I have a humour imbalance - know any good bloodletters in the Denver area? August 21, 2007 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Sorry, there really are no 'good psychics', only charlatans. Deleting the posts in that thread stating so isn't going to change that. Are we going to delete negative comments if someone asks the best way to transfer money to dead Nigerian princes? This is 2007 - it's about time that Mefi grows up and allows people to call a scam a scam.
posted by unixrat to Etiquette/Policy at 2:58 PM (276 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

No. People go to psychics for all sorts of reasons, the same way people go to chiropractors, hire dowsers, or go to church. I wish the OP had explained a bit what she was looking for, but just because you think psychics are charlatans does not give you license to crap in that thread. We've been over that before here many times, unless you can respectfully interact with the OP about their question -- and this can include disagreeing with them, but usually not calling their premises bullshit -- you have no business posting comments in AskMe. If you want to talk about growing up, that would be my advice, for starters.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:05 PM on August 21, 2007 [20 favorites]


If you do not feel you can offer a useful answer to the question that was asked, refrain from answering. There are people who are capable of answering the question in good faith, which belies the notion that there is no civil and useful answer to the question as stated.

Refusing to either take a question at face value or walk away is not growing up, it's crapping in AskMe. Flag it, write an email, something like that; refusing to accept the unmolested existing of the query isn't very helpful.

See recently, re: astrology; this isn't the first time it's come up.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:07 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Spoiler: there's no god either.

And your mom was the tooth fairy.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:12 PM on August 21, 2007


All this is beside the point.
A good psychic should be able to find you.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:13 PM on August 21, 2007 [20 favorites]


What will happen if I post in AskMe: "Which religion is the right one?"
posted by mullingitover at 3:13 PM on August 21, 2007


If you do not feel you can offer a useful answer to the question that was asked, refrain from answering. There are people who are capable of answering the question in good faith, which belies the notion that there is no civil and useful answer to the question as stated.

So the answer to "How do I send money to a Nigerian Prince?" is "Western Union" or "Gold Bullion"?

These are the answers that have been left in the thread. It's disgraceful. This scammer policy needs calling out, consequences be damned.
posted by unixrat at 3:16 PM on August 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


A good psychic should be able to find you.

Guess how many times that was removed from the thread?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:17 PM on August 21, 2007 [6 favorites]


If psychics are not scammers, then ban me right now.
posted by unixrat at 3:19 PM on August 21, 2007


Wait--- you're asking me if I'm psychic?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:19 PM on August 21, 2007



Guess how many times that was removed from the thread?

A good psychic wouldn't have to guess, they'd know.
posted by juv3nal at 3:20 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


There are no real psychics, nor is magic real, and yet we accept that there are professional magicians; sometimes people are willing to suspend their disbelief to enjoy a good show.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is a belief you are talking about, not knowledge. Charlatan might as easily be flung at monks, nuns, rabbis. Because you do not share the belief is no reason to insult it. Tolerance is a pre-req., especially among the rational. Don't be a rationalist extremist.
posted by Toekneesan at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Dude, the poster says they're giving a friend a gift certificate for their birthday. Nowhere does it indicate they think OMGPSYCHICSARREEL! They might think it sounds like fun. Their friend might have indicated it's something they'd like to try. Their friend might be a fruitloop and think she needs psychic guidance. Since there's no way to know, I dont understand why you automatically assume that the poster is ignorant of the issues surrounding psychics.
posted by supercrayon at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


JESUS KILLS SANTA CLAUS.
posted by loquacious at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I never had psychics with a man in Denver.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:23 PM on August 21, 2007


Psychics offer gift certificates? Wow.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:27 PM on August 21, 2007


Some of the best dollars I've ever spent were on the "psychics" in front of Jackson Square in New Orleans. Sometimes it's fun.

Also, don't discount the power of positive thought that these people can provide. Just because it doesn't work for you, doesn't mean it doesn't work for others.

Also, is THIS your card? Of course it is.
posted by ColdChef at 3:28 PM on August 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


There are no real psychics, nor is magic real, and yet we accept that there are professional magicians; sometimes people are willing to suspend their disbelief to enjoy a good show.

No one thinks magicians are real. Many people think psychics are real. All this other noise about monks and the Easter Bunny is clouding the issue.

I stand by my earlier proposition:

If TPTB@Mefi thinks psychics are not scam artists, ban me now. Otherwise, allow the counter-psychic posts.
posted by unixrat at 3:29 PM on August 21, 2007


There are people who are capable of answering the question in good faith

Without faith, there is no answer.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:29 PM on August 21, 2007


So the answer to "How do I send money to a Nigerian Prince?" is "Western Union" or "Gold Bullion"?

The distinction between the sort of documented, unwavering, willful harm implicit in a cash fraud scheme and visiting a psychic should not need to be made. You might as well rail against chiropracters or therapists or birthday clowns—an opt-in service/entertainment question bears no functional resemblence to a 419 scam or, say, an ebay crook.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:30 PM on August 21, 2007


Everyone who falls for a Nigerian 409 scam believes that he is going to get a boatload of money. No one has ever gotten a boatload of money. That's the scam.

There is no one belief that is shared by all people who go to a psychic. It's no more a scam than a phone sex line. Yes, some people won't be able to handle it, but that doesn't mean the whole thing is an attempt to swindle people out of money.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:30 PM on August 21, 2007


Good psychics do not take advantage of their powers by gaining unfair advantage in the financial markets. Bad psychics don't waste their time in bars with people who aren't going to sleep with them.
posted by found missing at 3:31 PM on August 21, 2007


If TPTB@Mefi thinks psychics are not scam artists, ban me now. Otherwise, allow the counter-psychic posts.

I don't think psychics are scam artists as much as I think they're performance artists and I'd ban you right now but I suspect you may be one too....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Psychics rely on the faith of their clients. If were going to start culling threads based on whether or not the underlying assumptions are based on faith then we're opening MeFI up to a shitstorm of biblical proportions.

Seriously, skeptics, relax. Shrill handwaving isn't going to save the souls of the wayward.
posted by lekvar at 3:32 PM on August 21, 2007


I don't really expect someone whose username is partly derived from a computer operating system to have a balanced grasp on the complementary role of rationality and willful but harmless belief in our society. If I want to know the command to dig out a certain file on my filesystem, I know what I need to do. But when it comes to complex topics on human relations, heck, a good people person, like many psychics are, is as good as anything else.
posted by vacapinta at 3:33 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


If TPTB@Mefi thinks psychics are not scam artists, ban me now. Otherwise, allow the counter-psychic posts.

Ummm, how about these options:

1) Deal with the rules of this place.
2) Leave this place voluntarily.

Why do you have to be banned? That part makes no sense.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:35 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


unixrat writes "If psychics are not scammers, then ban me right now."

Using only the power of telekinesis!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:35 PM on August 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


And to think that Ronald and Nancy Reagan had psychics Joan Quigley and Jeanne Dixon as advisers when they lived in the White House.
posted by ericb at 3:35 PM on August 21, 2007


Does seeing this Metatalk thread coming a mile away make me a psychic?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:39 PM on August 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


Anyone who makes such a predictable MeTa post has no business attempting to debunk psychics.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:39 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh snap, Blazecock. You must be!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:40 PM on August 21, 2007


The future is plastic.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2007


I sent a boatload of fruitloops to a Nigerian prince. I'll get back to you as soon as I hear from him.
While you are waiting unixrat, flag if you care to and move on.
posted by Cranberry at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2007


Does seeing this Metatalk thread coming a mile away make me a psychic?

Maybe. Answer me this, though:

How will it end?
posted by 23skidoo at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2007


It is unlikely that the OP is unaware that psychics are not backed by most scientists. Therefore, there is no need for us to tell them so. (If you knew a psychic and had to chip in, you could at least do it in a respectful manner ("Well, there's always XYZ Mystical Consultants, but be aware that psychic advice is controversial.")

On the other hand, if someone asked about the best way to help a Nigerian heir, they obviously aren't aware of the common scam and it would be cooler to let them in.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 3:41 PM on August 21, 2007


How will it end?

Well.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:42 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


I see a flameout in our future.
posted by Floydd at 3:43 PM on August 21, 2007


I am a psychic and predict this thread will not go well.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sigh. My attempt to help vet the psychic via a link to the James Randi org did not make the cut.

I should've seen it coming.
posted by mullingitover at 3:43 PM on August 21, 2007


I knew that was going to happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:44 PM on August 21, 2007


If psychics are not scammers, then ban me right now.

Oh my goodness, what a shocking ultimatum that has really made us appreciate the gravity of this situation!
posted by chrismear at 3:47 PM on August 21, 2007 [9 favorites]


Show us on the doll where the bad psychic touched you, unixrat.
posted by quin at 3:48 PM on August 21, 2007 [14 favorites]


I actually know people who send money to Nigeria on a regular basis. Not everyone in that country is a scammer, you know. Jesus.
posted by delmoi at 3:48 PM on August 21, 2007


JESUS KILLS SANTA CLAUS.

Yes, actually, since baby Jesus is also the baby New Year, and Santa Claus is also the Old Year that the New Year kills.
posted by jamjam at 4:20 PM on August 21, 2007


No one thinks magicians are real.

You mean Uncle Carl isn't real?!?

*cries*

Seriously, though, he's like some kinda' robot, right?
posted by the other side at 4:23 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


If psychics are not scammers, then ban me right now.

No no no. That's not the way to go about it.
If you say: "Either I'm a psychic and I can accurately predict that I will be banned right now OR psychics are all scammers."

Then if you get banned, you will have established your bona fides for a lucrative career as a scammer psychic. Win-win.
posted by juv3nal at 4:24 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, actually, since baby Jesus is also the baby New Year, and Santa Claus is also the Old Year that the New Year kills.

I knew you were going to say that.
posted by loquacious at 4:25 PM on August 21, 2007


Can we ban unixrat for being such a shrill fucking shitstripe?
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are people who are capable of answering the question in good faith

It's impossible to tell from that post whether the "gift certificate" is a real attempt to provide actual psychic powers to another, or an attempt to provide mere tongue-in-cheek, ironic entertainment. It's useful to err on the side of caution (in good faith), given the extreme numbers of morons on the internets, five bucks or not.

Therefore, it is also useful for moderators to not have a heavy hand in removing posts that point out the widespread numbers of charlatans that prey on such morons.

/me wags a virtual finger at the admins

The distinction between the sort of documented, unwavering, willful harm implicit in a cash fraud scheme and visiting a psychic should not need to be made. You might as well rail against chiropractors

DUDE. Equivocating that questioning the efficacy of psychics and questioning the efficacy of chiropractors are the same useless enterprise misses the point by a country mile. I mean, yowza. Somewhere, there's a forest looking for its trees.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:36 PM on August 21, 2007


I knew you were going to say that.

Well, then you've passed the audition. What's your ETA at Denver International so I can tell tika2000 when to pick you up?
posted by jamjam at 4:37 PM on August 21, 2007


unixrat: Many people think psychics are real. All this other noise about monks and the Easter Bunny is clouding the issue.

Many people think psychics work which is different than thinking that are real, see also placebo effect. It's still not helpful to call them names.

What you know (X) and what another person believes (Y) are not in a position to judge each other. X⊄Y. It's like when religious extremist take a stand on issues not in their jurisdiction, like is there such a thing as evolution, geology, or planets.

Leave them alone and we'll try to keep them off your back.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:37 PM on August 21, 2007


Can we ban unixrat for being such a shrill fucking shitstripe?

Hello, pot? Kettle here...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:38 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think psychics are scam artists as much as I think they're performance artists and I'd ban you right now but I suspect you may be one too....

Quit dancing around the question and calling me names, fer chrissakes. If you thought I was a performance artist, then you should have banned me years ago.

If they're real, then ban me.

Which is more accurate:
A) Police departments call in psychics to help find missing people?
B) Police departments call in performance artists to help them locate missing people?

People take this as seriously as those fools who fall for 419 scams.
posted by unixrat at 4:44 PM on August 21, 2007


No snazz on the boodlekips for me, thanks! Great post! lol!

This comment will make perfect sense in a thread due to take place 4 days from now.
posted by chinston at 4:45 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


"Police departments call in performance artists to help them locate missing people? "

Please, God, let there be a police department that does this. (That police departments call in psychics can be seen as orthagonal to whether or not they have psychic powers— one of the things that makes, should we assume that psychics are scammers, psychics so effective is that they have an excellent eye for detail and observation, things which could be helpful to an investigation).
posted by klangklangston at 4:48 PM on August 21, 2007


"Hello, pot? Kettle here..."

Yes, Kettle?
posted by klangklangston at 4:49 PM on August 21, 2007


a shrill fucking shitstripe?

Sorry, guys, I'm out of cash this week. Someone else is just going to have to take this one.
posted by cockwaffle at 4:51 PM on August 21, 2007


Dear AskMefi:

Where is the best place to hire a performing Unicorn for my party celebrating the anniversary of America's noble victory in Iraq. Phone number must be a prime number.
posted by Megafly at 4:51 PM on August 21, 2007 [10 favorites]


This is a lame call-out and you are lame for making it.

You seem to be operating under the notion that everyone who goes to a psychic must believe they are "real". I've never been to a psychic and I have very low tolerance for such quackery, but also I'm capable of imagining people having different interests than me while also having some shred of rationality.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:53 PM on August 21, 2007


Could you make a lame call-out and yet not be lame for making it? Could you be lame for making a non-lame call-out?
posted by found missing at 4:55 PM on August 21, 2007


No one is asserting that psychics are real. We are merely saying that a person can be perfectly aware that psychics have dubious real value and still want to see one, just as they may want to go see a professional magician although they know that the magic is not real. And they may not need you to tell them (in a rather insulting way) that all psychics are swindlers.
posted by that girl at 4:59 PM on August 21, 2007


I got chiropractic treatment from a psychic once. McLuhan was right; the medium was the massage.
posted by Abiezer at 4:59 PM on August 21, 2007 [36 favorites]


Abiezer, you must be punished for that.
posted by dersins at 5:02 PM on August 21, 2007


If they're real, then ban me.

unixrat, where I come from, calling someone a performance artist isn't an insult but I'm sorry if you took it as one.

Also, you are not the boss of me. Feel free to leave of your own accord if this is going to make you apoplectic.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:02 PM on August 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


I see a graaaave disturbance... [NSFW]
posted by carsonb at 5:04 PM on August 21, 2007


folks, a war has been declared. Between unixrat and psychics. Not that the psychics are aware, but unixrat wants everyone on MeFi to be aware, and in fact is putting up the amazing challenge of being banned from MeFi (gasp!) if psychics in fact, aren't scammers. It would be impressive if it weren't so ridiculous.

