Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: Christian Woo: Faith Healers

Good evening heathens and hell-bound friends and foes alike. Tonight you are going to be “treated” to another edition of Wednesday Woo: Christian Woo. My wife has been taking care of our sick daughter all week and is exhausted to say the least. So I’m stepping in again for this weeks article.

Faith healing is nothing new to Christianity or religion in general. However the role of the faith healer has taken on a completely new life with the advent of mass media. Television has allowed faith healers to put their act out there and gain an incredibly wide audience and since all of this stuff is televised, it can’t possibly be fake, right?

Let’s take a look at some of these healers…

Benny Hinn

Peter Popoff

Pat Robertson

Okay, that’s enough videos. Needless to say these men obviously have an otherworldly power that allows them to cure the blind, make the lame walk, and make lots of people fall down. Yet, each and every one of these people are nothing more than con artists, given a wide audience willing to drop hundreds of dollars for the chance of being healed.

It’s sad but I once believed in faith healing to an extent. The bible even lists it as one of the gifts of the spirit in 1 Corinthians 12.

“To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;” 1 Cor 12:9

Now, I say I believed in it to an extent because I never believed that Benny Hinn had any kind of power. I remember watching one of his videos as a small child and thinking, “this is like pro-wrestling, these people are not really being healed, it’s all one big act.” I asked my mother, why he didn’t just heal everyone? However, I did believe that healing was something that Christians with enough faith could do.

When I entered the ministry, I had no interest in any kind of faith healing career. Yet, I would pray over people during church services and they would claim to feel power surging through them and were healed of countless issues. None of these healings were real, and often times you had to jump through hoops to even see them as something that could require healing.

A few of my miraculous healings…

  • I cured my aunt of breast cancer, she actually had a lump removed and it wasn’t cancerous, it was benign.
  • I cured my great-aunt of colon cancer, except it wasn’t healed and about a year later she had to have a huge mass removed from her intestines.
  • I made a lame man run…..countless times….the same guy. We had a guy who would hobble in, request prayer, I’d pray and he would then run around the building. He actually just had severe arthritis and the placebo affect allowed him to run.
  • I cured a woman of her cataracts….except she had to have them removed a few months later.
  • I have cured peoples money problems
  • Healed families
  • and a plethora of other things

I want to point out that in my case, I never sought people out or claimed that I had any healing gift. In fact if you would ask me, I would claim that I knew i didn’t have the gift of healing…if I did do you think I’d walk around with severe arthritis and a wonky eye?

Anyway, I began to really question faith healing the more people claimed that I had healed them of things that I knew they were not healed from. I realized that faith healing is really nothing more than a bad placebo affect, I say bad because the placebo affect actually works. People would come forward for prayer, usually at the end of a euphoric service, they feel really good and so they imagine that their ailments are better or completely cured. Later when the euphoria wears off, the healing is gone as well.

Faith healing works in the mind of the believer, who seeks out someone to heal them. However, faith healers take advantage of this and seek these people out, putting on huge events and gathering in millions of dollars. These folks still go home and the healing wears off, their finances are harmed, and when they ask why the healing didn’t last it will be thrown back at them that they didn’t have enough faith.

The real reason though is that these people have absolutely no power whatsoever. They are charlatans and go around selling snake oil to anyone willing to buy it.

James Randi built a career debunking these scam artists with the most famous being his expose of Peter Popoff.

Dateline exposed Benny Hinn

Pat Robertson was exposed by a former producer of the 700 club.

Although one could argue that Pat Robertson was exposed when he claimed that god told him to run for president and that he would win…

Each and every time one of these people come forward and are debunked, their ministry takes a short hit and yet a few years later they are back at it once again. Peter Popoff still sells his miracle oil, Hinn still knocks people over, and Robertson continues to claim healings each and every day. How do these people continue coming back after being exposed?

Sadly, it’s simply due to the fact that their followers want to believe they are real and so they will deny any evidence against that idea. They believe in these healers because they want to believe that faith healing is possible. They grasp at any idea in which they might be cured of whatever ailment they suffer from. Unfortunately, in many cases, they will continue these beliefs until they are bankrupt or dead.

