Archive for the ‘Woo’ Category

Fetal Ghost Busters

December 4, 2011

Haunted Abortion Cemetery? The BEAST Investigates

There are lots of stories of haunted places here in Western New York. Surprisingly, most of them are places with prices of admission: haunted theaters, haunted hotels, haunted gift shops, haunted pet stores, haunted haunted houses, haunted toll booths, and that sort of thing.

Being the poverty-stricken proletariat that we are, we decided to investigate a supposedly haunted place which is open to the public. So we went to Goodleberg Cemetery in Wales, NY, to investigate the local legend of fetal ghosts terrifying the populace by leaving tiny handprints on the windows of cars.

Here are the results of our investigation. Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

[bunting]

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Mississippi town bans fortune telling

April 7, 2011

The Meridian, MS town council has for for decades banned fortune telling, no doubt because it was such a popular place for fortune-telling types. But recently someone tried to open a business which would challenge that ban, and the town council decided to stick to their guns. The esteemed stateswoman Mary Perry explains the rationale for her decision:

“I read my Bible, too, and it talks about fortune telling and so forth,”

For those unfamiliar, the Bible is this religious text which is split into two sections. You’ve got the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is mostly about fortune telling and the New Testament covers And So Forth.

Perry continues with her brilliant legal analysis:

“Everyone has their own opinion and can do what they want but I try to follow what is legal and within my heart, and after praying about something. I kind of go with that”

There should be some kind of mechanism which automatically removes people from office when they vote against letting people do what they want and then explain their decision to not let people do what they want by saying that people can do what they want.

Maybe she meant that everyone can do what they want as long as what they want to do is run for office to overturn this weird prohibition. Probably more likely is the possibility that she’s just puking out word salad and has no idea what the actual sentences coming out of her mouth mean.

The harm in “traditional healing”

April 5, 2011

A few weeks ago when I wrote about a new age exposition here in Western New York, a few commenters on Facebook were whining about how I could dare to criticize the idiots who attended and the frauds who sold overpriced garbage to them. Here’s what one of them said:

Let whackos be wackos. Nothing wrong with them at all- they’re just wackos. Live and let live….. Whether the vendors are con-artists or not… Wackos need to buy their wacky stuff. It’s good for the economy.

Usually I just direct people who make this kind of argument to whatstheharm.net for lots of examples with what’s wrong with “wackos” selling quack “treatments” to the gullible. But since I don’t have a Facebook account, I’ll have to just write about a recent example in the news here.

Tanzania has outlawed witch doctors and traditional “healers” recently due to a mass killing of albinos for their body parts to use in magic potions. But that doesn’t mean their government will do anything about one of them selling the same crap to desperate sick people when the “miracle pastor” selling it happens to be making a lot of money off of it.

There is a line 16 miles long stretching to Rev Ambilikile “Babu” Mwasapile’s house in a remote area of Tanzania. They’re all waiting to pay the equivalent of 30 cents to get a mixture of water and herbs which, according to the BBC, is “safe to drink.” The problem is that it’s not really safe to buy. The people waiting in line for this have no real shelter besides their automobiles (if they happen to have driven there), and no access to clean water. So far 52 have died just waiting in line to buy this stuff.

Maybe some of them would have died of whatever they were trying to cure anyway. After all, they wouldn’t be going to such extreme measures if they didn’t have some serious medical ailment already.

Fortunately even the guy profiting off of all this insanity is calling for fewer customers, since it’ll probably turn out that he’s caused more suffering in his business venture than he’s alleviated. When this story came out, he was asking for no new arrivals until April 1. Also the tests to see if his concoction had any medical benefit were still ongoing. But even if it turns out it has some measurable positive effect, he should still be subject to the law for selling it without doing any real tests or seeking any approval for it at all.

Romanian fortune tellers are outraged

February 9, 2011

Queen Witch Bratara Buzea, mooch

The Romanian government has just passed a law which will require the fortune tellers in that country to pay a fine if their predictions don’t come true.

Naturally, the “witches” are outraged. From KOMO News:

“They can’t condemn witches, they should condemn the cards,” Queen Witch Bratara Buzea told The Associated Press by telephone.

