Friday, May 10, 2013

Why we are sceptical about psychics

The Huffington Post reports:

A celebrity psychic has come under fire for telling Amanda Berry's late mother nearly 10 years ago that her daughter was dead. Amanda Berry went missing in 2003 and was found alive in Ohio on Monday.
Sylvia Browne, a self-described spiritual teacher and psychic, has made a career out of prophetic readings and lectures. Back in 2004, Louwana Miller turned to Browne for help on an episode of "The Montel Williams Show." She wanted to know what happened to her daughter, Amanda Berry, who disappeared at 16 years old on April 21, 2003. The psychic told the mother Berry was dead.
She’s not alive, honey,” Browne said at the time, according to NBC affiliate WKYC's report on the segment. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.”
Miller then asked Browne if she was ever wrong.
“Only God is right all the time but of course I’m wrong,” Browne responded. “But after 50 years of doing this work, I’d better be more right than wrong. I always say I hope I’m wrong. When it comes to this, I hope I’m wrong.”
Berry was allegedly kidnapped and held captive for 10 years. She was discovered trying to break free from a house in residential Cleveland on May 6 and was rescued along with a young child and two women, both of whom went missing around the time Berry disappeared. Suspect Ariel Castro and his two brothers, Pedro and Onil, have been arrested.
But the psychic had been able to convince Miller her daughter was dead. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Miller said she believed the prediction "98 percent" and began cleaning out some of her daughter's things, even though the FBI still considered her alive at the time.
“Please don’t misunderstand me," Miller reasoned to the Plain Dealer in 2004. “I still don’t want to believe it. I want to have hope but, after a year and a half, what else is there? It seems like the God-honest truth. My daughter would always call home.”
Berry's mother died in 2006 at the age of 43 after being hospitalized for pancreatitis.
When Berry was found alive this week, it became clear that Browne was very wrong. 

We've never dabbled in the spirit world that Sylvia Browne professes to; it's against our beliefs. But we are not surprised at all that her prediction with regard to Amanda Berry has turned out to be wrong. 

In the same way that we are deeply suspicious of tele-evangelists who preface everything with crass commercial announcements, we have no time for celebrity psychics who offer people false hope by claiming to be able to engage with the dead.

In the Amanda Berry case, it is wonderful that she, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus emerged safely from their incarceration. Equally, it is deeply sad that Louwana Miller went to meet her Maker believing her daughter to be dead.

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