by Big Thinkvia
Let’s face it – you love a good conspiracy theory. At least, statistically there is a good chance you do. About half of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory in any given year. How could that be? What is it about the regular, everyday reality we don’t like?
A recent study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology says that the answer to this predilection towards conspiracy-fueled thinking may lie in how our brains deal with probabilities. What may be responsible is a general cognitive bias associated with low probabilities. People tend to believe more in conspiratorial explanations of events as the probability of them actually occurring gets lower.
A conspiracy theory offers an alternative explanation for events and how things seem to be in the world around you. No, says a conspiracy theory, just because most people think this is the real state of things (especially politically), that’s not how matters really stand.
The reason people may engage in such thinking, says the study from Switzerland that was carried out by Marko Kovic and Tobias Füchslin, is essentially an error in how we process probabilities.
Antivaccine activists claim that vaccines contain all sorts of terrifying poisons. Is this true? http://infactvideo.com/
Antivaccine activists claim that vaccines contain all sorts of terrifying poisons. Is this true?
Antivax conspiracy theorists tell us that vaccines are deadly and contain some extraordinary toxins. Let’s examine a few of these ingredients, starting with:
FORMALDEHYDE: Absolutely true. Formaldehyde is used to sterilize some vaccines. We use formaldehyde for this because it’s found naturally in the human body, as it’s a normal byproduct of metabolism and digestion.
ANTIFREEZE: False. However some vaccines are sterilized with something called 2-phenoxyethanol, which is also used as a topical antibacterial for wounds. This and antifreeze come from the same family of hydrocarbons, but they are not the same thing.
MERCURY: Sort of true. Some vaccines are sterilized with thimerosal, also used in contact lens fluid and many other products. However, it contains mercury bound as an ethyl — the version of mercury that can be dangerous has to be bound as a methyl, which is different.
In June 1967, Hollywood icon Jayne Mansfield died in a tragic car crash. But the mysterious events surrounding it suggest that it was no ordinary accident…
One of my regular debate topics on the forums i visit has to do with the chemtrail conspiracy theory.
Chemtrail conspiracists believe “some trails left by aircraft are chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed at high altitudes for purposes undisclosed to the general public in clandestine programs directed by various government officials.” (source | source)
Depending on which conspiracist you talk to, the substance(s) being sprayed ranges from barium and aluminum to uranium, radioactive cesium, radioactive thorium, human red blood cells or a slew of other dangerous substances. (source)
Then again, some conspiracists admit they don’t have the slightest clue what is being sprayed – all they know is, it’s really, really bad.
Depending on who you ask, “they” (the infamous “they”) have been spraying us for at least 15 years. In all these years, thousands of chemtrail videos, documentaries, books, lectures, radio programs and every other conceivable form of “proof” has been put out there in an attempt to convince the world chemtrails exist. Documentary makers and radio personalities are making millions peddling the chemtrail nonsense.
Yet all the evidence chemtrail conspiracists have remains anecdotal and pure speculation – lacking any direct link proving aircraft contrails are anything other than ice crystals and/or normal aircraft engine exhaust. They simply haven’t established a direct link between their claimed “symptoms” and the contrails and/or clouds in the sky.
Well, dear conspiracist, i’m here to help. Do you want to know how to prove once and for all chemtrails exist? How about directly sampling and testing the suspected clouds, contrails or jet fuel?
All these years of crying wolf and nobody thinks to sample those naughty clouds, contrails or jet fuel? Weird. Wouldn’t such lab results answer the chemtrail question once and for all? But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the people making millions of dollars peddling this theory don’t want this mystery solved. Funny how some things become conspicuous (and suspicious) by their absence.
But lately i’ve been running into a new argument conspiracists are using as “proof” we’re being sprayed by the aircraft flying across our skies. Conspiracists are pushing the theory that chemtrails are geoengineering and there are patents for geoengineering, therefore chemtrails ARE REAL.
Question: What is a patent?
