Please have a look at what will hopefully be an excellent initiative, in raising awareness.
As one imagines the good exerted into an abstract form, so it bends, warps and coagulates into multitudinous dimensions. It sets, quivers and becomes a coherent structure. The medium however does not matter as beauty – the projection of the good – is solidified. Thus, when it enters one’s ears, that most noble of openings, it allows itself to press its fingers into the mind, bracketed off by the skull of impertinence. It reaches and tugs away at the transgressions one affirms through the reality of discord – because noise is nothing but notes that have yet to be notated. Thus, gathered up, the different noises of the world are set to a horizon of beauty and the dawn of comprehension sets their shadows racing. This is the pleasure of harmonies, chord-progressions, off-beats, time-signatures. If the ultimate place of beauty, some Utopia in an abstract domain, had gates it surely would have to be opened by singing into its locks; if the grounds were paved, they would be covered the most beautiful sound in the world: the harmonised, human voice. As the hands of music close our eyes and touch our lips and enter our veins to pump the heart of the good, so it begins to let our feet walk on a path toward the numinous. A path and never a destination. The pleasure of music is that it might be our universe squeezed into a fist of comprehension, sifted into the auditory nerves, and thus made manifest in the smile and tears that creep across our face as the final chord rings.
Taking matters into their own hands finds another meaning here. We are presented with the “findings” (i.e.: arbitrary assumptions) of a palm-reader who has looked at the (photographs of) hands of Jacob Zuma and Hellen Zille. Chiromancy or palmistry is a side-show failure of extravagance because there are no crystal-balls, beautiful Tarot cards or the wonderful Norse futhark, carved into almond-branches. Instead, these “readers” use people’s hands to divine the gullible’s past, present, future problems and failures, dreams and successes. All divination has yet to prove itself as a scientific fact and is strangely resistant to normal procedural methods of deciding whether they are even 75% accurate. Now, when we are approaching a new dawn in the country’s history, we are left holding candles and making faces out of shadows. We need to turn on the light and point out the problems with reason and open eyes, not magic cards and fake readings.
Let me highlight the problems with palm-reading. I believed for two or three years that I could read palms. I sincerely believed I was able to “see” that their heart-line indicated a predilection for hard men; the head-line indicated a false belief in their own potential; their Mount of Venus showed they had a soft interior masked by a shell of quick anger. And this divination was after I had used and dealt with the Norse runes as an alternative to Tarot cards, which I thought was too complicated for me.
I remember many incidents which spurned me on. Several times, when speaking to someone who comes to you with the mindset of “This person knows a mysterious art. They can tell me something about myself” they are easily impressed. (Type “cold-reading” into Google and you should be on your way to winning people over, easily. It is not something I am particularly proud of looking back.) People would be crying on my shoulder, male and female; people would laugh easily at finding out something: “You have a wonderful sense of humour which you struggle to show and thus appears to not even be there. But it does sometimes arise.” (Notice, you say x [you have a sense of humour] and then you immediately justify it with not-x [you do not show your sense of humour]. You can’t go wrong)
People thanked me and informed me weeks later how accurate I was.
I felt happy to be helping people.
But of course, its all nonsense. The truth is that people want to talk about themselves, they need a neutral person to just be sensitive to their existence and acknowledge it. They need a critical eye to see that their body-language indicates they are introverted, their shifting eyes indicates their need to speak, their arms want to be held. It is very easy and all incredibly normal. There is nothing fantastical or magical about it, except that we all have a disposition to being told by someone else what to do about ourselves. We love to be told something unique about ourselves, we love to hear that we are central to some cosmic plan in which we fit like a puzzle-piece.
But palmistry, like all forms of divination, is false. It has never (and, I predict, will never) yield any positive results and there is no scientific reason at all to associate the hands and the lines with anything to do with your life. (Be worried that on this WikiHow page, it says: “Do not be fooled by people who say palm-reading is for entertainment purposes only. There is scientifically-substantiated evidence of correlation between palm features and psychological traits.” There is no link to these scientifically verifiable results)
Here are a few reasons for it being at the least unlikely and at the most incredibly stupid.
1. The Problem of Imposition/Connection
Like astrology, palm-readers can not tell you how the lines are connected to one’s life. They simply are. This is a human imposition on a neutral object in nature: it is, what we call in psychology, a false-positive. False-positives are the basis for all superstition: All us animals are programmed by evolution to be statisticians. For example, BF Skinner (a name I know most of my fellow psychologists hate given his complete dismissal of the inner workings of the mind) called the actions of responding to a false-positive “superstition”. He saw it in his pigeons, when they reacted to a random event which just happened to coincide with the falling of a food pellet. Thus, let us say the pigeon banged her wing against the glass and a food pellet fell. Perhaps the pigeon does it again and this time, by pure luck, the pellet fell again. To the pigeon, bang glass with wing results in reception of food.
