Monthly Archives: March 2012

Who Said Logic Isn’t Fun?

I couldn’t help laughing when I came across this cartoon from the fabulous xkcd website:

If you get the joke, then congratulations, you know what a bi-conditional is, and you recognise formal logic when you see it.

If you don’t get the joke but are curious to know why it is funny, then stick around this blog for a while; logic is what it’s about.

If you don’t get the joke but still think you understand logic, you are probably a paranormal expert.

(The sub text to the above explains it all: “Note that this implies you should NOT honk solely because I stopped for a pedestrian and you’re behind me”.)

Priceless.

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The Popularity of the Appeal to Popularity

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible. – Bertrand Russell.

MP900390083How many believers does it take to make an assertion true? For a lot of people, the popularity of a belief is a good enough substitute for evidence, but that thinking is bad thinking.

The thing to keep in mind here is that the truth or falsity of a claim depends on the evidence that supports it (or perhaps refutes it), and the number of people who believe a particular thing is totally irrelevant. Millions of people believe they have seen UFOs; millions more think they have seen a ghost; millions more are certain that psychics can put them in contact with the dead. The only thing lacking in all of those scenarios is confirmable evidence.

I’ve come across some self-styled paranormal “experts” who use this kind of fallacious reasoning regularly. Their argument goes like this: “A large number of people – maybe hundreds – claim to have seen a particular UFO phenomenon at the same time. Therefore we should accept the reality of alien visitation.”

A similar argument goes like this: “Thousands of people have reported individual, lone encounters with cryptids [Bigfoot and other non-existent creatures]. Therefore, the sheer volume of reports means that we should accept the existence of these alleged animals.”

What all of these accounts of paranormal reports have in common, of course, is a singular lack of evidence other than the unsupported claims that are made – however sincere those claims might be. And promoters of paranormal piffle tend to compound matters by saying such inane things as, “Could so many people be mistaken?” (Well, yes, actually.)

Keep in mind the fact that the number of people who believe something is entirely independent of whether that “something” is true or not. Try this idea:

Christianity is the true religion because there are over two billion people who believe in it.

Now if we were able to ask the seven billion people on earth this question: is Christianity the true religion? then there would certainly be five billion people who say “no.” For them, Christianity is a false religion.

Try it again with Islam: for about 5.4 billion others, it, too, is a false religion.

Then try it with Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc. What soon becomes clear is that if the argument to popularity is reliable, then 100% of the people on Earth agree that the other fellow’s religion is false, so all religions must be false.

Personally, I do think that all religions are false, but the argument to popularity doesn’t prove it, in the same way it doesn’t prove that any religion is true, or that aliens are here, or that cryptids exist or that ghosts, psychics and all the rest of it are real. The argument to popularity is one of the weakest arguments it is possible to use when trying to prove a point, but it does seem to be quite popular, as it were – at least among those who have absolutely nothing else to support their extraordinary claims.

The bottom line.

The argument to popularity (argumentum ad populum) is a fallacy of irrelevance. The number of people who believe a particular proposition does not determine whether it is true or not. A proposition stands or falls on the evidence that supports it, no matter how many people believe it (or disbelieve it, for that matter).

Psychics And The Numbers Game

ClairvoyantHow many people do you know? If you think about it, you could probably list at least a hundred or more. There are parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, friends, colleagues and others you come into contact with regularly in your day to day activities. So what?, you might say, but this is one of the reasons why psychics seem to be uncannily accurate when they “identify” people  known to those they give a reading for.

Isn’t it marvellous when a psychic talks to an audience and identifies not only people an audience member knows who are alive, but also people they knew but who are now dead? And they even seem to know about family members who died, but whom the sitters knew only through second hand stories passed down through a couple of generations of family history. How do they do it?

A couple of years ago, I went along to see a psychic performing to a live audience. The venue was fairly small but it was filled to capacity. The legal limit for attendance, due to fire safety regulations, was 110 people – all tickets were sold, and there had even been a waiting list for any possible cancellations. The place was sold out.

And then the psychic started his performance. (As a side note, I recorded the whole thing on a digital voice recorder (excellent quality) and later transcribed the whole thing – and that itself will provide enough ammunition for a whole other series about psychics and cold reading.) And – so it seemed to some of the audience – he “told them things he could not possibly have known.” He appeared to identify people in the audience by name; he appeared to to identify the dead relatives of people in the audience; he appeared to identify some of those deceased people that some of the audience knew through family tradition only. How could that be possible unless the psychic really was psychic?