Answer: It is a property right for an invention granted by a government to the inventor. A United States patent gives inventors the right “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention throughout the United States or importing their invention into the United States” for a limited time. (source)
This is a fallacious argument. Why? Because whether geoengineering is occurring or not is completely irrelevant. Conspiracists still have the burden of proving the contrails above our head are anything more than ice crystals or contain anything other than normal aircraft engine exhaust.
Patents are not evidence of usage or existence. Geoengineering patents are not evidence that the aircraft trails and fluffy white things in the sky are anything other than contrails and clouds.
Patents are ideas. These ideas may or may not exist in the real world. A patent doesn’t mean or guarantee an idea works, exists or is currently in use.
To make my point, let’s have some fun and play in the conspiracts’ world of make believe and pretend patents really are proof of an existing, functioning, tangible technology or ability. If it’s patented it’s real!
Are you ready?
First, let’s have some fun walking through walls!!! Yes, you read correctly – we’re going to walk through walls! People really can walk through walls! Didn’t you know that? What is my proof? My proof is a patent! There is a patent called “Walking Through Walls Training System and Method” (U.S. Published Patent No. 2006/0014125) that allows (note the present tense “allows”) us to learn how to walk through walls! Is this awesome or what? This might explain a lot of burglaries.
There’s no need to fear death anymore because death is a thing of the past. It has been a thing of the past since 2005 with the publishing of the “Resurrection Burial Tomb” patent (U.S. Published Patent No. 2005/0027316). This tomb allows you to bring the dead back to life ala Dr. Frankenstein! Talk about saving on health care costs! Who needs ObamaCare now? Is this amazing or what?
But wait! There’s more!
Need an antigravity craft that can travel at speeds approaching the speed of light? Well stinky, this is your lucky day!
Antigravity craft have been here for almost 8 years, ever since U.S. Patent No. 6,960,975 was published in 2005. For all you motorheads, check out this wicked description of your new toy: “A cooled hollow superconductive shield is energized by an electromagnetic field resulting in the quantized vortices of lattice ions projecting a gravitomagnetic field that forms a spacetime curvature anomaly outside the space vehicle. The spacetime curvature imbalance, the spacetime curvature being the same as gravity, provides for the space vehicle’s propulsion. The space vehicle, surrounded by the spacetime anomaly, may move at a speed approaching the light-speed characteristic for the modified locale.”
I think you get the point. Chemtrails are patently ridiculous! 🙂
A new study from psychologists Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz helps to untangle the relationship between belief in conspiracy theories and paranoia.
The researchers found that conspiracy theorists are not necessarily paranoid. While paranoid people believe that almost everybody is out to get them, conspiracist believe that a few powerful people are out to get everybody. Their findings were published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
“I have been studying conspiracy mentality for almost ten years now and although there is fantastic scholarly work out there, something bugged me about the way conspiracy scholars talk about conspiracy ‘believers’. Too often, there is a slight pathologizing tone and a certain arrogance towards the ‘crazy’ conspiracy believers,” explained study author Roland Imhoff, professor of social and legal psychology.
“On the one hand, I can see where this comes from, also because several colleagues have really negative interactions with people who endorsed conspiracy theories,” he told PsyPost. “On the other hand, I have always tried to not take a normative stand but merely describe what correlates, antecedent and consequences of belief in conspiracy theories are without claiming that having such beliefs is either correct or incorrect, normal or paranoid.
In 2014, perfectly healthy young man Lars Mittank disappeared. This wasn’t an ‘ordinary’ disappearance, though: Lars’ final sighting was caught on CCTV. His behaviour and his motive are still unexplained…
Why a Conspiracy Theory About Nikola Tesla Just Can’t Be True
Almost all of the fanciful inventions attributed to Tesla by conspiracy theorists are fake.
As he died in 1943, it’s easy to make claims about Nikola Tesla, the inventor, engineer, and futurist who is credited with more than 300 patents. He also held remarkable popular appeal at the time and was known as a promotional expert, not unlike the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, whose electric car company is named after the inventor. For one example of his popular appeal, anyone who has visited Los Angeles’ famous Griffith Observatory has likely marveled at the Tesla Coil on display just as much as what the telescopes reveal in the night sky.
Because of Tesla’s varied accomplishments, conspiracy theorists have given credit to the innovator for numerous inventions they say world governments have hidden away over the years for various reasons, from oppressing their people or using those inventions own selfish reasons.