But there is no causal connection between the banging of the glass and the food pellet. It is simply the pigeon imposing its own association on to neutral and unconnected objects.
Hence, the imposition of our desires on to distant planets and stars; the imposition of meaning into cards, hands, runes, books, words and rituals. Most people have a “lucky charm” or a “lucky tie”, which when they utitlise it, resulted in very good things in the past. Indeed, I still believe a certain song is my good-luck song with the full knowledge that there is no association between listening to a random song and events in my life going well. It helps us feel grounded, but it is an offshoot of our incredible brains coagulating the chaotic world around us, into a coherency from which we can comprehend our and its existence. It is how we survive. But superstition is its dark-side.
Our ancestors appear to have been the ones who held false-positive beliefs (believe there is a connection when there is no connection). They were the ones who saw lions in the shadows and snakes in the trees. Sure, there might not have been any snakes or lions, but they ran away and restricted access to such areas. The ones who had false-negative beliefs (believe no, hence negative, connection when there is a connection) ignored the rustle in the branches and the tapping of claws in the darkness and simply thought it to be nothing. Then, of course, they were killed by the mamba or mawled by the lion. Naturally, those who were more cautious – to the point where they were cautious about things that were not even there – were the ones most likely to survive, and therefore breed. And we are the progeny of such disclosure.
2. The Hands Themselves
Hands change. They get calloused, lose fingers, lines extend and change. This does not repudiate palm-readers claims. In fact, it strengthens their position. They can point to a human and say, we change all the time. So do our hands. Therefore, because they both change, we can read the latter to decide on the former.
But this is false. Firstly, as I indicated in the previous point, the connection between our hands and our lives is simply a psychological imposition we have garnered from our ancestral mindsets. How are they connected and how can we test that connection actually exists?
Secondly, just because x changes and y changes too, doesn’t mean that they can say anything about the other. That is a false connection. That is simply using the word “change” loosely. Hands change physically; whereas people change psychologically, physically, emotionally, etc. Palm-readers will smile and nod and say: “Yes, but all those emotional changes become physical changes on the palm. They are like diary-entries: they indicate the change and we can read it as such.”
The problem with this explanation is that it is unfalsifiable. This is the most terrible of all positions to be in, since, according to scientific methodology, we must be able to postulate what position, idea, opinion or action needs to arise to refute the claim. Popper said: “A theory that explains everything, explains nothing” – which is why Intelligent Design creationism can not be a science. To many people, it shows that it is a good thing that a position is unfalsifiable, since you can not show it to be wrong. But one can create all manner of unfalsifiable claims which are blatantly not true. For example, as you are reading this there is a little purple man standing on your left – who only appears to you. If you look he will appear on your right. If you look there he will be back on your left, etc. It is impossible to see him. I have just made this up, but it is unfalsifiable. You can not postulate recording since he does not appear in cameras, other people can’t see him… One can see how ridiculous this is and similarly, it is ridiculous for all such positions which are unfalsifiable. Hence, why we do not include it as a position viable in philosophy and science.
Palm-readers can create all manner of reasons and no two palm-readers will give you the same in-depth result. No doubt many palm-readers will all agree in saying general things about you: “You are sensitive, you are kind, you are nice, etc.” but that is something nearly anyone can discern with proper body-language and attention skills. When they come down to the finger details, we can almost guarantee that no two palm-readers will agree. There is a reason why no large group of astrologers, when they are tested, have ever agreed that the blank profile matches the same Zodiac sign. Whilst the profile belongs to a Gemini, for example, all the astrologers will see the profile as something different.
Why? Because it is a human interpretation, much like their judgments of music (I do not think that we should lessen the aesthetic appreciation for beauty to the banal notions of subjectivity. For a beautiful discussion on beauty, see Roger Scruton’s Beauty). The major difference is that they could be wrong, since the specific profile matches a specific person who was born in early June, and is therefore – according the astrologers’ own charts – a Gemini. Similarly, with palm-reading. One palm-reader might call you an “air” hand – meaning light, sensitive and warm – whilst another might call you an “earth” hand – hard, deep, pragmatic. Complete opposites according to the “lore” of palm-readings.
