I was tempted to write another entry about that douchebag who runs the Saddleback Church, Rick Warren. I was going to go on about he's basically a guy who doesn't know jack about squat, but somehow he often gets a forum to talk about all sorts of things and show off his ignorance due to the completely meaningless fact that he's a "man of God". Well, I already covered this guy some time ago, and I don't want to repeat myself too much. Also, I tend to go after the religious folks pretty often, and Odin knows, there are plenty of other kinds of nuts out there.
For instance, there are psychics. Or, to be more specific, there are people who pretend to be psychics. My friends Scott wrote a short blog some time ago about Sylvia Brown and what a gigantic sack of horse manure she is, and I've been meaning to write a little bit about her myself.
The thing is, my road to atheism began with reading up on supposed psychics (amongst other things like astrology and whatnot). I had always felt like there was something bogus about these people, but my upbringing didn't exactly encourage me to debunk them so much as to see them as potential agents of otherworldly powers in which humankind was not meant to access. What does that mean? It means that I thought that whatever powers they had was due to the forces of ol' Be'elzebub himself. Lucky for me, that never sat well as a satisfactory answer, and upon reading books by various skeptics, I soon learned that these people are nothing more than sideshow phonies whose "powers" could be replicated by people who admitted to doing nothing more than cold readings of people. (Which isn't to say that cold reading isn't a skill - it's just that there isn't anything supernatural about it.)
Now, I don't really watch his show, but I've seen enough and I know enough to know that Montel Williams, a colossal asshat if ever there was one, is partially to blame for Sylvia Brown's fame. The thing is, ol' Montel seems like a fairly educated and intelligent fella, and he probably is. However, intelligent people are not exempt from believing stupid things - especially when they so obviously WANT to believe them - and what better reason for a talk show host than the ratings that Sylvia Brown brings?
Now, I'm sure that there are a lot of people out there who wonder what the harm is in people like Sylvia Brown. Yeah, so she claims that she talks to dead people. She gives comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones. I mean, it's not like she ever gives a reading where she says, "Your brother is telling me that you're an asshole, and that you're pretty much to blame for his death." Of course she wouldn't say that. Who would want to hear that - even if it was true?
For me, it's an insult to the memory of the dead to pretend like you're talking to them. And, of course, the dead can never say anything clearly and to the point. They always have to show letters and make vague statements that the audience member has to piece together. I'd hate to think that my memory would turn into some carnie's performance art.
What's really dispicable about people like her are her claims that she helps the police to solve crimes. Of course, they give all sorts of general statments, but whenever anybody actually investigates anything specific, it turns out that the story is full of crap. Also, they never seem to be able to solve the big, high-profile cases can they? It's amazing how these psychic powers always seem to turn on and off so conveniently.
And the bottom line is, nobody has ever been able to demonstrate psychic abilities under double-blind scientific test conditions. Of course, when I mention this to some people, they say the truly asinine reponse of, "Well, maybe it just can't be tested!" Huh? What the hell does that even mean? How else can you determine whether somebody can do something unless you test it somehow? If I say that I can run a marathon in half a minute, and then I told you that this amazing ability can't be tested, you'd say that I was full of shit - and rightfully so.
Anyway, you gotta love the YouTube. Here are some epic fails from ol' Ms. Brown. (And is it just me, or does she look like Queen Tacky of Tackylvania? What's up with that makeup and nails? Not that it has anything to do with her claims one way or the other, but you'd figure that at least one ghost out there could give her some pointers.)
You gotta love how Sylvia corrects the woman who lost her firefighter husband on 9/11! And then Montel tries to make sense of it! Ugh.
That one just proves that she's an idiot, and even women can be misogynists.
Wow - a news show that's actually concerned with facts!
Of course, the parents are wrong - how dare they question a psychic!
After these lousy predictions, how can anybody take her seriously?