Psychics Invade NPR

I have to admit that I am an NPR junkie. I like the focus on content over fluff, the lack of commercials, and the chance to learn something new. Also, there is no better interviewer on the planet than Terry Gross.  National shows, like On The Media, Studio 360, The Moth Radio Hour, and Le Show, as well as some interesting local shows, like The Allegheny Front, make for good listening on the Steel City’s local NPR station, WESA-FM.


WESA is also a great fit for public radio after the fiasco with Duquesne University. Back in 2010 (when it was still WDUQ), the station was told they could not accept underwriting from Planned Parenthood because it was seen as being at odds with the Catholic Church. When the ownership change occurred, I was looking forward to the new WESA that would broadcast interesting, thought-provoking, intellectual radio for the Pittsburgh region.

(Up until yesterday, my only complaint about WESA was their insistence on running reruns of Car Talk. It was a fine, humorous show in its day, but isn’t it time to put the tapes away and maybe just bring it out a few times a year, perhaps like a Marx Brothers festival on TV?)

It also seemed that WESA did not have the pledge issues of the local PBS station, WQED-TV, which had no problem running info-commercials for charlatans like Deepak Chopra. At least that was until yesterday, when they decided to feature the noontime interview “Psychic Mediums Use Their Gifts To Help Police And Families”. Ugh.

For over 25 years sisters Suzanne Vincent and Jean Mackenzie Vincent have used their psychic abilities to help others. We’ll learn how they’ve been helping law enforcement and families solve cold cases. And in time for Halloween they’ll tell us about their experiences as ghost hunters.

Paul Guggenheimer made it worse by claiming that he was “skeptical” of their powers, but then did nothing to challenge the absurdities from the very beginning:

“We are going to start with the work that you do that certainly can’t hurt in an investigation. You both have these psychic abilities, so let’s start with that.”

No. Let’s not start with that. Let’s start with the sisters’ claim that they have psychic abilities. Let’s start with not inviting them to the studio.  Let’s start with how psychics and the belief in psychics can do and has done real harm to real people, with Sylvia Browne being the most noted and worse of the bunch.

The most extensive study of alleged psychic Sylvia Browne’s predictions about missing persons and murder cases reveals a strange discrepancy: despite her repeated claim to be more than 85 percent correct, it seems that Browne has not even been mostly correct about a single case.

 Lets be very, very clear  (from Wikipedia) .

In 1988 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences gave a report on the subject and concluded there is “no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena.” A study attempted to repeat recently reported parapsychological experiments that appeared to support the existence of precognition. Attempts to repeat the results, which involved performance on a memory test to ascertain if post-test information would effect it, “failed to produce significant effects”, and thus “do not support the existence of psychic ability,” and is thus categorized as a pseudoscience.

WESA needs to stop this kind of report. It is not Essential Pittsburgh. It is BS Pittsburgh. You seem to be a nice person, Paul, but this kind of fluff piece does harm to our community. Real harm. Give it a rest. Instead, lets have some honest skepticism about issues of science to inform the community about issues of the day.

About SamStone

A Steel City Skeptic who thinks science and reason is the light that we should follow to find our way in this world.
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