Remember the classic episodes of Scooby Doo before they torched the series' premise? The monster of the week was always Old Man Backoff (Back off!) trying to scare the locals away while he did something illegal, and so forth. In short, every spook was a guy in a costume. Only exception I recall was a shut down amusement park with some wacky inventor's robot actually being a robot.
Despite having that solid track record and the precedent that should have come with it, the cast usually acted as if they believed just this once, it'd be a real ghost. Doesn't cast my predecessor in the best light, does it? Anyway, I often wonder if believers in psychics end up go through the same thing. If they ever catch on to a particular psychic's trickery, somehow, I doubt all of them are soured to the next claimant waiting in line. The same thing goes for a lot of other woo. I've seen ufologists, ghost photographers, and so forth get embarrassed by having the real cause of the weird lights they saw being found, and immediately pleading "well, what about THIS?" and moving on to similarly shoddy work of a marginally different kind.
Somehow, though, they never, ever arrive at the real thing by process of elimination. My guess is that they've really firmly rooted down in their culture of being nonjudgmental and relativistic towards each other, that disaffected John Edward fans who've moved to Sylvia Browne won't confront JE fans, and vice-versa. I don't hear about all that many rivalries, and when I do, it tends to be of the dogmatic sort. Back when I dealt with twoofers more often, for example, those sort of things were resolved with ban hammers, not evidence. The standard hushabooms would ban no-planers. The no-planers would ban the standard hushabooms. And they'd all ban the skeptics for wanting to talk about evidence and the laws of physics. Whoever they'd ban, they'd accuse of being shills for all the evil people and that at four o' clock, we'd all be two feet tall. TWO FEET TALL.
Okay, I'm getting weird. Back to my point: The thing that binds woos together is an unwillingness to investigate. They want their belief to be eternally available to believe in, so to set up Scooby Doo syndrome, they make it so they have an infinite chain of failure points before questioning their belief. There'll always be more people out there claiming to be psychic. It's true that psychic powers won't be falsified by finding out any one psychic is faking it, but shouldn't repeated failures and disagreements get them to at least question it? Even if that happens, though, the mindset involves working backwards: Instead of requiring that we debunk all the illions of claimants who have countless convenient excuses for failure, they should show us ONE psychic who's the genuine article and can pass a test designed to prevent cheating. Shouldn't it be easier to do that than require us to debunk each and every one?
I used to wonder if psychic powers existed, though I thankfully never tied myself down to any psychic claimant, especially since I saw Randi expertly take down Uri Geller on a TV special at an early age. I kept it vague for a while until oddly enough, a beloved TV show got me thinking: Star Trek: The Next Generation. Deanna's mother stopped by for an episode and was having some psychic troubles. Dr. Crusher mentioned her "psylocinine" levels, some brain chemical involved in telepathy. That got me wondering: HOW would psychic powers work if they were real? They've been investigating psychic powers and such for decades. Shouldn't they at least have working hypotheses? That was the beginning of the end for my potential belief in psychic powers. People like Randi investigated psychics, knew all sorts of tricks they could do, and they could gain headway by devising tests a trickster would fail, but a psychic would pass. All failures.
At the same time, paranormal institutes had been at "work" forever, and they still had nothing to show. Almost two decades later in my life, and I'm seeing the same thing, but now with less effort being put into it. Along with screams of bloody murder if I ask a woo to endorse stepping things up a few notches.
Woos who have fallen into Scooby Syndrome have a problem far more fundamental than belief in a particular woo-promoter: They've engineered easy excuses and dodges so that they can go on to believe what they like, no matter how much evidence there is. That's why I think, as an outspoken skeptic, we need to focus on bringing attention to the fact that they're approaching the problem backwards: You don't assume something is true until it's all debunked, you assume it's false until you have an example to prove you wrong. That's what makes science so exciting for me: Being wrong is a wonderful thing. It means there's a new part of the world to find out about. For the woo, however, being wrong is a character flaw.