Sunday, June 19, 2005

Heh heh 

Funny update: I reread this post and the business about mystic numbers. Turned out that, for me, the answer was 33 again. Idiots who follow Kabbalah would apply significance to that. I'd just call it coincidence...

Over at Hullabaloo, Digby has an interesting take on America's seemingly incompatible yet overwhelming belief in things paranormal, whether religion or the paranormal:
A recent Gallup survey shows that just about three in four Americans hold some paranormal belief -- in at least one of the following: extra sensory perception (ESP), haunted houses, ghosts, mental telepathy, clairvoyance, astrology, communicating with the dead, witches, reincarnation, and channeling. There are no significant differences in belief by age, gender, education, or region of the country.
...Since more than three quarters of the public believe these things, then it's possible that Real America has more in common with Un-Real America than we think. Maybe this is a Kumbaya moment in which we can all join hands and celebrate our common tradition, across all regional, gender, ethnic and religious lines, of believing in utter bullshit. Let the healing begin.
The attempted destruction of science education in this country is one of those self-perpetuating loops -- the more mucked up science gets with bullshit like "intelligent design," the less effectively students are armed to understand and debunk said bullshit. Seeing as how we already have adults in this country who can say, with a straight face, that creationsim has any place whatsoever in the science curriculum, I'm afraid we've slid a long way from the days when rationalism and science were going to solve all of our problems. That was the flipside of the hippie revolution of the 60s; while the long hairs were out stopping wars, the eggheads were out solving problems -- the high point coming when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon in 1969. And the scientists didn't have to worry about religious nuts stopping their research for facetious reasons.

The same nutjobs that believe in creationism are the same ones who cannot be persuaded, no matter how reasoned the arguments that a) there are plenty of unused/unusable zygotes out there from which to harvest stem cells without performing abortions strictly for the purpose; b) the possible benefits of stem cell research outweigh any supposedly moral objections.

Unfortunately, I know plenty of smart people who believe stupid things that are not religious in nature. I'll bet that all of you reading this have a coworker, friend or relative who believes in Astrology and actually reads their horoscope; or who is convinced that UFOs visit us regularly; or that ghosts haunt houses; and on and on.

Here's something I like to do for fun, and you can try it to; it works great at parties. If someone who doesn't really know you well asks you your sign, lie. Just pick something on the spot -- the more different than your own sign the better. Tell them you're a Virgo even if you were born in March; a Leo even if you were born on Christmas. It doesn't matter. Lie sincerely, and you'll tend to get this reaction: "Oh, I knew it. You are so much like a (insert fake sign here)." And then they rattle off the list of reasons why you are were so obviously born under the phony sign.

The trick part, though, is trying to use this to educate them about the fallacy of astrology. I pulled this trick once, told someone I was a Sagittarius (I'm not) and she proceeded to give half a dozen reasons why she "knew" it had to be. When she was done, I told her my real sign, tried to explain that astrology was bullshit, but her answer to this was that all (my real sign) are liars, anyway -- so astrology really worked, blah blah blah.

But... it appalls me that so many Americans believe ridiculous things, without taking the trouble to seek out the science to prove or disprove their beliefs. Any astronomer or physicist can tell you that the planets have less gravitational influence on a newborn baby than the OB-GYN doing the delivery. Not to mention the pesky detail that Astrology had to be completely revamped seventy-five years ago to account for Pluto, after a previous revamp in the 18th Century to account for Uranus. If it was so good, why hadn't it found those planets first or, conversely, why did it have to be changed to include them?

Then there's Kabbalah, which has started to spring up (gee thanks, Madonna and Rosie) like some pesky weed of life out here on the west coast. It's one of those systems that deals with the mysticism of numbers, finding hidden meanings in words and numbers, and blah blah blah. Again, I know people who believe this crap wholeheartedly. Let me demonstrate what's really going on.

As soon as you've read this sentence, look at your computer's time clock, and pick the minutes' digits. (Mine at the time of writing it are 33). Remember that number. Now, over the next week, watch for every occurance of this number in your life -- bus passes, ticket stubs, lottery winners, weather reports, whatever. A funny thing will happen. Pretty soon, you're going to start seeing your magic number everywhere, more than you notice other numbers pop up.

Why? Think about it for a bit. I'll give the answer in a subsequent post, but it's better to figure this one out on your own. When you do, you'll go a long way toward bullshit-proofing yourself in the face of "evidence" that the flakey minded like to use to support their fairytale beliefs -- whether in the paranormal or god or WMD's.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?