A Second Look at Second Sight
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THE NECESSARY PRE-REQUISITE
Waldorf schools base their methods on the esoteric doctrines of Rudolf Steiner. But Rudolf Steiner’s entire esoteric system, Anthroposophy, depends on the existence of clairvoyance. And there's a problem: Clairvoyance does not exist.
Can I prove that there is no such thing as clairvoyance? No. Proving a negative is nearly impossible.
A more cautious statement would be: There is little or no persuasive evidence that clairvoyance or other psychic phenomena exist. This statement is easy to defend.
There is, of course, a huge backlog of claims made by self-described clairvoyants such as Rudolf Steiner. Sylvia Browne, a famous "psychic" of own our times, has written: "My first indisputable [sic] sign that I was a psychic was a clairvoyant experience...." — Sylvia Browne, PHENOMENON (New American Library, 2005), p. 67. But such reports can be disputed, which is the point. Anecdotes and claims are not evidence. They may well be lies or delusions. We need real evidence, and there is virtually none supporting the claims for clairvoyance.
Here is a representative summary of various authorities disputing or questioning the existence of psychic phenomena. Waldorf faculty members, if they are true to Steiner, will generally reject the sources I cite, because these sources reflect real science rather than Steiner's "spiritual science," which is a form of occultism. But this returns us to the core problem in the thinking behind Waldorf schools: Such thinking requires rejection of real knowledge about the real world, substituting instead unreliable visions produced by an unfounded form of "thought": clairvoyance.
I have added a few comments to some of the entries.
— Roger Rawlings
Let's begin with a Q & A taken from PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY. Following it, I'll list quote after quote from numerous other sources. I'll attempt to make each quotation clear, and wherever possible I'll provide links.
Read as few or as many of the following items as you like. Going through the entire lineup at one sitting could be wearying, so feel free to explore, hop around, skip some items now and — if you feel like it — return to read more some other time. — R.R.
"Q. Why is the possibility of telepathy, clairvoyance and other psychic phenomena ignored by official science?
"A. This possibility has not been ignored ... Each time a new technique appears in the psychic field, it has been studied and evaluated by scientists.
"Q. Why it is that personal experiences are not accepted at face value?
"A. Official science has developed a set of rules, known as the scientific method, for evaluating the objectivity of personal experiences ... [O]fficial science...provides ground-rules for the observers which, when properly applied, tend to free them from psychological sources of error.
"Q. The Parapsychological Laboratory is located in a great university [Duke: see below]. Why is it, then, that official science has still not accepted ESP [extrasensory perception, clairvoyance] and psychokinesis [the ability to move objects by mental power]?
"A. The methods used [at the Parapsychological Laboratory] in collecting data are open to serious question ... [T]he majority of investigators who obtained positive results were ‘believers’ ... [S]cientific data which are sensitive to the preconceived convictions of the experimenter are always suspect.
"Q. In what ways can bias influence the scientist?
"A. [B]ias will seek out and capitalize on loop-holes ... Bias will determine the selection of experimental procedures ... Preconceived belief will make the scientist less critical of his own methods than he should be.... [Scientists properly using the scientific method avoid these errors.]
"Q. If there is uncertainty concerning ESP and PK [psychokinesis]...what should be done about it?
"A. This is a question which properly should be directed at the scientists who are convinced of the reality of ESP and PK. Official science adopts the attitude that it is the responsibility of the promoter of a new scientific discovery to satisfy all critics as to the authenticity of the discovery ... Claims for the reality of psychic phenomena have generated a long history of disappointments.” — John L. Kennedy, “An Evaluation of Extra-Sensory Perception”, PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, Vol. 96, No. 5.
A few notes are in order: 1) The Duke Parapsychology Laboratory has since gone out of business, having been thoroughly discredited. See the entries, below, on J. B. Rhine. 2) "Official" is an unfortunate choice of words. There is no "official science" — there is real science and there is pseudoscience (or pathological science, as it is sometimes called). 3) Parapsychology and Steiner's "spiritual science" are two examples of pseudoscience, each associated with the fallacy of clairvoyance. — R.R.
"clairvoyance - knowledge of information not necessarily known to any other person, not obtained by ordinary channels of perceiving or reasoning — thus a form of extrasensory perception (ESP). Spiritualists also use the term to mean seeing or hearing (clairaudience) the spirits of the dead that are said to surround the living. Research in parapsychology — such as testing a subject’s ability to predict the order of cards in a shuffled deck — has yet to provide conclusive support for the existence of clairvoyance." — clairvoyance. (2009). ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 02 Sep 2009.
