Faith Healing

by Charlie Stack

The pseudoscientific topic I want to discuss is Faith Healing. Faith healing is something that I was unfamiliar with, but something that stuck out to me when I discovered it. Faith healing at the simplest form is healing through faith. This may mean that a preacher would lay his hands upon your forehead if you were sick, and through some divine intervention, you would be healed. Faith healing is big in the Christian practice of religion. Of course, like all other pseudoscience’s we have been exploring, evidence is empirical rather than evidence based. This theory has been popular throughout history, dating back tens of thousands of years and across all different cultures. It could have gained popularity since faith healing was typically free, and something done out of the kindness of someone’s heart, rather than for compensation. This is different from most of the other alternative medicine practices we see and could account for popularity. People claim that faith healing can claim diseases or disabilities such as blindness, deafness, AIDS, disabilities, and physical abilities. While it may not be as popular today due to the expansion of medicine that works, it is still popular for people who have very high beliefs in faith. Extraordinary means that something is unusual, or unlikely. Faith healing fits this definition perfectly. The reason that it fits is because it does not work, if it did, then everyone would be doing it and there would be a lot less disease in the world.

Faith healing is all empirical evidence, which means that some people do intently believe that it works. According to Psychology Today, a large and popular psychology magazine, they believe that is has positive benefits and can work as well. Psychology today ties faith healing to a placebo effect. A placebo effect can mean that because of faith healing, one simply expects to get better. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, which we learned can have a strong correlation between belief and something happening. Of course, if you have AIDS, or a broken leg, and you go to a faith healer believing it will disappear, it will not, but if you go for a small sickness and believe it, it is possible. It is possible that belief can help the functioning of our immune system, and this is an explanation for faith healing. Not everyone has good experiences with faith healing, though. With no scientific backing or true evidence, it is still extraordinary. There have been many claimed faith healers who have been caught for blatant fraud, two of the most popular are Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff. Benny would call out to a large audience and only bring those up who needed healing. Investigators would follow up after the supposed healing and found that there was absolutely no evidence that any healing occurred. Peter Popoff was caught by James Randi receiving audio from his wife of what to say through an earpiece, completely disproving him.

There are not many cognitive contributions to faith healing besides placebos and self-fulfilling prophecies, which are stated above. To explore a self-fulfilling prophecy a little deeper, it is a belief that comes true because we think it will, or that it already is true. Beliefs have such a big influence on our outcomes on life, that often believing something puts us in situations or environments where the outcome we want can become true. This is true for a lot of social and emotional contexts. There is a lot of evidence that supports self-fulfilling prophecies. Most of the evidence comes from the placebo effect. The placebo effect has been demonstrated many times and the main outcome is that participants who used the placebo have shown increases in health or wellness although there was no real medication. This states that believing in something helps our immune system, which helps us recover. This shows that people who believe in faith healing are uninformed. It is likely that they have never heard of self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo effect and are completely ignorant to it. They are also being tricked, often people who perform faith healing know that it is a scam. It is also likely that people who are treated for faith healing on a small issue, and get better, would get better with no treatment at all.

Most of the believers come from religious backgrounds, especially those of Christianity. This could be because of the new testament where there are examples of people being healed by Jesus through the power of touch, or faith healing. Often, he healed someone that would not of been possible back in his time, or even at all. This is interesting because once again there is no real evidence of it. If you are someone who takes the bible very literally, then it is possible that you will have a strong belief towards faith healing.

Faith healing might seem like it might not be a serious issue, because it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy or placebo effect which is shown to have positive scientific results, and, science is good. The problem comes into effect when people have unrealistic expectations and things that need cured which are not possible. Faith healing can cause tremendous amounts of harm, for example: In Oregon, there was a case where someone died due a congenital condition that was easily treatable, but his church suggested faith healing. In California, a case was reported where a man had a rash and heard about faith healing on the radio, instead of going to a doctor he went to a faith healer and later died, the apparent healer was charged with manslaughter. There are many cases of this happening, but these two alone are enough evidence that faith healing should not have supporters. At the end of the day, it is a belief in magic that has only a minimal correlation to science due to the placebo effect, and causes more harm than good.

