Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition, 5.22

It’s Friday and I’m feeling a little crazy.  Today, I’m looking for some weirdness. Help me out!

Go out and find me some of the craziest woo out there. I grow weary of acupuncture and homeopathy and anti-vaxxers. Give me the woo that other woos laugh at!

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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90 Comments

  1. How to choose just one?

    David Icke is, of course, old news, but I hadn’t until recently encountered his stuff about “monatomic gold”.

    Space Mirror Mystery is a classic.

    And I’ve lost the link now and don’t have time to look too hard for it, but there was one I found a while back about how gravity doesn’t exist, and what we feel as gravity is actually radiation pressure from a star (or something) at the center of the universe. Which might have been Kolob. If I get a chance later, I’ll look for the link.

  2. 9/11 WAS CAUSED BY CRUISE MISSILES WITH HOLOGRAPHIC PROJECTORS ATTACHED!!!

    Ahem… Sorry… In imitating pushers of nonsense, I can’t help but make with the all caps.

    But seriously, that is my *favorite* of all the 9/11 conspiracy theories. It spectacularly illustrates how the “inside job” nonsense is, well, nonsense…

    And indeed, the other 9/11 truth seekers kooks think it detracts from their cause.

  3. How about the “New Chronology”? Did you know that the history of mankind only goes back to 800AD? And that all ancient Greek and Roman history took place in what we would call the Middle Ages? That the real Jerusalem is actually Constantinople, and the Fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Crusades took place around the same time? Check out the Wikipedia entry if you care to learn more. Obviously, this theory ignores carbon dating, as well as nearly all of Chinese and Japanese history. The New Chronology’s most famous proponent is one Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion.

    *I apologize if any part of my description is incorrect. This stuff is a little confusing.

  4. My sister-in-law doesn’t believe in atoms. I really don’t understand how she rationalizes away everything she learned in high school chemistry but she does. She also doesn’t believe that dinosaurs ever existed. Not just that they were created and died 6000 years ago. They were never here. I really like her as a person but there are somethings we just can’t talk about.

  5. @Outsider:

    I asked her that once. Her answer basically boiled down to “I can’t see it therefore it doesn’t exist.” So rocks are made of rock and trees are made of tree… I guess. It makes no logical sense. It’s kind of sad because she is a very smart girl in her area of study.
    @MiddleMan:
    She is religious but I don’t think that’s why she doesn’t believe those things. I think she just didn’t understand it when it was taught to her so she decided it was stupid and now refuses to believe it.

  6. Ok, under normal circumstances the woo that’s been most troubling to me lately is pretty standard, but circumstances are far from normal right now. My husband is a diagnosed rapid-cycling bipolar who is unmedicated at this time and self-destructing. Every day he is more paranoid and delusional. I spend my days on the phone with doctors, therapists, family members etc. If one more co-worker tells me that mental illness is not real and if we gave ourselves over to Jesus and prayed, he would be cured…. I’m discussing guardianship and facilities with doctors, and I keep getting unsolicited advice that I just need to pray. I suspect some think we brought it on by being atheists. I just cannot imagine a more inapproriate time for their religious woo.

  7. @Ashley.Ele:

    That’s awful. I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through.

    I wish I could even offer some kind of help or advice (and not to pray). Take it easy on yourself and know that there are rational people out there who don’t blame you/your lifestyle/your sinning ways for what’s going on… and are both sympathetic and empathetic to your situation.

  8. I clicked on some of these beauts! Wow! My favorite was The Electric Universe. You’ve got to love a seemingly scientific web site that starts out with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft (who, despite his stories, didn’t believe in any of this crap).

  9. I stumbled on this beauty preparing classroom resources for advertising. Specifically searching for themes and subliminal messages. What I didn’t expect to find on a sensibly named Classroomtools.com website (Lesson ideas for Developing Thinkers) was an extended rant about Piranhas and Axes hidden inside ice-cubes.

    http://www.classroomtools.com/sublimad.htm

    The smoking/fellatio comparisons are also not really suitable for my 7th Graders either.