Seeking to be impartial, the BRITANNICA says that no conclusive support has "yet" been found. A more definitive statement would be that no conclusive support has ever been found. — R.R.
"precognition - supernormal knowledge of future events, with emphasis not upon mentally causing events to occur but upon predicting those the occurrence of which the subject claims has already been determined. Like telepathy and clairvoyance, precognition is said to operate without recourse to the normal senses and thus to be a form of extrasensory perception (ESP).
"There is a long tradition of anecdotal evidence for foreseeing the future in dreams and by various devices such as observing the flight of birds or examining the entrails of sacrificial animals. Precognition has been tested with subjects required to predict the future order of cards in a deck about to be shuffled or to foretell results of dice throws, but the statistical support for it has generally been less convincing than that from experiments in telepathy and clairvoyance [which is very weak; see above - R.R.]." — "precognition." ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 02 Sep. 2009.
"telepathy - direct transference of thought from one person (sender or agent) to another (receiver or percipient) without using the usual sensory channels of communication, hence a form of extrasensory perception (ESP). While the existence of telepathy has not yet been proved, some parapsychological research studies have produced favourable results using such techniques as card guessing with a special deck of five sets of five cards. The agent may simply think of a random order of the five card symbols while the percipient tries to think of the order on which the agent is concentrating. In a general ESP test the sender concentrates on the face of one card at a time while the receiver tries to think of the symbol. Both subjects are, of course, separated by a screen or some greater obstacle or distance. Scores significantly above chance are extremely rare, particularly as testing methods have become more rigorous." — telepathy. (2009). ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA, Online, 02 Sep. 2009.
Note that as testing has improved, apparent cases of psychic powers diminish. This pattern has been found over and over, as subsequent entries will show, below. If a phenomenon is real, improved tests should show the phenomenon more and more clearly. Just the opposite happens with psychic phenomena, which clearly suggests that they are unreal. — R.R.
"A scientific panel commissioned by the National Research Council to study this area [i.e., psychic phenomena] concluded that '...despite a 130-year record of scientific research on such matters, our committee could find no scientific justification for the existence of phenomena such as extrasensory perception, mental telepathy, or 'mind over matter' exercises ... Evaluation of a large body of the best available evidence does not support the contention that these phenomena exist.' Ray Hyman, a psychologist who has devoted much of his career to evaluating claims of paranormal phenomena. similarly states that '...there is no scientifically acceptable basis, as of today, for accepting the reality of psi [i.e., psychic phenomena].' Even many of those who fervently believe in the reality of psi can sound a similar theme. Stanley Krippner, a firm believer in psi and an articulate advocate for parapsychology, nevertheless states that 'since Charles Richet first applied statistics to psychical research data nearly 100 years ago, no experimental procedure has emerged which would invariably produce the same results no matter who followed it. Furthermore, no mechanism underlying psi has been discovered ... Finally, no practical use of ESP or PK [i.e., psychokinesis — moving objects by thought alone] has been validated by laboratory research.'" — Thomas Gilovich, HOW WE KNOW WHAT ISN'T SO (Free Press, 1993), p. 160. Footnotes identify the sources Gilovich quotes: National Research Council (1988, January), AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION MONITOR, p. 7; R. Hyman (1985), in P. Kurtz (Ed.), A SKEPTIC'S HANDBOOK OF PARAPSYCHOLOGY (Prometheus); and S. Krippner (1977), ADVANCES IN PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH, I (Plenum).
"Distraught cancer victims make pilgrimages to the Philippines, where 'psychic surgeons,' having palmed bits of chicken liver or goat heart, pretend to reach into the patient's innards and withdraw the diseased tissue, which is then triumphantly displayed. Leaders of Western democracies regularly consult astrologers and mystics before making decisions of state. Under public pressure for results, police with an unsolved murder or a missing body on their hands consult ESP 'experts' (who never guess better than expected by common sense, but the police, the ESPers say, keep calling). A clairvoyance gap with adversary nations is announced, and the Central Intelligence Agency, under Congressional prodding, spends tax money to find out whether submarines in the ocean depths can be located by thinking hard at them. A 'psychic' — using pendulums over maps and dowsing rods in airplanes — purports to find new mineral deposits; an Australian mining company pays him top dollar up front, none of it returnable in the event of failure, and a share in the exploitation of ores in the event of success. Nothing is discovered. Statues of Jesus or murals of Mary are spotted with moisture, and thousands of kindhearted people convince themselves that they have witnessed a miracle.
