Judge John Hodgman: Habeas Spiritus
March 26, 2015 5:43 PM - Subscribe

Should Anton give psychics a chance? This week, with expert witness Carrie Poppy of Oh No! Ross and Carrie!
posted by Shmuel510 (7 comments total)
Hoo boy, this episode.

Speaking as a weird hippie sort who has occasionally been to psychics and has had weird inexplicable unexplainable shit happen to her (with eyewitnesses) on occasion:

1. You do NOT talk about this kind of thing to the general population, go on a podcast, post to Ask Metafilter about hippie topics, or drag your nonbelieving boyfriend along with you to a psychic. If you talk about this to the general public/wrong audience, you are judged automatically crazy and stupid for believing for reasons that will be evident below. Unless you meet someone else who's in the "Weird things happened to me" club, keep your mouth shut.

And see, now I have utterly ruined my reputation in life for saying this here. I'm being a foot-shooting moron hitting post on this.

2. As Carrie pointed out, nobody has ever been able to reliably make accurate predictions happen consistently in a lab. At best that shit is intermittent and may or may not be right. Sometimes it has been for me, sometimes it hasn't. I don't know about that uh, barfing moment with her psychic, but yeah, sometimes folks have predictions of danger and danger actually happened. This is why I somewhat believe, because sometimes things have panned out. Unfortunately, you don't know which it's going to be until it happens, or not.

3. I have had super middling to straight up unimpressive results going to strange "professionals." Nobody's ever blown my mind one way or another. On the other hand, I generally won't spend more than $5-10 or whatever is cheap and dicey on such an activity (and I've pretty much gone off of doing it because it was all so meh) and the occasional person I know who's paid hundreds to go to a professional all came out happy about it. It might be a case of "you get what you pay for" or it might be a case of "I paid $235 to talk to my dead son, it better be worth it," I don't know.

4. Mediums kinda slightly bother me more than the rest of it because you're dealing with grieving, desperate clientele who want to believe and will pretty much buy whatever you say and you don't have to say much beyond "they love you and miss you," which they probably do anyway if an afterlife exists. And as Carrie pointed out, that's pretty easy to BS. Someone I know recently went to a medium (hence how much I know they go for). I was unthrilled at this idea but nobody listened to me about it. Her son was murdered and she's grieving and by god, she was gonna go. The medium told her her son lived the life he wanted to live--dude was depressed, an ex-con who couldn't figure out how to improve his life and he got murdered, so I find that hard to believe.
My mom keeps floating the idea to me that she wants to see a medium to talk to my dad. I told her Dad would roll over in his grave if she did that.

4. If you want to go to a psychic, I recommend trying to do it for cheap or free, or learn how tarot works and try doing it yourself. (One book I own by E.W. Neville pretty much said at the start something along the lines of "eh, whether you believe or not, you can get insights out of doing this.") I'd also ah... stay pretty quiet on things and don't give them much info to work with, maybe don't wear your wedding rings in there or dress in the way you usually do, don't make an appointment with your real name so they can Google you ahead of time...Make 'em work for it, is what I'm saying. See if they can come up with something inexplicably relevant to you without your feeding it to them. I'd maybe suggest learning about tarot symbolism and going to a tarot reader and then see if what s/he says has anything to do with what you've learned about card meanings. (Because the episode of Bullshit! I saw on that, I was all, "um, what the hell are they talking about because that doesn't seem to have much to do with your card draw.") You should be able to figure out by looking at cards yourself what is going on, with none of that "Happy Squirrel" shit.

5. Also, don't bring your unbeliever boyfriend because he'll probably just gripe at you during and afterwards. I was genuinely shocked that JJH ruled that he has to go to one... though apparently it seems to be so the boyfriend can help her get over this crazy idea that whatshername is good at her job.

6. JJH does tend to swerve in the opposite direction from where I tend to think he's going to go with his verdicts. He'll be so anti-whatever--but do it anyway, defendant! Very odd.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:35 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh god, and no sooner did I hit post on this than here calls my mom again, going "So....what do you think about going to a medium? Friend REALLY loved hers." *faceplant* Oh, and now she just said, "You know, if (dead guy) has these answers, why can't he tell the medium who shot him?" GOOD POINT. She also said that her friend is going to do whatever makes her feel good and nobody's going to talk her out of it.

Moral of the story, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was expecting the verdict to be that (a) the boyfriend doesn't have to go, but that (b) he ought to shut up around the girlfriend about how it's all a fraud. People like what they like, and a mutual non-proselytization pact seems better to me than "well, go with her once and then you can attack her beliefs more effectively."

(On the other hand, I misunderstood the setup; I had been under the impression that he had accompanied her at least once and it had not gone well. Apparently I was wrong about that.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:30 PM on March 26, 2015

I didn't really like the way this went. JJH repeatedly saying he was agnostic was a bit disingenuous, skeptic is the opposite of believer, it's not really a mid point.
I think he also spent a bit too long dissecting psychics and the like rather than addressing the case as brought. The question at hand was about if the boyfriend should go with. The boyfriend didn't want to stop her going.
The correct judgement should have been in line with precedent, you can't force someone to like what you like. She can go all she wants, he can not go and hear no more about it. Neither is allowed to badger the other on the topic.

I did like Carrie's self appluase.
I actually liked Carrie quite a bit in this episode, despite not really enjoying Oh No Ross and Carrie.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:00 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I dunno, I think the point for the boyfriend was that he categorically didn't like this sort of thing and Did Not Approve and it had to be covered if he's right not to not approve.

I do agree that "you can't force someone to like what you like" should have been the winning thing here and they should have stopped badgering each other.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:25 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

This verdict didn't work for me because it was barely about the relationship. I mean, if the question had been "she wants him to attend her new church with her a couple times", it would have been more about the difference in their beliefs and how you make a relationship work like that.

And yeah, the skeptic tone really undermined JJH's claims to agnosticism. He's not agnostic on storefront mediums. He said to watch how you spend your money, guard against them, etc. He didn't match this with advice to be open to them, to consider that they may actually be telling the truth, or that even if it's a cold reading it might be helpful.

All of that aside though, the crux of the issue was how to maintain mutual respect while both parties disrespect the other's approach, and that wasn't really explored.
posted by heatherann at 7:56 AM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

But they didn't answer my most burning question: how do you pronounce "Fortean"?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:52 AM on March 29, 2015

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