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Posts Tagged ‘pseudo-science’

In 1996, Carl Sagan was interviewed on the Charlie Rose Show where he warned about the dangers of being ignorant of science in an age when society is practically based on science and technology. When the general public is ignorant of science, who makes the decisions on science and technology?

Sagan also describes the proliferation of psuedo-science (e.g. UFOs), superstition, and literal interpretations under religion as problematic to society. He encourages skepticism as a way forward both to accumulate knowledge, and as a way to keep society from self-destructing.

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The bestselling work by Rhonda Byrne has become such a worldwide phenomenon it merits a second look. Here’s a short video about the principles behind “The Secret”:

We already reviewed The Secret sometime in the past, and still the important question is: can “The Law Of Attraction” be tested? Does the “Law” allow conditions for it to be proven false? This is an important part of distinguishing between something scientific and something that just sounds scientific. A true scientific law can be falsified, while pseudo-science is somehow always correct. For the Law of Attraction, this apparent “immunity” from falsification is best stated by the Skeptic’s Dictionary:

The so-called law of attraction is the kind of law that many people will find attractive. It provides them with the illusion of having control over their lives. All I need to do is change my attitude and intentions and I’ll attract money like a magnet (or lose weight or whatever else it is I want to achieve). If it doesn’t work, it’s my fault because I didn’t genuinely change my attitude and intentions. Sound familiar? What is it that the faith healers say about those who don’t get healed? You didn’t have enough faith!

Meanwhile we again voice concerns over the political and moral implications of the idea, which incidentally is echoed by Ingrid Smythe:

Besides scientific gibberish, The Secret DVD props up faltering dogma by relying on charismatic representatives and a lot of smooth talk, which is so expert and cleverly edited it is easy to miss the false premises, tautologies, red herrings, straw men, non sequiturs, and other varieties of fuzzy thinking. However, even if The Law of Attraction was logically consistent and scientifically sound, the moral implications of a Law such as this are alarming. Interestingly, some of the difficulties with The Law of Attraction are similar to those encountered by believers in The Law of Karma, and comparing and contrasting the two yields some curious insights.

Under the moral premise of The Law Of Attraction–misfortune is attracted by the victims, which is a concept that is hard to reconcile. With probably the notable exception of those suffering of some mental psychosis, doesn’t everyone wish happiness or prosperity to themselves? Do the millions dying of AIDS and famine in Africa attract it to themselves?

What can throw off a lot of people in seeing the Law of Attraction for what it really is, is that it seems to be the antithesis of what organized religion purports as the “will of God”–there isn’t a predestiny or an omnipotent being judging you and your actions, there is only your own thoughts which create the reality for you. In this paradigm, intentions can be just as unfair as fate, and in this case it isn’t God that chooses to damn you for your sins, it’s your own incredulity.

But then again, in many cases intention really does drive results, but proponents of The Secret simply downplay the most important part between them: action.

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The Bible Code claims that hidden in the first five books of the Bible in its original Hebrew text are hidden messages in code that made predictions thousands of years ago about current events, such as the assassination of JFK and the end of the world. In this episode Michael Shermer decodes the Bible Code and reveals it to be a form of numerology that serves as a supreme example of pattern-seeking (and finding) behavior of which we are so skilled.

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Why do people see the Virgin Mary on cheese sandwiches or hear demonic lyrics in “Stairway to Heaven”? Using video, images and music, professional skeptic Michael Shermer explores these and other phenomena, including UFOs and alien sightings. He offers cognitive context: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can combine with the power of suggestion (helping us hear those Satanic lyrics in Led Zeppelin). In fact, he says, humans tend to convince ourselves to believe: We overvalue the “hits” that support our beliefs, and discount the more numerous “misses.”

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