Psychics Frighten Me

4 09 2008

And what frightens me even more are the throngs of people who live and breathe by their words.

Today at work I stumbled upon the Montel Williams show and he had Sylvia Browne as a guest.  If you haven’t heard of her, she’s a hugely famous psychic who has written many books and has made a lot of money off of the superstitions and insecurities of many people.  Out of morbid curiosity I continued to watch the program.  The audience would throw out questions and Miss Browne would nonchalantly shoot back answers – about everything from “what is my spirit guide’s name?” to “what will my future husband’s name be?” to “what career path should I take?”  The whole thing seemed terribly wrong to me.  

When the answers confirmed the questioner’s hopes an expression of relief would come across their face and they would sit down contented.  When the answers refuted what the questioner believed they were confused, but acceptant or sometimes indignant, and then they would be chastised for wanting the psychic to confirm what they thought they knew.  Most of the time the questions and answers were so ambiguous and arbitrary it didn’t really matter what she said.  If you ask me it’s a big recipe for fraud.  And it seems so transparent to me.  I could be a psychic if I wanted to.

A psychic has the best defense mechanism built right into their profession: the ability to see what other people can’t.  The arguments of the greatest skeptic can be reduced to nothing (in the eyes of the psychic and the believers) simply because they can’t see what the psychic can.  Nobel laureate Romain Rolland said, “Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already to possess it.”

Let’s imagine someone asks what career path they should pursue, the one they’re in right now or a different one?  If the answer is the one they’re in right now then they are relieved and the psychic is correct in their view.  If they had doubts about their current career, the doubts become overshadowed by the psychic’s prediction and the good things about their current career become more salient.  If the answer is some other career, then their doubts are confirmed and if they really believe the answer they will likely take steps to get on the psychicly determined career path, and the psychic is correct again.  In this case it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If a psychic tells a person that they belong in massage therapy and they believe it, what are they going to do?  They’re going to go into massage therapy.  There’s nothing paranormal about that.  It’s just suggestible people giving in to suggestion.

And let’s say the person does what the psychic says and is still miserable.  The psychic can then easily say that it was something the person did to alter the path.  And they can keep adding on conditions and spiritual loop holes and caveats and whatever else they need to stay correct, ad infinitum.  And why can they do this?  Because they can see and know what others cannot.  And people let them do it.

So I think my opinion concerning psychics is fairly clear by this point.  Now to bring up what really worries me about all this.  It frightened me a little bit to watch all those people on the show accept Sylvia Browne’s answers so completely and calmly.  It frightens me that there are so many people in this world who are so uncritical and unscrutinizing of something that can essentially control your life.  It frightens me that so many people seem perfectly content to have their lives controlled by the predictions of a wealthy, 70-year-old woman.  It frightens me that these very same people are the ones helping to elect our leaders and influence the future of humanity.  Am I being melodramatic?  Maybe.  But probably not.  Is the audience of the Montel Williams show a biased cross-section of the American people?  Definitely.  But there are certainly tens of thousands of other people who continue to make Sylvia Browne rich.  And that is scary.

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2 responses

5 09 2008
Susan

Wow….you really are a nerd!! Very insightful Peter.

5 09 2008
Peter Leavitt

I think I’m flattered. Thank you. :)

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