Imagine 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.
Handwriting 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.
Also see: How Graphology Fools People (QuackWatch)
- A French love affair… with graphology (bbc.co.uk)
- Graphology rubbish – no better than astrology or numerology (doubtfulnews.com)
- Can Handwriting Identify Better Employees? (news.discovery.com)
- The Endurance of Graphology in France (historypsychiatry.com)
- VIDEO: Does handwriting analysis stand up? (bbc.co.uk)
- Can Handwriting Identify Better Employees? (mashable.com)
- Graphology Expert Handwriting Speaks: Was not there, I Didn’t Fix, I Didn’t Steal (ibelieveinadv.com)
Everyone says organic food is better for you and better for the environment. But is that true, or is it just eco-marketing rhetoric?
- Organic Pesticides Fail EU Safety Review (OpenMarket.org), March 30, 2009 (PDF)
- Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming (Scientific American), July 18, 2011 (PDF)
- “Organic” Foods: Certification Does Not Protect Consumers (QuackWatch)
- Does Mother Nature Always Know What’s Best? (sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Oz Flip-Flops on Supporting Organics as High-Profile Attacks Intensify (alternet.org)
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in most water supplies. Fluoridation is the adjustment of the natural fluoride concentration to about one part of fluoride to one million parts of water. Although fluoridation is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay, the scare tactics of misguided poisonmongers have deprived many communities of its benefits.
How Poisonmongers Work
The antifluoridationists’ (“antis”) basic technique is the big lie. Made infamous by Hitler, it is simple to use, yet surprisingly effective. It consists of claiming that fluoridation causes cancer, heart and kidney disease, and other serious ailments that people fear. The fact that there is no supporting evidence for such claims does not matter. The trick is to keep repeating them—because if something is said often enough, people tend to think there must be some truth to it.
A variation of the big lie is the laundry list. List enough “evils,” and even if proponents can reply to some of them, they will never be able to cover the entire list. This technique is most effective in debates, letters to the editor, and television news reports. Another variation is the simple statement that fluoridation doesn’t work. Although recent studies show less difference than there used to be in decay rates between fluoridated and nonfluoridated communities, the benefit is still substantial. In fact, the Public Health Service estimates that every dollar spent for community fluoridation saves about fifty dollars in dental bills.
A key factor in any anti campaign is the use of printed matter. Because of this, antis are very eager to have their views printed. Scientific journals will rarely publish them, but most local newspapers are willing to express minority viewpoints regardless of whether facts support them. A few editors even welcome the controversy the antis generate—expecting that it will increase readership.
The aim of anti “documents” is to create the illusion of scientific controversy. Often they quote statements that are out of date or out of context. Quotes from obscure or hard-to-locate journals are often used. Another favored tactic is to misquote a profluoridation scientist, knowing that even if the scientist protests, the reply will not reach all those who read the original misquote.
Half-truths are commonly used. For example, saying that fluoride is a rat poison ignores the fact that poison is a matter of dose. Large amounts of many substances—even pure water—can poison people. But the trace amount of fluoride contained in fluoridated water will not harm anyone.
“Experts” are commonly quoted. It is possible to find someone with scientific credentials who is against just about anything. Most “experts” who speak out against fluoridation, however, are not experts on the subject. There are, of course, a few dentists and physicians who oppose fluoridation. Some of them object to fluoridation as a form of government intrusion, even though they know it is safe and effective.
Continue Reading: Why Fluoridation Is Important.
- Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories: Water Fluoridation (illuminutti.com)
- Portland City Council approves fluoride for water supply (kgw.com)
- CDC findings on fluoridated water (kansas.com)
- 3 Steps to Prevent Fluorosis (topdentists.com)