In a room of people from a similar demographic, all with interest in necromancy, it shouldn’t take a highly empathetic individual to astutely isolate many facts about one person through what is called “cold reading”. From what I’ve heard of a blind cold reading – where the reading is done by an individual blind to the audience behind them and tells them what they are receiving from the ether – it sounds more like (and indeed appears to work as such) to be more akin to a game of “Guess Who?” played out with real people than anything mystical.
And yet devotees of such practices see such as the strongest evidence proving the validity of their faith.
If, instead, the cluster of people involved one individual from a wide range of demographics globally or individuals from a demographic that the reader had no prior experience with, I strongly doubt they could claim such accuracy. It’s far easier, for instance to “read” the mind of a dear loved one than it is a stranger. It’s easier to “read” the mind people within your local demographic than it is someone whom has lived a radically different life elsewhere. And it is far easier to “read” the mind of someone whom has lived that radically different life than it would be an individual of a different species.
The same could be said whether you’re claiming to read the mind of the individual or receiving revelations from the “other side”.
The reason for this should be obvious. It’s not mystical, but rather the evolved processes of a highly intelligent social species. We need to build models of other peoples’ minds to make predictions of their future actions for our own planning. It is not demons or angles whispering in our ear, but instead a wonderfully sophisticated organic computer we call our brain.
This objection to New Age theologies remains a perpetual throne in my side because the believers of such faiths use pseudoscience techniques for their credibility whilst openly rejecting hard won scientific evidence.
It doesn’t matter on what subject, eventually New Agers expose themselves just as any believer of old world religions does to denounce evidence that is contrary to their belief. With New Agers, it tends to be around medical science (although, I have also encountered similar in relation to environmental science, such as climate change – “Mother Earth is far more powerful than you give her credit” etc). To them, medical science wishes to pump us full of nasty chemicals that make us more sick than they heal us, when perfectly good alternatives already exist, such as; traditional Chinese medicines, crystal energy, homeopathy, aromatherapy and naturopathy.
Tim Minchin puts it best where he describes the difference between “natural therapy” and medication derived from medical science in that the difference is that the former has either not been proven to work or proven not to work. Where is has been proven to work, via the rigorous scientific methodology it becomes the latter.
My favourite example of which is the use of fats from the South American electric eel (now, synthetically produced) to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. In fact, in many cultures, “natural remedies” have worked well and have been explored by medical science. Here’s a list of traditional remedies used in Brazil which include the electric eel.
Within science, this practice is called bio-prospecting. Where science can prove that a traditional remedy works in a statistically higher number of patients than a placebo, it then attempts to answer how?
In many cases, the compounds can be isolated through this investigation and synthetically produced – identical to the naturally derived compounds without the need for continual harvest.
A wide range of medicinal products now have resulted from natural remedies. Science is not ignorant or close-minded to alternatives. It merely wishes to understand it.
On the other hand, many natural remedies plugged by those appealing to the New Agers haven’t undergone such rigorous testing. Worse than simply being untested, many could do the user more harm than good as they can “Mother Earth”.
For instance, the illegal hunting of rhinoceros for their horns which ultimately provide exactly the same level of arousal in the consumer as that if they ate their own hair or finger nails. Many wild and fearsome creatures meet a similar fate in the pursuit of ridiculous aspirations of power and health.
On the other hand, homeopathy aims to treat patients with compounds that are in fact highly deadly. Luckily for the consumer however, it is exceedingly unlikely that even one molecule of the deadly stuff will even be in the expense bottle of snake oil. The problem here, as with the various roots and potions supplied by New Age practitioners, the evidence to back them up (as with the cold readings) is at best, anecdotal. In some cases, as with electric eel fat, there may be something of medicinal value within the compound provided. However, there are also many other harmful compounds also within the “medicine”. There’s no guarantee that the administration advice is even useful.
Alternatively, there could be nothing of medicinal value within the junk bought at high price. When the medical condition is life threatening the alarm bells for dabbling in such a murky arena should be their loudest.
But I know firsthand that they’re not. I have been told that a heart condition, resulting in a pacemaker being installed was only, should have killed the individual by now and that it was only natural therapy that kept them alive so long (excusing, quite happily, the machinery faithfully keeping the heart pumping). “Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed.
Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved,” is yet another great quote from Tim Minchin.
The danger is that in entertaining such delusions, we simply reinforce potentially harmful belief systems. We breed scientific ignorance and confidence in circumstantial evidence in lieu of genuine data. We entertain a new dark age. This scares the hell out of me, more so for my children.
I detest the notion that there are other ways of “knowing” – knowing what exactly? Morality may have been the only real arena where science may have taken time to develop the tools for, but Sam Harris has bridged that gap.
The idea of revelation is absurd and mocks brilliant minds among the ages. The most important information that could have ever been revelled to us – as important as fire in my perspective – would have been how to make effective soap. It’s a simple recipe and has made a radical difference to human health. The documented revelations mainly based around morals which seemed to have benefited a group of people at the time and are today mostly outdated. I feel confident in stating that no revelation exists of compelling mystical conviction.
Ultimately, New Agers disappoint me. It’s clear they haven’t received a good scientific training – especially in critically reviewing information – but more than that, the necromancy depreciates the wonder of life itself. There is no reason why it should have occurred at all and that it did and eventually lead to one’s existence is at once highly unlikely and of immense value. Why on Earth waste this rare and brief chance on the eternity which is so prolific it bears no value?
It’s like sitting on the beach with a dearly loved one whom has baked a delicious cupcake and instead you would prefer to eat the sand that stretches off into the distance. They overlook the sheer wonder and beauty of life around them in some vain obsession in an elusive and most likely nonexistent “other-ness” parallel to old world religions.