Dear Abby

Dirk Diggler's picture

I can't get over how gullible some people are. As a skeptic, I find it absolutely ridiculous that anyone would believe in psychics, palm readers, tarot card readers etc... However, this kind of nonsense is a multi million (maybe billion?) dollar industry in America. Welcome to the Unenlightenment!

The Unenlightenment is an era in which centuries of rational thought are thrown away and the world is ruled by superstitious idiots. They are everywhere. Homeopathy, horoscopes, chakras, karma, praying to imaginary gods all the while rejecting science.

When reading this Dear Abby column, I laughed my ass off. Does that make me evil? I do feel sorry for the poor woman's genuine anxiety, but still I almost feel she deserves it for believing in something so absurd.


DEAR ABBY: I have found the man I will be with for the rest of my life. I knew from the moment I met him that he was The One. We are very happy and very much in love.

Ever since I was about 9, my mother and I have had our palms read, our tarot cards done, charted our birth signs, etc. It's a little superstitious, but hey -- we have fun with it. We still do it to this day.

When I was 17, our palm reader proceeded to tell me about my life and explained that I will have two husbands, and my first husband will die. Abby, I can't stop thinking about this, and when I do I can't hold back the tears. I can't tell my boyfriend because, as anyone would, he'll think I am being silly.

I wouldn't take this so seriously if the palm reader hadn't been so accurate regarding past experiences in my life. I need some sort of relief from my fear because I'm afraid that when we're married I'll always be waiting for the day my husband doesn't come home. Please help me. -- MISERABLE IN MILWAUKEE

More below the fold...

Yeah, one day your husband will stop coming home, not because of an accident, but because you are ca-RA-zee! Lets see how Abby handles this one:

DEAR MISERABLE: I live in a community where psychics and palm readers are as omnipresent as head lice. While some of them can be remarkably accurate in their predictions, others are charlatans. What your letter illustrates is that while palm reading, tarot, etc. can make for lively entertainment, superstition can be a powerful and destructive force.

May I point out that statistically most women outlive men. Viewed in that light, what your psychic told you wasn't necessarily bad news. It could be interpreted to mean that you will have a long and happy union with the man you love. And when he predeceases you -- as most men do -- you will once again find love. And, honey, from my perspective, that's GOOD news.

Abby is just as bad as the psychic and just as crazy as the women who came to her for help. What's this "some are accurate, some are charlatans" crap? It's a good thing this woman didn't ask me for advice. I would have told her to do civilization a favor and slap herself in the face repeatedly until the superstition is beaten out of her brain.

I'll probably catch some flak for this, but I am actually curious. Why do women predominantly fall for this? I know that I am stereotyping and there are certainly exceptions, but I really don't hear about very many men visiting psychics or getting their palms read. Do men favor some other type of woo?

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Edwardson's picture

Remember reading somewhere

Remember reading somewhere that more women are into psychic stuff while more men are into UFOs/extraterrestrials.

Soitgoes's picture

My first husband is going to die

So is everyone on this planet at some time.

mtully's picture

Does Religion in Culture Play a Role?

The title of this post is not rhetorical. It is a real question I have pondered at times. Not that most religions endorse psychics - I would think that they most likely wouldn't, seeing them as strategic competitors - but, rather the deference American culture gives to people's religious beliefs. That type of attitude that makes it impolite and improper to criticize or even question someones belief in the supernatural.

I think the reason that myself and other rationalists are amazed by things like the article above is that we know that all the data (an then some) necessary to totally falsify such beliefs is so readily available in the public domain. But, why is it then that more people don't know about it?

Religious leaders certainly wouldn't have to point to the data to discourage their flocks from following mystics. They could just announce by fiat that the practices were evil or a form of devil worship. In fact it would seem to me that these leaders probably would not encourage people to use critical thinking in debunking psychics and the like as that methodology may very well lead their flocks to other conclusions they wouldn't like.

So then, what about us in the skeptical community? Do we "hold fire" to often out of a misplaced sense of societal politeness?

george.w's picture

Referring them to head lice was a good comparison

I would have changed that one sentence to "some can seem remarkably accurate." and added "But the mystic connection that psychics use - some of them unconsciously and in full sincerity - is called the 'cold read' in which a persons life can be extrapolated from a few facts about them."

Nancy Reagan had her own personal psychic, and Ronnie played along, having no opinions of his own about such things. (shudder)

Crudely Wrott's picture

Faith is like Bugs?

In a phrase guaranteed to itch the ear, I have a new and clearer understanding of why people do the woo. To wit:

"DEAR MISERABLE: I live in a community where psychics and palm readers are as omnipresent as head lice."

Inasmuch as I have often felt the same shudder of revulsion in contemplating some people's sworn convictions as I've felt upon the discovery of some loathsome parasite, I can only say that I'm glad I'm not itching any more!

E Pluribus Unum

No More Mr. Nice Guy's picture

I saw that column too...

It was headlined "psychic may be on the level". Then last night I was channel surfing and came across something about "therapeutic touch" on PBS - a scam which literally amounts to hand waving, with claims that people can cure all sorts of diseases by manipulating invisible energy fields around the body. The whole rigmarole was debunked by an 11-year old girl several years ago, but the show I was watching - on PBS, I think it might even have been Nova - was totally credulous and gullible about it. "Experts differ on why therapeutic touch is so effective." I was screaming at the TV, "no it isn't, you dumbass!"

You're right, the unenlightenment is getting more powerful every day, just when we most critically need reason and science. It scares the shit out of me sometimes.

- No More Mr. Nice Guy!

JustaDog's picture


Yeah, lots of gullible people on Earth:

> All those dummies that freaked just before Y2K

> Fearful of killer pandemics that never seem to happen but makes for some nice profits for drug companies

> Unions care

> Global warming

> Dumping billions into Africa will solve anything

> The UN is good

Hemp necklace store's picture

More myths

The government is on your side.

thedarkbackward's picture

No Doubt!

Stupid unions! If only we could go back to the days of the Shirtwaist fire.

And global warming! Don't get me started. Every reputable climate scientist in the world is all like "GLOBAL WARMING!" and I'm all like "Nuh uh! It totally rained yesterday. Also PYGMIES + DWARFS!"

I'm also in accord with your Let the Negroes Starve program and would like to get a subscription to your newsletter. Please hurry, though. The Chinese UN troops will be coming through from Mexico in their black helicopters ANY MINUTE NOW!

Hemp necklace store's picture

global warming

Some scientists are claiming we are heading for a catastrophic climatic cooling. Or global cooling so which is it?

RickU's picture

You did it

Thanks. You said it so I didn't have to. Skepticism doesn't mean believing every crank who claims to have a counter hypothesis. Good to see you over here from Pharyngula.

Jim Downey's picture

I prefer . . .

. . . this response.

Do not despair, Dirk, we're making *some* progress.

Jim Downey

Like Science Fiction? Read my novel, Communion of Dreams, for free.

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