Friday, April 18, 2008

And They Never Saw The Invisible Pink Unicorn Coming

I was in debate with my coworker regarding the issue of spiritualists, psychics, faith healers, mystics, soothsayers and other such superstitious nonsense.  It was in particular reference to the UK implementing a new law that ensures that anyone representing themselves as providing a supernatural service must provide the burden of proof that their service is in fact genuine.  You can read all about it here >.

My coworker had a friend who is now deceased because she visited a homeopathic healer (read herb store) after she'd noticed a lump on her breast.  She was duly administered her magic herbs.  By the time she'd gotten herself into the hands of capable professional medical practitioners it was too late.  My coworker was quite rightly very annoyed, not only at her friend for her naiveté, but also directed at the fraud who led her friend to her agonizing death.

So I was surprised to lean of my coworkers opinion during the above discussion that it is not possible to measure these things and some people are just "born with the gift".  Obviously the murderer of her friend had not been born with the gift.  She insisted that these are intangible things and beyond the scope of science.

Oh the power of denial in the human mind, I am in total despair.  Now don't get me wrong, my coworker is a fine person and way above average intelligence.

My rebuttal was that it is indeed a quality we can measure.  If the frauds and the "real" gifted mediums predictions, results are measured we should find two things.  One, the fraudulent mediums will have results that correspond to blind chance, and two, the real mediums will show results that are in no way in line with blind chance.  I will agree with the "real" medium's claims of predictive gift if he/she can predict the outcome of a coin toss with 80% accuracy over 1000 flips of the coin.  The expected result will be 50% correct.  So the "real" medium will demonstrably show superior results to the fraud.  And if not, if the results are the same and correspond to the predictions of chance, then the "real" medium with the intangible non-measurable gift can be lumped with the fraud category.  Correct?

The burden of proof is on the person with the claim.  So I claimed to my coworker that I can become invisible.  She of course asked me to prove my claim true with a demonstration.  I of course responded that she could not prove that I cannot become invisible.  So we put it to the test.  I asked her to leave the room, count to 10 and return.  When she re-entered there I was sitting in my chair in plain view with a big smile on my face.  "See, you cannot become invisible!" she said.

"Au contraire, I was invisible the entire time you were in the other room, and you cannot prove that I wasn't"  was my reply.

Of course she couldn't disprove my claim.  So she insisted that I make myself invisible while she watches.  "That's just the thing, I can only make myself invisible when nobody is watching.  I know it kind of defeats the purpose, but I can't choose the rules of my supernatural gifts."

So what's your opinion, did the test meet sufficiently with observable, testable evidence to prove that I can indeed make myself invisible? Should I be publishing a paper for peer review?  Can you deliver my Nobel prize to a PO Box number?

But this kind of thinking, and "evidence of proof" is used time and time again by these charlatans and frauds, and of course our religious friends too, "you can't see or feel god because he will not reveal himself to atheists, but if you truly accepted jebus christ you would know god because he would touch you with his love".  See what I mean?

The population at large needs to be educated to understand 1) where the burden of proof lies, 2) what constitutes evidence or proof, and 3) no, just because I said it is so does not make it so.

I hope this helped the fraudulent fuckers who scam the innocent and naive see the error of their ways and go and get proper jobs, but I somehow doubt it.