Sunday, July 21, 2019

Psychics and Cold Readings

Nearly all of the lectures and videos we've watched this semester have astounded me in some way with just how poorly informed and easily fooled people are. I can't say I'm all that surprised because I find myself to be a natural skeptic, and most of what we've been learning helps validate my intuition, but nevertheless, as P.T. Barnum is alleged to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute". The fact that this quote can't even be accurately attributed to him based on any evidence is, ironically, evidence of this very point.

I believe that the lecture that most strongly proved this point was Lecture 6 on psychic crime detectives and cold readings (and just as a side note, even typing the phrase "psychic crime detectives" brings feelings of annoyance in me that such a job description even exists). I've long received criticism from friends and relatives for expressing strong doubt and pointing out the inconsistencies and generalizations in the performances (and yes, they are nothing more than "performances") by psychics and mediums like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, Theresa Caputo (the "Long Island Medium"), and so on. To read stories about a person like Noreen Renier, a "psychic crime detective", however, is particularly frustrating, because she goes beyond playing with people's emotions for monetary compensation to actually meddling in criminal and civil investigations, and somehow considers herself to be as qualified as a trained, educated forensic examiner. It makes you wonder if people like this, like televangelists (I'm looking at you, Peter Popoff), have any sense of guilt or dignity, or if they are so far gone that they truly believe what they are selling.

I'm beginning to believe the latter, unfortunately. In one of the videos, which she posted on her own website to promote herself, Renier literally says "I have no idea how this works. All I know is it works, and I can use it, and that's all that matters." She says this willingly, on camera, not only unabashedly, but almost proudly! Imagine if you heard a professional say this in any other field....
Thrillist put out a list of "7 Tricks Psychics Bull*** People With That Everyone Should Know". It's a good read, relevant to our lectures, and can help make you look like the smartest guy in the room - or the biggest party pooper, depending on how many "believers" you hang around with.

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