A man walks into a lawyer’s office and says, “I bet $200 I can bite my own eye.” The lawyer replies: “That challenge is absurd. I don’t want to play a part in it. Please leave this office. I have a lot of work to do.”
That may not sound like the most entertaining solution to that story. But challenges like these present all sorts of pitfalls. It’s crazy that two people would ever agree to one, because one – or both – are bound to get screwed.
A measles skeptic offered $100,000 if you could prove measles is real
Ten years before vaccines for this latest scourge were rejected by skeptics, the anti-vax movement was already alive and well. That’s more than we can say for the children of these anti-vaxxers, who continued to contract preventable illnesses, but the movement’s followers remained strong. A German anti-vaxxer, Stefan Lanka, didn’t just question vaccines — he disputed the very existence of several famous viruses. He denied that HIV is real and in November 2011 offered 100,000 euros to anyone who could prove that the measles virus exists.
He said the symptoms exist, but they are psychosomatic, caused by trauma, just as stress can give you a rash. Another German scientist, David Bardens, knew full well that measles is really a virus, and he answered the challenge by compiling half a dozen papers on the subject. Lanka refused to pay. So Bardens took him to court, which ruled that Bardens could have proved the existence of this long-standing pathogen, and Lanka had to pay him.