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When Pseudoscience Kills - Comments

Carlinlives's Avatar Comment 1 by Carlinlives

Self-help explained by who would be my guru if he would not have slapped me around for believing in gurus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCsM35H9TFA

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:01:52 UTC | #912295

KurlyTlapoyawa's Avatar Comment 2 by KurlyTlapoyawa

I looked into this tragedy and could find no evidence that they were participating in a sweat lodge.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 21:51:08 UTC | #912306

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

she and eight others in a personal-development seminar called Dying in Consciousness were covered with mud, wrapped in plastic, put under blankets and immobilized with their heads in cardboard boxes for about nine hours

Anyone with half a brain would realise that's a fine recipe for 'dying in reality'. However much one should damn the charlatans, it's a sad indictment of basic education that people even need to be told not to partake in such stupidity.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 22:04:51 UTC | #912311

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 4 by irate_atheist

Darwin Award.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 22:28:26 UTC | #912319

Mrkimbo's Avatar Comment 5 by Mrkimbo

Just as your mild, gentle, buck-toothed Anglican pastor thinks faith is a good thing, thus opening the door for lunatic extremes based on faith, so astrology, the tarot, crystals, and all that apparently innocent, harmless new-age bulldust leads to this kind of exploitation and death.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 22:33:23 UTC | #912320

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 6 by Jonathan Dore

I assume manslaughter charges for Gabrielle Frechette will be forthcoming.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 22:43:54 UTC | #912322

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 7 by Red Dog

Comment 4 by irate_atheist :

Darwin Award.

Internet DB award.

A poor woman is dead but why should we pass up a chance to smirk and mock her.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 22:56:23 UTC | #912326

PERSON's Avatar Comment 8 by PERSON

Comment 5 by Mrkimbo

Almost. They're called Vicars or Rectors, never Pastors that I'm aware of, and all the ones I've met have had good to excellent teeth. I think big denta has put the wind up you.

They'd also condemn or at least criticise all woo but their own, whilst saying that faith is generally a good thing. I doubt they'd contradict themselves directly, so it would depend on the order you asked the questions, the second answer conforming to the first, IYSWIM.

Comment 7 by Red Dog

The woman isn't going to be bothered about it, obviously, though her relatives will be. More relevant (that is, relevant to a larger number of people) is that there are other people who are at risk of the same thing happening to them. One problem with mockery is that it can distance people from the target: that was a dumb person, I'm not dumb, therefore it could not happen to me. Thinking on it, in general I suspect extravagant foolishness is not as strongly correlated with intelligence or a lack thereof as with other things.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 23:10:00 UTC | #912330

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 9 by drumdaddy

For those not familiar with the author, Dr. Steve Novella, he is a leader in science-based medicine and skeptical inquiry and, in addition to his remarkable career accomplishments, he is the erudite host of the most informative and entertaining free weekly podcast on iTunes. He is a relentless debunker of pseudoscience and a tireless advocate for science education. Hundreds of podcast episodes are archived and I've enjoyed and learned from every one of them. Word of caution: Once you've begun to listen to the Skeptic's Guide podcasts you will find yourself listening to less music and fewer audio books. Skeptics Guide To The Universe - iTunes podcast

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 23:21:38 UTC | #912335

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 10 by Border Collie

Charlatan Spring ... right up there with Arab Spring ... Bogus channeling? Oh, tell me it ain't so! The redundancy is killing me!

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 23:31:14 UTC | #912338

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 11 by potteryshard

In most cases gullibility just leads to poverty or piety. I can't develop huge amount of sympathy for the victim as this is entirely voluntary adventures in applied ignorance. To be gullibly willing to forego common sense is stupidity by choice.

At least this particular episode of stupidity didn't result in the death of innocents, as is so common when gullibility leads to religious fervor.

Sat, 28 Jan 2012 23:37:47 UTC | #912339

LucindaE's Avatar Comment 12 by LucindaE

Comment 11 by potteryshard

In most cases gullibility just leads to poverty or piety. I can't develop huge amount of sympathy for the victim as this is entirely voluntary adventures in applied ignorance. To be gullibly willing to forego common sense is stupidity by choice.

Gullibility is one way of looking at it, but dismissing the victim's motivations as 'stupidity by choice' seems to be just unnecessarily cruel. She had spent almost $20,000 on this thing - presumably not because she felt like being stupid, but because she desperately wanted to improve her life. The problem is the companies and individuals who are willing and able to cruelly exploit that, and the lengths to whch they will go to further make their victims vulnerable.

Sure, these situations don't tend to end in death, but I think your comment doesn't appreciate the vulnerability of people being targeted by organisations like this, or the powers of persuasion possessed by those who care about nothing more than extortion.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 00:20:46 UTC | #912347

.'s Avatar Comment 13 by .

