Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Psychic nonsense

Everywhere I look on TV (yes, I watch TV. It happens when you are brought up by TV as a childminder - if there's a video screen, including a computer, in action in my field of vision I will watch it, even if I'm supposed to be listening to my wife, with predictable consequences), there's an automatic presumption of the reality of psychic phenomena.

It's ubiquitous. There's Medium (based on the true story of so and so"), Psychic Detectives, John someone or other who apparently speaks to dead people ("Why, so can I and so can any man. But do they answer when you do speak with them?), and even the apparently sensible Australian Broadcasting Corporation is getting in on the act.

What is this doing to kids? What is it doing to the population in general? It's all very well to suspend disbelief for the purpose of enjoying a horror or SF show (I really enjoyed the immensely well done and thought-provoking The Second Coming, with its surprising and clever denouement), but it's getting to the point where it is just part of the shared knowledge that these are real phenomena.

And they simply aren't. But no matter how often this is scientifically debunked or shown to be the result of trickery or fraud, people are being fed this tripe as a way of shutting them up. That's the only way I can explain its popularity. Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses, a way to deaden their pain. Well psychic phenomena appear to be the present analgesic of choice, and it can only end in a relatively stupid and uninformed electorate. Who will benefit from that, I wonder?

The immediate culprits are the media moguls, people like Rupert Murdoch of "Faux News" fame, and in my own country, Frank Packer, who put this tripe out daily. But there is a deeper question here. The loss of a reliable media, and provision of bread and psychic circuses, and so forth all tend to result in a compliant and distracted society. This means that democracy becomes the playground of those who have the weapons of mass distraction and those who both represent only them and can bring influence to bear, directly or indirectly.

I know this is not news, or original to me. I just wanted to rant. An educated society is the very last thing that those in power do want; this is why we should work hard to make it educated. Knowledge is not just power, it is the power to make your own choices.