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Evil Skeptic II: A visit to The Conscious Living Expo
By David Glück
Posted on: 2/28/2004
The Evil Skeptic takes another field trip, finds all sorts of wonderous things, has a fantastic conversation, and we're pretty sure he avoided the doppelganger lizards.
Sometimes I wonder why I am so fascinated by the New Age. There is no getting around it: I am in my element when I place myself among people who believe the unbelievable. I go out of my way to get a closer look at these people and their ideas. At the risk of sounding condescending, in all honesty, for me going to an event like “The Conscious Living Expo” is a bit like going to the aquarium. I get to witness first hand and up close the cute, the interesting, the strange, and the extremely dangerous. Unlike an aquarium visit, however, I get to tap on the glass…
My interest in the New Age goes beyond my skeptical take on most New Age ideas. While I recognize the baloney, I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to being intrigued by the notion that we are all more or less capable of suspending reason if doing so serves us in some way. I want a quick-and-easy cure for cancer too. I, as much as those people who believe that the right ultrasound frequency will kill the parasites that cause cancer, would like that notion to be true. All that separates me from those who have fallen under Hulda Clark’s spell is my skepticism. It is sheer will that protects me from magical thinking. It’s by will that I am rational. I was not born with a skeptic gene. I believe skepticism is a learned behavior, so it doesn’t surprise me that so many people uncritically accept magical thinking. Most people believe that a supernatural being is responsible for all that we are and all that there is. So why not a New Age?
The New Age is a reaction to the world we live in. It’s sort of an addition to religion. Or it becomes the religion. It’s appearance is user friendly and highly customizable. There seems to be an endless supply of New Age claims and ideas, and all one has to do is choose those that have the most appeal. For example, one person might choose biofeedback as a stress reliever while another might choose Feng Shui, or both. At a time when pollution is a very real threat to our survival the New Age is aggressively green. At a time when the family physician does not come to our home with his magical black bag, or in the office doesn’t seem to have much time for soothing conversation to calm his patient’s fears, there is the “healer.” The healer is concerned about the patient’s “wellness.” How warm and fuzzy is that? The healer’s focus is on the “underlying cause” of whatever is making the patient sick. In the New Age, illness is only a symptom. The cures are many. They are almost all non-intrusive. Sometimes they even work (though probably not for the reasons these practitioners think they do). In a time of increasing fear of the dangers (real or imagined) that simply living on this planet present, the New Age says you must heal yourself first. The New Age offers empowerment. It offers the ability to see into the future. It offers, by way of one method or another, almost instant results in matters of love, life, health and the afterlife. The New Age promises miracles…
So, it should come as no surprise that the New Age is growing. Skeptics are dismissed as being closed-minded and not able to understand the new paradigm. New Agers confuse our standards by which we evaluate their claims as an outright rejection of any claim offered. While that could not be further from the truth, if they have no evidence, it is much more convenient for them to call us closed-minded than to address our criticism of a particular claim. Anecdotal evidence is their gold standard for evaluating claims. “I’ve tried it and it works.” “Thousands of people are using this product.” That is a nearly complete rejection of anything even approaching a scientifically accepted method for evaluating a claim. (Interestingly, they often use scientific language so that a particular claim may appear to have some sort of scientific respectability. The misuse of quantum physics and “harnessing the healing powers of negative ions” are a couple examples of the kind of scientific hijackings they have used to support claims that no real scientist would endorse.) So, our debunking of a quack medical claim is simply dismissed. Homeopathic potions and pills are still big sellers. So are ear candles and magnets for controlling pain.
Additionally, The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 has made it possible for pills and medicines, near and dear to the New Age, to be sold without having to demonstrate to the Federal Food and Drug Administration that they are safe and effective before marketing. It is up to the under-funded FDA to police the dietary supplement industry, after marketing. The FDA has only funds enough to go after the worst offenders. As if there were not enough quack claims being made, the manufacturers of miracle potions are now protected by this act as long as they mask the claims and supply a tiny disclaimer on the label. The New Age healers have a whole gaggle of “medicines” they can prescribe, including hormones, steroids and very real drugs that just happen to be “natural.”