Poor woman was a mother of two young children. Very sad.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 00:47:58 UTC | #912351

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 14 by Sean_W

I loathe reckless people. This is entirely the fault of the charlatan, a reckless fool.

If we consider that the majority of the world is prone to accept some form of spirituality, then I think a person that seeks spiritual answers from spiritual authorities does not automatically deserve to be called gullible.

For those that might think this is a fallacy of some sort, please think of the times when you witnessed a dumbass "pull off" a joke that they felt relied on the gullibility of the victim, but to all observers merely relied on the cruelty of the prankster.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 00:54:41 UTC | #912352

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 15 by potteryshard

Sure, these situations don't tend to end in death, but I think your comment doesn't appreciate the vulnerability of people being targeted by organisations like this, or the powers of persuasion possessed by those who care about nothing more than extortion.

Actually, I agree with you much more than might be apparent. I do feel that society has an obligation to protect its more vulnerable members from predation. The problem is, where does one draw the line between protection and free will? A lot of what people do turns out to be stupid, futile, or completely inane. One has only to stumble across a televised football game to see that illustrated.

At what level should inanity be outlawed? In almost any realm of human endeavor people get hurt. The fact that this woman spent nearly $20k on this particular brand of inanity suggests that her involvement was long-term, repeated, and entirely as decision made by an allegedly sound mind. Certainly the purveyors of the 'treatment' have a obligation to be safe. But even more, the victim had a choice to participate or to walk away. My lack of sympathy for the victim wouldn't alter my approval of proscecution of the cult and its practitioners.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 00:58:21 UTC | #912353

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 16 by QuestioningKat

Comment 2 by KurlyTlapoyawa :

I looked into this tragedy and could find no evidence that they were participating in a sweat lodge.

This is in reference to the sweat lodge tragedy in which James Ray caused two deaths and hospitalization of many people at some New Age workshop. This current situation sounds a lot like the one that happened in Sedona.

Comment 7 by Red Dog :

Comment 4 by irate_atheist :

Darwin Award.

Internet DB award.

A poor woman is dead but why should we pass up a chance to smirk and mock her.

It is clear that you didn't think before you wrote this.

About a year before the James Ray tragedy, a friend who was enamored by Ray's book wanted to go see him in another city. I volunteered to go with her. I was happy to learn that she realized he was a jerk when the break came along. James Ray seemed obsessed with success and power. I told my friend that I expected that Ray would have another big financial and personal collapse worse than any he had ever had. (I sure was correct.) James Ray used extreme pressure at trying to get people to sign up for his expensive workshop. He was extremely demanding in how he strongly told people to fill out the form no matter what. He berated people and told them how he had the answers. The entire event was about getting you to attend his workshop. He gave out a small book for free. He used tactics that I had seen by salesmen and the Landmark Forum. When the tragedy occurred, my friend and I understood how it was so easy for the people to stay inside the sweat lodge. He stood at the door encouraging (bullying )them to stay. We saw first hand how he simultaneously inspired and intimidated people. It seems as if people's fear of offending others is stronger than their fear of pain. (That last line I just heard today during the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!) It seems to hold true.

Even in yoga classes, people will exercise to the (near) point of injury out of respect for the teacher. No one wants to disappoint their teacher so they push themselves. I tend to think females are very susceptible to this since we are used to being cooperative and obliging. We also don't want to look bad or confrontational in front of others. People are clearly told to not compete and to monitor yourself, but they will still push themselves anyway.

Yes drumdaddy, I love the SGU. Everyone should search for the Skeptics Guide to the Universe on Itunes or check out the website.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 01:28:47 UTC | #912360

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 17 by QuestioningKat

"The fact that this woman spent nearly $20k on this particular brand of inanity suggests that her involvement was long-term, repeated, and entirely as decision made by an allegedly sound mind"

Not sure about this. I just watched a video and her husband said she was taking more and more workshops each month. 85 in one year. Not sure but is she wearing elf ears in her wedding photo??? Here's the video.

Frechette admits no liability for her death. "She did her duty for calling 911."

Comment 18 watch the video.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 01:49:25 UTC | #912364

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 18 by InYourFaceNewYorker

WTF? Why were they told to wrap themselves up this way? I wish the article would have clarified that.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 01:50:31 UTC | #912365

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 19 by Red Dog

Comment 7 by Red Dog :

Comment 4 by irate_atheist :

Darwin Award.

Internet DB award.

A poor woman is dead but why should we pass up a chance to smirk and mock her.

It is clear that you didn't think before you wrote this.

