Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Criss Angel, Psychics, and Skepticism

Many of my friends know that I'm a huge skeptic, specially when it comes to claims made by psychics, aura readers, and all sorts of superstitious nonsense that you can find these days. As a member of the Ohio University Skeptic's society, one of our main goals is to help educate people on the trickery used by many self-professed psychics in their acts.

Knowing that I'm a skeptic, some of my friends have tried to get me to explain away all sorts of things they claim psychics have done. One such thing they tried to do was have me explain how Criss Angel does each and every single one of his tricks in any given episode of the show Mindfreak. Obviously I am not a magician, and my knowledge of mentalism only goes far enough to know that with enough suggestion, and misderection, you can make all sorts of incredible things happen, not through the supernatural, but by mere trickery. Obviously though, I am not able to explain how Criss Angel does his tricks, the magician's trade is very tight-knit and not prone to revealing how their tricks are performed, and for very good reasons: these people often spend their entire lives creating and fashioning their very own illusions. They may put a new twist on a very well known magic trick, and completely make it their own. It is art in its purest form, and the excitement of it comes from the fact that we don't know how they do what they do.
Regardless of the fact that my inability to explain Criss Angel's tricks does not in any way make it more likely that they are supernatural in nature, I have been baffled many times by some of his stuff. I've listened carefully to him speak, looking for clues as to whether or not he claims his tricks are paranormal, or if they are mere illusions, and I've always gotten a bit of both. He uses alot of mystical and spiritual language in his shows, but he never once claimed that he has supernatual abilities. Regardless, I always wondered, until I saw him challenge Uri Geller (a self professed psychic whom James Randi famously exposed in the Tonight Show and wrote a book about called 'The Truth about Uri Geller') and Jim Callahan.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that Criss Angel called them out on their nonsense. Its always fascinated me to know that Magicians are our first line of defense against magical and superstitious thinking, specially the one that comes from belief in Psychics. The magician is a person who does this kind of stuff for a living, but for entertainment. They claim to have absolutely no paranormal powers, but simply use illusion and trickery to fool the audience. The psychics however, don't simply do this for entertainment, they do it with the claim that they have mystical powers and are in touch with the 'other side'. I'm very glad to see that Criss Angel has positioned himself squarely in the skeptical camp. As a magician, he knows the ins and outs of trickery, and can identify when someone is simply using a magic trick and trying to pass it off as some kind of paranormal ability.

Needless to say, he's my new hero.


Lucky Numbers said...

I'm a fan of his magic acts but I don't know that he's also a good psychics.

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