The theory that Tesla’s potentially world-changing inventions are being hidden away is one that author and podcaster Brian Dunning explores in his new book, Conspiracies Declassified: The Skeptoid Guide to to the Truth Behind the Theories, which was released today, June 5. Inverse is republishing with permission his examination of Nikola Tesla, which is included in the section of the book titled “Suppressed Science.”
The theory about Tesla isn’t as widespread or ridiculous as the one about all-powerful lizard people, but it’s equally as fascinating.
Elon Musk just seems like a slick con artist to me. He gets billions of $$$$ in government subsidies, his company is bleeding money and all he does is make bigger and bigger promises he never fulfills.
monoraill….. MonoRail… MONORAIILLL!!!! Blow your mind how many times Elon Musk has promised revolution, and delivered nothing!
Hello initiates and welcome to module one of the Illumicorp video training course. I would like to officially welcome you as a member of the team.
You’ve joined our organization at perhaps the most exciting point in our long history. Our founders shared a passionate dream. To transform this country, and eventually the whole world to one cohesive organization.
This presentation is designed to enlighten you about our organization’s goals and achievements. As your guide, I will help to answer some basic questions you might have about Illumicorp, and familiarize you with the valuable role you will play in helping us reach our prime objective. So please, take a tour with me as we march together towards an exciting new world.
Start this video to continue your training:
Click the image to download the official course booklet (PDF) containing very important additional information.
I watched this entire video and found it to be really good. It’s lengthy, but worth it.
Our expert panel of air-crash investigators speak to the myriad of conspiracy theories that arose in the aftermath of MH370’s disappearance and why these ludicrous claims are harmful in finding answers.
Captain Disillusion deconstructs an aeronautical viral video, with a little help.
Is psychokinesis real? Can people move objects with their minds or is it even scientifically possible? Explore the history of telekinesis and learn how even some of the greatest psychics in history have been exposed as frauds.
I didn’t think the video was all that great, but this YouTube channel has 13M followers. With that many followers maybe i missed something and others will enjoy it. 😉
There are those among us who believe nearly everything is the result of a conspiracy. All of it.
They don’t believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, don’t believe we ever landed on the moon, believe our own government orchestrated 9/11, and believe Bill and Hillary Clinton are murderers. They believe the food we eat, the medical treatment we receive and climate scientists are all part of grand conspiracies designed to somehow do them wrong.
More troubling is a subset of this group that has convinced themselves nearly all mass shootings are hoaxes perpetrated by shadowy, unnamed groups trying to upend the Second Amendment. They claim there are no victims, just “crisis actors” trained to pretend they’re victims.
The leader of this pack has been Alex Jones, a radio host and creator of the infamous web site, Infowars. Jones uses both platforms to spew conspiratorial nonsense about mass shootings.
He referred to Sandy Hook, where 20 first-grade children and 6 adults were massacred, as a “complete fake” and a “giant hoax.” He’s claimed the parents were actors and fakers. He’s been singing the same rancid song for years.
Now, two sets of parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook have had enough. After years of harassment, intimidation and even death threats generated, at least in part by Jones’ accusations, they’ve sued him and others for propagating this defamatory foolishness.
(It should be noted Jones, three days after the lawsuit was filed, finally acknowledged the Sandy Hook murders did occur. His attorney said his previous comments were “misunderstood” or “misrepresented.”)
Mr. Jones and his co-defendants will now hopefully have the opportunity to explain to a civil jury how he arrived at his conspiracy theories. It should be interesting hearing him tell us how dead people aren’t actually dead. If he could present just one of the hundreds of mass shooting victims still alive it would certainly be an eye-opener.
No such revelation is forthcoming because these horrors that keep repeating themselves are not hoaxes at all. Nobody is pretending to be dead or pretending to grieve a lost loved one. Any other notion is absurd.
Maybe some common sense is in order here.
Nowadays many people are familiar with the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment — but how did it all begin?
April 15th, 1865: America’s greatest President meets a tragic, violent end. Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth is known as the man who pulled the trigger – but who helped him, and what was the real motive?
