Content Check

Sylvia Browne, on the Montel Williams Show, (truly a great source of blogging material) has claimed a track record – in criminal cases – of nearly 90%. Ninety percent.

Not that anyone should take Sylvia Browne on her word. Just ask the good folks over at The CSI (no, not the TV show), who use the chucklingly low-tech method of checking up on Sylvia via Lexis-Nexis to discover that, in the 115 available readings, she was right exactly zero times.

Zero. Now, sure, some of the cases remained unsolved – but if Browne had given the police correct, indisputable, good evidence (as she is often paid for with Police Department budgets, or from the pocketbooks of distraught families), then – surely – someone would have been able to catch the perpetrators?

In every single case where the crime WAS solved, Browne was wrong.

I’d imagine that Browne’s success rate is pretty typical of the Psychics/Intuitives/Mediums who try and “help” beleaugered police departments. If you happen to be in law enforcement, and your department has taken help from the supernatural, please us here at the Jackson Skeptical Society know. We’d love to hear how it all happened.

Have you ever wondered why people stick to superstitions? In the case of positive superstitions (i.e; what you need to succeed at a task, rather than what you need to avoid bad luck – that would be a negative superstition) – it seems to make people more confident, driven, and effective if they think they’ve got luck on their side. I’m always a bit wary of using psychological test results in the uncontrolled and chaotic domain that is real life, but Ben Goldacre points out the mechanism and results of the study here, and it’s quite interesting to watch this self-fulfilling prophecy in action.

What I’d like to see, however, is if negative superstitions can cripple otherwise competent performances, if those people who believe themselves to be down on their luck and in bad cosmic karma are underperforming.

Ah well. Until next time, when I’ll discuss the rather silly beliefs of Prince Charles. Until then, you’ll have to be content with Christopher Hitchens and a rather amusing rundown of the man who will be king, and his recent comments on Galileo and Gaia.

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