Archive for the ‘Pseudo-science’ Category

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Another ‘Berlin’ post: Arthur Koestler & the story of his great novel Darkness at Noon

February 10, 2019

The author, journalist and multifaceted thinker Arthur Koestler (1905-83) lived, on and off, in Berlin from the mid 1920s until 1932. I studied his work when I was at university, reading many of his books except, including his great anti-communist novel, Darkness at Noon (published in 1940).

I was deeply affected by pretty much all his works: his account of his life as a (Jewish) communist in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis, his incarceration under a death sentence in one of Franco’s prisons. But I was also profoundly affected by his ideas: his struggle to free himself from the mid-forged manacles of communism and cultish thinking in general; his philosophical explorations trying to make sense of human nature…

I forgot about him for a couple of decades, but began re-reading him a few years ago. Living as I was at that time in Berlin, I suddenly realised that not only had his ideas influenced me far more deeply than I had expected, but also that many incidents from his life story occurred in parts of Berlin that I knew well. His work had always seemed extremely real – something that very few people manage to do when writing about the Nazis, but this added a dimension for me.

But despite having written one of the great novels of the twentieth century, there are no memorials or plaques to Koestler in Berlin. In the red brick buildings of the artists’ colony in Bonner Strasse where he lived, there are plaques memorialising many of the anti-Nazi activists, but none noting the domicile of one of the most important authors of the twentieth century.

The buildings housing the artists’ colony in Bonner Straße where Koestler lived until 1932

Plaque commemorating one of the artists — none for Koestler

Koestler’s undeserved non-fame in Germany is, in fact, easier to understand in the light of the extremely unusual history of his most famous book.

Arthur Koestler (probably in the 1930s)

Koestler had conceived of Darkness at Noon amidst tumultuous events of one of the most tumultuous times in world history. Having witnessed the rise of the Nazis, he had also just evaded a death sentence during incarceration in Spain. He escaped to France, but the Nazis soon invaded, forcing him to flee Paris to southern France. His partner, Daphne Hardy, had managed to translated the novel into English and send it to London before they had to flee again as the Nazi invasion rolled southwards.

Unfortunately in the chaos of this flight Koestler left the manuscript — the only copy — on the kitchen table. The translation thus effectively became the original.

And, it should be noted, the original translation had been further hampered by the fact that Hardy, was a sculptor, not a writer. The sharp edge of German communist terminology was often lost in a clunky transliteration, or simply skipped over. Other times she added elements to text that were not in the original. Her task was made even more difficult by Koestler’s highly strung nature, already exacerbated by the circumstances.

Yet Hardy’s translation and, above all Koesatler’s searingly insightful and tragic narrative, were sufficient for the book to be ranked No. 8 in the US Modern Library’s list of the Top 100 English language novels of all time.

In 2016, in an extraordinary twist of fate, a German doctoral student (Matthias Weßel) was reading through the contents list for a box of Koestler’s papers in a Swiss archive when he came across a listing for a manuscript titled Rubaschow — known to be the working title of Darkness at Noon. Incredibly, the manuscript that Koestler had left on a kitchen table in France had somehow landed in this archive and sat there for decades undiscovered.

In September of 2018, it was published for the first time in German.

Finally published in September 2018 (Koestler’s working title was Rubaschow. Translator Daphne Hardy suggested the English title.

Not many books become classics 78 years before they are published! And, I suppose, this also means it’s no longer a great English language novel.

Darkness at Noon dropped like an intellectual bombshell in 1940, upon many whose sympathies for communism had been heightened by a loathing for Nazism. When translated into French, “it was one of the primary reasons the Communist Party never came to power in France, a real possibility at the time”. This claim may sound exaggerated, but Anne Applebaum (the author of the this quote) is not given to hyperbole, and is not the only historian to reach this conclusion.

A German edition, (reverse translated with Koestler’s help) was published for that country in 1946.