And I guess when automobile manufacturers release cars with defective brakes, we should blame the plastic and steel instead of the company profiting off them. And when agribusinesses sell dangerous food, the FDA should go after the microbes and not the people responsible for the negligence. After all, we “can’t” condemn anyone responsible for their own fraud, right?

This is just a case of special pleading. Every single other manner of commerce is regulated within some bounds of reason in order to make sure people aren’t making a living out of scamming people out of money. It’s expected that when you run a business, you’re doing it in order to either sell products without lying about them or offer legitimate services which actually work.

But for some reason that kind of principle of honesty is not supposed to apply when it comes to religion and other forms of superstition. They get a total pass. The “witches” in question here were even outraged when, earlier this year, they were asked to *gasp* pay taxes! Oh, the humanity.

In fact, when that law was passed, they were so angry that they dumped a poisonous plant called mandrake into the Danube River. As far as I can tell, mandrake has no relation to the famous British Colonel who almost saved the world from nuclear war.

Political critic Stelian Tanase thinks this measure is a way for the government to distract attention from the way in which the international economic crisis is affecting Romania. But then again, he also thinks the “witches” should “put a spell on” the Romanian Prime Minister and President in order to punish them.

REPOST: Martian Jesus

January 13, 2011

A recently released picture of the Martian surface has ignited some controversy in the most widely circulated newspaper in the UK (“Has Jesus Christ Been Spotted On Mars?”). The question mark in the headline apparently means they’re not quite sure if there was an alteration of the Martian surface in order to make it sort of kind of look like Jesus:

Jesus had 3 visible boobs.

Jesus had 3 visible boobs.

Some possible explanations:

  1. After his resurrection, Jesus flew around the solar system to preach at organisms on other worlds. He couldn’t find any, so he decided to make a self-portrait on the surface of the planet to which humans would probably first travel. It was too much work, and Jesus gave up after a few years.
  2. Jesus was really a giant Martian buried underground, and when he punched his way out of his burial-place (like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 2), he left behind an outline of a vaguely human-ish figure on the Martian surface.
  3. Intelligent life on Mars which has since gone extinct heard about Jesus on Earth by being very quiet and listening in on the Middle East region 2000 years ago and then just decided to alter the surface of their planet to make it look kind of like a human, just for the fuck of it.
  4. Mars is a big planet on which erosion happens. There are no oceans on the surface, so that leaves a lot of possibilities for geological features which might kind of sort of look like a human. Since we’ve evolved in a way to recognize faces, it is not surprising that we would sometimes mistakenly perceive a face. There’s even a name for this phenomenon.

I wonder which is the most likely.

If it really were a face, then it should look that way from all angles. For example, here is a rotated picture of a human face which is still easy to identify as a human face:


Even though this is not how we normally see other humans, it is still easily recognizable as a face. And here’s a rotated shot of the same photo of the Martian surface:

Unless you’re already looking for Jesus here, you won’t see it. You have to want to see it. That should have given pause to whichever Daily Telegraph editor OK’d this story. On the other hand, ad revenue ad revenue ad revenue ad revenue ad revenue ad revenue…

We get spam

January 4, 2011

WordPress does a pretty good job of filtering out spam comments. We get lots of them at the BEAST, many of which are pretty funny because they’re awkwardly worded (“I very much enjoy this content, please continue,” etc.). But this one I took note of was weird in both its approach and the actual product/service it was trying to sell.

I don’t want to link to it because that would kind of defeat the purpose of having a spam filter in the first place, but here’s a screen shot of where you end up when you follow their link:

Do you see what they did there? They took that ever-popular “For Idiots” tagline used for that series of introductory books to every subject imaginable and avoided copyright infringement by substituting “For” with “4.” But unlike the books, calling their perspective customers idiots isn’t an appeal to self-depreciating humor; it’s just accurate. This product truly is for idiots – I’m sorry, “4” idiots.

Maridjan vs. the Volcano

December 3, 2010

For some reason I’m only finding out about this now. PBS had an updated segment on it last night.

