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Author Topic:

How do we crack the woo?

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godlike, humble, know-it-all
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« on: March 29, 2008, 00:26:46 AM »

I am wondering about the woo woo ads on TV for psychic crud.
I would be in the camp of "fools are easyily separated from their money", but the ads for tarot readings, psychic readings, hope for love (?) etc.. on the tube where you only SMS these days?   
How can anyone demonstrate this as fraud to a broad audience?  Or should we bother?
Just wondered about what should be done (or not) in this area by skeptics.

Opinions? Huh?
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« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2008, 16:42:59 PM »

I would be in the camp of "fools are easyily separated from their money
I'm with you on this - people that participate in this stuff deserve to have their money taken.
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« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2008, 17:11:15 PM »

In my experience, talking to people about Astrology generally comes down to the believer making halfhearted defenses of their views which are easily countered but ultimately end with "but I just do it for entertainment, it doesn't run my life".

This is a dead-end because they are (in a way) admitting that they don't believe but like to be entertained by reading the predictions.  Of course, whether it is done in all seriousness or for laughs the SMS costs the same and the company rakes-in the dough.

So I guess I'm questioning the goal of an exposé of Astrology's methods.  I predict that all that we will get is a huge response of "that doesn't matter, I was just doing it for fun anyway".

I agree that it is a worthy goal.  I also would desperately like to change the outcome of this 6 December 2007 poll on 5fm ...

Astrology is...

eerily accurate at times
#################### 50%
################ 42%
#### 9%

P.S. For fans of Derren Brown checkout his exposé of Astrology's methods here (one of my favourite DB episodes).
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2008, 16:09:21 PM »

I somehow doubt that we can “crack the woo,” at least not widely or generically or with lasting success.  Just this weekend we were faced, in a social gathering of about ten people, with a situation that began with the question of what could lie behind “ley lines.”  We answered that it was very probably bunk because (a) there was no known physical mechanism that could connect the various points to form these lines, and (b) the “energies” that proponents speak of have yet to be measured in any meaningful and consistent way.  In other words, the notion was so eroded by special pleadings as to render it indistinguishable from wishful thinking and/or coincidence.

Thinking we had made a sufficient point, the conversation then shifted slightly onto these claimed “subtle energies” for which actual evidence is scant to none.  The point was very firmly put forward that “they are not of this plane” and that they exist “on a higher dimension” and that they are nonetheless as real as anything, “but I don’t fully understand the metaphysics of it myself”.  If the reader is new to this game, s/he will perhaps not know that statements of this ilk are one item in a small standard arsenal of New Age copouts.  We asked the defender of the faith that if these things are, as he says, “not of this plane,” how they can possibly produce any physical effects at all.  I count this counterargument as persuasively devastating all on its own, but it had very little effect if any.

Equally, even if such physical effects can somehow be produced, they are invariably sporadic and unpredictable, yet he claims they are useful in gauging the character of a place like a house or a flat, say, for “positive” or “negative energies,” so that an appropriate “cleansing” regimen can be concocted, for example sprinkling of rose quartz fragments in the garden.  The next question we put to him was how, assuming that there was a mechanism that allowed the “higher plane” to interact with ours and given that these effects are not consistently producible, they could be considered reliable for imparting useful information.  Again, I view this argument as a very potent one, but its power went apparently unnoticed.

What all of the above tedium illustrates is just another example of how people, especially those most in need of it, seemingly do not actually want to be made aware of the holes in their beliefs.  More and more, it appears to me like a losing battle that will cost sceptics more than any benefits gained by those who might actually pay attention.  And increasingly, it seems to me that there is a stable, but very small, proportion of sceptics that society can accommodate; any more, and society may end up falling apart through pedantic bickering, while any fewer, and society will sink in a sticky morass of rotten superstition.  The best we can do, I think, is to fight woo-woo within the inner circle of our close friends and immediate families –  just where it’s hardest, actually.

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