Bottom line is that AskMeFi answers are to be pertinent to the question, unlike perfectly fine flame-worthy comments on the blue and here on the grey. On the green, just answer the question if you can, and if you can't, do something else with your life.
posted by zardoz at 5:06 PM on August 21, 2007


Not that the psychics are aware

Well they're not really psychics then, are they?
posted by dersins at 5:13 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I smell a flame out!
posted by eyeballkid at 5:16 PM on August 21, 2007


I smell a flame out!
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:17 PM on August 21, 2007


Holy shit, eyeballkid! How...
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:17 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


If they're real, then ban me.*

Oh. I think I get it.

1- If they're real, you should be banned.
2- You're not banned yet, therefore the admins admit psychics aren't real.
3- If the admins admit psychics aren't real, then flagrant thread-shitting must be allowed.

Doesn't work that way.

* I can't help but read this in a dramatic, breathy "If you want him, come and claim him!" Liv-Tyler-as-Arwen way.
posted by CKmtl at 5:18 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


If a Bf doesn't feel he wants to spend all the afterlife with the Gf it isn't because he doesn't love you. You're just full of shit clingy.

Right thread?
posted by Shave at 5:19 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


No one thinks magicians are real.

Gee thanks. How about a spoiler alert next time!?

*sob*
posted by amyms at 5:19 PM on August 21, 2007


/me nods at weapons-grade pandemonium knowingly.

Also, you will receive important news in the mail today.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:20 PM on August 21, 2007


While you are waiting unixrat, flag if you care to and move on.
Yeh, he can hardly flag deleted posts, can he? Perhaps we should be able to -- so that a deleted post can get hundreds of "reinstate!" flags. Just now the system only works one way.
posted by bonaldi at 5:26 PM on August 21, 2007


MetaFilter: Psychics please flag in advance.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:28 PM on August 21, 2007


unixrat, your psychic sister is a whore.
posted by item at 5:29 PM on August 21, 2007


If there are no psychics then how do you explain gravity.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 5:31 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


If TPTB@Mefi thinks psychics are not scam artists, ban me now.

C'mon, somebody give this doofus the bannination he's so desperate for!
posted by languagehat at 5:32 PM on August 21, 2007


This reminds me of a funny story that my father tells.

He's in law enforcement and one day they had a domestic disturbance call. When he arrived a couple of cars were already there. Everyone had their weapons drawn at a naked man in the front yard. He was waving a gun and screaming, "Shoot me," over and over again. One of the officers was telling the man to calm down, place the gun on the ground, and put his hands on his head.

"I double dog dare you to shoot me," the man said. Once again the cop with the bullhorn told him to calm down, place the gun on the ground, and put his hands on his head.

"I triple dog dare you to shoot me," and at that point all of the officers opened fire. When the shooting stopped, the cop with the bullhorn said, "Don't ever triple dog dare us again."

Then they had donuts. Probably glazed.
posted by sleepy pete at 5:32 PM on August 21, 2007 [12 favorites]


Wow, I wish a caring friend had bought me a gift certificate to a psychic that could have warned me to read this MeTa (and burn a green candle in the southwest corner) before posting in the AskMe. Sorry.
posted by bunnycup at 5:33 PM on August 21, 2007


Everyone who falls for a Nigerian 409 scam believes that he is going to get a boatload of money.

I fell for a 409 scam. What I believed I was going to get from the widow of Nigerian banker was a nice, clean bathroom, but she only vacuumed and dusted.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:33 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


"unixrat, your psychic sister is a whore."

Man, that sounds like some Guided By Voices lyric.

(Guided By Voices? Isn't that what psychics claim? Either ban me or admit Robert Pollard KNOWS THE FUTURE!)
posted by klangklangston at 5:33 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


The future is plastic. -- posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson

IRFH -- are you trying to seduce me? ; )
posted by ericb at 5:42 PM on August 21, 2007


I think we're done here.
posted`by cortex at 5:45 PM on August 21 [+] [!]

I think we're done here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:43 PM on August 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


I think we're done here.
posted`by cortex at 5:45 PM on August 21 [+] [!]

I think we're done here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:43 PM on August 21 [+] [!]

Whoa.
posted by rtha at 5:46 PM on August 21, 2007


Man am I in trouble.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:48 PM on August 21 [+] [!]


Damn skippy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:49 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Robert Pollard knows not the bounds of time and space!

And boy, has unixrat ever got his kickers in a twist over this one. I can't imagine caring enough about something like psychics to start a whiny metatalk thread about them...
posted by Jimbob at 5:50 PM on August 21, 2007


Another four hours of this? I didn't foresee that.
posted by Shave at 5:50 PM on August 21, 2007


Hmm maybe we should be more sensitive.

Did a psychic touch you in a "bad" way once, unixrat?
posted by Jimbob at 5:53 PM on August 21, 2007


I think we're done here.
posted`by cortex at 5:45 PM on August 21 [+] [!]

I think we're done here.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:43 PM on August 21 [+] [!]


rtha : Whoa.

Dude! He's posting from the future! The fucking future!
posted by quin at 5:54 PM on August 21, 2007


I'm going to start suggesting psychics as the solution to all future relationshipFilter threads, since that will combine two things I dislike.

Also, Mr. Vick should see a psychic.
posted by smackfu at 5:55 PM on August 21, 2007


"If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand."

Who said that? Stephen Wright or Emo Phillips, I think? (Google won't give me a definitive answer, and I can't afford to consult a psychic)
posted by amyms at 6:01 PM on August 21, 2007


I really wanted to post this very thread, but then I realized that it doesn't really matter how wrong I think somebody is, it's their constitutional right to waste their own money.
posted by tehloki at 6:03 PM on August 21, 2007


Anyone else ready for a pie and tonic?
posted by Kwine at 6:06 PM on August 21, 2007


*sigh*
*unzips fly*
I'll get the vermouth.
posted by tehloki at 6:09 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bloodthirsty languagehat is hilarious.
posted by sciurus at 6:12 PM on August 21, 2007


Fine, fine, fine— recommend me a good CHARLATAN.
posted by klangklangston at 6:22 PM on August 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I think sciurus has a line on one.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:25 PM on August 21, 2007


Oh Christ, jessamyn. I'm SORRY. Please don't delete me along with my comment. I promise not to read MetaTalk sleepy again. Ever.
posted by Eideteker at 6:31 PM on August 21, 2007


I did not have psychics with that woman.
posted by flabdablet at 6:35 PM on August 21, 2007


The admins are wrong on this one. By AskMe's own rules, the question is invalid because it is unanswerable.

If anything should be removed, it is the question, not the answers.

Also, my answer, while ridiculing the question, actually provided a list of psychics in the Denver area, and it STILL got deleted. So yeah, I'm a little aggravated.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:35 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


In an alternate bizarro universe somewhere in the 18th dimension, an angry Mefite sits in front of the computeratrix, bending spoons with his mind.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:44 PM on August 21, 2007


I've been a believer in psychic powers ever since the first medium I visited took one look at me and said "you masturbate frequently." I mean, how could she have known? And yet, the truth was out.

The first tarot reading I had done (the teller used a traditional Celtic Cross spread) ended with Unresponsive Dowsing Rod across The Fapper. That was a pretty terrible month.
posted by maxwelton at 6:58 PM on August 21, 2007




*reheats popcorn*
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:09 PM on August 21, 2007


Nail, this is coffin.

Coffin, nail.
posted by item at 7:18 PM on August 21, 2007


Here's an interesting idea:

Some psychics work.

Not because, necessarily, such a thing as telepathy works, or that tarot cards work, or anything like that.

It's just that there are some people out there who are particularly observant, empathic, etc. and are thus able to tap in more easily to the reality of the situation than the average person. After a few sentences they are somehow magically able to capture extensive knowledge about the person they're talking to, but not because this is actually magic, but because unlike you and me they're somehow able to really hear that person on a completely other level.

The psychic who works for police departments, the most famous of them, lives near my home town and they did an excellent article on her in the local paper. She herself was ambivalent on whether she was tapping into psychic energy or not when solving the crimes. More likely she was just had an increased ability to synergize clues and to absorb the feel of a place.

Nowadays, a fair number of crimes are solved by DNA. And a fair number of crimes are also solved using profiling. These techniques use different qualities.

Here's the thing. Psychics in the back of magazines? The ones who tell you bullshit that could apply to anyone and drag you along and cost thousands of dollars? Those are bad psychics. The ones that are more empathic and view the sessions as an opportunity to apply wisdom and knowledge to your personal self? Those are good psychics.

And also, you don't believe in psychics. Great. You probably don't believe in a higher being, either, or reincarnation. You're one of the ones who can't have faith because you can't believe in things, you need them proven to you. That's great. We need people like you to constantly question held beliefs and move things along. But there have been a lot of really awesome men and women "of the cloth" who have moved things forward because they believed in things without any proof at all.

Scamming is incidental to being a psychic, not central to it. Many psychics think they're psychic and are there to help people. They're not making a killing off of others, it is just their job. The stock market is "real" and there are plenty of financial advisers who have and might continue to rob their clients blind. There are scientists who spend your tax dollars to run studies that prove something obvious-- people's inhibitions are lowered when they drink, etc (I don't necessarily think this is a "scam" but it's definitely not money well spent). War is real, and rebuilding after a war is real too. Guess who is currently scamming on the order of billions of dollars (hint: not psychics).

The admins are wrong on this one. By AskMe's own rules, the question is invalid because it is unanswerable.

No, it's not. I gave a pretty good definition of a "good psychic". I imagine if you went to someone with an open mind and had a pleasurable experience, you'd call them a good psychic.

Also, my answer, while ridiculing the question, actually provided a list of psychics in the Denver area, and it STILL got deleted. So yeah, I'm a little aggravated.

Gee, I wonder why it got deleted?

Here's an analogous example:

Q: I think I might have chronic fatigue syndrome, and have really bad headaches because of it. What can I do?
A: You are an idiot. Chronic fatigue syndrome doesn't exist, and you are just being a pussy. Aspirin, tylenol, and advil are all common headache medicines.

Are you giving "answers" to the question? Yes. Are they useful? No, not unless you think searching google or telling someone something they already know is useful.

I am so sick of this coming up every time there's a question about people believing in something. And this wasn't even like the astrology question that was open ended. This one was very specific, and still people have to crap in it.

I imagine this kind of hostility might make people nervous to go to the green with their questions. And let's be honest: who would you rather be giving advice about psychics? MeFites, or Cleo?
posted by Deathalicious at 7:19 PM on August 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


Don't reheat it (yuck), just pop a fresh bag.
posted by amyms at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2007


OH dammit. Just pretend my em tag stopped a long time ago. Sorry. Maybe someone can fix that.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2007


It's no more unanswerable than "Recommend a good casino," or alternately, "Recommend a good recipe for poopoo pitas."

Psychics exist. It may be a misnomer to allow such people that title, but there they are, out on the streets, being cvalled that by speakers of English without fingerquotes, and ergo, there is some rubric of evaluation for their performance which good AskMe answerers can elucidate upon.

Is obsession with empiricism some form of Autism I'm unaware of?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:26 PM on August 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


Well, then you've passed the audition. What's your ETA at Denver International so I can tell tika2000 when to pick you up?

I was there yesterday. I already have my assigned dossier and my license to confuse. I'm on assignment... right now.

WHAT THE FUCK, MAN? WHY DID YOU BLOW MY COVER?
posted by loquacious at 7:34 PM on August 21, 2007


Is obsession with empiricism some form of Autism I'm unaware of?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur


Be careful--when you're aware of it, you've got it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:45 PM on August 21, 2007


Doesn't anyone believe in the placebo effect anymore?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:46 PM on August 21, 2007


blue_beetle said: Doesn't anyone believe in the placebo effect anymore?

Yes (shameless self-link)
posted by amyms at 8:06 PM on August 21, 2007


Do links to our own Metafilter posts count as self-links?
posted by amyms at 8:06 PM on August 21, 2007


Dear AskMefi: Can anyone suggest a good exorcist in the Denver area? My son is infested with demons and we need to beat the devil out of him real quick. Please, no judgementalism. Kthxbi. ;)
posted by Avenger at 8:17 PM on August 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


If psychics are not scammers, then ban me right now.

Would you be willing to cut off your right hand to prove their lies?
posted by Krrrlson at 8:21 PM on August 21, 2007 [8 favorites]


So I was giving a woman a shampoo, all of a sudden she sat up looked at me and said' YOU ARE UNDER PSYCHIC ATTACK! BY TWO WOMEN AND A MAN! Who Are They? I gave her the names of my previous two wives(both in town at the same time) and a bad roommate who was involved with wife #2 after I thew him out of my place. That night at dinner I noticed that my food was weirdly tasteless, the next morning I had full blown Bell's palsy that lasted about six months. coincidence.
posted by hortense at 8:24 PM on August 21, 2007


That IS spooky, hortense.

I've only been to a psychic once (a gift from my crazy mother on my 16th birthday)... The psychic, who worked with a deck of cards (not tarot, just regular playing cards), told me that I would lose my father at a young age (true, he died when I was 19) and that I would marry my current boyfriend, but that he wouldn't be good for me (also true). I think back on that reading sometimes and get spooked, wondering if it was just a lucky guess or if she was really truly seeing something.
posted by amyms at 8:37 PM on August 21, 2007


Would you be willing to cut off your right hand to prove their lies?

i'm teleporting a bent spoon so he can do that right now
posted by pyramid termite at 8:39 PM on August 21, 2007


so could we have called the OP out for asking for a psychic surgeon? or homeopathy? OR HITLER?
posted by beefetish at 8:40 PM on August 21, 2007


You know who else consulted psychics?
That's right--this guy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:56 PM on August 21, 2007


True story: In high school, before getting a real job, I worked weekends in a gift shop in the lobby of a nice hotel.

They had a Psychics Convention in the hotel one weekend, with meetings in various ballrooms, and at least twenty psychics came in during the day to ask where the next meeting was.

After a while, I was like, "I'm thinking as hard as I can, how come you can't read my mind?"
posted by misha at 9:01 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


My first thought for that post was, "No, I can't recommend a good psychic in Denver or anywhere, because I don't know of any real psychics."