True enough. I normally don't slander people but I found that comment so offensive that I couldn't help myself. So I regret calling irate_atheist a DB. Calling people names is never productive.

But I still feel the same. Look at that picture. Is it so hard to feel some empathy for that woman? Do we have to take every possible chance to laugh at the theists? Can't we recognize that even people we don't agree with deserve some compassion?

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 02:47:47 UTC | #912382

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 20 by -TheCodeCrack-

On a more positive note, Chantale Lavigne is in the running for a Darwin award!

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 02:56:20 UTC | #912386

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 21 by -TheCodeCrack-

Damn it, I just read some posts above. I was beaten to the punch!

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 02:57:02 UTC | #912387

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 22 by Red Dog

Comment 8 by PERSON :

Comment 7 by Red Dog

The woman isn't going to be bothered about it, obviously, though her relatives will be. More relevant (that is, relevant to a larger number of people) is that there are other people who are at risk of the same thing happening to them. One problem with mockery is that it can distance people from the target: that was a dumb person, I'm not dumb, therefore it could not happen to me. Thinking on it, in general I suspect extravagant foolishness is not as strongly correlated with intelligence or a lack thereof as with other things.

I think there is a bigger problem and actually its a problem I have with many of the comments on this site. There are so many comments on this site that are just stupid. They are just lame attempts at jokes and insults to theists. No different than what you would find on a conservative Christian or Islam site except instead of mocking atheists they mock theists. Normally I just ignore all those lame comments but this one was so offensive that I couldn't hold back.

Of course the poor woman won't be bothered and I doubt any of her relatives will visit this site. But I'm talking about our morality. We are supposed to be better than the theists, yet here we have the death of some poor woman with children and we take it as yet another excuse to just mock the theists? Is it so much to ask that we care about the memory of this woman? Is it so much to ask that we treat her memory with a bit of respect even though we disagree with her beliefs?

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 03:10:39 UTC | #912394

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 23 by QuestioningKat

What is with all the nasty comments? Have you people viewed the video? Where is the compassion? Anyone taking more than 85 workshops in a year clearly is having some personal challenges. Her husband stated how this became a problem. Could it possibly be that she suffered manic depression or was suffering from a mental illness? Could she have experienced some type of tragedy that we do not know about? I am having difficulty with the lack of sensitivity here. All liability is on the woman running the show.

(Red Dog, I was referring to the insensitivity toward the deceased woman.)

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 03:17:45 UTC | #912398

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 24 by Sean_W

Comment 22 by Red Dog

I think you're barking up the wrong the tree. There is some discussion to be had here. For example, I think that we have to severally limit our data set to come away with the impression that this woman did anything remarkable at all. It ain't even on the weirding radar. Part of the absurdity of this life may be that doling out darwin awards is getting increasingly difficult not because people are getting smarter, but because fewer and fewer things stand out as being any more dumb than what everyone else is already doing.

PS - I tell a lot of bad jokes -sorry.

PSS - I brought up the DA to hopefully make my point about gullibility from earlier a little clearer.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 03:23:56 UTC | #912400

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 25 by susanlatimer

The lack of compassion is disturbing. It completely fails to take into account the power of a con artist and how vulnerable we all are to being misled when enough factors line up.

The Darwin award? Darwin didn't say anything about survival of the least gullible, did he? It's very likely that many of the traits that enabled us to survive as social animals are the very traits that make us susceptible to manipulation by a charismatic leader in a group situation.

At any rate, trust and gullibility should not be viewed as being punishable by death. She sounds like someone who was doing her best to figure things out. I wonder if she was raised French Catholic (very common where she's from) which would mean she was discouraged from using critical thinking. This might have made her more vulnerable to something like this and she might have been searching for the "meaning" that the catholic church promised her but didn't provide. I experienced that myself.

She was a mother with two small children. This is tragic.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 04:08:08 UTC | #912406

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 26 by Steve Zara

comment 25 by susanlatimer

She was a mother with two small children. This is tragic.

In so many ways. She leaves mourning family behind, and it seems likely she had some serious problems if she was using so much treatment. It looks like she was a poor victim who was being exploited, even if voluntarily.

This shows one of the worst aspects of pseudoscience - it preys on the vulnerable and the desperate.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 04:24:08 UTC | #912407

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 27 by Sean_W

Comment 25 by susanlatimer

Absolutely, and it's made all the worse by the fact that the charlatan won't accept responsibility. I hope that is noted by anyone involved in determining whether or not the reckless fool is indicted.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 04:26:40 UTC | #912408

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 28 by susanlatimer

Comment 26 by Steve Zara

This shows one of the worst aspects of pseudoscience - it preys on the vulnerable and the desperate.

