I was in class tonight, and the girl who sat in front of me brought up the topic of how Sylvia Browne died (I have my opinion on how deplorable of a person she was, but I will not go into that, I think we are all aware) and of how sad she felt about it.  My ears perked.  First, the fact that she had any kind of emotional reaction upon hearing the news of her death is beyond me, but I digress.  Then she proceeded to talk of how great she was.  Ok, now first off, I know better than to try to have any sort of rational debate with someone who is so firmly planted in their delusional beliefs, but I couldn't resist. I asked her if she was serious. With conviction, she said yes......and heeeeere we go.  I asked her why she would believe in psychics, which she promptly asked why I didn't.  Well since proof, or lack thereof is on my side, I began to try to explain (as I slid Dawkins' God Delusion back into my bag, for I am reading it again).So this is what I found.  I found that people find rational views of their beliefs pointing to the factual contrary, is intolerable.  People have let their beliefs blind them from actual truth, I suspect for comfort reasons.  I also found that when I try to have a debate with such people, that I resort to somewhat belittling ridicule.  Which I will be the first to admit is neither constructive, nor attractive.  I try to inject humor into my arguments to hopefully give them the point of view of how silly their belief is, which usually creates some sort of contempt.  Walking to our vehicles she stated that I am not going to change her beliefs and that she had a personal experience with one that made her believe.  I told her that there is definitely an explanation for all information she had received.  Then I asked her how much she was charged.  I also asked her to view stuff from James Randi, maybe to just think of the possibility that her position may be wrong. 

        As we were getting into our vehicles, she asked me if I had ever been to a psychic.  I stated that I had not.  She said I had no reason to have an opinion then.  I don't need to let a rattlesnake bite me to know it is poison.  Others have before me.  And that poison is truth.


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Comment by Tim Bales on November 22, 2013 at 11:46pm

Thanks DOG!!  Brilliant. I will check it all out. Ironically, it was a psychology course!! 

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 22, 2013 at 11:00pm

Just had an Idea, maybe you could get her or even arrange the class (no knowing what class that was) to just view Lecture 7: The Psychic Reading: How to Convince People that You Know All About Them


Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 22, 2013 at 10:10pm

Maybe you could view the very educational series produced by the James Randi Education Foundation, entitled "How To Think About Dubious Claims".  You may even grab snippets from it or record bits of it for presenting to such people, because Ray Hyman teaches you how to be a psychic and if you use such techniques on those believers to show that you too can do psychic readings, and thus demonstrate it is all deception, they have less reason to doubt your skepticism.  It's a free course of 10 lectures:  http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/jref-news/2222-free-course-how-...

Ray Hyman put himself through his psychology course working as a carny, doing palmistry, psychic readings and as a magician. I like how the head of the psychology department had a go at him for doing such work which he didn't agree with, and Ray simply asked to read his palm, the department head was so impressed with Ray's reading that after a while he was asked to see the department head, thinking he was in trouble, but the department head only wanted another palm reading.

Yes, Ray can teach you to be a better psychic than Sylvia Browne ever was.  Even she never got more than a 70% hit rate in her readings, many of Ray's students scored an 85% hit rate or higher.  You could become the best psychic in the country or use it to debunk them by demonstrating that anybody with the right training can do as good as any psychic.

I've watched the entire course and found it as a great way to improve my own Critical Thinking Skills.

Comment by Michael Penn on November 22, 2013 at 8:37am

Tim, you simply cannot reason with some people. My deceased mother used to believe that her little dog had the same heart problems that she did. Every now and then she would give the dog a pill and the dog felt better.

Sylvia Browne was about as psychic as my mother's dog. What, you don't believe in psychics? Mostly they tell you what you wanted to hear. The good ones know how to read people well.

Comment by Luara on November 22, 2013 at 6:07am

You could point out the financial motivation for people to claim psychic knowledge. 

I agree that resorting to ridicule is not constructive.  But sometimes those kinds of people really push their views on you.  For example I went into the doctors' office and I asked whether any dogs had been in there, and another person in line started telling me about NAET and how it cured her allergies.  NAET is a hocus-pocus allergy treatment and so far as I know there's no way it could work.  I got rude because she was being intrusive - I said "Like hell it cures allergies". 

But pointing out the reasons to be suspicious of such strange claims may help?  People who believe in them, strike me as wanting to have faith in something.  People who have been burned by mainstream medicine, don't tend to question the motivation of their homeopath or acupuncturist - but after all, those people are making a living with very little training.  It's a way of being idle. 



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