Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sylvia Browne

Sylvia Browne (1936-) is a self-styled psychic and spiritual medium. She used to appear regularly on the Montel Williams Show where she gave audience members advice on subjects such as love, finances and missing family members. She seems to have been remarkably unsuccessful when it comes to locating missing people - In 2010 the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine analysed the 115 predictions she made on Montel Williams and claimed her success rate to be precisely zero.

Despite this, she has remained one of the US's most high profile psychics (together with James van Praagh) with a huge number of followers and admirers. However, this week she is facing her biggest challenge, and a considerable backlash on social media following the escape of Amanda Berry from her abductors ten years after she was kidnapped (together with two other women - Gina deJesus and Michelle Knight, and Amanda's own daughter). Browne told Louwana Miller, the mother of Amanda Berry, on the TV show 'She's not alive, honey. Your daughter's not the kind who wouldn't call'. Louwana Miller died in 2006 unaware that her daughter was still alive.

James Randi has been a constant critic of Sylvia Browne and consistently states that belief in psychic readings is dangerous. I think psychics are largely immune from criticism since there is a general feeling that their predictions can't do any harm and may in fact be useful. Randi argues that they prey on the vulnerable and naive and may lead people to come to false conclusions which may be damaging to individuals and families. He makes this claim in the podcast below, recorded for CBC Radio:

No comments: