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D.J. Grothe Reveals Society of Secrets PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

Recently, I interviewed D.J. Grothe, vice president and director of outreach programs for the Center for Inquiry, in a restaurant inside Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. At a nearby table, a group of fifteen or so men spoke in hushed tones. Sometimes they were entirely inaudible to me, and the only way I knew they spoke at all was by the movement of their lips. It was reminiscent of watching a group of government operatives taking lunch. But, to my knowledge, none of the men in the restaurant were government operatives. They were mentalists - mentalists attending Luke Jermay's Mentalism Workshop.

"It's not exactly a secret society," Grothe said, "but it is a society committed to keeping secrets."

I had never really thought of the secretive aspect of magic before. I mean, sure, mentalists aren't supposed to tell you how it's done, but I never envisioned a whisper-filled meeting that included celebrities like Teller, Max Maven, Eric Mead, and Jamy Ian Swiss. And, for something extra cool, Larry Fong, Director of Photography for 300 and Watchmen gave an excellent talk on story-telling.

I never saw any of the actual workshop - I assume because I'm not that cool - but Grothe was willing to fill me in on a few of the details: The event is, sadly for me, invitation only, and has a very small number of attendees. The one I visited was the fifth of its kind.

I asked Grothe what the group was doing behind closed doors.

"There are lectures, performances and explorations of certain problems in mentalism. It is a real workshop - meaning people perform and get brutal feedback from the greatest thinkers in this field," he said, "... Also there is occasional discussion about the claims that mentalists may make in their performances. When someone is dealing with the intimate details about someone's life, I think it raises some serious ethical questions."

When Grothe told me this, the entirety of my being went, "Huh." Until right then, I hadn't thought of magic as something that had ethical implications. But then again, if a mentalist feigned paranormal abilities, it would be extraordinarily difficult for the vast majority of us to see through it. And is it fair to ask a trickster to let us know in advance that we are being tricked?

"I have a pretty unyielding position [on disclaimers in mentalism]," Grothe said, "Although I consider myself a very open-minded skeptic, I am uncomfortable when someone - even if he is onstage -performs theatrical mind-reading so effectively that the majority of the audience leaves believing in supernatural powers."

Banachek, the renowned mentalist, says at the beginning of his presentations that he uses his five senses to create the illusion of a sixth. Having been at Banachek's shows before, I have seen the audience visibly shaken by his abilities, even with a disclaimer. And this does lead them to wonder if he has supernatural abilities.

"Mentalists ask the biggest questions people can ask, such as ‘Do I have a soul?' ‘Do I have a mind that is separate from my body?' ‘Can I survive my death, or can dead people communicate from beyond the grave?'... What most people think of as trivial - let me show you a trick where I can read your mind - is actually connected to these big, profound questions," Grothe said.

I swear, from the content of this article, it's going to appear that I don't think about anything at all - because again, I never thought about that. Performances are beautiful, yes, and sometimes even a simple French Drop can have this exquisite sort of flair, yet I never before thought of mentalists as philosophers. The image suits them very well.

And Grothe's search is not just within the philosophical areas of magic - though he was a professional magician for a number of years. He is also one of the voices of skepticism for CFI with his podcast, Point of Inquiry, and is also an associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. Grothe works arduously to offer the public an opportunity to examine their beliefs, whatever they happen to be.

"Magic and mentalism offer a corrective to some skeptic's, ‘I'm right, you're wrong' approach. Magic and mentalism says to everyone, ‘Imagine how easy it is for you to be deceived,' and that even great scientists can be fooled with well-performed magic. Even smart people - and, in fact, especially smart people - can be fooled by the magical arts."

Grothe also believes that a paranormal claim, even a ridiculous sounding one, demands an investigation.

"Whether or not this stuff is real, we should ask the question. Even if we think the evidence says ‘No.' But that does not mean the questions should stop being asked... The skeptic is wrong when he or she says, ‘I know all that stuff's bull.' I favor open-minded skepticism. We can't reject any claims out of hand," he said.

The term ‘open-minded skeptic' has always been a little confusing for me. A skeptic, by definition, should be open-minded. But I have experienced the dogmatic nature some skeptics have adopted, and I find it worrying, just as Grothe does. If we, as skeptics, feel like we've already got all the answers that are important, then we are no better than the groups we say are wrong. Investigation is always a good, positive thing. Even if curiosity did kill a cat once.