I had forgotten all about this video. This is Tom Cruise at his nuttiest.
The Misconception: You take randomness into account when determining cause and effect.
The Truth: You tend to ignore random chance when the results seem meaningful or when you want a random event to have a meaningful cause.
Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy were both presidents of the United States, elected 100 years apart. Both were shot and killed by assassins who were known by three names with 15 letters, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald, and neither killer would make it to trial.
Spooky, huh? It gets better.
Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln.
They were both killed on a Friday while sitting next to their wives, Lincoln in the Ford Theater, Kennedy in a Lincoln made by Ford.
Both men were succeeded by a man named Johnson – Andrew for Lincoln and Lyndon for Kennedy. Andrew was born in 1808. Lyndon in 1908.
What are the odds?
In 1898, Morgan Robertson wrote a novel titled “Futility.”
Written 14 years before the Titanic sank, 11 years before construction on the vessel even began, the similarities between the book and the real event are eerie.
The novel describes a giant boat called the Titan which everyone considers unsinkable. It is the largest ever created, and inside it seems like a luxury hotel – just like the as yet unbuilt Titanic.
Titan had only 20 lifeboats, half than it needed should the great ship sink. The Titanic had 24, also half than it needed.
In the book, the Titan hits an iceberg in April 400 miles from Newfoundland. The Titanic, years later, would do the same in the same month in the same place.
The Titan sinks, and more than half of the passengers die, just as with the Titanic. The number of people on board who die in the book and the number in the future accident are nearly identical.
The similarities don’t stop there. The fictional Titan and the real Titanic both had three propellers and two masts. Both had a capacity of 3,000 people. Both hit the iceberg close to midnight.
Did Robertson have a premonition? I mean, what are the odds?
In the 1500s, Nostradamus wrote:
Bêtes farouches de faim fleuves tranner
Plus part du champ encore Hister sera, En caige de fer le grand sera treisner, Quand rien enfant de Germain observa.
This is often translated to:
Beasts wild with hunger will cross the rivers, The greater part of the battle will be against Hister. He will cause great men to be dragged in a cage of iron, When the son of Germany obeys no law.
That’s rather creepy, considering this seems to describe a guy with a tiny mustache born about 400 years later. Here is another prophecy:
Out of the deepest part of the west of Europe, From poor people a young child shall be born, Who with his tongue shall seduce many people, His fame shall increase in the Eastern Kingdom.
Wow. Hister certainly sounds like Hitler, and that second quatrain seems to drive it home. Actually, Many of Nostradamus’ predictions are about a guy from Germania who wages a great war and dies mysteriously.
What are the odds?
If any of this seems too amazing to be coincidence, too odd to be random, too similar to be chance, you are not so smart.
You see, in all three examples the barn was already peppered with holes. You just drew bullseyes around the spots where the holes clustered together.
Allow me to explain.
Need help dealing with a conspiracist? Here you go. You’re welcome. – MIB
Delusional disorder is a mental illness called a “psychosis.” This is when a person can’t tell what’s real from what’s imagined. People who suffer from delusional disorder have fixed, unshakable beliefs in things that aren’t real — like being convinced that aliens are watching them or that they are close friends with celebrities. Unfortunately, delusions are hard to treat because the beliefs are so fixed. If you have a loved one with this illness, educate yourself and express your concerns, but also be ready to intervene in case of a serious situation.
Expressing Your Concern
1 • Pick a lucid moment to talk. One of the worst things you can do if you think a loved one is having delusions is to ignore it. You should reach out to your loved one while also considering how to contact his therapist (if he has one) or local mental health services for advice on treating delusional disorders.
- It’s OK to try to talk to your loved one about your concern, but pick a time when he is lucid. You may not be able to discuss your loved one’s mental state while he is actively having delusions.
2 • Frame your concern as an opinion. Talk to your loved one and express your anxiety about her behavior and thought patterns. It is important to remain conscious or your tone and not become angry or aggressive. Try at all times to be gentle, honest, and non-confrontational. You will probably not be able to convince her that her delusions are mistaken, even with clear evidence.