Education is all we have. With what amounts to a media endorsement of so many wacky ideas, what chance have we got? At this point, I would say that we are losing the battle for making critical thinking the popular default method for evaluating claims. We are spitting into a hurricane. Carl Sagan said that we are headed for a new “Dark Age.” I don’t know about that, but a dim age may have already arrived. There is a lot of work to be done.
But enough of that…
The Conscious Living Expo
We paused for a moment at the door leading into the main hall of the Airport Hilton. The Conscious Living Expo was much bigger then I had anticipated. Even with ads boasting over 250 exhibitors and hundreds of lectures and workshops, I was stunned by the vastness of this event. Michelle scanned the room for bags with which to carry away free samples of whatever. Jim stood smiling. I checked my tape recorder. We entered.
Michelle is my girlfriend and co-conspirator. We play “good cop/bad cop.” While I am busy asking the sort of questions that a skeptic might ask, she is busy blending. Some exhibitors will say things to her that they would never say to me. At least, not when I start asking the kind of questions this Evil Skeptic is prone to asking. Between us, we have it covered.
Jim is my good friend and a casual skeptic who simply enjoys a room full of nonsense. He is content to observe the goings-on. Most of the time he is smiling…
Here are a few general observations about this year’s expo. There were no noni juice booths at this expo. I guess noni is out. Electromagnetism is in. In fact, there are gadgets to either cure you from the harmful effects of electromagnetism or gadgets using electromagnetism as a cure. Go figure. There were the usual food supplements and loads of green stuff to fend off or cure just about everything. Negative Ions are still the ion of choice. Chiropractic, Iridology, Colonics and Magnetic Acupressure Vibrating Headgear were all available. The place was thick with psychics. I had my arm pulled down so many times that my shoulder hurt after several demonstrations of how one charm or another will protect me from this or that. (The arm pulling down test is a bastardization of the already debunked science of applied kinesiology. “Applied kinesiology should be distinguished from kinesiology, which is the scientific study of [human] movement.”) Many people tried to convince me that I’m simply not getting enough oxygen. They sold additives that would add or cause me to absorb more of the oxygen I get from the water I drink. I could have brought home homeopathic oxygen supplements. (I’m sure a lot of people will breath easier just knowing that those things exist.)
I could have bought a Feng Shui Power Bracelet, a Feng Shui Power Globe, a Feng Shui Power Coin and several kinds of Feng Shui Dowsing Instruments. What do they dowse for? Oh, you know, Indian burial grounds and stuff like that. You saw Poltergeist, right?
The world is a better place because the word ‘quantum’ exists. I could have purchased a Quantum Bio-Feedback machine or the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface, if you will. “The Quantum Q.X.C.I. can quickly see and assess 8,700 factors of your complex cellular structure and access 65,000,000 bits of data within minutes. It can assist in balancing: TMJ, Allergies, Chakras, Heart, Stress, Spinal, Anti-aging, Brain, Parasites, Toxicities, DNA, Pain,” and the list goes on…
I could have dropped anywhere from $25 to $1275 on The Quantum Prayer System for energetic Balancing. Why do I need to join the Quantum Prayer System? “Any imbalances present in your energetic field impede the natural and effortless flow of the optimal expression of your personal frequency, or energetic signature. The QPS makes a wide range of counter-balancing energetic frequencies directly available to you, 24/7 all the time.”
Electrical Nutrition might be a big seller some day. “Quantum Physics combined with Nature is Electrically Available [as] natural nutritional supplements.” There is a long paragraph on how this product uses quantum physics. In short, it explains how sometimes when you combine atoms like, oh, two of hydrogen and one of oxygen, you get something different from what they were. You get water.
You see, if herb A does this and herb B does that in the body, by mixing herb A and B and taking them together, neither this nor that may happen, in fact it is electrically impossible for this and that to take place.There is much more on this one. I really wanted to talk to the fellow at this booth. But he was having a lengthy conversation with some guy and complaining about skeptics…
We formulate our products to contain Natures’ Electrical Matrix that the body can understand and utilize. We do this by mixing and blending to very specific and precise electrical laws. The following is a brief explanation.
