So I was half watching Watchdog yesterday, and a caught the presenter mention something about proving things about psychics, which sparked my interest.

Somebody sent them in some amulet to heal his aura, whatever that is. To which Nick Campbell said:

"If anyone tries to charge you for this sort of thing, psychic or not, they saw you coming"

That's a pretty crappy attitude to have. You could say the same thing about anything, if you gave a company money for a ticket you never got, they saw you coming. If you gave some company money for product X that doesn't work, they saw you coming. A significant part of the population are way too susceptible to this sort of woo woo, and it should not just be brushed aside.

You're supposed to be in favour of the consumer, no matter if they're handing their money over to so-called psychics with false claims or some greedy company or dodgy individuals.

So I did a bit of searching to see if there was any reason for this just popping up, and as it turns out on last week's episode they did a piece investigating some psychic whackjob who claims to do something or other and charges you thousands of pounds for the privilege.

After the piece was over it went back to the studio where Julia Bradbury said...

"Because of course there are genuine psychics out there"

*Bangs head on the desk*. WHAT?

"Because of course there are genuine psychics out there"

She was speaking to some bloke from the Office of Fair Trading, who strongly emphasised that every investigation they've done has revealed no genuine psychics.

Honestly what the hell.

So anyway, after watching yesterday's episode again to catch what Nick Campbell said, apparently they had a few letters from viewers stating that they think all psychics are "at it", he went on to say:

Proving the authenticity or otherwise of all psychics is slightly outside our area of expertise.

What do I think is going on here? Their legal team are scared of being sued. There have been many cases across Western Europe over the last few years of psychics using the threat of legal action to silence their critics. When it has gone to court, because the legal system so heavily supports the claimant in cases of slander or libel there is a real danger of the defendant actually losing. There was a case in Belgium or the Netherlands a couple of years back where one of Europe's first sceptical societies was ordered to take out a full-page newspaper advert saying that some psychic was actually genuine, simply because they couldn't afford to fight the case and as such disproving the claimants accusation. I'm not sure what happened, but I'd hope they'd close their doors before ever doing such a thing.

This is because here the burden of evidence in slander and libel cases is placed upon the defendant. Instead of in most other areas of law where the burden of evidence is placed upon the claimant.

In the United States you never see this happening, because the burden of evidence is placed where it belongs. It should be up to the psychics to prove they are psychic. Not the defendant to prove a negative (which is impossible).

Three things need to happen:

  • We need to change the law so the burden of evidence is correctly placed upon the claimant.
  • Watchdog also need to stop pussy footing around worrying that they'll upset the woo woo crowd.
  • All psychics, or any other practitioners of nonsense should be arrested and charged with fraud.

Julia Bradbury's bio on the BBC website mentions she's done lifestyle shows, great, the plague of television. And mentions she's coped with John Travolta (Scientology nutjob) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (right-wing Republican asshole). That's a lot of whacky stuff to fit in just one paragraph, maybe there is somebody better for the job out there.

Oh wait, one last thing I'd like to see happen as I've said before, put the BBC under the control of Patrick Moore, Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough. The BBC needs to raise its game, it needs to stop the dumbing down of its science shows and get rid of every ounce of woo woo in the rest of its programming.