- Be as non-judgmental as possible. Delusions are “fixed ideas.” Saying, “What you’re thinking isn’t real,” or, “No, you’re being paranoid and crazy!” won’t accomplish much and could actually strengthen the person’s delusions.
- Present your concern as an opinion instead, i.e. “You seem to be having a rough time. I wonder whether you’re all right?” or “I’m concerned for you. My own opinion is that you’ve developed some fixed ideas.”
3 • Don’t play into the delusions. Avoid attempts to disprove your loved one but at the same time, do not play along with his delusions or make it seem like you agree. Try instead to connect to the person’s experience and understand him rather than refuting the delusion itself.
- Affirm that your loved one’s feelings are important while making it clear that you do not agree with him. Say something like, “I understand that you feel that way. I have a different opinion,” or, “What you’re talking about is important; I just think you could be mistaken.”
- You might also subtly question your loved one’s delusions with suggestions, i.e. “Strongly believing something is true doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true, don’t you think?” or “We’re all capable of misinterpreting things, aren’t we?”
- You could also try saying, “But our brains can misinterpret things and giving us the wrong idea, no?” or “Sometimes we can imagine things that seem very real — like dreams. That doesn’t mean they are real, though.”
How psychics tricked scientists on three separate occasions. Uri Geller, Steve Shaw & Michael Edwards, and Ronny Marcus managed to dupe scientists at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), The McDonnell Laboratory at Washington University, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory respectively. Here’s how, as well as how skeptics James Randi (magician), Dr. Ray Hyman (psychologist), & Martin Gardner (science communicator) responded to the psychic trickery.
The name of Nikola Tesla is associated with crazy conspiracy claims that have nothing to do with his real work.
By Brian Dunning via Skeptoid
No personality in the history of science has been pushed further into the realm of mythology than the Serbian-American electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. He is, without a doubt, one of the true giants in the history of electromagnetic theory. As an inventor he was as prolific as they come, with approximately 300 patents having been discovered in at least 26 countries, but many more inventions as well that stayed within his lab and were never patented. As remarkable as were his talents was his personality: private, eccentric, possessed of extraordinary memory and bizarre habits, and with a headlong descent into mental illness during his later years. Tesla’s unparalleled combination of genius and aberrance have turned him into one of the seminal cult figures of the day. As such, at least as much fiction as fact have swirled around popular accounts of his life, and devotees of conspiracy theories and alternative science hypotheses have hijacked his name more than that of any other figure. Today we’re going to try and separate that fiction from the fact.
First, a very brief outline of his life; but in order to put it in the proper perspective, we have to first clear up a popular misconception. Tesla did not invent alternating current, which is what he’s best remembered for. AC had been around for a quarter century before he was born, which was in 1856 in what’s now Croatia. While Tesla was a young man working as a telephone engineer, other men around Europe were already developing AC transformers and setting up experimental power transmission grids to send alternating current over long distances. Tesla’s greatest early development was in his mind: a rotary magnetic field, which would make possible an electric induction motor that could run directly from AC, unlike all existing electric motors, which were DC. At the time, AC had to be converted to DC to run a motor, at a loss of efficiency. Induction motors had been conceived before his birth, but none had ever been built. Tesla built a working prototype, but only two years after another inventor, Galileo Ferraris, had also independently conceived the rotary magnetic field and built his own working prototype. Rightfully fearing that his own obscurity as a telephone engineer was hampering his efforts as an inventor, Tesla arranged to move to the United States. He did so in 1884, getting his famously ill-fated and short-lived job in Thomas Edison’s laboratory.
The tycoon George Westinghouse, who understood the potential of AC and induction motors and was actively seeking them, gratefully purchased some of Tesla’s patents as soon as he learned about them. Royalties from Westinghouse fattened Tesla’s wallet, and a number of highly public projects on which they collaborated made him a celebrity, including the 1893 illumination of the World’s Fair with alternating current, and the subsequent creation of the Niagara Falls power plant. It was as a result of this windfall that Tesla set up his own laboratories and created his most intriguing inventions. Let’s run through a list of some of the seemingly magical feats attributed to Tesla, beginning with . . .
