A pitiful showing for Justin Trottier’s talk on the New Age Movement and what science is up against but some Saskatoon Freethinkers had a few theories on why that was, not the least of which the time of night – too close to supper/leaving work – and possibly disinterest in the topic – which was the point of the event in the first place, I would suggest: people don’t care enough about science to care about how the New Age movement is perverting every scientific idea out there to make their shit sound technical and sophisticated instead of ridiculous and wrong.
In one amusing case it was a misinterpretation of the sign we had made for the event. The leader of our group got a phone call from a possible attendee not long before we were set to start who asked if we had any psychics there. Apparently she was less than excited to hear that someone from CFI Canada was here to talk about why they aim to do battle against woo and religiously-inspired hokum.
I think my only complaint about last night’s presentation has to do with the sheer size of the topic and Justin trying to cover as much as possible in the little time he had overall. I think he was also lacking a distinct unifying theme beyond “These people are wacko,” which, given the thirty-some Freethinkers in the audience, wasn’t going to come as a surprise.
So, a rundown of a few points made that I can remember well enough to paraphrase.
One came down to the money. Humanist groups like CFI are young, little, and small in number with not much in the way of monetary support coming in — yet. Justin had a slide in his presentation showing the enormous gap between CFI Canada, with donations less than $300,000 a year so far and the religious groups whose charitable donations easily surpass the million dollar mark, no matter how few people in this country might hold that religion (Baha’i or Sikh, for example).
Another came down to science education, in a roundabout way. I’ll get the name of the woman from Justin later and update this – he showed us a brief Youtube video of a talk given by a perplexing homeopathy guru (edit: somebody named Dr. Warner – google you who was trying to explain why her little white pills work to cure diseases. Turned out it was because the pills were dipped in a specially made substance that was energized to be vibratory and would work to change the vibrations a disease makes in a body into better, more proper vibrations of the healthy person kind. That’s all disease is, according to her, bad vibrations.
The way she got to this conclusion was by explaining to the audience her version of the science behind optics and sound. I’m setting that in bold because that there is the problem. She didn’t understand the nature of light or sound and ultimately she was banking on standing in front of an audience who had even less of a grasp than she did. I don’t really understand it all either, but I think if I spent an hour researching those topics in the Children’s section of the library I’d get a better understanding of the inner workings of our eyes and ears than she demonstrated. And it wouldn’t require editing Einstein’s classic E=mc2 to make it true, either.
The main reason these hucksters gain credibility with their unprovable, untestable bunk is because people at large simply don’t know enough to really question it. I’m reminded of those ionic foot baths that were supposed to pull toxins from feet and improve overall health. They didn’t. The design just utilized a chemical reaction in the water that was going to be happening whether feet got a wash or not. The makers made a fortune off scientific ignorance and it’s happening all the time. Every new device is a new way to take money from the people who won’t know enough science to ask valid questions, and the rest will come out of the wallets of those gullible, hopeful souls who simply want to believe there are extraordinary answers to their everyday problems no matter how much evidence might exist to the contrary.
Advocacy got a mention near the end, when Justin showed us the new advertising. Real effort needs to be put into explaining why these people are problematic, why it’s not going to be helpful if governments and health agencies continue to treat every alternative to medicine as a legitimate cure for what might ail a person. Sure, some of it has been proven to work through rigorous scientific testing and is, therefore, A-OK, but if it can’t be logically tested because it makes no earthly, logical sense for it to be true, it shouldn’t be supported.
The actual campaign kicks off later this month and the companion website highlights so many more dubious topics. You can click any one of them to see why it made the list. If you agree with their assessment, feel free to donate to the cause while you’re there. They have charitable status so you can claim it on your income tax, always a bonus. And you can join if you want, too. I will be.