Here’s how it’s done by someone who is not really psychic:

Suppose that the average person might know a hundred people – living or dead. For an audience of 110 people that means 110 x 100 = 11,000 possible names available for the psychic to “suggest” to the audience. If you have ever attended a live performance of a psychic or just watched one of the psychics on TV, think about it: they tend to say something like, “I’m getting the name James. Does that mean anything to anyone here?” If there is no response, then: “It could be Jim, Jimmy? Jane, Jenny? Kenny? Lenny?” And so it goes on, until someone in the audience exclaims, “Yes! That’s…” someone they know or knew.

Notice that no psychic ever singles out a person and goes to them saying something like, “You must be Elsie Bloggins. Your husband Roger tells me that he died suddenly two months ago when he collapsed with a massive stroke. He also tells me that you are worried because you think there is no money to get you by. He wants you to stop worrying because he wants you to know that he had just finalised his will – leaving you well taken care of – and it is hidden beneath the loose floorboard in the cupboard under the stairs.”

If that kind of accuracy were the norm, and the claim turned out to be true, then I would believe in the reality of psychics and mediumship. But that doesn’t happen. A psychic can throw out a name to an audience, as above, and out of at least 11,000 possible connections, it’s really hard for the psychic to score a miss. As in my previous post about psychics, I explained this idea to the same lady I mentioned then (I’ll call her “Linda” for convenience). Someone in the audience is almost certain to be able to make a connection of some sort.

I explained it to Linda this way: suppose the psychic, instead of just suggesting common names like Michael, Tom, Jane and suchlike, had actually included an old fashioned and obscure name like Septimus. He could have said something like, “Does anyone recognise the name Septimus? An older gentlemen who would have been known by his friends and family as “Sep”, or “Seppy.”

Linda was startled. “That was my great uncle’s name,” she exclaimed. “You couldn’t possibly have known that.” (Keep that phrase in mind as we go through this series about psychics.)

I didn’t “know” that at all, of course.  And I wasn’t claiming that the fictional Sep was anyone she knew personally. Even though I was just explaining a point, Linda – a believer if ever there was one – assumed that I had made some sort of psychic connection with her relative.

The fact that I had mentioned a rare and unusual name to her and it was identified, was a bit of a fluke. The probability of one particular person identifying such a name is smaller than throwing the same name out to a large audience, but that’s alright: in a one to one psychic reading it is sometimes worth taking a chance; if the guess is wrong, it is soon forgotten and never referred to again.

It’s a numbers game because psychics make guesses that have a high probability of scoring a hit. Common names are used more in one to one situations; rare names are used more when there is an audience.

Names are just one part of it, though. The same applies to occupations. When a psychic says to the audience – or an individual – something like, “Why am I seeing a uniform?”, he or she is not making a statement, they are asking a question. It is up to the sitter or audience member to volunteer the information. How many people do you know who wear a uniform? Someone who goes to sea; a police officer; nurse; fireman; supermarket worker; fast food operative; barrister; paramedic; traffic warden; security guard, etc.

But the word “uniform” can also cover a range of clothing that is not a uniform in the “peaked-cap” sense. Many people have to wear certain clothing appropriate to the job they do; for example, a car mechanic usually wears overalls; the fellow behind the counter in the bank wears a suit; a butcher wears a traditional apron, and so on. All of these can be called a uniform of sorts, and it just needs a small stretch to accept that a uniform just means that in a particular environment, people do dress “uniformly.”

So there’s nothing marvellous going on when a psychic asks his audience – or a single sitter – “Why am I seeing a uniform?” When he asks a question like that, it is the person or persons he is doing the reading for who then have to find the connection, and, more importantly, supply the meaning.

In a situation like this, psychics play what I have called a numbers game. A very large number of people wear a uniform of some sort, even if it is not something as distinctive as a military type uniform, so the probability of a sitter or audience member thinking such a statement is a hit is very high. Unremarkable, even. How many people do you know who wear (or wore) a uniform of some kind?

Then again, what about a psychic who says something specific about a sitter or the sitter’s deceased relative? No problem. This is where Linda comes in again.

Despite trying to assure Linda that I have no psychic abilities whatsoever, she is sceptical of my assertion that I am not psychic (irony, anyone?). And one night when we were talking, she insisted that I “do something psychic.” She insisted that I tell her something about her life that no-one else could possibly know. And she kept on insisting until the only way to stop her was to say to her, “OK.”