This is ASAP Science’s “Can Math Prove god’s Existence” – Debunked.
Talk about voxels and cones too dry to pique your interest in real-time lighting tech? Then have a peek at this re-creation of the lunar landing from last week’s GAME24 livestream, which convincingly proves that man actually did set foot on the moon.
Business Insider spoke to Dr. Jan-Willem van Prooijen, associate professor of psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Dr. van Prooijen said people are often drawn to conspiracy theories after major diasters as a way of coping with their fear.
He added he finds the flat earth and hollow earth theories the most baffling due to the wealth of scientific research on the subject.
What is The True Nature of Reality?
Get your geek on!
Is String Theory the final solution for all of physic’s questions or an overhyped dead end?
Total sarcasm. This video is based on a real conspiracy that i just had to mock. I hope you enjoy it.
Watch this video ONLY if you want to HEAR the TROOF! This is absolute, undeniable pwoof the Apollo moon landings were hoaxed. This evidence is incontrovertible. Share this video!!!
via NeuroLogica Blog
In just about every disaster or event in which there are many deaths, such as a plane crash, there is likely to be, by random chance alone, individuals who survived due to an unlikely sequence of events. Passengers missing their flight by a few minutes can look back at all the small delays that added up to them seeing the doors close as they a jog up to their gate. If that plane were then to crash, killing everyone on board, those small delays might seem like destiny. The passenger who canceled their flight because of flying anxiety might feel as if they had a premonition.
This is nothing but the lottery fallacy – judging the odds of an event occurring after the fact. What are the odds of one specific person winning the lottery? Hundreds of millions to one against. What are the odds of someone winning the lottery? Very good.
Likewise, what are the chances that someone will miss or choose not to take any particular flight? Very high – therefore this is likely to be true about any flight that happens to crash. If you are that one person, however, it may be difficult to shake the sense that your improbable survival was more than just a lucky coincidence.
A similar story has emerged from the Sandy Hook tragedy. A mother of a kindergartener there, Karen Dryer claims that her 5 year old son was saved by his psychic powers. She reports that her son, after a few months at the school, started to cry and be unhappy at school. He was home schooled for a short time, during which the shooting occurred. Now, at the new elementary school that recently opened, he seems to be happy.
In retrospect it may seem like a compelling story – if one does not think about it too deeply. As Ben Radford points out in the article linked to above, the story as told is likely the product of confirmation bias. The mother is now remembering details that enhance the theme of the story (her son’s alleged psychic powers) and forgetting details that might be inconsistent.
Secrets of the Psychics – James Randi
Original broadcast: October 19, 1993
Description via PBS.org:
Can psychics predict the future? Many people seem to think so. Others argue that, in most cases, so-called psychic experiences are really misinterpretations of events. In this episode of NOVA, magician and confirmed skeptic James Randi challenges viewers to weigh the evidence for and against the existence of psychic phenomena.
Randi argues that successful psychics depend on the willingness of their audiences to believe that what they see is the result of psychic powers. The program highlights some of the methods and processes he uses to examine psychics’ claims. Using his own expertise in creating deception and illusion, Randi challenges specific psychics’ claims by duplicating their performances and “feats,” or by applying scientific methods. His goal is to eliminate all possible alternative explanations for the psychic phenomena. He also looks for evidence that they are not merely coincidental. His arguments can motivate your class to discuss the differences between psychic performances and legitimate cases of unexplained phenomena.
Everyone says organic food is better for you and better for the environment. But is that true, or is it just eco-marketing rhetoric?
Everyone says organic food is better for you and better for the environment. But is that true, or is it just eco-marketing rhetoric?
From October 2017 –
TODAY Show national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen set out to test if psychics could predict his future … for a fee.