"The appreciation of mystery that comes from well-performed mentalism, I hope, may make us a little less debunking, and a little more inquiring," Grothe said.

And I agree.

 

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written by Willy K, March 11, 2009
When someone is dealing with the intimate details about someone's life, I think it raises some serious ethical questions."

So I guess that's the difference between a mentalist and a psychic, mentalists ask ethical questions and psychics only ask financial ones, such as "How much money can I make?" smilies/tongue.gif
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written by Willy K, March 11, 2009
I've heard many times from true believers that such and such psychic/medium does "free" readings. How generous of them. smilies/angry.gif

I'd like to see some professional, ethical mentalists do "free" readings. They should do them wherever a psychic/medium does theirs. John Edward at the front of the room and Banachek at the back of the room explaining to the audience how John Edward is deliberately deceiving them. smilies/grin.gif

After all, isn't it ethical to stop a thief? smilies/grin.gif
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written by Rogue Medic, March 11, 2009
We should be skeptical and open minded, but not allow those making claims to put off testing their claims. I do not think that we lack skepticism or open mindedness if we look at areas that have been studied, yet are incapable of producing evidence of anything better than chance occurrences, and say this is ineffective. We should not treat every new claim as if it were not preceded by dozens of similar claims.

We should not treat those, who refuse to objectively test their claims, as anything other than charlatans. Too many claims are presented by people just looking to create doubt, but doing nothing to shed light on reality. Randi offers a very nice prize. It is difficult to imagine someone claiming to have powers, yet refusing to prove this objectively to walk away with a million dollars. It is hard to claim that one is too shy and call it a publicity stunt, since the person is already engaged in the same behavior.

Being skeptical, open minded, and demanding proof make a much nicer group than just being skeptical and open minded. They are both oxymoronic groups. How many times do you need to say the same thing?
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taking on the scammers
written by MadScientist, March 12, 2009
@Willy K:

It would be easiest if people like John Edward subjected themselves to proper tests, but of course these people avoid anyone they suspect might be able to test them. Unfortunately we can't simply call them thieves and fraudsters (which they are) because lawsuits are always inconvenient. To make matters worse, these people have hordes of fanatic supporters. If you did work to expose, say, John Edward, expect to be attacked by loonies and idiots. So, unless these people subject themselves to testing (which they won't), the best that most others can do is give people some small idea of what tricks are used. Keep in mind that John Edward doesn't even make it to a classification of 'third-rate' when compared with some of the people mentioned in the article. To me, John Edward is an obvious fake and poor at his trade (even after all the editing for TV), but a good mentalist is really amazing in comparison.
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written by GMJ, March 12, 2009
Since both mentalists and magicians seem to have some secrets and tricks of the trade I wonder if someone has let the cat out of the bag about them yet. Is there a website where these tricks and secrets have been revealed and explained to the public? (feel free to answer without telling us the site)
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aaargh
written by weirdloser, March 12, 2009
I was trying to leave all this alone. Turns out I'm not that big a person.

A skeptic, by definition, should be open-minded. But I have experienced the dogmatic nature some skeptics have adopted, and I find it worrying, just as Grothe does. If we, as skeptics, feel like we've already got all the answers that are important, then we are no better than the groups we say are wrong. Investigation is always a good, positive thing. Even if curiosity did kill a cat once.



You're preaching to us about the poor quality of our skepticism? You? (I agree that the skeptical community is too tribal and knee-jerk, by the way.} Didn't WOO in Review get canceled because of the poor quality of your skepticism? That's what I inferred. No one will say. Commenter Doubt in the forum seems to think so.

When Grothe told me this, the entirety of my being went, "Huh." Until right then, I hadn't thought of magic as something that had ethical implications.


Not a surprise. You obviously don't think skepticism has ethical implications either.
You were the skeptic for Door to the Dead, a woo woo show featuring a telephone to the dead. OK, fine. However,you signed a nondisclosure agreement (according to Doubt), a contract allowing the producers to portray you as they wished and preventing you from ever offering any criticism. Nobody made you sign it. You willingly nullified your ability to be skeptical. Ethical? Aren't you selling your, and by extension JREF's, reputation?

On a personal level I could care less that you sold out. I sell out every chance I get. However, you're a prominent member of JREF and you administer the million dollar prize. Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach.

And there's more.

