An Oft-Asked Question

Turn on the TV, turn to the back pages of a newspaper, or peruse the best-seller lists, and you’re almost certain to come across one of those angels in human form, the psychics. Every day they display their powers to the wonder of believers and the astonishment of skeptics, presciently predicting startling information such as, “The body will be found near water”, or “I see the letter ‘R’ in connection with you.”

Though these incredible insights revolutionize the lives of many, it is undeniable that psychics could do even more good if they could reach a wider audience, and one certain way to do that would be to prove, in a striking and indisputable way, that their powers are for real. In light of this, I hope it will not be seen as impertinent to once again raise an oft-asked question: why don’t psychics prove that their abilities work by picking the winning lottery numbers? In light of the vast pool of psychic talent our species has to draw upon, surely the selection of a scant few digits should not prove over-troubling for at least some of our modern-day savants.

Alas, it seems there is a barrier to doing so – how cruel are the slings and arrows of capricious fate! Though these noble and enlightened souls would like nothing better than to provide convincing evidence of their wondrous gift, they are lamentably unable to do so, due to a strict rule that they may not use their abilities for personal gain. (Charging money, often a great deal of money, for psychic readings does not seem to count. How strange are the whims of fate!) Here are just a few psychics who have informed us of this ironclad rule:

Because, the psychic beings that reside in every living atom will not speak for personal gain, only for the helping of others or for giving someone a vague idea of their future.
http://www.answerbag.com/q_view.php/22153

A true psychic believes their gifts are from God. They believe using their gifts to profit is morally wrong.
http://surveycentral.org/survey/21956.html

Any valid psychic is not psychic about themselves, leaving room for mistakes, lessons and personal evolvement. In no way can she use her psychic ability to directly benefit herself without helping another in turn. It is a G-d given gift, that has it’s own rewards and difficulties. If psychics could use their ability for personal gain alone, it is possible that they could turn in a winning lottery ticket, retire, and never use their gift to help another human being. The inability to predict their own outcomes is designed in order to keep them focused on helping others.
http://www.psychicjaynie.com/faq.php

A true psychic goes through years of training and initiation, which develops spiritual, moral, ethical values and responsibilities…. In this development process a true psychic learns: Ability must be used for service to others, for the highest good of all. Ability is never used for personal gain, personal power, personal knowledge or ego.
http://www.healthylife.net/spirit/developpsychiabil.html

Well, despair not, O psychics! Though I am but a poor, benighted skeptic, trapped in my linear, materialistic, Western ways of thinking, I just may have come up with an idea that has somehow, how I do not know, evaded your great insight. I know how you can prove your mighty powers without violating the stricture on personal gain.

It is undeniable that there is a great deal of need in this darkened world. All around the planet, there are people who are hungry, who are homeless, who suffer from treatable diseases, who are displaced by the ravages of war. Likewise, there are a great number of charitable organizations working to ameliorate these evils, but few, if any, have all the resources they need to complete their mission. A large gift to any of these would be a windfall and could surely be used to accomplish much good.

Here is my proposal to psychics. Pick any charity – whichever one your third eye, sixth sense, spirit guide, star charts, dream journal, remote viewing, dowsing rod, tea leaves, aura-reading, chi, Tarot cards, or Atlantean crystal (as applicable) tells you is most worthy. Then visit a lawyer and hire them to draft, in suitable legal terminology, a contract similar to the following:

“I, (insert name here), do hereby pledge that upon winning the lottery on (insert date of drawing), I will donate 100% of my after-tax winnings to (insert name of chosen charity).”

Then have your lawyer or some other suitable public official witness you signing it, and contact the charity to inform that you have done so and send them a notarized copy. You’re now free and clear! Having signed a binding and legally enforceable pledge that you will give your winnings away, you are no longer participating in the lottery for personal gain, but rather for the helping of others. There should now be no obstacle to you using your marvelous powers to divine the winning numbers.

I anticipate a worldwide flowering of charitable donations and compassionate works to occur shortly as the result of this proposal. I ask for no praise or reward in return, merely a modest acknowledgement that I first proposed the idea. The psychics, after all, would be the ones doing all the work, and it would be wrong to take away from their justly deserved glory.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Azkyroth

    Hard to believe this hasn’t received a comment yet…

    Heh. Forget the lottery, why don’t they tell us where Bin Laden is?

  • Azkyroth

    After re-reading the article, that comment sounds amazingly short-sighted, doesn’t it. x.x Perhaps I should clarify: the Bin Laden example, sadly, is one that’s more likely to appeal to most Americans; I’m not contending it’s necessarily higher priority.

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Why don’t psychics ever know when they are about to be investigated for fraud?

