Tags: skepticism

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Writer's Block: Prophecy or Fallacy?

Happy birthday, Nostradamus. Many people consider the prophecies of Nostradamus to be uncannily accurate, while others remain skeptical. Do you think it's possible to predict the future?


For example, I predict that tomorrow the sun will rise.

There, see how easy it is?

From The Rotten Library: How Nostradamus is the literary version of a Rorschach test.:

"...Suffice to say, it's wise to take the Prophecies of Nostradamus with a grain of salt... or maybe a whole shaker.

Especially if those prophecies seem to pertain to 9/11. One quatrain was circulated with great hysteria in the immediate aftermath of al Qaeda's attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, destroying the twin towers of the World Trade Center and damaging the Pentagon. It read:

In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
While the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

Theoretically, the "City of God" is New York City. Why is that? Fuck it, who cares. Maybe it's Washington, D.C., which is only slightly less godless than the Big Apple. Put that aside. The "two brothers" would then be the "twin towers," the fortress is the Pentagon, etc.

If you got this passage in an e-mail forward, you might have noticed that it was dated to 1654. This presents a problem since that date is nearly 100 years after Nostradamus died. Whoops! Turns out the "quatrain" was written by Neil Marshall, a college student, in a paper entitled "A Critical Analysis of Nostradamus."

The point of the fake quatrain was -- you guessed it -- to demonstrate how Nostradamus-style writing can be twisted around to mean just about anything.

Read the whole article: The Rotten Library: How Nostradamus is the literary version of a Rorschach test.

This is why idiots find images of The Virgin Mary in the shitstains of their underwear and whatnot. Because we want to see it and our brain is really well wired to find patterns in randomity, and because our subconscious is a powerful force ever at work in the background in all our minds. This is also why astrology is a multi billion dollar business, even though people who read their own horoscopes laugh and admit it's all in good fun.

tl;dr this is why skepticism is a very, very good thing.
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(no subject)

In India, palm-reading, astrology, numerology and all sorts of other fortune-telling bullshit are multi-million dollar businesses.

I know otherwise intelligent, college educated people from good families that parted with half a month's pay to go to some dude who told them what career to pick, when to get married and how many kids to have based on shit like their birthdate or the lines in their hands.


(no subject)

Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don’t think it matters....

Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

Answer: Duh, you think?

I have never seen so much outright hatred of knowledge and reason, and it seems to be multiplying. I don't think the cause is merely infotainment, dumb entertainment, or fundamentalism, which have been around since before I was born... it's something else I can't put my finger on. It's not just from reading Fundies Say The Darndest Things, but from friends of mine in real life that have started thinking this way. It's not just apathy towards knowledge and reason, but outright contempt.

And it's terrifying.

Via this post.
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7 medical myths that even doctors believe.

7 medical myths that even doctors believe.

1. Myth: We use ten percent of our brains
(false, there are no 'inactive' or 'dormant' parts of a living brain).
2. Myth: You should drink eight glasses of water a day (false, it's eight fluid ounces of fluids, which include juices from fruits and such).
3. Myth: Fingernails and hair continue to grow after death (false, it's the flesh and skin shrinking back that makes fingernails and hair appear increasingly larger in comparison).
4. Myth: Shaved hair grows back faster, coarser and darker (false, it's something to do with the ends of the hair strands. Also, a quick trim gets rid of split ends, making hair appear healthier).
5. Myth: Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight (false, it just causes eye strain, all cured with a little rest. Same applies to television or computer monitors).
6. Myth: Eating turkey makes you drowsy (false, a chemical in turkey called tryptophan does cause drowsiness, but it exists in the same quantities in chicken or beef. It's the volume of a holiday meal coupled with alcohol that really causes the drowsiness).
7. Myth: Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals (false. Mobile phones interfere with 4 percent of devices, and that too, only when the phone was within 3 feet of the device. Also, the improved communication means doctors make less mistakes and work better).

FTA: "Whenever we talk about this work, doctors at first express disbelief that these things are not true," said Vreeman said. "But after we carefully lay out medical evidence, they are very willing to accept that these beliefs are actually false."

Another example of how easily the average person can and will believe bullshit, if it's just presented the right way.

Source: http://www.livescience.com/health/071220-medical-myths.html