Just discovered various Indian pseudoscience and superstitions via the Discovery channel.
According to the show and a building contractor interviewed there currently is a craze (the documentary was made in 2004) for what is known as Vaastu homes, that is, houses that have been designed and built according to the tenets of Vaastu. (By the way, the contractor is no Vaastu sympathizer. ) What is Vaastu? Well, think feng shui and it's that. It's about facing the building's entrance east, having a square or rectangular shaped abode, about some cosmic energy flowing through the home with its center having the highest concentration of "vibrations"--that kind of stuff. The end result of faithfully following Vaastu architecture? What else but luck and fortune. Indians are just like the rest of us--greedy and wanting a free lunch. So any superstition to help them along is much appreciated. Any evidence presented to support Vaastu claims? None, save for a testimonial. Can the "energy" that supposedly bathes the earth and gets channeled through one's home be detected and measured by any instrument? Now why do suppose Discovery forgot to ask that of the expert Vaastu architect they interviewed?
Then there was astrology and palm readers. Indians are said to be very much into it. Yaaaawn! Fast forward please.
The most interesting claptrap featured is something called Nadi. According to tradition, ancients had written down biographical details of every single person who has and would ever live. That's everyone, including Socrates, Lao Tze, Moses and Jesus, you, me, our kith and kin and enemies, and our descendants-to-be.
The Nadi leaves, as they are called, are about the size of a 12-inch ruler. On it are supposedly written the facts about the person. Nadi readers have cabinets where these bundles of leaves are stored. To find the leaf of a person one has to first locate the particular bundle in which it is contained. This is done by looking at the client's thumbmark. How the reader uses fingerprints the documentary did not elaborate. To find the specific leaf in the bunch the client is asked questions, sometimes an endless litany of questions. The interrogation it seems can sometimes take more than a hour. (Are your baloney detectors and crap counters going off-scale and clicking like mad already?) When the correct leaf is finally found the reader begins, well, reading what's on it to the client.
One Japanese who traveled to India to have a reading was so amazed when the reader began telling him his profession, his wife's name, his marital problem, etc. An Australiam woman who's now moved to India just as well vouches for the accuracy of the reading. She's now writing a book on Nadi.
Haven't these two enthusiasts ever heard of white-hot reading*?
I did my maths (please verify) and computed how much storage space it would take to store all the Nadi leaves for just those of us who are still around. Assuming each Nadi leaf is 30 x 2 x 0.1 centimeters and assuming 6 billions souls, it turns out that the whole mass of 6 billion Nadi leaves would need a cabinet that's 30 centimeters deep by 2 meters high by 60 kilometers long! That's 36,000 cubic meters of storage space or the equivalent of 530 40-footer container vans. Do the 100 or so Nadi readers actually have that much leaves in their modest homes? Even now I can't wait for the ad hoc rationalizations they have ready up their sleeves. (For starters: Each leaf stores the information for 10, or 100, or 1000 individuals--digitally compressed I suppose. Various sheaves of leaves have been lost, or are with other readers, or are archived in Shiva's spaceship which is currently orbitting Planet Xenu.)
And how did the documentary treat this Nadi bullshit? Not a single skeptic was brought in to critique it. There was not even a single statement uttered by the narrator that would elicit reservation on the part of the viewer. We are thus led to believe--not least via the (sincere) testimonials--that Nadi in fact works, that it can accurately provide you facts about yourself. Expect the India tourism board to be all smiles.
Discovery has been getting on my nerves lately. Last week they featured a reconstruction of a haunting. A family had moved into some house which they snapped up because it was cheap. Soon thereafter the children began experiencing poltergeists. A psychic and ghost hunters were invited to check the place out. Of course they found ghosts. A priest was later asked to bless/exorcise the place. The entire film was trash from start to finish. It looked as it if it was trying to outdo The Exorcist. It had blankets flying, books being shot out of shelves, beds jumping, a channeller--who's been bound to a chair--growling and taunting in devilish ways. Every single minute of it was devoted to pushing the viewers toward belief in ghosts and the supernatural. Was any skeptic asked for his opinion? Was Joe Nickell of CSICOP approached? No.
And what's on Discovery for the rest of February? Dragons! And more ghosts on the loose.
I'm sellling the tv.
* Ok, so I just made that up. I say this Nadi interrogation is just blatant information gathering, with the reader directly asking for various facts about the client on the pretext of zeroing in on his/her leaf. All the while the reader is committing to memory details and inferences that he'll later throw back at the client. And who knows what various hot and cold reading techniques Nadi readers might be employing.