1: ENP Electrically Formulates its product line to Natures Electrical Matrix that is, it puts ingredients together from an understanding of the electrical matrix that nature has laid down that our cells can relate to.
But enough of that…
I spotted a booth selling ear candles. My plan was to challenge the sellers to a test. Use one candle in the prescribed way and another with a test tube simulating an ear canal. See if the resulting residue was noticeably different, and if not, explain why ear candles can’t work. My visit at this booth did not turn out as I expected. I had no idea that I was about to meet two people who are so far out on the fringe that normal Earth-based ideas were probably a fading memory for these folks. I will call them Betty and Dennis for the sake of this article. I did not get their actual names. What follows are excerpts from a taped transcript that I made. I am in bold and Betty and Dennis are in italics. Fasten your seat belts…
I see you’re eating. Maybe I should come back later?But enough of that…
Betty: Oh no. We could stop if you have any questions.
Well, I do have some questions about ear candles. Umm, How do they work?
Betty: You put that end in your ear and you light the other end. It melts the earwax and creates a vacuum that sucks the wax from your ear and you can actually hear it moving.
Betty: But you want to do more than just one candle per ear. People have had more wax removed from their ear after the fourth candle then the first candle.
How about the fifth candle? Or, the sixth? There is still stuff coming out?
Betty: Yes, there could be. I have done up to ten in a session.
And there is still stuff coming out?
Betty: Oh yeah. But by then your ear might be getting kind of hot so you should stop and come back the next day.
And there would still be stuff coming out?
Betty: Yes, I had one fellow who had gone though three hundred.
Betty: So I finally asked him if he had been eating a lot of cheese and he finally admitted that he was. He was obviously producing a lot of mucus. Most people go through five or ten but many people need as many as twenty candles.
How much wax can there possibly be in your ear? If you had that much wax you wouldn’t be able to hear!
Betty: Some people can’t.
Dennis: You have all kinds of channels up there.
Even if that was true, how could it even reach those places? Your eardrum is in the way.
Betty: Smoke is getting up in there.
The smoke is getting by your eardrum?
Dennis: The eustachian tube, I don’t know. It’s almost as though your whole head is hollow.
But your eardrum. It’s not that far back and it completely seals off…
Dennis: Don’t ask me how that…
Betty: I can hear the stuff moving out and I had this splitting earache once and I did eight candles and at the end of it the earache was totally gone.
I’m sort of stuck on the eardrum business and…
Betty: Well, I am too and I keep meaning to look up how and where it’s all coming from myself…
Dennis: Don’t ask me where it goes; it’s just stored up there…
Betty: Yeah, some people don’t have any. He [pointing to Dennis] did a couple of candles and nothing came out.
[To Dennis:] Nothing comes out of your ears?
Dennis: People will tell you that it’s coming out of the candle. But there is this brown stuff and that is from you. You can see the difference between the burnt candle, which is a light colored powder; the color of the candle and a real dark brown used motor oil stuff that comes out.
And you never get the dark goopy stuff?
Dennis: I don’t but its just different people. Your ears are supposed to be self-cleaning. Stuff gets in there and it dries out and when you take a shower it comes out. Some people don’t do that. Some people, because they eat a lot of cheese and a lot of dairy products, their wax doesn’t dry out. It stays real moist and goopy in there and it doesn’t dry out. I dunno. To me it doesn’t look like there is enough room inside of there for all that stuff to come out, but its there. And they feel better. We did sixty candles on her [Betty’s] mother in three days.
Dennis: At the end of that three days she took a shower and squeegeed her hair out with one of those rubber things and got two huge chunks of hard wax that must have been halfway coming out or, I mean they were big.
OK. So something paranormal is going on?
Dennis: I don’t know what it is. There are just areas in there and this stuff is just packed in there. I don’t know.
Yes but you couldn’t get that much wax between your eardrum and your ear.