Printed in London in 1946 for distribution in Germany but suppressed by the Allies! (Not a museum exhibit: my copy bought on Amazon for €1)

Like so much in Koestler’s life, there is a bizarre story attached to this event: the Occupying Forces in Germany, wanting to appease their new ally Joseph Stalin, suppressed the book and prohibited its distribution. (To add yet another layer of absurdity to this, Koestler’s application to emigrate to the US was rejected due to his communist background.)

In the novel, a communist leader, Vladimir Salmanovich Rubashov, has been arrested and is about to be tried for treason. His interrogator, Ivanov, (an old friend of Rubashov’s) has just told Rubashov he must sign a confession of treason or face execution. Rubashov asks,

“Why actually do you people intend to have me shot?”

Ivanov let a few seconds go by. He smoked and drew a few figures with his pencil on the blotting-paper. He seemed to be searching for the exact words.

Listen, Rubashov,” he said finally. “There is one thing I would like to point out to you. You have repeatedly said ‘you’, meaning State and Party, as opposed to ‘I’ – that is, Nicolas Salmanovitch Rubashov. For the public, one needs, of course, a trial and legal justification. For us, what I have just said should be enough.”

Rubashov thought this over; he was somewhat taken aback. For a moment, it was as if Ivanov had hit a tuning fork, to which his mind responded of its own accord….

Rubashov immediately recognised the error that had crept into his thinking. His great personal weakness: he could not prevent himself from considering the perspective of others. He had begun to hesitate and reflect rather than carry out orders: revealing unacceptable doubts about the inexorable course of history that the Party embodied. He had begun to feel guilt — a petit bourgois sentiment entirely foreign to historical necessity. Either he would decide that his tendency towards self-reflection was correct and thus betray the Party; or he must recognise his fallibility and maintain his faith in the Party.

Koestler himself had internalised communist logic that the interrogator Ivanov so deftly expresses. As a brilliant thinker of rather unstable personality, communism no doubt gave him a structure he could accept and submit himself to. As a Jew in Berlin in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he, quite accurately, saw the Party as the most powerful opponent of Nazism.

But for Koestler this it wasn’t just Realpolitik. He ultimately highlighted three characteristics of communism that made it especially persuasive: the way it used idea that the end justifies the means as a way of evading ethics; communism as a kind of religious faith; and that it carried a built in mechanism for disabling all criticism of Stalinism, and all self-reflection. These are of course, all interrelated.

He quotes, in Darkness at Noon, a declaration from a 15th century bishop:

“When the existence of the Church is threatened, she is released from the commandments of morality. With unity as its end, the use of every means is sanctified, even cunning, treachery, violence, simony, prison, death. For all order is for the sake of the community, and the individual must be sacrificed to common good.”

Koestler has Rubashov struggling with his doubts in his cell:

The ultimate truth is penultimately always a falsehood. He who will be proved right in the end appears to be wrong and harmful before it.

But who will be proved right? It will only be known later. Meanwhile he is bound to act on credit and sell his soul to the devil, in the hope of absolution.

(Incidentally, the incongruous phrase ‘sell his soul to the devil’ is not in the original German — an example of an addition by Hardy.)

Later Rubashov, compares his own own strength of conviction to that of the leader of Party (clearly based on Stalin).

No. 1 has faith in himself, tough, slow, sullen, unshakable. He has the most solid anchor chain of all. Mine has worn thin in the last four years… The fact is: I no longer believe in my infallibility. That is why I am lost.

The context in the novel is the tumultuous years of war and, within Russia, the attempted transformation of an agrarian society into an industrial super power at high speed. History was, so to speak cutting a destructive course through tens of millions of lives, regardless of which side was right or wrong.

Rubashov realises his self-doubt not only sets him outside the Party, but even prevents him from criticising the Party decisively. No one who doubts themselves believes they will be proven right by history. He ultimately goes to his execution still suspecting that No. 1 may be right after all.