There’s this tradition in Indonesia among the Javanese people of Indonesia where a “spiritual guardian” will “talk” to the “spirit” of a volcano in order to find out how the volcano is doing, its music preferences, what kind of celebrities it follows, whether or not it’s going to erupt and kill off a large chunk of the surrounding human population, that sort of thing. It’s a lot like volcanology except that it’s a ridiculous superstition which does not work.

The volcano’s very own Anne Sullivan in this case was a guy named Maridjan (who became so famous that he endorsed an energy drink, for whatever that’s worth), and his deaf and blind volcanic Helen Keller is Mount Merapi. Volcanologists were warning the local government to evacuate the local area because it looked like there was going to be a major eruption. But Maridjan felt differently because the volcano told him so itself.

In the modern news media narrative, this would be the two sides of the story where the reporter should teach the controversy in order to avoid accusations of bias. On the one side you have relevant experts using seismic data, measurements of gas emissions, temperature changes, and stratigraphic analyses – and on the other you have some guy claiming that he’s talking to the volcano. That’s the fair and balanced way of framing the issue.

As you may have guessed from the use of past tense earlier, this whole ‘talking to a volcano about its feelings’ thing didn’t work out too well for our man Maridjan. From NPR:

KUHN: Yes. Well, volcanologists actually predicted this eruption before it happened. So they managed to evacuate large numbers of people. I also went to a stadium yesterday where the refugees are living. But, you know, not all the residents heeded the warnings.

And one reason for this is they have this so-called spiritual guardian of the mountain who didn’t think the eruption was going to happen. And a lot of people listened to him. So, you know, as we were going out to the volcano today, we passed farmers cultivating their rice paddies, just about oblivious to this huge volcanic activity going on right to the north of them.

INSKEEP: What happened to that spiritual leader, Anthony?

KUHN: He, himself, became a burned offering to the mountain, you could say. He was found in his home, burned to death in a prayer position. The appointment of the next guardian is up to the local sultan. There’s a selection process in progress right now.

Yes, Maridjan, the poor mountaineer who could barely keep his family fed, was one day shooting at some food, and up from the ground came some bumbling molten rock from the Earth’s crust which then burned him and his most devout followers alive.

KukuBima gives you the energy you need to run for your life from a natural disaster after being duped by a superstitious con man.

So now the Javanese people are in the market for a new spiritual guardian of the volcano since that seems to be such an important and worthwhile position. But on the positive side, they want Indonesia’s chief volcanologist, a man named Surono who initially warned of the imminent Merapi eruption, to be the new spiritual guardian.

Surono doesn’t share his would-be predecessors’ beliefs, but maybe it’d be for the best if he accepted that title. Of course the best possible outcome would be for people to stop believing that we can communicate with volcanoes, but short of that it’d be much better for the Javanese to accept true things even if it’s for bad reasons. It’d be not too different from the way the government removed thimerosol from the MMR vaccine in order to appease antivaxers into getting their children vaccinated even though thimerosol hasn’t shown signs of being dangerous at such low levels. I guess that’s progress. Kind of.

The Simpsons decide not to set off nukes inside the US

November 12, 2010

So now we can add the writers for the Simpsons to the seemingly endless list of people the 9/11 troofers believe were involved in the implausibly large conspiracy. The NY Observer is reporting on some blog post by a conspiracy theorist who believes that the sort of recent episode about Springfield adopting Big Brother-y surveillance policies hinted at a “false flag” nuclear attack which was supposed to take place last weekend.

These kinds of things are really popular with conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones and David Icke, but it’s not always clear what the connections between world politics and pop media actually are supposed to be. This one seems to think that the Simpsons writers are using this foreshadowing as a warning. Because if there’s one group of people you’d expect to know about the imminent nuclear attack the US government was planning to use against itself in order to justify enacting martial law, it’s the writers of The Simpsons.

The other way conspiracy theorists make connections between the TV they watch and their fantasy world they imagine is by claiming clips like this one from 1997 are actually a way the conspirators have of bragging about their future plans. It’s apparently not enough that the conspirators always seem to get away with their evil deeds with nobody but a few of the most unhinged noticing, they have to go one step further by forcing sitcom writers to inject little clues into their jokes just to fuck with the unthinking “sheeple.”