It does absolutely. It's predatory. As is religion. We crave answers and are drawn to people who claim to have them.

comment 27 by manilla_wise

Absolutely, and it's made all the worse by the fact that the charlatan won't accept responsibility. I hope that is noted by anyone involved in determining whether or not the reckless fool is indicted.

I hope so too. She is the worst kind of con artist. She didn't just bilk this woman out of thousands of dollars, she caused this woman to die a horrible death (the doctor in the video emphasized more than once that she was cooked to death) and stole a mother from her children, a wife from her husband and most likely robbed the woman's parents, probably siblings, other family and friends.

I hope she is held fully accountable. But the law is a funny thing here in Canada (as it is in most places). It has its problems.

I'll do my best to keep up with the case.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 04:46:15 UTC | #912411

Valerie_'s Avatar Comment 29 by Valerie_

[Comment 22] We are supposed to be better than the theists, yet here we have the death of some poor woman with children and we take it as yet another excuse to just mock the theists? Is it so much to ask that we care about the memory of this woman? Is it so much to ask that we treat her memory with a bit of respect even though we disagree with her beliefs?

Better? Really? I like to think that I can analyze religious beliefs more objectively than most believers, but I don't think of myself as being better than them (I'm not even sure what that term means in the context used here).

Sure, I see a lot of mocking condescension here. But provided it isn't abusive, I can understand it to a large degree. This site is one of the rare places on the web where you don't have to dance around your actual opinion to avoid being chided by a moderator or having your comments deleted because you wrote something that wasn't up to the local standards of political correctness. Sometimes you just get fed up and you have to vent. I understand the need to say, "How can someone actually BELIEVE (DO) that?!?"

A couple of months ago, I wrote a reply to a comment about parents opting out of vaccines. The commenter claimed that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent. I wrote that she was wrong and added a link to mortality statistics. A couple other people also told her she was wrong. She replied that we were "rude." She "could not believe" we could be so "disrespectful" of her beliefs. She had a textbook case of the outrage-of-ignorance disguised as pseudo-open-mindedness. She presumably complained, and our replies were deleted for being "abusive." No one here would delete a message because it said that someone was wrong and provided, you know...facts to prove it.

IMO, our societies could use a little more of the type of disrespect that isn't afraid of telling people that certain actions are so incredibly stupid as to beggar belief. True, there are people who will never let facts or the concern of their families stop them from wrapping themselves in plastic and piling on hot mud while hyperventilating. But it's possible that lurkers who read comments saying, "That is an incredibly, mind-numbingly stupid thing to do," may think twice about something they're involved in that might end up killing them, bankrupting them, or hurting them severely.

I get that this woman was almost certainly mentally or emotionally unwell. I get that she was preyed upon by the woman who was "channeling Melchisedech." I believe that the predator is largely responsible for what happened and hope she ends up in jail. I get that humans are so adaptable that something like this can seem almost (almost) reasonable. But I also think that it's important to say, "The dead woman volunteered to do something that sounds like it came straight from a torturer's handbook, and her action was really, incredibly stupid." I think it's important to say this because maybe one other person will see himself in the dead woman's shoes and step back and reconsider selling his house and giving the proceeds to Rev. X or allowing a "therapist" to put her difficult child through a "rebirthing" ceremony that could kill him.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 05:13:08 UTC | #912413

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 30 by susanlatimer

Comment 29 by Valerie

I agree that this is a wonderful place because having an "offensive" opinion is perfectly acceptable as long as it is open to discussion i.e. no trolling, no abuse, argue away to your heart's content but play by the rules of reason and even that is given a fair amount of leeway.

It IS important to make the point that it's a stupid thing to do to trust someone else's word on something that it is potentially dangerous, especially when that person provides no evidence for their authority.

I do think it's an entirely different thing to imply that, "No wonder she's dead. She's stupid."

This fails to account for the vulnerability of genuinely sincere human beings who are preyed upon by manipulative wackos.

When parents ignore the evidence about vaccines, they endanger their children and everyone else's. And often, they do it from smug, protected positions when they make that choice. They don't live in a world where smallpox is taking the lives of people of all ages.

This poor woman was wrong to trust the con artist but the con artist was at fault. The woman endangered only herself out of trust and paid a horrible price. I wonder if Chantale Lavigne's maternal instincts would have awakened her rational thinking if Gabrielle Frechette had suggested she put her children through the nine-hour mud and plastic wrapped heat torture. There's no reason to think they wouldn't have. She did this on her own. We'll never know.

I agree that we have to say, "This is terrible, terrible thinking." But that's different than glibly issuing her a Darwin award.

Sun, 29 Jan 2012 05:34:04 UTC | #912416