No such thing as a psychic

Shame on the IDS for publishing such a credulous report on local psychic Rebecca Bartlett. A newspaper should critically assess and disseminate information rather than regurgitate anecdotal hearsay, not to mention free advertising, from charlatans like Bartlett.

Bartlett is not actually psychic, but a practitioner of “cold reading.” Cold reading takes practice and skill, but it’s not magic. To begin, a reader (“psychic”) makes several vague, high-probability guesses. 

From the article: “I’m getting that bananas are important to your body,” Bartlett said. “You have a slight fragility in your spine. And you just hate being under water.”

All three predictions are open to many generous interpretations. Bartlett apparently got one-third correct – her client’s “worst fear is drowning.”  Notice that “hate being under water” is not identical to “fear of drowning”.  Why didn’t her “clair senses” give her more precise information? All fitting of the prediction of reality is conducted post-hoc, and the client, not the reader, provides the information.

What about those eerily specific, highly improbable predictions?  They simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. One client claims that Bartlett warned her of a colon tumor by pointing to her lower abdomen and telling her to “watch that.” Many maladies could be retrofitted to fit such a vague prediction.

I also suspect that Bartlett made many predictions that simply never materialized. By remembering the hits and forgetting the misses, people often seriously inflate the accuracy of psychics.

What’s the harm? It’s potentially dangerous that the grossly unqualified Bartlett sees fit to dispense medical advice. I sincerely hope that people are not forgoing real medical treatment by indulging in this superstitious nonsense. It is also deplorable that Bartlett preys on vulnerable people suffering from loss by giving them the empty solace of a fake interaction with deceased loved ones. These are the depths to which unscrupulous people like Bartlett are willing to reach for a little money.

One of Bartlett’s clients is said to “forget her ... rationality and open her mind” before a session.  I’d exhort her to keep her rationality and her mind open, just not so open that her brain falls out.

Chris Muir
Ph.D. student
Department of Biology

A shout out to Bloomington charity

It’s a Saturday morning and your alarm goes off. This is your first day free after a 40-hour work week, and as you squint through blurry eyes you can see that the clock reads 6:30.

If you are a normal person, you jab at buttons until it stops and sleep another three hours. If you are a little more ambitious you tumble from beneath the blankets and prepare for a day of rampant frivolity. And if you are a member of the Bloomington BioLife team you are preparing to spend the next eight hours of your day building a house.

This is exactly what happened in early December when BioLife Bloomington partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help make one family’s holidays a whole lot brighter.

“The service that these people are providing through their jobs every day is amazing, and the fact that they are doing this in their spare time is even more special,” said Tom Boudreau, the construction manager for Monroe County Habitat for Humanity. “They’re not only saving lives, they’re helping make quality of life better.”

Habitat for Humanity was not the only charity to receive the team’s attention during the holiday season. They also partnered with United Ministries in a toy and art supply drive that drew in hundreds of dollars in supplies from employees and donors alike. “It’s nice to feel like I’m a part of the drive,” said one excited donor, “They really encourage you to help and make you feel good when you do.”

Of course for the Bloomington team, helping their community isn’t something isolated to the holiday season. The nursing staff volunteers frequently at surrounding clinics giving flu shots and vaccinations while other employees volunteer individually, with everything from The Humane Society and The Salvation Army to Community Kitchen and Middle Way House.

“I have had a couple of consistent volunteers from BioLife in the past.” said Charlotte Zietlow, volunteer coordinator for Middle Way House. “These people have to hear tough stories and sometimes witness terrible situations, so I would never blame them if they didn’t come back. But every week they would show up, some of them would come two or three times a week and they would always be ready to help. It’s admirable.”

With all of the hard work and volunteering that the Bloomington team does, you can bet that they don’t get to sleep in as much as the rest of us, but you can also be assured that they get to sleep at night just fine.

Jess Pendley
Bloomington resident

Don’t trivialize harmful activity

In an editorial on Feb. 5 (“State proposals suggest a no-smoke nanny state”), you compared laws banning smoking in public places and texting while driving to a ban on loud and obnoxious talking in restaurants. 

News flash: secondhand smoke kills people, over time. Distracted driving kills people more immediately. In both cases, the point of the law is to protect innocent lives from another person’s choice. I can understand a disagreement about whether the attempt to protect people’s lives goes too far in balance against, say, individual business owners’ freedoms (in the case of the smoking ban), because it’s fair to say that the state shouldn’t protect us from absolutely every danger, so which dangers it should protect us from are up for debate. But please don’t trivialize this issue by pretending that it’s just a matter of the stink.

Elizabeth Venstra
IU staff member

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