So I just didn't post in the thread, because I knew it would end up here in the grey (hey! I'm psychic!).
posted by misha at 9:06 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


So cortex are you unable to fake the font properly for a fake post or did you just not take the effort?
posted by Mitheral at 9:15 PM on August 21, 2007


OK, here's my crazy psychic story, which I heard from an actual mental health professional.

Guy is having a sanity hearing in front of a judge. Judge: "So it says here you believe you can read minds."

Guy: "Yes, your honor, and I can prove it to you."

Judge: "OK, sir, go right ahead."

Guy, with a crafty look on his face: "OK, now tell me what I'm thinking."
posted by ottereroticist at 9:28 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Deathalicious: Can you please recommend a good lubricant for my perpetual motion machine? Must have a less than 0 coefficient of friction.

Please don't respond about how there is no such thing. I've already made up my mind there IS such a thing, I'm just asking you to give me recommendations.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:35 PM on August 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


unixrat's right, "psychics" are scammers (whether they know it or not), "psychic powers" are just bullshit, and people who think psychics are right delude themselves.

But arguing with the Mefi Mod Crew is just as useless and makes nobody any money.

Solution: totally ignore me and do whatever you want.
posted by davy at 9:44 PM on August 21, 2007


"there is some rubric of evaluation for their performance"

It's called a quick-'n'-easy IQ test: if you think psychic powers are real you fail.
posted by davy at 9:47 PM on August 21, 2007


"...cockwaffle...hee hee hee hee hee..."
posted by Lynsey at 10:02 PM on August 21, 2007


Can you please recommend a good lubricant for my perpetual motion machine? Must have a less than 0 coefficient of friction.

Please don't respond about how there is no such thing. I've already made up my mind there IS such a thing, I'm just asking you to give me recommendations.


Was that meant to make us ponder and re-evaluate our assumptions? Because I actually think that would be a fine question. If someone can indeed recommend such a lubricant I'd be interested too certainly. Though in all honesty, it would be deleted.

I know you guys think there's a Pandora's box open: "How can I get the pink elephant in my room to stop flying so much? Please, no comments about how there really is no pink elephant."

But the truth is that in this world, in our reality, psychics exist and they are commonly consulted. There are several within a few blocks of where I live. I can actually give you directions to one. Can I point out a perpetual motion machine or a pink elephant in the same way? No.

The question was fine because it is a practical one. And it remains so even if you think that the services psychics provide does not agree with your particular tastes or world-view.
posted by vacapinta at 10:07 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Now I'm really confused. Who are the empiricists, again?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:06 PM on August 21, 2007


But the truth is that in this world, in our reality, psychics exist and they are commonly consulted. There are several within a few blocks of where I live. I can actually give you directions to one. Can I point out a perpetual motion machine or a pink elephant in the same way? No.

*ahem*

The thing is, psychics and psychic powers are most definitely not part of our reality. Scam artists, con men, delusional mystics and performance artists are apart of our reality, but to call one of them a "psychic" is roughly the same kind of mistake as calling Steorn's magnetic flywheel whirligig a "perpetual motion machine".

Now I realize the mods have made up their minds about all this, so the "Help me find [scam and/or impossible thing] in Denver" AskMe questions will continue. It's their website and they're more than welcome to have whatever they want on it.

Previously, I always found personalities like Dawkins et. al. to be infuriating with their self-sure condemnations of everything and anything that can't be verified by science -- but its posts like these that drive me closer and closer to becoming a full-fledged member of the Rationalist Jihad.
posted by Avenger at 11:15 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: It may be batshitinsanity, but at least it's practical batshitinsanity.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:31 PM on August 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


The thing is several people have brought up magicians and I think its a valid analogy. If a friend of mine insists that magicians are in fact "real" and at the same time is asking me which is the best one - is there one I can recommend? Well, i may not agree that what they do is "real" and yet, surprisingly, i can nevertheless recommend a good one. And he'll pay his admission and have a great time and thank me for it.

Its the same here. The question is answerable. There's no reason to go into metaphysics at all. Thats the way in which this is different than a perpetual motion machine. Psychics which people visit and trust are not violating any laws of physics.

When i say they are part of our reality, I dont mean yours and mine specifically. I dont believe in psychics nor do I believe in religion. But if someone asks me on the street if i know a good psychic nearby, I might point them to one that friends have visited. Likewise, if they ask for a good nearby Roman Catholic church, I can probably point them in the right direction.

The Ask Mefi question is like the polite stranger in the street. If you can't help them and as long as they're not about to do something obviously reckless ("What would be a good bridge nearby to jump off of?") then help if you can, otherwise politely decline.
posted by vacapinta at 12:14 AM on August 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


What vacapinta said.

In the absence of any other clarification from the original poster, it's not clear at all that what the question is asking for isn't simply an entertaining performance that they fully understand to be based on no rational fact.

The question does not ask "Recommend me someone who can read my mind/predict my future." Which, while it still might be allowed by the moderators here, would be a different kettle of fish.
posted by juv3nal at 12:44 AM on August 22, 2007


But if someone asks me on the street if i know a good psychic nearby ...

... give them my name and tell them to bring cash.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:05 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I always figured those "psychics" with a sandwich board in front of a second-story walk-up were just fronts for services of a more carnal nature.

No?
posted by orthogonality at 2:18 AM on August 22, 2007


Unixrat, people who want to be scammed get scammed. Whether it's pro wrestling, lotto tickets, going on Jerry Springer with their girlfriend and best friend to find out what the surprise is, signing up for a cult, whatever.

Sometimes there are parts of the transaction between the scammer and the scammee that are beneficial for the scammee. In the case of psychics it is a sort of low cost counseling service that they can get without the stigma of going to a psychologist ( I agree that the stigma should be the other way around ).
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:57 AM on August 22, 2007


May I have a cookie please?
posted by a shrill fucking shitstripe at 4:33 AM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I imagine this kind of hostility might make people nervous to go to the green with their questions.

I don't think there's much question of that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:00 AM on August 22, 2007


I imagine this kind of hostility might make people nervous to go to the green with their questions.

If an idiot learns something from it, then Ask served its purpose.

At least what I thought the purpose was, which I don't think it is anymore.
posted by unixrat at 5:44 AM on August 22, 2007


Hey unixrat, you're back! You seem to have missed this comment, so as a public service I'm bringing it to your attention. Anything to say, or are you just going to slink away (hopefully after cutting off your hand)?

/bloodthirsty languagehat
posted by languagehat at 6:31 AM on August 22, 2007


If an idiot learns something from it, then Ask served its purpose.

But alas, this does not seem to be the case...
posted by desuetude at 6:35 AM on August 22, 2007


If psychics are not scammers, then ban me right now.

So by the eighth comment in the thread, you're already falling into an either/or fallacy. ("Either psychics are scammers, or I will be banned.") Not to mention attempting (and failing) to provoke the mods into an appeal to force.

For someone trying to promote a rational worldview, it's shameful that you fall into fallacy so quickly. Please leave the defense of skepticism to those of us who understand how to do it without making spurious arguments.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:38 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Its posts like these that drive me closer and closer to becoming a full-fledged member of the Rationalist Jihad.

Why? Because you really can't bear to think that otherwise intelligent people would spend their money on something you think is foolish? If I AskMe'd looking for a Magic 8 Ball would that strike the same nerve?

If you were a Scientologist and someone posted looking for a psychiatrist in their area to prescribe antipsychotics, would you take the same tack that unixrat has here?

Deathalicious's comment above is spot on. I'm not a psychic, but I do read tarot cards expertly. Many people have found what I do to be meaningful and interesting and some have paid me handsomely to do it.

When someone consults me, they are merely in search of a pretense to examine and discuss their situation with someone who can make possibly-inspired suggestions based on what a random assortment of symbols and archetypes may add to the conversation. The cards serve as a way of drawing focus off of the individual giving or getting the reading, and whittling it down to shine on the basic elements of the situation. It's a way of helping someone momentarily detach from their life story and see it as something malleable in their hands. When it goes well, it can be a profound experience. At worst, it's merely a novel one.

The idea that any rational person would stand in the way of someone seeking this sort of experience out of misguided self-righteous indignation is baffling to me. We do and need a lot of things that seem silly and are hard to defend. Get over it.
posted by hermitosis at 6:42 AM on August 22, 2007 [15 favorites]


If an idiot learns something from it, then Ask served its purpose.

At least what I thought the purpose was, which I don't think it is anymore.


Nononono, the purpose of AskMe is to provide comments which answer the questions that are posted.

MetaTalk is where idiots go to learn things. Things like "Mods won't ban you just because you're whiny".
posted by 23skidoo at 6:45 AM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


So start the front page self linking unixrat.
posted by Mitheral at 7:03 AM on August 22, 2007


jessamyn writes "unixrat, where I come from, calling someone a performance artist isn't an insult but I'm sorry if you took it as one."

You should have called him a mime artist. Then there would have been no ambiguity whatsoever.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:05 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd like to note that Carl Sagan, a man so skeptical that he actually caused several breakfast cereals to vanish from reality simply by doubting their existence (Skippy Sugar Snacks, I still remember you), wrote in his book on skepticism, The Demon-Haunted World, that he still wasn't sure that three particular subfields in, ah, "paranormal" research could yet be entirely dismissed.

Appeal to authority? Probably. But the guy was a decent scientist, so maybe it's not unwarranted.
posted by adipocere at 7:05 AM on August 22, 2007


Refusing to either take a question at face value or walk away is not growing up, it's crapping in AskMe.

Wrong. Not deleting the post is crapping in AskMe. But admins get to do that.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:23 AM on August 22, 2007


Please don't respond about how there is no such thing. I've already made up my mind there IS such a thing, I'm just asking you to give me recommendations.

so... would there be a problem if the question just sat there with (0 answers) ? If none of us can help, then none of us can help, right? Or if someone wants to make a polite suggestion that perhaps Askmefi isn't the right place to go to for such a question, with a respectful, in-case-you-didn't-know explanation of why perpetual motion is generally rejected, then I imagine that'd be okay. What's unnecessary is getting completely bent out of shape and mean spirited over someone's point of view. "psychic" and "psychologist" come from the same root; in many cases the psychic's role used to be more of a counselor and guide with a bit of a ritualistic / entertainment aspect thrown in. People would go when they needed to make a decision or at some other pivotal time, and the "psychic" would often be the sort of person who was good at picking up on things, so would be able to make insightful comments or predictions. Of course some have always been scam artists, but it's not as simple as that.

And, like it or not, there is plenty of shit in the modern world that you pay for whose return-on-investment is arguably as dubious as a psychic. The entertainment industry is probably one of our largest industries, but most of its products could be categorized as wastes of time. If you imagine goals to be becoming fitter or smarter, much of what we buy is actually counterproductive. So some might say you're being scammed all over the place, especially when the advertising tries to make you believe something different...
posted by mdn at 7:26 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wrong. Not deleting the post is crapping in AskMe. But admins get to do that.

It's a legit question that you and some other folks don't like. Pyschics-as-service-providers exist in plain point of fact independent of any question of Actual Psychic Powers; folks who've gone to them (whether for entertainment or reviled-by-some superstition or some mix of the two) can offer recommendations on their experiences to the asker.

The asker mentioned not one goddam thing about believing that psychics are infallible magicians to whom they'd like to disburse their life savings. The hollering about scams and the refusal to accept a distinction between psychics-as-trusted-magicians and psychics-as-entertainment-service-providers is the only thing propping up an argument that the question violates the guidelines, or that answers mocking or deriding belief in psychics make sense in that thread. It's self-righteous, look-at-me whining about something you just don't like.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:44 AM on August 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Sorry, there really are no 'good psychics', only charlatans.

Do you have any actual argument or evidence to back this up besides prejudice or anecdote?
I'm a skeptical atheist, etc., but don't assume to have the last word on things without any actual data.
posted by signal at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2007


I had the same thought unixrat did when I saw the original question and I agree with his point, although he is not doing a very good job of winning people over. Earlier jessamyn said that there is a difference between psychics and 419 scammer. Not always. Many (most? all?) psychics rely on this sort of swindle for the bulk of their money and warning people of this fact ahead of time if they are planning to visit one is a valid answer. I have a reasonably smart, college educated friend who went to a psychic "just for fun" and ended up handing over several hundred dollars before she realized she was being strung along; it happens to a lot more people than you might think.

Do you have any actual argument or evidence to back this up besides prejudice or anecdote?

While my examples are certainly anecdotal, it would be difficult to do a study of what percentage of psychics are actively conning people, since it is illegal and they are not likely to talk openly about it. Many victims of these, like all cons, are too embarassed to come forward as well, and of course some people never even realize they have been conned out of a significant amount of money. It does happen enough that the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department lists psychic scams on the same page as all the other classic cons that people still fall for.
posted by TedW at 8:54 AM on August 22, 2007


It's too bad unixrat posted this using such combative language. I think that set the tone for the entire thread. Still, I see this as a complex issue, worthy of serious discussion.

Here's (I hope) a less-fraught analogy: someone posts, "I'm trying to help my daughter with her math homework. How do I explain to her that 2 + 2 = 5?"

Given this scenario, is it okay for me to post: "two plus two doesn't equal five and it never will!"? If so, how is this different than posting, "psychics are scam artists"?

That last question was a REAL question. I'm not trying to prove to you all that the two posts are worthy. I'm saying it's a complex issue, worth thinking about.

You could say, "Well, we all KNOW that two plus two doesn't equal five, but we don't all agree about psychics." Fair enough. Or is it? I personally KNOW that 2 + 2 don't equal five, and I also KNOW that all psychics are scam artist (or self-deluded). And I know both these things via similar thought processes.

I'm going to avoid a lengthy discourse about the meaning of "know," though it does enter the picture. But I will mention two things about the relationship between 2 + 2 = 5 and psychics:

1) there are many people (your average skeptic) who feel very strongly that there's little difference between those two statements. They are both false. Telling them they can't say psychics are frauds is like telling them they can't say 2 + 2 does not equal five. You're throwing these people into Bizzarro World.

2) There are many other people who feel the two statements are wildly different. These people are sure that 2 + 2 doesn't equal five, but they're less sure about psychics. Or they actively believe in psychic powers.

How do we reconcile these two world views? Or -- because they're probably not reconcilable -- how do we help these two sorts of people live in harmony?

