Monday, 7 April 2008

You've got to laugh

I still tend to buy to the Observer on a Sunday, even though it's not very good (but the competition isn't up to much either). There's usually something to make me laugh, though. This week, I laughed like a drain at this story, about psychics, spiritualists and mediums being subject to the new European Consumer Protection Regulations. Apparently:

Promises to raise the dead, secure good fortune or heal through the laying on of hands are all at risk of legal action from disgruntled customers. Spiritualists say they will be forced to issue disclaimers, such as 'this is a scientific experiment, the results of which cannot be guaranteed'.

This really is pure comedy gold. I'm fairly sure that most of these 'scientific experiments' are going to fall short of the standards you would normally expect. For example, you would want to see adequate controls and blinding. I wonder if you could sue someone for describing something as a 'scientific experiment' when it is clearly no such thing?

Previously there was something called the Fraudulent Mediums Act (1951), which protected mediums against litigation, unless it could be proven that they acted with dishonest intent. As long as you genuinely believed the rubbish you were talking, you were in the clear. This is not an approach we would accept if, say, we were buying a used car. If Honest Pete's Motors told you "Sorry about that, guv, but I genuinely believed that there was nothing wrong with the gearbox on that Austin Allegro", you would not be happy. So why should spiritualists get away with it? According to the story:

Carole McEntee-Taylor, a spiritualist healer in Essex, said having to stand up and describe the invoking of spirits as an 'experiment' was forcing spiritualists to 'lie and deny our beliefs'. She added: 'No other religion has to do that'.

Perhaps if you have genuinely held religious beliefs, you shouldn't be attempting to make money out of them?


Anonymous said...

It is perfectly true that an appallingly high percentage of healers are "not quite what they claim".BUT I for one have been enormously helped by one when the medical profession failed.Very honourably the doctors concerned admitted to being utterly baffled by her success.

Paul Wilson said...

I'm not going to deny your personal experience, but I will say that it doesn't amount to scientific evidence of anything much. There are a number of reasons why you could have such an experience without the "healer" having anything to do with it. The main one is probably regression to the mean.

Whatever the cause, I'm glad you feel better.

pj said...

I think the psychics and healers have a point - why do mainstream religions get to claim they can cure mental illness (scientology), give you life after death and grant prayers (most Abrahamic ones), and a range of other nonsense - and you do pay for that - they just have a more elaborate financial structure.

Re: the Observer - I always buy the Guardian on a Saturday - I find it gives me enough to read for the whole weekend and I don't have to read the intellectually vacuous middle class lifestyle wank of the Observer.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps if you have genuinely held religious beliefs, you shouldn't be attempting to make money out of them?"

Yeeees - but have you considered the possibility that psychics, spiritualists etc. do serve two masters, one of whom is Mannon? That pretty much mandates attention to money and the solicitation of 'gifts'.

I am entertained by the thought that there are going to be experiments in spiritualism etc. offered up and down the UK. I wonder if this applies to psychic premium-rate numbers?

"Just before we relieve you of your credit card number, we are obliged to tell you that this is an experiment. Performed by phone. And I am in a call-centre in an obscure part of the world that is off-shoring UK services. I am not a licensed medium. When I am not offering you spiritual guidance, I am failing to provide useful answers to questions about why your broadband service doesn't work. There is an astonishing overlap between these scripts and their usefulness..."