The View is not well-known for its accurate discussions of scientific topics. Global warming, evolution, vaccinations, and extrasensory perception are just a few scientific topics previously butchered by one or more members of the round table with a less than adequate science education. That's not to say that these unscientific claims went unchallenged by other members of the round table - that's the whole gist of The View - all sides of the debate, no matter how correct or incorrect, will be aired.
This week, Whoopi Goldberg made two seemingly contradictory statements within minutes of each other. First, she alluded to her ability to make psychic connections with the dead. Then, she announced her science-nerdiness as a reason for producing a new game show on the Science Channel called Head Games (http://science.discovery.com/tv/head-games/head-games.html), with comedian Greg Proops as host.
As a scientist, I'm torn. While I think its fantastic that TV (and other mainstream media) are embracing geek-dome as the new 'cool', especially as we see more and more bad science gaining too much air time, I also find it conflicting that someone doing science such a great service is clearly lacking scientific knowledge herself.
Here is the definition of parapsychology from http://www.skepdic.com/parapsy.html, as I find this to be very informative:
Parapsychology is the search for evidence of paranormal phenomena, such as ESP and psychokinesis. Most scientists try to explain observed and observable phenomena. Parapsychologists try to observe unexplainable phenomena. All the other sciences have led us away from superstition and magical thinking, while parapsychology has tried to find a scientific basis for such things as divination and mediumship.
Parapsychology is widely held as an example of pseudoscience (see the aliquot post about pseudoscience for more information). Why then, does this phenomenon and many other areas of pseudoscience, prevail in popular culture? There are many theories, including our human nature to resist new ideas, and the comfort we hold in ideas that may seem intuitive, but in fact hold no scientific basis. Pseudoscience also fills important gaps in scientific knowledge or scientific education. When no answer is available from scientific research and data collection/analysis, pseudoscience easily steps in.
Specifically, ' people who believe in psychic ability possess various psychological attributes that increase the likelihood of them misattributing paranormal causation to experiences that have a normal explanation.' (Wiseman and Watt , 2006, British Journal of Psychology). Psychology, the scientific counter-part to parapsychology, has long studied people claiming to hold psychic abilities- and no scientific link has ever been found. Most 'psychics' are thought to be highly intuitive at best. But a quick internet search will provide you with hundreds, if not thousands, of webpages purporting to provide evidence for psychic abilities and other parapsychological phenomena. This is where one of the greatest lessons of a science education can be exemplified: know your source, and only obtain scientific information from reputable, trusted scientific sources like peer-reviewed journals. Otherwise, your information could be coming from anywhere - and just like investment advice or advice from a contractor about your home's electrical system, you don't want your information from just anywhere. You want the best source possible.
Personally, I'm willing to overlook Whoopi's misunderstanding that she posesses some psychic ability...and I'll happily support her new game show, and the good science I hope it promotes. I also hope shows like the View (and Oprah - who was lambasted this summer by Newsweek, for her popularizing of some bad medical advice: http://www.newsweek.com/id/200025) will look to the experts in the scientific and medical fields when these topics arise.