“Walking on coals to a higher vortex” (Pseudoscience)

QUACKERS

Science doesn’t know everything. If it did, we would have stopped doing science. But limits on science does not mean that the unexplained is inexplicable. Some will try to fill in the gaps with supernatural or paranormal explanations. A much better idea is to continue the quest for knowledge.

Fire walking was once thought to be mystical and indicative of a greater power. Then science revealed that coal has a poor ability to contain and conduct heat. Hence, walking on coals is similar to putting your hand in a 350 degree oven, not like touching the pan.

Proclaiming to have inexplicable mystic powers is only one way the pseudoscientist operates. Another common technique is creating a scientific façade through linguistics. Online, I found this gem about gems: “All crystals have a magnetic energy flow and this energy is able to be channeled in order to increase frequency to encourage healing. It opens a vortex to the higher realms to receive and transmit messages from your guides and helpers. Crystals have a strong energy and they are useful for using in a grid formation to protect an area or place from negative energy.”

We have a reference to magnetism, which is genuine physics. We have energy, which science defines as the ability to do work. Also thrown into the mix are vortex, healing, transform, and grid. This language is designed to display air of legitimacy, but the terms as they are applied here are medically worthless. Without a double blind study and critical peer review, these claims are without merit.

Another ploy is claiming to be the latest in a long line of misunderstood and eventually vindicated geniuses. It’s true that ridicule was heaped on Copernicus, the Wright brothers, and Alfred Wegner. But far more wannabes were scoffed at for good reason. Flying in the face of conventional wisdom takes guts, but not necessarily a lot of brainpower. Most heretical ideas are wrong. This doesn’t mean they should be dismissed out of hand, but they must be looked into.

Some people are convinced that sleeping with a bar of soap prevents their legs from cramping. This could be true and there might be a chemical reason behind it. But it could also be selective memory or the result of the cramping having been mitigated for other reasons. Until a double blind study confirms the results, this is not a scientific claim.

If the soap test is ever carried out, legitimate researchers will accept whatever conclusion is reached. That’s the way science works. Biologist Teruhiko Wakayama appeared to make a groundbreaking discovery in stem cell research. He deduced that stem cells could be made quickly and cheaply by dipping them in acid and converting them to the biological building blocks. But after the experiment could not be duplicated, Wakayama acknowledged he had reached the wrong conclusion. He also requested that he no longer be considered for an award he had been nominated for.

Contrast this to Sylvia Browne when she met with public failure. On The Montel Williams Show, an audience member told Browne her boyfriend had never been found. Browne said this was because he was under water. The guest then offered that he had died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Aided by apologist Williams, Browne spun a wildly improbable tale that a firefighter’s misdirected hose may have been the reason for the boyfriend’s demise.

Another time, parents were trying to figure out how their son died. When Browne told them he was shot, the parents responded that he had been in his room and collapsed. Again, Browne and Williams attempted a ludicrous spin. They offered he might have been hit in the chest somehow, someway, leading to cardiac arrest, and that this magically equated to being killed by a firearm.

Science has its limits. Not so pseudoscience, which has infinte power to stretch logic and mangle reason.

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