Faith healers are nothing but bullshit artists that rob from the weakest members of our society. It’s sad, it’s disgusting, but it’s something that isn’t going to go away anytime soon…

If I’m lying, then I pray that one of these healers has enough faith to call down the wrath of their god and strike me dead at this very instant!

 

Well….

 

I’m still alive…

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: Christian Edition: Name It And Claim It

So Jennifer is recuperating from the holidays and our daughter just went back to school today so writing a blog was the last thing on her mind. So I figured why not jump on here and write my own article for the Wednesday Woo series? Today I will be talking about some of the woo like beliefs that many Christians follow even if there is no biblical standard for any of these beliefs. While New Age beliefs and Fundamentalist Christianity seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theism some of the beliefs are so similar that you would think they are one and the same.

Prosperity Doctrine

money.png

One of the major ways that American Christianity sets itself apart from the rest of the world would be the plethora of televangelists that promote what is commonly known as “The Prosperity Gospel.” What this set of beliefs attempts to promote is the idea that god will financially bless anyone that fully puts their trust in him. Now how does one put their trust completely into the hands of god, you ask? Well by sending cash to whatever televangelist you happen to like best.

This belief is built around a scripture in the parable of the Sower:

“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:20

So basically the parable is about reaping souls for god, in other words saving lots of people from the fires of hell. However those who promote the prosperity gospel will use this verse and a few other cherry picked scriptures in an effort to give the idea that god wants to make you rich. The other scriptures that these pastors will use deal with the idea of tithing, giving a tenth of all your increase(income) to the priestly order, a practice that was stipulated in the old testament and continued by many Christian sects throughout the centuries. What they then say is that if you give 10 dollars you will receive 100 or 1000 in return and so who wouldn’t want to give a small offering if god is definitely going to return to you all of it and way more.

Well the facts are tithing is a tremendously arduous and sometimes painful process. If you have never practiced tithing, imagine having to set aside ten percent of your income, income that may be needed for food or bills, and giving it away, hoping that you will be blessed in the future. Now charity is good but tithing is in some ways nearly murder. I have known elderly women on social security who have begging for food simply so that they can pay their tithe and not fear the wrath of god if they don’t. This is one of the main reasons that when I was a minister I never taught on tithing, it’s one of the few things that I am proud of from that facet of my life.

So anyway, you give your 10 dollars and you get 100 back, everyone wins right? No because you almost never see this return and when you don’t see the blessings that the minister guaranteed who is at fault? If you said the minister, you’re wrong. The person who is always at fault is the one who gave the money to begin with. What you will hear is that the person gave with the wrong idea in mind, because if you give wanting a blessing then you will never receive that blessing, even if the minister promoted the blessing as the only reason to give.

Now imagine if you went to buy a car, you give the dealership your money and the dealership throws you out on your ass. When you ask why the dealership states that you gave your money expecting to get a car in return and so you don’t get the car. If you had only showed up and given the money with no expectations in your mind, the dealership would have blessed you with a car in return. Does that make any sense? Absolutely not, but this is the exact same mindset that the prosperity gospel promotes. Give your money because a blessing will be returned to you but be sure that you aren’t doing it expecting a blessing because if you do that you’ll end up fucked….It’s absolute bullshit.

name it

Name It And Claim It

In the same vein as the prosperity gospel is the “name it and claim it” crowd.  An offshoot of mainline Pentecostalism this group of ministers claim that your words have power and that if you claim good things you will receive good things, if you claim bad things you will receive bad things. If you think this sounds exactly like new age gobbledy gook then you would be 100% correct.

Basically, what this theology teaches is that our world is shaped by the things we think and more specifically the things we say, hence the “name it and claim it” moniker. While on the surface it might seem innocuous in reality this belief system can be incredibly dangerous. Positive thinking can help to a certain point and a healthy psychological perspective can be built around telling yourself good things that you like about yourself.

