Psychics, homeopathy and other gobbledygook

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Vinay Pratapa, Lode Writer

Yesterday, I was watching “Nick of Time,” an episode of the popular anthology television series, The Twilight Zone. The episode is basically about a newlywed couple who become increasingly paranoid because of the predictions made by a napkin holder/fortune telling machine at a table in a diner.

With each correct answer, the husband starts to actually believe the machine, while his rational and skeptical wife talks him out of his delusions, telling him that he’s letting it run his life, instead of letting him make his own luck. This is basically what superstition is. We think it’s so farfetched at first, but a few coincidences later, we are enslaved to it.

As an Indian, I come from a land where people believe anyone who tells them what they want to hear, especially if they wear saffron clothing and has a beard. We call them “babas,” and they’re a big deal there, much like the “psychics” here in the U.S.

Psychics, astrologers, fakirs, shamans, babas, reiki healers; all of these charlatans employ a pseudoscientific technique called Cold Reading. It’s a guessing game to obtain the client’s trust before they can start with the process. Say your beloved father passed away recently. When you walk into their room, psychics immediately see your face and “sense” that you’ve been mourning. They immediately change the tone of their voice to something soothing, to ease your pain.

They then make guesses about your father’s name among the common ones like Joe, Robert or Bob, Dan, Nick, Chris, Ben, Jesse to name a few. They say he’s in heaven and in a happy place and he’s proud of you. They make somewhat specific assumptions that his favorite color is blue or red, which are more or less general. They describe his features, which when you think about it, would suspiciously resemble yours. Therefore, some theatrical hand-waving, some lucky guesses, tapping into your emotional core and giving you closure combined with your gullibility, and voila! You’re happy, and they get their 700 bucks.

This is a huge business in all parts of the world. People believe that there is a world that runs in parallel to ours, an alternate reality, astral plane, contacting the dead, the works; Sylvia Browne, Tyler Henry, Lisa Williams, Uri Geller; all these frauds made millions by making reality shows where they hypnotize the participants and tell them what they were in their past lives.

Surprisingly, they were always a prince, an aristocrat, a philanthropist or a king but never a cobbler or a fisherman, because apparently the working class doesn’t deserve rebirth. Sex sells, but so does dramatization and grandiose deceit.

Another type of scientifically disproved garbage is Homeopathy. Homeopathic medicine is basically the same medicine used in regular tablets, diluted to one percent. It’s like dunking an aspirin pill in Lake Tahoe, mixing it with a very large stirrer and drinking a spoon of it when you have a headache.

The next day you’ll have magically lost your headache because of the placebo effect. You believe that the medicine works, so it actually did, like religion. Doctors use this technique all the time to treat hypochondriacs. Such faith-based medication works for exorcism maybe, but not cancer.

James Randi, a popular scientific skeptic gave hundreds of talks and seminars where he began them by swallowing a whole bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills to prove how ridiculously ineffective they are. He also offered a 100,000 dollar reward to anyone who can prove any paranormal activity in scientifically observed conditions. Nobody came forward, and the one who did, later backed out because he was a “godless person.” This should make it perfectly clear what they’re operating on.

I don’t say ghosts don’t exist. Well, not ghosts per se; I’ve seen Interstellar. Maybe there’s another dimension and beings, or higher forms of intelligence can move freely between them. Maybe there are things we can’t comprehend out there that exist beyond the scientific realm, at least for now. But calling them ghosts, or spirits and lying to grieving families and giving them closure by tricking them to pay huge sums of money, either from “therapy” or giving pseudo medicine is not only illegal, but also morally reprehensible.