America, the Beautiful (And Nutty): A Skeptic’s Lament
Now consider this: Some 70 percent of Americans believe in some aspect of the paranormal — ESP, devils, ghosts, homeopathy, and spiritual healing. More than 25 percent believe there are humans who can “psychically” predict the future. About 20 percent believe it’s possible to talk to dead people (and that the dead talk back).
In other words, a sizable portion of the U.S. population accepts as a given that an unseen world of magical paranormal power exists, and all that remains is to discover how to take advantage of it. Some pay handsomely in that vain — I mean this in both senses of the word — pursuit.
Personality traits, psychological motivation, flawed cognition, emotional instability, local demographics, social influences — all these could contribute to what might be called Lack of Reason Syndrome. Let’s add as well: basic ignorance. But experimental psychology has yet to fully explain why essentially rational beings seem to need to be at least a little irrational.
But we humans are gullible and not terribly perceptive. In my world these handicaps, and an audience’s innate desire to believe, combine to, well, make magic. The trick is really over before it begins because the magician has, without your knowledge, manipulated your behavior to suit his needs.
That’s just good fun. The stakes in the real world are much higher.