  10. I know a lot of believers of all of these things.

    Because I live in crazytown.

    Here’s a couple I’ve found recently:

    Biophotons:

    http://jacksonskepticalsociety.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/fire-biophotons/

    Rods of Ra:

    http://jacksonskepticalsociety.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/holy-rods-of-ra/

    (Not a sex toy, believe it or not)

    And, yeah, anything by David Icke. If you spend some time taking him seriously, you should see what it will do to your day to day life.

    Try it. Just believe him for a while, just tell your rational brain to take a vacation. You’ll like where you go. Or else find it terrifying. I imagine that the main reason people find him compelling is that he creates a kick-ass cosmology that seems kind of like the Illuminatus Trilogy mixed with Star Trek and Star Wars – so who would want to live in a rational universe THEN?

  11. @Ashley.Ele:

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. It really doesn’t help when idiots offer their “prayer” advice. Totally off tangent, but along the same lines, I lost a baby and I loathed when people told me it was part of “god’s plan”. To which I responded, fuck his plan and fuck you. It made me feel sooooo much better.

  12. Alex Chiu! “New invention allows humans to live forever.” I was astonished the first time I saw this – immortality is so much simpler than I’d expected!

    From his site: “people are believed to be able to stay physically young forever by using his new inventions “The Eternal Life Rings” and “The Eternal Life Foot Braces”. ”

    AFAIK, exactly what it sounds like.

    The “Eternal Life Rings” are, per Wikipedia, plastic rings, with “two magnets … set in each ring, one above and one below the finger”

    In business since 1996, so presumably has many satisfied, or at least not dis-satisfied, customers.

    http://www.alexchiu.com/

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

  13. Raw-food pet diets are the bane of my professional existence.

    http://www.barfworld.com/

    “…many of our customers call our diet “The Miracle Diet'”

    And heeere come the testimonials!

    http://www.barfworld.com/html/barfworld/testimonials.shtml

    It cures all dermatological diseases, including fleas, pancreatitis, and the big K… (cancer).

    The fact is, I recommend commercial diets because they keep dogs in a state of poor health, which builds my business. But I’ve been foiled by those meddling kids!

  14. @Glow-Orb: Ha!! I had a friend who fed his dog a raw meat diet, fattest dog I’ve ever seen. He insisted that dogs need to eat meat because it’s “natural”, I (who had just done a paper for college on the evolution of wolves to dogs) pointed out that dogs evolved to eat human garbage, thus making them more omnivorous than carnivorous. So really, it’s more natural to leave the lid off the garbage bin and let the dog have at it. He insisted that his dog was part wolf.

    “Chuck, What makes you think your dog is part wolf?”
    “Because he howls at the moon”
    “My parent’s cocker spaniel howls at the moon,”

  15. @Pinkbunny: “I can’t see it therefore it doesn’t exist.” Awesome, my wife and I were talking about our intelligent, college educated neighbors and cousins who believe in all sorts of woo! I get the feeling that the sentiment goes “I’m a smart person, and I don’t understand it, therefore it doesn’t exist, also I’m pretty sure that those “experts” can’t be trusted, because they’re corrupted (money, drugs, the rock and roll lifestyle of the scientist). I’m sure I can figure it out myself.”

    What is equally infuriating is “I didn’t see it, therefore it does exist” I didn’t understand that light in the sky, therefore UFO’s exist, I didn’t understand what that thing in that picture is, therefore it’ a ghost, I didn’t understand what that smell was, therefore it’s Bigfoot’s dick, and he’s uncircumcised and doesn’t was behind his foreskin.

  16. Ok, for you my Masala Mistress, I wracked my brain and scoured the net for something I discovered in my misspent youth of urban legends and fringe science. It took me awhile, but at last I found it-

    Reflex Nasal Neuroses.

