People who are sick of my rants on obscure and meaningless things like the battle between reason and irrationality can just skip this entire post. (Although I will point out that I haven’t ranted about this topic in a while.)
While waiting to have my new car radio and nav unit installed today, I was ushered into the small waiting room in the back of Circuit City. I was told it would be about an hour or so, and so I took a seat in the empty room, and relaxed with my thoughts. I didn’t even read or listen to my iPod. I just enjoyed the silence.
Some Circuit City employee passing through noticed that the TV in the waiting room was not on, and not understanding how a TV could exist without being switched on, flipped the ON switch as he glided past. I am convinced that this was an innate gesture and that were I not in the room, the same employee would have turned on the same TV so that it could be enjoyed by the empty furniture.
Being a Waiting Room TV, the Montel Williams Show was on (the only other possibilities would have been Divorce Court or Judge Judy) and it so happened that he had as his guest, “spiritual teacher and psychic” Sylvia Browne. You can, therefore, imagine my immediate interest in the program.
I watched it for about 20 minutes and I was truly amazed. Not at Sylvia, you understand, who I’m quite sure is a schister (and who, having accepted James Randi’s $1 million challenge back in 2001, still has yet to come through with “proof” of her psychic abilities), but at the fact that so many people were taken in by her without even questioning the validity of the vague answers she gave. This was compounded further by the fact that since this is a TV show, and the audience is selected in advance, ample time and opportunity was available to provide Sylvia with information about the audience, so that it is possible that the “readings” she was giving were not even “cold”.
People asked leading questions. “My dad died when I was six,” a young woman asked. “Three weeks ago there was a knock on my door and when I opened it, no one was there, but I felt something. Was this my dad?”
“Yes,” Sylvia replied. “He was letting you know he was okay.”
“Is the guy I’m seeing a keeper?” someone asked. “Yes, he is,” was Sylvia’s verbose response. Another man asked if there was someone looking out for him. Sylvia described a figure of a man that had the exact same physical features of the man who asked the question, down to his eyeglasses and yet no one seemed to pick up on this.
Give me a break! Nothing makes me angrier than watching or hearing of someone like Sylvia prey on people who are suffering. It’s sickening. Sylvia stands out from other psychics I’ve seen on TV in that she is blunt and terse in her responses. It appears to be her trademark, but I suspect it is all persona. I find it interesting that there never appear to be follow-up shows that look into how the studio audience who received these readings fared. I suspect there is a reason for this.
I understand that it is sometimes emotionally easier to believe in something that doesn’t actually exist. We’ve all done it. But at some point, we have to realize that the only people we are fooling is ourselves. And as Polonius said, “To thine own self be true…”
People criticize science as always being “wrong”, and they clearly don’t understand how science works. Science does not try to show what is true; with very few exceptions, that is impossible. Science always tries to show what is not true, and by doing so, you eliminate something and take one small step closer to what is true. What is it that Sylvia is trying to show? What is it that psychics are supposed to be all about? I suspect that some of them (a handful, maybe) really believe that what they are doing has some basis in reality. The others are schisters out to make a buck without any regard for what is true and what is not true. In science, this kind of knowing falsehood is the ultimate sin.
But I suppose I shouldn’t really be disappointed. After all, if I hadn’t of been in the waiting room, the TV would have played the empty furniture–and to the thousands of invisible spirits crowded into the room, waiting for the next psychic to get a new car radio installed.