Saying “I like my smile” may bring you a simple confidence boost and help you feel better about yourself, however when you look at the opposite side of the coin things get very murky. Let’s say you go to the doctor and the doctor runs some tests only to find that you have cancer, well the “name it and claim it” crowd would tell you that if accept what the doctor says then you do have cancer and it will only get worse the longer you say things like, “I have cancer.” So what are you supposed to do? Go around saying, “I don’t have cancer,” and believing that god has healed you of your cancer. You don’t receive chemo, or surgery, or anything that would take away any amount of trust in god and you simply believe that the cancer doesn’t exist. Do you see the problem with this type of theology?

To bring this to a personal note, my great-grandmother went to a revival meeting one night and asked for prayer due to a heart issue that she had suffered with for several years. The minister prayed over her and asked her if she believed she had been healed, she said that she believed and so he told her to throw away her heart medication in a show of faith before god. The minister moved on to another revival in another town and my great grandmother, full of faith and lacking the heart medication that she desperately needed died of a heart attack. I’m sure the minister never thought of my great-grandmother again but the family lost a matriarch and a young boy got his first taste of skepticism which would stick with him and helped aid him leave the faith many years later.

Oil, Sand, and Other Such Bullshit

poppoff

I’ve laughed and joked about crystals and salt lamps in the past but Christianity has its own bullshit market filled with trinkets that will definitely get you closer to god. You can buy oil from the holy man that has been prayed over by a televangelist. You can buy sand supposedly from the path that Jesus walked which has healing properties because Jesus walked on it at some point in history. I knew a man who had a cloth that he said was dipped in the blood of Christ that he had purchased during a revival, in reality it was a cloth that had been dyed red but he earnestly believed that when he prayed with that cloth in hand that he was closer to god.

A local woman had scriptures written all over her house because it protected her from evil spirits. Really all it protected her from was visitors because there was no way that I was going into the creepy scripture coated house. She had them on her walls, in her cupboards, in every drawer and in every room, the worst thing was she had them scrawled all over the walls of her kids rooms too. I was friends with her son for a short period of time and knowing what teenage boys do with free time on their hand I can only imagine the psychological torture of having to wank it with the bible staring you straight in the face 24/7….not that he wanked 24/7 but you get the picture.

Anyway, most of the trinkets and practices that you see going around from church to church have little to no biblical backing whatsoever and they are simply done because it makes the person who owns it feel better. I’ve always found it hilarious that many people walk around with crosses draped around their neck even though the bible explicitly prohibits any sort of iconography. The Catholics get around this by simply removing that commandment from the top 10 but isn’t that just cheating?

mother teresa.jpg

To finish up I’ll leave you with another personal story. We had a woman in church, an elderly woman whose husband had died many years prior. She had her husbands bible and she would say that whenever she read from that bible it was as if her husbands warmth enveloped her and she felt gods power working deep inside her…Basically god granted this bible orgasmic properties which….more power to her but not the type of thing that a teenage boy wants to think about when he’s trying to wank it in his room after church….

That’s right I told the story of my great-grandmothers death and included two wanking jokes in the same blog….yep, I’m awesome!

 

 

General Information

New Articles On The Way

So I’ve been writing again which is good and I hope you’ve enjoyed the newest articles from myself, Jennifer, and all the others who have submitted entries. I’ve had some new ideas that I will explore over the coming weeks.

1.) BS News report

This is a satirical take on the news of the week from my own unique point of view.

2.) The return of A Pentecostal Atheist Bible Study

3.) Deep Thoughts

Subjects may include science, medicine, paradoxes, riddles, basically anything that gets me thinking.

Anyway, keep on the lookout for these new articles as well as other posts in the future.

Thank you so much to everyone who has read so far, I appreciate you all.

Side note: What would you like to see more of in this blog. Any suggestions and help will be greatly appreciated.