“If Uri Geller bends spoons with divine powers, then he’s doing it the hard way.” —James Randi
“Because a good magician can do something shouldn’t make you right away jump to the conclusion that it’s a real phenomenon.” —Richard Feynman
“Geller is at his ingenious best in laboratories where he is being observed by scientists who believe he has extraordinary ESP ability and think—without justification—that they have ruled out every possibility of fraud.” —Milbourne Christopher
Uri Geller is most famous for his claim to be able to bend spoons and keys with his mind. An international star in the psychic circuit, Geller is a Hungarian/Austrian who was born in Israel and lives in England. He claims he’s had visions for many years and may get his powers from extraterrestrials. He calls himself a psychic and has sued several people for millions of dollars for saying otherwise. His psychic powers were not sufficient to reveal to him, however, that he would lose all the lawsuits against his critics. His arch critic has been James “The Amazing” Randi, who has written a book and numerous articles aimed at demonstrating that Geller is a fraud, that he has no psychic powers, and that what Geller does amounts to no more than the parlor tricks of a conjurer.
Geller has been performing for many years. The first time I saw him was in 1973 when he appeared on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show. He was supposed to demonstrate his ability to bend spoons with his thoughts and identify hidden objects, but he failed to even try. He squirmed around and said something about how his power can’t be turned on and off, and that he didn’t feel strong right then. Randi had worked with Carson’s producer to change the spoons and metal items Geller planned to use, as there was a suspicion that Geller likes to work (i.e., soften) his metals before his demonstrations, as would any careful conjurer.
View Geller’s Tonight Show lack of performance (courtesy of James Randi):
I have always been fascinated and puzzled by the attraction of Uri Geller. I suppose this is because nearly every one of our household spoons is bent and what I would like to see is someone who can straighten them, with his mind or with anything for that matter. Likewise with stopped watches. I have several of those and I would love for someone to use his powers, psychic or otherwise, to make them start running again. Of course, even I can get my stopped watches to run again for a short while by shaking or tapping them, but a permanent fix would be appreciated. There is something mysterious, however, about a person who has built a career out of breaking things.
via Science-Based Medicine
Any sociological question is likely going to have a complex answer with many variables that are not easy to tease apart. We should therefore resist the temptation to make simplistic statements about X being the cause of Y. We can still, however, identify correlations that will at least inform our thinking. Sometimes correlations can be triangulated to fairly reliable conclusions.
When the data is complex and difficult to interpret, however, evidence tends to be overwhelmed by narrative. The recent Sandy Hook tragedy is an excellent example. No one knows exactly why the shooter did what he did, so it is easy to insert your own preferred narrative as the explanation.
Another example is the phenomenon of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Why has it been increasing in popularity (and is it, really?). Is it slick marketing, relaxed regulations, scientific illiteracy, a gullible media, or the failures of mainstream medicine? You can probably guess I think it’s all of these things to some degree. The most common narrative I hear by far, however, is the latter – if people are turning to CAM it must be because mainstream medicine has failed them. This version of reality is often promoted by CAM marketing.
The evidence that we have, however, simply does not support this narrative. Studies show that satisfaction with mainstream medicine is not an important factor in deciding to use CAM, that CAM users are generally satisfied with their mainstream care, and they use CAM because it aligns with their philosophy, and they simply want to expand their options.
None of this is to imply that mainstream medicine has no problems or failings – it does. We should, however, be working toward keeping and improving what works and fixing what doesn’t, not discarding science and reason to embrace fantasy as an alternative. This is often the false choice presented by CAM proponents, and is analogous to creationists pointing out alleged weaknesses in the theory of evolution as an argument for creationism as an alternative.
Geoffrey Dean via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI
Today, phrenology (“head reading”) is usually seen as the fossilized stuff of cranks and charlatans. But in the nineteenth century it had a huge influence at all levels of Western society, more than all of its later competitors (such as psychoanalysis) put together. It was influential because of its attractive philosophy and because practitioners and clients saw that it worked. But we now know that it could not possibly work; personal experience had led millions of people astray. Indeed, few beliefs can match phrenology for its extent of influence and certainty of invalidity. So it has valuable lessons about any experience-based belief.
In the nineteenth century, phrenology affected all levels of Western life and thought. In Britain, Europe, and America, its influence was felt in anthropology, criminology, education, medicine, psychiatry, art, and literature. In France, it eroded established power and led to wide social changes. In Australia, it rationalized the violence against Aborigines and explained the criminality of convicts. For ordinary people everywhere a head reading was often required for employment or marriage.1 But how could this happen if phrenology was totally invalid? For answers, we need to start at the beginning.