Koestler himself, however, was able to extricate himself from this mental prison and clearly perceive the true nature of Stalin’s purges:

It is a logical contradiction when with uncanny regularity the leadership sees itself obliged to undertake more and more bloody operations within the movement, and in the same breath insists that the movement is healthy. Such an accumulation of grave surgical interventions points with much greater likelihood to the existence of a much more serious illness.

In Spain in the mid 1930s, Koestler had witnessed Stalin’s betrayal of Spanish communists. But his encounters with fascism also began to sow seeds of doubt about. He had decided to remain in Malaga to as the only journalist to report on the fall of that city to Franco’s troops in 1937, when he was arrested. Managing to evade summary execution, he was transported to Seville where he was incarcerated for 90 days in solitary confinement. Franco had signed an order for his execution.

Koestler’s mugshot upon his arrest in Malaga 1937

His status as foreign journalist working for an English newspaper seems to have delayed his execution long enough for Hardy and some English diplomats to successfully petition Franco for his release.

It wasn’t his so much his own apparently imminent execution that challenged Koestler’s communist beliefs — his ideological training had prepared him for that. And the amount of suffering and death he had witnessed in the preceding years had inured him to self-pity. Koestler later estimated that several thousand prisoners must have been executed in that prison during the period of his incarceration in Seville. As a communist he could have marked this up in the historical ledger as a fascist war crime. But he could not help but recognise an appalling reflection in the actions and mentality of Franco’s army. He could no longer use the exigencies of supposed historical necessity to cloak his conscience.

But something else happened to Koestler too during his incarceration that, as he later put it, demolished the foundations of his communism at a subconscious level.

To explain it, he borrowed a term from William James: the oceanic experience. Having lost everything except his own consciousness, and despite the agonies and deprivations he was being subjected to, he seems to have experienced intervals of profound peacefulness, or bliss. He didn’t quite realise it at the time, but it propelled him out of the ideological trap he had so deliberately entered.

His communist training — his conception of consciousness as the product of the economic substructure — simply had no place for this experience.

His extraordinary prison diary, published as Dialogue With Death, recounts his arrest and internment in a manner that is infused with this light. He writes of his own pain and terror in a way that is oddly neutral or non-emotional, yet vivid in detail. His horror and disgust are often palpable in his writing, but the sense of ‘drama’ that is usually to be found in accounts such as these, is entirely absent. In fact, this peculiar light imbues all his autobiographical writings, as well as Darkness at Noon.

His obsession in later life with pseudo-science is also largely a product of this, and I think he has been a little too harshly judged by history for this weakness.

That Darkness at Noon would end with Rubashov’s execution was intimated from the beginning of the book. But its unforgettable final passage is drawn from an incident in Spain. Koestler, being held after his arrest in a police station in Malaga was being forced to watch the brutal treatment of other suspects. The young soldiers seemed to be from elsewhere, but an older police officer doing paper work was probably, he surmised, a local. Koestler began surreptitiously observing this man for his reactions — he had probably lived and worked here all his life and must be shocked to find himself swept up in these events. The officer eventually noticed Koestler watching him, and at one point when another victim was being dragged out, he half-looked at Koestler and gave a barely perceptible shrug of his shoulders.

Thus, the final passage of Darkness at Noon — the moment when Rubashov is executed — somehow manages to contain an echo of both the oceanic feeling and this man’s helpless indifference:

A second smashing blow hit him on the ear. Then all became quiet. There was the sea again with its sounds. A wave slowly lifted him up. It came from afar and traveled sedately on, a shrug of eternity.

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Rudolf Steiner, Racism, Nazis & why Anthroposophy doesn’t grow up

August 24, 2015

Anthroposophy was developed by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) in the early part of last century. It is best known for Waldorf Schools and Biodynamic farming. I studied it quite deeply for several years in my youth. I read a mountain of books, attended training courses and a national conference, and taught at their schools. (This was in the late 1980s and early 90s.) I seriously considered a career as a teacher in the Waldorf School system, and became a member of the Anthroposophical Society. I even went to their head quarters in Switzerland, a visit I still happily remember.