Matt

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday: My BS Is Better Than Your BS

Good evening readers. If you haven’t guessed by the title, tonight’s article is about how a person can see straight through the illogical stance of one group and yet still fall fully into a giant vat of their own bullshit. It seems strange but someone can be incredibly logical, rational, and a well-rounded person for the most part, yet fall off the deep end in other facets of their life. So tonight we will take a look at the reasons for this phenomena.

For the most part, the reason for this is that we all like to feel as if we have a good understanding of the world around us. We live in this world, we survive as best as we can, and yet there are large portions of the world and our own bodies that we don’t understand or at least don’t have a full grasp.  Add into this that admitting you don’t know something is very hard for the majority of people and you will see why it is so easy to be blinded by your own illogical or dogmatic stances.

Let’s use myself as an example.

When I was a minister of the Christian faith I could tell you exactly why the Islamic religion was false, I could point to the illogical nature of the Mormon faith, and I could let you know with great detail the history and various fallacies of the New Age movement. However, my own faith was filled with illogical and asinine dogmatic stances. Homosexuality was wrong, why? Because god said so. Drinking was wrong, why? Because god said so. Tattoos and pork were ok, why? Because god had changed his mind on those things…. God was the same yesterday, today, and forever….yet I knew every verse of scripture where god explicitly changes his mind and does the opposite of what this supposedly timeless being had set out to do.

How is it that I could easily point out the bullshit of others and yet could not see through the muddied waters of my own former faith. Simply put, I didn’t want to. To expound on that, I didn’t want to because my own beliefs made the world a much easier place to understand and so to admit the error of my own faith would add a level of confusion to my life that I did not want. I’d like to say that there is more to it but sadly this is the case for the majority of people in the world today.

The second factor that plays into this issue is something that has been mentioned several times before on this blog, confirmation bias. It’s easy to find articles online that agree with your chosen stance, regardless of the topic. Just to prove my point here are a few idiotic ideas that I came up with on the spot and found articles in support of my idiotic idea.

Is tap water turning people gay?

Can Lemonade Cause Cancer?

North Korea Doesn’t Exist?

Now perhaps you’re going to say….but those articles don’t actually support the things that you say they support. One is an expose of a crazy person is parliament, another talks of the possible dangers of aspartame, and the last is simply a reddit thread. The point here is that it doesn’t matter if they actually support my stance or not, the point is that I can do a google search on just about anything and come up with one or two articles that agree at least in part with any stance. These are the articles that a person who wants to continue in an illogical ideology will accept and promote.

To bring this back around to me.

T-Rex

Dino Hemoglobin

When I was younger and more prone to young earth creationist ideology I loved to point out that a dinosaur fossil had been found with intact hemoglobin, proving that the earth was much younger than science proposed, You will still see this promoted today as evidence against an old earth, yet when you take a deeper look you will find that the truth of the matter is that intact hemoglobin was not found but only the remains of what would have formed hemoglobin and that the fossilization of this tissue was consistent with the time scale supported by science. The whole idea that this structure couldn’t survive millions of years was actually simply made up to support the argument made by young earth creationists.

What this should show is that the actual evidence pertained in any article is secondary to where a person wants the evidence to point.

Another great example of this is the absolute disdain for fluoride that many people promote. Fluoride is claimed to be the cause of numerous maladies, it’s said to dull the brain and make the populace docile, it is claimed to be the cause of mental issues and yet when you look at the actual evidence you will find that fluoride is relatively harmless and that the benefits far outweigh any possible negatives. For the majority of time that the human race has existed bad teeth were one of the leading causes of death. Fluoride is introduced and people stop dying from bad teeth. Life was made better by this chemical compound that a huge percentage of the world now has demonized. Here’s a link that exposes some of the myths surrounding fluoride.

I hope that you can see by these examples just how easy it is for faulty information to find its way into the psyche of those who want to find it. Now I would like to give some helpful tips in how to avoid bullshit traps in the future.

oz.jpg

1.) Is a doctor advising you? (Doctor Oz and your neighborhood herbalist do not count)

If the answer is no, then any information that you are receiving is to be considered suspect. I don’t care if your uncle cured his herpes with whale sperm, anecdotes are not evidence. If the answer to this question is yes then you can be reasonably certain that the information being given to you is accurate and helpful.

