Tag Archives: France

All About Graphology

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid

Can handwriting analysis really tell us about the personality and aptitudes of the writer?

Read podcast transcript below or listen here

handwriting2Today we’re going to take pen in hand and write a short passage, and then have the handwriting analyzed by an expert. Is it true that useful information about our personalities or lives can be divined through a study of our handwriting? Can the strength of our loops, the spaces between words, and the crossed Ts and dotted Is actually reveal our intentions or thoughts? Some refer to it as a science and make important business, life, or legal decisions based upon it; others regard it as a pseudoscience and dismiss its utility. Let’s see what the light of science will reveal when we shine it upon graphology.

The first thing to understand is that there are three basic types of handwriting analysis, and it’s crucial to be clear on which one we’re talking about today. The first is used in the medical profession, usually in neurology, to help diagnose conditions like Parkinson’s disease in which motor function is affected and fine skills like handwriting will degrade. This is perfectly legitimate as an aid to diagnosis in some cases. The second type is forensic document analysis, also known as graphonomy, which seeks to establish the authenticity of documents or autographs. This can include not only chemical analysis of the paper and ink, but often comes down to comparing certain metrics of the handwriting between a known sample and a test sample to see if they were written by the same person. silly-beliefs_300pxIt’s important to note that a graphonomer would never make a conclusion about the personality of the writer; as that is purely the realm of the third type of handwriting analysis: graphology. Graphology is the practice of determining personality traits, skills, aptitudes, or even fortunes, through the study of an individual’s handwriting.

Skeptical evaluation of graphology has historically found that it is in the same classification as astrology or palm reading. It’s generally described as purely unscientific, little differentiated from a psychic reading, and that any correct statements depend on lucky guesses or the reading of other cues from the subject, such as the content of the writing or the appearance and behavior of the subject, if they are present during the analysis. In short, the science-based assessment of graphology is overwhelmingly negative.

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Supernatural Creep: The Slippery Slope to Unfalsifiability

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) – Sounds Sciencey

I’m taking a step beyond sciencey with the following topic. What happens when science doesn’t cooperate with your subject area? Researchers of unexplained events may get frustrated and disenchanted with the scientific process when the eyewitness accounts they collect are too weird to explain via conventional means. They go unconventional.

hill-supernatural-creep-1Captain Jean-Baptiste Duhamel led the hunt for a beast that was attacking and devouring victims in the Gevaudan, France, in 1794. He had a problem. He could not catch and kill the man-eating monster. Being a proud man, he had to justify why he could not conquer this particular foe. Since the option that he was an inadequate huntsman was not acceptable, the creature must be supernatural in its abilities to escape his capture. The characteristics of the beast were exaggerated—it was huge, cunning, and not just an ordinary wolf. Captain Duhamel left defeated by what must truly be an extraordinary beast.

Captain Jean-Baptiste Duhamel led the hunt for a beast that was attacking and devouring victims in the Gevaudan, France, in 1794. He had a problem. He could not catch and kill the man-eating monster. Being a proud man, he had to justify why he could not conquer this particular foe. Since the option that he was an inadequate huntsman was not acceptable, the creature must be supernatural in its abilities to escape his capture. The characteristics of the beast were exaggerated—it was huge, cunning, and not just an ordinary wolf. Captain Duhamel left defeated by what must truly be an extraordinary beast.

The cognitive dissonance experienced by the French captain is reflected today by those who can’t capture Bigfoot. When normal processes and causes fail to satisfactorily explain events or answers to questions, then the reasoning slips beyond nature, into super nature, beyond the testable claims of science.

I call this “supernatural creep.” Although, I swear I’m not the first one to name it as such. I searched to find where I have seen this referenced before. (If anyone knows, please email me so I can give the originator due credit.) Once I noticed this kind of reasoning, I saw it frequently. Wherever I come across this concept, it reveals a bit about human nature:

If you have to choose between the belief or a rational explanation, the rational explanation may be that which gets rejected.

hill-supernatural-creep-2_200pxThe effect of supernatural creep can be seen with UFOs, anomalous natural phenomena (Fortean topics), and in bizarre stories categorized as “high strangeness” (which I’ll explain a bit further on in this piece). A perfect example is that of “black dogs” whose appearance is spectral or demonic and is associated with either protection from or nearness of bad spirits. Could it be just a big black dog? Witnesses perceive that it’s more than that. When the circumstances feel uncanny, we slip into thoughts of the supernatural. An enjoyable book that illustrates supernatural creep quite nicely is Three Men Seeking Monsters by Nick Redfern. Fun stuff.

