Colleen Leduc has an autistic child named Victoria who is enrolled in a public school. She recently got a terrifying phone call — her daughter was being sexually abused. We parents know well the fear and worry a threat to our children can cause, and Leduc was receiving an urgent, frantic phone call from school officials telling her that her daughter was being victimized in the worst way.
So she rushes in to this little meeting."The teacher looked and me and said: 'We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of "V." And she said 'yes, I do.' And she said, 'well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'"
Before you ask, there is 0 proof this psychic was even within the ballpark. Victoria's never been sexually abused. There are no men with access to her in that age range. There is nothing. The psychic was pulling this shit right out of her ass.
I have friends who go to psychics. I have friends who are mightily impressed by what the psychics tell them. And usually it's seemed like a little bit o' harmless fun, and everybody has a good time, and the fact that the psychic was completely fucking wrong, or was only right because their information was so broad it could be interpreted any way you like, doesn't seem important because, well, everybody enjoyed themselves.
But this is a slippery slope. Because the psychic may be a good cold reader, or may know the person well enough to work some elements of truth into the bullshit, and a coincidence or two might happen, and people start to want to really believe, and the next thing you know, you have shit like this happening.
And these psychics see nothing wrong, because they believe they have special powers. They've selectively remembered the bits that reflect well on their predictive ability, and forgotten all the misses where they were so wrong they couldn't see right on a clear day with a telescope. The people around them have the same selective memory, which reinforces their faith in their powers. And you know what this psychic's probably saying to herself right now? Not "I was wrong, and I've just destroyed this family." Not "I was wrong and I caused a mother to go through hell." No, she's likely saying, "They just haven't found the proof. After all, I knew that my client worked with a little girl named V! It's obvious I was right about everything! I have the power!"
No. You really don't.
And if we don't start teaching people to think critically, evaluate evidence dispassionately, and temper emotion with reason, we're going to have a lot more bullshit like this. We'll have a world wherein a teacher can get fired for being a wizard and a mom and daughter can have their lives turned upside-down because some silly git went to a psychic who strayed out of "tall, dark and handsome" territory.
That's not the world I want, thanks ever so much.