Thursday, August 31, 2006

Critical thinking lesson from current events

Sacramento's ABC affiliate followed a few other gullible media outlets in the recent frenzy of JonBenet Ramsey/John Mark Karr overcoverage. KXTV's news division found newsworthy this story of how a "psychic's" sketch drawn on the Leeza Gibbons Show in 1998 "bears striking resemblance" to suspect John Mark Karr. Internet forums were abuzz with comments like "spooky," "that makes me a believer."

In various accounts of this story, so-called psychic Dorothy Allison is given credit for having helped authorities with a manhunt for a serial killer in Colorado. The evidence of her help is notably absent, and research on the specifics of that case are notably devoid of any mention of Allison's help.

A sober viewing of the sketch reveals a decided lack of resemblance to Karr. The sketch looks much, much more like this shot of Adolph Hitler (sans mustache). Karr, on the other hand, looks much, much more like this shot of 1980s recording artist Gary Numan, who enjoyed success with the hit single "Cars."

The insidious part of such stories is that they credulously fortify the notion that psychics exist and that they have psychic powers. The sad reality is that much like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, "real psychics" don't exist. Nor do psychic powers. James Randi is keen to give anyone with such powers one million dollars. So far, the million dollars is safe and sound.

Now that Karr has been found to have no connection with JonBenet Ramsey (outside of his twisted mind), I'll wait quietly for the media outlets that ran with this bogus story to present their retractions.

But I won't hold my breath.

In the meantime, Joe Nickell has written a more enlightened account of this non-story.

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