Dennis: I don’t know how much room there is or the curvature of your ear…
Well, I could draw you a picture if you like.
Dennis: I’ve seen an anatomy book.
Betty: You can feel the stuff coming out.
Dennis: It’s a five-thousand-year-old technology that still works. And all it takes is a little bit of cloth and some bee’s wax. And people with no technology or electricity or anything could make these things and they found out that they work so they kept doing it.
Hmmmm. Well, you know what I would like to see. I would like to see; have you guys been doing any ear coning today?
Dennis: We don’t do it.
You’re just selling them?
I’d love to see the coning done using an ear and a test tube and compare the results.
Betty: We could teach the people to do that but you wont get the brown stuff.
Well, okay. But what about the suction required to move all that wax. Wouldn’t that burst your eardrum?
Betty: Once it’s melted. And after about eight candles it does get a bit warm.
Dennis: And it sounds a bit like ocean waves with little pop pop sounds…
Betty: And sometimes for some people it might even start hurting. I think that’s because the sections at the top are getting lifted off and now oxygen is getting in and healing it.
Betty: And they come back in a couple of days and continue…
Hmmm. Well, Okay. I had another question but I forgot what it was when I noticed this Hulda Clark thing over here. Is this something else you’re selling?
Betty: Yes. We sell the Zapper and her book.
’Cause, I have to tell you, I consider her a quack.
Betty: Ah huh?
Dennis: Let me set you straight on that. Nothing is going to cure all disease. However, I only know my own personal experience. In 1990 I was living in Pheonix, Arizona. I was a software engineer for American Express. I went down to Nogales to buy some vanilla for my Mom and some Tequila or whatever it was, for my Dad. I don’t know what it was; I didn’t eat anything there. But about two weeks later, a week and a half or two weeks later, after coming back from Nogales, I wasn’t feeling very well. And my energy started to go down and down and down and down. I went to the doctor and he said, “oh yeah, you have an intestinal infection picked up in Nogales,” so he gave me Flagyl.
Well, I have a theory that parasite infections are not singular. Because of the nature of the parasite, they come in families. If you pick up one you have probably picked up a half dozen of them. So, I took the Flagyl and it didn’t make me feel very well. I didn’t get that well. My belly was still extended, feeling tired, I didn’t feel very well at all. So now they say it’s probably a bacterial infection as well. Gives me tetracycline. I took the tetracycline and that didn’t make me feel very well and the doctor said “that’s all I can do for you, sorry.” So they give you something for parasites and a broad-spectrum antibiotic and that’s all they can do for you. And I’m still working and I’m literally falling asleep at my desk. I have no energy. I cannot stay awake. I eventually lost my job at American Express. Most people don’t know this but any corporation can get rid of any employee if they give them the maximum amount of severance pay. The severance pay they gave me I would have had to have been with them for 25 years. They gave me thirteen weeks of pay. They dumped me. No insurance, no anything else, they dumped me.
So I moved to Chicago and got a job on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. So I start doing research. At first I think it might be the Candin effect. So I start doing the Candin. You know, no sugar, no wheat. I’m trying to do the best I can. I find this woman’s book, The Cure for All Diseases. I start reading it. Something clicked. It starts talking about parasites. So I go nuts. I go and buy five pounds of wormwood. That’s enough to do everyone in this whole aisle. I start taking the wormwood. I start taking black walnut extract. I start taking ground cloves. I get myself a little grinder from Wal-Mart. I ground my cloves and put everything into it. And I took them, the same dosage she said to take. She says stay on it and you will start feeling better. After about 7 days you start killing the parasites. She said if you have the parasites you should stay on it for at least 30 days. I stayed on it 45. I felt better after 7 days. I felt my old self again. After two weeks I was playing basketball again and I’ve never looked back.
