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Police pinch Pretoria prophets

News24 reports that two Pretoria “prophets” have been arrested for conning female students.

What the men did was they approached the students and told them that as prophets, they could break curses and cure bad luck.

Of course to do this they needed the women’s handbags, cellphones, laptops and a few goods from the local shopping centre to perform the ritual.

When the women went shopping for the ritual ingredients, the prophets loaded up their ill gotten gains in a Toyota Tazz.

By the time the women got back the prophets were gone, along with their handbags, cellphones and laptops.

Of course, the prophets’ luck had to run out eventually, and so they are now facing charges relating to the thefts, as well as car theft because it turns out the Tazz was stolen in Letlhabile in Brits during December 2018.

My Take

A few years ago the Templeton Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting religion, ran a study on the effects of prayer on people recovering from heart surgery.

What they found was that for those who weren’t told about the prayers – they didn’t particularly recover any better.

For those who were told, they tended to have slightly worse outcomes because they now had pressure to perform, and that’s not what you want in that situation.

Basically they found that prayers calling on God to help people, didn’t work.

A curse is basically a wish of harm upon others, it is praying that someone suffers in some way. You may pray to the devil for it, but its the same thing – and its about as effective.

Curses aren’t real. Magic in general isn’t real. People old enough to be students and own laptops should be aware that Harry Potter is a work of fiction.

But you can’t really blame them for falling for this sort of thing.

We have no evidence of demons existing, yet every now and then you will get news vendors pushing the idea that they do. CNN has done it, the Washington Post has done it, the Telegraph have done it.

If you look at the those pieces are about, Dr Richard Gallagher, he is portrayed as this super rational “man of science” – which would be a lot more convincing if any of his claims managed to pass peer review.

You get nutjobs who are tops of various fields who make weird claims the whole time, having Ivy League education does not stop you from being nuts – actual evidence needs to be presented to say something is real, not just the credentials of the person saying it.

And I know his claims have failed peer review, because if you read the Telegraph piece it says:

“Medical science remains skeptical.”

Why is it skeptical? If you’ve ever been interested in alien abduction stories what you’ll have noticed is that what the aliens look like – is generally movie aliens. The big eyes, grey heads and all of that? That comes from Stephen Spielberg.

The power of suggestion is a powerful thing.

Demonic possessions are much the same – exorcisms are generally performed on people of strong faith who have a strong belief in the things that are being exorcised from them. A lot of the time it looks like something straight out of The Exorcist, because it is, if not that the symptoms follow the local folklore. When an atheist gets an exorcism, it generally doesn’t do anything other than embarrass the exorcist, and yet news media pushes this idea that demons are real.

The news media do this even when you end up with cases of people dying, not particularly nice deaths either, in fact sometimes the victims are infants, but hey, gotta get those clicks.

A good night’s sleep is overrated and that face in the mirror was never all that attractive to begin with after all.

Then when we hear these stories about people being conned like this – we roll our eyes and wonder how that could happen. There is a snobbish elitism in that, how could these people believe such obvious rubbish – well if you feed garbage as part of the news cycle why would you be surprised?

There is this pushing of superstitious claptrap coupled with utter shock at the idea that people might believe it.

But intelligence works on the GIGO principle – garbage in, garbage out. Being very smart doesn’t help much if your base information is wrong, in fact it can lead to people defending positions which are plainly incorrect with increasingly complex arguments.

So it is important to be careful with this stuff, but that duty of care is far too often not taken seriously enough.

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