Space City Skeptics

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Archive for December 31st, 2008

Happy Psychics and Some Not-So-Psychic Predictions…..

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It’s been said that desperate times call for desperate measures. This old adage would appear to be true considering the recent coverage by a number of news outlets of the increase in business seen by psychics since the troubles on Wall Street began a few months ago. One such report, on Albuquergue’s KOAT.com, provides some insight from a local psychic named Ana Anaya, who feels that the economic turmoil has led to an increase in those who are willing to believe. 

“I have been so busy because of the stock market,” she said. “I have a lot of people who have lost their jobs.”

This isn’t surprising to me at all. I have seen a similar situation in the world of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” time and time again. Individuals with chronic conditions or terminal illnesses who are desperate often find temporary comfort in the arms of quacks. They are told that all will be made well if a certain diet or treatment regimen is followed, that they can be cured despite what the heartless and misinformed mainstream doctors are telling them. Psychics are using the exact same schtick to gain unwarranted attention from folks. Only instead of promising a cure for their cancer or other terrible malady, they are promising a better financial future. But both take money in exchange for fairy tales. A patient may improve while using some bogus remedy, or an investor’s portfolio might rebound, but these outcomes were not a result of the remedy or known by the psychic.

So what were Ms. Anaya’s predictions for the new year?

“Things are definitely going to get better absolutely — it will be really good for people.”

 and

“Gas prices will definitely go up, I have to tell you,” she said. “I’m sorry to say.”

Wow that is some lazy prognostication. Did she really need her cards to tell her that? The economy is the worst it has been since the great depression and gas prices are lower than they have been in over 5 years. Once again I have to mention the similarity between this and quackery. The principle of regression towards the mean is apparantly useful in many forms of woo. People with chronic illnesses often have ups and downs, good days or weeks and bad days or weeks. Patients tend to reach out for help when they are at their worst and they would improve regardless of what therapy is instituted. Gas prices are bound to go up again and the economy, as predicted legitimately by just about every expert out there, is going to improve in 2009.

This kind of psychic predicting is obviously just an attempt at grabbing the low hanging fruit. Psychics, like Sylvia Browne and her ilk, often make long lists of predictions for the upcoming year or so, and they are typically filled with a mixture of the obvious and the highly unlikely. When the no-brainers come to pass they can claim credit, and if they get lucky with one of the absurd ones they can claim credit all over the mass media. Here are some examples from Browne’s 2008 and 2009 predictions:

“…Children are not properly fed, clothed, educated, protected or given adequate medical care.”

“…People who are ready, willing and able to work cannot find decent jobs.”

“…Some death row inmates are innocent.”

“I predict a great rise in skin cancer in children until 2010. There is a lot of media coverage about the UV rays and many products to protect people against them. But people are still often careless when it comes to the sun. Then again, people could pay attention – and reverse this prediction right out from under me. I would certainly be all for that!”

“I predict the President elected sometime between 2008 and 2020 will die in office from a heart attack. The Vice President who will finish their term will have an unpopular and mistaken intention to declare war on North Korea. By that time, North Korea will have weapons of mass destruction. In the middle of efforts to declare war, I predict the Vice President will be assassinated.”

“In 2008, I predict doctor’s offices will have a high-tech “aura scanner” for patients that come to see them. This will be a highly developed version of an MRI. A patient will stand on a rotating disc and an infrared light will scan the body looking at their aura.”

   There are many more than that but it is a good cross-section. As you can see, many of her predictions aren’t even predictions but are simply the stating of obvious fact. One would be a fool to claim that every child in the world will have adequate medical care during this two year period, or that hunger will be wiped from the face of the planet. Also, there has never been an unemployment rate of 0% and there sure as heck won’t be one in 2008 and 2009. You get the point. The latter predictions are at least actually claiming something that isn’t obvious, but the one on skin cancer is ridiculous. What kind of psychic prediction incorporates such an obvious escape clause? She is apparantly only psychic when she’s right and the rest of the time is just making an uneducated guess. But then again, I haven’t had my routine doctor’s office “aura scan” yet so what do I know.

Stop Sylvia Browne!

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Written by skepticpedi

December 31, 2008 at 9:08 am