“Think back a lot of years,” I said to her, “to when you were a little girl. There’s one particular day I’m thinking of. Remember the time you were climbing those railings and you fell off? You hurt yourself – in fact you injured your leg.”

Linda immediately gasped as she sat up straight with a look of shock on her face, her eyes wide and her jaw hanging open. “You couldn’t possibly have known that,” she exclaimed.

She added some detail, however. Apparently the accident she was thinking of happened when her family took her on holiday in the countryside. It wasn’t actually railings but a wooden fence she fell from. and the injury to her leg was caused by some barbed wire attached to the fence. And it was a painful injury. Just amazing that I knew all that.

However, I didn’t know it. What do children do? They run around, they climb things and they fall off things. Often, they hurt themselves when they fall – it’s all part of growing up and learning about the world around them. What happened to Linda happens to just about everyone, so mentioning a childhood accident is no big deal. And, as I mentioned earlier, the sitter supplies the information, and Linda certainly gave it  all of its meaning. All I did then was to listen to her filling in the details as I murmured the occasional, “Yes”, “That’s right”, and so on. I was wrong about railings, I didn’t know anything about the barbed wire, it happened in the countryside, it was during a summer holiday – I just offered a generic scenario, and left it to Linda to tell me the details, after which she convinced herself that I really had done something psychic.

As always, in this sort of situation, I took her through it all and explained that I merely suggested a scene, but that she took it from there and filled in all the missing details.I’m not sure I convinced her, though. She still seems to think I am psychic but in denial about it. People like her (bless) are what keeps psychics in business.

Next time you see a psychic in action, just make a mental note of how often he or she asks questions – or makes open-ended statements – as opposed to how often they home in on precise details. Mentioning a common scenario such as a childhood accident is not as precise as it seems, and people tend to assume that the things they have experienced are unique to them. But they are not so unique at all. If you ever see one as precise as Mrs Bloggins’ psychic above, it’s probably understandable if you feel the need to raise an eyebrow.

Obviously, genuine psychics don’t have to go through all that rigmarole.

Demon Killers

eric-bikubi-300x180So it’s happened again – another exorcism, another needless death, and two people jailed for life because of irrational superstition.

It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century, there are still people who prefer to believe not only in the existence of demons and spirit possession, but also that they can drive out these non-existent entities. But the problem with a firmly held belief system like “possession” is that it is totally immune to reason.

In times gone past, before psychology and psychiatry became established sciences, strange and eccentric behaviour in a person could so often be interpreted as spirit possession. It was the only thing that pre-scientific people could think of to explain what nowadays would be diagnosed as a mental disorder.

It seems, however, that dark-age thinking is still around and thriving. The self-appointed experts don’t need objective, scientific methodology to determine what is going on when someone’s behaviour seems, to them at least, erratic. Their analysis comes down to simply this: “I can’t think of a reason to explain this person’s bizarre actions, therefore it is spirit or demon possession.” And then they go ahead and administer their preferred brand of exorcism that can lead, in some cases, to prolonged torture and even death for the supposedly possessed victim.

That’s not just bad thinking; it can barely be described as thinking at all. It is not merely irrationality, either. It is dangerous nonsense that can never have a happy ending. It might not seem so surprising that this sort of thing goes on in remote parts of the world where some people still live a fairly primitive existence. In some parts of Africa even children are being tortured and killed because scapegoats are needed when a crop fails or rainfall is scarce.

It should be different in the UK. But it isn’t, even though it happens less frequently. It is a growing problem. Unfortunately, there are numerous people in the world – and the UK – who actively promote the nonsensical idea that exorcism is a valid way of dealing with what is, in fact, a variety of mental disorders that can (and should) be properly treated or controlled with various psychological and psychiatric interventions.

When unqualified people claim that mentally ill people are suffering “possession,” I think there is a case to be made for the exorcists themselves to to be treated by mental health professionals (hopefully before they kill someone).

The bad thinking going on here is: “This person is acting strangely, therefore he/she is possessed.”

Good thinking would be: “This person is acting strangely; I’d better get medical help.”

This is not the first case of death by exorcism and, sadly, it will not be the last.