  • Azkyroth

    Or, for that matter, predict that a given candidate for public office will prove to be a bumbling, neotonous megalomaniac and warn their millions of highly impressionable viewers?

  • BlackWizardMagus

    Because that man is pro-business! They saw Enron coming and realized who they needed to protect the rest of the phonies!

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    Hehe! Well, those psychics don’t impress me. I want to see a psychic who can communicate with the ‘psychic beings’ in every *dead* atom. A sort of sub-atomic séance.

  • Mike K

    Well Adam, I’ve just finished scrying into my crystal ball and I can confidently predict that not one psychic will pick up on your suggestion. Now does that make me psychic or what?

  • http://dominicself.co.uk Dominic Self

    On a related note, yay to Derren Brown tonight on UK TV (Channel 4 – http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsites/M/mindcontrol/) for demonstrating the Barnum effect excellently well, by giving British, American and Spanish groups exactly the same ‘personality profile’ which they all believed to be extremely personal and perceptive. One of the Spanish women said at the end “I’ve never paid for astrology before and I definitely won’t now that I know it’s all a lie.. and I won’t be scared of fortune tellers anymore either.”

    Public service broadcasting – debunking and entertaining at the same time :D

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Heh. Forget the lottery, why don’t they tell us where Bin Laden is?

    Another excellent question, although I didn’t focus on it with this post because, unlike with the lottery, it would be considerably more difficult to tell whether their predictions had been successful. In fact, the usual slew of “remote viewers” have claimed knowledge of Bin Laden’s whereabouts (see [1], and for a conflicting prediction, [2]), but as usual, they keep their predictions just vague enough to be completely useless. Even if the military took these people at their word and went off on a wild-goose chase, the psychics would just claim that Bin Laden was where they said at the time but has since moved on. Picking the winning lottery numbers, on the other hand, is a test that admits of considerably less ambiguity.

    Well Adam, I’ve just finished scrying into my crystal ball and I can confidently predict that not one psychic will pick up on your suggestion. Now does that make me psychic or what?

    Of course not! It’s obvious that you can’t possibly be a real psychic – you gave that information away for free. A real psychic would have charged for that.

    I recently heard of Derren Brown through a Google news alert, and I greatly enjoyed reading about him. No one is better placed to expose psychic frauds than a professional magician, as a long line of skeptical conjurers from Harry Houdini to James Randi would testify. Now if only we had a few hundred more like him…

  • tobe38

    Since Derren Brown has been mentioned I’ll just give his specials a quick plug, “Seancé” and “Messiah” are both entertaining and thought provoking in their exposure of fraudulent paranormal techniques. I doubt you’ll get them in America but easily availabe on Ebay.

    Forgive me for also boasting that I’m going to see DB live in May!

  • http://calladus.blogspot.com/ Calladus

    I’ve always had a hard time understanding why a psychic hotline needs to ask for my credit card number! Don’t they already know?

  • http://politecompany.blogspot.com/ Thursday

    tobe38 -

    Alas, I’ve tried getting Mr. Brown’s work, but North America uses different readers (“Zone 1″ type, apparently) than Britian. I’ve asked directly, and that’s what they tell me, at least.

    For the reasoning of psychics, I’ll go (ironically) with Proverbs 17:28:

    “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise:
    and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

    Nod wisely, don’t ask questions… Nod wisely, don’t ask questions…

  • tobe38

    Thursday,

    Europe do indeed use a different region on DVD’s, but all DVD players have a secret menu where you can change the settings to access all regions. If you look online you should find some websites that offer the secret codes to access these menus, just find your make, model and serial no and look it up. This is what many people over here do to use DVD’s from America. Good luck!

    Oh, and I love the Proverbs quote!

  • Ignatius

    These psychics are really good provided they don’t ask your credit card info.

  • Mattg

    If psychics know everything, why do they ask for our credit card info?

  • Mattg

    I don’t beleive that they know anything, they just guess and take our mind.

  • Polly

    Funny, no flames on behalf of the psychics. I guess Xians and atheists CAN agree on something! :-D

    In reading the excuses for why psychics can’t do anything meaningful, I was vaguely reminded of some of the hair-thin excuses for why miracles and such of “early church” fame never occur, or are never well-documented as to be believable. There’s always some little “lesson” or morality to be gleaned from not displaying power; “Believe us it’s real, BUT…” Sorry to cast the first stone.

    BTW-I wonder what the odds are of picking numbers that would match any one of the many lotto games played ’round the country. A psychic could always play the odds, so to speak, and not specify WHICH lottery they were referring to. I don’t know the rules or the range of numbers outside of CA, but a few lucky numbers, could be meaningful to more than one of the lotto games. Then, just wait til you get it right and make a big noise about it.


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