With phantom black dogs, there is a connection to local legends and ghost stories. A modern example of the dispute about supernatural creep is evident in the Bigfoot/Sasquatch community.

Bigfoot proponents generally fall into two camps: those who search for a real animal that functions as nature intended (called ‘apers’) and those who entertain the option that the entity is not natural (paranormalists).

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Debunking the Anti-Monsanto/Anti-GMO claims

via The Soap Box

conspiracy-theory-alertOn May 25, a local group held a protest near where I live to protest Monsanto and GMO foods.

The protest itself, while larger than what I actually expected, wasn’t as large as what it could have been, with maybe only about 50 to 60 people attending.

Now about a week before this protest occurred someone was going the area and putting up some posters on lamp post and electric post not only advertising the protest, but also making several claims against both Monsanto and GMO foods.

I’ve looked into these claims that were made, and this is what I have found:

1. Monsanto fights labeling laws.

This is true [read here] but only to a certain extent, and there are a lot of other companies and groups (including scientists) that oppose these laws because many of them consider them to be unfair, and/or leaves to many loop holes, and many opponents also claim that these laws are really attempts to out right ban GMO foods.

Also, when the people of California were given a chance to vote into law Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO foods, the voters rejected it, so really you can’t actually blame Monsanto about that, because when given the chance, the people rejected such laws.

2. Monsanto’s propriety and legal actions harm small farmers.

Monsanto has, since the mid-1990’s, filled 145 suits against individual US farmers for patent infringement and/or breach of contract in connection with its genetically engineered seed, and while this may sound like a lot, this is actually a very small number in comparison to thousands of individual, independent farmers in the US.

Also, only 11 of these suits actually went to trial, all of which Monsanto won.

3. Scientists’ studies show severe damage to GMO-feed animals.

There was a study in 2012 by Gilles-Eric Seralini that claimed to show that rats feed GMO corn increased cancer rates in these rats compared to rats that were not feed GMO corn. This study has been highly criticized for certain unscientific methods (such as the failure to record the amounts of food the rats were feed and their growth rates) and has pretty much been debunked. [read here, here, and here]

4. Monsanto’s Agent Orange and DDT contaminate food crops and villagers abroad.

Agent Orange was only used between 1965 to 1970 by the US military in Vietnam (before then they used a herbicide called Agent Blue). Even though this was true, you really can’t blame Monsanto because they are not the ones who actually used it. It was various governments around the world who used it. Monsanto (along with Dow Chemical) just made the stuff.

As for DDT, most countries have been banning the stuff since the 1960’s for agricultural use, and again, Monsanto is not the only company that made DDT, and it doesn’t even make it anymore because of the 1972 US ban.

5. Monsanto falsely advertised it’s Roundup as “biodegradable.”

In 2007 Monsanto was convicted in France for false advertisement of it’s product Roundup as being biodegradable. France is of course the only country that has done this, and some people might even claim that this is the result of France’s environmental laws, rather than reality as Glyphosate (the technical name for Roundup) does not bioaccumulate and breaks down rapidly in the environment.

Whether or Roundup should be considered biodegradable or not seems to be more of a matter of opinion then fact.

6. Monsanto blocks regulations. It’s CEOs are in a revolving door from Monsanto to FDA (ex: Micheal Taylor, current Food Safety Czar).

This is completely false. Micheal Taylor (whomever he is) was never the Food Safety Czar. There has only been one Food Safety Czar, and that was Dr. David Acheson, and he only had that position from 2007 to 2008.

Monsanto can not actually block regulations, all it can do is lobby against laws and regulations that could affect it’s business, and there is no “revolving door”, so to speak, between Monsanto and the FDA.

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Also see:


Penn and Teller discuss Genetically Engineered foods and organic foods.
WARNING: ADULT LANGUAGE

Graphology

by via NeuroLogica Blog

handwriting2Imagine applying for a job, a position you really want and feel is a good match for your skills, and during the interview process you are seated in front of a psychic. The psychic is wearing full regalia, with a turban, crystals, and mystical garb. They proceed to give you a psychic reading – a reading which will be used to decide whether or not you will be hired for your dream job.

You can substitute any number of techniques for the psychic reading – a tarot card reading, palm reading, astrological chart, or phrenological analysis. Would you feel comfortable with such techniques deciding your fate? Would you feel outraged?

That is exactly what is happening in many corporations today, particularly in France. The technique that is being used, however, is graphology. It is as legitimate as any cold-reading technique (that is, not at all) but retains a veneer of scientific legitimacy. Graphology, or handwriting analysis, is a psychic cold-reading dressed up for the corporate world.

