Archive for the Superstition Category

Find Madeleine McCann

Posted in Pseudoscience, psychics, Superstition on May 18, 2007 by moonflake

On May 3, Madeleine McCann went missing from her family’s hotel room while they were on holiday in Portugal. Police believe that she was abducted.

Madeleine McCann

If you have seen this girl, or have any information about her whereabouts, please contact: +351 289 884 500, + 351 282 405 400, +351 218 641 000

You can follow the case on, or on

The reason this little girl’s disappearance has come to my attention is because some interested parties are attempting to contact a local ‘inventor’ (with whom we are all too familiar) to assist them in finding the girl, offering a flight to portugal and a serious reward. They have contacted me under the mistaken belief that i would be willing to put them in contact with someone who i have every reason to believe is a fraud.

It’s always so sad when people become so desperate that they will seek out people who claim to be able to find missing persons using everything from their ‘psychic’ powers, to astrology, divining rods, pendulums and other mysterious devices. These people waste important time and resources that could be better used in actually doing something constructive.

Whether the crackpot is a pseudoscientist or a psychic, whether he claims his device is powered by science he can’t explain or spirits he can’t explain, the effects and results are always the same, and they all have about the same amount of evidence going for them. Just because someone’s con has the patina of science does not make it any more likely to be true than someone claiming that they can just see the person in their head.

From Benjamin Radford of the Skeptical Inquirer:

A common pattern occurs in high-profile missing persons cases (such as Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and countless others): dozens or hundreds of “psychics” offer tips (for free or for pay), yet when police follow up on the information, the vast majority of it –or all of it–turns out to be wrong. One trick psychics use is to give very vague information open to later interpretation (most missing persons are likely to be found “near water,” even if it’s a lake, puddle, river, drainage pipe, etc.). They also use information already available through normal means, and make so many different guesses that some will almost certainly be right. Police must follow up on all tips, including those from dubious sources, thus wasting precious hours and police manpower. When bodies are found it is always through accident or police work. Despite repeated claims to the contrary, there is not a single documented case of a missing person being found or recovered due solely to psychic information.

You will be lead astray, you will waste your time and your resources and the resources of the officials leading the investigation. If the psychic or pseudoscientist fails to find your loved one, you will be unlikely to take time out from your own personal distress to warn other potential victims about them. Worse, the psychic’s vague predictions may be retrofitted to the eventual recovery, giving them credit where none is due, allowing the cycle to continue.


And here’s why superstition is bad…

Posted in Crime, South Africa, Superstition on April 23, 2007 by moonflake

On page 13 of the weekend paper, in a tiny article that you’d miss if you were paging fast, was this story:

Six people have been arrested following the murder of three family members near Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape, SABC radio news reported.

The arrested people allegedly hacked to death a 70-year-old woman, her daughter, 56, and a grandson they accused of witchcraft.

The murders were carrier out on Wednesday night after the three were kept captive for four hours.

“The mob of villagers who believed they were witches held them captive at the Gura locality and then killed them,” said Easter Cape police spokesman Captain Zamukulungisa Jozana.

Police expected to make more arrests.

Allowing people to accept a concept such as witchcraft without requiring any real proof that it exists, is allowing them to accept that someone is a practitioner of witchcraft without requiring any real proof that they are.

Load of Bull

Posted in Crime, Religion, Stupidity, Superstition on January 29, 2007 by moonflake

Travelling by train in SA is dangerous business, and i’m not just talking about those commuters who think it’s a good idea to do so on the roof of the carriage, or while leaning out the jammed-open door. When you’re not being mugged or your train isn’t crashing into a truck at a level crossing, you’re trying to escape the carriage while rioters (sorry, I mean strikers engaged in peaceful industrial action) set it on fire.

So what does Metrorail and the SA Rail Commuter’s Association decide to do about this issue? They slaughtered a bull at Khayelitsha station.

It was a cleansing ceremony with a difference – people from all South African religions were represented with one objective: to ask for divine intervention to reduce horrific train-related accidents and attacks.

Unusually, the bull that was slaughtered at Khayelitsha railway station yesterday did not bellow despite being jabbed in the chest with an assegai [traditional spear] and having its throat slit.

According to Xhosa culture this may have meant that the sacrifice was not accepted. But Dr Mathole Motshega, of the Kara Heritage Institute, who led the cleansing ritual, said the event aimed to be inclusive of all cultures and focus on the features the various religions had in common.

Right, because I’m sure the Hindu population of South Africa thought it was a lovely ceremony.

It was the first ceremony of its kind and could be extended to all regions where Metrorail operates.

Take note, the organising bodies are respectively a division of the parastatal Transnet, and an agency of the Department of Transport, so their reaction is a government sponsored reaction, and paid for in part by your taxes.

For some of the train accident survivors and the families of people killed on trains, in whose honour the SA Rail Commuter Corporation and Metrorail arranged the ceremony, the occasion opened old wounds.

For the bull, it merely opened new ones.

This kind of superstitious nonsense has no business being pushed by secular state bodies, any more than the Department of Health should be urging people to use traditional medicines in lieu of seeing doctors. Just because it’s someone’s ‘culture’ doesn’t make it effective or ethical.

Yet another ‘witch’ murdered in South Africa

Posted in South Africa, Superstition on October 31, 2006 by moonflake

So a man’s wife dies, and is buried. A few months later, another woman comes to him, lifts her petticoat to reveal her genitals, and then claims to have bewitched his wife, and offers to take him to her.

The woman is obviously insane. She is in need of help. The right thing to do would be to alert the authorities and have her committed.

But in South Africa, she is beaten and stoned to death by an angry mob.

And if you think that belief in witchcraft is a rural issue, and stems from a lack of education, think again. In 2000, Minister of Education Faith Gasa refused to enter her office because she believed a witch had cast an evil spell on it. She refused to come back until the office had been cleared of evil spirits.