Goetheanum_im_Winter_von_Südwesten2The Goetheanum: designed by Rudolf Steiner

Several things troubled me however, most especially that some aspects of Anthroposophy appeared surprisingly racist. I put up with it for a while, believing that it only sounded racist because of the culture Steiner came from. My tolerance level was also raised because, as I was frequently told, the Nazis had closed the Waldorf schools. I accepted the implication that Anthroposophy must be the very antithesis of Nazism.

It is indeed true that Waldorf schools in Germany were ordered to close by Heinrich Himmler. But here’s a word of advice to Anthroposophists: if you tell people that your movement was persecuted by the Nazis, you also need to tell the rest of the story. Like the fact that Rudolf Hess supported Anthroposophy and wanted to keep the schools open. Why wasn’t I told that?

And why wasn’t I told that although Himmler didn’t like the schools (indeed his subordinate, Reinhard Heydrich closed some Waldorf Schools), he did like Biodynamic agriculture? Even more importantly there was a Biodynamic farm at Dachau concentration camp. Weleda, (the Anthroposophical company well known today for cosmetics), provided doctors at Dachau with chemical supplies for experiments on prisoners. But I never heard anything about that when I was told about the closing of the schools.

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There is no taboo on studying psychic phenomena, just boredom

October 20, 2013

Regular commenter (and blogger) @lettersquash left a great comment here yesterday. I want to write a quick post picking up an important point from it. It concerns the repeated yammering from parapsychologists and psychic researchers (not to mention cancer quacks) that mainstream science has a taboo against studying psychic phenomena. Lettersquash notes that Rupert Sheldrake, for example,

rails against the taboo against studying psychic phenomena, although people have been studying it for centuries (and finding nothing).

The ‘taboo’ is boredom, the boredom some of us feel when someone tells us enthusiastically their house is haunted or they saw a spaceship land on their lawn last night or they know their dog can understand everything they’re saying….

The whole rant is excellent and well worth reading and responding to. I will post a few quick thoughts on this topic here…..

It seems to me that far from having a taboo about spiritual or psychic phenomena, scientists and serious researchers have been especially accommodating of such ideas. If people were not so emotionally invested in these ideas (and I include scientists here) there is no way that science would have wasted so much time and energy on them. Yet regardless of how many times such claims are demolished by properly conducted research, and such ideas are shown to be utterly useless by the laws of physics, nutbags like Rupert Sheldrake or Dean Radin continue to insist that it’s merely because of a taboo that these ideas have not entered mainstream science. No. It’s because these presumptious nitwits have published their poorly researched failures too quickly and are too egotistical or too greedy to back down.

The history of science is littered with failed hypotheses and disproven theories. Even very popular and plausible ones were swiftly dispatched pretty much as soon as it became clear that they were implausible. The theory that gravity was due to the existence of an “ether” through which the planets moved was dropped as soon as Newton figured out the math for measuring the exact velocity of planets at all points of their (elliptical) orbits. He was shocked to find that it they moved exactly according to his theoretical calculations which deliberately ignored the effects of the resistance he expected to find. (Like air resistance, it was supposed that ether would also cause a slight drag.) Had ether been equated with the Holy Ghost, or — a more relevant example — been supposed to be the medium through which we can communicate with the dead, we would probably still be forced to speak of it respectfully in hushed tones and fund research into why science “can’t explain” how it allows planets to move through it without resistance.

It’s an insult to science and to scientists to claim this taboo exists. Science itself is the process by which evidence is evaluated for its reliability and usefulness. Scientific method is entirely concerned with this, and scientific knowledge can be said to consist of those things which are so well established that it no longer makes any sense to test it. It’s not that difficult to realize that this valuable knowledge has implications — namely that we don’t need to waste time on investigating clearly implausible ideas.

If there is a taboo it’s against treating religious ideas exactly the same as other ideas and dismissing them when they have been clearly shown to be useless.

