There are certainly lots of topics to cover in thew news and when I first saw John Oliver was doing a segment on psychics, I thought it was kind of a missed opportunity to spend time on something else.
But Oliver did a nice job and covered the importance of why we need to call out psychics: they provide legitimacy to BS psychic powers that are often used to exploit people.
Oliver discusses how psychics will prey on families who have a missing family member and charge tons of money to claim they can help find them. This is awful and heartbreaking. And such legitimacy is derived from major television networks regularly hosting psychics on their shows.
Patrick Anderson and I made a similar point in our post about progressive Christianity and how it provides credibility for religious beliefs that can be used to justify terrible behavior. Additionally, progressive Christianity celebrates believing in something without evidence and provides that safe haven for Fundamentalists with its legitimacy of supernatural beliefs.So that is where I would have gone farther than John Oliver: it’s not just that psychics bolster the legitimacy of those who prey on the vulnerable, they also create a safe haven for believing in nonsense.
This is a point of contention that I sometimes run into with fellow skeptics. Some people will argue “there’s no harm in having people believe in nonsense.” But I disagree. Even if there was not such a huge problem of psychics preying on vulnerable, I think we should still strive for a society that celebrates skepticism.
While it’s great to watch psychics get called out on their BS (something that is also included in this segment), it’s also important to think about how such silly beliefs lend credence to not critically challenging what we and others believe.
PS: If you’d like to support my new podcast, check out my Patreon!