Sadly, psychics are in the news again and things don’t seem to have changed much from the times of the ancient Greeks with the Oracle of Delphi to current times and John Edwards. As a Libertarian and Objectivist I’m torn by this particular industry.
On one side I see that people are not being forced to go to a psychic, they are not being forced to spend their money, they are certainly not being forced to believe the nonsense they are told. I’ve had a number of friends go to psychic fairs and come back at least marginally convinced in the accuracy of their readings.
On the other side I see fraud against people who are at their most vulnerable. It seems fairly common that a psychic comes forward to give misguided hope to the family of a missing child, for a price. This sort of financial manipulation of grieving family members is truly vile and, in my opinion, rises to the level of criminality. Anyone who goes to a psychic is vulnerable in some way and they are being manipulated.
I’m not going to spend your valuable time trying to prove how ridiculous is the entire psychic industry nor how vile are those who take advantage of people in a distressed mental state. What I’d like to discuss is the culpability of the average person in this industry. My friends who go to a psychic fair, the parent who reads a horoscope to their child, the match-maker who uses astrological birth-signs to set up couple, all of these people are supporting an industry that preys on grief-stricken people.
A 2005 Gallup poll indicates that 41% of people believe in some sort of extra-sensory perception. However, I’m not willing to dismiss this group as hopeless. I think it’s clear from story after story that psychics prey on vulnerable people and far more than 59% of people find that disgusting. Even if you’re in the 41% who believe in some sort of psychic phenomenon you most likely despise this sort of manipulation.
So, I ask the 41%, is it worth it? Is the fantasy of psychic powers, of someone knowing the future, worth the damage it entails?
To the 59% percent I say, don’t stand idly by when your friends go to psychic fairs and read their daily horoscope. You don’t have to tell them they are stupid, that psychics are wrong and vile. Just say, out loud, that you don’t believe in that sort of thing. Every time you hear someone talking about such things; politely interrupt and say that you don’t believe it and then don’t participate in the conversation.
When we skeptics stand up, politely, you never know who we might inspire.
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