Okay, it’s been almost two weeks, and I’ve kept putting off blogging about this event. Partly because I’ve been extremely busy, with a new full-time job and working on my freelance career, and partly because, well, I didn’t learn anything earth-shattering. Dr. Hall’s talk at Langara College about the ins and outs of pseudoscience, what it is, how to identify it, and why people believe in it, covered a lot of ground already well-visited by people like Michael Shermer. Still, there were some good tidbits.
“Thinking like a human” is not a logical way to think but it is not a stupid way to think either. You could say that our thinking is intelligently illogical. Millions of years of evolution did not result in humans that think like a computer. It is precisely because we think in an intelligently illogical way that our predecessors were able to survive…
—Morgan Levy, MD
And that quote from Dr. Morgan Levy’s book Placebo Medicine (available free online) pretty much sums up why people believe weird things.
One thing I did learn was that Jesus promoted colon cleansing. No, seriously! It’s in the Essene Gospel of Peace. Good to know whenever the old Argument from Authority is pulled out.
“Think not that it is sufficient that the angel of water embrace you outwards only. I tell you truly, the uncleanness within is greater by much than the uncleanness without. And he who cleanses himself without, but within remains unclean, is like to tombs that outwards are painted fair, but are within full of all manner of horrible uncleannesses and abominations. So I tell you truly, suffer the angel of water to baptize you also within, that you may become free from all your past sins, and that within likewise you may become as pure as the river’s foam sporting in the sunlight.
“Seek, therefore, a large trailing gourd, having a stalk the length of a man; take out its inwards and fill it with water from the river which the sun has warmed. Hang it upon the branch of a tree, and kneel upon the ground before the angel of water, and suffer the end of the stalk of the trailing gourd to enter your hinder parts, that the water may flow through all your bowels. Afterwards rest kneeling on the ground before the angel of water and pray to the living God that he will forgive you all your past sins, and pray the angel of water that he will free your body from every uncleanness and disease. Then let the water run out from your body, that it may carry away from within it all the unclean and evil-smelling things of Satan. And you shall see with your eyes and smell with your nose all the abominations, and uncleannesses which defiled the temple of your body; even all the sins which abode in your body, tormenting you with all manner of pains. I tell you truly, baptism with water frees you from all of these. Renew your baptizing with water on every day of your fast, till the day when you see that the water which flows out of you is as pure as the river’s foam. Then betake your body to the coursing river, and there in the arms of the angel of water render thanks to the living God that he has freed you from your sins. And this holy baptizing by the angel of water is: Rebirth unto the new life. For your eyes shall henceforth see, and your ears shall hear. Sin no more, therefore, after your baptism, that the angels of air and of water may eternally abide in you and serve you evermore.
Dr. Hall also quoted from Pope Brock’s Charlatan, a book about old-time huckster Charles Brinkley, who got famous by performing goat-to-human testicle transplants, to restore the energy and virility of his patients. It sounds deliciously weird, and I’ve added it to my reading list.
She concluded with a few tips on how to deal with pseudoscientific claims or theories:
- How do I know that’s so?
- Where’s the evidence?
- What’s the evidence against? Is there another side to the story?
Which leads to the SkepDoc’s rule of thumb:
Before accepting a claim we should try to find out who disagrees with it and why.
Words to live by.