The Apollo Moon Landing was a Hoax

by Emily Koch

In July of 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins landed on the moon along with their rocket Apollo 11. While this was literally a huge step for mankind, many people then and some today believe that the landing never happened and was instead staged. According to The Skeptic’s Dictionary, the theory became popular in the 1970’s and a couple decades later in 1999, 30 percent of Americans were skeptical of the moon landing. That number today has lowered to 6 percent, but the theory still remains well known throughout the internet and our society. This belief is extraordinary because it uses the appearance of science to persuade people into believing in it. It is also important that the public recognizes that this belief is not true as it discredits the extreme risk that the astronauts took to go to the moon and their success in doing so.

Those who are believers in the idea that the moon landing was a hoax state many reasons as to why it could never have actually happened, and most of them deal with their ideas of how physics works. The most widely known piece of evidence is the fact that the flag placed on the moon by the astronauts seemed to have been waving in the footage taken by the astronauts. If this was the case, as many skeptics of the moon landing believe, then there is no way they were actually on the moon because that would mean there was enough wind to make the flag wave. Since there is no air let alone wind on the moon, then it would have been impossible for this to occur. But to contradict this “fact” many scientists have said that the flag was placed in a bent shape by the astronauts and because there is extremely low gravity on the moon, the flag stayed in the bent position. If you look closely at the footage, you can see the flag in fact doesn’t wave at all and instead stays still in its bent position.

A second, lesser known argument for a conspiracy is the idea of the Van Allen Belts. The Van Allen Belts are two regions of high radiation that surround the earth and are located inside the earth’s magnetosphere. For the astronauts of Apollo 11 to have passed through these belts would have caused more than a normal amount of radiation exposure, which could lead to radiation sickness. Because the astronauts did not show any symptoms of this, many believe that they did not actually pass through these belts and did not go to the moon. Oppositely, according to NASA, the astronauts were in the Van Allen Belt for only a short time, sustaining .18 rads of radiation- which is about the same dose of radiation one gets from an x-ray. So, although it seems like the hoax believers are presenting scientifically back facts about the Van Allen belts, they are in fact incorrect about the amount of radiation one is exposed to when passing through the belts.

A third attempt to prove that the astronauts did not go to the moon is the fact that there was not a single star in any of the pictures taken when the astronauts landed. This is used as evidence to prove that those pictures were not taken on the moon because, if you are in space, then how could there not be any stars around? With this piece of evidence, there are two sets of conspiracies that emerge about the moon landing: there are those who believe it never happened and then there are also those that believe the astronauts made it to the moon but faked the pictures on earth. But according to astrophysicist Brian Koberlein, this is actually a common phenomenon in photographs. Because the moon is quite bright in comparison to the sky around it, the light of the stars gets drowned out and overpowered by the light of the moon when standing on it. This is why no stars can be seen in any pictures taken on the moon and therefore debunks the conspiracy that the pictures were not taken on the moon.

Those who believe that the moon landing was a hoax, mostly misunderstand how perception works. Because many of the hoax believers state evidence that is not supported by science, they are misinformed about the way that science and physics can alter the perception of something, such as the stars in the night sky or the movement/non-movement of the flag. They also fall victim to the outward appearance of science in the explanations given to support the hoax theories. Several of those who believe it was a hoax also disregard any evidence contradictory to their own ideas and tend to think that the only evidence that is correct is evidence that supports their theory. This belief, although it was largely popular in the decade following the Apollo 11 moon landing, is still widely known today. Because it is so largely spread throughout the media, many people take it as fact since they see the media as a credible source. Those who believe in the hoax today are largely American youth, as they were not around when the moon landing occurred and so they find it easier to believe something that they hear or read claiming the landing was faked. Other hoax believers tend to be those who supported the idea of the faking of the moon landing around the time when it was most popular in the decade following the landing.

Although the conspiracy that the moon landing was faked is a widely known idea, only 6% of U.S. citizens today believe in it. Whether persuaded by what looks like scientific explanations for the phenomena or the misunderstanding of how perception works, hoax believers stand strong in their belief and neglect to listen to any opposing evidence presented to them. Recently, the media has been causing the public to become more exposed to the idea that the landing was faked although there are few that actually take this belief seriously. As a society, it was very important at the time of the space race that we make it to the moon first. Because Apollo 11 made it there first, Americans see this as quite an accomplishment and it is something we are very proud of. Hoax believers fail to recognize this very important achievement, which is detrimental to our society because they are failing to give the astronauts the recognition they deserve. If the number of hoax believers rises, it will be very sad and discouraging to all of those who support the three astronauts and those who helped them make it there.