2.) Does the information cite its sources?

This is a big one. If the article, video, or podcast does not cite its sources then you should eliminate it from your research. However, you also want to be sure that the sources actually lead to helpful and corroborating information. If they do not then you should disregard any information given.

3.) Are the sources well-respected?

When looking at sources you want to make sure that they are actually good sources. Lets say you are looking at a paper that cites a source which proves that kale causes cancer. If the cited source is Ihatekale.com then you can be sure that the information contained is biased and should be disregarded. Medical and scientific journals are great sources of information, for regular news look for items in Reuters or the Associated Press. Scientific studies can also be a great source of information but public studies tend to be more reputable than private studies which are often paid for by the industry in question. The sugar and tobacco industry are famous for biased studies attempting to prove the health benefits of their products.

4.) Does it sound too good to be true?

The tried and true method to see through most bullshit is to ask yourself, does this sound true or do I simply want it to sound true because it sounds good to me? A recent example of this were the supposed health benefits of eating chocolate every day. The story was completely fabricated, none of the facts had been checked, but since we all like chocolate and the sound of eating chocolate every day is good to us, many people fell for it without a second thought. We wanted chocolate to be healthy and so when a supposed study was released promoting that idea we simply accepted it without a second thought.

In the end, seeing though the bullshit of others is easy, seeing through your own bullshit is not so much. However, if you follow the steps above and double-check your own ideals from time to time you can avoid some of the negative aspects of bullshit. I’m wrong at times, there are many times where I do not know the answer to a given question. It might not always feel good to say I don’t know but it feels much better than once again diving headfirst into a giant mound of bullshit.

 

 

 

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: The Empath

Having been produced by millions of years of natural selection, the human brain is such a phenomenally fantastic organ, and the study of neuroscience has given us a great window into how it operates. Common misconceptions maintain that brain function remains a complete mystery to science, leaving imaginary gaps in function of  the human psyche. One of those gaps that woo-woo wishes to fill includes the concept of empathy, which of course is attributed to the ambiguous term “energy” as well as a cacophony of other facets, real and imagined. You cannot have New Age beliefs without exalting yourself as some sort of psychic, thus this particular brand I will cover today is labeled as “empath”.

Some of the attributes of supposed “empaths”:

1. Ability to sense feelings of another.
2. Literal mind reading capacity.
3. Feeling drained from social situations.
4. Psychic connection to the spirit world.
5. Knowing when people are lying.
6. Psychometry – ability to psychically read the history of objects through touch.
7. Susceptibility to illness by being around sick persons.
8. Capacity to heal others by taking on their pain and releasing it…wherever….

There are many other claims of course, but these are the main characterizations typically given as symptoms of being a super psychic empath. Now if you are a fan of Star Trek, you will find these themes awfully familiar. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I was personally reminded of a character named Commander Deanna Troi, who was half human, and half Betazoid, which is a telepathic alien race.
Troi
Recently I began to watch the original series of Star Trek, when I ran into this episode. It was uncanny…

Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Empath”

Lots of folks seem to get their New Age beliefs from movies and TV programs. I have mentioned the ideas they have regarding “The Matrix” being a real thing previously. This is no different, and often fiction will be mixed with some bits of reality in order to relate to the audience. But when it comes to the actual claims regarding empaths, how can the truth be distinguished from what’s false?

Sure, I can understand the human source of empathy arriving at the behest of such things as mirror neurons, and perhaps the brain is largely responsible for responses to our social encounters. Neuroscience gives us quite a bit of understanding of how we feel empathy, as Dr. Thomas Lewis demonstrates below:

Perhaps there is some merit to the idea of being able to detect emotions from micro-expressions, and other non verbal forms of communication. I will even grant being around sick people can often be the source of one’s own illness because of the germ theory, and that stress can lower immune system responses.

