Are monetary prizes a good way to publicize ideas?

The thread about the Evolution 2.0 Prize (and then @Dan_Eastwood’s post about it on another thread) led me to wonder: Are monetary prizes a good way to publicize ideas?

As soon as I heard about the Evolution 2.0 Prize, I thought of several other cash awards offered over the years for anyone who could “prove” or “disprove” a particular idea about origins. Kent Hovind’s $250,000 prize for “anyone who can give any empirical evidence (scientific proof) for evolution” immediately came to mind. There was also that California creationist who offered $10,000 to anyone who could scientifically debunk Genesis 1. There’s also that Turkish creationist who offers a reward for anyone who can point to a transitional fossil which “proves” that evolution has ever occurred in the history of life on earth.

I struggled to recall the names and other specifics associated with various other prizes offered by Christians—but then I found this article:

Of course, if one steps outside of the origins arena, we can all think of a great many cash prizes which have helped incentivize important scientific discoveries and technical developments (e.g, the British Longitude Rewards.) Nevertheless, is the origins arena already overly tainted by so many notorious cash prize challenges which never had much credibility? After all, many such offers by various creationists were just poorly constructed publicity stunts, and the rules of adjudication were often contrived in such a way as to make winning the cash awards impossible.

I’m not implying that the Evolution 2.0 Award is necessarily a bad idea. Yet I do wonder how scientists and others will react to such a challenge. What do you think? Is it a good idea? (This is a question quite separate from one’s opinion of ID, Perry Marshall’s writings on “DNA is a code”, and related debates. Those discussions are best tackled in other threads.)


We should add James Randi’s million dollar prize for demonstrating Extra Sensory Perception.

On a much smaller scale, I have tried (unsuccessfully) to engage people in small wagers ($5-20) on subjects where people are making extraordinary claims. The idea is to get people to back up claims with more than empty words, even if it’s just a couple of bucks. The trouble is, if they are bluffing they won’t commit, or are serious but don’t actually know the subject well enough to bet on it. The closest I’ve come is a gentleman’s agreement for a Starbucks gift card (I had to set a very high bar to get them to agree, so I’m nearly certain to lose).