That or, you know, coincidences happen and crazy people latch on to them in order to justify their warped worldview. One or the other, I guess.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, there was no nuclear attack last weekend. Hooray! But now conspiracy theorists need to find some way to reconcile their predictions with the fact that they failed to materialize. One way to do this would be to admit that maybe their predictions were incorrect. Or they could go with the self-aggrandizement route, by claiming that their own rantings exposed the secret plan, which would then need to be called off. And thanks to the vigilance of the “Infowars” crowd, we’ve been spared from martial law another day. AGAIN.

Please buy our useless junk so you can find nothing

October 26, 2010

Last year around this time of year I made fun of a Sun article which was essentially an advertisement for a theme park which was allegedly “haunted” by the “spirit world.” Since I am apparently very un-creative, I am going to do pretty much the same thing again this year.

But there’s a twist! This year’s Advertisement For Ghost-Related Business Disguised As A News Article (AFGRBDAANA) is from what’s supposed to be a more reputable newspaper, the Boston Globe.  The first problem here is with the headline:

So the obvious question here is this: Why do these gadgets only seem to work for those who already believe in wandering spirits? If they really did reveal evidence of ghosts, then they should help both believers and skeptics alike to find them. The fact that the headline needed to be qualified to apply only to believers implies that these gadgets only provide rationalizations for what the ghost hunters already decided to believe instead of real evidence which would then inform a belief one way or the other.

In the evolution-creationism “debate,” no scientist offers evidence for evolution on the condition that the audience already believe in evolution. The same is true for any other similar controversy. The evidence is supposed to be the basis for belief, not something you search for only after founding an opinion based on emotional whims.

Amateur ghost hunters hope these gadgets, which typically cost less than $100 each, will help them spot ghosts in haunted houses.

Gosh, they’re “typically” less than $100? What a bargain!

That quote above is factually accurate. People who call themselves amateur ghost hunters (as opposed to the really seriously professional ones) really do hope that the equipment will help them spot ghosts. But it’s still another example of a journalist not investigating far enough for fear of appearing “biased.” The job of an actual reporter assigned to a story like this should be to actually find out whether or not the products do as they claim. When Mark Baard puts that question aside, as he does in this article, he steps outside of journalism and into the field of advertising.

“I don’t believe that they detect ghosts, per se,”’ said Belanger… “But they might detect something that’s happened before, during or after a paranormal event.”

Really? How do you distinguish between the two, Mr. Salesman? Baard fails to follow up on this distinction. He just uncritically accepts it at face value. But seriously, why hold back here? Is he seriously trying to inject nuances into his ghost hunting business? I mean, come one, let’s not be ridiculous and claim that we’re detecting ghosts here. That would be nuts! But yeah, sure, events leave paranormal evidence behind which my products can detect. Everyone knows that, right?

Astrology-based politics

October 19, 2010

The 2010 mid-term elections has been a massive coming-out party for all kinds of crackpots. HIV deniers, creationists, anti-condom activists, and every other brand of conspiracy theorist have been nominated by their party to run for alarmingly high public offices. Journalists usually try to use reasonable methods to understand this unreasonable trend. At the very least, they try to make it sound like that’s what they’re doing.

But the innovative folks at AOLNews are taking a different path in their political reporting today. A guy who works there (I’m deliberately not calling him a reporter) talked to an astrologer named Shelley Ackerman about the elections and called it an article. Here’s how it begins:

Some swear by astrology. Others scoff at it.

That’s the beginning and end of Barry Weintraub’s investigation into the validity of astrology. It’s not like it’s his job to find out whether or not astrology actually works. That would be biased.

But here’s what’s not biased, for some reason: Pretending that an astrologer’s opinion of US politics is newsworthy.

Traditionally astrologers look to the lunation just before we go to the polls on Nov. 2 (in this case, the Oct. 22 full moon) to determine which party will fare better. And it’s no surprise that the elevation of Jupiter in the chart cast for Washington at 9:37 p.m. favors gains for the GOP, but how many?