So I know those parasites are there and I know that they will kill you. The doctors thought they knew but they didn’t know. They only kill one kind. And I could have had a dozen kinds. See the cloves, the wormwood and the walnut extract will kill over 150 kinds of parasites. From the egg all the way up to medium stage, all the way up to adult. Okay. So I know that they worked on me. Now, whether the parasite toxins really cause cancer, I don’t know. Okay? Whether the parasite toxins will get into the pancreas and cause diabetes, I don’t know…
Betty: (Unintelligible) about multiple sclerosis, there is a link to my site. This guy David (unintelligible) from the Multiple Sclerosis Society after he got (unintelligible) And he did what Hulda Clark said. He got the (unintelligible) taken out…
Dennis: And he did the zapper…
Betty: And his multiple sclerosis was cured…
Dennis: And they gave him an award and then they wouldn’t talk to him anymore. He was in the MS Society and he was giving lectures and they gave him some kind of ribbon to wear around his neck and he was phased out and they didn’t want to talk to him anymore…
There was another device on their table. It looked like an oatcake with metallic particles in it. It was made of resin. Betty explained to Jim and Michelle that the oatcake was to prevent Lucifarians from being able to triangulate on the position of any human who knows too much. Turns out that Lucifarians are giant shape-shifting lizard aliens that are in control of our government. They are, in this version of the “New World Order” conspiracy, running the show. They are the reason that we are deprived of a cure for cancer. (The cure, according to Dennis, is available to those who have power over what you and I see as the highest echelons of government. They form a secret government of men and lizards who control all of the world’s governments. And, while it may have been accidental and independent of Lucifarian technology, Hulda Clark’s “Zapper” is still a primitive version of some of that advanced technology. Perhaps Clark should think about purchasing an oatcake to keep them from triangulating on her position…) Because their intentions are to kill off most of the world’s population, I suppose withholding or preventing cures for disease serves that purpose.
Since there are many “New World Order” conspiracy advocates, I will not pursue that in this essay except to say once again that anecdotal evidence is insufficient for determining what is true and what is false. Wild speculations can sometimes lead to certainties that fit a paranoid worldview of dark conspiracies. A military cover-up of a UFO crash site complete with sinister black helicopters foiling those who get too close to the “truth” or a pharmaceutical industry that withholds cures because it is better for the bottom line can seem perfectly reasonable to those who advocate such goings on. After all, we know how secretive the government and military can be and we often suspect that the pharmaceutical industry is uncaring and only profit motivated. Better to keep us in the dark than to allow us to know what they know. Why? Because, to a conspiracy theorist, that would result in the dilution of the power they have over us. Without going as far as Dennis and Betty have, my guess is that we all have some feelings of powerlessness in the face of authority, not always without reason, and would like to see something done about it. Crazy is a matter of degree. The New Age hasn’t yet cornered the market on conspiracy theories. What they have done is to lend support to a way of evaluating evidence that allows even the wildest claims to be seriously considered by some of its crazier members. Really, from my perspective as a skeptic, the ear candlers claim that their product can remove earwax and open spiritual channels that were blocked before the treatment, and the claim that shape-shifting lizards are in control of our world governments are similar in that both of these claims lack supporting evidence.
But enough of that…
Leaving Dennis’ and Betty’s table, Dennis thanked us for the intelligent conversation, “It’s so rare,” and handed me a CD. It was evidence of his claims that there are forces willing to stop at nothing to keep their secret, secret. I took the CD home and played it. It turned out to be a bit of an Art Bell show. A caller made a frantic plea to Bell that he, the caller, was in terrible danger by contacting the show. They were closing in and he didn’t have much time. They were triangulating on his position. Suddenly the recording went to static. A few seconds later, Art Bell revealed that the station’s main transmitter had gone off line. It had never done that before, said Bell.
The frantic plea sound file.
Coincidence? You decide…
Many thanks to Michelle who helped (forced) me to clarify my thinking on some of the points I was trying to make. She is my harshest critic and I mean that in the best way. She made me not be lazy.
Thanks to Tim (Boron10) for his first editing and the suggestions he made.
And, of course, thanks to Dave W., our editor, for the final edit and the speed with which he did it. I would take my hat off to him if I were wearing one.
And let me not forget to thank Dennis and Betty, just for being who they are…
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