Tag: scams

Why are psychics ever surprised?

By Phil Plait | March 10, 2010 1:00 pm

Every time a psychic gets surprised by something, the world gets a little smarter. I hope.

If that’s true, then our collective IQ went up a solid 8 points when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a suit against "America’s Prophet" Sean David Morton on claims he’s a big ol’ phony.

If only he had spelled it "profit" instead, then he wouldn’t have been falsely advertising. And given that he made a cool $6 million off of gullible dupes, that moniker would certainly fit better.

Now, of course this doesn’t mean all psychics are knowing frauds any more than a scientist who perpetrates knowing fraud indicts all other scientists.

However, science has given us spaceflight, agriculture, computers, medicine, telescopes, and a deeper and quantitative understanding of the Universe from the quantum level out to its observable edge.

Psychics have given us, well… y’know… um… oh! They make it easier for non-critical people to carry their now much-lighter wallets around.

Right. Well, to paraphrase Philip J. Fry: psychics 0, regular science a billion.

Tip o’ the crystal ball to Dale Martin.

MORE ABOUT: fraud, psychics, scams

Koran verses "appear" on baby in Russia

By Phil Plait | November 3, 2009 10:30 am

In Russia, thousands of Muslims are flocking to see a baby who has verses from the Koran mysteriously appearing on his body:

I’d like to be very clear here: this is not pareidolia, our ability to see patterns in random objects. The verses are clearly there, and not just random. As one pilgrim said, "It’s proof that Allah exists, that he is all-mighty…"

koranbabyHowever — and perhaps this is just me here — it seems far more likely that instead of an actual miracle, someone is maybe, y’know, writing the verses on the baby. The mother says the baby is cranky when the words appear, which (if she’s being truthful) you might expect if someone is scraping or otherwise irritating the baby’s skin to make the words appear. I’ll note that the words fade with time, too, just as expected if this is a fraud.

If this whole thing is a fake (and the JREF has a million dollars on the line to say something about that) then I don’t know what’s worse: the parents or whoever is behind this doing this to the baby, or the crowd who simply believes it.

Oh, wait! I know what’s worse: the reporter who did this story and the editor who approved it not injecting one single shred of skepticism into the report. There was no journalism here, no investigation. This was simple stenography, the credulous retelling of what is almost 100% guaranteed to be a hoax at best and a scam at worst. Not to mention child abuse.

People sometimes ask me what it’s like to be a skeptic all the time. Maybe I should simply answer, “nauseated.”

MORE ABOUT: Koran, scams

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar