War Against Superstition – Part I
In this article I wish to discuss about psychics, astrologers, and the Law of Truly Large Numbers…”If Uri Geller bends spoons with divine powers, then he’s doing it the hard way” once said James “The Amazing” Randi, who wrote a book and numerous articles aimed at proving Geller’s a fraud. Many other people can do what Uri does. But they call themselves magicians, mentalists or conjurers. Uri calls himself a psychic… In 1973, when Uri apeared on The Johnny Carson Tonight Show, he failed to even try to bend spoons. He said something about his inability to turn his psychic powers on and off whenever he likes to. Maybe that’s true. But Randi had worked with Carson’s producer to change the spoons and metal items Geller had planned to use… I love Magic. I know the three acts of it: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. Even though I’m no good at it, that hasn’t stopped me from trying to make things vanish, and then bringing them back. But these are just parlour tricks. David Copperfield, Gregory Nava and Houdini’s tricks are thousand times more ingenious. But what they do too are just tricks, but they don’t deceive people by saying they do something other than tricking. Uri Geller does. So do all other psychics. I hate those people… Astrologers do the same. They take advantage of the nature of human memory, which doesn’t work like computer memory. Dramatic experiences are better remembered than the others. 99% of an astrologer’s predictions will turn false. But we forget all that and remember the other 1%. This is called subjective validation. The more the predictions are made, the better the odds that one will hit… What are the odds of 2 people out of a random selection of 23 sharing the same birthday? According to Bruce Martin’s calculations, there’s a 50% chance. And yet, since they have no idea about this, they think that fate brought them together… Any skeptic should know about the “Law of Truly Large Numbers.” it simply states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous coincidence can occur. Say something has a probability of 0.0001% of happening in one trial. That means there’s a probability of 99.9999% of that event not happening in one trial. If there are 100000 independent trials, the probability of that event not happening in any of the trials is 0.999999^100000 = 0.9048 = 90.48%. That means now that there’s a 9.52% chance of that unlikely event happening in any of the trials. According to my calculations (I often screw these things up) if there are 1 million trials, there’s a 63.22% chance of that unlikely event happening in any of the trials… So what does that mean? Say the probabilty of someone dreaming his uncle dying one night and his uncle dying the next day is 0.0001%. If there are 1 million people in the world, there’s chance of 63.22% of one them seeing such a dream, and the next day it coming true. If he doesn’t know about probability, he’ll start to believe in the paranormal. I like X-Files. But don’t really believe it… In War Against Superstition Part-II, I’ll talk about god and reincarnation.