  1. Apollo Hoax Frequently Asked Questions,
  2. Apollo Moon Landing Hoax.” Apollo Moon Landing Hoax – The Skeptic’s Dictionary –,
  3. Davis, Scott. “How Do We Know The Moon Landing Really Happened?” The National Space Centre, 15 June 2017,
  4. Scudder, Jillian. “Why Aren’t The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 June 2017,
  5. Weiner, Sophie. “Why Faking the Moon Landing Was Impossible.” Popular Mechanics, Popular Mechanics, 14 Nov. 2017,
  6. Why Do People Persist in Denying the Moon Landings?” National Air and Space Museum, 22 Mar. 2017,

Ancestor Simulations

by Bo Cochran 

Ancestor simulations is a belief proposed by Nick Bostrom, a professor at Oxford University, he believes that, in the future, it will be possible to simulate the actions of all the neurons in the brain and simulate the sensory input to that brain with enough accuracy to convince the simulation that it is a real person. For it to happen at such a scale as our universe, would seem impossible, but Bostrom made some calculations that show that a super advanced civilization could do this, on such a scale that these virtual minds tremendously outnumber real minds. There are many articles, videos and interviews on the topic and even people like Neil deGrasse Tyson have backed up this belief.

An advanced civilization might want to run such simulations for science, so it can understand its own history, to study the behavior of the types of minds that lived in the past. How would this all be possible? According to experts on the matter, this civilization would need a computer the size of a large planet. Bostrom’s biggest argument for this belief is called the simulation argument, which he states that, if ancestor simulations are something an advanced civilization would end up creating, then most of the self aware minds that ever come into existence, are simulated ones. Another argument for this belief is the idea of the Boltzmann brain, which argues that in an infinite multiverse, it should be tremendously more common for particles to randomly assemble into a brain that is having the exact same experience as you are having right now, than for particles to create big bangs.Ancestor simulations is a belief proposed by Nick Bostrom, a professor at Oxford University, he believes that, in the future, it will be possible to simulate the actions of all the neurons in the brain and simulate the sensory input to that brain with enough accuracy to convince the simulation that it is a real person. For it to happen at such a scale as our universe, would seem impossible, but Bostrom made some calculations that show that a super advanced civilization could do this, on such a scale that these virtual minds tremendously outnumber real minds. There are many articles, videos and interviews on the topic and even people like Neil deGrasse Tyson have backed up this belief.

Another argument for this belief includes the Copernican principle and the anthropic principle, which loosely states that we aren’t in a special place of the universe, we are in a typical galaxy, with one exception, our place in the universe must be able to produce and sustain life. So if the virtual minds of an ancestor simulation are vastly more common than the original living minds that created the simulation, and if the simulated experience is completely consistent with our own experience, then it is more likely that we are those typical observers, statistically speaking.

Bostrom also states that the chances that we are a simulation is less than 50%. This is due to the fact that a civilization is just as likely to die out before they have a chance to create such advancements, or an advanced civilization would just as likely choose to not make these types of simulations. Also, there are no experiments that can be done to disprove this belief, making it unfalsifiable, which is a huge red flag. This belief is really only popular for a few scientists and people who interested in such extraordinary beliefs, due to the fact that this belief goes against the vast majority of religions and there is no evidence of this belief. It is also not popular due to the fact, most, if not all people, want a meaning in life, and being a simulation would make that seem unimportant.

