Medicine Paranormal Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Dr. Phil follows Dr. Oz’s descent into psychic woo

Will it never end?

First we had “America’s Doctor,” Dr. Mehmet Oz, credulously featuring psychic medium scammer John Edward on his show last year. Sadly, but typically, Dr. Oz was completely taken in by Edward’s cold readings, even the most transparent ones. Even if his previous shows featuring Joe Mercola and a faith healer weren’t enough to convince you that Dr. Oz either has no critical thinking skills or does have them but doesn’t care about anything but entertainment, bread and circuses, this one should have been.

My readers have now told me today that it looks as though in 2012 Dr. Phil wants to get in on that hot psychic action. Check out the preview for Dr. Phil’s scheduled episode for tomorrow (warning: video that autoplays, and I haven’t been able to figure out how to turn off the auto play):

Here’s the promo:

Can the living really communicate with the dead? In a daytime television first, world-renowned intuitive mediums John Edward and Char Margolis team up on Dr. Phil’s stage and pull back the curtain to the other side! Watch as the mediums perform LIVE in-studio readings on audience members. What messages do their loved ones have from beyond the grave? Then, a skeptical Dr. Phil sits down for his first-ever psychic reading from Char. Will he become a believer? Plus, the spirit world reveals something Robin would rather keep secret! Then, numerologist Glynis McCants explains how numbers can lead to a love match. Whether you’re already a believer or still on the fence, you won’t want to miss this spirit-filled show!

Numerology? Really?

Would it be too much of a spoiler if I predicted that, yes, Dr. Phil will become at least partially a believer. The give-away line is where Dr. Phil says, “You know, I am a healthy skeptic, but I’m not a cynic.” There’s also the tag-line for the ad for the show, “Can the living really communicate with the dead?”

Of course, I had even less respect for Dr. Phil than for Dr. Oz (if that’s even possible given how little respect I’ve had for Dr. Oz since he became Oprah’s protege), but this pushes my opinion of Dr. Phil to deep subterranean levels.

Bread and circuses, indeed.

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]

34 replies on “Dr. Phil follows Dr. Oz’s descent into psychic woo”

Orac. Sorry to gripe but is there any way that you can stop the auto-play on this one? Or at least put the video “below the fold?” I’ve heard the promo several times already and I’m getting sick of it.

Dr Phil isn’t a medical doctor, though he makes little effort to discourage viewers making that assumption. He holds a PhD in clinical psychology. He was a licensed psychologist; according to Wikipedia, he retired his license in 2006 to pursue his television career. I’ve never had much respect for him, to be honest. He’s primarily a showman. There is of course a certain amount of history of psychologists studying and believing in the paranormal, but those that go into entertainment are probably a bit more likely to take it up. After all, it gets ratings, and a psychologist knows how to make it look extra real.

“You know, I am a healthy skeptic, but I’m not a cynic.”

Or, “…but I have an open mind”. That ranks right up there with the “I’ve studied this for years, and [insert factually-wrong-on- the-most-basic-level sentence here]”

Sort of matches the meme that a commenter with a name like TrueScientist or TrueSkeptic or RealScientist etc, will most likely be another antiscience woo-spewing troll. (apologies to anyone who does have such a moniker and is not a troll–you are an exception, I’m afraid).

I’ve never watched Dr. Phil, so can’t predict what he’ll say. The best of all outcomes would be if he were to go through the show, give them free rein to say anything they wanted, and then say, “what kind of horse manure is that? Shouldn’t you be holding down a real job instead of playing on the gullibility of others? Get some help!”
More likely will be the “well, I’m not convinced but you’ve given me a lot to think about.” answer.

Plus, the spirit world reveals something Robin would rather keep secret!

That he’s always had the hots for big guys in masks and tight leather suits? Oh, you mean that’s the wrong Robin…?

Everybody in the know knows that astrology is the preferred synchronicity condenser for choosing a mate. Do some homework, Dr. Phil.

I lost respect for Dr. Phil after the Britney Spears fiasco. She was briefly hospitalized for an acute incident of what appeared to be mental illness. Dr. Phil barged into her hospital room, however, she refused to see him. There are differing accounts of the details, but it did not do Dr. Phil any credit. He came off looking like an opportunistic fameball – just like his staging of this show.

BTW, what’s with the “Dr. (Your First Name Here)” stuff? Is it supposed to be “down-home” or something?

TBruce @9 — I think the term isn’t “fameball” but “attention prostitute”, or something along those lines.

Eu weh. [That’s the original spelling of “Oy vay”]

I’mg etting increasingly annoyed (now that I’ve put my headphones on) at the way that video autoplays every time the page loads. Grrr.

