The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'new-age'
A group calling itself Sense About Science, and dedicated to combatting scientific illiteracy, has published its review of scientifically illiterate statements made by celebrities in 2008. There were the usual one might expect (Tom Cruise's views on psychiatry, various others' advocacy of dubious "detox diets" and similar quackery), along with some real humdingers:
Sarah Palin, Mr McCain's running mate, waded into the mire with her dismissal of some government research projects. "Sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not," Ms Palin said. But the geneticist Ellen Solomon takes Ms Palin to task for not understanding the importance of studies into fruit flies, which share roughly half their genes with humans. "They have been used for more than a century to understand how genes work, which has implications in, for example, understanding the ageing process," she said.Mind you, even the stupendously awesome Barack Obama (who, it must be said, has been recruiting sound scientific thinkers to his cabinet) is taken to task for suggesting that there may be a link between MMR vaccines and autism, which, according to Ben Goldacre, has been thoroughly discredited.
New-age guru turned skeptic and sociologist Karla McLaren on differences in the way skeptics and new-agers think:
For instance, an understanding of cold reading would have helped me a great deal. I never knew what cold reading was, and until I saw professional magician and debunker Mark Edward use cold reading on an ABC News special last year, I didn't understand that I had long used a form of cold reading in my own work! I was never taught cold reading and I never intended to defraud anyone - I simply picked up the technique through cultural osmosis.
People in my culture have heard you and we're trying to answer - but we don't understand you. Our cultural training about the dangers of the intellect makes it nearly impossible for us to utilize science properly - or to identify your intellectual rigor as anything but an unhealthy overuse of the mind.
We love to say that we embrace mystery in the New Age culture, but that's a cultural conceit and it's utterly wrong. In actual fact, we have no tolerance whatsoever for mystery. Everything from the smallest individual action to the largest movements in the evolution of the planet has a specific metaphysical or mystical cause. In my opinion, this incapacity to tolerate mystery is a direct result of my culture's disavowal of the intellect. One of the most frightening things about attaining the capacity to think skeptically and critically is that so many things don't have clear answers. Critical thinkers and skeptics don't create answers just to manage their anxiety
Meanwhile, a revert war seems to have opened up in the Wikipedia entry on Witchcraft; it started when a bunch of fuzzy-bunny pagans took offense with the part of the article which contradicted their belief that witchcraft was the same unified, benign and generally warm and fluffy thing throughout centuries, rejected the validity of all the sources cited for this (partly because the "secret oral tradition" they know says otherwise, and what would some stuffy academic who's not part of it know?), and vowed to enlist their friends' help to ensure that their point of view prevails.
Quite frankly, I don't care what you think. If you post further erroneous statements, I will not hesistate to remove them. Moreover, I'm sure I can easily recruit a thousand or so neo-pagans that would be more than willing to devote a little of their time to keep Wikipedia's entry on witchcraft free of your hostile and inaccurate statements
The Dalai Lama: cuddly, celebrity-endorsed embodiment of Peace'n'Love and self-help and feeling good about yourself and universal acceptance, or bigoted reactionary snake-oil peddler, whose mediæval views are modulated by a hypocritical pandering to gullible, moneyed westerners?
In reality, Tibetan Buddhism is not a values-free system oriented around smiles and a warm heart. It is a religion with tough ethical underpinnings that sometimes get lost in translation. For example, the Dalai Lama explicitly condemns homosexuality, as well as all oral and anal sex. His stand is close to that of Pope John Paul II, something his Western followers find embarrassing and prefer to ignore. His American publisher even asked him to remove the injunctions against homosexuality from his book, "Ethics for the New Millennium," for fear they would offend American readers, and the Dalai Lama acquiesced.
I remember a public talk he gave at his headquarters in Dharamsala in northern India in 1990, after conflict between Tibetans and Indians there. He spoke in Tibetan, and his delivery was stern and admonitory, like a forbidding, old-fashioned father reprimanding his children. The crowd listened respectfully, and went away chastened.
All this reminds me of claims about various parties in the Middle East (on both sides) saying one thing in English for the benefit of gullible western liberals and another, considerably more warlike, thing in their people's own language. The moral of the story: the dumb Yanqui (and that includes Americans, Britons, Australians, Canadians and such) are mugs to be played as such.
But yes, back to the subject at hand. I once got a book "by" the Dalai Lama as a present from a new-age relative. Little surprise that it consisted of the most vapidly insipid pabulum, a lowest-common-denominator collection of self-help aphorisms with the Dalai Lama brand slapped on it. It's highly unlikely that its wisdom came from any tradition older then 1960s California. The Dalai Lama appears to have become the leading brand of guilt-assuagement for affluent Westerners whose TV doesn't quite drown out the awareness that they're living high off the hog amidst massive injustice and thus need to be reassured that they're good people and their positive thoughts cancel out any contribution their lifestyle makes to global suffering. Either that or he's just an incredibly successful conman. Or both.
And here's an article on rampant brutality in feudal Tibet; not quite the happy valley of bliss Richard Gere would have you believe. Mind you, it seems a bit pro-Chinese in places. And here's Hitchens' opinion on the Dalai Lama. (via MeFi)