Notwithstanding that his comment gave me a good laugh, I have to admit that sometimes it's tempting. As has been shown over and over again, people will believe what they want to believe. But I have to believe myself that if exposed to rationalism, if taught a little science, most people will (as it were) see the light.
Because, after all, that's what scientific thinking does, isn't it? It casts light on a previously shadowed bit of reality, and allows you to see it clearly for what it is. Science takes fuzzy thinking and makes it sharp, hard-edged, accurate.
By way of example, let's look at this bit of woo-woo I ran across just yesterday: an advertisement for a "Total Shield EMF Protection Device." Here's the sales pitch:
This popular multipurpose unit neutralizes electromagnetic fields and geopathic stress in your home or office. For EMF protection, the Total Shield produces a 7.83 Hz field (the Earth’s natural field, also called the Schumann Resonance), which blankets a 20,000-square-foot area (or more, depending on the model) and overcomes negative EMF fields. It protects you from all electrical and electronic devices, including computers, TVs, microwaves, even power lines outside your house. For geopathic stress, the unit detects and then amplifies the waves, reversing them by 180 degrees and retransmitting them. This counteracts the harmful waves, similar to how noise cancellation technology uses a low hum to cancel sounds. You can use the Total Shield in one of three ways: EMF protection only, geopathic stress only or a combination of both. Colored lights blink at the Schumann resonance and can be used for stress relief or to help with biofeedback. Operates on AC adapter (included). The units are available in four coil strengths, with each additional coil adding 50% more intensity. Stronger units are appropriate for people who are very sensitive to EMFs; who have a large number of electronic devices in their home or office; or who live very close to power lines or stations.Sounds pretty cool, no? No more nasty negative EMF fields (whatever those are); counteracting "geopathic stress" (whatever that is); and aligning your house to the "Schumann Resonance" (whatever that is). Not to mention colored lights blinking, and noise cancellation, and all sorts of other special offers.
Well, looked at through the lens of science, the whole thing kind of falls apart, as you probably predicted it would.
First, the sales pitch is correct that electronic devices produce EMF (electromagnetic fields). That is, after all, how they work. However, a great many peer-reviewed and controlled experiments have failed to establish any connection between exposure to EMF and human disease. The funniest part of this claim is that if the device really did what it claims to -- neutralizing EMF in all forms, over a 20,000 square foot area -- this would block all radiation that is carried by fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, presumably including light. This would mean that once you turned on the machine, you would immediately vanish from sight, which would be kind of cool. (You also wouldn't be able to see out of it, which would be less cool but still pretty striking.)
Well, what about "geopathic stress?" Sounds bad, no? Well, I did a little bit of digging, and found the site GeopathicStress.com, wherein we find out that "geopathic stress" occurs when a place is sick because of a "bad emotional imprint:"
When a building appears to be causing ill health or 'non wellness' in people, most common conclusion is that the building may be subject to geopathic stress. However there are in fact at least three distinct areas to be addressed in house clearing work and for satisfactory results we must attend to them all.We are then told that the appropriate response, once you find out that your house is exhibiting "geopathic stress," is to consult a shaman. No, I'm not making this up.
One of the problem areas we investigate when dealing with 'sickness of place' is indeed the debilitating effects related to geological anomalies and underground water courses in or about buildings. The other two categories however, relate to strong emotional imprints in a place, and what can loosely be called 'spirit' presence. When working in houses we search for all three of these factors and build up an overall picture by taking them together.
Difficulties in dwellings are seldom straightforward. They tend more often to derive from various combinations of influence rather than neatly fitting into one category or another. Moreover, there is usually a natural sequence by which we should proceed. For instance, it is strongly recommended in situations where 'spirit presence' is encountered, that this aspect be attended to first, before moving on to apply any corrective measures indicated for geopathic stress anomalies found.
So, okay, I think we can move on to #3, the "Schumann Resonance." What, you might ask, is this? A thirty-second consultation of the Wikipedia article about the Schumann Resonance allowed me to learn the following:
The Schumann resonances (SR) are a set of spectrum peaks in the extremely low frequency (ELF) portion of the Earth's electromagnetic field spectrum. Schumann resonances are global electromagnetic resonances, excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the Earth's surface and the ionosphere.So, if you're not an atmospheric scientist, the Schumann resonance would only be interesting to you as a curiosity. It's not "the Earth's natural field," and a light blinking at that rate might be pretty, but otherwise won't accomplish much.
So, the "Total Shield EMF Protection Device" seems like a bit of a bust, scientifically. And how much do they want for it?
$325. $500, if you want the more powerful four-coil model.
See? Skepticism is good for you. Especially for your pocketbook.
So, dear readers, no worries that I'll be giving up any time soon. Frankly, it's kind of fun poking holes in woo-woo ideas. And if I've saved even one person from wasting his or her money on something like the "Total Shield," the whole thing has been worth it.