Picking on Psychics

I like almost everything the NYT’s Dan Barry writes. He’s got a real way with words, and a feeling for the people he writes about. Except today.

In today’s column(Times Select; sub. req.) he writes about a psychic named Yolana, an older woman who once made a pretty good living predicting the future and now faces an uncertain retirement. To ‘balance’ the column, Barry talks with the managing editor of The Skeptical Inquirer, who asks, “Why don’t Yolana, John Edward, Sylvia Browne — why don’t all the psychics — summon their powers and find Osama bin Laden?”

The question seems reasonable. And this is what respectable newspapers do: They use reason to make fun of psychics. This reassures their readers, who feel smarter for being in on the joke.
But on April 1st, just 11 days earlier, Barry wrote about two other older women who face an uncertain retirement: nuns whose church was being closed as part of a broader ‘realignment.’ (Times Select; sub. req.)

This time, Barry didn’t interview the managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer about the faith of those nuns. If he had, after all, that managing editor might have asked, “What good is the faith of those nuns, if it can’t save their church from closing? And while we’re at it, why can’t the Pope find Osama bin Laden?”

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