Skepticism In The World Of Magic

Many people are skeptical about magic, particularly stage magic. However, there are many different types of skepticism, and some are more valid as forms of criticism. For example, a lot of people can see what a magician is doing to give the appearance, or the illusion, that magic is being used, and will call attention to it. This is fine, and separates good illusionists from bad.

Then there are others who start from the position that “magic is not real”, and will deride a stage magician for practising their craft without offering any explanation as to how the performance is being carried out. This is a more cowardly form of criticism, since we can all assume that an illusionist is using some form of sleight of hand. Just saying “that’s not real” is not particularly good criticism, since you are offering no alternative explanation.

This is an important distinction. If you were in the cinema watching a movie where, for example, a main character shot a fireball from his or her fingertips, you would not be well advised to stand up and tell the other people watching that “that’s not really happening – it’s just a film!”. Of course it is, but people go along to be impressed by the show.

Picking holes in a magician’s act without having any cold hard facts is a stupid thing to do. Most of the people in the audience have pretty much gathered that the illusionist is using some kind of trick to give the appearance of magic, but they enjoy the show because the tricks are well covered and look authentic. We can all be skeptical from a position of ignorance, but it is only really valid when we come from a position of knowledge.

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