Monday, 8 June 2009

Mind Body Wallet

MindBodyWalletUmSpiritThe Mind Body Wallet Spirit festival.

An annual (or thereabouts) celebration of woo-woo of every stripe. Everything from personal horoscopes and psychic readings to spiritual healing and magic potions.

On Saturday fellow skeptics Catherine, Elliot, Jack, Dahli and I went along to soak in some of the rarefied atmosphere.

I should point out we weren’t there to take the piss. Or start arguments. Or be assholes. Or convince anyone that they’re wrong. For my part, I’m genuinely interested in the worldview of people who believe this sort of thing, if only because it’s so different from my own.

No, we were there to represent the skeptical community and record a few bits for the Pseudo Scientists podcast. And for me, I wanted to find out what makes these people tick.

We began by talking to a lovely lady from Christocentric Light, a group that combines new-age type beliefs with Christianity. They’re big on dream interpretation, so we got chatting about a recurring dream I have where I’m in an elevator which starts going sideways before leaving the building altogether. Apparently that means I feel I’m stagnating (hence going sideways) and to fix this, I should try to make the elevator go up.

(I wanted to point out that my dreams are probably an effect not a cause of the apparent stagnation, so manipulating my dreams won’t necessarily help in my real life. But Catherine helpfully suggested I push the “Up” button instead of the “Sideways” button. That was such a brilliant suggestion I decided to leave it there.)

We then sat down to record a bit for the podcast, only to be interrupted by a lady from Psionics, a group who could teach us all about astral travelling. All we had to do was sign up for their $1,200 course and we could travel all around the world and throughout the universe. Bargain. Unfortunately my question about how you know you’re really travelling and not just dreaming was evaded and unanswered.

After a break to taste some tea (during which I noted that every single tea I tried apparently had more anti-oxidants than all the others) it was back to the circuit.

Dahli took part in a muscle test which “proved” the power of scalar energy, a magical force imparted to the wearer of a quantum/nanotech/bio-vibrational amulet. And while this was going on, Elliot and I got talking to some Christian Scientists.

Christian Science is all about healing through prayer, so Elliot asked the very reasonable question why (if this stuff had been rigorously studied as they claimed) they weren’t publishing it in medical journals and winning Nobel prizes. They even claimed success in the field of regrowing missing limbs! Sadly they didn’t know which one of their many magazines that particular article was in, but they did assure us it was true.

Memo to Christian Scientists: the question “if God heals, why doesn’t he regrow missing limbs?” is so common it’s a cliché. If you’ve got evidence for that one, stick it right up front of your stand. Just sayin’.

A little more wandering and we decided to call it a day and headed out for the obligatory photo op. Check out the next Pseudo Scientists podcast for a complete wrap-up of events.

SkepticsAtTheWoo This festival is an amazing collection of woo-woo all the one place, and it’s a little overwhelming when you’re going in with a deliberately skeptical eye.

I can appreciate that a lot of these people genuinely believe they’re helping with their magic potions and rituals, and it could even be argued they are helping if someone goes in looking for that kind of thing.

But at the core of it all is a huge industry cynically making lots of money off the credulous and the vulnerable.

This was my conclusion about what makes them tick. It’s definitely more Wallet than Spirit.


Dahliyani said...

Good one, matt.

Interesting reading all the skeptic's views on their visit to MB$.. I didn't even think about the cost of all the woo until I came home and saw that a feng shui thing cost $500, and some aromatherapy $80!
I was more focussed on the delusions that the sellers had about their product, and the psychology of everyone there.. it was fascinating.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Yes its the big Woo conspiracy. We have a magical expo here in alice. I was thinking I might go along and record some interviews for either the PS or the Skeptic Zone

catherineLd said...

Great post Matt! i thought it was a crazy mix of sadness, intrigue, disappointment and addiction… in no particular order. Thanks to Matt, Jack, Elliot, Dahli, Richard and Joel for going with me as i would not have gone it alone.

Dave ~ said...

Hey, nicely done - you were more generous to the woo woo clan than I may have been, nicely done.

I've only recently discovered your blog (via the amusing and musically inclined Rob) and have to say I'm enjoying.

You mentioned a podcast - do tell. If it's anywhere near The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, I'm there!

Matt said...

Thanks, Dave. Glad you like it.
Just had a look at your blog and I must say I return the sentiment!
The podcast is "The Pseudo Scientists", which you can find on iTunes or the Young Australian Skeptics website (link on the right).
This visit was chronicled in Episode 13.

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