A lot of advancements in science would have to occur in order for ancestor simulations to be created, but according to scientists, we will be able to create such simulations on a way smaller scale in one or two generations. The fact that we all could just be a simulation in a planet sized computer might cause a lot of existential angst, but the idea that we could also be the people that come up with such advancements should be more uplifting. There are a lot of unknowns in this world and there are many answers in life that we will never obtain. I think, regardless of how our existence came to be, we should all live life like it is of the utmost importance, like everything you do as an individual is just as meaningful as anyone else who has lived on this planet.



by Jaclyn Musci

Acupuncture is an alternative form of medicine that has been around for ages. It originated in China around the time of the Common Era, however, back then sharp stones and bones were used, rather than needles. The first official document that mentioned acupuncture was The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which dated back to 100 BCE (1). This traditional Chinese medicine has been used to most commonly treat pain, but has also been used to treat overall wellness, stress management, and discomfort from various diseases. The treatment consists of inserting very thin needles into one’s skin at different points of the body. Traditional Chinese medicine views acupuncture as a way to re-balance one’s life force or “qi”, which flows among meridians in the human body. However, Western practices view acupuncture as a way to stimulate nerves, tissue, and muscles in order to enhance the body’s natural painkillers (2).

Acupuncture has been a popular and widely used alternative medicine since it started to be a common practice in China. Now acupuncture is used still today as an alternative medicine in the United States, although practitioner’s views on the mechanisms of acupuncture differ. A 2007 NHIS data survey found that about 6.5% of Americans report using acupuncture at some point in their life. Additionally, another survey of Chinese Americans in a mental health program found that about 25% of them used acupuncture, which suggests it may be more popular among diverse cultures (3). A plethora of information about acupuncture can be found on the web. A simple google search results in thousands of, credible and non-credible, sources explaining what acupuncture is, how it works, research on it, and where to find a practitioner. Because acupuncture is still relatively popular, it is important to analyze the pseudoscientific aspects of this belief. Acupuncture is a controversial topic among medical professionals and has contradictory empirically-based research support, which makes this belief extraordinary.

There have been mostly contradictory findings in regards to the effectiveness of acupuncture. Some research has supported the effectiveness of acupuncture though. For example, acupuncture needles have been found to stimulate nerve endings, which leads to changing the pain inhibitory mechanisms in one’s body. However, the results could not explain if the needles were the true causal factor in pain inhibition. In addition, systematic reviews and meta-analyses over the past decade have given more reliable evidence for acupuncture helping dental pain, nausea, back pain, and headache. However, evidence for aiding in chronic pain has still been scarce. Although there is a variety of suggested mechanisms for acupuncture and how it works, there has been little valid data that explains how the mechanisms relate to clinical ideas and practices (1). Until recently, it has been difficult to study the mechanisms and true effectiveness of acupuncture because of the inability to employ a sufficient control group and carry out a true double-blind experiment. For obvious reasons, it is difficult for participants to be blind to whether or not needles are being inserted into their skin. However, when sham needles were recently invented, these needles allowed for a patient to feel the sensation of needles when the needles are actually not present. One study looked at the differences in nausea improvement between a control sham group and an experimental acupuncture group. There were no differences between these two groups found, which suggests the positive effects of acupuncture may be due to the placebo effect (4).

There are numerous cognitive factors that play a role in the belief and use of acupuncture. Despite the lack of solid research evidence to support acupuncture, it still remains popular and people still pay a substantial amount of money to receive this treatment. People who receive acupuncture might not necessarily be misinformed, rather they have an immense trust in their practitioners and those who recommend the treatment to them. People tend to trust practitioners, and they rarely ask about or explore the research support surrounding a treatment. However, an authority figure or practitioner is not always right and might not always be basing his/her practices off scientifically supported research. In addition, the placebo effect might play a role in the positive results seen from acupuncture. This is when a person experiences desired results from a treatment due to his/her positive beliefs and expectations about the success of the treatment – not due to the actual treatment itself. The research study mentioned previously in which the sham needle and the experimental acupuncture group experienced the same results for nausea treatment suggest the placebo effect is at play. In addition to the placebo effect, individuals might also be experiencing cognitive dissonance. People who use acupuncture put a lot of time, money, and other resources into the treatment, so they truly want it to work. If it does not work, they might experience cognitive dissonance and not be able to reason why they spent all their time and resources for no positive results. As a result, they might see positive results that are not there or fail to accurately assess the effectiveness of treatment. Furthermore, those who experience the desired effects of acupuncture might be experiencing confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when one seeks only the confirming evidence and ignores the disconfirming evidence. This could be prevalent in acupuncture when one justifies acupuncture effectiveness because their pain subsides in one area of their body, but not completely. These cognitive factors might lead people to believe acupuncture is effective and worth seeking out.

