Psychics and gullible people do REAL harm

Psychics and gullible people do REAL harm

Psychics and gullible people do REAL harm

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 19 2008 8:00 AM

Psychics and gullible people do REAL harm

Note: I had held off posting this until a confirmation came up, and now The Toronto Sun is carrying it as well. And since I'm leaving for TAM today, this seems especially appropriate.

There is a story out of Canada that is simultaneously unbelievable and yet oh-so believable... and certainly enraging.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

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.

Yes, you read that right. A psychic. This "seer" told the TA the little girl was being abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26, so the TA told the teacher, and up the chain it went.

If I were the mother, I would have gone very medieval indeed on them at that point. But it gets worse. The school officials reported the incident to Children's Aid, the government agency overseeing child abuse.

Advertisement

This is incredible. Stupidity almost beyond imagining! Think of the mental turmoil the mother went through (after the difficulty of raising an autistic child), the time wasted, the money... all because a TA went to a "psychic", and the people in charge believed it.

The key part here is (emphasis mine):

...under the Child and Family Services Act, anyone who works with children and has reasonable grounds to suspect a youngster is being harmed, must report it immediately - and the CAS has an obligation to follow up.

Note the word "reasonable". If you made a list of reasonable things in the world, nowhere on it, anywhere, would you find the word "psychic" (unless it was in the form of "psychic powers are not reasonable"). There was some secondary, circumstantial evidence of abuse, but IMO it was not enough to trigger this. The clear primary cause was the word of a "psychic".

Advertisement

The mother also has proof her daughter hasn't been abused; the girl is equipped with a GPS unit that makes audio recordings as well, and there is no evidence at all of abuse. In some good news, the Children's Aid Society called the woman and told her this whole situation was "ridiculous".

The mother has correctly pulled the girl from the school (I'd pull mine too if I had a child at that school) and is trying to get the school board to pay for treatment for the girl. That is reasonable: because of all this the mother cannot work and has no income.

There is an irony here. In my opinion, given the statements in the news article and assuming they're accurate, the TA, teacher, vice-principal, and principal all need to be shown the door. Fired. Period. However, the psychic, no doubt, will be allowed to go on giving advice that will continue to ruin peoples' lives. Why? Because in most cases the "psychics" are careful, making sure they say that the information they give out is not to be taken as fact, but as entertainment. Many TV bloodsuckers "psychics" do this, so they don't get sued.

"Psychics" may honestly think they have gifts, but they don't. Others are simply con artists, and there is no punishment large enough for them. But they're all wrong.

But the real evil is done by the gullible. If the linked article is correct, those people were put in charge of the care of a little girl, and they screwed that up on a massive scale. I hope they learned something from this.

Hat tip to Fark and BABloggee Anthony Duca.