Hits and Misses

I love TED talks. For whatever subtle reason, even annoying ideas don’t provoke an angry response. Most likely, it is the style of presentation: Calm, logical, intellectual, -.

Today, however, I watched a presentation by Michael Shermer. It wasn’t the talk that bothered me – it was the people who provoked one off-hand comment in the introduction. He was talking about scams, and how people naturally tend to remember “hits” and forget “misses” which is the stock in trade of psychics and Tarot card readers and the like. He reminds us that, in science, we must remember the misses and take all the data in consideration to come to a realistic conclusion.


I’ve seen that principle in action. People really do cling to the “hits” …”how did you know that?”…no matter how much tell them this isn’t about knowing untold information or predicting the future.

There are two reasons I found it galling when Mr. Shermer mentioned Tarot readers by name in his sweeping dismissal. First is the untold number of woo woo goofy goobers that have ruined Tarot’s reputation for the rest of us. Scam artists really do exist, and they have functionally reduced Tarot to the fraudulent snake oil that is presented in the talk. I hate that.

Second, is how skeptics and others dismiss tarot and all intuitive work so out of hand without ever having seen the artistic, rational side of it. Or if they have seen the “real” version of this work, it is simple bigotry if they still lump it in with sham practices.

I think the reason Tarot and psychic work is so dismissed and derided is simply because of the false way that “hits and misses” are defined. “Hits and Misses” are predicated on the false premise that the purpose of a reading is to predict the future.

If you draw a conclusion based on an incorrect, false or unsupported premise than the conclusion is unreliable and the science is faulty.

Tarot and intuitive practices are not, not, NOT about predicting the future. They are about understanding now, solving problems more creatively, inspiring new ideas, thinking outside the box, coming to terms with emotions and life’s intangibles…all things that lie clearly in the realm of personal development, spirituality, even art.

If a reading gives you a new idea, or puts you a little more at ease with past events, or inspires you to change the choices you make, or even makes you uncomfortable by pointing out a difficult life lesson, then that is a resounding “hit”. Misses happen, not because future events are not predicted accurately, but because the symbolism does not resonate with the sitter, or the time isn’t right, or there is a mis-match of personalities, none of which are very quantifiable. Hits and misses in a psychic or Tarot reading aren’t as cut and dried as the professional skeptics would have you believe.