“No shame” psychics keep their predictions vague

imagesFor some reason, science debunker Goldacre’s blogpost below makes me take him slightly less seriously. It’s as if he’s saying, it’s no shame in giving psychic pronouncments to parents with missing children–people who obviously might be devastated or misled as a result–so long as you’re not found wrong. Does anyone else see it this way?

Shame on you, Sylvia Browne, for telling Amanda Berry’s mother her daughter was dead.

May 7th, 2013 by Ben Goldacre in just a blog 
The story of Amanda Berry’s rescue in Cleveland – after ten years in captivity – is extraordinary. In 2004, popular psychic Sylvia Brown told Amanda’s mother that her little girl was dead. Here is a contemporaneous account of that show.
Amanda Berry’s mother traveled to New York to tell her story to Psychic Sylvia Browne on the Montel Williams Show. The show was a shot at getting her daughter’s picture before the eyes of millions of Americans. “On April 21st 2003, 16-year-old Amanda Berry left her part-time job never to be seen again,” the show began. With that, TV viewers across America now know a girl from Cleveland is missing. But Amanda Berry’s mom wanted more than her daughter’s picture on national TV. She wants answers. “Can you tell me…Is she out there?” Berry’s mother Louwana Miller asked. “I hate when they’re in the water,” Browne said. “She’s not alive honey.” It was bad news from the world-renowned psychic. It’s what Miller didn’t want to hear. “So you don’t think I’ll ever see her again,” Miller said. “Yeah in Heaven on the other side,” Browne responded. “I’m sorry.” Montel took a commercial break and Amanda’s mom broke down.
It has been widely reported in the last 24 hours that Amanda Berry’s mother died in 2006 of a broken heart: certainly she must have endured appalling anguish over her last years. It would be nice if people like Sylvia Browne could deliver their stage entertainment with a bit more consideration. Until hell freezes over, we can at least draw attention to these horrible episodes.
Given that fortune-telling (on TV or live) lacks any scientific validity whatsoever (and the FBI said Browne had never been of any help), what can Goldacre’s chiding mean, except perhaps to suggest that an honorable psychic should be sure to keep her predictions ultra vague? What if she’d predicted her daughter was alive, or what if her daughter had turned out to be dead, would Goldacre declare there was no shame?
Categories: junk science, Misc Kvetching | Leave a comment

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