"These are all cases of proved or presumptive baloney. A deception arises, sometimes innocently but collaboratively, sometimes with cynical premeditation. Usually the victim is caught up in a powerful emotion — wonder, fear, greed, grief. Credulous acceptance of baloney can cost you money; that's what P. T. Barnum meant when he said, 'There's a sucker born every minute.' But it can be much more dangerous than that, and when governments and societies lose the capacity for critical thinking, the results can be catastrophic — however sympathetic we may be to those who have bought the baloney." — Carl Sagan, THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD (Ballantine, 1996), p. 209.
"Clairvoyance, ability to see or visualize objects and events beyond the range of normal sight. Clairvoyance is a form of extrasensory perception, or ESP, which includes any ability to gain information by psychic means, rather than through the physical senses. According to belief, clairvoyance usually occurs when a person with clairvoyant powers is in a state of trance, during which that person can describe the objects or events that appear in his or her mind. Most scientists, however, deny that claims of clairvoyance have been supported by any substantial evidence.
"There are several explanations for clairvoyance among people who believe it occurs. Some people believe that a clairvoyant person gains psychic visions through communication with spirits. Others claim that clairvoyance comes through telepathy, the ability to communicate with others using only the mind. Another explanation says that clairvoyant people get their information through their own special abilities, without direction from another person or spirit." — ENCARTA,http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761564635/Clairvoyance.html 9/2/09:
Note: ENCARTA (an encyclopedia sponsored by Microsoft) was planning to shut down not long after I gathered quotations for this page. If the plan was followed, links to ENCARTA will presumably fail after the shutdown. (Apparently the Japanese edition will stay open.) — R.R.
"Extrasensory Perception (ESP), knowledge of external objects or events without the aid of the senses. Since ancient times, people have wondered about various so-called psychic experiences that seem to defy scientific explanation. Often these phenomena have been associated with communication with the dead ... In 1930 Joseph Banks Rhine, a psychology professor at Duke University, founded a parapsychology laboratory at the school. The laboratory became a famous center for investigating ESP. Rhine’s investigations focused on what he called psi, or psychic phenomena. He believed that there might be natural, although unknown, causes of mysterious occurrences, and he attempted to establish their existence by use of experimental and mathematical techniques ... Rhine’s investigations led him to believe that ESP underlies clairvoyance, the perception of external things without sensing them; telepathy, the perception of another person’s thoughts; and precognition, the ability to predict events. However, later scientists criticized the methodology of Rhine’s studies, noting some subjects could identify the symbols by physical marks on the cards.
"More recently, computers and other instruments have been used in the study of ESP. However, most scientists do not believe that ESP exists. These scientists note that thousands of controlled studies have failed to show any evidence of psychical phenomena, and that no person has ever successfully demonstrated ESP for independent investigators. Despite these findings, surveys indicate that a substantial portion of the public believes in ESP. See also Psychical Research." — ENCARTA, http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761552170/Extrasensory_Perception.html 9/2/09.
"Psychical Research, IV, CRITICISMS
"Although parapsychologists are increasingly employing and refining scientific methodologies for their observations, one of the chief criticisms of their work is that experiments in psi [i.e., psychic] phenomena can rarely be duplicated. Under the most rigorous laboratory controls, for example, experiments on phenomena such as out-of-body experiences — in which individuals demonstrate an apparent ability to locate their center of perception outside their bodies — indicate that even reputable psychics are rarely able to duplicate earlier, high-scoring performances. The scores of such individuals, in fact, tend to drop to the level of probability the more the experiment is repeated. Nonparapsychologists find psi experiments even more difficult to repeat, and a majority of conventional scientists dismiss parapsychology findings as unscientific or at best inconclusive.
"A similar criticism is based on the claim by most parapsychologists that psi phenomena occur beyond the law of causality, which is one of the fundamental premises of any scientific investigation. Indeed, results of psi experiments often turn out to be far from or even contradictory to the original predictions. Parapsychologists admit that psi phenomena fall so far outside ordinary comprehension that they are often unsure whether an ESP event or a PK event has occurred; Rhine himself stated that one kind of event could not occur without the other. Because these phenomena are difficult to define or isolate when they appear to happen — and, further, because the phenomena occur only for a select group of observers — most scientists think that psi investigations fall far short of the rules of objectivity required by the scientific method." — ENCARTA http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761566266/Psychical_Research.html 9/2/09.