Of course, it’s fine if people want to go on gathering data and carrying out experiments (though why not try conducting them properly for once???). Maybe one day you’ll hit the jackpot. ESP will be proven to exist and we will be able to read minds with exactly the same accuracy as if we were guessing; homeopathy will be proven and we’ll be able to heal people just as effectively as a placebo; psychics will legitimately be able to help police find missing children with exactly the same success rate as random chance…. And a Golden Age will ensue….

UPDATE 17 June 2014

I wasn’t joking in the comments below when I warned of a $20 fine for any commenter linking to a paranormal claim that has already been thoroughly debunked. Unfortunately, one commenter below posted this link to a book containing a veritable encyclopedia of idiotic charlatans and woos, (Uri Geller, for example) and a long list of fraudulent and debunked woo practices (Kirlian photography, for example). Many of these topics are no longer worthy of consideration, beyond serving as rather mundane cases studies of well documented fraud, delusion, and ignorance. 

For this act, I hereby fine commenter Roman Voronjanski $20 to be paid to Doctors Without Borders. As an act of clemency, however, a fitting donation has been paid by this website on behalf of the offender. Please do not offend again. Next time I won’t pay it, and you will be placed on moderation until you do.

spende
Confirmation notice – €20 donation (click to enlarge if you can read German)

Posted by Yakaru

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Rupert Sheldrake’s Science Delusion — Part 2: Delusions of Dogma

October 27, 2012

If you haven’t read Part One, please do that first, because you’ll get a summing up of the whole thing in the first few paragraphs and you might decide Sheldrake has made such a mess of it that it’s not even worth bothering to read on!

Rupert Sheldrake, as we saw in Part One, claims that modern science is based on ten dogmas. Further, he claims these dogmas force scientists to exclude all evidence for spiritual phenomena regardless of merit. But before diving back into the list where we left off in Part One, I want to point out two more disastrous flaws in Sheldrake’s argument.

One is that it’s not just spiritual ideas that science has discarded over the last few centuries. A massive number of hypotheses that would perfectly fit into what Sheldrake sees as science’s “mechanistic dogma” have also been discarded. Why? Because they didn’t work. But why does Sheldrake think these mechanistic theories were discarded, if the only standard for proof he sees operating is adherence to a mechanistic dogma?

Obviously, if he will allow that strict and fair rules of evidence were applied to mechanistic theories, then why would these suddenly be suspended on ideological grounds for spiritual ideas? Such behavior would leave a very clear paper trail, wouldn’t it, Dr Sheldrake. Where is it, and why didn’t you discuss that in this lecture?

A second problem — even more immediate — is that he has failed to discuss real life scenarios where scientific “dogma” was seriously challenged. How do scientists react in such a case? Consider the neurtrino incident. The sequence of events is recounted here in a few newspaper headlines:

According to Sheldrake, the reporting scientists would simply be ignored or openly chastised for daring to question the dogma. Or the anomaly would have been ignored by the discoverers themselves, either through dogmatic blindness or fear of God, as Sheldrake argues below. But that’s not what happened, and Sheldrake does not discuss this incident.

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Rupert Sheldrake’s Science Delusion — Part 1: Dogma & Denial

October 21, 2012

Rupert Sheldrake recently published a book called The Science Delusion. It was accompanied by a public lecture tour of the same name, and this two part series of posts is based on one of these lectures.

As will be argued below, Sheldrake’s understanding of science is itself delusory. He grossly misrepresents the nature of modern science, and commits the very same errors he has accused science of making: defining things into and out of reality, dismissing evidence out of hand, and failing to question his own assumptions.

Sheldrake simply blanks out hundreds of years of the history of science, and completely ignores entire fields of scientific inquiry. Repeatedly, he presents the whole of modern science as if it is a minor and rather primitive branch of speculative philosophy, run by a cabal of cynical, incompetent and power-hungry priests.

