Snake Oil and physics

Interesting programme last night by Derren Brown , exploring the willingness of spiritual/New Age/alien-abductionist/evangelicals in the US to accept Brown (under assumed identities) as a possessor of spiritual abilities, which of course fit with their particular school. To his credit Brown did not mock them, although by demonstrating mediumship, laying on of hands and remote viewing while claiming emphatically he did it all by learned psychological techniques available to anyone, he could be guilty of manipulating the believers, particularly those who trusted him as a medium. He made his point well about the lack of challenge and rigour in these groups, although it would have been more complete had he been able to discuss with them afterwards what he had done and its implications. They could also have had a right to reply.

In a related area, one thing I’m suspicious of in many ‘spiritual’ writings is the number of calls upon the terminology of quantum physics to justify the claims of the writers; these often display no more knowledge than can be gleaned from the odd New Scientist article or website and extrapolate wildly from it.  I came across the following, reported as coming from a member of the Skeptic Society, aimed particularly at Deepack Chopra, but applicable to many:


==> Generates Awe

==> Patches spotty arguments

==> Easily explains the inexplicable

==> More profound than “relativity”

==> More satisfying than “vibrates at a higher frequency”



Thanks to Albemuth of the Krimson News discussion board for this.

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