I didn't see the show but GhostDiva did a detailed review:
http://ghostdivas.blogspot.com/2009/02/door-to-dumb.html?zx=65d93a603f92831f

Alison sees “Lisa” written on the wall in the video monitor. Chris can’t see it on the wall, so Allison goes up to the room. She can’t see it either. So, she does some research. She finds a newspaper story about a massacre in 1774 near the town. According to the story, a pioneer family with 4 children were scalped and murdered. One of the daughters was named Elizabeth, but used the nickname Lisa.


Sounds like you were helping prove the ghost was real instead of casting doubt. I don't think the producers could have twisted it that much. Of course, you can't say.

I notice you, Christopher Moon, and John Oliver are each other's best friends on Myspace. Maybe it is a good idea to befriend woosters. I think it's an interesting idea. In this case, however, you're their best friend and you can't criticize them. It's a de facto endorsement. An endorsement with the JREF imprimatur.

Of course there's JREF silence about all this, except that self-serving interview with X.

Maybe you're not in the greatest position to be all self-righteous. I hate self-righteousness in others.


One more thing:
Before you get all up ons, KingMerv00. Please remember you outed yourself as Alison's shill in the forum. You wrote that Alison is your friend, friendship is paramount to you, and you would support your friends no matter what, even if they built a church (I take it you're atheist). It's an admirable way to be. Your friends are lucky. It doesn't make your gallant defense of Alison very credible, though.

love, weirdloser
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written by KingMerv00, March 12, 2009
You're preaching to us about the poor quality of our skepticism? You? (I agree that the skeptical community is too tribal and knee-jerk, by the way.} Didn't WOO in Review get canceled because of the poor quality of your skepticism? That's what I inferred. No one will say. Commenter Doubt in the forum seems to think so.


You "inferred" nothing. Inference requires a valid premise (if using deductive reasoning) or valid observations (if using inductive reasoning). Instead of doing either of those, you combined your premise and conclusion into a single idea...This is popularly known as an assumption.

Not a surprise. You obviously don't think skepticism has ethical implications either. You were the skeptic for Door to the Dead...*snip*


Whoops, axe grinding is two doors down. The forum is a better place to take up you complaints. Perhaps you'd like to comment on the article instead of whipping out a non-sequitur? Anything to say about Mr. Grothe?

Before you get all up ons, KingMerv00. Please remember you outed yourself as Alison's shill in the forum. You wrote that Alison is your friend, friendship is paramount to you, and you would support your friends no matter what, even if they built a church (I take it you're atheist). It's an admirable way to be. Your friends are lucky. It doesn't make your gallant defense of Alison very credible, though.


Outed? You make friendship sound all dirty.

You misunderstand. There is support and there is
unconditional support. There are some friends I'd die for but even my support has limits. If you read the thread where I "outed" myself, I specifically said I couldn't support Alison if she aligned herself with Peter Popoff or Kevin Trudeau. In other words, I wouldn't support anymore, even my dear saintly gran gran, "no matter what".

Everyone has bias. The trick is to acknowledge it and look for rational thought behind it. I tried to do that. I considered many factors before weighing in on the DTTD issue. I considered:

1) Damage done.
2) Amount of information we have on what Alison knew and wanted.
3) Amount of post-production.
4) How much we know about the content of the contract.

I came up with:

1) Little to none.
2) Little. (But I inferred from her previous skeptical work that she had good intentions.)
3) Tons.
4) None.

I therefore concluded that she meant well and has found herself in the bad position of having to listen to people bad mouth her but being unable to address them in return.

Damn. I fell into your trap and addressed your non-sequitur. Just start a thread in the forum and we can do your therapy session there if you like.
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written by KingMerv00, March 12, 2009
Sorry for that off topic rant, Alison.

Anyway, I'm glad you brought up the point about open-minded skepticism and the fact that even the best of can become dogmatic.

No question should be off limits, no topic should be taboo, and all opinions should be open to change. I know a few popular, long term members of the forum who are intelligent, friendly, and rational who just happen to believe in something paranormal. They are embarrassed to come out of the closet on these beliefs because they will almost certainly be mocked in this setting.

To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens on the topic of skepticism, "We don't need saints or martyrs." I'd like to add "We don't need demons either." Belief in the paranormal is not a defect or sin. At worst, it is a mistake. At best, they have something to teach us.