"parapsychology, study of mental phenomena not explainable by accepted principles of science. The organized, scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena began with the foundation (1882) of the Society for Psychical Research in London. Such early efforts attempted to dissociate psychical phenomena from spiritualism and superstition, and particularly to investigate mediums and their claims of evoking spirits or apparitions. The society also studied automatic writing, levitation, and ectoplasmic and poltergeist activities. One of its principal founders, Frederic William Henry Myers, summed up the society's early efforts in Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903). An American Society for Psychical Research was also founded, with James Hervey Hyslop as its leading spokesman. Considerable experimentation has been conducted, perhaps the best-known being that of Joseph Banks Rhine at Duke Univ. The Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, created in the early 1960s, has since replaced the Duke program. In Great Britain the work of Whately Carington and Samuel George Soal paralleled that of Rhine. The great majority of parapsychological studies have focused on the area called extrasensory perception (ESP), which includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. The popular press often reports stories that are parapsychological in nature. Many scientists criticize the claims made by parapsychologists, arguing in particular that there can be no proof of such phenomena." — THE COLUMBIA ELECTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA, 6th ed. Copyright © 2007, Columbia University Press. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0837604.html.
"Clairvoyance...is an awareness of events, objects, or people without the use of the senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, or touch. It is a major form of extrasensory perception (ESP) ... Clairvoyance supposedly is not affected by time or distance. A person may 'see' an accident in a dream before it happens or sense an event taking place far away. Awareness of an event before it occurs is known as precognitive clairvoyance. Clairvoyance is under scientific investigation, and the question of its existence remains open. However, most scientists are skeptical. The relationship of clairvoyance to telepathy, if any, is not known." — THE WORLD BOOK MULTIMEDIA ENCYCLOPEDIA, Mac OS X Edition, Version 6.0.2.
"Extrasensory perception, Debate About ESP. One of the most noted American ESP researchers was J. B. Rhine...[whp] conducted a number of card-guessing experiments to test clairvoyance, precognition, and telepathy. Some researchers claim that evidence based on the work of Rhine and other investigators has established beyond question the existence of ESP.
"But other researchers believe that the evidence is questionable. In the early days of ESP research, when fairly crude experiments were used, some people put on rather remarkable telepathic or clairvoyant performances. Today, however, when experiments are more carefully controlled, similar performances are rare. In science, the trend should generally be in the opposite direction. That is, if the phenomena under investigation are real, improved experiments should produce more significant and well-defined results.
"Another reason for skepticism is that after more than a hundred years of research, no scientist has been able to produce a repeatable demonstration of ESP that can be performed before a group of neutral scientists." — THE WORLD BOOK MULTIMEDIA ENCYCLOPEDIA, Mac OS X Edition, Version 6.0.2.
"The existence of ESP and other paranormal powers such as psychokinesis (PK), are disputed, though systematic experimental research on these subjects, known collectively as psi, has been ongoing for over a century in a field known as parapsychology.
"Most of the evidence for ESP, however, is anecdotal. The anecdotes consist of two parts: the experience itself and the interpretation of it. A story may be true, but the attempt to make sense or give psychic meaning to the story often seems to the skeptic to exceed the bounds of reasonableness." — THE SKEPTIC’S DICTIONARY, http://skepdic.com/esp.html.
"I do marvel at their [parapsychological researchers’] tenacity, however, for they labour in search of psi [parapsychological phenomena] despite a lack of the evidentiary and other rewards that are earned by mainstream scientists in their research. Yet, that being said, and as I have stated before (Alcock, 1985; 1987), I continue to believe that parapsychology is, at bottom, motivated by belief in search of data, rather than data in search of explanation." — James E. Alcock, “Give the Null Hypothesis a Chance: Reasons to Remain Doubtful about the Existence of Psi” http://www.imprint.co.uk/pdf/Alcock-editorial.pdf.