Additionally, there are also contextual and social factors that contribute to this extraordinary belief. Those who use acupuncture come from a wide variety of communities and cultures. Acupuncture is used in both Western and Eastern parts of the world. However, some cultures might be more likely to use acupuncture because it aligns with their values, ideas, and traditions. For example, as stated previously, one survey found that 25% of Chinese Americans use acupuncture in a mental health setting, while 6.5% Americans overall have reported using it (3). This suggests there might be a cultural preference for it, and it might be used by more people of Eastern decent. Acupuncture might also be used by those who have rejected Western Medicine and decided to try a more alternative path. People who use acupuncture might have tried everything else for their pain or their problem and decided to look in a more natural area of medicine. There are many social influences that also help sustain this practice. One influence might be due to the sheer popularity of acupuncture. It is one of the most popular alternative medicines, and this alone might convince the public it is effective. The consensus heuristic might play a role here. This is when a person assumes that if the majority of people believe something works, it must work. However, this is often wrong and many people in our society can be swayed to believe an extraordinary belief all at once. Similarly, those who use acupuncture might be influenced by the anecdotes and stories from those around them. For example, one might hear that acupuncture worked miracles for their cousin, which convinces them acupuncture should work for them too. Lastly, people who use acupuncture might be falling victim to the natural commonplace misconception, which assumes that natural is always healthy and effective. This is not always true and can lead many people to not seek appropriate medical help.

Although acupuncture is an alternative medicine that is not fully supported by research, it is used frequently to treat many ailments, such as pain, reaching overall wellness, stress management, and discomfort. Acupuncture has been around for centuries and continues to be used today in both Easter and Western cultures. Research surrounding this topic has been mixed, and there has not been solid evidence for the overall use of acupuncture. Acupuncture is likely due to the placebo effect, which was shown with one study involving sham needles. In this study, there was no difference in nausea improvement in the group who thought they were receiving acupuncture but really were not and the group that was actually receiving it. In addition to the placebo effect, there is likely the confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance at play. Advocates also rely and trust in their practitioner’s opinion and do not question the effectiveness of the treatment they recommend. There may also be a cultural aspect at play, with many Chinese and Eastern cultures using acupuncture often. Furthermore, those who use acupuncture might be basing their opinion off anecdotal evidence or success they heard about through someone they know. Since acupuncture is popular, the consensus heuristic might have a role in people seeking it out. Lastly, because acupuncture is a natural and alternative form of medicine, people might seek this out and follow the natural commonplace misconception. There are many social, contextual, cultural, and cognitive factors that contribute to the popularity in use of acupuncture. However, it is important to consider the empirical research evidence so an extraordinary belief is not put into common medical practice.



  1. A brief history of acupuncture –
  2. Acupuncture Overview –
  3. How Popular is Acupuncture –
  4. The Online Scholar –


Sleep Paralysis

by Mike Kaplan

Sleep paralysis is very real, and is often very scary. Sleep paralysis is when while either falling asleep or during sleep, a person wakes up to the point that they are aware, but cannot move their bodies or speak. It is very common for someone who experiences sleep paralysis to recall hearing, feeling, seeing, or encountering, something that isn’t there. Many of the victims of sleep paralysis have no idea what it is or that they experience it. They often explain their symptoms as something supernatural or extraordinary, whether it be aliens, spirits, or ghosts. It is estimated that nearly 8% of people experience sleep paralysis, though many only experience it once. It becomes more prevalent when the victim suffers from other psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, or when they have another sleep-related disorder such a narcolepsy. About 5% of people have regular episodes.

The most obvious symptom of Sleep Paralysis is inability to move while awake. People often imagine hearing sounds that range from voices, to static, to humming, to ancient languages, to roars and whispers. People often experience sensations of being moved, sat on, held down, or floating, and the paralysis usually results in a feeling of fear and panic. People have reported seeing shadows moving around them, voices telling them to do things, and some even believe they were abducted by and had their memory wiped by whatever was haunting them.