Since Orac’s a Whovian and this is a Dr Phil thread, I am suddenly reminded of Craig Ferguson’s excellent Dr Who cold open (that got yanked at the last minute over copyright concerns, then “accidentally” leaked to YouTube and finally broadcast about two months later). It’s got this bit in it:

“Tonight’s show is about a man, who’s not really a man. He’s a doctor! But he’s not really a doctor. Like Dr Phil, but *awesome*.”

Dear Phil McGraw, PhD,

How about you have John Edward and Char Margolis to find Natalee Holloway’s body? Now that would be impressive.

@Calli Arcale – thanks for that, it’s hilarious. Or should I say…FANTASTIC!

As for Dr. Phil, the universe would be a far better place if that famewhoring douche got eaten by the Jagrafess right before it blew up.

“Can the living really communicate with the dead?” I say, yes!

However, to borrow a line from “Casablanca,” you would find the conversation a trifle one-sided.


You can also use firefox with flashblock, as long as the video is flash.

Or just turn off the speakers on your computer. I now do that because some of the news pages have ads with sound. Ugh.

You should use Noscript, or an equivalent, regardless of annoying autoplay being there or not. It’s never a good idea to let unknown scripts run automatically. Your internet browser benefits from being skeptical, too!

Dr. Phil’s career is just one giant example of preying on the gullibility of the viewing public. I thought he’d shown his true colours after flogging weight loss shakes and supplements (they even had “Woo, Woo in the name), but when he posted bail for the 8 girls in Florida who bashed and filmed another girl just so he could get the first interview, he went from a piece of shit to a truly vile excuse for a human being.

The Dr Phil Show had “celebrity psychic” James Van Praag on in 2008. (caution – autoplay)

Contest on the website:

World-renowned spiritual medium James Van Praagh
will give away five free readings to the first
five people who
delve into his new book
Ghosts Among Us
and can provide answers to things that go bump in the night.

Phil McGraw is nothing but trash.

Dr Phil is a spinoff from Oprah and has exactly the same regard to ethics and communication of science that her show did. Which is to say none at all. It doesn’t matter what Dr Phil thinks, but what the audience wants to hear. And if they want to hear psychics are real then that is what the show will pander to.

Personally I think Dr Phil is a quack and playing the same game as psychics – using people’s grief and real world problems as a form of entertainment and profit. The nadir was how he attempted to corral Britney Spears into a televised “intervention” during her mental breakdown.

I recall a time when the Phil only offered simple, but mostly non-false, platitudes.

Did I imagine that?

Phil McGraw is nothing but trash.

Meh, that was unkind of me. Let me try again.

I’m very angry with the Dr Phil Show for screwing with people’s heads.

It’s pretty sad when a TV police series like The Mentalist has a more realistic view of psychics than a supposedly educated psychologist or physician.

“By the way, why is it OK
For people to pretend they can talk to the dead?
Is it not totally fucked in the head?
Lying to some crying woman whose child has died
And telling her you’re in touch with the other side?
That’s just fundamentally sick
Do we need to clarify that there’s no such thing as a psychic?

What, are we fucking two?
Do we actually think that Horton Heard a Who?
Do we still think that Santa brings us gifts?
That Michael Jackson hasn’t had facelifts?
Are we still so stunned by circus tricks
That we think that the dead would
Wanna talk to pricks like John Edwards?”

BillyJoe: All the regulars on this blog knew exactly where that lyrical poem came from.

You ought to view some of the other “spiritual” messages from Tim Minchin…they’re good for the soul.

Years ago, during my stint in Wooville, I worked for Whole Life Expos, a sort of new age consumer/trade show that had hired me to help them go national in a big way. The new owners had a catalog in the works, an online presence about to launch and four big shows in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas that fall. We were all terribly excited because the Dallas show featured Dr. Phil as the big headliner (one degree of separation from The Sacred Oprah™. Everything was going according to plan when some guys decided to force airliners to fly into buildings in New York City right before the Dallas show. Bummer.

Not only was everyone stunned, grieving, shocked, angry, etc. about the events of 9/11, but we were all freaking out about how to salvage the millions and millions of dollars that had been poured into those four Fall shows. The producers asked Dr. Phil to waive his fee and we would do a big “Healing Benefit” for the victims families. Now, while he did waive his fees, he then turned around and demanded that the Dallas SWAT team be hired and paid for to protect him from “terrorists” at the event, oh, and buy his sister an armored SUV (she was tragically disfigured by some loon who threw acid on her from a freeway overpass). This was done in a very demanding, blackmail-y way at the last minute and it became apparent that things were not going to go well.

The Dallas show was a disaster, nobody in Dallas really wanted to “heal” by wandering around a huge convention center buying crystals and pendulums and then listen to Dr. Phil bloviate for 45 minutes. Boston, Chicago and LA were all cancelled for obvious reasons and the company folded, and though I was unaware of it at the time, yet another plank was hammered into place on the coffin I was building for my magical thinking. So I guess I can say, “thanks Dr. Phil, you helped change my life for the better!”

How’s that workin’ for ya?

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