Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mind over matter

Once a week, my Critical Thinking classes are required to find an example in the media of one of the concepts we've covered -- logical fallacies, biases, arguments (good and bad), pseudoscience, and ethical issues.  Over the course of the semester, my students become pretty good at ferreting out bad thinking, not to mention digging up all sorts of goofy stuff in newspapers, magazines, and online.

And this week, one of my students found a doozy.  It's a set of step-by-step instructions for learning...

... telekinesis.

Yes, telekinesis, the skill made famous in the historical documentary Carrie wherein a high school girl got revenge on the classmates who had bullied her by basically flinging heavy objects at them with her mind and then locking them inside a burning gymnasium.  Hating bullies as I do, I certainly understand her doing this, although it's probably a good thing this ability isn't widespread.  Given how fractious the current political situation is, if everyone suddenly learned how to move things with their minds, the United States as viewed from space would probably look like a huge, whirling, debris-strewn hurricane of objects being thrown about every time something about the President-elect appeared in the news.

But if you'd like to be able to do this, you can learn how at the aptly named site  But to save your having to paw through the site, I'll hit the highlights here.  You can try 'em out and afterwards report back if you had any success in, say, levitating your cat.

Polish spiritualist medium Stanislawa Tomczyk levitating a pair of scissors that totally was not connected to a piece of thread tied to her fingers [image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

Step one, apparently, is that you have to believe that there is no external reality, because otherwise "your logical mind will be fighting your telekinesis endeavors every step of the way."  I know this would be a problem for me.  The author of the website suggests that you can accomplish this by studying some quantum physics, because quantum physics tells us the following:
Everything we see, hear, feel, taste and smell is light and energy vibrating at a fixed frequency.  This energy is being projected from within, both individually and collectively.  Our energy projection is reflected back and interpreted and perceived as “real” via the mind through our five senses.  That is the condensed version of reality.
The problem is, quantum physics doesn't say any such thing, as anyone who has taken a college physics class knows.  Quantum physics describes the behavior of small, discrete packets of energy ("quanta") which ordinarily only have discernible effects in the realm of the submicroscopic.  It is also, in essence, a mathematical model, and as such has nothing whatsoever to do with an "energy projection (being) reflected back and interpreted and perceived as real by the mind."

But anyhow, apparently if you're inclined to learn telekinesis, you can interpret the findings of physics any way that's convenient for you.

Oh, and we're told that it also helps to watch the woo-woo documentary extraordinaire What the Bleep Do We Know?, which was produced by J. Z. Knight, the Washington-based loon who claims to channel a 35,000 year old guy from Atlantis named "Ramtha."  The author waxes rhapsodic about how scientifically accurate this film is, despite the fact that damn near everything in the film is inaccurate at best and an outright lie at worst.

Step two is understanding your "telekinesis toolkit," which includes "empathy, mindset, and energy."  They explain it this way:
Imagine feelings being the words spoken on your phone, and empathy is the signal or wire connecting you.  Your mindset is the phone itself and energy is the electricity used to run it. You have to have a phone, signal and power to communicate.  A lame phone, weak signal or low battery will make doing telekinesis nearly impossible.
I daresay it will.

Step three is finding a good mentor.  Since these mentors aren't free, let's just say that I had a sudden "Aha" moment when I got to this point.  The website tells us that the best mentors are at the Avatar Energy Mastery Institute, where we can learn the following:
You will learn all about energy, chakras, clairvoyance, out of body travel, mind and soul expansion, healing, higher-self, time travel, lucid dreaming and pretty much everything else a seeker could hope for.  I also know that Ormus from really enhances psychic abilities and speeds the learning process.
When I saw "Ormus," something in the back of my brain went off.  I knew I'd seen this before.  And sure enough, a year ago I did a post on Ormus, which is an acronym standing for "Orbitally Rearranged Monoatomic Elements."  And yes, I know that spells "ORME" and not "ORMUS," but since we're kind of disconnected from reality here anyhow, we'll let that slide.  Evidently the believers in Ormus think that taking this stuff can do everything up to and including (I am not making this up) changing your inertial mass, and I don't mean that you got heavier because you just swallowed something.  They claim that taking Ormus makes your inertial mass smaller, which would be surprising for any supplement not made of antimatter.

And taking antimatter supplements has its own fairly alarming set of risks, the worst of which is exploding in a burst of gamma rays.

So anyway.  I'm thinking that if you do all of this stuff, telekinesis is still going to be pretty much out of the question, as much fun as it could be.  But feel free to give it all a try.  Let me know, though, if you're planning on lobbing any heavy furniture my way.  The hate mail I get on a daily basis is bad enough.

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