The key point is that the two groups have two very different sets of FACTS about the world. I doubt it will do any good trying to persuade unixrat that some psychics might be genuine. And it will do him little good trying to persuade some others that all psychics are frauds. If we accept that both world views are set-in-stone, where does that leave us? Because that IS the state of the world. About many subjects, there are "atheists" and "believers" (and "agnostics"). There people rarely convince others of their views (though they certainly don't stop trying). Given that, what should we do?

Backing up, if someone DID ask, "How do I explain to my daughter that 2 + 2 = 5?", do we even allow "skeptics" in that thread? Should AskMe have an iron-clad policy of "either answer the question or stay silent -- don't EVER criticize the question"? Maybe.

If not, which questions are okay to critique? Ones that involve safety? ("Why kind of rat poison should I feed my kid?") Any others?

Is it about community standards? As someone who also lumps psycics with Nigerian scammers, I DO feel there's a difference. And it comes down to this: MeFi is mostly composed of web-savvy people. The majority of them agree that the Nigerian emails are scams. That's an accepted fact in this community. Whereas this community is more split over psychics.

I find Christianity equally silly as Scientology. But I'm more willing to openly mock Scientology, because it's less accepted -- way less accepted -- in the communities I'm part of. Maybe that's hypocrisy or cowardice. But I view it as a social necessity.
posted by grumblebee at 8:56 AM on August 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


Uri Geller spooned me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:01 AM on August 22, 2007


Well said, grumblebee. I would expand on your answer by saying that there can be some reconciliation on the two world views, at least for purposes of answering the original question, by saying that even if you don't believe all psychics are con artists, at least some of them are and if you go to one, you should be aware of that fact.
posted by TedW at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Really I'm not defending scam-artist "psychics", but I think the real problem here is people trying to lump everyone one might refer to as a "psychic" into one camp.

I read the poster's question as "Help me find a psychic who is not a predator or scam artist who can provide my friend with an interesting or entertaining experience for her birthday." Which is a completely answerable question, as many people make some sort of living (or just entertain themselves) by serving exactly this function. Some people are into crystals. Or angels. Or palmistry, or numerology, or astrology, or tea leaves or reading frigging entrails. And some of them take what they do very seriously because they really want to help people. Others have a great sense of humor about it and just want to show people a good time. Still others judge by your clothes and hair how much cash they think you might have on you and are determined to flense you of it.

I know how dangerous the scammy kind are, NYC is lousy with them. Which is why, if I wanted to provide such an experience for a friend under comfortable and safe circumstances, I'd possibly pose the question to others.

If you don't know enough about the question at hand to offer anything but a knee-jerk response, then you need to just back away slowly the way you came in. I've made the same sort of knee-jerk comments in other threads, which were usually deleted-- but you didn't see me coming in here to crow about it so everyone could see what a painted asshole I was.
posted by hermitosis at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2007


I didn't see the deleted responses, but I'm wondering if their only problem was that they were critical of psychic. Or were they also nasty?

To my mind, "When are you losers going to give up infantile beliefs in magic?" has no place an AskMe. But I'm less sure about, "I can't answer your question, but I feel I should point out that psychics are fraudulent. If I were you, I'd save my money for something that's less of a scam."

I'm wondering of jessamyn and the other mods feel about that second comment. Okay? Not okay? I'm torn. To me, it comes down to whether it's EVER okay to not-answer-a-question.
posted by grumblebee at 9:17 AM on August 22, 2007


Given this scenario, is it okay for me to post: "two plus two doesn't equal five and it never will!"? If so, how is this different than posting, "psychics are scam artists"?

Hermitosis is not a scam artist. The fact that some of them are scam artists doesn't mean that there are plenty of people who get some sort of reasonable return on their investment, to them. As vacapinta said

I dont believe in psychics nor do I believe in religion. But if someone asks me on the street if i know a good psychic nearby, I might point them to one that friends have visited. Likewise, if they ask for a good nearby Roman Catholic church, I can probably point them in the right direction.

Here are things I think are scams:

- the lottery
- capitalism
- health insurance
- much of organized religion
- most of the food in the modern supermarket
- febreeze
- toilet seat covers

By scam I mean that they take your money and promise to give you something they do not deliver. However, this is a debatable point. What TedW said

Many (most? all?) psychics rely on this sort of swindle for the bulk of their money and warning people of this fact ahead of time if they are planning to visit one is a valid answer.

is more along the lines of what a decent answer to the question might be, especially if it went to some decent link that the OP could read, didn't make fun of anyone, didn't say "well why don't you get her a freaking UNICORN then...?!?!?" [Ynoxas, I am looking in your direction] and, in short wasn't an ass about it. However, no one did that in that thread, no one. Most of your hypotheticals, grumblebee, are questions that wouldn't last in AskMe anyhow, so asking whether they can be critiqued is sort of a straw man.

The questions that come into MeTa in this way ("Why can't I make fun of this person?") usually involve

- the supernatural
- mental illnesses
- cultural relativism
- religion
- people with bad english skills or seemingly low IQs

Mocking people doesn't help them find answer and I'd argue that in many cases it doesn't help them understand the world better either. We've had the debate in MeTa before about whether ruthlessly making fun of people helps them learn. I don't think it does, but AskMe is not the testbed for that assertion in any case.

I don't think that psychics are in any way "genuine" in that they have some line-in to the future, but I do think that some people derive some value from them.

how do we help these two sorts of people live in harmony?

Part of living in harmony with others is understanding that there is a whole world full of people who believe different things than you do, many of which you feel are wrong in your heart of hearts. Some of those people you cross paths with in AskMe and part of being able to be a decent community member is learning to deal with those people respectfully and to leave them alone if you can't.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:21 AM on August 22, 2007 [8 favorites]


Uri Geller spooned me.

Word has it you've done Randier things than that.
posted by cog_nate at 9:23 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I read the poster's question as "Help me find a psychic who is not a predator or scam artist..."

The trouble is, I FUNDAMENTALLY believe that ALL psycics are scam artists. (Though I do think many are self-deluded scam artists.) To me, since psychic powers don't exist, if a "psychic" is agrees they don't exist, but thinks of himself as an entertainer, he's still a con artists. Since many people do believe in psychic powers, he's like a fiction writer trying to pass his work off as non-fiction (and justifying it by calling himself an entertainer). He's either doing that, or he's an outright con artist, or he's conning himself. I don't believe there are any other possibilities.

Given that, they questions is, do I have a place in a "How do I find a good psychic" thread?

-- Yes I do, because the skeptical view is necessary and helpful?

-- No I don't, because I shouldn't answer a question that doesn't fit in my world view?
posted by grumblebee at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2007


The point that many (or most) psychics are scammers makes the question more relevant, not less. The poster is asking for a good psychic.
I will hereby paraphrase my simple 'AskMe for Dummies' guide:
  1. Read the goddamn question
  2. Answer the goddamn question

posted by signal at 9:28 AM on August 22, 2007


Hermitosis is not a scam artist.

Hmmmm, I wouldn't be too sure about that! It seems that everytime he comes to my house, half my fashion magazines disappear.... and then I go to his house, and somehow I end up leaving the party without my shoes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Grumblebee: no. Please see the magicians metaphor above. If you can't get your head around how a psychic could not be a scam artist, you should stay out of the thread. For other relevant examples see: magician (can he really do magic??) snake charmer (I don't care if it's a scam, I'd like to see it, do you know a good one?) or church (we've been over this a million times).

Everyone doesn't have to answer all questions. Unless you think you're the self-appointed rationality police, you should stay out of threads that you can't be helpful in. While there's wiggle room in relationship filter posts where people will sometimes offer "I don't think they way you're viewing this situation is actually the way things are happening" that is not the case in this sort of question.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:34 AM on August 22, 2007


Hermitosis is not a scam artist. -- jessamyn west

I'm putting this on my business card. It's going to open doors to a whole new level of scamming.
posted by hermitosis at 9:41 AM on August 22, 2007


And TPS, occasionally rescuing someone from a questionably fashionable choice of footwear isn't being a scammer, it's just being a good friend.
posted by hermitosis at 9:43 AM on August 22, 2007


The trouble is, I FUNDAMENTALLY believe that ALL psycics are scam artists.

See, this is where I wonder if there's just a disagreement over terms driving a lot of this. I see a couple different readings:

1. Psychics are all scam artists because none of them have documentable telepathic powers or a ken of the world beyond death or any of that impossible A-grade metaphysical bullshit, and yet the accept payment for purported delivery on same.
2. Psychics are all scam artists because (1) applies, and because they fail to disclose this information to new customers.
3. Pyschics are all scam artists because (1) and (2) apply, and because most customers cannot be expected to be aware of the issues in (1).
4. Psychics are all scam artists because they're all predators who will ruthlessly fleece you for your every last penny, just you wait.

If we all agreed that (4) was the case, strong rebukes and warnings in the thread would make sense—but that's not the case, and anyone who rejects (4) (and possibly-to-likely (3)) is going to find the hardcore anti-psychic arguments for thread deletion or rebuke immunity kind of bizarre.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2007


And TPS, occasionally rescuing someone from a questionably fashionable choice of footwear isn't being a scammer, it's just being a good friend.

But.....but.... I loved my green leopard print high heeled patent leather sneakers!!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:51 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Since many people do believe in psychic powers, he's like a fiction writer trying to pass his work off as non-fiction (and justifying it by calling himself an entertainer)."

You must hate E.L. Doctorow.
posted by klangklangston at 9:56 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Based on jessamin's last post, I suspect the pro/anti psychic thing is a side-track. It sounds like the responses got deleted because they were insulting -- not because they were giving a (possibly) useful opinion that psychics are frauds.
posted by grumblebee at 9:57 AM on August 22, 2007


Doctorow is in the fiction section of all the bookstores I go to.
posted by grumblebee at 9:58 AM on August 22, 2007


Since many people do believe in psychic powers, he's like a fiction writer trying to pass his work off as non-fiction (and justifying it by calling himself an entertainer).

I appreciate your reasoned and sane approach to the issue, grumblebee (as usual), but I have to disagree. While I think it is true that some psychics operate this way, I'd suggest that there are many people who bill themselves as psychics who either explicitly or implicitly suggest to their clients that their insights are no more than observation + knowledge of human nature + looking at a problem from a fresh perspective + etc (MeFi's own hermitosis appears to be one, f'rinstance).

Rather than comparing these people to James Frey, they are more like, World War Z or Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell -- clearly fictional works that position themselves as non-fiction to enhance their entertainment value. If someone read WWZ and assumed the Zombie War was real, that doesn't make Max Brooks a scammer, does it?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:03 AM on August 22, 2007


not because they were giving a (possibly) useful opinion that psychics are frauds.

Well let's look at normative assumptions, shall we? There's clearly a continuum where people feel that calling out fraudulence is very important versus where they feel that it's totally inappropriate. I think that's the battleground primarily of this thread. So here are some examples, as a thought exercise, of how appropriate a neutral-sounding "you should know, many people think [TOPIC] is a scam" comment would be. I don't need people to chime in, just to grok that what's one person's obvious scam is another person's information need.

I'm trying to find a good church.
I'm trying to find a good creationist science textbook.
I'm trying to find a good "keep away monsters" voodoo oil.
I'm trying to find a good chiroprator.
I'm trying to find a good magician.
I'm trying to find a good toilet seat cover.
I'm trying to find a good ouija board.
I'm trying to find a good dowser.
I'm trying to find a good exorcist.
I'm trying to find a good rabbi.
I'm trying to find a good catholic school.
I'm trying to find a good hypnotherapist.
I'm trying to find a good acupuncturist.
I'm trying to find a good art therapy group.
I'm trying to find a good television program about nature.
I'm trying to find a good SUV.
I'm trying to find a good mohel.
I'm trying to find a good astrologist.
I'm trying to find a good dreamachine.
I'm trying to find a good abortionist.
I'm trying to find a good IUD.
I'm trying to find a good Food Not Bombs organization.
I'm trying to find a good foot binder.
I'm trying to find a good ear piercer.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:23 AM on August 22, 2007


Part of living in harmony with others is understanding that there is a whole world full of people who believe different things than you do, many of which you feel are wrong in your heart of hearts.

My heart of hearts doesn't enter into it. There are things that are factually wrong in objective reality. What are we to do with questions whose premise denies such reality?

It appears the answer of the admins is "let them live in their own little world." Do I have that correct?
posted by stevis23 at 10:38 AM on August 22, 2007


I don't need people to chime in...

There's the problem, right there.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:40 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can you read my mind, motherfucker?
Do you know what it is you do to me?
Don't know who you are, motherfucker?
Just a friend from another star

Here I am like a kid at a school
Holding hands with a god, I'm a fool
Will you look at me quivering
Like a little girl shivering?
You can see right through me, motherfucker

Can you read my mind, motherfucker?
Can you picture the things I'm thinking of?
Wondering why you are
All the wonderful things you are

You can fly, you belong to the sky, motherfucker
You and I could belong to each other

If you need a friend
I'm the one to fly to, motherfucker
If you need to be loved, (to be loved)
Here I am, read my mind, motherfucker

Will you look at me quivering
Like a little girl shivering?
You can see right through me, motherfucker

If you need a friend,
I'm the one to fly to, motherfucker
If you need to be loved,
Here I am, read my mind, motherfucker

Read my mind, motherfucker
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:41 AM on August 22, 2007


Well let's look at normative assumptions, shall we?

And I'd (respectfully) argue (as I said before) that the worse assumption being made is assuming the poster is aware of the various controversies AND is deliberately looking past them in order to receive some unstated, other value. That is rarely clear from the text of the post.

The post said, "I'm looking for a good psychic."

It didn't say, "I'm looking for a good psychic AND it's just for entertainment purposes."

We shouldn't assume every MeFi is as knowledgeable as any other. Lord knows people have questioned my intelligence plenty of times.

If an answer is respectful, not nasty, and points out the dangers involved ... not a problem, IMO. That'd be the definition of moderation.

We just had an AskMe post not long ago about a possible Ebay scam (the old "I mistakenly sent you a check worth more than the item, so please send me back the difference" scam). The poster apparently had no inkling that what he was describing was a classic scam being perpetrated. He was asking how to cash the fraudulent check. The "correct" answer would have facilitated the scam.

I mean ... huge difference between "I'm trying to find a good exorcist" and "I'm trying to find a good exorcist because I'm doing a religious studies paper on Catholic rituals."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


Given this scenario, is it okay for me to post: "two plus two doesn't equal five and it never will!"? If so, how is this different than posting, "psychics are scam artists"?