Who among us didn’t know that the elevation of Jupiter means a Republican-controlled House? If you raised your hand just now, stop reading this now – for you are ignorant in the ways of astrology. It’s like the first rule: Most gas giants are very conservative. Those of us who were following this last election cycle may recall Saturn’s 2008 racist gaffe on CNN with Wolf Blitzer which many expert astrologers say cost John McCain the presidential election.

Ackerman later turns her focus to the Connecticut Senate race:

I’m having second thoughts about this one. Blumenthal (b. Feb. 13, 1946) was practically a shoo-in before he fibbed about serving in Vietnam. Bad move.

But why didn’t the stars tell her that this was going to happen? I thought this was the whole point of having professional astrologers in the first place. I am shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU that this astrologer only discovered this by reading it in the news instead of reading it from Neptune’s magical aura.

Will Neptune give Blumenthal the same magical aura that it provided for Palin in 2008, or will Saturn in Libra deliver the victory that McMahon has earned (and/or paid for)? It’s Blumenthal’s to lose: One false move and he will.

Come on, Ackerman! Don’t keep us in suspense! I really want to know about that magical aura’s political leanings. Maybe the entry on Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin will provide better information:

Astrologically aligned with the United States’ Aquarian moon, and buoyed by Neptune’s transit in Aquarius since 1998, will their popularity wane when Neptune enters Pisces for the first time (since 1860) in April 2011, or will their influence hold through the presidential election of 2012?

That’s where that entry ends. And then she goes on to another issue. She wouldn’t risk all of her well-deserved credibility on the election. But what else can you expect from a Libra?

REPOST: Epistemology

September 15, 2010

Orac at Respectful Insolence had a great post a month or so ago which really nailed some basic problems with accepting pseudoscience. Here’s a relevant excerpt:

Of course, even within New Age, skepticism seems to be without a basis. After all, if you accept astrology and fairies, really, on what possible basis can you reject channeling the dead?… Unfortunately, this is a completely predictable result. When one leaves science, rationality, and reason behind, there is no reliable way to differentiate one woo from another, one pseudoscience from another, one faith-based belief from another. When anything goes, nothing goes, and nothing can be included or excluded based on evidence. Everything is fair game.

This is something that inevitably comes up pretty much every time I try to talk to one of these believer people. It just seems obvious to them that their own beliefs – say, that homeopathy works – are somehow beyond testing and experimentation, or that there’s a massive conspiracy to cover up all the successful tests, or some other lame excuse. But when others use the exact same arguments to support beliefs which are even crazier – like that reptilian aliens have infiltrated human society up to the highest levels of government – somehow to them it is just as obvious that they are suddenly the crazy ones. But that’s hypocritical since they’ve already abandoned the idea of ruling out beliefs altogether in order to support their own.

It reminds me a lot of how some fundamentalist Christians will say that it’s crazy for Muslims to believe that Mohammed flew up into the sky on a horse, but it’s perfectly reasonable for them to assume that Jesus rose from the dead, hung out for 40 days, and then flew up into the sky without a horse. Or you can reverse that if you like, it’s all the same absurd double standard.

And whenever I talk to these people, I always think that if I can only show them how they can rule out pseudoscientific ideas which are just a little bit too crazy for them, they will have some “A-ha!” moment and realize how skeptics come to reject their ideas and the attempted justifications. And that they in fact use the pretty much the same methodology we are using when they dismiss ideas that seem too crazy, even to them. But that rarely happens.

People who are into woo generally just don’t like the idea of having some kind of epistemological foundation for belief, and they like even less that it is science that has proven to get us closer to the truth than any other proposed foundation so far. It would be pretty amazing if we as a civilization had reduced disease, extended life expectancy and increased quality of life by proposing that ideas be tested on the basis of whoever simply says “That’s what I believe,” but strangely enough that didn’t happen. And it probably won’t work in the future, either.

Assaulting psychics, lol

August 23, 2010

There is probably some good Yakov Smirnoff joke appropriate for this story. The best I’ve got is, In post-Soviet Russia, psychics get beat up by some guy who then goes on to kill two witnesses of the assault. Maybe that one belongs here. From the Moscow Times:

A man was jailed by a Kemerovo region court on Thursday for assaulting a Gypsy fortune teller who predicted that he would be jailed, the Investigative Committee said.