    What is it? Well, it’s the theory that the nose is connected to the genitals, and is, in itself a sexual organ. In other words – you can have nasally induced orgasms.

    It was postulated by Wilhelm Fliess, an otolaryngologist in Germany and friend of Sigmund Freud. He also came up with the idea of vital periodicity, which itself was a precursor to the pseudo-science of biorhythms.

    I wouldn’t have heard about any of this if I didn’t come across the story of Emma Eckstein, a patient of Freud’s. The good doctor referred her to Fliess to have surgery on her nose to relieve her premenstrual depression. I won’t go into the gory details, you’ll have to check out the article yourself.

    So, you’re thinking, “A fringe science from the 1900s? What are the chances that it’s still around today?

    Pretty good –

    http://nasaltechnologyspray.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/nasal-technology-for-better-orgasms/ – Like you didn’t expect an actual website?

    http://jezebel.com/5155026/want-better-orgasms-doctors-recommend-clit-pump-nasal-spray – Love the title.

    http://kalimna.blogspot.com/2008/03/functions-of-female-orgasm.html – It’s in a comment down below the main article.

    If I hadn’t read the bottom part of the Wiki article, I’d never had guessed it was still around, much less something people are looking into.

    Also, these articles from The Straight Dope and Snopes are nothing to sneeze at as well –

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/460/why-do-i-sneeze-after-every-orgasm

    http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/sneeze.asp

    Apologies for the long post. Just too much of too much!

  17. @skepticalhippie:

    I love the “natural” explanation for raw diets. Depending on my mood and how I read the client, I respond with one of the following:

    1) In nature, wild dogs only live to be about 5.

    2) These diets usually consist of ground beef. Wolves do not eat defrosted hamburger patties. Which leads to…

    3) Wolves eat fresh, whole animals. If you choose a raw diet, I recommend your Rottweiler receive two whole, fresh-killed rabbits daily. Small ones will be fine. What do you mean? Snake owners do it all the time.

    I’ll have to add the garbage argument.

  18. @Glow-Orb:

    I love that commercial dry dog food designed for dogs is unhealthy, but raw food with it’s parasites and food-borne bacteria are fine.

    YOU’RE KILLING YOUR DOG WITH EUKANUBA! (Wait, my dog will live to be 21 if I don’t feed him that? I love my dog and all but 21 years? No thank you!)

    But salmonella, e. coli, and mad fucking cow disease are just fine!

  19. @skepticalhippie:
    Yeah, watch me recommend that and then someone actually do what I say for a change!

    What I think is funny is that there are now commercial “raw” kibble diets. Turns out preparing meat for your pet is a lot of work and kind of gross. Things come full circle and laziness wins out.

  20. A few years back I heard a caller on Michael Medved’s conspiracy day: Apparently, Prince Charles has secretly converted to Greek Orthadox, and plans to make it the official church of England when he becomes king.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury got wind of this plan, and had Princess Diana killed as a warning.

  21. @skepticalhippie: I had a co-worker who was very intelligent, and yet believed every pseudo-science and conspiracy theory he read about or heard about on Coast-to-Coast. Except one: He knew we landed on the moon. Why? He’d made part of the lunar suit. It was his one glory, and he wasn’t going to part with it.

    Other than that, he’d really accomlished nothing, I believe because he drank too much. I came to the conclusion he believed in and talked about all the junk because it made him seem smart to alot of people, and made him feel important.

  22. @MiddleMan: Yeah, I’m a vet. I’m a small animal general practitioner. I’m about to start a job in a hospital that is associated with the ASPCA, but also serves the public, and does humane law enforcement.

    That vegan cat article wasn’t bad. Cats are indeed obligate carnivores. If fed primarily human food, they will often lack taurine and can develop heart disease and blindness as a result.

    This may be more than anyone ever wanted to know about animal foods, but here goes. Pet foods are not required to test their diets on animals. The only requirements are that they have to be what they say they are on the label (e.g., 30% protein, or contains chicken, whatever). If they are labeled “100% complete and balanced” they have to meet certain minimums; however, these are mathematical requirements. There is no requirement that these nutrients be biologically available to the animal.

