Your cat is... wait, he's trying to tell me something. H. Something that starts with an H. He's... hungry! He's hungry! And he wants to take... wait... he wants to take... a nap!
The New York Times reported this morning that Christine Argo can communicate telepathically with household pets, and she will take your money to do it. If there are New York celebrities stupid enough to pay someone for this service, then they deserve to be relieved of their cash. I'm wisely stopping just short of calling Ms. Argo a scam artist, because I could get sued for defamation. But I am certainly free to express my opinion about Ms. Argo's claim. In the great tradition of Penn & Teller, I declare that pet psychics are bullshit!
I suppose pet psychics falls under the whimsy department of skepticism. We've seen many, many examples where belief in the supernatural or paranormal has been life threatening, mostly in the area of alternative medicines and treatments. It's quite likely that nobody will get hurt taking grumpy Mr. Meowsworthy, III to see Ms. Argo for a reading, although she is trying to bust into the nascent field of divining the inner thoughts and feelings of infants. (Creepy.)
This is what Spanish speakers euphemistically refer to as "a booger in the ocean." Ms. Argo is hardly one in a million. But because this article just appeared in today's paper, let me be the first to scream out loud to Ms. Argo, "Why aren't you taking the James Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge?"
That's right, Ms. Argo could really win $1,000,000 by proving she can do what she claims she can do. The money is there for the taking, so why isn't she taking it? Why isn't she running to make an appointment to prove under controlled, double-blind conditions that she can psychically communicate with pets and easily win the cash? Wouldn't you? Even if she doesn't want or need the money, she could easily donate it to her favorite charity. I'm sure there's a pet shelter or animal rights group somewhere that could use a million bucks. In a way she has an ethical obligation to do so, since she owes her good fortunes to "diligent managing of her energy." What better way to score a grip of good energy points than by donating a million bucks to PETA?
By the way, I was very disappointed by the tone of Susan Dominus' article, in which Ms. Argo is portrayed so glowingly. There is an aura of reverence and credulity one might find at a local psychic fair. Words like "chakra," "energy," "clairvoyant," "healer," and something called "kimset" twirl by with nary a wince. Even the cliché paragraph of token skepticism was missing. Not once was it suggested that the idea of psychic communication with house pets is, well, totally ridiculous. Doesn't the New York Times pride itself on its razor-sharp intellect as much as its dry-as-melba-toast wit? Part of the genius of Ms. Argo's strategy is that it's next to impossible to tell if she's really communicating with animals or if she's just making shit up, and I can't believe the New York Times missed an opportunity to point this out.
I tried to track down Ms. Argo's website to send her a link to this blog, because I want her to see the words James Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge at least once in this, her five minutes of fame. But curiously, a Google search of her name brought forth no pet psychic website. Instead I found dozens of press releases for animal rights workshops, in which we are told to expect a presentation by "Christine Argo, MBA, BFA, Ordained Minister of the Universal Life Church, Doctor of Naturopathy, Master Irodologist and Master Herbalist." Oh dear. OK, let's take that title apart one chunk of crap at a time.
We're not told who awarded Ms. Argo's MBA or BFA, but we do know that the Universal Life Church, according to their website, isn't too picky about who gets to be an ordained minister. "This church will legally ordain anyone who asks and we will never charge a fee for doing so." Being a Doctor of Naturopathy isn't all that impressive, either. You can only get such a degree from a school that was started for the sole purpose of promoting alternative medicine bullcrap, schools like the National College of Natural Medicine, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. You can't, in other words, get a doctorate in naturopahy from Harvard, or Yale, or even the California State University, and that's a big clue right there. We're dealing with hokum.
And a "Master Irodologist"? Yet more hokum. I couldn't find an entry in Wikipedia, but I did find this amusing article that describes what irodologists claim they can do. Apparently they think they can look into your eyes and diagnose what ails you -- even if what ails you is something real doctors need advanced medical technologies to detect. This one could also win her the James Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. Just put her in a room with a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, have her look into his eyes, and see if she can divine his ailment. Wow. Not only could she win $1,000,000, she could also win Nobel Prizes in biology and physics at the same time. So what's holding her back?
Oh, wait. I think I know.
Having business cards with the title Pet Psychic must be a heavy load to carry. You try saying it out loud without snickering. I honestly don't know which bugs me more; people who pretend to have psychic powers and know they don't, or people who are idiotic enough to think that a pet psychic can help relieve Mr. Meowsworthy, III of his crankiness. Just make sure he's been to a vet recently for a checkup, keep him well watered and fed, give him some tender loving care, let him lap up the milk from your empty cereal bowl every now and then, and for heaven's sake, let him take a nap.