In both cases, you are making the same mistake that the questioner is operating under the same set of assumptions as you. For the latter example, hermitosis and others have done a good job of explaining why your objection might even be irrelevant.

In the former case, its ok to ask more questions to help uncover those assumptions. Perhaps they made a typo. Perhaps they believe in an alternate numbering system. Perhaps they have some interesting ideas on Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory.

And so a followup question might be "Well, assuming you didnt make a typo, mathematics should start with the basics - the unit operator (1) the concept of zero (0) and then using these as building blocks to construct higher order entities. Typically we might imagine an ordered set of things called numbers. The "next" thing after (1) we can call "the successor of 1" or S(1) for short. Likewise, the Successor of that number is S(S(1)).

So these things we call numbers are 0,1,S(1), S(S(1)), S(S(S(1)))...and so on.

Lets aribitrarily call S(1) to be (2) and S(S(1)) to be (3) and S(S(S(1))) to be (4). These are just symbols so we dont have to type many parentheses. But its also a common convention taught as kids (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc) just like the alphabet. I can cite sources on this.

Now lets define addition. To add (1) to a number means to take the successor of that number. So, S(1)+1=S(S(1))=3 in our notation. Or, 2+1=3. Likewise 1+1=2. Also, S(1)+S(1) is just (1+1)+(1+1)=S(1)+S(1). But what does it mean to add S(1) instead of just 1?

Now, I'll skip fast through a proof by induction of associativity, that is that
(S(1)+1)+1=S(1)+(1+1)=S(S(S(1))
By remembering that addition is just successors and that (1+1)=S(1).
So, S(1)+S(1)=S(1)+(1+1)=(S(1)+1)+1=S(S(1)+1=S(S(S(1))).
Thus,
2+2=4 by the notation introduced earlier.

Now that seems to contradict "2+2=5" but perhaps you used different symbols than me or we differ in some other step. Let me know. I think if I understand what axiomatic system you're using I might be of more help."
posted by vacapinta at 10:49 AM on August 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


That the poster is buying a gift certificate for a friend suggests pretty strongly to me that they aren't going into this in search of spiritual guidance or investment advice. Just as there's nothing in the question disclaiming belief in the powers of psychics, there's nothing in the question suggesting that this is anything but a lark for a friend. That gate swings both ways.

As an aside on a practical aspect of thread moderation, a storm of unabashedly jokey non-answers and scathing rebukes/dismissals/histrionics generate a lot of work and a lot of mess in a thread, which is going to set us a bit on edge re: the stuff that's walking closer to the line of acceptibility. Throwing a materially contentious comment into a thread that's in the middle of a circus like this'n is something to do with a bit of caution and cool-headedness, since our eyebrows are going to be a bit more hitched than usual.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:58 AM on August 22, 2007


It appears the answer of the admins is "let them live in their own little world." Do I have that correct?

Yes. There are people who choose to live differently than you. You don't get to use their questions on issues on which your opinions differ as an excuse to stand on your soapbox. This is how it works in the "real world", too; at least, for people who enjoy the company of others and don't wish to burn all their bridges.

If an answer is respectful, not nasty, and points out the dangers involved ... not a problem, IMO.

I disagree, because although this sounds good in theory, in reality, I think it opens the doors wide to anyone who wants to spout their opinion any subject. There are plenty of other places on the internet one can spout.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why? Because you really can't bear to think that otherwise intelligent people would spend their money on something you think is foolish? If I AskMe'd looking for a Magic 8 Ball would that strike the same nerve?

I don't have a problem with magic 8-balls. I used to own one when I was a kid. Thing is, even back then I didn't think the plastic orb filled with water and a die could really give me advice on how to conduct my affairs. If some one came to AskMe looking for a "real" M8Ball that could dispense good financial advice, would I be opposed? "All signs point to yes".

When someone consults me, they are merely in search of a pretense to examine and discuss their situation with someone who can make possibly-inspired suggestions based on what a random assortment of symbols and archetypes may add to the conversation. The cards serve as a way of drawing focus off of the individual giving or getting the reading, and whittling it down to shine on the basic elements of the situation. It's a way of helping someone momentarily detach from their life story and see it as something malleable in their hands. When it goes well, it can be a profound experience. At worst, it's merely a novel one.


So when you advertise your services, do you tell people that you're offering what amounts to Jungian-archetype cognitive therapy, or do you imply that something "supernatural" is happening? I imagine that your "handsomely paid" business wouldn't do nearly as well if you billed yourself as a "Professional Archetypist" rather than as an (implied) supernatural tarot reader.

And finally,

If you were a Scientologist and someone posted looking for a psychiatrist in their area to prescribe antipsychotics, would you take the same tack that unixrat has here?

Ah, the sweet smell of moral relativism. Except this isn't just moral relativism, it's also completely insane. Yes, the fact that I realize there isn't a single shred of empirical evidence for psychic powers (plus quite a bit of evidence against it) and would discourage people from wasting their money on bullshit supernaturalism as "real" as Star Wars or The Shining makes me the same as a Scientologist who hates psychiatry for religious reasons. Yes, you're absolutely right. Empirical rationality is the exact same thing as a money-grubbing UFO cult.

I mean, hey, we all have our own beliefs and who's to say that anybody is right or wrong? Theres really no difference between trying to order one's beliefs logically and rationally based on empirical, verifiable evidence and believing in Xenu, thetans or magic symbol cards which draw mystical color-power from the 17th dimension. It's all really the same, no?

No. Humanity's past is littered with people unloading vast sums of wealth into the bottomless pockets of shamans and sooth-sayers for the chance to glimpse into the future. But we've only spent the past 500 years or so trying to liberate ourselves from this kind of outrageously stupid nonsense. The fact that people still believe in psychic powers in the year 2007 is an absolute scandal and I most certainly will not "get over it".

If my righteous indignation really bothers you, I would encourage you to go pay some wrinkled, toothless crone $500 to wave a dead chicken over a voodoo-doll so I can be struck down by a terrible malady. That'll teach me for being a rationalist.
posted by Avenger at 11:11 AM on August 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm trying to find a good ear piercer.

I've been puzzling how to find this related to a scam operation. Like, maybe you come in for an ear piercing and then after they shriek really, really loud in your ear, they charge you $20.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


So when you advertise your services, do you tell people that you're offering what amounts to Jungian-archetype cognitive therapy, or do you imply that something "supernatural" is happening? I imagine that your "handsomely paid" business wouldn't do nearly as well if you billed yourself as a "Professional Archetypist" rather than as an (implied) supernatural tarot reader.

Nice try. But why don't you go after professional magicians first. I heard they say they actually make things disappear! Hermitosis is small potatoes no?

No. Humanity's past is littered with people...

Ah yes, a grand personal crusade. In case you forgot, we're talking about a question on ask metafilter.

Also, none of the anti-psychic people seem to recognize for a second that many of those they are arguing against (including me with my physics degree) don't buy any of this stuff personally. Now why would we defend something we don't actually believe in? This thread is about tolerance not about the holy crdusade of rationalism. Take your swords elsewhere.
posted by vacapinta at 11:22 AM on August 22, 2007


This is how it works in the "real world", too; at least, for people who enjoy the company of others and don't wish to burn all their bridges.
No, that's rubbish. In the real world you're allowed to question the premises of someone asking you something without a nanny coming along and silencing you in the name of keeping feathers unruffled.

I mean, damn, if I asked my friends "I need a good psychic" and none of them questioned the need for it, or warned me about the possibility of being scammed, I'd be getting bad advice for them. Warning of a scam is part of a complete answer.

Hell, even Jessamyn questioned the premises yesterday of the woman saying that her boyfriend didn't love her because he didn't want to be with her 24/7. It's ok for relationships apparently, but nowt else.
posted by bonaldi at 11:27 AM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


CITATION NEEDED
posted by that girl at 11:31 AM on August 22, 2007


cite
posted by bonaldi at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2007


I've been puzzling how to find this related to a scam operation. Like, maybe you come in for an ear piercing and then after they shriek really, really loud in your ear, they charge you $20.

Yes, yes, but you're clearly not aware of the dangers associated with piercing guns, or the threat of disfiguring perichondritis or keloids. To say nothing of the moral considerations. Ear-piercers are reckless, body-wrecking charlatans who should be dragged out in the street and shot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:36 PM on August 22, 2007


What's your point?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:48 PM on August 22, 2007


So when you advertise your services, do you tell people that you're offering what amounts to Jungian-archetype cognitive therapy, or do you imply that something "supernatural" is happening? I imagine that your "handsomely paid" business wouldn't do nearly as well if you billed yourself as a "Professional Archetypist" rather than as an (implied) supernatural tarot reader.

Actually I am very careful to draw that distinction. And it works very well in my favor, because people prefer to understand the way things work. They'd prefer not to have to completely suspend disbelief in order to participate. Having a pedestrian, reasonable approach that people can at least partly understand is actually what makes me feel good about what I do, because most seem to find it refreshing, and so yes, I certainly advertise this aspect. It also helps me screen out the people who are desperate to know things that no person can know, who won't be satisfied unless they are being scammed.
posted by hermitosis at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2007


Hey, buddy, I don't have to put up with your needling.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2007


"Doctorow is in the fiction section of all the bookstores I go to."

Doctorow does not refer to his works as fiction. In fact, especially in discussing Ragtime, he pointedly conflates truth and fiction, and argues that many of the narrative inventions are more "true" than the recorded history.

Maybe he's psychic to know this.

"We shouldn't assume every MeFi is as knowledgeable as any other. Lord knows people have questioned my intelligence plenty of times."

Actually, the assumption of intelligence is one of those things that separates Metafilter from the rest of the internet. To presume negatively about an asker, especially regarding something that's such a quibble is bad faith.

"I mean ... huge difference between "I'm trying to find a good exorcist" and "I'm trying to find a good exorcist because I'm doing a religious studies paper on Catholic rituals.""

Then ask for clarification, rather than leaping in to be an asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why is febreeze a scam, jessamyn? I pretty much agree about the other ones.
posted by Kwine at 12:55 PM on August 22, 2007


Deathalicious: Can you please recommend a good lubricant for my perpetual motion machine? Must have a less than 0 coefficient of friction.

Please don't respond about how there is no such thing. I've already made up my mind there IS such a thing, I'm just asking you to give me recommendations.


He needn't concern himself that 'there is no such thing,' nor should you, because perpetual motion machines are all around you in uncounted trillions.

We call them atoms. Their lubricant could be considered to be the electromagnetic force, I suppose, but the coefficient of friction is zero, so it doesn't quite meet your criterion.

For that, you have to go to a somewhat larger machine: the cosmos itself.

"Dark energy" is a so far completely hypothetical construct designed to save the law of the conservation of energy for the universe as a whole, because what we actually believe we are seeing is matter at the largest scale flying away from itself at greater and greater velocity as time goes forward, which is just the extra energy from nothing that is the signature of a perpetual motion machine with a coefficient of friction less than zero. I guess you could characterize the lubricant as the 'seething vacuum' or some such, if it would amuse you to do so.

I'm not really trying to be cute, here. The lesson I draw from this is that nothing in physics is more settled than the conservation of energy (implying the impossibility of perpetual motion machines of the type you want)-- and yet nothing is less settled, either.

So perhaps we have enough room in this ever more rapidly expanding cosmos to consider the possibility of what you would characterize as 'psychic phenomena,' as well.
posted by jamjam at 12:55 PM on August 22, 2007


I disagree with you, bonaldi, on this-
Hell, even Jessamyn questioned the premises yesterday of the woman saying that her boyfriend didn't love her because he didn't want to be with her 24/7. It's ok for relationships apparently, but nowt else.

Because that question was, and I quote- "I hope there is someone out here who can explain how a guy thinks when he says he loves his Gf but want some alone time with son, some alone time , needs space. does that mean, you dont really love your gf?

So her answer was within the realm of the question as it was asked. Do you have another example, perhaps? One that has something to do with what we're talking about?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:02 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hell, I thought he said no good Physics!
posted by Duncan at 1:14 PM on August 22, 2007


Do you have another example, perhaps? One that has something to do with what we're talking about?

Here's one.

Bonus psychic points for me, as no one has yet said "You need to do something besides either get drunk or get high every night."
posted by 23skidoo at 1:23 PM on August 22, 2007


I'm not so sure it was, TPS. The question was "Why do men need space", and clearly the asker thinks her man should want to be with her all the time. Jess called that "crazy talk" and cast doubt on her whole premise. The bit you bolded seemed much more like rhetorical flourish to me.
posted by bonaldi at 1:24 PM on August 22, 2007


The bit you bolded seemed much more like rhetorical flourish to me.

Just because someone thinks they know the answer to a question that they asked doesn't mean that the question wasn't really a question.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:31 PM on August 22, 2007


My heart of hearts doesn't enter into it. There are things that are factually wrong in objective reality. What are we to do with questions whose premise denies such reality?

It's funny that you'd say this but answer relationshipfilter questions.
posted by desuetude at 1:31 PM on August 22, 2007


I'd say all the mod deleting is crapping in threads, but maybe that's just me.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:40 PM on August 22, 2007


You won't believe this, but until just a few moments ago I just assumed that the scientific community at large endorsed the existence of the supernatural. Wow! So keep fighting the good fight, you guys -- who knows how many more lives this callout may change?!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:47 PM on August 22, 2007


Ear-piercers are reckless, body-wrecking charlatans who should be dragged out in the street and shot.

Only in Denver, or maybe Texas.

Hey, buddy, I don't have to put up with your needling.

Oh, you're a naughty one. *laughs*
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 PM on August 22, 2007


To me, since psychic powers don't exist, if a "psychic" is agrees they don't exist, but thinks of himself as an entertainer, he's still a con artists.

Mice don't wear tuxedos and dance around, but if my niece wanted me to take her to Disneyland I wouldn't refuse just because the kids dressed up in Mickey Mouse costumes are goddamned con artists.

I was going to ask where I can get some good fortune cookies but I'm afraid the rationalists will jump down my throat.
posted by turaho at 2:17 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


If some one came to AskMe looking for a "real" M8Ball that could dispense good financial advice, would I be opposed?

Jesus fuck, did you even read the original question? No one asked for a "real" psychic. tika2000 asked for a "good" psychic. Good does not equal real.

Seriously, if I asked you to recommend a good zombie movie, would you tell me you're morally opposed to answering the question because zombies aren't real?
posted by turaho at 2:34 PM on August 22, 2007


Zing!
posted by klangklangston at 2:56 PM on August 22, 2007


jessamyn: The poster asked for a "good" psychic.