First Steps to Delusion
Around 1790, the German-born anatomist Franz Joseph Gall, one of the founders of modern neurology, put together his skull doctrine that later led to phrenology. He held that behavior such as painting or being careful had their own specialized organs in the brain, and that they influenced the shape of the skull. So the skull’s bumps would indicate behavior and abilities that were innate. Gall spent eleven years examining hundreds of heads to test his ideas: “If … he observed any mechanician, musician, sculptor, draughtsman, mathematician, endowed with such or such faculty from birth, he examined their heads to see whether he might point out a particular development of some cerebral part…. He also called together in his house common people, as coachmen and poor boys, and excited them to make him acquainted with their characters” (Spurzheim 1815, 271).
Gall’s seemingly logical approach had two fatal defects. First, his claims were often based on a single striking case, for example “Cautiousness” was placed above the ears because an extremely cautious priest had a large bump there. Second, Gall looked only for confirmingcases and ignored disconfirming cases, a flaw not lost on his critics. Thus David Skae (1847), a physician at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, noted that once the truth is “fixed upon our minds,” looking for confirmation is “the most perfect recipe for making a phrenologist that could well be devised.” But to Gall and the thousands of phrenologists who came later, personal experience mattered more than procedural defects. Phrenology had taken its first giant step on the road to delusion.2 Note that the delusion of experience is not limited to artifacts of reasoning such as the Barnum effect.
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A cult and a conspiracy.
With inequality growing exponentially over the past decades, people around the world have assumed massive debts. In Indonesia, a mysterious cult with the impressive name Swissindo World Trust International Orbit has attracted a global following for its promise to magically make one’s debts go away.
The group is led by Soegihartonotonegoro, a charismatic leader who calls himself M1, and presents himself as a godlike figure who can erase the world’s debt due to a seemingly limitless ancient inheritance. To find out the truth behind this bizarre story, VICE Indonesia correspondent Arzia traveled to visit the Swissindo Headquarters in Cirebon, Indonesia, and interviewed M1, and his followers.
We also met with the manager of a local bank that had been targeted by Swissindo for its debt services, and a client of Swissindo’s whose experience with the group was not exactly as anticipated.
This week Reactions is taking science to the skies and checking out the chemistry behind chemtrails, or more accurately, contrails.
Another Law School for You
WASHINGTON, December 24, 2017: Psychics, or fortune-tellers, predict information about a person’s life. For most people, sitting in front of a psychic is for fun. The laugh is worth the five dollars. Unfortunately for some, the weak or vulnerable, consulting a psychic is too often a sure way to lose significant money and to be emotionally thrown down the proverbial rabbit’s hole.
Psychics in person, online, or on the telephone, cheat people experiencing times of trouble in the areas of romance, money, and health. Those who are lonely, have undergone a recent romantic breakup, who have suffered a financial setback, who have been sued, are sick, or have sick relatives sometimes turn to psychics. They actually pay these frauds significant sums of money so that they can hear their future in the hope that their future will be better.
P.T. Barnum, of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus fame, is widely credited for his understanding of this phenomenon. He summed it up in one famous statement: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Millions consult psychics, mediums, palmists, card readers and others who claim supernatural abilities to predict the future every year. In one 2009 study, the Pew Forum found that in that year about 1 in 7 people reach out to psychics or other types of fortune-tellers.
Regulation of psychics
While virtually every part of our lives is regulated in some way, it is shockingly surprising that these fraudulent psychics are not as regulated as one might think. Laws governing fraud exist in every state. But few states actually have laws addressing the scams perpetrated by psychics and their like.
Regulating an industry that calls itself supernatural is challenging. Particularly one that claims it is beyond the understanding of modern science and one that has no educational requirements. Yet these fortune tellers charge, often heavily, for their services.
Some psychics claim their services are a religious activity. They claim their earnings are similar to donations made to other religious organizations, i.e., not taxed. Others offer that they are entertainers. They even post disclaimers to shield themselves from any losses or injuries suffered by their customers who take their advice. Some rely on the First Amendment’s right to free speech.