Paranormal Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

Project Jason: Psychics and missing people

As a skeptic, when discussing psychics and how there is zero scientific evidence for the existence of psychic powers, I often come up against the attitude that says, “What’s the harm if people believe in psychics?”

What’s the harm indeed? Have your palm read, and it’s kind of fun, but you generally don’t take it all that seriously. The same is true of psychic readings, which, for most people, seem to be more a form of entertainment than anything else, given how little stock most people put in them. The prevailing attitude out there seems to be that, if people are willing to give up their money to psychics for their “services,” no one is really harmed, and if the psychic isn’t trying to make money of his or her “talents,” who cares?

A new blog series by Kelly Jolkowski, a mother whose son has been missing nearly five years, would argue otherwise, particularly when the psychic advice is about a matter of life and death and the desperation of a family looking for a missing member:

Mysterious things have always intrigued me. As children, my brothers and I liked to scare other kids with tales of ghosts, other creatures, and space aliens. There were times we even had other parents complain that we gave their kids nightmares! We loved all the horror and science fiction movies and TV shows.

As a teenager, I discovered ESP, Ouija boards, and prophecy. At one time, I believed the silliness about the world ending long before now, as stated by the “Late Great Planet Earth” author, Hal Lindsey. I even had my little brother scared to the point of tears with that one.

I grew up, married, and had 2 sons. As a working mom raising a family, I didn’t have time to continue studying the paranormal, and I still wonder if ghosts and aliens exist, and if I visited Loch Ness, if I would see ‘ol Nessie.

I think the mysteries of life keep us on our toes, always seeking the answers. I would hate for there not to be mysteries…life would be very boring if we had it all figured out!

Unfortunately, I have a mystery in my life that I’d really like to solve. Most of my readers know that my son Jason has been missing without a trace for over 4 years. In fact, this summer it will be 5 long years. No one has been able to figure out what happened to him, not even the best investigators.

In the course of this fruitless search, and also with the birth of Project Jason, came an undesirable element. That is what I call the “Advantage Takers”. Advantage Takers include any person or organization which uses this tragic situation for personal gain. That gain may not always be in the form of money.

We, the families of the missing, are victims in several ways. If our loved one has been taken from us in a brutal way, we are victims. We may also be victims of a poorly constructed and trained LE (law enforcement) structure. We may be victims of society’s apathy to our plight because of prejudices against missing persons, particularly adults. We again may be the victims of a non-responsive media.

There is one method of victimization that can be avoided, however, and that is by people who claim to be able to find your missing loved one via paranormal means.

Some of these persons try to play on guilt in that they say people in our position should try any (legal) means possible to find their missing loved one. It is subtlety implied that if we are not willing to subject ourselves to this, then we must not really care about finding our missing loved ones. It is a chance we should always take, we are told.

Today begins my series on psychics and missing people. I have several stories about these people and my own experiences with them, plus experiences of other family members of the missing. And, as you might expect, none of these cases have been solved by using paranormal means. We’ll also hear from world-renowned experts in the field as we present the information.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? Whenever there is a missing persons case, particularly if it’s a high profile case, the psychics always come out of the woodwork, claiming that they can help find the missing person. Much of the time the motivation is not money, but either a misguided belief in their own abilities to help or a desire to be in the limelight. However, they are usually worse than useless.

As Kelly points out:

There is not one proven case in which a psychic, using special powers or abilities not given to the typical person, has located a missing person, whether dead or alive. It may be possible that some persons have an ability that defies science and logic, but there is no known scientific evidence of this. These persons re-victimize families by taking away hope where it should stand, and giving hope where there is none. No person has the right to do this to another.

In a second post, she lays the groundwork with a harrowing description of what it is like to be the mother of a missing child and having offers of psychic “help,” much of it contradictory, much of it forcing her to contemplate what horrible things could have been done to her child in graphic detail.

This series looks like one to follow. If you believe that psychics are simply a harmless bunch of cranks, read on. They may be cranks, but in criminal cases like that of Kelly’s son, they are far from harmless.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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