A psychic claims to be someone who can call upon supernatural forces, phenomenon and energies to portend the future, contact the dead, or other amazing feats.

A "good" psychic would imply one who is better at that than just your regular run-of-the-mill psychic.

Since psychics do not exist, a "good" psychic most certainly cannot exist.

That someone would automatically assume "good" psychic really means "someone who is not really a psychic but is instead a performance artist and everyone is in on the joke ha-ha" is absurd.

It is every bit like asking for a unicorn. At least from my vantage point. (See below).

On the plus side, I think I understand what a "stunt post" is now.

cortex: Perhaps it is definitional. The poster asked for a "good" psychic. Since a good psychic would, necessarily, have to better at "psychic stuff" (see above), then it most certainly is relevant to state that such a thing does not exist.

Seriously, if I asked you to recommend a good zombie movie, would you tell me you're morally opposed to answering the question because zombies aren't real?

turaho: That's an interesting observation, and quite honestly, perhaps the root of this entire thing. Could it be that simple?

I think I finally understand what some people here are saying.

I hope that now they at least understand what I am saying. Especially Jessamyn and Cortex, whom I respect a great deal, but I think surely should be able to see my not-at-all controversial stance that a "good" psychic simply cannot exist.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:57 PM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


That the poster is buying a gift certificate for a friend suggests pretty strongly to me that they aren't going into this in search of spiritual guidance or investment advice. Just as there's nothing in the question disclaiming belief in the powers of psychics, there's nothing in the question suggesting that this is anything but a lark for a friend. That gate swings both ways. (similar comments made several times by Cortex and Jessamyn).

It seems to me that the problem in the AskMe thread isn't the deleted answers, it's the question. In spite of several people asking for clarification, the OP hasn't provided any. So no-one actually knows what s/he was really asking. So we're left with one vague question, and a handful of vague answers.

IIRC, the astrology thread was similar; the OP didn't provide any of the information that a serious astronomer would need to create her chart (like date/time of birth), she just gave her sign and a little bit more.

So these questions are bad, in the sense of being unclear, even on their own terms (there are "good" psychics; astrology can provide insights into our lives). It seems like some clarification of the questions would lessen the perceived need for MeTa callouts.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:59 PM on August 22, 2007


Late to the thread, darn it.

"Police departments call in performance artists to help them locate missing people? "

Sometimes...
posted by miss lynnster at 3:05 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


cortex: Perhaps it is definitional. The poster asked for a "good" psychic. Since a good psychic would, necessarily, have to better at "psychic stuff" (see above), then it most certainly is relevant to state that such a thing does not exist.

Yeah, I think we're clashing on that point exactly; while I think it'd be great if the asker had provided a little clearer detail, I don't agree at all that "good" has only, let alone primarily, the interpretation of "psychically powerful" here. I've seen good magicians and bad magicians, and don't believe the former have an ounce more magical power than the latter.

If the assertion that "good" in this context must only mean "psychically powerful" doesn't hold up—and, clearly, I don't think that it does—arguments that hang off it fall apart really appallingly in the light of existing askme guidelines. But I can see how from the side of that core argument, such a dismissal could seem equally appalling, so there we are.

So these questions are bad, in the sense of being unclear, even on their own terms (there are "good" psychics; astrology can provide insights into our lives). It seems like some clarification of the questions would lessen the perceived need for MeTa callouts.

Absolutely, on that; the question is frustatingly shy and lacking on updates, which doesn't make it easy, and so it's kind of badly formed in the sense that it's not going to net as many useful answers as it might have if done differently. It's just not bad in the sense of being so ill-formed as to deserve deletion; and the distinction between the two is important.

Which goes back to a basic and key idea: extend the asker the benefit of the doubt, and when in doubt, just don't answer. Ask, civilly and with context, for clarification if you need to—some askers are very good about responding promptly in threads, others never show their face again regardless of the answers they receive, so that's a bit of a crapshoot, but not something that affects the applicability of the guidelines, any moreso than the contentiousness of the topic does.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:12 PM on August 22, 2007


I've been puzzling how to find [ear piercing] related to a scam operation.

Cortex covered the major points, but my great uncle got his ear pierced to ward off the evil eye. I do not think it worked.

As cortex said, politely and respectfully questioning premises is okay, in moderation. Once it's in MeTa a link to the MeTa thread is better than any more harping in the thread. None of the deleted comments were doing that. They were various varieties of "That's stupid" "You're stupid " Psychics are stupid" or "There's no such thing as a good psychic because psychics don't exist."

That said, if someone's just looking for a gift, going on a rant about the moral implications of the gift are pretty off-topic.

Consider "I want to get my friend a good handgun." for example. There's a difference between an answer that says "is your friend experienced with guns? You might also want to consider getting her a gun safety course and/or a trigger lock" or "if your friend has kids in the house that might not be a good deia, maybe some gift certificates to the shooting range until the kids are out of the house." contrasted with "guns kill people, a gun is a stupid present" Or "Wow, why don't you just get him a do it yourself suicide and neighbor killing kit, because that's what a gun is."

Febreeze uses a lot of clean language and imagery to act like it's not just scent-in-a-can and is actually doing something to make things cleaner or fresher when it's not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:14 PM on August 22, 2007


I was going to ask where I can get some good fortune cookies...

So far as I can tell, they're all made in New York. You won't find any in, say, China.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:20 PM on August 22, 2007


So far as I can tell, they're all made in New York. You won't find any in, say, China.

Nyer's trying to take credit for everything...

They were invented here in San Francisco's Chinatown. You can go visit the lady that makes them all.
posted by vacapinta at 3:33 PM on August 22, 2007


Deathalicious: Can you please recommend a good lubricant for my perpetual motion machine? Must have a less than 0 coefficient of friction.

Please don't respond about how there is no such thing. I've already made up my mind there IS such a thing, I'm just asking you to give me recommendations.


Ynoxas: There is such a thing as a psychic. You go to them, they hold your hand or play some cards, and they tell you things. Sometimes these things are eerily accurate. Sometimes they are boringly untrue. I know a lot of people who have in fact heard very valuable things from psychics.

You do not believe in is telepathy or clairvoyance. That's fine. But don't go around saying that psychics don't exist, because they do. And the services they provide -- whether they are based in reality/science/whatever or not -- are desired and paid for by many, many people.

There are "bad" psychics, who are just out to take your money and/or tell you harmful things and/or try to string you along so they can make you almost addicted to their services. There are also "good" psychics. These are people who offer enjoyable sessions where, even though of course they're lying somehow you leave feeling like you've learned something about yourself and you feel hopeful about the future.

Here, let me give you a WONDERFUL example of a time when you absolutely SHOULD butt in (this is based on the Nestle infant formala scam, which was perpetuated by a corporation, which really does exist, selling infant formula, which really does exist, to women who really exist, in order to offer nutrition which does exist for babies who exist):

Q: Hi, I live in Africa and these ladies in nurse uniforms keep telling me that infant formula mixed with water is better for my child than breast milk. What ratio of formula to water should I use.
Totally fucking appropriate A: Actually, if you are a healthy mother, your breast milk is much healthier than infant formula, and if you are in an area with poor water your baby could get very sick and die.

No one gets hurt by psychics. Really. No one. I know that there are some people out there who have paid a lot of money -- too much money -- to psychics, but I have a feeling that they are addictive personalities and would have found something else to put their money into like gambling (which does exist, and scams people FAR worse than psychics -- I hope when people say "I'm thinking of going to Vegas" you always say, "Don't go there! They're selling a lie of getting rich when all they do is suck you dry").

Oh, and your example is retarded, because you're claiming that YOU built the perpetual motion machine. Making you part of the scam, right?

Now stop shitting on other people's beliefs and let it go.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:05 PM on August 22, 2007


If an idiot learns something from it, then Ask served its purpose.

Learns what? That you can only ask questions about empirically verifiable things?

What if someone wants to do a tour of haunted houses? What if someone wants to get more "in touch with their spirituality"?

And let's be honest. I'm sure these are the same people who would enthusiastically suggest resources for learning Klingon, a language written for beings that never existed.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:11 PM on August 22, 2007


You know who else was real? That's right: Hitler's psychic.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2007


"That said, if someone's just looking for a gift, going on a rant about the moral implications of the gift are pretty off-topic. "

I'd like to give my pal Hitler a way exterminate six million Jews, for his birthday.

Where's your moral implications now?

(Dear AskMetafilter— We always hear 'never again' about the Holocaust. Just what would have to happen for a practical genocide of the Hebrew people?)

I'd say that instead of getting bogged down in whether or not the moral implications are off topic, we could retreat to that greater guideline: "Don't be an asshole." Any sort of PSYCHICS SUCK YOUR TARDED answer kinda fails that, without even resorting to the ontology of palm-readers or Mistress Cleo.
posted by klangklangston at 4:18 PM on August 22, 2007


Last post, I promise:Here's (I hope) a less-fraught analogy: someone posts, "I'm trying to help my daughter with her math homework. How do I explain to her that 2 + 2 = 5?"

Given this scenario, is it okay for me to post: "two plus two doesn't equal five and it never will!"? If so, how is this different than posting, "psychics are scam artists"?

One of them is firmly and definitionaly based in the world of mathematics. In the same way that a dollar is worth exactly 100 cents, 2 and 4 have values such that 2 + 2 will always equal 4 (even for very large values of 2).

Psychics are individuals who claim to be able to, either via clairvoyance or telepathy, look into the future or present of an individual or situation and offer guidance. Skeptics doubt that humans have this ability. There is no way to prove that it does not exist, in exactly the same way it is impossible to prove that a higher being does not exist. This does not force skeptics to believe in them, nor does it give skeptics the right to criticize or look down on those who do believe in it. I have friends who believe themselves to be psychic. They have done readings for me and offered me advice based on those readings. While I am somewhere between skeptical and believing, I've noticed that each time I've left with my wallet intact, and utterly untouched. During that process, there was no desire on their part to "scam" me and they believed in what they were telling me.

So, in fact, your statement "psychics are scam artists" can, surprise! be proven factually incorrect. While you can state, perhaps "Some psychics are scam artists" your statement "[all (implied)] psychics are scam artists" is just as factually incorrect as "2+2=5".
posted by Deathalicious at 4:26 PM on August 22, 2007


vacapinta, I believe you that the fortune cookie was invented in SF, and that there's a factory there that makes them. All the ones I see on the East Coast have printing on the wrapper saying they're made in NY. Since I haven't read the labels on any cookies obtained west of the Mississippi, I wasn't aware of that SF factory. Now that I am, I won't say all the cookies come from NY any more.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:00 PM on August 22, 2007


I would think a mention that there is no such thing would be appropriate.
posted by Megafly at 5:07 PM on August 22, 2007


extend the asker the benefit of the doubt, and when in doubt, just don't answer.

Bingo. And if you feel a pressing, urgent need to PROVE your SUPERIOR RATIONALITY and DISBELIEF IN UNSCIENTIFIC NONSENSE, lean out your window and holler, don't blort it all over MetaFilter. We're big boys and girls here, we don't need your high-school pseudo-rationalism.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2007


I don't think psychics are scam artists as much as I think they're performance artists
posted by jessamyn at 3:32 PM on August 21


Hey, jessamyn, when Sylvia Browne told the parents of Shawn Hornbeck that he was dead instead of alive and imprisoned in Kirkwood, Missouri, was that performance art?

Was it all in good fun?

Jesus Christ, of all the things you'd think were not okay - taking money from desperate parents willing to do anything to find their child - you call it "performance art" and tell a genuinely concerned person to "grow up."

How appropriate that it took a child to point out that the emperor had no clothes. This obsession with faux-civility in place of honest and frank discussion is sickening. It's okay to defraud your fellow members, to point them in the direction of financial, personal, and professional ruin, that's dandy and cool and pancakes hahaha, but god forbid someone dare point out, ever, that someone's premises are foolish. That would be inappropriate.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:02 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey Optimus Chyme, take that sort of language to email/MetaTalk. Oh, wait.
posted by bonaldi at 6:06 PM on August 22, 2007


"Hey, jessamyn, when Sylvia Browne told the parents of Shawn Hornbeck that he was dead instead of alive and imprisoned in Kirkwood, Missouri, was that performance art?

Was it all in good fun?

Jesus Christ, of all the things you'd think were not okay - taking money from desperate parents willing to do anything to find their child - you call it "performance art" and tell a genuinely concerned person to "grow up.""

If you can't tell the difference between that situation and this AskMe, you're too immature to answer, and should grow up.
posted by klangklangston at 6:07 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't give a shit about the AskMe. I give a shit that jessamyn said, quote, "I don't think psychics are scam artists as much as I think they're performance artists." That displays a shocking lack of thought given to the consequences of that judgment. People have lost everything they own to fraudsters and conmen like Browne and Jim Bakker and Benny Hinn and Miss Cleo or whatever flavor-of-the-month bullshit Oprah and Montel and the Uneducated Moms of America are slobbering over right now. I don't think that we should take it lightly, whether it's in AskMe or the television or your kid's school.

You want to be flip? Fine. I hope the world treats you better than it treats the naive, the gullible, and the trusting. But you don't deserve it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:15 PM on August 22, 2007


People have lost everything they own to fraudsters and conmen like Browne and Jim Bakker and Benny Hinn and Miss Cleo or whatever flavor-of-the-month bullshit Oprah and Montel and the Uneducated Moms of America are slobbering over right now.

Sylvia Brown and Benny Hinn and Jim Bakker and Miss Cleo all have something in common, and it's not psychic powers.

No one is saying scammers don't exist; we're saying that the fact of the existence of some scammy sumbitches does not justify being an ass about a situation that doesn't really apply to said fact. You might as well argue that it's okay to shout down someone asking about religious ministers because, hey, lookit Bakker and Hinn!

It's okay to defraud your fellow members, to point them in the direction of financial, personal, and professional ruin, that's dandy and cool and pancakes hahaha, but god forbid someone dare point out, ever, that someone's premises are foolish.

Because removing shitty, jokey, and combative comments from the askme thread in question is paving the goddam rode to financial, personal, and professional ruin? You're wildly overstating the case to the point that it's hard to read this as a real argument about site moderation and not some sort of grudge crap.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:28 PM on August 22, 2007


god forbid someone dare point out, ever, that someone's premises are foolish. That would be inappropriate.

