"It's a very dangerous thing to believe in nonsense." -- James Randi
|Volume 5 Issue 12||December 1997|
Sincerity: An Overrated Virtue
by Lewis Jones
In the heyday of so-called spiritualist mediums, skeptical sitters used a simple rule of thumb to decide to which of two groups a medium belonged. If she did little but churn out the standard jargon, it was common to give her the benefit of the doubt, namely, that she was deluded but harmless -- a typical example of George Bernard Shaws dictum: "All men mean well." On the other hand, if she produced an apport, she was immediately classified as a deliberate fraud. As soon as some solid object appeared on the sťance room table (a rose, a piece of seaweed), it was clear that this had to have been accomplished by trickery. No amount of faith could produce physical objects out of nowhere.
Today, purveyors of the paranormal are a little more canny, and they have mostly moved into safer and more fashionable areas: once bitten by an infrared camera, twice shy. You cant be caught by hi-tech equipment if you just put yourself forward as an astrologer or a tarot card reader. Better still, set up shop in the health trade: faith healer, homeopath, reflexologist. Or make vague claims about imbalances between various untestable energies. More