"Among all the sciences, there is one known as parapsychology ... [U]nlike in other sciences, none of the parapsychologists' experiments have both shown positive results and have been replicated by independent researchers. Even the Guinness Book of Records, listing the single most astonishing performance in ESP, apologizes and reports that the episode fails to meet even their standards. Data in some important basic parapsychological expe◊◊◊◊◊
iments that yielded apparently positive results have been shown to be falsified — though parapsychology is not alone in this respect ... Psychologist Dr. David Marks, who has done extensive investigation of the parapsychologists' work, has said:
"'Parascience has so far failed to produce a single repeatable finding and, until it does, will continue to be viewed as an incoherent collection of belief systems steeped in fantasy, illusion and error.'
"The U.S. National Research Council in 1988 concluded a well-funded two-year study by a special committee and published a report, Enhancing Human Performance, which concluded:
"'The committee finds no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years, for the existence of parapsychological phenomena. In the committee's view, the best scientific evidence does not justify the conclusion that ESP — that is, gathering information about objects or thoughts without the intervention of known sensory mechanisms — exists. Nor does scientific evidence offer support for the existence of psychokinesis — that is, the influence of thoughts upon objects without the intervention of known physical processes.'" — James Randi, AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLAIMS, FRAUDS, AND HOAXES OF THE OCCULT AND SUPERNATURAL (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995) http://www.randi.org/encyclopedia/parapsychology.html.
"After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability. A National Research Council investigation of ESP similarly concluded that ‘the best evidence does not support the contention that these phenomena exist' ... And in 1995, a CIA-commissioned report evaluated 10 years of military testing of psychic spies. Twenty million dollars had been invested. The result? The program produced nothing." — David G. Myers, PSYCHOLOGY (Worth Publishers, 2004), p. 260. This is one of the most widely used and authoritative psychology texts.
The first sentence in this item is by far the most important, and indeed it may stand as a summary for all the items quoted here: "After thousands of experiments, a reproducible ESP [i.e., psychic] phenomenon has never been discovered, nor has any individual convincingly demonstrated a psychic ability." For our consideration of Waldorf education, the key psychic phenomenon in question is clairvoyance, and Myers — like all the other experts cited here — says there is no real evidence for the existence of any such phenomenon. — R.R.
"A psychic is an actor playing the role of a psychic." — Psychologist and magician Daryl Bem — see Myers, PSYCHOLOGY, p. 260.
"The study of paranormal activities and phenomena has been riddled with controversy since its conception. It is claimed that some people, utilizing senses beyond the ordinary, exhibit powers that cannot be explained by traditional science. Skeptics of the paranormal point to the fact that in over a century since the first serious studies of the paranormal began, usually dated to the opening of the Society for Psychical Research in London in 1882, no replicable demonstration of any such powers has ever been conducted. Yet many people continue to believe in the existence of the paranormal." — ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PSYCHOLOGY, http://www.enotes.com/gale-psychology-encyclopedia/parapsychology.
"Clairvoyance was the first paranormal phenomena to be seriously considered by scientists, probably because devising tests to prove or disprove its existence was easy. In the late 1920s, many such tests were devised by J.B. Rhine, a psychology professor who had left Harvard University to help found the Parapsychology Laboratory at Duke University. Rhine's tests often produced positive results for clairvoyance, and at the time his work was seriously regarded. In recent decades, however, much of Rhine's work has been discredited as being biased, careless, and, in some cases, utterly fraudulent.
"Recent studies have proven more reputable but far from conclusive. One such study revealed statistically significant telepathic abilities among 100 men and 140 women tested in Scotland over six years in the mid-1980s. In the tests, 'senders' focused on images or video clips and attempted to send those impressions to a 'receiver' in a sensory-isolated room. The researchers reported that one in three sessions led to a 'hit,' meaning that the receiver reported visualizing images similar to those being sent. A hit is expected to occur by chance in one in four instances. On the other hand, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States discounted the existence of ESP after conducting its own experiments in 'remote viewing.' The agency concluded that there were not enough evidence for its existence.
"...There are other phenomena studies by parapsychologists, including hauntings, UFOs, near-death and after-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, psychic healing, and many others. All of these share the curious nature of ESP and PK [psychokinesis] in that, anecdotally speaking, occurrences are widespread, believed by members of many cultures, and discussed throughout history. Yet none have been scientifically demonstrated or reproduced ... One of the reasons the scientific community is skeptical about paranormal phenomena is that there is no apparent basis in physical laws for such phenomena. In every other scientific discipline, it is possible to speculate reasonably that events occur as they do because they follow a recognized natural law, such as gravity or conservation of energy. Parapsychologists have failed to develop adequate theoretical reasons for the existence of the phenomena they purport to demonstrate." — JRank, PSYCHOLOGY ENCYCLOPEDIA , http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/471/Parapsychology.html Note: This is taken from essentially the same text as the entry immediately above.