Oh is your timeout over already? Don't be an ass. We've explained multiple times in this thread that there are ways to politely and respectfully disagree right in AskMe threads. It's jsut that the people who are all agitated to disagree can't actually do it politely, much less respectfully. Your eye-rolling and hand-waving about bad psychics doesn't change the fact that there are scammers in many professions (are you really a lawyer?) and that doesn't make those people non-people or make the non-scammers all sullied because they do something loosely called the same thing.

Read back to vacapinta's comment about telling someone a good bridge to jump off of. A question like "I am distraught over my missing cat/husband/cactus and am thinking of hiring a psychic to find them, can someone recommend a good one in the Denver area?" would net a lot of responses that said outright that was a stupid thing to do.

I'm not being flip, I have a different perspective. It's a website. You're behaving badly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:37 PM on August 22, 2007


Two plus two does equal five, for large values of two.
posted by flabdablet at 6:45 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


...my great uncle got his ear pierced to ward off the evil eye.

Oh, now that just hurts.
posted by malocchio at 6:57 PM on August 22, 2007


Before this scrolls off the front page, I just want to point out that there are, right now, 231 comments in this thread arguing about an AskMe question that has so far received (okay, after deletions, but still) - six responses, total. None of which managed to refer the questioner to any psychic at all, good or otherwise.

Failure all around, people.
posted by yhbc at 7:26 PM on August 22, 2007


Plus, not one person has found poor unixrat a bloodletter.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 7:58 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


We've explained multiple times in this thread that there are ways to politely and respectfully disagree right in AskMe threads.

And it doesn't matter because those responses get deleted as well. If you want to give everyone who responds to a foolish question with a rational but ill-mannered response a timeout or an outright ban, that's one thing. At least the information is there. But over the last six months, answer deletions in AskMe have reached some sort of ridiculous height, where if you don't kowtow to the arcane, self-contradictory, and often unexplained rules set by the questioner, whatever admin happens to be online at the moment, and the phases of Mars, boom, it's gone. With no appeal, no asking if the asker wanted it gone, just poof, gone, for anyone reading the thread now or forever. I don't want people who are answering my questions getting their answers deleted, even if it's "you suck and here's why."

It's Matt's website. He can edit everyone's posts to say "I eat dongs" if he wants. He has that right. But I think that it is ill-considered and frankly fucking crazy for a bunch of so-called liberals to decide that answers that don't assume all the asker's nutty foibles and prejudices to be true should be summarily deleted, even if they might be helpful to someone else.

And since Jess brought up my recent timeout, I guess I'll say that I don't care. I don't hold a grudge about it or even think it was a bad decision. But deleting well-intentioned comments because they're not all sunshine and kittens is a weird and depressing and unhelpful thing to do. And sometimes, to be honest, it seems that that's all you do. I didn't post in the psychic thread and I'm not going to waste my time trying to figure out how to say "maybe a donation to charity in his/her name instead might be nice" without alerting the thought police, but I'm not going to just stand by silent while you call someone childish for answering a dumbfuck question honestly.

I guess this is the point where everyone makes stale flameout jokes because I care about this site and the people who post here and I don't suffer fools gladly or couch my language in preemptive backpedals. If you honestly think that it's critical that we play pretend in AskMe and just tell people what they want to hear then okay, forget it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:19 PM on August 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


i suppose this would be a good time to announce that i've actually had psychic experiences

what sheltered lives some of you must live to believe that the universe is something you understand
posted by pyramid termite at 8:33 PM on August 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


turaho: Jesus fuck, did you even read the original question? No one asked for a "real" psychic. tika2000 asked for a "good" psychic. Good does not equal real.

Seriously, if I asked you to recommend a good zombie movie, would you tell me you're morally opposed to answering the question because zombies aren't real?


*takes deep breath*

Good zombie movies do exist.

Actual zombies ("good" or otherwise) do not. Note that actors in the movies or actual mentally ill people who really do think that they're zombies don't count as "real" zombies. If they did, then, shit, I'm a zombie! And I'm a psychic too! A psychic zombie with invisible wings!

Like I've said before, "good" psychics exist in the same way that "good" perpetual motion machines exist. Can you recommend a good perpetual motion machine? I'm building a time-machine and I need a power source for it. I'll be willing to take you back in time with me once it's working, for a low initial deposit of $1000. Must bring own weapons, safety not guaranteed, etc. etc.

If I've taken anything away from this debate, its that "adults" apparently are to be discouraged from telling people that their silly and potentially harmful beliefs are silly and potentially harmful. I personally fear a world where people can believe and promote whatever kind of stupid crap they want without a single hand raised in protest.

I do believe, however, that people should be allowed to believe and promote whatever they want -- I'll even defend (maybe even to the death) people's right to believe in angels, gods, fairies, psychics, bottled water and American cheese. But don't think for a second that defending free speech from it's enemies is a ringing endorsement of said speech, or even a promise to "get along" with those who believe this kind of crap. Free Speech is not a promise to agree, or even to play nice.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play Magic: The Gathering and hopefully unleash some dreadful spells upon the unsuspecting populace of East Texas. I've heard some people say that it's just a mathematical card game, but I read this thing once where a kid played Danse Macabre with +3 Giant Growth and killed his whole family. It's totally real, man.
posted by Avenger at 8:36 PM on August 22, 2007


It's Matt's website. He can edit everyone's posts to say "I eat dongs" if he wants. He has that right. But I think that it is ill-considered and frankly fucking crazy for a bunch of so-called liberals to decide that answers that don't assume all the asker's nutty foibles and prejudices to be true should be summarily deleted, even if they might be helpful to someone else.

But again, that's a gross mis-characterization of the situation. We're talking about a bunch of answers predicated on an assumption of harm that's nowhere evidenced in the question—off-topic knee-jerk stuff. The asker didn't dangle any nutty foibles for validation, the asked for suggestions for a local service provider.

Leaving in answers that aren't even trying to answer the question asked on the off-chance that someone else might someday find them useful is pretty heavily generalizing the idea of askme utility.

Good zombie movies do exist.

Actual zombies ("good" or otherwise) do not.


Good psychic-entertainers do exist. Actual telepathic mind-readers do not. There's no clear indication that the question was asking about the latter; over reactions to the latter are then kind of bizarrely out of place int he question.

I read this thing once where a kid played Danse Macabre with +3 Giant Growth and killed his whole family.

That's bullshit, man. It was a Shivan Dragon and a Mana Flare.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:59 PM on August 22, 2007


Ahem. Bloodletting in Denver (scroll down the left side of the page, #8).
posted by misha at 9:08 PM on August 22, 2007


No dice, unixrat lists Arizona.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:40 PM on August 22, 2007


I eat dongs.
posted by Kwine at 9:50 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cortex covered the major points, but my great uncle got his ear pierced to ward off the evil eye. I do not think it worked.

While I've heard of ear piercings causing health problems, that's usually down either to going to an unclean shop, being pierced by untrained staff, or to the piercee being a disgusting, lazy slob about the healing process.

I wouldn't necessarily go as far as to call getting an ear piercing a scam, in itself. It's something that can be done for many reasons: aesthetics, sexual identity, etc. as much as any goofy spiritual reason.

Hate on the Febreeze Corporation all you want, but leave the body mod crowd alone!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:03 PM on August 22, 2007


I'm not going to just stand by silent while you call someone childish for answering a dumbfuck question honestly.

If you look at nothing else in this whole mess but unixrat's comments and the mods' responses and still made this assessment of the situation, you're totally cracked.

What I love about this site so much is that the mods are users. It makes the mods' decisions easier to accept, and it makes it easier for them to rebound on occasions when they slip up. It makes cracks about thought-police and what not come off as particularly unfair.

AskMe has tightened up a bit-- in proportion to our inflated membership, no doubt. The mods seem to be in a phase where they are discovering methods by which certain regular disasters can be curtailed in advance by making small and consistent changes. Who can fault them for that? I run up against it all the time, but what is one to do, other than watch, learn, protest respectfully at times, and then shut the fuck up learn to evolve? It's the price one pays for getting to see what comes next, and in my opinion it's well worth paying.
posted by hermitosis at 10:05 PM on August 22, 2007


Optimus Chyme writes "if you don't kowtow to the arcane, self-contradictory, and often unexplained rules set by the questioner, whatever admin happens to be online at the moment, and the phases of Mars, boom, it's gone. With no appeal, no asking if the asker wanted it gone, just poof, gone, for anyone reading the thread now or forever. I don't want people who are answering my questions getting their answers deleted, even if it's 'you suck and here's why.'"

What the poster wants as far as deletions go is a pretty poor metric. For example AskMe is almost free of snark which is a good thing. Allowing individual posters to ok snark in their threads would reduce the perception of AskMe as a no snark zone. In some cases you've got to resist the beginnings and a double standard depending on the whim of the asker is not something we should have. Bad enough that Matt, Jessamyn and Cortex aren't clones of each other; we don't need 50,000 different acceptability guidelines.
posted by Mitheral at 10:39 PM on August 22, 2007


Are you saying that when I spray Febreeze on my couch after the dog, cats, bunnies, various family members, children and children's friends have funked it up, that it is not, in fact, shiny and new???? OMG!
posted by amyms at 10:48 PM on August 22, 2007


How appropriate that it took a child to point out that the emperor had no clothes.

"It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor." - Morpheus, in Sandman #60, "The Kindly Ones: 4," by Neil Gaiman
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:03 PM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to waste my time trying to figure out how to say "maybe a donation to charity in his/her name instead might be nice"

Hooo boy. If you read more into the problems with charity groups (especially in the context of international non-government development organizations and, sometimes worse, local NGOs, BINGOs, government owned NGOs [yes, these exist], and so on) you might realize that the non-profit world can be nearly as problematic. Sure, it's certainly far less prone to scammery than your average psychic, perhaps. But these organizations can certainly be problematic.

If your concern really is avoiding the misspending of money, might I suggest cold hard cash? Friends always know what to do with cold hard cash.

Personally, I usually use it to pay off my credit card debt or other bills. Then, that allows me to go into further debt to do things that I really like to do, like travel or eat good food.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:10 AM on August 23, 2007


Also, maybe it's because I'm intrinsically evil and want people worse off than me to suffer, but why do so many people seem cheerful about giving and receiving donations made in someone's name? I guess this might be for people who are already fairly well off and have everything that they need. Personally, the kid in me loves getting something for me when it's my birthday.

Although I also quite like the hobbit tradition of giving other people gifts on your birthday, though of course for it to work everyone would have to be in on it.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:12 AM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Here's how Proctor and Gamble claims how the active ingredient in Febreze absorbs odors, and one of their patents on it. Here's a review article on the subject. Jessamyn, if you are aware of any other research that disproves these claims, I would be interested in knowing of it.

As a gift to those who are still reading, I found an article claiming that the same active ingredient can reduce the "old person smell."
posted by grouse at 3:50 AM on August 23, 2007


I was glad to see someone brought up convicted con artist Sylvia Browne above.

I would also like to point out that:
2+2=11 (base 3)
2+2=10 (base 4)
posted by TedW at 4:41 AM on August 23, 2007


It makes cracks about thought-police and what not come off as particularly unfair ... It's the price one pays for getting to see what comes next, and in my opinion it's well worth paying.

Am I reading you right? It's not the thought police, but if we don't shut the fuck up learn to evolve we won't be allowed to stick around and see what happens next?
posted by bonaldi at 5:21 AM on August 23, 2007


It's not about what you are "allowed" to do, it's what you choose to do, and yes, everyone has to deal with changes, and strike their own bargain with the compromises that result. Including the mods.

I'm as nonconformist and antiauthority as one could ever hope to meet, but there is great value on learning when to shut the fuck up. It means you might hear and understand something the first time it's said, instead of the tenth.
posted by hermitosis at 6:36 AM on August 23, 2007


Anyone know where I can pick up some preemptive backpedal-pushers?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2007


Wow! Well, this was fun.
posted by josher71 at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2007


"I don't give a shit about the AskMe."

Then why are you heare? Fuck your dudgeon, man, especially if it's irrelevant to the issue at hand. I don't care if some psychic raped your dog.
posted by klangklangston at 8:04 AM on August 23, 2007


Like I've said before, "good" psychics exist in the same way that "good" perpetual motion machines exist.

I can flip the yellow pages to the letter P and find a whole bunch of listings for psychics. What letter should I flip to if I want to find the perpetual motion machines?
posted by turaho at 8:33 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


And for the record, I agree that "real" psychics--as in people with the ability to read minds or see the future--do not exist.

But I also know that cold reading exists and that in especially adept hands, it can be quite entertaining. I also know a good psychic will never claim outright that they are communicating with the deceased, will never make promises to a client, and will work to make sure the experience is fun for everyone involved.

A bad psychic will lie and trick their client into spending all of their money.

Geez, I can see why you'd be so opposed to someone searching for the former experience as opposed to the latter.

But seriously, go back to your little "perpetual motion" and "Magic: The Gathering" quips and your conflating of "good" with "real". I'm sure someone is impressed with your logic.
posted by turaho at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you honestly think that it's critical that we play pretend in AskMe and just tell people what they want to hear then okay, forget it.

It isn't about playing pretend. It's just about accepting that you might not be the final arbiter on everything. You don't understand why someone would pay good money to go to a psychic, the same way I don't understand why someone would pay good money to play the lottery or to buy "Airborne". But are people getting scammed? Eehhh... They have access to the same information we do. They still choose to buy the products.

One answer is that they get something different out of the product than that which is explicitly promoted, ie, it is not so much actually winning the lottery as the enjoyment of imagining they might win; it is not so much actually stopping the cold as the suggestion that it might be stopped and the enjoyment of the "effervescent" formula; it is not so much the actual expectation of factual knowledge of the future as the game or drama of thinking about their future.

Another answer is that they believe differently than we do. Someone wins the lottery after all. And maybe a mix of vitamins gives you a real boost. And who really knows for sure how the universe works well enough to rule out some time traveler opening up a tarot shop...

Sure, there are always scam artists, but there are bullshitters in every profession. What's amazing, really, is how much seems to get past skeptics when it's cloaked in scientific terminology. When people make shit up and say they know via psychic power, skeptics know to be skeptical, but when people make shit up and say they know via evolutionary psychology or something, skeptics are often a lot more docile. Which is just to say, it's not science vs. non-science. Bullshit comes in many forms.

one other thing, though, is that we should remember that psychics are not legally regulated as future-tellers or anything: they are "for entertainment purposes only" - even if they have signs that say they see the future or whatever, it's part of the act, and plenty of tarot readers and so forth are more low-key about it and openly state that it's just a way to explore your personal life and dreams and so forth. If anyone actually thought psychics were psychic, they'd be regulated by an association like doctors or psychologists are; they'd have to pass tests and meet requirements. But they don't (they prob have to pay small biz fees and that sort of thing in cities, but that's different).