Translation: Some people need to lighten up.
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written by Caller X, March 13, 2009
Because I love to criticize and I'm very good at it, I will say this. Good article, well written, and you found a point of focus that elevated it beyond mere reportage.
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written by Caller X, March 13, 2009
written by GMJ, March 12, 2009
Since both mentalists and magicians seem to have some secrets and tricks of the trade I wonder if someone has let the cat out of the bag about them yet. Is there a website where these tricks and secrets have been revealed and explained to the public? (feel free to answer without telling us the site)


Yes, it's called your local chain bookstore. Not everything is there, but start with Magic for Dummies. Are there levels? Yes, like with everything else. If there's a magic store in your city, hang out there, make acquaintances, and apply the social skills that I'm not qualified to advise you on. The fetishization of secrecy perhaps originates in early adolescence, I don't know ("not to include the revealing of secrets"). I had a friend in the Army who decided to teach himself one card trick a day, at least for a while. There's also a tv show about it on the CW network with the bald guy from the X-Files. If all else fails there's an internet site called google.com. Dover has also republished a lot of Balducci's work from the early 1900's. You could google that.
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written by BillyJoe, March 13, 2009
written by Caller X:
Because I love to criticize and I'm very good at it..

Funny, I had you picked as a comedian and not very good at it.

BJ
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written by BillyJoe, March 13, 2009
"Whether or not this stuff is real, we should ask the question. Even if we think the evidence says ‘No.' But that does not mean the questions should stop being asked... The skeptic is wrong when he or she says, ‘I know all that stuff's bull.' I favor open-minded skepticism. We can't reject any claims out of hand," he said.


Well, there's a limit.
Homoeopathy for instance. Been there. Done that. Bull. Period
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written by iiwo, March 13, 2009
Grothe said:
"Whether or not this stuff is real, we should ask the question. Even if we think the evidence says ‘No.' But that does not mean the questions should stop being asked... The skeptic is wrong when he or she says, ‘I know all that stuff's bull.' I favor open-minded skepticism. We can't reject any claims out of hand,"


I would just tweak it slightly to say "Everything I've seen so far in [insert topic] is bull. Here's why, and here are some things that could change my mind, or at least get me to consider a new hypothesis". Technically it is more accurate, and conversationally it doesn't raise as many defenses in the other person, allowing you more communication. To poach a phrase (and paraphrase Grothe slightly), if we count ourselves the kings of infinite space, we become inaccessible to those we most need to reach, including ourselves. Whether nut, or nutcracker, we have to acknowledge this fact if for no other reason than to facilitate communication.

Alison, you walk a tough line in the skeptic community, and I'll be honest--I don't particularly envy it. I hope you can find a way to include all your work into the public sphere, rather than having to exclude some and face the slings and arrows of [potentially] outrageous fortune.

@Those still going on about TDTTD: in taking up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing [hope to] end them...it's what we all do. Contrary to some opinions, not everyone can walk on water--get over it. That said, if you really want to talk about it, then I say to a nunnery, er, forum with you. The comment threads are quickly becoming NOT the place I want to even think of discussing it.
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d'oh
written by iiwo, March 13, 2009
Ooh, homeopathy is a great example of what I am getting at, thanks billyjoe! And sorry everyone else for two in a row. Today the homeopathy movement is largely based on anxieties surrounding contemporary medicine. Many promoters pursue and inflame these anxieties in order to promote their own version.

Keep in mind, though, that all medicine was once 'traditional'. While some was less effective than today's versions, there ARE things out there that DON'T come from pharmacies that DO work. Now, I'm not suggesting you take powdered bone supplements to help that fracture in your foot heal (that was actually recommended to my brother, believe it or not--he wisely declined). What I am saying is we have to be careful to dissociate the mindset that leads people TO what has become "homeopathy" as woo-woo from useful items that may find their way into that system in some fashion.

Rejecting the "homeopathy" movement is intelligent imo, but disregarding every medicine and treatment outside of contemporary medicine could cause us to overlook some potentially useful thing that could be brought *into* medicine. That is what I mean by being bound in a nutshell and counting ourselves kings of infinite space--thinking we know it all (or at least know what all to reject).

Just a quick example, a folk remedy for general aches and pains in old days was to chew willow bark. Without being tested and run through labs, that is straight up homeopathy. It turns out someone was curious enough about it, though, and did some work and...what'dya know? We now take aspirin--a concentrated form of the same things. If I am out on a long hike and don't have pain killer, I can still use willow bark--it still works. Not as well, but it works. Is it a homeopathic remedy? Yes. Are better options available in general? Yes. Would I recommend someone buy every drug they ever use from a 'natural/herb doctor'? NO, by all means no. In fact, I pipe up when I hear someone mention such a thing.