The Nostra Dumb-ass Code

Nostradamus_0001A thriving industry surrounds the 16th century astrologer and “seer” Nostradamus. It would probably be impossible to count the number of books, articles and TV programmes that have been produced claiming that this or that event was predicted by him in his original writings from about five hundred years ago. But did he actually predict anything at all? I don’t think so.

Those who support Nostradamus – in particular those who make money peddling books and so on – are quick to try to justify it all by pointing to various notable events, and then pointing to one of Nostradamus’ verses or quatrains, saying, “Look! It all fits!”

Now, hang on a minute. A common criticism made by sceptics is the fact that whenever a big event happens (usually some disaster), it is only later that these things are claimed to have been predicted by this famous French astrologer. And that is just so easy to do: every “prediction” that Nostradamus made can be interpreted in different ways, and retro-fitted after the event to fit a desired result. In other words, it is always after something happens that a quatrain is given meaning, never before.

The way to test whether Nostradamus really predicted events that are unfolding now would be for someone to actually interpret some of the quatrains, give definite predictions based on them, and then present those predictions publicly so that they can be tested. Which is something that few Nostradamus fans seem willing to do.

Then again… Eureka! I was recently poking around a local charity shop and found a book that does just that. Written by an author called Valerie Hewitt, Nostradamus: His Key To The Centuries is just the very thing. The author claims to have discovered a code hidden within the mystic writings, and she has been able to unlock the secrets within. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I happily parted with 50 pence to find out whether my years of scepticism had been nothing but a delusion.

What makes this book so good as a test of Nostradamus is the fact that it was written in 1992, and then published in 1994. The predictions it contains cover the years 1995 to 2010, so the fact that those years are now in the past makes it ideal to see whether what was foretold actually came to pass. Excellent stuff.

I’ll not spend any time on the so-called “code” that Hewitt claims to have discovered. She includes tables of numbers and letters, and some accompanying gobbledegook, but if you stay with this analysis, you will soon see why you don’t need to get very excited about it.

I’ll not go through every prophecy that Hewitt lists (there are nearly a hundred of them), but I will try to give a flavour of them. And remember, these are not vague predictions that are open to any interpretation whatsoever, they are very precise. Here we go:

  • In UK politics, Margaret Thatcher renounces her peerage so that she can re-enter the House of Commons. This was supposed to happen between 1995-1996. (That’s a miss, I think)
  • Writing in 1992, Hewitt predicts that the then Labour party leader John Smith would be succeeded by Gordon Brown by 1995. (No mention of John Smith’s sudden death, his replacement by Tony Blair and the fact that Brown had to wait until 2007 when Blair stepped down.)
  • A real biggie is with the royal family. By 1995, according to Hewitt, Prince Charles is now King and Princess Diana is Queen! (That didn’t happen, of course.)
  • Between 1995 –2000, Diana has concerns about Prince William, who is going to become King in 2000 after King Charles becomes so unpopular that the crown has to be transferred. (Another king-size miss, and no mention of the fact that Diana died in 1997. How could such a significant event be overlooked?)
  • Cardinal Basil Hume becomes Pope between 1995-1996. (Oops, another miss. Pope John Paul II lived until 2005; Basil Hume died in 1999 so could not have become Pope anyway, although he had been tipped as a possible future pontiff.)
  • Between 2004-2007, thousands of humans will be travelling in city-sized space ships to all the planets in the solar system except Pluto. (I have to say, I missed all that on the news. Or maybe Hewitt was completely wrong yet again.)
  • 2004 –2005, the planet Venus is being colonised by mankind. (This is just getting silly now.)
  • And by 2010, the proof of life after death will be provided, and survival of the personality will simply not be doubted again. (Well, I still doubt it.)

Queen Diana

And that is just a taster. Whichever way you look at it, there is still no cure for AIDS, children have not been given the vote, the House of Lords has not been abolished, the universe has not “been explained”, there are no anti-gravity flying machines, and –thankfully for many, no doubt – no legally compulsory sporting participation for the over-forties.

I can see the attraction of having a sort of history-book-in-reverse, where one could read about the future and then watch it all unfold. But this book isn’t it – in fact it is not even a history book now, given the fact that all of its predictions of the future should now be part of past history, but turned out to be just so much wishful thinking. I’ll be surprised if this book sees any further reprints.

When it comes to the prophesies of Nostradamus, his promoters should maybe just stick to retro-fitting the facts to fit the verses. Or better still, maybe they should recognise that belief in foretelling the future is just bad thinking.

