Bitter Psychic?

§ May 24th, 2012 § Filed under Mad Mad Mad World, Uncategorized § Tagged , , , , , , § 7 Comments

Maybe you’ve noticed that it’s pretty rare for those of us who appear in the  media on behalf of skepticism or secular humanism to get equal time to represent our side.

There are exceptions.

I got a fair amount of time to speak and a friendly edit on Penn and Teller’s  Bullshit (twice), the WGN Morning Show, and a few other TV shows. But the on-air ratio of us-to-them is usually some overwhelming amount of  time on the side of Bigfoot or alien abductors to a few snippets of a skeptic’s detailed explanation.

So when the Dr. Phil Show called CFI  looking for someone to represent the side skeptical of psychic claims, I was  pleasantly surprised. John Edward, whom I’ve written about in Skeptical Inquirer, appeared on Dr. Phil this past January, and now they were  doing another show with skepticism being represented. Great!

The producers  described Dr. Phil as being very skeptical, and asked about how the  psychics who would also appear on the show could be put to the test. I was overflowing with ideas.

Our Independent Investigations Group  (IIG)  has been testing these kinds of claims for over 12 years, and has lots of experience giving claimants a fair chance to shine. (None ever have, by the

Instead of me running a simple test, the producers preferred to have a skeptic “cold read” a group of strangers and then have a psychic – alleged psychic – read the same group. Both would be introduced as psychics. My first instinct was to let IIG member Mark Edward, an experienced mentalist, do the read. When I couldn’t reach Mark, I decided to do it myself.

I have witnessed (at least) dozens of cold readings and am very familiar with the technique. So I crammed the weekend before the Monday they taped the reading, and arrived at Paramount Studios that day walking with a cane. (The idea was to soften the sitters’ hearts so they would root for a positive reading. Buying into the psychic’s abilities is an important part of the perception of success.) I had to do something. I was nervous, and the psychic reading after me was younger, female, and very experienced.

By the end of my 40 minute session with 12 strangers, I had made 3 of them cry and gotten a fairly high percentage of “hits”, i.e. accurate guesses. I left much relieved, and my college friend Joe (who had witnessed the reading) and I both felt like my very first psychic reading (on national TV!) had been a great success. The strangers’ tears were testimony to their acceptance of me as a psychic.

When I arrived at Paramount the next day for the taping of the actual show, I learned that I, the lone skeptic, would be relegated to the audience while the psychics (billed on the Dr. Phil website as “well-known experts”) sat up on stage with Dr. Phil. I expected to be outnumbered, but thought the psychological disparity of sticking me in the audience was a low blow.

I’m not sure of the timing of when I was revealed as a fake (psychic), but those whom I read – even those who cried – now scoffed at my abilities. Even the psychics tried to pile on with one saying that I am a psychic, though a  bitter one. Wow.

So you’re saying that I – a completely science-based skeptic, study a deceptive technique, employ that technique to the degree that believers tear-up at my words, and admit my fakery freely to make a point about how such deception
works – am actually a psychic? In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “Oh you’re way off.”

Ok, I get that Dr. Phil’s audience (about 80% of those in studio, we learned) is mostly believers in psychic powers. Maybe the show is afraid of challenging the views of so many of their viewers. But it would have nice to have a fair
chance to do so.

Maybe the edit will favor science in a way I can’t predict.

To find out, tune in to Dr. Phil on Friday May 25th, 2012 to see how equally the skeptical Dr. Phil presents two sides to a question about skills the world of science is very unconvinced about.

7 Responses to “Bitter Psychic?”

  • Panther Modern says:

    It’s pretty absurd for Dr. Phil, who seems to base his treatments on actual psychology, to endorse or encourage such pseudoscience on his show.

    The best way to deal with this is to write informed complaint letters, politely addressing why and how “psychics” are frauds. Perhaps with enough attention, Dr. Phil will issue a retraction episode and end this madness.

  • Paulette says:

    Watching the episode now. He did seat you in the audience, but he usually does that with the experts and has the people with the issues up with him. I would look at it that way. Though this really wasn’t a very skeptical show. Sad.

  • Mike de Fleuriot says:

    “To find out, tune in to Dr. Phil on Friday May 25th, 2012 to see how equally the skeptical Dr. Phil presents two sides to a question about skills the world of science is very unconvinced about.”

    And if you believe that there will be a fair showing, I invite you to choose which cup the pea is under, for a price of course.

  • HipChick says:

    I remember when Steve, Dr. Steve Novella was on Dr. Oz and every time Dr. Novella was making a valid point Dr. Oz would cut him off. Not too surprised ‘Dr. Phil’ did something similar.

  • I truly wish that people would stop giving in to the lure of fame, and start saying NO to Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and others like them. The rational side never gets a fair shake, and as critical thinkers, we should be able to look at the countless examples of this as DATA, and predict the outcome.

    Being relegated to the audience is something that I would have predicted, along with the pandering that Dr. Phil did to his credulous Oprah-scraps audience. I got through half of the program, but couldn’t stomach anymore of it. It’s clear that he’s no interested in the truth, so why not do what my sister did when she and her husband did (both of whom were invited by Dr. Phil to take part in a “couples who got fit and healthy” segment)? She told the producer, “Please tell Dr. Phil that I would rather swallow hot razor blades than be on his crappy show,” and she hung up.

  • admin says:

    Would you have him conduct a show about psychics unopposed? Or with an unqualified respondent?

  • admin says:

    Several of the responses I made during the taping were edited out. It’s very frustrating.

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