More on the UK’s ‘best-loved psychic’.

17 Aug

I’ve written previously about Sally Morgan, the UK’s self-proclaimed ‘best-loved’ psychic. A couple of recent articles make this an even better teaching opportunity that it was previously.

The first article is a review of one of Sally’s shows from June 2012, written by an ex-magician who points out some of the techniques she may have used. The article doesn’t provide anything hugely surprising, but it’s worth paying attention to the comments at the bottom of the article. Two commenters, both who claim to have attended the same show, defend Sally Morgan’s work and suggest that the report is not accurate. Whilst you might like to believe the original article, as a rational thinker you have to accept that article can’t be accepted at face value.

However, the second article makes things much more interesting. When the author and renowned skeptic Simon Singh originally wrote about Sally Morgan’s activities he asked anyone who had had a reading from her to contact him. He has now written about the response to this request, including audio recordings of one particular reading by Sally Morgan (There is a certain irony in the fact that the recording was made by Morgan herself). Having an audio recording allows for a point by point dissection of Morgan’s methods, which makes very interesting reading.

There are a couple of useful teaching points here. Firstly, it’s the quality of the evidence that separates the first article from the second. Whilst students might latch on to the first article, it’s a good way of demonstrating the questionable nature of testimonials. The quality of the evidence in the second article is what allows for the better critique of Morgan’s methods. The second teaching point is, I think, a more interesting one. I’d like to use this to get students to think about whether psychics do any harm, and whether we shouldn’t get involved if adults wish to spend their own money of psychic readings. In areas such as alternative medicine I think the question of potential harm is clearer, but here I suspect there is, at the very least, an argument to be had.

 

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