I actually noticed this the last time I went to coney island, that the magician who did a 'saw a lady in half ' trick didn't emphasize the ooh it's magic part, but emphasized the 'isn't it amazing how flexible the lady is that she can get around all the swords going into the box' part. It's as if all poetry and ritual has been equated with lies - we've forgotten how to enjoy things without taking them literally.
posted by mdn at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


People are jumping to the defense of psychics with a hoary retread argument of "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

/me rubs eyes

Have fun, ye lotus eaters.

I'm done here.

I'll be sure to watch out for the door hitting me in the ass on the way out, thanks
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2007


Weakest flameout ever.
posted by found missing at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2007


People are jumping to the defense of psychics with a hoary retread argument of "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

It's a shame you felt you had to leave just because you never learned to read for meaning.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2007


Everyone join hands.

Cool Papa Bell, are you here? Are you with us?

If you are here, knock three times...
posted by hermitosis at 6:27 PM on August 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


Maybe the polite answer to "help me find a good psychic" for a rationalist is to provide a list of dead psychics?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:33 AM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I find Christianity equally silly as Scientology. But I'm more willing to openly mock Scientology, because it's less accepted -- way less accepted -- in the communities I'm part of."

That's why I'd rather mock Xianity: most adults who know what $cientology is, including most most Xians, already know $cientology is bullshit. "Acceptable" silliness is worse than bullshit even dimwits spot as bullshit.

Anyhow. Maybe instead of doing what's taken as "shitting in the AskMe thread" unixrat should have come to the Gray first, with something like "I think this question is really stupid because no correct answer is possible." (See O Mods, I try to learn from my mistakes, and I freely share my wisdom with my peers!)
posted by davy at 9:51 AM on August 24, 2007


Psychic shmichic -- All I know is, since I started using Airborne a year ago, I haven't had a serious cold since. *knocks on wood.*
posted by chowflap at 10:31 PM on August 24, 2007


"Part of living in harmony with others is understanding that there is a whole world full of people who believe different things than you do, many of which you feel are wrong in your heart of hearts. Some of those people you cross paths with in AskMe and part of being able to be a decent community member is learning to deal with those people respectfully and to leave them alone if you can't."

Amen.

"Unless you think you're the self-appointed rationality police, you should stay out of threads that you can't be helpful in."

I think you meant "especially if you think you're the self-appointed rationality police..."

"It appears the answer of the admins is 'let them live in their own little world.' Do I have that correct?"

Yes. And I find your use of the word "let" revealing. Unless someone failed to inform me of this, I'm pretty sure you weren't elected the World's Corrector.

"We just had an AskMe post not long ago about a possible Ebay scam (the old 'I mistakenly sent you a check worth more than the item, so please send me back the difference' scam). The poster apparently had no inkling that what he was describing was a classic scam being perpetrated. He was asking how to cash the fraudulent check. The 'correct' answer would have facilitated the scam."

One of the things that confounds me in these MetaTalk threads is just how, um, dense people can be. If someone describes to me something that I recognize as a con and I tell them, "Hey, what you're describing sounds exactly like a classic con artist scam! I think maybe you're being conned!", what are the odds that they'll respond negatively? (Well, this example is a little problematic because some cons involve making the mark emotionally invested in something they recognize other people will find questionable.) In your eBay example, I think most people would react favorably, being glad that you informed them that this is probably a con.

Now, let's think about the same scenario, but with: Astrology. Religious faith. Physics. Past live therapy. Ghosts. EST. Autism/vaccination links. Environmental Disease. And countless others.

In these example, people are far more likely to react negatively to a criticism of the underlying belief system. Why? Because it's not news to them. They are almost always aware of the criticisms and they believe, anyway.

This is the obvious difference between many of the hypotheticals that have been proposed here and the type of things we actually see on AskMe that causes these debates. People don't actually need to be told that psychics aren't actually psychics or that there isn't a God. They've already heard that before. Telling this again accomplishes nothing.

"That'll teach me for being a rationalist."

I'm a rationalist empiricist materialist. I'm strongly a conventional skeptic. I've been a member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a subscriber to Skeptical Inquirer. James Randi is one of my heroes.

And you know what? You and the others like you in this thread are annoying the shit out of me.

There are good ways to help make the world a more rational, less "demon haunted" place. And there are bad ways. The bad ways are well demonstrated in this thread.

People believe all sorts of things. Most people in the world today do not accept the materialist, empiricist, scientific and a ultra rational worldview that some of us share. That's the simple truth. Perhaps most people will never share that view. Even so, the world is filled with good and intelligent people. Freaking the hell out because people believe in astrology or physic powers just doesn't make the world a better place. It's just an example of intolerance, which is an aspect of some of the problems of many of the irrationalities we're trying to fight. Being pugnacious, intolerant, and lacking perspective are the sorts of qualities one expects from some Bible-thumper who is absolutely sure of how the world works, who is right (him) and wrong (us) and that it's his mission to correct all we sinners.

I've discovered, by my middle-age, that it just never did any good for me to directly challenge these sorts of irrational beliefs. What has worked has been to be an example, and to have a sort of quiet certainty of my own worldview, which I do express in amiable ways, coupled with tolerance. Telling people that they're stupid for believing in God, ghosts, astrology, and psychics? Not so much.

"...the OP didn't provide any of the information that a serious astronomer would need to create her chart"

I don't think a serious astronomer would need any information to create her chart because a serious astronomer wouldn't be making charts in the first place. Perhaps you meant astrologer? (And I say this as someone who pointed out in a previous thread that, until the advent of modern astronomy, astrologers were astronomers in their own right.)

"If I've taken anything away from this debate, its that 'adults' apparently are to be discouraged from telling people that their silly and potentially harmful beliefs are silly and potentially harmful."

Yes. That's how adults behave. They don't tell people that beliefs they think are silly and potentially harmful are silly and potentially harmful. You're exactly right. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least being that helping other people avoid silly and possibly harmful beliefs is greatly facilitated by not confronting them directly and aggressively about things like this. It also involves not treating other people like children and generally acting like an arrogant and intolerant asshole. These are "adult" things. Congratulations on taking the first steps in this awareness!

"but when people make shit up and say they know via evolutionary psychology or something, skeptics are often a lot more docile."

Oh, I see. It's okay to be critical when it's a belief that you don't like.

Look, I know what you're saying. There's bad science being done—and much more bad popular reporting on science—that people are far too credulous about just because it involves some credentials. On the other hand, almost all of the criticisms I see of EP are knee-jerk and uninformed and arise from an ideological affiliation. In other words, they're quite like the very worst forms of truth crusading. Yes, there's some truly bad science and science reporting with regard to EP—that recent "women really like pink colors because they picked berries" is a very good (or bad?) example of this. But people so inclined take examples of that sort to stand in for all of EP, and they do so uncritically because they find a wholesale disbelief in EP to be ideologically felicitous. That's bad.

I make this point because part of what is revealed in this thread—and which does, to some small degree support some of the points of the complainers—is that there's definitely a bit of a PC quotient involved in this. Not in a left/right sense, but the community sense of "if all we right-thinking people agree that this is BS, then it's okay to call it BS" exception to the rule against challenging a questioner's premises.

I'm of the opinion that it's almost never the right thing to do to challenge a questioner's premises. Even when those premises are agreed by almost everyone to be absurd. Even in the case of some of the hypotheticals given here. That's part of why I really think it's mostly beside the point as to whether or not the questioner actually believes that psychics have psychic powers. (By the way, the root of these words means "soul", not "mind" or personality. If you're going to mention in passing the root of some words to make a point, at least actually know what the root is and means.)

I think the only time challenging a questioner's premises is appropriate is when it's likely to be truly helpful to the questioner. If they're unlikely to believe or accept the challenge, then it's not going to be helpful. If they're unlikely to care about the challenge, it's not going to be helpful. Furthermore, if the challenge is mocking, then it's pretty much guaranteed to not be helpful. Jessamyn allows that this is debatable. Debatable it may be, but I feel strongly that mockery almost never changes people's minds about their beliefs. The exception is when it occurs in a peer environment, and then it's really just the peer pressure that does the heavy lifting, not the mockery.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:16 AM on August 25, 2007


I wrote: "I've been a member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a subscriber to Skeptical Inquirer." Of course I meant that I've been an associate, just like anyone else can be. I wish I were a member.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:20 AM on August 25, 2007


If only we sat all more at the dainty lotus feet of Swami Ethereal Bligh we would be more susceptible to peer pressure and social conformity. Long live the Guru of Cool; O teach us to be worthy of consideration!
posted by davy at 10:33 AM on August 25, 2007


"That's how adults behave. They don't tell people that beliefs they think are silly and potentially harmful are silly and potentially harmful."

Absolutely, because when you yell "Look out for that truck!" you deprive people of their innate human right to become a road pancake.
posted by davy at 10:35 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


davy, learn to read, or shut up. There, I'm saving you from the silly and potentially harmful belief (to your credibility,) that you some sort of free-thinking iconoclast.
posted by Snyder at 3:17 PM on August 25, 2007


It's not worth bothering about, Snyder. davy doesn't have any credibility left; it's best just to ignore him like most of the rest of us do.
posted by Kwine at 3:55 PM on August 25, 2007


TPS, EB and others -- berating even those who would politely mention how psychic abilities are not real -- are misguided.

In regular everyday circumstances, when people receive advice from others, they have various means of evaluating its credibility, usually leaving ample room for doubt and ongoing re-evaluation. This can go out the window in the unlucky case where you have been thoroughly convinced that the advice comes from supernatural sources, leaving you to trust some light-hearted words, of a trickster who's known you for 10 minutes, over those of your loved ones.

In the worst case, whether or not you're scammed out of your money is a secondary issue.
posted by Anything at 9:13 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey Anything. You there. We want this thread to stop now, it's gone on too long. So I'll try to explain this real simple like.

There are kids starving in Africa. Dying of AIDS even.

We simply don't care that much about someone being "scammed" $25 by being told things they already knew about their grandmother by some hippy.
posted by Jimbob at 8:42 AM on August 26, 2007


True enough, Kwine
posted by Snyder at 1:09 PM on August 26, 2007


*knocks on wood.*

...I ...don't even know if you're being ironic.

Oh, I see. It's okay to be critical when it's a belief that you don't like.

it's nothing to do with liking or not liking the belief! The point is that skeptics are meant to be looking for a certain minimum of evidence before they endorse a view, and there is nowhere near the necessary evidence for stuff like evolutionary psychology. Even the big bang is highly dubious but widely presumed by the young followers of science because it's the current bet. Far too many pro-science people do not look past the claims of authority and the context of scientism.

I mean, how did an idea like "memes" get the play it did? If a skeptic read that in some old monk's journal, he'd laugh at the silly idiot for thinking ideas float around and bite people or something. As it was, it was given a generous metaphorical interpretation. Well, maybe the old monks can do metaphor too. Or maybe Dawkins had a dumb idea. Whichever way you see it, being a skeptic should not be a political decision, where you side with the guys on your team.
posted by mdn at 3:20 PM on August 26, 2007


mdn: If you're talking about skeptics on MeFi, then it's unfair and a bit of a straw man to say they give evolutionary psychology a free pass, especially considering the drubbing that it got the last time it was discussed.

I also think there is a difference between Big Bang theory, which is the best model we have to explain cosmological observations, and a concept of psychic powers, which has been repeatedly examined without producing convincing evidence. The two are not equivalent.
posted by grouse at 3:44 PM on August 26, 2007


"...nowhere near the necessary evidence for stuff like evolutionary psychology."

There is nowhere near the necessary evidence for some/many claims in evolutionary psychology. You're recklessly claiming that an entire field and every bit of research in it is unwarranted by the evidence. I'm a little, shall we say, skeptical of the correctness of your point of view.

And, as it happens, if I take you literally and read it that you are claiming that there's not sufficient evidence that human psychology is the result of evolution, then I'll say that you're exactly wrong. There's overwhelming evidence that human behavior is the result of evolution and those who want to assert the blank slate position have to come up with a very good rationale for their human exceptionalism before I can take them seriously. Otherwise, even though it comes from the left, all I'm hearing is another version of the Adam/Eve story where Man is special and indepedent of the rest of the natural universe.

The wholesale dismissal of EP by many leftists and most/all feminists is exactly the sort of thing where being a skeptic amounts to siding with the "guys" on your team.

As a leftist and a feminist, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to with our side on this one. Yes, a far too large quantity of EP research is itself ideologically motivated and/or ideologically interpreted and, worse, reported in the press in ways which further right-wing and anti-feminist agendas. But certainly this isn't true of all the research even though I see complete and blanket dismissals of EP by my fellow leftists and feminists every single day (because I read leftist and feminist blogs).

I certainly don't ascribe to biological determinism and I quite strongly believe that culture matters. I think the truth is in the middle-ground somewhere. But even the middle-ground is too far from a strong nurturist position for most people. And the thing is, everything else I know about science and biology tells me that the strong nurturist position is wrong. It only exists because it's a (much needed) correction of the equally strong and universally bad biological determinist science of the late 1800s and early 1900s. But people are still stuck in that mindset that is reacting to the absurdity of things like phrenology. And, as feminists, we're stuck reacting against sexist ideas of female inferiority based upon presumed biological differences with the tactic of rejecting differences altogether. But we don't need to be.

This has been growing into a pet-peeve of mine for several years now. I've before described my own process of development as a feminist and that I became a feminist 25 years ago and therefore very strongly internalized the strong backlash against the idea of difference. It's been difficult and unpleasant for me to change my thinking on this, but it's been unavoidable as I've both considered the assumptions underlying it and the progress of (especially) brain science over the years. It's not any fun having a minority view when you share the same goals and most other beliefs of the majority with whom you're disagreeing. But it's gotten worse for me, lately, because I'm reading more feminist sites and I'm seeing a great deal of reflexive slamming of anything that might possibly be EP with a strong tone of "all we right-thinking people know better". And, frankly, to my mind, this is a long way from being skeptical. Because there's no skepticism of the in-group "correct" thinking. Which, you know, is exactly where skepticism is the most important.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:35 PM on August 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


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