I think this sort of careful separation is where Grothe is headed with his comment. There are a lot of sort of general 'psychich', 'spiritual force', 'new age' sorts of people out there, many of whom have been thoroughly debunked (or at least been shown to not stand out from background noise with their ability, which is just as good imo). This does not mean there are NO other possibilities; if nothing else asking this question as an excercise opens the door for conversations with people who DO believe those things to some degree. And as long as the door is open, and they feel you are willing to communicate with them (even if you disagree on what exists)...as long as that door is open, there is a chance for communication.

And if we find some willow-bark turned pills along the way? All the better. I doubt we will, but by keeping my mind open, though focused, I think there is a fair chance for progress regardless of where that progress ends us up.
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@ iiwo
written by BillyJoe, March 13, 2009
Untill this bit I thought I knew what you were talking about:

If I am out on a long hike and don't have pain killer, I can still use willow bark--it still works. Not as well, but it works. Is it a homeopathic remedy? Yes.

...or should I say: I thought you knew what you were talking about. smilies/cheesy.gif

BJ
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in response.
written by iiwo, March 14, 2009
I'd like to think I know what I'm talking about...not sure if you're joking around with me (which is fine) or if you're referring to the point that dried, crushed bark works best, and that is hard to come by out in the bush. If you are joking, awesome, well played. smilies/smiley.gif. If you are being serious, keep reading:

From this link we find in addition to several willow references, the following quote:

Many natural remedies work slower than the medicines you know. Therefore, start with smaller doses and allow more time for them to take effect. Naturally, some will act more rapidly than others.


And from link #2 we find instructions on how to use it in both fresh and powdered form. It isn't something terribly effective just from chewing (though I'm sure it's done. The taste alone would make you forget your pain). There are other ways to use it though:

If you grow your own, you may use fresh if you strip and chop into fine particles to get the most fresh surfaces available to the water. You may steam fresh bark to make the chemical available also (do not boil). From the local store, you will likely get powdered bark. This works well and will store well, in addition, you may dry and powder your own bark for future use. To make a tea, soak one teaspoon of powdered bark in a cup of cold water for eight hours. This allows the salicin to dissolve into the water (it is slow to get into solution). Strain out the bark and drink. You may make as much as you want in advance but refrigerate no more than 48 hours after which it will lose its effectiveness. This stuff really tastes nasty (commonly called bitter and astringent) so you may want to add whatever you can think of the make it drinkable.


Yes, the second one is a tantra site...make your own jokes. smilies/smiley.gif

Both sites include warnings on when to know you've had enough/too much, and encourage you to use pills when available. But wilderness survival is not my point.

The first part of the point of this example is that if doctors at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries had scorned the idea saying "that's just homeopathy, it's an old wives tale for those afraid of progress..." we wouldn't have aspirin. Or at least it would have been discovered rather later in history.

The second, and more important part of the point is that while homeopathy and new age/psychic woo are bad as movements, we shouldn't discount (read "throw out baby with bathwater") every last aspect and factor and detail associated with those movements. As a movement homeopathy is bad, it sows distrust and ends up hurting people because they didn't get the care they needed, or got poor care from un(der)informed practicioners. But some details within the movement may simply be caught up in it, and further research may discover better ways to apply them.

The same with mentalism, psychic believers, ghosts, etc. There is a lot of bad stuff that happens as a result of those activities, but just because everything we have seen so far is invalid doesn't mean we can stop looking, stop asking questions, or stop investigating. If we stop doing so--even if we do it without being 'believers'--are we any better than those we criticize? Or are we the same, just on the other side of a fence?

But I digress, the article we are responding to is not about medicines, wilderness survival, or beliefs. It is about how we relate to the world, and I relate to mine by checking things out; and even if I end up rejecting the idea as a whole, I still inquire as to whether any of its parts could be useful to me in some way.
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written by Rogue Medic, March 14, 2009
iiwo,

I think you have homeopathy and naturopathy confused. Homeopathy is about taking some of whatever is making you sick, putting it in water, diluting it to the point of not being there any more, and relying on the memory of that toxin to heal you.

Homeopathy has no scientific basis. Pure BS. Randi has videos of testing with no evidence to suggest any benefit from homeopathy.

