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Pseudo Science

© November 2006 Anthony Lawrence


I watched about half of What the Bleep Do We Know!? on cable this weekend. It would have taken ropes and chains to get me to watch the rest of it.

In essence, this film wants to reconcile science and spirituality. Aside from the utter nonsense you can read about at the Wikipedia article (link above), what always annoys me about the attempts to do this is that in actuality, science is tossed out the window and ignored the moment some supposed link is observed. For example, take experiments in prayer. At the moment, I'd say there is a lot of conflicting evidence pro and con concerning any value whatsoever other than psychological benefits to those participating (which could be equally matched by meditation, self-hypnosis etc.). But never mind that: let's pretend for a moment that in real double-blind tests it became obvious that prayer really works. Theists jump for joy and proclaim that science now supports their beliefs. What nonsense: even if experiments indicated true efficacy, a religious explanation is only one of a number of possible causative reasons that would need to be explored, and in fact would be seen by most scientists as the least probable. But for the "spiritual" among us, their religious beliefs would be the only foundation to support the observations.

Likewise with the nonsense in this film about our thoughts affecting our futures. I doubt there are any real physicists who believe that we can create our own reality (psychotic delusions aside, of course) but again let's pretend that we could: that all it takes is wishing and hoping to cause your lottery numbers to fall in perfect sequence. If so, what would this mean? Well, obviously there would be a lot of battling for quantum states: I'd want my lottery numbers to win and you'd want yours, and so would a few billion other people, so it would seem that unless some of us have superior capabilities in this area, it would all tend to cancel out. But wait! Some say that all possibilities are expressed, and that there are infinite universes, so in one or more my lottery numbers will win, and in another you have the winning ticket and so on. So the magic works!

No - if there are infinite universes, then you need do nothing: somewhere I'm basking in wealth and Bill Gates is serving up burgers. But so what? In the universe where I write this, I work for a living and so do most of you. I can't migrate to that other reality by wishing or praying or meditating.

I think it was the water crystal baloney that really had me pressing my fingers to my forehead and moaning. That and the idiotic assertion that native Americans couldn't see Columbus' ships. I might have watched longer without those. It's certainly true that sails could easily be misinterpreted as clouds and therefore be momentarily ignored - right up to the moment where it became obvious that they were NOT clouds, but no longer. As to the water crystal crap, well, again that would suffer from the problem of conflicting influences even if it were true.

And that's the problem with all this sort of junk: skepticism and rigorous inquiry are tossed aside. People seem to want to believe that the world is magical, that wishes affect reality, that they can achieve total control of their fate.

Keep on wishing. I mean that: if it makes you happy, if it helps you deal with reality, if it keeps you from climbing up towers with a rifle strapped to your back, by all means continue your magical thinking. The rest of us will be working on other things, but we don't have to destroy your fantasy world, do we? Nope.. just pretend you never read this. Go concentrate on those lottery numbers, or better yet, why don't you work on world peace, poverty and hunger? Pray, meditate or whatever: it can't hurt, can it? At the very least it might make you feel better, and I'm all for that. Just don't pretend that science supports any of it. That's when I get upset.

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Mon Nov 27 14:52:27 2006: 2661   BigDumbDinosaur

I have not seen What the Bleep Do We Know!?, nor do I plan to ever see it. Almost everyone involved with this celluloid abortion is some sort of religious or metaphysical crackpot, which should be a caution to anyone who is expecting some measure of objectivity. If you want a bunch of bullshit go wander around in a cow pasture.

If it makes you feel good to pray, chant or do whatever it is you do to talk to your favorite deity, I'm all for it. However, don't waste your time trying to convince me that praying works or that your deity is THE deity. We have already fought enough wars over this superstitious nonsense to fill hundreds of history books. If there's any question in this regard please cast your gaze toward the Middle East.

Mon Nov 27 15:03:18 2006: 2662   TonyLawrence

Well, I think prayer actually has value: not because any supernatural being is listening, but perhaps because some other part of your own brain is paying attention. I think it would be valuable to study prayer and meditation scientifically - though the religious are unlikely to be happy with the results.

Tue Nov 28 01:34:42 2006: 2663   drag

when I see stuff like this I can't help but think along the lines of:
"reader digest feel good snake oil exploitative bullshit".

There has been a lot of 'religious' programming on 'science' channels ever since people figured out that this sort of thing can be big money after the whole 'Passion of the Christ' stuff.

I doubt the people that made that show beleive in a god anymore then Tony does. It's just good for ratings.

It's just all modern superstitious mumbo-jumbo based loosely around fragmentative scientific evidence that emotions and thoughts can have a profound effect on your body.

Imagine for a second if you beleived in a god. Logically do you think that him being the 'big g' God that your going to _force_ him to your will by prayer, even in large numbers? I think personally it probably pisses him off if anything that people think that they can push him around. You pray, try to live a good life and see how things turn out. That's how it suppose to work. Your not even suppose to pray just to get out of bad things happenning, simply saying 'hey I am having a nice day, thank you' is better then all the pleading in the world sometimes.

Otherwise this metaphysical 'power of prayer' movement is simply a nice way to sell books to and trick people into mailing/phoning you money. It takes advantage of people who feel have no control over their own lives, or are diseased or old or otherwise desperate. It's exploitive and pisses me off. A lot of it is about the same level as fortune telling. A lot of people suspect it's true and a lot of people use that to their advantage to rip other people off.

Tue Nov 28 12:21:41 2006: 2664   TonyLawrence

As usual, Drag's post resonates on so many levels.

He's so right that a "god" who responds to begging is not much of a god at all. That's one of the reasons why I'm so disdainful of most religious practice: if you ARE going to believe this stuff, then REALLY believe it and live it. That leads me to odd positions. For example, though I am obviously philosophically more aligned with a "soft" religion like the UU's, I have more respect for those fundamentalists who at least follow a logical path after the initial wrong conclusion.


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The idea of "work, then get paid" has been deeply ingrained in our culture by employers who want to limit their risk. Well, I like to limit my risks also. I like to get paid before I do work. (Tony Lawrence)

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