Graphology was first developed by Jean-Hippolyte Michon, a French priest and archaeologist. He published his first journal of graphology in 1871. The idea is that the particular aspects of a person’s handwriting reveals their character. Graphologists study the size, slope, pressure, connections, and other tiny details of handwriting, with each detail revealing an aspect of personality.

Like iridology, palmistry, and astrology, there is a complex system of graphology that can take years to master. That in itself, however, does not say anything about the legitimacy of graphology. People are industrious and we are good at developing complex systems based on nothing at all, except our imagination. Complexity alone is not a sign of validity.

The beginning of exploration is doubt. Skeptics learn about the many mechanisms of self-deception so that we understand that just because something seems to be real, that does not mean that it is. This is the motivation for scientific analysis – controlling for all of those mechanisms of deception and bias. Only then will we know if a phenomenon is real or not.

silly-beliefs_300pxHandwriting analysis has been subjected to properly blinded experimental tests. Graphologists are given samples of text that are neutral, meaning that the content of the text does not reveal anything about the person writing it. They are also blinded to the target subject, and given the task of analyzing the handwriting. Their results are then compared to standard personality profiles of the subject, and to other graphologists examining the same samples.

The results of such studies, not surprisingly, show that graphology provides no information to the graphologist. Their readings do not match the personality of the target, nor do they even match each other. Graphology does not work.

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Also see: How Graphology Fools People (QuackWatch)

9/11 Truther vandalizes Statue of Liberty-inspiring Delacroix painting at the Louvre

National Post | Arts

A visitor to the Louvre’s newest extension, in northern France, has been detained after scrawling an inscription in marker on the famed canvas of Eugene Delacroix Liberty Leading the People.

According to Le Figaro newspaper, the woman wrote “AE911” near the bottom of the canvas. The inscription stands for “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth,” a group of individuals who believe George W. Bush is responsible for the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. The group comprises architects, engineers and demolition experts who believe there is empirical evidence to suggest 9/11 was an inside job.

The 28-year-old woman was immediately seized by a guard and another visitor, then handed over to police, according to a statement from the Louvre-Lens on Friday. It said the painting should be easily cleaned.

The Louvre-Lens opened in December in Lens, a struggling coal town with an…

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The Brain Retroactively Edits Consciousness

The brain apparently edits a person’s conscious experience retroactively.

via LiveScience

Brain The 03_350pxUp to a half-second after an object disappears from view, the brain can “edit” the experience to retain that object, a new study from France shows. The finding may partly explain the weird feeling of being able to recall something you heard even when you don’t consciously remember hearing it.

The finding also contradicts the notion that the brain sequentially takes in sensory information, processes it and then consciously experiences it, said Tufts University cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, whose books include “Consciousness Explained.”

“You have to get away from the idea that consciousness is like a movie that’s playing in your head and that once the processing is done happening then you’ve got this finished movie that you see.” Dennett told LiveScience. “The editing can go on and on.” [The 10 Greatest Mysteries of the Mind]

The results were published online Dec. 13 in the journal Current Biology.

Strange perception

CONSCIOUSNESS 1239_200pxIntuitively, people think of a linear progression from seeing or hearing something to consciously noticing it. But consciousness and perception may be more of a two-way street, said study author Claire Sergent, a cognitive scientist at Paris Descartes University.

To understand how visual consciousness works, Sergent and her team conducted trials involving 18 students. The participants were shown groups of lines appearing in a circle on either the right or the left side of the screen before they disappeared.

Sometimes the lines were too faint to consciously notice, while other times they were very obvious.

In some of the trials where the lines were very faint, the researchers drew participants’ attention to the spot where the lines had been by briefly dimming the circle — creating more contrast between the circle and the background. That “cueing of attention” happened up to a half-second after the lines disappeared.

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Phrenology and the Grand Delusion of Experience

Geoffrey Dean via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.

In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.

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.

Phrenology’s Influence

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.

How to read heads. For each “brain organ” (whose number and location depends on which book you read) you guess its development (no yardsticks here) and thus its meaning (based on speculation), which you juggle (more speculation) against all the other speculative meanings and the all-important temperament based on external signs such as build and vulgarity (i.e., on even more speculation) to obtain a final assessment of character and destiny. If unsatisfactory, try again. This was phrenology’s secret weapon—it was based on an experience that could never be wrong.

