It’s all so unfair

Oh dear, the poor psychics are worried.

[N]ow psychics must add a few riders before they invoke the voices of the dead, thanks to new consumer laws due to come into force…Promises to raise the dead, secure good fortune or heal through the laying on of hands are all at risk of legal action from disgruntled customers. Spiritualists say they will be forced to issue disclaimers, such as ‘this is a scientific experiment, the results of which cannot be guaranteed’. They claim the new regulations will leave them open to malicious civil action by sceptics.

Uh…yeah; and? If you promise to raise the dead or secure good fortune or heal via magic, why shouldn’t you be at risk of legal action from disgruntled customers? What should you be – immune? Say you promise to raise the dead, five hundred bucks a try. You fail, the customer tries again, you fail again, customer tries again – and this keeps up until the customer has given you her life savings of fifty thousand dollars. To what are we supposed to attribute all these failures? Bad luck? The weather? The collapse of the housing market? Isn’t there something to be said for the idea that you never actually had a workable plan for raising the dead in the first place, and therefore shouldn’t have been charging a non-refundable fee for the service? I would argue there is quite a lot to be said for that idea.

For the past half-century, ‘genuine’ mediums have been protected by the 1951 Fraudulent Mediums Act, under which prosecutors had to prove fraud and dishonest intent to secure a criminal conviction, which was difficult. There have been fewer than 10 convictions in the past 20 years.

That’s quite funny. So everyone had to pretend to believe that ‘mediums’ genuinely believed they could raise the dead in spite of a long history of never actually doing so? In spite in fact of a historical record in which there are no (0) cases of people raised from the dead? Mediums could safely offer (for a fee) to raise the dead as matter-of-factly as a grocer selling a dozen eggs or a bus driver accepting a fare for taking you from Putney to Chelsea, undisturbed by the (one would think troubling) fact that the promised service was never forthcoming?

Didn’t anyone ever notice? Didn’t anyone ever stop and say ‘Wait, though – does this actually work? All those people I know of who’ve died – I haven’t seen a single one of them since. If this worked, wouldn’t someone have paid the fee to bring them back? Why don’t we ever see the ones who return? There’s something fishy here’?

Carole McEntee-Taylor, a spiritualist healer in Essex, said having to stand up and describe the invoking of spirits as an ‘experiment’ was forcing spiritualists to ‘lie and deny our beliefs’. She added: ‘No other religion has to do that.’

True, but they ought to. But also relevant is the fact that other religions don’t charge fees on the same basis – they pass the plate, but they don’t make their services conditional on a fee. But most relevant of all is the fact that you have no right to believe you can raise the dead – not in your line of work. A belief like that in your line of work is equivalent to an oncologist believing she can cure cancer by singing the Ode to Joy. You can’t charge people money for raising the dead merely because you (claim to) believe that you can in fact raise the dead when you never have in fact raised the dead. It’s unethical, to put it very mildly indeed.

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