But psychic healers? Well, there’s hoards of people who wish to believe this, yet sadly no evidence. If these people actually can heal with their abilities, perhaps they should visit as many hospitals as possible. If this notion is mentioned to anyone who claims to be an empath, watch them squirm to move the goalpost. They will say “oh but my abilities aren’t fully developed yet,” or “it drains me when I do a healing for free.” You heard that right… “for free” because it seems there is no corner of the internet where you cannot find a supposed reiki healer.

BS Detector.jpg
I used to consider myself an empath, and in some ways, I still do, except for the psychic nonsense. The truth is, aside from those who have defects in mirror neurons or unusual brain patterns, the majority of human beings have an uncanny ability to empathize, and it assists us in maintaining a healthy group dynamic. Identifying with a group is very important to the human race, and it’s this very thing that seems to lure some folks into believing they belong to an elite association of empathic light workers.  For example, the other day I ran across a self-proclaimed empath who felt it was their job to condemn a selfie poster as lacking in self-esteem. They were quite shocked to gain some backlash. You’d think a person with psychic feelings would’ve seen that coming…

Ironically enough, those who consider themselves an authority in regard to feelings tend to tread on others and misunderstand quite often. However, when questioned rationally, this authoritative stance breaks down completely, especially since humanity has empathy written into the fabric of their being. It’s definitely no outlier when one can relate to another’s feelings. A simple and rational explanation for the human capacity for empathy lies within the proven theory of natural selection. As mammals, our brains are hard-wired to care for our offspring; as apes, we are a very social species, thus the proponents of caring for one another is a key aspect of our survival. There is no need for the additional burden of supernatural abilities, nor pseudo-authoritative labels.
Spock

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #4: Quantum Woo

For last weeks Wednesday Woo, click here.

“What one man calls God, another calls the laws of physics.”

Nikola Tesla

Quantum mechanics has shown us an entirely different and counter-intuitive physical world that can be conflated into the wildest ideas by those who speculate and misconstrue its findings. There is the variety of folks who claim that it is proof of god, since its spooky action seems almost like what is described in their religious books.

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.”

This idea is even offered in quote mines from the founding fathers of this branch of physics:

Waren Heisenberg: “After the conversations about Indian philosophy, some of the ideas of Quantum Physics that had seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense.”

Erwin Schrodinger: “This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear; tat tvam asi, this is you. Or, again, in such words as “I am in the east and the west, I am above and below, I am this entire world.”

While this seems like great proof for the idea that the ancient ideas of reality have been revealed through quantum mechanics, it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. It’s true that some of the great minds who made discoveries in this field of science were familiar with the ancient texts of the vedas, as well as the bible, but this doesn’t mean their discoveries proved them. There also tends to be no real way of conveying the message of these scientific phenomena to the masses without taking a romantic and familiar approach. Granted, some of them may have followed such magical thinking, while some did not. Einstein expressed himself with the romantic antics of the spiritual, while maintaining a form of deism – which lacks a personal god.

Some of them actually seemed to have a god belief, like Werner Heisenberg, who claimed, “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”

There is also Erwin Schroedinger, who in the spirit of the Vedas expressed, “In itself, the insight is not new. The earliest records, to my knowledge date back some 2500 years or more… the recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world.”

One thing that must be considered when going through all of these quotes and ideas of quantum mechanics is that not all of those who study physics are theists. Victor Stenger , a renowned particle physicist and author, is atheist, as are Sean Michael Carroll, and Lawrence Krauss. So which is it? Natural science proves god, or doesn’t it? If it truly proved the god-claim, surely all of those who gain an understanding of it would alter their belief accordingly. It just goes to show that mere quotes are not real evidence of anything. It also demonstrates that even when a scientist thinks they have proven the mystical realm, further experimenting may reveal they have not.

“So which is it? Natural science proves god, or doesn’t it?”

