You, sir, are no James Randi!

This week’s New Scientist carries an interesting story in its Feedback section (the page opposite the inside back cover for those of you who primarily read the print edition as I do). In short, a person skeptical of new age/pagan claims (using the pseudonym “disturber”) posted a “provocative enquiry” to a UK pagan website which centred on the supposed efficacy of “crystal homeopathy”, as advertised on a website which sells, uh, homeopathic crystals.

Unsurprisingly, he received a fair amount of criticism for expressing such skepticism and not displaying a suitably open mind(as can be seen in the forum thread on UK Pagan). The twist in this tale is that he had actually written the magic rocks website that he was criticising (and the postings claiming to be from the proprietor of the website), and had manufactured the episode to expose the credulity of pagans/new age types.

I consider myself to be a scientist, so I very much agree with his views on the validity of magic(k), crystals and the like; they are no more than snake oil (although I find it disturbing that they are ‘sold’ by people who actually appear to believe this rot, rather than by the usual cynical exploiters of the terminally gullible – but I digress). Far from being open-minded individuals who have chosen to reject the teachings of Christianity, I consider them remarkably close-minded for their rejection of a system which offers the ability to produce objective, verifiable truths – science, in other words.

However, I can’t help but feel that his approach to showing that pagans/new age types are fools is rather too close to entrapment, and this does his case more harm than good. Besides which, it isn’t as if you have to manufacture evidence to demonstrate the credulity and gullibility of the pagan/new age community, since they’re normally extremely willing to provide more than enough rope to shoot themselves in the foot with…

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