Friday, June 20, 2008

When psychics turn bad

This is a very scary story.

A woman has an autistic 11 year old daughter and cannot afford special care for her, so she takes her to a public school. The mother was recently called in to the school due to a horrific claim: her daughter was being abused. This claim was being told to her by the principal, the vice-principal, and the girl’s teacher, mind you, so the mother was rightly very upset.

The problem: this claim was being put forth by the teacher’s assistant… because a psychic told her.

» Read more (on Bad Astronomy blog)

It's very worrying that anyone would take "evidence" from a psychic without any other corroborating evidence. If the whole thing had been started off by the child having bruises, and then a psychic got involved, that might not be quite so bad, but it would still be bad. Shades of the Salem Witch Trials...

It also reminds me of the cunning folk of the 17th century who saved their own skins by denouncing old ladies as witches. Similar things have been going on in India recently, where a village wizard type person denounced a "witch", who was then horribly killed.

As a person who is both sceptical and open-minded, I would not entirely dismiss the possibility of precognition; however I am well aware that it is likely to be inaccurate, and (even if it does work) only to predict events extrapolated from the current state of affairs. So I would never ever use alleged precognition as the sole basis for a decision.

In Pagan circles (usually polytheists and reconstructionists) an experience that is purely personal and un-corroborated is known as a UPG (unverified personal gnosis), thus making a clear distinction between intuition and empirical evidence.

Also, if a Pagan has a vision or a weird experience, they will often be aware that it might have been just a hallucination or some random stuff from their subconscious, and yet still find the experience valuable in symbolic terms; yeah yeah, so it might have been a deity communicating with you, or it might have been your subconscious; but the content of the "message" is more important than the source - and if the "message" is telling you to do something bad, like denouncing people as child abusers with no evidence at all, then don't listen to the message. Simple really.


Anonymous said...

That's just frightening!

-- Jarred.

Steve Hayes said...

You may also have heard of the Orthodox Christian concept of "prelest", of which this seems to be an example.

Yvonne said...

Thanks. I hadn't heard of prelest, but I Googled for it. Of course the Pagan theological context would be different, since we don't believe in the Fall (though some ancient pagans did), but other than that, prelest describes this "psychic's" actions very well. Prelest almost sounds like it means pre-emptive molestation (though I'm sure it has some entirely different Russian etymology), which this was.