So it turns out the predictions made by professional psychics of events they expected to occur in 2013 were substantially wrong.
Or in other words: dog bites man!
The Internet makes it even easier these days to track these dolts and their fact-free babblings. Here’s a link at about.com that records for posterity the “Psychic Predictions 2013” of psychics Lamont Hamilton, Vicki Monroe, Psychic Nikki, Sidney Friedman, Judy Hevenly (Get it? Better than a stripper named Debbie Takitoff.), Blair Robertson, Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, and The Amazing (one man’s opinion) Kreskin.
Is there a bigger single page of wrong anywhere on the web? Hard to imagine. (I checked and there’s no site at wrong.com although somebody owns the domain name.)
It’s worth taking a few moments to read the empty predictions of these psychics just to try to grasp the sheer scale of their inaccuracy. (Or, in the famous words of the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, “Your theory isn’t even wrong!”) The majority of these predictions are quite specific (“Prince William and Kate will have a baby girl” according to LaMont Hamilton. Hey, it’s a 50/50 shot!) and hence serve to render them gloriously wrong. Then there are the ones that seem to make for reasonable guesses (“Finally, a new comprehensive major immigration reform law will be signed into law by the end of summer due to bipartisan support,” also according to Mr. Hamilton, whose abilities fail to account for Republican obstructionism). And finally there is just vague bullshit, which of more or less applies to every prediction of Kreskin’s (dog bites man again!).
Having availed yourself firsthand of the content-free nature of that steaming pile of manure, then you can handily turn to “2013 Failed and Forgotten Psychic Predictions.” There, the same list from the about.com piece is checked off item-by-item and dutifully compared with reality.
In a word: FAIL.
And what thereby is the lesson for skeptics?
It’s not that psychics are invariably wrong. This is smaller news than “Dog Bites Man.”
Rather the lesson for skeptics is that despite the pathetic track record of psychics, it doesn’t seem to cost them much business, nor access to headlines, nor belief by their followers. And that’s not because people are stupid. It is because belief in psychics, and countless other pseudoscientific claims, is not based on rational choice. It’s not based on what people choose to believe, but what people need to believe. It’s about worldview, and not evidence. Or at least, not skeptics and scientists definitions of evidence.
And that’s why skeptic activists need to keep talking about the meaning and definition of evidence, and of the scientific method. It is counter to the way human brains were wired on the African plains, millions of years ago, to invest greater confidence in the abstraction of double-blind tests performed in laboratories than in the firsthand experience of a psychic reading.
And with that thought to consider, I leave you with The Honest Liar’s personal prizes for 2013 Psychic Prediction Pstupidity. The two winners are:
LaMont Hamilton for this prediction: “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Gingrich steps down from the Supreme Court after an illness.” Not only did a Justice named Ruth not step down (good try though if you’re going for statistical probability), but her name is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Thus providing ordinary evidence for the ordinary claim that Mr. Hamilton is a moron.
And, to Sylvia Browne, the Grief Vampire, who confidently predicted on the “Larry King Show” (Shout-out from skeptics: We don’t miss you, Larry!) that she would die in 1988. Wrong! And while I agree with D.J. Grothe that one does not celebrate death, it seems unarguable that the world is a little bit better off with one less predator.
My psychic prediction: Psychic predictions for 2014 won’t turn out any better. Dog Bites Man! Film at 11, on January 1, 2015!
Jamy Ian Swiss is Senior Fellow at the JREF. He blogs regularly at randi.org.