    One thing about that link… Evolution Diet, the veg diet they mention, is run by Eric Weisman, who is not a vet, MD, nutritionist, or in any other way qualified to manufacture pet food. He also happens to practice (illegally IMHO) in my area. I need to tread lightly here, due to confidentiality issues, but lets just say that I became aware of his patients when working on the necropsy floor of a veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Is that clear enough?

    Nevermind the confidentiality. His advertises his use of the U of MN diagnostic lab as if we endorse him. Nice.

    His website is something else.
    http://www.petfoodshop.com/

    Tidbits:
    “Up to 30% longer life expectancy”
    I guess this is related to: “EVOLUTION fed [sic] documented large and small breed dogs are now living up to over 19 healthy human years and cats over 22 human years. ”
    Uh. So are animals that get Friskies and Alpo. Life expectancy is an average.

    “According to a U.S. Center For Disease Control Study on Dogs (2002), feeding 30% less results in a 30% increase in life expectancy.”
    The CDC doesn’t study pet foods. I think he is referring to a very influential study on longevity in dogs that were kept leaner. (That is, they weren’t fed 30% less food, they were fed 30% fewer calories). It was funded by Purina. (d’oh)

    I could go on, but I won’t. Sorry for the rant.

  23. @MiddleMan: A friend of mine had a coworker whose teenage daughter asked what an orgasm was like. The coworker said it was something like the relief upon sneezing. A few weeks later the daughter told the coworker, “It’s nothing like a sneeze.”

  24. @Glow-Orb: I feel your pain, Doc. I assisted the vets at my hospitals many times, and clients would listen to the doctors words with nodding heads, only to turn to me afterwards like I was some sort of translator for his/her alien tongue. Klattu Barada Niktu!

    It’s no surprise people fall for well-sold hyperbole. Especially if it concerns something they love very much.

    I’m about to start a job in a hospital that is associated with the ASPCA, but also serves the public, and does humane law enforcement.

    My hat’s off to you on that one. Not enough love and support for those who do what you do.

  25. *sigh*

    Here we go. My parents believe that:

    vaccines cause autism (my mom loves Jenny McCarthy’s books)
    their dog is in contact with the spirit world
    crystals can cure diseases
    the Secret is true
    dowsing with pendulums can answer any question

    And then, there’s the SCIO. It’s a “quantum biofeedback device” that can diagnose and cure anything, from cancer to anxiety to demonic possession (no, I am not kidding). They spent 18,000 dollars for the machine – it looks like a reject from a bad sci fi movie – and the “training” to use it on people.

    I’ve given up trying to talk to them about it. 18 grand can buy a whole lot of denial.

  26. A while back a letter was addressed to “GRAVITY AND WORLD ORDER” at the University of Arizona. Someone decided to send it to planetary sciences, and eventually it found its way online, along with information about the author and his book which is called, I kid you not, “The Theory of Everything is… Force, Reciprocal Force, and Compression that Cause Gravity and Create the Universe”

    Read about him and others here: http://www.descendingform.com/insanity/

  27. @ FloatingAway: my mother-in-law’s boyfriend has one of those biofeedback devices too! Apparently it can correctly predict when you have to pee. Worth every penny. They’re really nice people, but they also believe The Secret, and tea leaf reading psychics.

    A particularly woo-filled aunt of mine also informed me this christmas that she was going to visit some garden in the north of Scotland, which is apparently renowned for it’s beauty and lushness in such a rocky land. Fair enough. But the reason, she confided, that it’s so lush is not an access to an artesian well, centuries of sheep manure, and a fortuitously sheltered area with uncommonly deep soil as I guessed – oh no! – it’s that the garden keepers have formed a special relationship with the faery folk and earth spirits.

