisticians before approval, and a lot of effort is expended to ensure that a crafty conjurer can't get past us. Those who were at TAM 7 can testify that the situation was carefully controlled, and the audience was unaware of many other precautions that were in place. So far, so good—no one has fooled us yet!The second situation is much more interesting.
Imagine if Connie Sonne had won at TAM 7. That was a preliminary challenge, so preparation would have begun immediately for the final challenge. Everything would have been reviewed to see if there was something done incorrectly, or if there was any cheating. If nothing was found, the final test would take place, looking much like the preliminary.
Let's say she won the final. After a quick review, the JREF determines that she did indeed win the challenge. The JREF hands her a check for $10,000 and liquidates $990,000 from the prize account at Goldman Sachs according to Ms. Sonne's instructions. A press conference is held, and we announce to the world that Ms. Sonne is the "real deal." We invite scientists from all over the world to talk with her about the possibility of learning more about her ability, and we congratulate her on finally proving to the world that psychic powers exist. We also urge others to replicate our findings.
And then the entire world changes.
At this point, psychic powers have become something known to exist. Unless the JREF made some massive error, we now have to accept that psychics are real. The challenge would change substantially, as it would have to exclude claims of psychic ability just as it excludes claims of running a 4-minute mile. (If you can run a 1-minute mile, give us a shout.) We'd find another way to fund the prize, either through donations or some other scheme... and life would go on.
From the JREF's perspective, someone winning the challenge isn't the end of the world. In fact, it's the beginning. If these things are real, WE WANT TO KNOW. In the meantime, all available evidence points to them NOT being real, and that will be our assumption until we're shown differently.