need help with palmistry and other forms of quackery!
#1
Hello friends,

One of my aunts recently informed me about her decision to visit a well-known palmist. Apparently, you have to schedule an appointment with him a week in advance. Since his clients include socialites and highly-placed professionals, he is wallowing in money. He works out of his comfortable bungalow in an upscale neighborhood here in Gurgaon.
That said, my aunt wishes to have her 11-year-old son's palm 'read'. I tried to reason with her and presented a number of arguments underscoring the futility of palmistry,astrology and other forms of quackery. She persisted in her view that it was "worth a shot" and she had nothing to lose( except money, of course). Moreover, she insisted that I accompany her. I refused right off but it seemed that she was quite adamant about the appointment. Some of her friends have already paid the charlatan a visit and are "quite amazed at the accuracy of the predictions". I am at my wits' end here, friends. I really do not want my aunt to get defrauded by a stupid,overrated palmist.
Could you suggest some simple, convincing, jargon-free take-downs of palmistry( websites, pdf documents etc.)? The visit has been scheduled for Saturday. I will try my best to dissuade her.

Best

Naushirvan
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#2
(26-Mar-2012, 07:40 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: Could you suggest some simple, convincing, jargon-free take-downs of palmistry( websites, pdf documents etc.)? The visit has been scheduled for Saturday. I will try my best to dissuade her.

This forum thread features a list of requirements which a demonstration must fulfil, at a minimum, in order to count as scientifically admissible. This list can also be used as a checklist of typical loopholes which astrology aficionados exploit to weasel and wriggle out of real testing. It was written for generic forms of predictive astrology and can be readily adapted for specific variants like tarot, palmistry etc.

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#3
Well, I am happy to inform you that better sense and rational judgement prevailed respecting the 'palmistry issue'. My aunt finally called off the appointment. It is somewhat of a victory, I guess!
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#4
(02-Apr-2012, 08:04 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: Well, I am happy to inform you that better sense and rational judgement prevailed respecting the 'palmistry issue'. My aunt finally called off the appointment. It is somewhat of a victory, I guess!

If possible, can you share how you tackled the issue. What arguments won over your aunt?
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#5
(02-Apr-2012, 08:34 PM)Kanad Kanhere Wrote: If possible, can you share how you tackled the issue. What arguments won over your aunt?

Yes, most certainly. It was largely a mixture of Google, Youtube and plain old common sense. I printed out a number of articles for her to read. They dealt mostly with cold-reading and the Barnum Effect. Astrology was discussed too. Some links:

http://www.randi.org/library/coldreading/
http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html
http://debunkatron.com/#Misc

I also elaborated on the origins of lines and patterns on our palms ( formed in the womb). She finally came around to the reasonable way of thinking. But, I suspect it may be temporary. She is religious and hence prone to the siren call of intellectual rubbish.
A few months ago, I had quite a debate with her over the issue of Sathya Sai Baba. Last month, however, she visited Puttaparthi which helped reaffirm her deeply-held convictions. The effect of all those arguments etc. seemed to have melted away.She even bought a packet of 'vibhuti' and a Sai Baba book for me!
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#6
(03-Apr-2012, 11:35 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: A few months ago, I had quite a debate with her over the issue of Sathya Sai Baba. Last month, however, she visited Puttaparthi which helped reaffirm her deeply-held convictions. The effect of all those arguments etc. seemed to have melted away.She even bought a packet of 'vibhuti' and a Sai Baba book for me!

Great work on the palmistry 'deconversion'! Do keep these success stories coming!

Speaking of the late Satya Sai Baba, many fence-sitters find the attitude of critics to be churlish and not adequately sensitive to the requirements of solace of the devotees. The following articles by Sugata Srinivasaraju may just given them pause, and make them consider the critics' objections without immediately complaining about tone.

Baba, give me a pumpkin! (About a challenge to the miracle claims of Sai Baba, issued by a critic of impeccable credentials, the Gandhian physicist and social activist H L Narasimhaiah)

A faith machine (A dispassionate look at why the Sai Baba cult carries so much mass appeal despite its obvious limitations and lack of any substantial intellectual grounding)

In Nirmukta circles, there have been a few articles aimed at fence-sitters among others:

(i) an attempted empathic statement to devotees of how we refuse to share their convictions here even while we continue to acknowledge that as a part of the human condition (Link)

(ii) a critical appraisal of the social implications of the said preacher's moral teachings, written for devotees baffled at why there is so much criticism over seemingly benign teachings (Link)

(iii) a case made for continued vigorous critique of even benign-seeming godmen, for accommodationists who counsel holding fire (Link)

There has been a host of more vigorous critiques as well:
Can charity preclude criticism? Sai Baba, the Pope and Bill Gates

Nationalize the assets of the godman of Puttaparthi

A murder in the holy shrine

Self-Deception As A Coping Mechanism Among Victims Of The Sai Baba Cult

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