Oh, by the way, there was no mention of 9/11, either. What a surprise.

Additional note: It turns out that at the time I write this, the book is still available on Amazon: a new copy for £1.25; a used one for as little as one penny. And I have a first edition! Squee!!!

So You Want To Be A Psychic

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
— Isaac Asimov (attributed: source unknown)

Isaac AsimovI don’t go along with the idea that there is any such person as a psychic, i.e., someone who has paranormal powers that enable them to read minds, foretell future events, communicate with the dead, or have any of the other alleged abilities attributed to them. But that’s not to say that I think they are all frauds, either. There certainly are deliberate frauds out there, of course, but there is no agreed upon method to sift those people out. Being charitable, I assume that those who purport to be psychic genuinely believe they have those mysterious powers that defy everything that is known about the physical universe. But I also think they are deluding themselves.

It’s a win-win situation for the psychics. Whether they are blathering away on stage or TV, or giving a one-to-one personal reading, there appears to be no way to single out any individual and “prove” their psychic claims to be false. And that is why anyone – almost anyone at all – can set themselves up in business as a psychic/medium/tarot reader, etc., with impunity. Even better, there is no accredited body to oversee the accredited training psychics go through (there isn’t any); no sanctions to be imposed if a psychic fails to adhere to legally defined rules of psychical ethics (none of that, either); no worries about being struck off the roll of licensed psychic practitioners (there’s no such thing); in other words, psychics can do pretty much anything they want without fear of falling foul of any specified regulations or rules of conduct (if only).

But it gets even better yet for psychics: anyone who claims or suggests that a particular psychic is a fraud can find themselves facing a hefty law suit. In English libel law, the whole thing is stacked in favour of the plaintiff – which means that a psychic who institutes such legal action does not need to prove they are actually psychic; it is up to the defendant to prove their claim of impropriety on the part of the psychic. It’s an impossible task (you can’t prove a universal negative), so the psychic wins again. Thankfully, however, moves to change the libel laws in the UK are moving ahead and we might see a fairer system emerge in the near future – a system that will allow critics of the paranormal a realistic defence in court by allowing them to express honestly held opinions without the fear of draconian retaliation. That might also stop psychics and so-called “paranormal experts” using the threat of legal action to stifle reasonable criticism in the first place.

In the meantime, I plan to make a series of posts that will show how anyone – with some practice – can do a “reading” in the style of a regular psychic, and be lauded as having a “paranormal gift.” If you are not psychic (just like everyone else) but would like to know how to tell your marks sitters things you could not possibly know, then follow this upcoming  “insight” course. I am going to be giving away the secrets of the psychics.

One advantage a psychic has in his or her line of work is the fact that no-one can disprove their paranormal claims. Even on the rare occasions that psychics have put themselves forward to be objectively tested, the fact that they have invariably failed those tests does not mean they are not clairvoyant or whatever. The best that can be said in such circumstances is that that particular psychic did not manifest their claimed abilities at that particular time on that particular date. They can carry on claiming that their powers work the rest of the time, and no-one can disprove it. What sceptics find significant, of course, is the fact that although the paranormal cannot be disproven, no psychic yet – despite every valid test ever carried out – has conclusively demonstrated their claimed abilities. (If any had ever achieved that feat, there would no longer be any sceptics of the paranormal: psychic abilities would be part of routine scientific research, in the same way that the unsolved mysteries of the cosmos are being explored. Keep in mind, however, that the existence of the cosmos is not in dispute; the existence of the paranormal is.) I suspect that the reason why psychics do not put themselves forward for objective testing is simple: they can make the one true prediction that requires no psi abilities whatsoever: they know they will fail such a test.

This post, however, is just going to give a general overview of what psychics do; the tips and tricks will come in later articles.

As it happens, I have gained a reputation for being psychic myself. Over recent years, I have given demonstrations of psychic reading to a number of people, but not to make them think that I actually have any psychic abilities. Rather, I have done it to demonstrate cold reading techniques – which is what most psychics do. My purpose in doing these readings is to show people what to watch out for when they see a psychic in action. If you take careful notice of what a TV or stage psychic does, there is a particular pattern that can be recognised when you know what to look out for. You, too, can do it, but I would hope that you do not follow my tips and try to fleece anyone for monetary profit. When I have given demonstrations of various types of reading, I have always done it with an important ethical component: I impress someone by telling them things “I couldn’t possibly know,” and then I take them through it again and tell them in detail where all of the information came from (it came from them, and in such a way that they didn’t realise it. The sitters themselves give me all the information; but they end up thinking it came from me, not them).