3. Why Palm Reading is Specifically Different from Other Divinations
A major reason why palm-reading is a bit more effective is the human touch. Unlike Tarot cards or astrology, palm-reading actually invites the reader to physically touch the person. The body-part is itself the object of divination, rather than a card or ball. Our brains ignite in a maelstrom of connections when we are touched by someone. Consider how we react when someone who we might be interested in, a beautiful woman for example, touches us. However, consider our reaction to that same person if they have betrayed us, in a deeply scarring way. We feel revolted or uncomfortable – yet that same person’s touch bathed us in a glow of wonder not so long before.
When it comes to palm-reading, both sides are at an advantage for the palm-reader. For himself, he is able to feel tiny movements in the person’s hands. Do they immediately hold his hand? Do they flinch? The touch also allows the person to be more open to the palm-reader, especially when they begin to relax their hands in the other person’s. The human touch, the acquiescence to touch, is an acknowledgement of trust. Thus, we allow all manner of private thoughts to drip out in bright clarity for sensitive readers. You can see it when you grab hold of your lover’s hand – watch how their voice changes slightly when they speak to you, watch how they calm down, if they are angry about someone or something. Or, if you try and touch them, they might recoil which also indicates something. The human touch is very powerful and is a gateway to understanding other people. There is a reason we shake hands – notice, next time you shake someone’s hand, whether their grip is firm or loose, and how they engage with you following their strength.
For this reason, palm-reading is deceptively good at opening the closed gates of other people. The human touch, like a key, opens those gates – whether to reveal acquiescence or to allow immediate recoil. Both reactions however are tell-tale signs which are easily discernible.
To get to the in-depth analysis of the Argus article, itself, however, will have to wait till next time. That should be fun…
It seems my previous article has been put here, but with different (and worse) language. I imagine the language is worse because it appears to be a translation, which was then translated back into English. This has been happening a lot – i.e. people copying my posts in full, without my persmission. I don’t have a problem with it, I just would like to be asked first, and only if it has the same bloody sentences! I have asked the person involved to please contact me. I am not upset, just annoyed. I at least am happy that my article was liked enough to be copied!
My friend, Rodrigo Neely, has elucidated on his concept of love. The thing about Rodrigo is this: he is not only brilliant in his thinking but is unashamedly a better writer than yours truly. That should sound highly insulting to one whose prime source of life is English, in practice and focus and exposition, and has no secondary language to fall back on. Rodrigo, not only speaks English as another language, but writes it better than I could hope to.
I recall a post of his from The Edger (when it was still active – now it’s being renovated) which to this day sends shivers down my spine. We have supported each other during various outbreaks of emotional responses from colleagues, defending each other where appropriate. Oh and yes – he is also good-looking but beside the point here, ladies (and um gents).
Being a psychologist – well at least having a small degree in it – I was delighted that he had delved into evolutionary psychology. Of course it has had a somewhat sordid history of predicting everything from drinking milkshakes to why suicide bombers are most likely to be Muslim that somewhat taints this exciting field of inquiry. Rodrigo knows all this, saying as a disclaimer to a talk he delivered and citing the late Stephen Jay Gould: “we [must not] over step the predictive power of evolutionary psychology.” So my echoes of inquiry find a ripple in his trajectory of knowledge and thus our horizons have become eclipsed by the same value and honesty in our dawning enterprises.
However, the one area we seem to differ – by the end I hope to show we do not – is our view of love. Not only am I against marrying for love, I am against relationships based solely on love. I find pure love – or what it commonly known as romance – to be an insult to our sensibilities. Thus far, I hope most people can agree with me. There are as many definitions of love as there are positions in the Kama Sutra (so I have heard), but let me outline Rodrigo’s view of it.
His latest post is his synthesising of a naturalistic explanation with the poetical fomenting of an archetype. I much agree with his definition:
I have come up with a basic definition of love. This definition is up for grabs, I am still working on it. My main inspiration is personal experience.
I believe love is the hyperactivity of the nucleus accumbens deep in the limbic system of your brain. This is the same part of the brain employed by heroin, and other delightful addictions.
What I propose this feels like is a great joy and fascination with the other person.
The immediate critique this meets is that I am not describing love but infatuation.
I believe, as a die hard naturalist, this is a false dichotomy.
What people call infatuation is love unsustained.
