Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Special New Age issue

Added Oct 25: Jeff Sharlet puts forth the thesis that George W. Bush is a New Ager; nice piece, including this comparison:
New Age religions are, literally, reactionary, responses to what’s been called the disenchantment of the world....Christian fundamentalism, meanwhile, is the child of the Enlightenment, a functionalist view of faith that’s metaphorically "scientific." It's scripture as read by a cranky engineer who just wants to know how God works...

As ye ask, so shall ye receive...Johann Hari grills the Dalai Lama, with tasty results: (via)
...criticisms...Tibet...romanticized...was a slave-owning feudal theocracy...Does he ever worry that he made a massive concession [rescinding Tibet's claims to independence] and got nothing in return?...are disabled children being punished for sins in a past life?....
"Yes, it [massive inequalities of wealth in the West] is wrong," he says as he smiles. "Why do the rich need so much? We each only have one stomach. Well, not you," he says, looking at my belly. "You appear to have two."

Littlewood's Law of Miracles -
Littlewood...defined a miracle as an event that has special significance when it occurs, but occurs with a probability of one in a million. This definition agrees with our common-sense understanding of the word "miracle."

Littlewood's Law of Miracles states that in the course of any normal person's life, miracles happen at a rate of roughly one per month.
interesting observation -
One fact that emerges clearly...is that paranormal events occur, if they occur at all, only when people are under stress and experiencing strong emotion.
which makes them hard to study...or rather, hard to get the studies past the ethics committee.

Speaking of which, here's Johann Hari again, this time on animal rights -("Slowly it became clear how shallow it was to dismiss an entire movement because of the rantings of its thickest and most aggressive members...")

Cultural anthropology from a bicultural New Age skeptic (via) -
How did a card-carrying, aura-wearing, chakra-toting leader of the New Age become able to understand and eventually embrace the skeptical culture?

In my [new age] culture, you can't openly attack anyone or their character, and you can't use truly focused skepticism. In my culture...both the emotions and the intellect are considered troublesome areas of the psyche that do very little but keep one away from the (supposedly) true and meaningful realm of spirit...

Blue-green algae, one hell of a health supplement - Dietary neurotoxin linked to Alzheimer's
Neurotoxins from blue-green algae present in certain foods or water can accumulate in proteins and might cause brain diseases like Alzheimer's after many years, suggests a new study....[blue-green algae] are common in freshwaters and seas worldwide, and thrive in polluted, nutrient-rich waters.

Off-topic (more relevant to Old Age than New):
There are worse things than having your water polluted with bluegreen algae though - try backflow from a mortuary.

added Sept 23:

Clifford Pickover's ESP Experiment

Interview with a crop circle artist

No health benefit from prayer [on behalf of the unwell or infertile]; Chris Mooney has the story

On the other hand, there is evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture and aromatherapy (sorry, no URL here yet; saw it on the web though, so it's true. :-)

Added Oct 17: What the bleep were they trying to pull on us? From the [Ebert site] Answer Man's inbox:
While the film "What the [bleep] Do We Know!?" parades itself as a tell-all about quantum physics, it turns out that it's actually a 111-minute infomercial for ... that's right, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. In fact, the three filmmakers, [William] Arntz, [Betsy] Chasse and [Mark] Vicente, are all devotees of Ramtha.

There's little to no accurate science in the film, and, as a physicist pointed out recently in your Answer Man column, the individuals who are quoted are pretty far from qualified experts on the field of quantum mechanics. Case in point: One of the persons expounding on causality and quantum physics (Dispenza) is a chiropractor. The film's sole purpose appears to be to promote the ideology of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. A quick browse through their Web site will clearly demonstrate that the film's pseudoscientific nonsense comes straight from the teachings of the RSE.
Not only that, but Ramtha channeler JZ Knight has copyrighted him. Fear not, capitalism is alive and well in the New Age.

[Oct 18:] The ability to see auras is likely to be due to synesthesia:
Synaesthesia is a condition found in 1 in 2000 people in which stimulation of one sense produces a response in one or more of the other senses. For example, people with synaesthesia may experience shapes with tastes or smells with sounds. It is thought to originate in the brain and some scientists believe it might be caused by a cross-wiring in the brain, for example between centres involved in emotional processing and smell perception...

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