A popular reaction to the piece I wrote regarding comments made by Amy Bruni has been to assume that I believe in psychics and that I was writing from that perspective. Some even went as far as suggesting that “deep down” I was a believer even if I claim otherwise.
@Hayleystevens. It's hard to tell. You're defending those that do and have a vey keen interest in it 1st guess would be likely yes deep down
— Alan d'Eon (@alandeon2) February 20, 2015
The truth is that I don’t believe in psychics, or the ghosts and monsters that I investigate but I did come to my skeptical position from a position of belief in such subjects. I guess that’s why people think I am “defending” believers when actually I’m just pointing out that they might have a point in their criticisms, or when I say things like “belief is complicated” in response to people acting as though it is anything but.
Weird, isn’t it, that when you show empathy with those who believe in psychics or ghosts some people are unable to get their heads around it? As though you’re either with or against the psychics, with or against the believers. It’s irrational to deal in such absolutes. Another would be that “all psychics are con artists” which leaves no room for those people who aren’t psychic but genuinely believe they are and aren’t intentionally scamming people. It’s a lazy generalisation.
Anyway, I digress. The point I was making in my previous blog post on this subject was that I didn’t think the ends justified the means when it came to the Guerilla Skeptics “stings” on Chip Coffey. This wasn’t to say stings shouldn’t be used as people seem to have assumed I was saying. I absolutely think that sting operations can be justified and are a useful tool of expose but I do not believe they are a method that should be deployed without careful consideration and experience. Daniel Loxton wrote a great piece about this over at skeptic.com
I also wrote that although they’re trying to reach the middle ground- people who neither believe or disbelieve- I thought it was more likely that the outcome of their actions wouldn’t make the waves people were expecting because, after all, they didn’t actually reveal very much that people didn’t already know. It’s also naive to presume that believers will not listen to skeptics. When I ran Project Barnum- a now closed educational resource about psychic trickery -I was sometimes contacted by people who had believed in certain psychics who had started to question that belief because of our resources or because they had spoken to someone handing out our leaflets outside of a theatre show. People also used our “learn how to be psychic” horoscope game to demonstrate to their relatives who believed in certain psychics how easy it was to fool people.
I’m not an expert when it comes to educational engagement but I have enough experience to know that it’s really difficult to get it right and really easy to get it wrong. I am living proof that people can be inspired to change their minds when presented with the right information in the right manner and because of this I am not so keen to chalk up believers as some sort of a lost cause, or as people who need to be rescued from themselves. Maybe they do but I don’t think that’s my call.
If you disagree with me about any of the above I’m totally fine with that because I’m not egotistical enough to demand that you accept that I am right and I won’t bombard you with comment after comment about how wrong or ignorant you are.
However I do think it is odd that some involved with the Guerrilla Skeptics seem really keen to launch sting operations against other psychics at the drop of a hat as seen below.
It almost seems personal and that can be unwise… but what would I know? I’m clearly just a believer deep down*.