Since the double-slit experiment has made it into the mainstream era of spiritualism, it has been attached to the claim that the “non-duality” function of particles shows the yin-yang attributes of reality, and that the physical world is guided by consciousness because particles seem to change when observed. Some will even go so far as to say that reality simply doesn’t exist at all. Therefore, magic is real, and we are merely consciousness experiencing itself. We = god, right? Not exactly…

Experiments at the quantum level behave differently because they are being done at an atomic and subatomic level. It’s difficult to imagine such a world on our much larger scale, simply because our perspective differs. If we were 2 dimensional beings, it would be quite strange to experiment with a 3D world. Such is the same with the realm of the very small. Although, there have been experiments created that demonstrate what occurs at the quantum level for us to see.

As was demonstrated above, the actions at the quantum level do not prove that reality doesn’t exist. The moon is still revolving around the earth, even when you’re not looking.

Now to get to this “observer” phenomenon. An observer, as defined by quantum physics, differs from the layman idea of observation; much like the definition of the word “theory” differs from how we utilize it in daily life. An observer in physics is what interacts with the particles in an effort to find measurements and obtain data. Since the quantum world is much, MUCH smaller than what we are accustomed to interacting with, any measurement of it can interfere with behaviors seen. It has nothing to do with consciousness, since it can be seen occurring even without a conscious, human observer.

So how about that duality function of particles, eh? It’s rather funny, since I know a bit about duality in terms of its spiritual connotations. According to woo-woo, duality is an illusion caused by ego: the I -vs- other dynamic. In the philosophy, the “I” doesn’t exist, and all that exists is “One”.  I’m not sure how the particle-wave duality has anything to do with this other than the label “duality”. I am sure there are people who will stretch their logical faculties pretty far to make the connection, but in truth, there is none.

Why would the spiritual woo-woo and god-botherers claim that science proves consciousness is magic? For one, it fills up their community with credulous believers who will fall for any sort of claim they make. Such communities make for great sales, since word-of-mouth recommendations travel faster than the speed of any debunking. Do a quick google search for quantum healing, and you will be flooded with everything from magic jewelry to reiki. Apparently this is a very lucrative prospect. Check out the nano wand from China.

Wand

There was a stretch of time were I believed that quantum mechanics was some sort of proof that our reality is directly connected to consciousness and god. In fact, it took me a while to come out of this ideology. It wasn’t until I became open-minded to being wrong about these notions that I found the truth: I was being lied to. I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker – posting the Werner Heisenberg quote about finding god at the bottom of the glass of science over and over again. It was not fun to set aside my ideas about reality, but once I discovered I was wrong, and opened myself up to new evidence, I found much relief and wonder in the truth. I began watching a youtube channel called “Martymer81” where I found a skeptic who truly challenged my thoughts on this subject. I started researching things he said, and reading books from credited physicists like Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking. Come to find out, I was dead wrong when it came to this subject. I had abused physics, used it, and conflated it all because I wanted to find comfort in a reality that seemed confusing, cold, and too rational. But since then, I have discovered the rational world to be one of curiosity as opposed to coldness. There’s so much more to find in science, and to close the door on that for a belief in woo or god is the ultimate closed-minded prospect. If all explanations point to the divine, then what is left to be curious about?

Here’s Martymer81’s take on quantum physics abuse. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #3: Astrology

For last weeks Wednesday Woo, Click here.

“The criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.” — Karl Popper

If you’ve ever been on social media, there’s no doubt you’ve come across astrological personality memes, articles regarding planetary influence or some form of vague horoscope. Most of the claims are rather general and often harmless, but others have a tendency to show an ugly bias that is based on one’s personal experience with certain signs as opposed to actual statistics. Every assumption can be made about certain sun signs or planetary aspects, including a person’s taste in entertainment, whether or not they are prone to accidents, how much they talk, or even crazy things that arouse suspicion, such as: “Geminis are more likely to lie and to cheat on you.” Holy shit! For real? I guess I’d better steer clear of those lyin’, cheatin’ Geminis, right? But wait, there’s a “study” that came out recently that ranked Sagittarius as the most likely to cheat on their partners. Then again, here’s another “study” that says Sagittarius is least likely to cheat. What is going on here? Why aren’t these astrologers coming to the same conclusions?