How to read heads. For each “brain organ” (whose number and location depends on which book you read) you guess its development (no yardsticks here) and thus its meaning (based on speculation), which you juggle (more speculation) against all the other speculative meanings and the all-important temperament based on external signs such as build and vulgarity (i.e., on even more speculation) to obtain a final assessment of character and destiny. If unsatisfactory, try again. This was phrenology’s secret weapon—it was based on an experience that could never be wrong.

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European Agency’s Final Verdict on Controversial GM Study: Not Scientifically Sound

via ScienceInsider

si-littlerat-thumb-200xauto-15382

Corn fed. Controversial study had suggested GM maize fed to rats caused tumors.
Credit: Janet Stephens/Wikimedia Commons

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) today delivered its final verdict on a controversial study that examined the toxicity of genetically modified (GM) maize. The study “does not meet acceptable scientific standards” and there is therefore no need to reevaluate the safety of GM maize, the group concluded.

The study in question was published on 19 September in Food and Chemical Toxicology by molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues. It claimed to find a link between GM maize NK603 and tumors and death in rats. Although the study was panned by scientists, it received an enormous amount of attention from both the French public and press.

At the request of the European Commission, EFSA set up a task force to look into the study; an initial review on 4 October deemed the research “inconclusive.” Two French regulatory bodies also came to a similar conclusion in October.

Now, after completing its own assessment as well as taking into account independent assessments from Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, EFSA has found the Seralini study wanting. The study is “of insufficient scientific quality for risk assessment” due to “inadequacies in the design, reporting and analysis of the study,” the agency says.

Mayan doomsday mountain blocked: French officials ban access

via Mail Online | h/t Thomas J. Proffit

French officials ban access to sacred mountain which believers claim will be refuge from ‘Mayan apocalypse on December 21′

  • Rumours say the mountain will burst open on December 21 to reveal an alien spaceship which will save those nearby from the apocalypse
  • French police will control access to the mountain and village to stop expected hordes of New Age fanatics, sightseers and journalists
  • December 21 is the estimated end of the Mayan long calendar, which some believes marks the end of the world as we know it

The Pic de Bugarach, south-west France: Online rumours claim that on December 21 the mountain will burst open to reveal an alien spaceship that will rescue those nearby from the apocalypse

Fears the end of the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world this coming December have run rife on the internet in recent years.

Less well known is the rumour that one particular mountain in south-west France will burst open on that day revealing an alien spaceship which will carry nearby humans to safety.

Well, if you were counting on that possibility to save you from the apocalypse, prepare to be disappointed. French officials have banned access to the Pic de Bugarach to avoid a rush of New Age fanatics, sightseers and, above all, journalists.

A hundred police and firefighters will also control approaches to the tiny village of the same name at the foot of the mountain, and if too many people turn up, they will block access there too.

Believers say the world will end on December 21, 2012, the end date of the ancient Mayan calendar, and they see Bugarach as one of a few sacred mountains sheltered from the cataclysm.

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Cases of Time Slips

by via Mysterious Universe

A white Ford pickup pulled up to cattle pasture near Ponca City, Oklahoma, in early Fall 1971, and stopped at a gate. Karl, Mark, and Gordon worked for cattle feed distributor and were sent to this remote area to pick up a feeder. What they found there has kept them silent for 41 years.

“We opened the gate, which was barbed wire with no lock, and entered,” Karl said. “We went on the property, which was covered with grass up to and over the hood of the truck.”

They drove through the tall grass to the tank that sat close to a red barn and got out of the truck.

“We realized the tank was almost half full and too heavy to load,” Karl said. “We decided to leave and drove around the red barn and we saw a large, two story white house, with no lights in front of us.”

The trio drove back to the cattle feed company and the boss said he’d drain the tank and they could pick it up tomorrow.

“We went to the location to retrieve the tank the next night,” Karl said. “This time we decided to go through the old white big house on the hill and brought our shotguns.”

They drove onto the property over the path they’d made through the grass the day before and loaded the tank. Then they pulled around the barn toward the house. What they saw burned into their memories.

“It was no longer there,” Karl said. “We walked up the hill where it stood and there were no signs of demolition, no foundation, nothing at all. What we all seemed to witness the night before was no longer there. We have talked to each other over the years but none of us can begin to explain this vision.”

Did these men witness a slip in time?

Time slips have been reported throughout history. English women vacationing in France in 1901 claimed they stepped into the French Revolution, and two English couples traveling in Spain in the 1970s stayed at an oddly archaic hotel that was simply gone on their return journey.

Physicists like Albert Einstein, Michio Kaku and Stephen Hawking have all said time travel is theoretically possible; our science just can’t achieve it. But what if nature can?

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