Browsing through the facebook page of alleged psychic Sylvia Browne is like entering into another universe where reality is distorted so much that it is hard to separate up from down, left from right and reality from fantasy. Desperate and half-baked rationalizations are mixed with the promotion of various forms of pseudoscience, including anti-psychiatry, energy woo and even germ theory denialism. Here is what Sylvia Browne has to say about the origin of diseases and their treatments:
So instead of being the result of disease-causing microorganisms or environmental causes, most diseases are caused by your mind? Presumably, this is some version of the pseudoscientific garbage known as “the secret”, which asserts that good things come to those who think positively and bad things happen to those that have a negative state of mind. So if you get cancer, it is not because of genetic risk factors or environment, it is because you were being so damn negative. It is a deadly mix of absurdity, scientific falsehoods, ignorance and emotional exploitation.
I do not know what is more disturbing: that Sylvia Browne seems to believe this or that the Facebook status has gotten almost 4000 likes and almost 900 shares. Can Sylvia Browne, or anyone of her fanatical true believers, cite a single example of an illness that has been scientifically shown to just starts in the mind without any genetic or environmental influence? I doubt it.
The germ theory of disease, or more broadly the elucidation of disease mechanisms, is one of the crowning achievements of modern medicine. Still, Sylvia Browne, who’s only achievement is the ability the financial exploitation of human grief, feels that she is more qualified and have stronger arguments. Wonder why she has not attempted to do any actual scientific research and attempt to have it published in a top-tier peer-reviewed medical journal instead of posting it on a social media site? It is moments like this I wonder if she really believes the crackpot stuffs she is spreading.
Let us look at some of the comments from her true believers (I have blacked out the name and the profile picture as before because I want this to be about the assertions, not the individuals). Some of them are quite disturbing and shows how much damage someone like Sylvia Browne can do to people who are in an emotionally vulnerable state:
Let us hope that this woman is also getting the best available treatment for her breast cancer that modern science has to offer and that she has not been manipulated into the “the mind cures cancer” scheme. Someone like Sylvia Browne can potentially cause a lot of harm to cancer patients if she influences them to stop their treatment in favor of this kind of vague and vacuous nonsense.
Some might consider “the secret” to be harmless and a way to get people to think more positively, but it has a quite stark downside: it asserts that people who have a medical condition have themselves to blame. Here is how one commenter reacts:
I could not agree more. It is not just insensitive, it is the hight of ignorance of modern medicine. Clearly, Sylvia Browne is not aware of the damage she is causing by spreading victim-blaming, or she knows it but does not care.
Here is another outraged commenter:
Yet, never fear, true believers in the alleged psychic abilities of Sylvia Browne and other forms of pseudoscience are never far away:
Notice how this commenter attempts to rationalize Sylvia Browne’s false assertion that most illnesses starts in the mind by saying that stress can cause and contributes to some diseases. Of course, no evidence is presented that stress cause most illnesses or the notion that meditation or yoga can cure them. The claim that individuals with disabilities are helped by alternative therapies is not supported by any evidence either.
There are some additional good news though: even some believers in the alleged psychic abilities of Sylvia Browne consider the cost of her services a bit outlandish.
Maybe there is hope for humanity after all?