Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Body Talks

It seems that I’ve irritated the BodyTalk community. Last week two supporters of this rubbish wrote to criticise my description of BodyTalk as “pseudoscience”.

They claim in their letter that BodyTalk is based on Quantum Physics. They said “Quantum physicists discovered that physical atoms are made up of vortices of energy that are constantly spinning and vibrating.” To their credit one of them had the honesty to say that “I am not a physicist so do not think I am qualified to go into the nitty-gritty of what this is all about.”

Never has a truer word been written.

I’m afraid that their letter shows that they indeed know precisely nothing about physics and, if it were possible, even less about quantum physics.

For the record physicists discovered nothing of the sort. Quantum physics is simply a model of reality at a truly miniscule level. It describes the way in which particles and energy at the smallest possible levels behave and it had a remarkable impact on our understanding of the way the universe works. Without wishing to sound even more pompous and patronising than usual, unlike Ms Gilbert and Ms Cadfan-Lewis, I do know a little bit about the subject. However, like them I can’t claim to be a specialist but I do know what the theory is and, more importantly, what the theory is not.

One thing that is true about quantum physics is that because it’s quite difficult to understand it’s very often used by woo-woo, New Age, alternative, mantra-chanting, crystal-waving, alien-abducted, energy-medicine groupies to support the latest health fad they’ve heard about, or invented to scam the na├»ve. Saying that your new energy treatment is based on quantum physics may persuade the gullible but that doesn’t make it real. In fact it’s usually a warning of impending nonsense.

They make some claims about the miraculous effects of their silly technique. Apparently an occupational therapist in Hamburg could revive coma patients using this magic. In South Africa another was apparently able to improve the physical appearance of a child with Down’s Syndrome. However, and very strangely, they neglected to tell us when or in which hospitals these miracles occurred. They neglected to say which real medical journals published these astonishing findings. They neglected to tell us when the medical world started exploiting these findings to help humanity and when when the wicked pharmaceutical industry started making lots of money from it.

I wonder whether this is because these miracles simply didn’t happen. I suspect that this is just more fakery designed to give credibility to an incredible idea. As Carl Sagan famously said, “incredible claims require incredible evidence”. The BodyTalkers offer us the claims but don’t deliver the evidence.

So is BodyTalk a pseudoscience? Well, it’s not based on those old-fashioned but useful scientific ideas of plausibility, double-blinded experiments, peer review and not being silly. But it’s dressed up using clever-sounding scientific terms. Pseudo means “false”. It IS a pseudoscience.

One last thing. Isn’t it curious how they didn’t deny my report that BodyTalk involves pressing on a so-called “energy point”, lightly tapping the top of the head to “stimulate the brain center” and then “tapping the patient’s sternum to announce the corrected energy flows to the rest of the body”. Maybe they didn’t want people to read that bit again. Perhaps because it’s embarrassing and deeply silly? Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It’s in the stars?

I've been naughty again. In fact I told a lie. I deliberately told someone something that I knew to be untrue.

I've been lying to astrologers.

Last week I was surfing the web when I saw a link that offered a free personal horoscope. Now of course I know that astrology is nonsense. It’s based on rubbish and produces nothing but rubbish.

However, just as an experiment, and as it was free, I thought I would see what happened. Off I went to the web site of an astrologer called Jenna who claims to be a Professional Astrologer, Psychic-Born, a Tarot Card Reader and a Numerologist.

Her web site asks for just your first name, email address, date of birth, sex, whether you’re happily married and if you’re employed. That’s all she needs.

A couple of hours later I got an email from “Jenna” saying she was working hard on my horoscope and that I should expect it within a couple of days. Two days later it arrived.

So how did I lie? Where was my wicked deception? My guilty secret is that I did this twice. The first time I gave Jenna’s web site my correct personal details and the second time I lied about everything. I changed sex, cut 10 years off my age and changed my birthday completely as well as my marital and employment status.

And how did the results compare? Both were about 2,500 words long and were virtually identical. The clever thing about this web site is that the “readings” I was given weren’t exactly the same. The sentence order was different but the message was exactly the same. Both said that I was going to live through “an event of great astrological importance”, that I was soon to be “in a rare astrological Transit which will not occur again in your skies before a very long time” and that if I “do not act in a very decisive manner concerning this period then it is extremely likely that all of these important opportunities will simply pass you by”.

[You can see one "reading" here and the other here.]

Of course this is the usual self-fulfilling claptrap you get from astrologers. Vague predictions about opportunities, challenges and life-changing events. Isn’t it curious how not a single astrologer specifically predicted 9/11, any earthquake or my cat dying last week?

What do I, sorry both of me, need to do to take this “decisive action”? That’s simple. All I have to do is give Jenna US$60 and she’ll give me a complete analysis. This, of course, is what the whole thing is about. You get a free teaser and then have to cough up real money if you have taken the bait.

Let’s be frank about this nonsense. First of all Jenna isn’t human, she’s a computer. The wonderful thing about the internet is that once they’ve been set up computers can perform many mindless things without any human intervention. Use sites like Amazon and eBay and you’ll have virtually no contact with any real people. Jenna’s site is the same. You give it some details and it assembles some standard sentences in semi-random order and emails them to you. It then sends the many later emails to encourage you to part with your cash.

The only difference between human astrologers and computerised ones is the efficiency with which they try and deceive you. Astrology is silly at best, abusive at worst.