Psychic Predictions revisited
I predict this article will change nobody's mind on the validity of psychic phenomena, but I do hope I'm wrong.
Three years ago (September 1999), in Meditation 6, I made a series of predictions for the year 2000, about which I subsequently gave myself credit for 80% accuracy. Not bad, as I clearly stated these predictions were made without using any of my psychic powers.
The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how easy it is to make "psychic" predictions, and to implicitly undermine the claims of those who call themselves psychics.
Not very many agnostics or atheists give credence to any of the paranormal powers. The healthy skepticism which leads us to question claims of a Great Omnipotent Disincarnate in the sky also leads us to be highly dubious of any other extraordinary powers which are not subject to verification in a controlled setting.
But still, psychics and their ilk continue to find an audience amongst the credulous, largely the same audience who accept without question the existence of a supreme being.
Psychics get away with it because it is very easy to make predictions which will not turn out to be false. (Again, check out my own exercise in this area.) Also, almost no-one who believes in psychics actually bothers to check out their level of accuracy.
Here is a recent prediction made by psychic Anthony Carr about the actress Meg Ryan:
"Meg isn't through with scary situations. She should stay away from helicopter scenes. They hold real danger for her - especially in Portugal."
What a prediction! There is an implication that something might happen, and it might involve a helicopter, and it might be in Portugal, but there is no indication of specifically what and where. And more importantly, nothing about when. Here is a prediction that can never be proven false. If nothing happens in the near future, there is still room for something to happen in the more distant future. If nothing happens, ever, then clearly Ms. Ryan took Carr's advice. And if something does occur, and the range of possible events is enormous, then he has support for his claim of psychic ability.
As he makes about 10 published predictions a week in his syndicated column, or about 500 predictions a year, it would be surprising if he did not make an occasional accurate prediction.
But does Anthony Carr have psychic ability?
In the same column in the Calgary Sun in which he made the vague prediction about Meg Ryan, Carr made a more specific prediction about the actor Richard Harris:
"Richard's cancer will go into remission; the third Potter film wins him industry-wide applause."
That column was published on October 27, 2002, unfortunately two days after Richard Harris died of his cancer. Not only was the prediction wrong, but Mr. Carr was unable to use his supposed psychic powers to determine that his prediction would be proven wrong before it saw the light of day.
Psychic? I don't think so! But then, there is no such thing as psychic power.
- Some organizations of skeptics do follow up, but paranormal believers don't believe in skepticism.
- Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter 1 & 2; English Bob in Unforgiven; King Arthur in Camelot on the stage, also "singer" on a hit version of MacArthur Park.