Why aren’t America’s psychics helping keep us safe?

December 28, 2009

As I'm sure you heard, a Nigerian suicide bomber tried to blow up Northwest flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit, on Christmas Day. He managed to get 80 grams of the high explosive PETN on board, though his plot was foiled by a faulty detonator and a fast-acting nearby passenger. Fingers are still pointing about who is to blame for the usual laundry list of security lapses. The story of course didn't get as much press as it would have if the bomber had been successful, but it provides what I like to semi-sarcastically call a "teachable moment."

 

There are thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of people who claim to have psychic powers. Some of them can be found in little storefront shops not far from where you may work or live. Some of them can be found on TV, such as convicted felon Sylvia Browne, James van Praagh, John Edward, Alison DuBois, Carla Baron, and others. But all of them have one thing in common: they claim to have specific, accurate information about things outside their immediate knowledge. Some say they can read minds or auras; others say they can predict future events.

 

Which brings us back to the would-be Christmas bomber. The biggest challenge to national security, by definition, is that there is no way to distinguish threats from non-threats, passengers from terrorists, false-positives from positives. Airport security must thoroughly screen every single passenger, from the wheelchair-bound grandmother to the harried businessman to the nose-picking toddler, because everyone must be suspect; anyone could be a potential threat. Psychics, if real, could change all that.

 

If what they say is true—if these people have the powers they claim, why are 99.99% of innocent airline passengers subjected to invasive screening, delays, and hassles, when a psychic should be able to identify the terrorists and direct the security resources toward those people?

 

If psychics can do what they claim, why aren't they hired by the TSA or airport security to identify the terrorists? Why are they telling fortunes for $50 a pop in New Age shops instead of in salaried positions at security command centers, using their psychic powers to find people who have evil on their minds and explosives on their person, who want to kill hundreds of innocent Americans on Christmas Day?

 

Even if the psychics can't narrow it down to a specific passenger (though I see no reason why they wouldn't be able to), even if they could accurately tell police which day (even which week or month) terrorists will attack, that would be invaluable. Security officials would know that people flying any other time don't need to be screened, and tighter security measures would be imposed during the specified time frame.

 

Forget James Randi's $1 million prize; it's a drop in the bucket compared to the costs in time and money spent on airport security. If a psychic could prove that he or she has the ability to reliably distinguish an innocent traveler from a terrorist (using ESP, tarot cards, tea leaves, or any other method) that service would literally be worth billions of dollars to the American government and its citizens. Any psychic who could actually do what they claim to do could save countless innocent lives, make history as the first validated psychic, and become a multi-millionaire in the process.


So where are they? Why are all the psychics happy to tell you about your dead grandmother, your love life, and where you might find your lost watch, but can't seem to provide any useful information on significant, real-world issues like missing persons or national security? I guess they are too busy with their TV shows and local fortunetelling gigs.

 

If psychics don't have the powers they claim, they are either frauds or gullible, self-deluded suckers. If psychics do have the powers they claim, but for whatever reason refuse to help save innocent lives, they are selfish and evil.

 

The next time you or someone you know visits a psychic, ask why psychics aren’t helping save lives and keep America safe from terrorism. It’s time for psychics put up or shut up.