“Holy shit! For real? I guess I’d better steer clear of those lyin’, cheatin’ Geminis, right?”

While astrology is really popular, and can be quite amusing as entertainment, one cannot help but wonder about their true value. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s a valid way of thinking. Is astrology truly a reliable form of science, or is it a pseudoscience? This is often one of many questions poised to astrologers, and it seems to really be a thorn in the side of their profession. Astrologers have big claims about the predictive nature of their methods, as well as what a natal chart can reveal about an individual’s personal nature. These claims, of course, are unfalsifiable, which plants a big, red flag in the astrologer’s corner. Real science provides conditions where a claim can be proven false (falsifiable), whereas astrologers leave absolutely no room for this, and instead, only seek confirmation of their claims while ignoring any evidence to the contrary. There’s no peer review, nor any evidence that planets and stars impact personal aspects of our lives. This is not how science works, but it is exactly what one would expect from pseudoscience. As Carl Sagan asserted, “Extraordinary claims requite extraordinary evidence.” So, where is the evidence?

There is no scientific basis for the notion of far away planets or constellations have any intimate influence on human lives in the way astrology claims. Many astrologers will use gravity to argue their position, since the tides are affected by the moon’s pull, and our bodies mostly consist of water. They don’t take into account that the moon’s gravitational influence only includes open bodies of water, not the enclosed water within our bodies. Astrologers will also assert that technology, communication, travel and contractual obligations are not a good idea during mercury retrograde, but they do not seem to offer a real reason other than folklore. Is this a gravitational phenomenon as well? That to me is doubtful, since Mercury retrograde is mostly an optical illusion. Despite there being no evidence to believe that retrogrades and moon phases have anything to to with our lives, these myths are still believed so fervently that every few months you will see all kind of crazy memes and articles shared about retrogrades and super moons. A new shift occurs just as soon as people get over the last, and most believers attribute them to planetary activity. One thing I always found strange personally, was that astrology does not take into account the gravitational pull of airplanes passing over those who live next to airports, or the massive ships in which those on the coasts are exposed. If gravity is truly the most influential aspect of a person’s natal chart, why aren’t the flight patterns included, or even traffic of nearby cars? These would actually have more of a gravitational impact on a person than any of the planets outside of our own.

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When the validity of astrology has actually been tested, their predictions and assessments work at a rate no better than chance. Like I said before, the astrologers can’t seem to even agree on interpretation of charts they studied. If it were a truly accurate and predictive source of understanding reality, surely there would be no personal bias involved. But it turns out, it’s mostly based on intuitive feelings (*cough* cold reading *cough*) the chart reader has when gazing upon the chart positions and its many aspects. Despite this lack of evidence, astrologers all over the world still maintain they are providing a useful service, oftentimes charging lots of money in order to provide answers to people who are desperate to find romance, riches, or good fortune. The situation is really bad in India, where not only are they charged for astrological services, but also duped into buying gemstones to alter their fortune; sometimes even urged to change their names and location.

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One again, confirmation bias rules supreme in the world of woo, and since astrology is so deeply connected to various lore, I would be surprised if belief in it vanished into the dark ages from which they came. The desire to assign anthropomorphic features to stellar objects seems to bring a mystifying allure that is difficult to overcome. I cannot say that it has been completely useless in our development to take such interests in the stars and planets, for it has paved the way for astronomy and physics. What I can express is the desire to know the truth about our reality, and in order to do this, I must find credible data and evidence to justify things I believe. I used to believe in astrology, so much so I dedicated large portions of my day to study natal charts and their progression. After a long standing faith in this idea, I finally decided to take apply critical analysis, and it did not hold up to scrutiny once I began thinking with more skepticism, and definitely fell apart once I understood the scientific concept of falsifiability. The conclusion I came to: astrology is a historically outdated and empirically wrong form of pseudoscience that holds no justification for belief.

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