He asserts that modern science is based on ten dogmas, all of which originated at a particular juncture in history several hundred years ago, and which have been blindly maintained ever since, without regard for evidence.

What his argument requires him to do, then, is to show that these dogmas:

a) really exist in modern science;
b) hinder scientific progress or skew research; and
c) show that his alternative would serve scientific advancement.

As will become clear below, he does the following instead:

a) fails to correctly identify the assumptions that science really uses;
b) ignores all research and all progress in all the sciences; and
c) simply demands the right to tinker philosophically with the theoretical foundations of science, without regard for evidence.

This post is based on an hour-long public lecture (which he won’t allow anyone to embed) in which Sheldrake presents the main arguments of his book.

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Blogging “The Power”: A critique of Rhonda Byrne – Part 5: Masuro Emoto

May 13, 2012

The in depth look at Rhonda Byrne’s Secret follow up, The Power continues….

The brain, Rhonda Byrne tells us, is 80% water.

In Ms Byrne’s case this is extremely easy to believe…..

She continues:

Researchers in Japan, Russia, Europe, and the United States have discovered that when water is exposed to positive words and feelings such as love and gratitude, the energy level of the water not only increases, but the structure of the water changes, making it perfectly harmonious.

The higher the positive feeling, the more beautiful and harmonious the water becomes. When water is exposed to negative emotions, such as hate, the energy level of the water decreases, and chaotic changes occur, negatively affecting the structure of the water.

So, if water is affected by our thoughts and emotions, we can turn our brains into big slush puddles of positivity, just by controlling our thoughts. We can use this positively magnetized pot of gruel to attract other positively magnetized objects to ourselves, through the “scientifically proven” Law of Attraction!!!

But before we get too carried away, let’s look at some of the fascinating “research” that Byrne is referring to. (I’ve dealt in previous posts with Byrne’s failure to realize that magnets attract their opposite pole, and the narcissistic stupidity of trying to attribute “positive” and “negative” charges to events and objects; and the stubborn refusal of human flesh to behave like a magnet, whether positive or negative.)

… 

One of Byrne’s heroes, Masuro Emoto, is probably already known to her readers, as he was featured in the smash hit pseudo-science-fiction movie What the Bleep. Emoto’s work certainly demonstrates the extraordinary power of classical pseudo-scientific method:

1. Rig up an experiment to produce the effects you desire

2. Carefully record the results

3. Run with them to the PR department as quickly as possible

Emoto’s experiments were simple and elegant: he put water in scientific looking vials and taped words to the outside, or played music, or prayed. He froze the water and photographed the crystals that formed with a powerful microscope. Without fail, the photographs reflected his hypothesis: the vials that had words like “love” taped to them formed nice crystals; those with words like “hate” or “scamming shit-weasel” taped to them produced ugly ones.

 “Love” 

 “You make me sick”

As chemist Stephen Lower points out, ice crystals form differently according to the rate of freezing and other conditions. Furthermore, the different crystal formations don’t mean that the water’s chemical structure is changed as Byrne claims. It just means that the water formed different shaped crystals.

Emoto didn’t blind his experiments either – of course, he doesn’t have to, being a practicing pseudo-scientist. Instead, he informs us, he explicitly instructed his photographers to choose the best photographs.

Just in case it’s still not clear, Emoto went looking for pretty crystals in the vials with the nice words on them, and ignored the ugly looking crystals; then he looked for ugly crystals in the vials with nasty words on them and ignored the pretty ones.

In other words, he faked his results.

He covers himself legally by saying he’s not a scientist, so the worst charge that can be made against him is slackness and stupidity, rather than fraud. People who sell useless and expensive water filters love this kind of thing, and use his faked results in their advertising. They are also saved by Emoto’s disclaimer from from being prosecuted for fraud, but the disclaimer is now one step removed from their customer’s eyes. The entire edifice of esoteric pseudo-science is built up through such progressive blurring of lines, supporting a massive industry based on claims of legitimacy that leave customers chasing their own tails if they try to verify any of it. The dictionary calls this a scam. New Agers call it Quantum Physics.