"After [a] promising beginning, Psychical Research languished for some twenty-four centuries ... [I]n the course of those twenty-four centuries there was a great deal of Occultist theorizing, and a good deal of Spiritualistic practice ... But neither Hagiography, nor Occult theory, nor Spiritualistic practice, nor witchcraft can be regarded as a form of scientific investigation." — H. H. Price, “Some Philosophical Questions About Telepathy and Clairvoyance”, PHILOSOPHY, Vol .15, No. 60, pp. 363-364.
"The present study, based on the 1984 General Social Survey, tests whether or not religious orientation, religious behavior, and structural strain predict the odds of reporting telepathic and clairvoyant experiences. The results indicate that more frequent prayer is associated with higher odds of reporting telepathy, and that great financial dissatisfaction is associated with higher odds of reporting clairvoyance ... [F]urther testing must be done in order to determine whether cultural source can be extended to explain demographic variation in the reporting of paranormal experiences." — William L. MacDonald, “The Effects of Religiosity and Structural Strain on Reported Paranormal Experiences”, JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF RELIGION, Vol. 34, No. 3. p.. 366.
"Rhine presented neither a physical mechanism nor a psychodynamical model or anything else to make sense of telepathy and clairvoyance ... [I]t remains one of the frustrations of parapsychologists today, forty years later, that they can devise no satisfactory unifying theory for their data." — Michael McVaugh and Seymour H. Mauskopf, “J. B. Rhine’s Extra-Sensory Perception and Its Background in Psychical Research”, ISIS, Vol. 67, No. 2, p. 189.
"Before psychology became established in science, it was popularly associated with extrasensory perception (ESP) and other paranormal phenomena (phenomena beyond the laws of science). Today, these topics lie outside the traditional scope of scientific psychology and fall within the domain of parapsychology. Psychologists note that thousands of studies have failed to demonstrate the existence of paranormal phenomena." — ENCARTAhttp://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761576533_8/Psychology.html#p105 9/3/09.
"We live in a world that is increasingly shaped by and bathed in science ... [But] modern societies are also characterized by high degree of belief in a variety of pseudoscientific claims that have been thoroughly debunked or otherwise discarded by scientists ... A partial explanation for this state of affairs may be that scientific factual knowledge has little bearing on people’s understanding of the evidence in favor or against pseudoscientific claims ... [S]cience education...focuses on the teaching of facts at the detriment of explicit treatment of methodological and conceptual issues surrounding the practice of science ... It is not at all clear why educators expect that massive factual knowledge of science should translate into conceptual understanding of the nature of science and improved critical thinking skills, allegedly the true targets of science education ... [Among students we polled] a low degree of skepticism was found for claims concerning the healing power of magnets, the presence of aliens in a government facility known as Area 51, and the existence of telepathy or clairvoyance.” — Matthew Johnson and Massimo Pigliucci, “Is Knowledge of Science Associated with Higher Skepticism of Pseudoscientific Claims?”, THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, Vol. 66, No. 8, pp. 536 & 542.
In brief, many people believe pseudoscience because they haven’t been taught the real methods of science or the needed skills in critical thinking. This problem may be especially severe for Waldorf graduates, since science instruction may be worse in Waldorf schools than in many other types of school. — R.R.
"Society today seems to be pervaded by a deep, unconscious, anti-science bias. Scientists are represented in movies, television, and books as heartless, humorless nerds ... Perhaps even more important is the dismissive attitude toward science...and — the flip side of the coin — the welcoming of so-called 'mysteries' such as after-death experiences, alien abductions, crystal channeling, crop circles, telekinesis, clairvoyance, extrasensory perception (ESP), or remote viewing ... I have no quick fixes ... All I can do is look on in sadness and worry about the future of rational inquiry....” — Douglas R. Hofstadter, “Popular Culture and the Threat to Rational Inquiry”, SCIENCE, Vol. 281, No. 5376, p. 513.
Pseudoscientific “mysteries” may be especially celebrated in Waldorf schools. They were given prominence at the Waldorf school I attended. Our small library had multiple books about UFOs, abominable snowmen, and the like; and our headmaster complained, in print, about the “blight of critical thinking.” — R.R.