    While googling books and things said aunt has mentioned, I have also found a number of webforums for people who believe that they are elves or faeries (no not that kind of fairy), as well as vampires (google it, it’s fun in a laugh-til-you-lose-faith-in-humanity way!). It’s not enough to actually believe in supernatural crap anymore -you actually get to be supernatural crap!

    I’ve decided to write a book sexualizing werewolves, like Anne Rice for the vampire, and watch as the loonies come out of the woodwork claiming they’ve “always known, deep inside” that they were werewolves. That didn’t *actually* grow fur… but were kinda hirsute… and could howl at the moon if they wanted.

    And pretty much any google search of “Wicca” or my personal favourite, “The Burning Times”, will pull up pages of gratuitous self-delusion and historical myopia that certainly qualifies wicca as a genuine new religion.

  28. I love this – this guy sells such fabulous items as “nuclear receptors” and “holographic amulet projectors,” AKA magic jewelry, to, you know, align your chakras and protect you from radiation. N stuff. A quick solution for those looking to completely waste up to thousands of dollars!
    http://www.pyradyne.com/

  29. These are hilarious. What fun.

    But to think that sane and perhaps intelligent people believe this stuff…. It boggles the mind. Mind you, my sister, who is some kind of genius, strange but incredibly intelligent, nonetheless believes in that nonsense about jet contrails dusting the planet with some kind of toxic something or other.

    Bizarre beliefs that beggar belief indeed.

  30. Cat Dancing, cause it’s practically in scripture

    Also, according to the FAQ, “You have to put hours of time in to the pre-dance energy alignment exercises, like mirroring, remote stroking, mutual purring and so on, before most cats will dain to join you in the dance — and then it’s often for only a brief moment. The other problem people have is not being able to relax and let go of their doubts. Cats are extremely sensitive to our moods and people who are even slightly skeptical can easily put the cat off.”

    Damn. Guess I’m too skeptical to experience the splendor of my 20 lb marmalade doing The Freddy with me across my living room.

  31. When I was younger and read extensively about cryptozoology, I seem to recall reading Loren Coleman stating that the concept Bigfoot being Cain to be rubbish. I wish I had the link on hand to show it. I want to say he was referring to this book: http://www.amazon.com/Clan-Cain-Genesis-Shane-Lester/dp/1931391467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243198531&sr=8-1

    For those who do not recognized the name Loren Coleman, he is huge proponent of Bigfoot and cryptozoology.

  32. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to add anything to this discussion until I got this woo-filled e-mail from my fundamentalist niece about how the current iteration of H1N1 flu was engineered by the Masons, and you have to beware of the vaccine that will come out in the fall because it is intended to kill 12 out of 13 people so that “they” can cull the herd and usher in martial law. The organization behind the e-mail is International Advocates for Health Freedom which seems to be all about deregulating medicine to let any quack practice whatever woo they want.

    It was frightening to see that a relative believed this shit, but her parents are extreme fundamentalists, so I guess she didn’t fall far from the tree.

  33. @Elyse: I have friends who make their own dog food, but it’s not raw. Their poor dog is allergic to just about everything. They find he stays healthier if they make their own food. They call it “dog loaf”. And yes, one drunken night we tried it. It’s very bland but not bad. They did a LOT of research and got specifics from their vet. And it’s not raw, that’s for sure.

  34. Here is something I never thought possible (all of these links have provided me with great mirth during the last two slow work days):
    10 000$ to learn to become a “Breatharian” ; live without food, be strong without working out. Not only that, but your teacher isn’t only a man, he’s combined souls with uh….KUTHUMI, CHOHAN OF THE GOLD RAY OF LOVE AND WISDOM.
    So yeah. “Breatharian”.

  35. @Clockwork: As silly as his shapes in ice rants are, some of his evaluations are spot-on. The cigarette ads for Parliament Cigarettes… well, I’m a former smoker, and I know exactly why I used to smoke, and seeing those ads makes me really, really want a cigarette. I’m not usually a sucker for advertising, either.

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