Monday’s Noontide Query: Double Standards

James Randi

James Randi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s something I’ve always been curious about — Actually, there’s far too much I’m curious about! — Most people are aware that stage-conjurors are doing tricks when they perform, and conjurors are generally up-front with this — honest liars who use the errors our brains make to fool us into witnessing the performance of faux miracles before our very eyes — as are their cousins, the mentalists, who fool us by feigning power over our minds and thoughts — successfully, I might add.

But self-styled paranormalists, so-called psychics and their supporters, who claim that their abilities are genuine, despite a lack of convincing evidence, with a suspicious unwillingness to provide it, are not held to the standards of reliability of conjurors and mentalists who tell us we’re being fooled…


Psychics and their supporters repeatedly say that they are “never 100%,” when a conjuror absolutely MUST be able to perform his tricks, to ply his trade and make his livelihood on stage, ALL of the time, or let’s face it, he’s not a very well-practiced trickster, is he?

Somehow, the paranormalists’ argument seems weak, or at least, uncompelling.

A magician whose tricks were only as reliable as those of people claiming genuine powers would quickly be out of a job.

At minimum, it only raises the question it is intended to rebut — Why should I accept that a power which works less often is more real than a more reliable effect — of the very same sort the psychic performs — especially when the former typically fails only in the known presence of trained magicians or other skeptical observers? — who just might recognize the alleged miracle for the trick it is by knowing or being able to figure out the technique it uses and thus expose the perpetrator.

So why the double standard? I’ve never heard an adequate justification for it, and arguments about the unreliability of mysterious mental phenomena don’t count — that’s just special pleading and assuming as proven what has yet to be demonstrated convincingly — bona fide paranormal mental abilities.

And magicians are people who have a considerable financial stake in consistency of performance, all the time, or at least all the time when on stage during a show.

It occurs to me that if alleged psychics say their powers are a reality, aren’t the stakes higher from a scientific viewpoint than the known tricks of conjurors?

There would be serious consequences to wrongly rejecting such a reality, were that the case, even though what they claim to do involves the very same efects used by people whom we know are tricking us, and who tell us so, and still do it anyway — 100%.


Should psychics be held to lower, equal, or higher standards than magicians, when performing the very same feats as those in the stage acts of known tricksters?


Does anything at all justify a double-standard for performance reliability given the alleged “fickleness” of claimed psi abilities and the general consistency of conjurors’ stage-illusions?

If so, what?

Monday’s Noontide Query is a question that I pose to you, my readers, and do feel free to comment…I’m not a baby-eating ogre, and I don’t bite…much. This installment is published on Monday at 12:00 PM.

About Troy Loy

I seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.

Posted on Monday, 12:00, March 26, 2012, in Queries & Inquiry and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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