I don’t know if Rhonda Byrne has any financial interests in any water filter company, but I do know that their preferred medium is multi level marketing (aka pyramid schemes). Byrne could easily be sitting near the top of an MLM line without needing to advertise the fact anywhere on the internet. And I also know that Byrne’s colleague James Ray is involved in Kanga Water Filters. (One of his witnesses for the defense in his manslaughter trial turned out to be in his downline. She was dropped as a witness soon after Salty Droid broke the story about this apparently undeclared financial interest.)

Anyway, Byrne is taking Emoto’s faked results and is about to build them into her even more outlandish architecture.

The center of every cell is water, and each cell is completely surrounded by a layer of water.

If this were true it would have profound implications for life on this planet. Who knows, maybe some form of amphibious life could have developed, but it would not have been the kind of thing you would want to invite home to meet your parents.

Can you imagine the impact of love and gratitude on your body? Can you imagine the power of love and gratitude to restore health? When you feel love, your love affects the water of the 100 trillion cells in your body!

There is of course, no need to imagine that. The impact of love and gratitude on the structure of your body’s water can in fact be measured with 100% accuracy. Byrne’s fans won’t be happy about it, though. It is exactly zero. The good news is that we don’t need to do anything special to the structure of our H-O-H molecules in order for our bodies to feel love and gratitude. There are much more complex and refined hormones and neuro-chemicals that do that job quite successfully.

Water has a fairly simple yet really quite wonderful structure. That’s why it’s good for splashing about in. You can also drink clean water without having to worry that it will subtly destroy you from within because it has been “exposed to negative emotions”. Really, Byrne fans, you can relax about that. And once you’ve gotten over it, you might like to apologize to your friends for trying to frighten them into buying a useless water filter from you too.

In Part 6 we will learn more about the wonders of modern pseudo-science.

Earlier parts can be found here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4 

… 

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Bruce Lipton PhD: Quack, ignoramus

April 13, 2012

People googling “Bruce Lipton quack” often get referred to this blog, as that phrase was briefly mentioned in a comment on one post or another. I always got a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t written about him yet, so here goes…

Bruce Lipton, PhD has made a name for himself as a more science-savvy version of Deepak Chopra. But Unlike Chopra, seems to have largely escaped the attention of the skeptic community. He peppers his talks with technical terms from biochemistry, hoping that no one with the relevant training will pay any close attention and call him to account. I have no relevant training, so I will deal with a fairly straight forward talk, and consider its merits.

This two minute video talk is probably a good place to start. No need to watch it. I’ve already sat through the whole two minutes of it and transcribed a few of his barely articulate and ungrammatical sentences.

 Cancer quack Bruce Lipton PhD with face-lifted cancer quack Louise Hay

… 

Lipton tells us that the earth is going through its sixth mass extinction, which scientists say is caused by human behavior. Lipton agrees. But that’s where any agreement between Bruce Lipton PhD and modern science finishes. Lipton finds a rather curious origin for the whole thing:

Much of this human behavior is in fact related to a concept that we arose in this garden as a total result of accident, when in fact this is the complete opposite from the…the…I mean…we were, we were….it was purpose and design through the entire process.

I’d like to play dumb here and say that he couldn’t possibly be referring to evolution, because that doesn’t propose that life arose by accident or chance. But I can’t play dumb. I know he means evolution, because Creationists talk like this all the time. Now, I can understand why the average member of the public hears the words “random mutation and natural selection”, and focuses on the easiest word — random. It takes a bit of background reading to clear up the confusion: genetic mutations are only “random” within some clearly defined parameters; and beyond that, natural selection is not random, (which is why the word selection appears rather prominently in the term).

But Bruce Lipton isn’t an average member of the public. He has a PhD in developmental biology! Why is he ignorant of the most basic concepts of his own field?

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