It sounds like…

she didn’t…

*takes off sunglasses*

see that coming.

YEEAAAAH!

And by “that,” I mean the assault. You know, the part of the story which is kind of important to her and the two unfortunate witnesses.

How to distinguishing between Is and Ought when arguing with irrational people

August 1, 2010

One of the awesome philosophical concepts David Hume articulated was the Is-Ought Distinction (or the Is-Ought Problem). It’s very similar to the naturalistic fallacy and it tries to deal with how we can derive how individuals and societies ought to act from objective, verifiable facts. Can we proceed directly from what is to what ought to be? Hume didn’t think so.

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.
A Treatise of Human Nature (1739)

Now in this context, Hume is criticizing those who try to derive the ‘ought’ from what someone believes is the ‘is’ of God. So the position he’s taking down is something like this: “Since God is X, we ought to do things that comply with X-ness.” Let’s say that’s the position of moral philosopher A. Then moral philosopher B comes around and says that A is wrong about what God is. B has a different idea of God with different focuses on different aspects of a God. And the moral/ethical philosophical discussion is framed around the question of What God is.

So Hume sees this and sees a badly neglected gap. Even if A or B are right about what God is, neither of them have justified that that observation leads to anything morally good. Why should a quality of a deity be something we want to emulate? How do we even know if that is good or not? Nobody seemed to be discussing that. Put this way, it’s very similar to the Euthyphro Dilemma:

“Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”
Euthyphro, Plato

Now you can extend the Is-Ought Problem beyond just the Is of God (which is kind of a waste of time for nonbelievers like me) when people try to derive policy from history or observations of nature. The problem becomes less of one in these instances because, unlike God, nature and history are about empirical facts which can be verified or falsified. You still have the gap between what Is and what Ought to be (a problem completely lost on some creationists), but at least the Is can be checked independently of subjective theistic assumptions about the supernatural.

Now you have someone like Glennifer Beck saying that because Congress printed official, government-approved Bibles in the early period of American history (that’s the Is part), we therefore ought to not worry so much about that silly old separation of church and state thing anymore.

A secularist who doesn’t know his history might be tempted to argue along similar lines as Hume above; i.e. that just because it was the case that the government approved official Bibles for use in schools, it does not follow that we ought to revive that practice. But someone who made that argument would be missing a much better point, which is that even the initial Is claim of Beck’s argument is just factually wrong.

That’s part of a video series by Chris Rodda, who’s a Senior Research Director for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. She’s been going after the factual errors and misrepresentations made on the nature of secularism and America by people like David Barton and Beck. They’re very effective in how they just deal with the actual history without getting caught up in how to solve Hume’s Is-Ought Problem.

See, someone can say that we ought to have, say a public education system that hands out Bibles and whatnot, and then I can say why I think that’s a bad idea. But then we’re just arguing for subjective positions on an Ought issue. But when Beck claims that we ought to imitate history and then proceeds to misrepresent it, Rodda’s corrections of those misrepresentations cut the argument down to nothing. Here’s her unfortunately HuffPo-y RSS feed, and here’s some other of her great counterpoints to pseudohistory:

Our Constitution is not based on the book of Deuteronomy

And the newest one just out today about Barton’s claims of Founders who went to “seminaries.”

Sylvia Browne’s Q & BS

July 21, 2010

Sylvia Browne recently trolled Orange County and the local press were successfully baited into giving her free advertising for her new book about how she lived in “two worlds.”

“I want people to know that I’m a real person,” Browne says of her motivation to write her new memoir.

Oh, and also the money. GIMME GIMME GIMME!!

Q: When will we get a Big One-style earthquake?
A: Thirty years from now.

Browne is now 73. So anything that she’s predicting will happen in 30 years is a pretty safe bet for her. Hopefully we’ll be rid of her long before then.

Q: What do you say to your detractors and skeptics?
A: I say, ‘I don’t give a rat’s you-know-what!’ If you know what’s in your heart is right, and your motive is pure, it’s between you and God.