This did sort of backfire on me once. I was talking to a lady I know, and as I was talking to her about how there is no real paranormal stuff going on in these alleged psychic encounters, she challenged me to do a “pretend” psychic reading for her. OK, then, I was put on the spot, and I did feel a bit awkward because, having made it clear to her that I think all psychics are non-psychic, I was expecting her to put up barriers, as it were. I thought she would try to stop me at every turn, but at least she had agreed to just co-operate as though she were seeing a “real” psychic.

At the end of about five minutes of cold reading on my part, she ended up being convinced that I had told her everything of importance about her dead mother; that I had identified her favourite uncle who used to take her to the beach in the summertime when she was a child; how various members of her family had been when they were alive, and details of her past that I could “not possibly have known.”

But here’s the funny thing: I took her through everything that had been said, and described to her exactly what had happened in what was no more than cold reading, explained that she followed up vague suggestions I had made and added further information of her own that I had no idea about, and, during the reading, she picked up on several points and just started talking about them, ending up thinking to herself that I had told her the very things that she, herself, told me.

I tried to go through it again, pointing out the parts where she gave information to me, not the other way round. But she would not accept it. And I was absolutely astounded when she folded her arms, stared me in the face, and announced: “No. You are psychic. You are in denial because you don’t want to believe in it.”

It got even worse, because she then badgered me later to give psychic readings for her friends. She was eager to arrange those sort of house parties where several friends would be invited to have a reading, and I would be the Psychic. Needless to say, that did not happen, and it will not happen in the future. But it goes to show that when belief overtakes logic (as it always does), a psychic has it made. I still find it quite startling that I could actually show someone in detail how my “psychic” techniques were nothing more than linguistic tricks designed to draw out information and then feed it back, and then have the sitter remain adamant to this day that I was really drawing upon paranormal powers. But that is one major reason why psychics get away with it.

Ask yourself a question: “Why do performing psychics have a disclaimer when their acts are publicised?” Those disclaimers always seem to appear on the posters publicising their stage shows, or appear during the start of their TV shows. The disclaimer is always along the lines of, “This show is for entertainment purposes only.” I can’t help wondering why, if they really have the powers they claim, they even bother to put those disclaimers on display. Despite what some of them say, they are not “required by law” to do so. they do it because someone might report them – not to the Inquisition – but to the more mundane Trading Standards Department. Due to fairly recent changes in UK law, psychics are now regulated by the same laws that govern the conduct of any other trader: in other words, the psychics have to abide by the same consumer regulations as double glazing salesmen.

Try this thought experiment: if you were unfortunate enough to require heart surgery, and were rushed into hospital as an emergency patient, what would you think if you spotted a poster on the emergency hospital wall that said, “Cardiac bypass surgery: for entertainment purposes only”?

The idea seems ridiculous. Then again, some people make life-changing decisions based on what a psychic tells them, so I think there is more to it than just being entertained. A psychic’s disclaimer is something they put up to protect themselves from prosecution under trading laws. If they really had the psychic abilities they claim, then that could be recognised in law, and they would have the same protection that doctors have under the same laws; that is to say, if psychic powers were real, they would be objectively testable, and psychics would be able to practise their “profession” with the same legal protection afforded to other professionals.

In the real world, of course, whilst someone who impersonates a doctor, say, could be prosecuted and even jailed, someone who “impersonates” a psychic can do so with no fears whatsoever; and, astoundingly, can even sue someone who claims that that psychic is not really psychic! Similarly, anyone who claims to be an “expert” in things paranormal/supernatural can stifle criticism with the threat of legal action. The difference in those two situations, however, is that a fake doctor can face criminal charges, brought by the state; psychics and paranormal experts have to bring a civil action. Not quite the same thing, but it demonstrates a point: when the state brings a prosecution, it is to protect its citizens; when a psychic or paranormal “expert” brings a prosecution, it is to stop criticism. And that has to stop.

If you care to stick with this little series about psychics and how they get away with it, you will gain a valuable insight. When I do my psychic act, I do it to show that what psychics do,  on stage or TV, is indistinguishable from cold reading. And if there is no detectable difference, what reason is there to think that psychics are real?