Skepticism

A Minefield of Woo

I know you don’t usually see me post here outside of the Quickies but I came across this stunning example of pseudoscience that has inspired me to be a little more wordy than usual.

According to Otis and Jenny Funkmeyer it takes only 3 steps to bend a spoon:  announce your intentions, command the spoon to bend, and let go of your goal-oriented mindset.

You’ll notice that though spoon bending is called an amazing example of the mind’s ability to influence objects, none of the people in the video are able to bend a spoon without aid from their HANDS.  You may also note that they use the old “rubber pen” trick as a way to bend a spoon.  Unfortunately, this method does not have lasting results since as soon as you stop bouncing the spoon, it’s magically straight again.

In looking into the Funkmeyer’s web presence, I find myself much more disturbed than by this video alone.  They seem to be marketing themselves as a brand that’s based on “the power of positive thinking.”  If you take a look at the post “10 books that changed my life” you’ll find mention of The Law of Attraction.  There is also a post of books on health which is a comprehensive collection of woo.  And their top recommended book for changing the world in 2009?  It was channeled from an extraterrestrial.

Otis mentions that his goal for this upcoming year is, “…is to be rich. Make a lot of money and invest well and become an aggressive, risk-taking, shrewd businessman. Like a new age Richard Branson or something.”   He seems to be well on his way to doing so.  Today, in fact, they’re hosting a spoon bending party that you can attend for a mere $30.  Certainly a bargain compared to the $400 it costs to get a psychic reading from Otis or an energy healing session with Jenny.

I know that this is small scale in comparison to the Sylvia Brownes, the John Edwards, the Deepak Chopras of the world yet we can see the same tricks of the trade being practiced here by the Funkmeyers.  A promise of hope as long as you’re willing to pay for it.  A new insight on life if you have the cash.  The world can be yours and you can do anything if you just hand over your credit card and attend our workshops.

What saddens me even more in this case is that these two people seem to have truly and deeply drunk of the Kool Aid and believe everything that they espouse.  From energy healing to psychic readings to spoon bending to raw food to the Mayan calendar predictions, they seem to absorb every bit of woo that crosses their path wholecloth.  And now they’re doing their damndest to market it to the rest of the world.

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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26 Comments

  1. As the holder of a world record for spoon-bending (thankyou, thankyou), I can confirm that the necessary ingredients for success are not merely willpower, but also the involvement of an industrial metal press.

  2. I agree. ‘You should be “more wordy than usual” more often.’

    Although people have been demonstrably able to affect reality in scientific double-blind tests, the results are less than amazing. The human brain is an FM transceiver, and an incredibly weak one at that. Most brainwaves are unreadable at a distance of more than a few inches, and beyond three feet it is pretty much hopeless.

    Testing by scientists reveals an ability to affect matter that is less than statistically significant, and could be accounted for by mere testing error or other random factors. The best test results I’ve ever seen proved beyond the statistical error only 0.1% ability to affect the outcome of physical events.

    This is less than spectacular. I’d say this is probably why most people I know who claim to be able to do magic use drugs. It alters their perceptions of their own abilities. I’m sure they feel ‘smarter’ or ‘stronger.’

    I for one would love to see a genuine psychic in public testing turn out to be real, and very able, but it has yet to happen. People claim government cover up but there are too many other nations that are psychic-friendly and would clearly take advantage if they had a good one.

    I’m writing a book about conspiracies and psychics get an entire chapter on their own. As a high level military vet from the cold war era, I can conclusively tell you that we did not have any psychics in the military. We relied very heavily on equipment that often did not perform as promised.

    If I could have any ability it would be the 100% ability to control even a thousandth of a gram of matter, either electrically or gravitically. Better still, control over the subatomic process would be quite interesting, if I survived the experiments. ;)

  3. No more spoon benders…and mixing it with BS like “The Law of Attraction” too? No good can come of this…

    There are days when I think that P.T. Barnum was a pessimist when he said that there’s a sucker born every minute. The birth rate seems much higher than that…

  4. What? The spoon isn’t obeying your commands? Well, clearly, you haven’t yet let go of your goal-oriented mindset!

    Beautiful. I caution, however, that spoon bending should never be attempted near an MRI machine, lest someone start trying to document the presence of said mindset.

  5. *headdesk*
    These people erupt in cheers that they are able to bend cutlery by clutching both ends firmly in each hand and heaving? Did ditching their goal-oriented mindset cure the muscular dystrophy they were apparently suffering from? Someone call Jerry Lewis! Jesus Donald Christ and His Suckling Orphans, next they’ll be breaking wire coat hangers and driving thumb tacks!

  6. Not sure which is worse the two who seem to have drank from the Kool-aid or the kids and parents who believed it as much.

    These two are funny crazy people, I for one did not get the whole I believe from these two, but I did get the feeling that it was the rest that had drank from the fountain of “turn your brain off do-do” big time.

    Well have to go, I am going to go think about that nice red porsche until it just appears in front of me.

  7. Some years ago I shared an apartment with a man who was a grad student in the MIT material science department. One of his fellow grad students had gone to a spoon bending by Uri Geller and asked for the spoon afterward. Geller didn’t want to give it up, but due to the circumstances couldn’t refuse. Examining in the lab showed that the spoon was obviously doctored. It had marks on it where it had been clamped in a fatigue machine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_fatigue

    If you subject a metal object to cyclic stress of the right magnitude you weaken it such that after enough cycles it takes very much smaller stress to cause it to bend or even fail. This is obviously what Geller had done so that he could “bend” the spoon.

  8. @KingMerv00: …AND five or six secret slaves. Remember?

    More like 900 of us as I recall. :-)

    Setting aside the spoon bending claim, I followed the link to the Funkmeyer web site. Holy shit!! They either buy every bit of nonsense out there or they’re pulling the world’s collective leg. Just look at the laughable photos of “flying” in the Negev or “auras” at the Getty Center. Good find, Amanda.

  9. I just watched the video, and I was waiting for the whole “BEND BEND BEND” *cut away* “Look, it’s bent!!”… but, no… they don’t even hide the hands part.

    Where do you find these people? Why do they exist? Why did I go to college to make less money than them?

  10. @Brian:

    “More like 900 of us as I recall. ”

    The spoons were mechically weakened but a few of us still had to pre-bend them. Yes, Teek did all of the REAL work and I was more than happy to help but I still demand all of the credit.

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