So since Browne doesn’t keep her “psychic powers” and her raga-to-riches life story between her and God, it can be safely assumed that either her motives are not pure or her heart is not right. Or is she holding skeptics to a higher standard than she holds to herself? And if so, wouldn’t that contradict the “golden rule?” And speaking of Christianity:

Q: How is being psychic not counter to God and the Bible?
A: I’ve read all 26 versions of the Bible. Where they’re getting that from is Deuteronomy: Do not consort with sorcerers. But they forget that in Kings they went to the witch of Endor (who consulted with Samuel’s ghost). And that in Deuteronomy they say Joseph has always been an interpreter of dreams. It’s not the Bible’s fault, it’s people’s fault. They pick out one little piece and they’ll beat you over the head with it.

See, if only people would stop picking out one little piece of the Bible and beat you over the head with it, everyone would understand that the little piece of the Bible which Sylvia Browne uses to beat others over the head is the really important part you need to concentrate on.

If you were to look at the passage Sylvia refers to in context (which is actually in 1 Samuel, not Kings), you’d notice that it’s perfectly consistent with the prohibition of using mediums in Deuteronomy. You see, once the Witch of Endor raises Samuel from the dead on behalf of King Saul (this all sounds like the D&D crap it really is), Samuel’s ghost complains about being woken from his rest and condemns Saul for disobeying the Deuteronomic necromancy ban:

And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.
Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

As it turns out, Saul died in battle three or four days later, not the next day as Samuel’s ghost predicted. But this is a strange kind of mixed message with nuances which are obviously lost on someone like Sylvia Browne. As it turns out, sorcery actually works. Sure, you can raise a ghost or two, but their predictions about your death might be off by a few days.

Fetus’ negative energy terrorizes weird CEO

July 1, 2010

This is all based on a pending lawsuit, so it might all be bullshit.

Well, it’s definitely bullshit either way – either because the claims made by the plaintiff are true or because they aren’t.

Anyway, this woman is suing the CEO of the largest homebuilding company in Omaha, NE for forcing a spiritualist religious agenda on its workers. The lawsuit was filed after she was fired, allegedly because her unborn child carried “negative energy.” From the Omaha World-Herald‘s description of the allegations of the lawsuit:

[Former HearthStone Homes employee Jammie D.] Harms was asked to take part in a conference call with an Arizona-based psychic to determine “whether or not negative energy was being created with the pregnant plaintiff because she had a male boss versus a female boss.”
[CEO John J.] Smith consulted with a chiropractor and “self-described energy worker” who told Smith he shared a former life with Harms’ unborn child and suggested that he “partner” with the baby. Smith declined, saying the baby’s energy was hostile toward him.

There’s this popular misconception about new age woo where it’s supposed to be all warm and fuzzy – something for hippies and spaced-out retirees to get into. Under that misconception, you might not expect it to be prevalent in the business world. They’re supposed to be practical and pragmatic and religiously devoted only to their bottom line.

But there’s another side to new age woo other than the insence and the crystal healing and the horrible music. Take reincarnation. It’s all comforting for those of us who are well off to think that we are that way because we were so awesome in previous lives and are now being rewarded. But at the same time, reincarnation beliefs demand that no sympathy at all be given to the sick or the poor. A terrible disease in a newborn isn’t a tragedy to overcome; it’s a just punishment from the gods for behavior in a “past life.” The disadvantaged brought all their hardships on themselves, in other words. Actually, we can just use the words of the proponents of these beliefs themselves:

I think those individuals who are open-minded should reflect on the belief in reincarnation as it gives an explanation as to why there are so many injustices in this world. Why are babies born deformed? Why do good people suffer tremendous losses? How come so many things seem so unfair? One person is rich, another is so poor. One person is born into a wealthy family, another into a ghetto. Why so much inequality? The theology of reincarnation explains that there is a balance to life and that everyone “reaps what they sow”.

Instead of rolling up their sleeves and working to fix problems like the huge gap between rich and poor, these people work on trying to justify those circumstances. And that kind of theology is a perfect ideological match for the business world. All of your successes are a testament to your greatness, and the failures of others proves that they just generally suck.

So maybe Smith is guilty, maybe not. We’ll have to wait to see the evidence. But it would be silly to lean in his favor just because he’s not wearing a tie-dye T-shirt in court.