Believers And Skeptics Agree About Something

As strange as it may seem, and despite the often vigorous disagreements between sceptics and believers, there is one point upon which there is no disagreement at all. And the point is this: there are some psychics out there that are frauds (and some who are non-psychic but merely self-deluded).

The sceptical standpoint is that it is unlikely that there are any real psychics, and those who profess those abilities are either frauds or deluded. The difference between believers and sceptics, of course, is that the believers think that some psychics, at least, are real.

When I have visited pro paranormal blogs, I have often asked one simple question: how does anyone decide, objectively, whether any particular psychic is real or not?

An answer to that question would solve the dispute over the existence of the paranormal once and for all, I think.

It seems to me that knowing that the person you are dealing with is properly qualified to dispense the service he or she is involved in is crucial. If you visit your family doctor, for example, you might not actually wander up to his framed medical certificate on the wall just to check that it isn’t really just his cycling proficiency certificate. But you can be reasonably sure that he is not just pretending to be a doctor. It’s illegal, for a start, for anyone to profess medical qualifications that he or she does not have. That person could end up in jail for trying to pull such a scam.

In principle, however, it can be checked. You have every right to go and have a look at that certificate hanging on the wall. You can make enquiries about your doctor’s qualifications. If you really want to be pedantic about it, you can investigate further through all available channels. Doctors are registered (licensed to practice) and have to abide by all the rules, regulations and laws that that entails. In other words, they have to have proven they can do what they claim to be able to do.

It’s a bit different with psychics, however. Anyone can set up shop and call themselves a psychic (or medium, channeler, astrologer, intuitive or any other kind of paranormal or supernatural expert). No accredited training to undergo, no recognised regulatory body to oversee their activities, no exams to pass, none of this business about spending endless hours reading and researching the subject your university lecturer wants you to study (and then having to justify what you write in an assigned essay, complete with references from previous peer-reviewed research), and certainly no hard work at all.

Anyone – anyone at all – can set up business as a psychic. There is no regulation at all. No psychic has to actually demonstrate, objectively, that he or she can “communicate” with “the other side.” All they need is to find people who believe them. And those people are ten a penny.

Victorian seance real or bogusOK, then. I will repeat the question I have posed on various pro paranormal blogs: we agree that there are some fraudulent psychics out there, as well as some psychics who are not psychic but self-deluded; how do we tell which are which?

When I have posed the same question to anyone, I have been faced with either the fact that some people just ignore the question, or I get the usual excuses: it doesn’t work like that; psi cannot just be called up at will; the presence of an unbeliever upsets the psychic energy/psychic vibrations; etc.

If this stuff is real, and has been proven scientifically – as many of the pro paranormalists claim – then it should be easy to tell which psychics are real and which are not.

Oh, come on. There is no objective, testable, repeatable, tangible, irrefutable evidence that psychics are real. That’s why no paranormal “expert” can tell you how to know which are real and which aren’t. And when you think about it, that explains why parapsychology is the only “science” where a paranormal entity cannot actually be demonstrated, but the alleged existence of psi is inferred by the absence of natural explanations – in other words, “I can’t find out what’s causing this, therefore it is [insert preferred woo].” And that is just bad thinking.

It’s around a hundred and fifty years now, since the paranormal began to be investigated in what could possibly be described as a methodological manner. And after all that time, we are still waiting for proof that anything – anything at all paranormal – is even going on. It’s a good job we’re not still waiting for the big breakthrough in electricity. If things went the same in science as they do in parapsychology, we’d still be waiting for that awesome electricity stuff to be produced for our benefit; but we’d be reading about it by candlelight.

OK, then, I do not believe that the paranormal is real, because there is no confirmable evidence to support it; but I agree with the pro paranormalists who say that there are fraudulent psychics out there, and some who are merely self-deluded.

Now will they just show us how to tell the difference?

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