Steven Pinker, in How the Mind Works, says that we should find someone to be with who is genuinely interested in us emotionally. Why? This is perhaps the most genuine form of affirmation, since there is no way to force one to fall in love with another. The fact that it is based on a very strong emotion indicates that this person really does like you for you. We should avoid people who love us for specific things – similarly, we should not say we are “in love” when we only like someone because she is, say, blonde and gorgeous. That would, according to Rodrigo’s definition be infatuation. As the great H.L. Mencken said:
[A man] succumbs to a pair of well-managed eyes, a graceful twist of the body, a synthetic complexion or a skillful display of legs without giving the slightest thought to the fact that a whole woman is there, and that within the cranial cavity of a woman lies a brain, and that the idiosyncrasies of that brain are of vastly more importance than all imaginable physical stigmata combined.
As previously stated, this is the opposite end of the spectrum. Somewhere in the middle lies the kind of love worth wanting: not premised on loving for specific characteristics but the skeletal framework itself which blooms these flowers of wonder we love to pluck and smell. At the other end of the spectrum – which might be considered a spectrum of rationality with all its iridescence throbbing like a pumped up rainbow – lies one that is too rational.
This is where I find myself.
Yates famously said that: “People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.” But what he means by sensible is not the colloquial use of correct judgment. What he means are those who are careful, tentative and judge according to the basis in reason. As previously said, the reason this is not the correct methodology for judging a partner is it removes the authenticity that arises from judging their emotional connection. It is this which is hard to fake and, if true, shows they love us for being us – not aspects which they can tick off that says “This will make a good partner”.
Please note, however, that many people can easily “fake it” and we will all usually come across this at some point in our lives. The greatest pain is realising that what we thought was love from the other person was not, yet our knot tying the bridge to him or her was. Watching it fray is a terrible thing but is bound to happen to us.
So the two ends of rational perspectives remain: either we are infatuated (we are enamoured by specific traits of the person, thus we have a crush or infatuation) or we are robotic (this person fulfills these requirements, therefore she is fine to mate and be with as a partner). Both are wrong. Suspended between both is the desirable position. This does not repudiate loving small things about your partner: I, for example, am fascinated by my partner’s eyes. I find eyes incredible but find hers to be bewitching in their power. And we can be glad they compliment aspects of ourselves: I am not a very attractive individual, whilst she is and has better social skills than myself. Perhaps they embody aspects we hope to attain: friendliness, charm, and so on. By being with them, it makes us more rounded individuals to learn how they are charming (at least according to our own standards). Since we know their movements and body better than most other’s, we can learn faster from them. (No doubt, all those with an evolutionary-ready mind are already picking up on the advantages of such a relationship).
Why then do I disagree with Rodrigo?
It is mainly along these lines, in which Rodrigo writes:
But even relationships between those who are responsible and kind sadly collapse. They fall as the two people cannot find the long lost yearning they once felt for each other. They search their dendritic forest inside their head and can find nothing that lights the torch.
The … torch is the state of being in love with the other person.
It assembles all the wonderful ecstasy you have known with this person who you have at one time enjoyed so much that they aroused all of your greatest instincts from antiquity. Your very genes sang their name inside your body.
To make love last with a precious being who beckons you, you must understand that the fuel for great intimacy in joy is … stored within your memories.
Here Rodrigo appears to be saying we must focus on the memory of various things, our own past, their past, to rekindle the flame long lost. By remembering – and perhaps he means reiterating the emotions which lead to be enamoured – we light the emotions so that they burn us enough to ignite the shadows which underpin the relationship. This makes sense, but my disagreement lies in what I think should be the goal: To allow the relationship to evolve so that it no longer needs the spurring of first emotions. The relationship must fuse into the lives of the two people, such that it is no longer a matter of working out how to feel that way again but that the feelings have being diluted to work with the stream of everyday reality. Indeed, it seems that if we have to rekindle the love from the past – itself a ghost, tied to the future by a stake through the heart – it seems suspicious of the authenticity Rodrigo, myself and Pinker are advocating.
Also, I am suspicious of love for romantic reasons since it leads to deluded notions of sanctity, in marriage and the conception of children. I think both marriage and the creation of more people are mistaken enterprises and very poor reasons for wanting a long-lasting relationship. With the guiding hand of our partner, we should be learning how to help our fellow humans better, not how to create more (for the latest in the anti-natalist position, see Professor Benatar’s brilliant and mostly misunderstood Better Never to Have Been); we should be learning how to spread the wonder we have for the person we love, onto the universe and our species as a whole.
Now, don’t even get me started on romantic “literature” and movies… Can someone honestly be true to themselves and enjoy those insults to human sensibilities?