Until homeopaths come up with some unbiased evidence that suggests there is some effectiveness, there is no reason to pay any attention to them, except to try to get them jailed for fraud. Homeopaths kill.

Naturopathy is just using less effective versions of medicines. One reason is that the dosing is less certain, therefore they are much more dangerous versions of the medicines you can get from a pharmacy.

These alternative medicine scams have been tested and have not been shown to be as effective as conventional medicine, which is hardly traditional. Conventional medicine is constantly changing to reflect further scientific information. Constant change is the opposite of tradition. Tradition is the enemy of progress.

Only after alternative treatments can provide some unbiased evidence of effectiveness, should we treat them as if they are not toxic waste. The burden of proof is on their pushers. The burden of proof is not on the skeptics.

Ditto for ghosts and paranormal phenomena. Provide proof, then I will pay attention. In the mean time making claims of paranormal powers is just as bad as what Bernie Madoff did. Madoff would lie, cheat, and steal to get his money. The paranormal pushers do the same thing.

This is like a lawyer asking someone on the stand, is it possible that something could happen? Of course it is possible. In the absence of evidence, there is no reason to believe in the tooth fairy, homeopathy, ghosts, or any other silliness.

Pretending that we should give them some benefit of the doubt, without any evidence, is foolish and exactly the opposite of skepticism. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim, not on the person who asks for proof.

They need to show us some proof or get used to being criticized. I think they should be locked up if they make claims without proof. They should not be treated differently from other frauds.

Am I being too subtle? smilies/smiley.gif
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@ iiwo
written by BillyJoe, March 14, 2009
To make it clear, "I thought you knew what you were talking about" until you made that comment about willow bark being part of homoeopathy. As Rogue Medic has already pointed out, it is part of naturopathy.

Also I have the same attitude as he has towards alternative medicine and other unsubstantiated claims: put up or shut up. It's time to call it on claims such as homoeopathy. It is BS through and through, and to still have an open mind on this one is just plain BS as well.

In other words, once upon a time it was reasonable to have an open-minded scientific inquiry into homoeopathy, but that enquiry is over and the results are in: Homoeopathy is BS. Period.

But I think you can do this without being rude to most of the people who believe these claims. In other words, attack the claims, not the person.

There are two exceptions: Deluded people who can unduly influence the public because of their position should be dismissed with laughter - because it's more effective than reasoned argument. Fraudsters and charlatans should be exposed and treated as the criminalst that they are.

BJ
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I stand corrected
written by iiwo, March 14, 2009
Rogue medic, Billy Joe,

Thank you for your excellent replies. I stand corrected in my terminology!

Apologies for any confusion, and thank you for not screaming back and accusing me of being a homeopath fan. Previous to reading your posts I just lumped everything "folk" or "traditional" under "homeopath"; though I did make a distinction for the movement that rejects science and reality. I had never heard the term naturopath before, but I like the distinction it makes.

Rogue Medic, no--you are not being too subtle, I just wasn't being distinctive enough. I spent most of today wondering how to better explain the distinctions I had made in my mind of what you have explained as 'naturopathy' vs. the rejection of reality that is the Homeopathy movement. I had several drafts in my head ready to go, but you've done a nice job laying it out, and I appreciate it.

I am right in line with what both of you have said in the last two comments about stamping out the ignorance, fear, and untested claims of those snake oil salesmen. In fact, I was just on skepchick and found the Prince Charles homeopathy story which royally pissed me off.

I guess my question then is something like this: Referring to Grothe's comment in Alison's interview, is there some distinction we can make between the Sylvia Brownes, Uri Gellers, and Chris Moons swindling and hurting people and some of the similar appearing ideas needing research, and do it without causing harm? (Or at least reducing the harm), such as those who really DO take skeptical approaches to ghost hunting for example. Is there a simple way to differentiate between the snake oil salesmen of the paranormal industry, and those who are approaching the research in a rational manner and considering the impact their work will have on other people?

Am I making sense here? If not, I will try again after I've had some time to think about how to explain the idea.
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I should add...
written by iiwo, March 14, 2009
Ridiculing the promoters of woo ideas is sometimes effective, but I still stand by what I said about communicating with those taken in by it. Laughing at them will only close doors and cut off communication. Sometimes brazenly ridiculing the promoters will have the same result, especially if the 'disciple' has made an emotional connection with the person you are mocking. So ridicule, yes, but we do need to be careful when and how it's used. smilies/smiley.gif

.02
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