Abnormal Sociology

Table of contents

Mass Hallucination, Hysteria & Miracles

By Lucien Greaves

Can “Mass Hallucination” explain anomalous phenomena corroborated by multiple witnesses?

Sound thinking and critical reservations were abruptly cast aside in New Delhi during the early morning hours of September 21st, 1995. Statue idols, it seemed, had taken to drinking milk being fed to them by spoon. By what bizarre urging the first pilgrim to report this phenomenon was compelled to test whether a milk offering would pass the lips of a statue is unclear, but the idea rapidly took hold, devolving into a frenzy. The World Hindu Council hastily declared it a “miracle”, and by noon hopeful herds across North India stampeded to the temples leaving trampled bodies wounded underfoot. Police reinforcements were deployed by necessity to restrain outbreaks among the fevered milk-bearing mobs. Faithful conviction ruled the day.

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Repeal the Opinion Entitlement

Somewhere lurking amongst middle-American fears of local Al-Qaeda operative cells, satanic cults, and White House-hatched Socialist coups is the specter of the anti-American “entitlement”. Entitlements — or “hand-outs” — coddle the weak, foster a culture of dependency, and discourage healthy self-reliance. They mock the American ideals of hard work, independence, and self-determined grit.

…Or so we’re told by those who believe that they are entitled to their opinion on the matter. I believe, however, that this entitlement, too — the Opinion Entitlement — should also be questioned for the deleterious effects it has had upon those whom it is meant to protect.

In fact, before the matter of social entitlements — or any other issue — can reasonably be debated, we must first outright repeal this intellectual entitlement of the opinion. The Opinion Entitlement has, for too long, coddled the uninformed and willfully ignorant, cultivating an environment of lazy thinkers and armchair pundits dependent on a social norm which acts to shield their most senseless and irrational notions from critical assault. I would like to see a nation that instead cultivates a sense of responsibility toward opinions, opinions that have been earned through a critical scrutiny of facts, an earnest weighing of evidence, and with deference to Logic and Scientific Method.

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The Ghost in the Machine: The Case Against the Soul

Originally published in Skeptic Magazine 14.2(2008): 72-73,80.

The Ghost in the Machine A review of The Spiritual Brain, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary. HarperCollins, 2007. 384 pp. $25.96 ISBN 100060858834 ISBN 13-978-0060858834

Even before we reach the table of contents, the book has run afoul of reason, casting serious doubts upon the intellectual honesty of its authors. The first sentence on the inside flap of the dust-jacket synopsis asks “Do religious experiences come from God, or are they merely the random firing of neurons in the brain?” Of course, confined strictly to those two magv14n02_coveroptions, one may even feel compelled to choose the former-but dearly the cards have been stacked. That neurons must fire in patterns seems intuitive. But to present this as necessarily the product of God’s divine will demands quite a bit of justification. The question is also eerily similar to the equally misrepresentative question often posed by Intelligent Design advocates: “Was life designed, or is it the product of mere random chance?” Available biographical information about the authors reveals this similarity as no coincidence…

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Lies, Levitation, & Defamations Most Foul: On Transcendental Meditation’s attempts to enter public schools  

30 Jan 2010

The diagnosis is in: I have a malignant negativity, a “negative world view” that prevents me from accepting the unique universal healing properties of Transcendental Meditation™ [TM].  My problem has been recognized by some of the top minds at Maharishi University (TM’s university in Fairfield, Iowa) who have expressed a willingness to take legal action against my writings so as to quarantine this ugly contagion – this hideous negativity that has deformed my critical thinking to the point in which I can no longer recognise an established scientific fact.  According to TM™:

“Scientific research has clearly demonstrated that when one per cent of the population of a city or town practices Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation Programme, the crime rate significantly decreases. Similarly, when groups of individuals practicing Maharishi’s TM-Sidhi programme with Yogic Flying equal at least the square root of one per cent of a population, there is a significant reduction of crime and accidents, as well as an increase in stock prices, decreased pollution, decreased unemployment, and decreased hostilities between nations.”

This crime-reducing by-product of TM™ is a phenomena known as “The Maharishi Effect”. flyer1 During the Summer of 1993, 4,000 faithful, trained in the peaceful art of Transcendental Meditation™, gathered in crime-ridden Washington, D.C. with a mission: to scientifically prove the Maharishi Effect.  And, if you ask those minds from the prestigious Maharishi University who were responsible for the study, the experiment was a great success… A success, that is, despite the fact that “during the weeks of the experiment Washington D.C.’s weekly murder count ‘hit the highest level ever recorded.’”

So where was the success?  I childishly ask in my negativity-induced ignorance.

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Black Friday

Originally published November 10, 2011

Art by Anthony Angarola for “The Kingdom of Evil” by Ben Hecht (1924)

Beginning with the “Black Friday” sales panic annually observed, the Holiday Season in the American tradition is generally recognized to run from the day after Thanksgiving till the anticlimactic sales moratorium of December 25th. Black Friday is the gunshot start of a month-long consumerist frenzy marked by broken bones, scattered bodies, and impoverishing excess. Christmas itself has become really nothing more than a cease-fire. The “true spirit” of the Holidays has long been best reflected in Black Friday. This is the day in which celebrants are free to abandon any individual sense of decency and responsibility to become a part of the larger shopping mob. Year by year the brutality grows more severe, earlier and earlier consumers mindlessly congeal into riotous hordes outside major retail outlets during the predawn hours preparing their disorganized assaults with savage mania.

Injuries are to be expected and deaths are not out of the question.

It is widely believed that “Black Friday” earned its name to signify the day of the year in which many retail businesses find their revenue shifting to profit, from ‘in the red’ to ‘in the black’. In fact, it appears the term originated from the Philadelphia Police in response to the dark day’s traffic congestion and overall war-zone ambiance.

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