Long, long ago the majority of skeptics were believers seeking confirmation for the sake of faith; Houdini actually fit that prototype as did Kellar and his protegee' Howard Thurston (who was a seminary student, no less) before him. But, the big $$$ success seen by Houdini and his traveling "debunking the Spiritualist" shows created a new sort of skeptic -- the magician out to make a name for himself.
Of this new group you will find rudiments of "Mental Magic" i.e. magician's tricks that were quite similar to standard fair but offered a veneer of things Psychic and Paranormal around them. You will even find grand stage Illusionist such as Dunninger (prior to his latter glory) blending such themes around effects like the Mummy Cabinet and the Asrah Levitation. Even into the the 1970s we had magicians suggesting the use of hypnosis and telepathic control over their assistants, simply to keep some semblance of mystic-naughtiness in the mix.
These clowns that made this particular split went on to make a name for themselves as "debunkers" even though the majority of that had never been involved in a single genuine investigation; they just trained a girl (usually one of their own kids) how to do the bit. A perfect example would be Francis Willard when she does the Willard Spirit Cabinet -- an illusion she's worked since she was 11 or 12 years of age that her son in law Michael Ammar and his wife Hanna have planned to keep alive as a matter of family legacy... it is a sensational piece of business.
In around this same era you had those Spiritualists that woke up to the fact that they could cash in on their talents by traveling with a magic show or carnival unit demonstrating their abilities as Mind Readers, Clairvoyants', etc... this is where the more traditional world of MENTALISM came to be; though related to stage magic it is not one in the same, nor is it even remotely similar to the aforementioned even though, as we moved into the latter 20th century by about three generations, the segregation of the two forms started to blur -- for economic reasons more than anything else -- Mental Magic is far more lucrative than the other, which is still performed and marketed as being "real" and rarely with the disclaimers the other type of act seems dependent on.
There is a huge rift within the magic & mentalism communities when it comes to these two camps that will probably never get healed, but that's aside the point; the more commercially oriented still side with the debunker and faux-moralists as well as the pseudo-rationalists while the other camp (what I call "Old School"), while retaining a healthy sense of skepticism, still defend the validity of certain aspects tied to the world of Psi & the Paranormal. I stress however, we are picky as to what we support and why; we are not gullible in the sense of buying into any of it... especially at first glance but, we will investigate and give a degree of benefit of the doubt when it comes to various issues. The biggest thing that separates us from the others is that we actually work within and directly investigate claims; often times aiding law enforcement when it comes to exposing and prosecuting scam operators and educating the public about potentially dangerous cult scenarios.Think about it...
who is most likely to discover such predators? Those that actually work in the trenches that are seen as "real", or the clowns with a stage show that refuse to get their hands dirty? The one's the espouse everything St. Randi spews out his hind-side as the gospel vs. personal investment of time and physical presence to study and discern things for themselves?The Non-Magician Side
to it all comes through Academia which has, in a round and about way, created a kind of unspoken symbiosis with the various faces of Atheism about the world. Here again, you have a couple of different types or niches, the primary being those that are strictly book learned and then you have the ACTUAL scientists (vs. those that sympathize with the views of their financiers -- similar to big oil, big tobacco, Global Warming Naysayers, et. al) who tend to not be as die-hard with things, leaving the doors of possibility a bit a-gap. Then you have the wannabes that seem to be more plentiful than all of the insects (a.k.a. pests) in the known world; the armchair experts that want to come off as being educated and "with it" but who tend to have I.Q. levels that hover somewhere between a gnat and a rock... they believe every single thing they read that supports their fantasy of being viewed as "intelligent".The Pseudo-Skeptic
is a relatively new creature which shows some sentient properties but seems to be more akin to the latter form of the above than not; and sadly, they tend to seek to prove out the absurd as being analytical fact.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not picking on Winston when I say this, I see it a lot in the New Age sub-culture and a good deal of it comes from one's need
to be a bit of a rebel but on a more passive, pseudo-intellectual level in which you ignore the more questionable elements associated with your sources and resources; you don't scrutinize the over-all scenario and set yourself up to buy into an X-Files style of paranoia. This condition likewise comes from a psychological need to belong to some sort of group that sets your apart from "mere mortals"; you know intuitively, that you can't possibly meet the standards that are typical of the intellectual... you can't keep up with the way that sub-culture communicates, their sense of humor nor, their ability to absorb and compile data. The result is seeking second best -- the lesser plane of the average human being that wants to fill a niche in their life that "explains" all that stuff that's out there that we're puzzled by, can't explain and as such "fear". It's far easier to take this route than to apply yourself, either as someone seeking to improve their intellectual plight in life or (better yet), gain a more logical grip on life itself, by studying those philosophies, such as Buddhism that can give you both, an intellectual edge as well as a more positive way of viewing the world and life.
I have no doubt that Winston will have a different take on this but this is my view as one standing on the outside and looking in.