Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

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The World’s Worst Psychic

January 21, 2007

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The picture that you see here is possibly the most famous Psychic today. In my opinion, it also happens to be the picture of the most obvious phony Psychic and Con Artist today.

Her name is Sylvia Browne. She appears often on Larry King and is almost a weekly regular on the Montel Williams show. She has written 17 books and commands a multi million dollar empire from her home. She charges $700 for psychic readings in her home, and $200 for readings over the phone.

Her basic scam is the claim that she can contact dead people. The thing is, she is really horrible at pretending to do it, but people are determined to ignore the overwhelming evidence against her fakery.

Sylvia Browne told the family of Shawn Hornbeck on the Montel Williams show that he was dead shortly after the Missouri boy vanished.  She also directed searchers to areas where she was convinced that they could find his body. Obviously she was wrong, because he was recently found. Here is a link to the story about this blunder in New York Daily News.

Then there was the major screw-up on a radio program one year ago when a mining disaster was unfolding in West Virginia. If you remember, the media announced that everybody except one Miner survived. Slyvia Browne quickly announced that she knew all along that they would make it. A few minutes later, the story flipped around and now only one Miner had survived and everybody else had died. Slyvia then tried to do a similar flip-flop herself that quickly turned into a train wreck, and they went to commercial. You can read that story on Fox News here.

If you don’t think it could get any worse, here is a video clip where she tells a woman that her loved one died by drowning. The woman then responds that he died in 9/11 …

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) has a million dollars in the bank that has been reserved for anyone who can show “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event”. In 2001, Syliva Browne and James Randi were on the Larry King show and she agreed to have her psychic powers tested under laboratory conditions. She was going to be allowed to design the test herself. Since then, she has refused to be tested. Wouldn’t this once and for all prove to all of her believers that she is a real psychic? Here is the Larry King Video.

She is obviously an evil person who knows that she is a fake; otherwise she would take the “Million Dollar Challenge”.  I accept that there are people who are self-deluded and honestly believe that they have psychic powers.  Many of them have taken the “Million Dollar Challenge” and have been truly surprised when they couldn’t demonstrate their gifts in an experiment designed by themselves.  There is no self delusion with Sylvia Browne.

Many psychics claim that they do “good work” for people because they can offer people hope and guidance (for a price). I will admit that when I was younger, I went to a few Psychics and they all basically said the same generalities about my love life and financial future. They all said something to the effect that I would “get better and better jobs and make more and more money in the future”.  It’s true that since I graduated from high school this happened, so that must mean that they had psychic powers – Not!

How can a society be protected from a Con Artist like her when they refuse or do not know how to think critically?  How much evidence is needed against her before her followers might question their belief in her abilities?  Is their belief in her psychic abilities now more based on her celebrity than her performance?

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What is a Skeptic?

January 3, 2007

According to the dictionary, a Skeptic is someone who questions the validity or authenticity of something purported to be factual.  I think that most people think of a Skeptic as someone who is a “Nay-Sayer” or simply someone who is opposed to anything new just for the sake of it.  The real defining factor in someone who is a Skeptic, is they are able to think critically and logically. 

I am interested in what is frequently called “Scientific Skepticism”.  It is basically the field of interest where you test the reliability of claims based on scientific evidence, reason and logic.  What our society has right now is a lack of critical thinking skills, and I believe that our education system is mostly responsible – and that is coming from a Teacher.

Skepticism is actually becoming very popular of late.  The Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters” is a skeptical television show.  In each episode they take common beliefs or myths and put them through scientific scrutiny.  A good basic book to get your feet wet would be Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer as well.

Here is something that I have come across in my life: 

There is a belief that if you put hot water in the freezer, it will freeze faster than if you use cold water.  Reason and logic would tell you that the hot water would take more time to cool down to freezing temperature because it had farther to go!

Regardless, there are people who believe this.   Why there are people who actually believe this is a good question.  I reason they most likely believe this because of their trust in the person or source of that information and never use their mind to question it.  I guess if they were really in a rush to make ice cubes, they should put boiling water in the freezer….