Monday, December 31, 2012

The difference between psychics and magicians

With the title of this post I don't mean to say that the first are scammers and the second are just entertainers. What I mean to say is what's the difference between psychics (or, for that matter, anybody who claims supernatural powers) and stage magicians from the perspective of people who want to believe in the supernatural powers of the human mind?

The only difference between them is that the former claim that their tricks are not tricks at all, but completely genuine, while stage magicians make no such claims (at least not seriously; sometimes they may allude at mystical powers, but it's just for the entertainment, and they are fully ready to say that it's just an act for the purposes of entertainment if asked about it.)

The strange thing about this is that this difference is really effective. The mere claim that the fraudsters present is enough to convince the believers. Nothing else is needed. The believers are completely ready to accept said claim, and will defend the claim to death if challenged.

What makes this really schizophrenic is that these exact same people who defend alleged psychics do not have any problem whatsoever in accepting and acknowledging that the exact same tricks performed by stage magicians are just that, ie. tricks with no supernatural origin of any kind. Just sleight of hand, misdirection, doing things behind the scenes hidden from the viewers...

And the thing is, the stage magicians do the exact same things as the psychics, such as "mind reading", "predicting the future", spoon bending and all other kinds of seemingly impossible feats. Yet, somehow, the believers still have this weird attitude where they fully accept these things as just physical tricks, while still defending the exact same stunts as genuine and supernatural when performed by psychics.

It seems that if someone claims that the trick is not a trick, that it's a genuine supernatural event, that's enough. It doesn't matter if it can be demonstrated that the exact same stunt can be performed via entirely natural means; that makes absolutely no difference. It's still genuine and supernatural when made by a psychic.

When challenged, the believer will inevitably resort to an argument from ignorance. "Yeah? If it's a trick, then how does he do it? Can you explain that to me?" Any counter-argument along the lines of "well, can you explain to me how a stage magicians does the same thing?" will be ignored. If you can't explain how the psychic does it, that's proof enough that it's genuine and supernatural. Never mind the stage magicians.

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