I predict that psychics are b.s.
I had never really had an opinion on psychics. I had seen some on TV with supposed evidence of their "powers" and I had also heard some skeptics refute this evidence. One way or another, it was cool to believe that some people had a special gift that allowed them to see things that no one else did.
It wasn't until I saw an episode of Penn & Teller's showtime show Bullshit! that I was faced with both sides of the debate. Skeptics Penn & Teller throughly debunked psychics, including Rosemary Altea, and showed exactly how these tricks were performed.
After I saw the show, I couldn't believe it. How did these assholes (that's what P&T call them) get away with his for so long. I never thought that the P.T. Barnum effect could be so powerful. The more I started looking into the claims of psychics and other people who said that they had paranormal abilities the more I was shocked.
Not only were these claims bullshit, but the people who purportedly had these "gifts" were using them to take advantage of vulnerable people. They claimed to be able to talk to spirits, guardian angels, the dead and demons. They offered to help find missing people and wasted precious time that the police officers could be using to track down actual leads.
Another thing that bothers me is that the media feeds into the danger of psychics. They give them TV shows and positive press and interview them and flatter them for their "knowledge". Even movies, such as the new X-Files movie, shows an example of a psychic at work, which just reinforces the idea that these psychics are the real deal.
It's easy to say that it's the fault of the individual who believes in this kind of thing and they deserve to be fooled. However, this is a rather cruel thing to say, particularly to the people who are victimized by it.
The worst of the bunch are the supposed psychic detectives. Psychics such as Noreen Reiner and Sylvia Browne claim that they have helped with countless police cases. Meanwhile, the FBI has stated that there has been no reported cases where a psychic has actually furthered an investigation.
The best psychic detective would have a working knowledge of crimes and criminals and would be able to predict things that would be natural assumptions to trained police officers and detectives. They wouldn't be using psychic powers, they would be using their own intuition.
Sylvia Browne, a self-proclaimed psychic and a regular guest on the Montel William's show, told Shawn Hornbeck's distraught parents that their son was dead (video). After being gone for so long it is normally assumed that the person who abducted would be dead. Browne simply stated what police and the media already believed.
These people were not stupid or gullible. They were terrified parents who wanted to know what happened to their son and were willing to do anything to find out. Hearing that Shawn was dead was a crippling blow to them. His mother starts crying right after Browne finishes.
Browne went on to tell the police where his body could be found. The police started looking for two rocks which his corpse was supposed to be buried between. Months later Shawn was found. He was alive. Also, the man who abducted him did not fit Browne's description of the perpetrator. At all.
The scandal exploded. Suddenly CNN was airing a short feature hosted by Anderson Cooper about Browne's little mistake (Part 1, Part 2). Other psychics were suddenly under fire. James Randi must have felt like it was his birthday and Christmas rolled into one. For decades Randi has been fighting against frauds and charlatans and this case illustrated just how devastating these psychic claims can be.
As for others who turn to psychics for advice and answers they can hardly be blamed for being enraptured with the claims of these... assholes. The letter "Thank you" from a soccer mom which was posted on StopSylviaBrowne.com is a perfect example. This woman was unhappy with her life and thought that Browne, with her wonderful claims of angels and past lives and God's love, could help her.
She became completely drawn in by Browne and only managed to wrench herself away from this addiction after she came across the website. But she is the type of person that Browne caters to. Browne has written countless books that have sold all over the world.
She needs people to buy her books. She needs people like this soccer mom to believe that she has the key to spiritual health and happiness. And when she finds these vulnerable people, she cleans out their wallets.
But what's the difference between Browne and other people who claim to be spiritual leaders, but not psychics? Not much, in my book. Put someone who is very charismatic in front of a group of people looking for meaning in their lives and this person can make millions of dollars.
Do these preachers, spiritual leaders, motivational speakers, exorcists and other people who fit this description actually help the people that flock to them? It depends. There is a placebo effect that is particularly strong in this case. People believe that they are healed, whether mentally or physically, and they walk away from the experience feeling invincible.
While having a positive outlook on life, belief in your religious views and belief in yourself can be a wonderful thing, none of this is a cure. If you have cancer no amount of prayer can take this cancer away. Even the people who claim that they touched their TV during an airing of a televangelists show and all of their ailments were cured, where is the proof? Where is the documentation? Where is the evidence?
If someone has mental or emotional problems they can't be fixed in an hour long seminar. While the individual might feel that their demons have been forever vanished, they will come back. Someone with depression can't will it away. Someone who suffered from a traumatic past can't simply forget about it and live their lives like someone who hasn't been through what they have.
Anyone claiming to be able to fix your life, your relationship, or your aura is lying. They can only give you advice, they can't change anything that is happening to you or has already happened. Look for people who want to be a positive influence, not someone who wants you to empty your wallet. Remember the old saying; happiness can't be bought. We sometimes forget that it's not that easy.