Sleep Paralysis is believed to occur when at the end of our REM sleep cycle, we become conscious before the cycle ends. We are awake mentally, but we still have no control of our bodily movements. Our body is essentially still asleep. As we know from class, people will often create mental bridges to help them explain the things they experience in their lives. When someone wakes up, can’t move their body, and see nothing physical holding them down, our brain tries to find an explanation. Often, the most realistic belief we can come up with is that there is something supernatural involved, that is preventing us from doing anything. The person suffering from the paralysis may use cues from their environment to explain the paralysis, and may go their entire lives without realizing they had experienced sleep paralysis. As someone who personally suffers from sleep paralysis, I can tell you that the panic and fear of not being able to move is extremely terrifying. It honestly feels like you may about to die, you don’t know what is happening, and our mind is quick to offer explanations. I once had an episode while on vacation in Mexico, and I explained to myself that a Mexican spirit was angry at me for being on his lands and supporting the resort there. I truly feared he was going to kill me. Now as the years pass and I became aware of what I suffered from, my mind has strayed away from such explanations. But I remember clear as day how logical they seemed at the time, and a spirit is not a far-stretch from an alien or a ghost. I try not to judge anyone who has such an “extraordinary experience”, our minds are very good at playing tricks on us, and as I said before people often do not realize they are suffering from sleep paralysis.

It is my belief that sleep paralysis is a strong explanation for many people who believe they have been abducted or encountered the supernatural. A strong initial belief that a ghost wants you dead will inevitably lead to research on ghosts, and leads down the rabbit-hole to real belief in spirits. If you believe you were abducted by aliens, get on google and find hundreds of other experiences similar to yours, it may drive you to believe in them more, or at least establish a narrative that allows a person to believe that is what must have happened to themselves.

Further social contexts and narratives of spirit encounters or alien abductions also drive belief in an explanation other than sleep paralysis for sleep paralysis. While sleep paralysis is rather unknown, and honestly is rather lacking in its study, we see ghost movies and alien stories all the time. Our culture is obsessed with the supernatural, and sleep paralysis is more likely to be identified as an experience of that supernatural rather than what it actually is. I believe someone who suffers from sleep paralysis; especially when they only experience a few occurrences, are much more likely to hear about ghosts or aliens than they are likely to read a story about Sleep Paralysis.

In summary, although these posts are usually about something that is unreal, supernatural, or otherwise impossible, Sleep Paralysis is very real and it is terrifying or even traumatizing to experience. It is listed in the DSM 5 under parasomnias, and is not a joking matter. It is not uncommon for people who suffer from sleep paralysis to explain their experience in some supernatural forum. We must try to understand that these people have experienced a trauma, and their minds are desperate to explain it. It is way more likely that a person who experienced sleep paralysis only a couple times may come to believe in the supernatural, rather than to find out what sleep paralysis is. This does not make them any less intelligent than us, they simply do not have the same information that we do.

Please see my sources for further information:


The King of Rock and Roll Lives

by Julia Raffa

Almost 41 years ago, a man named Elvis Presley died at the age of 42. Or did he? After the King of Rock and Roll passed, many theories have surfaced claiming that Presley faked his own death and is somehow still alive today. If he were still alive, he would be 83 years old so technically, it could be possible. Those who believe in the theory, called Alivers, are mostly fans of Elvis. Despite large popularity around the time of his death, Presley was believed by fans that he wanted a way to retire in peace, which is why he faked his own death and went incognito all these years. There are also theories that Elvis was part of the FBI and was assigned to bust a crime organization, but after testimony against the organization he had to go into hiding or he would’ve been killed. Nonetheless, they believe Presley is still alive today but is in the witness protection program. The information about this theory today can mostly be found on the internet. There are many blog posts, archives, and forums that are home to a large community of fans who believe he is still alive. Theories about the legitimacy of Presley’s death were mostly popular in the 1980s and 1990s following his death in 1977. Newspaper and magazine headlines were flooded with claims that Presley is still alive. As the years go on and the older the proposed alive Elvis gets, the less salient the theories have become. Newer generations are also less familiar with the rock and roll icon or are completely unaware of who Elvis even is, so the theories are less prominent or relevant. This is an extraordinary belief because if true, it would change entirely what we know about Elvis, his life, his legacy, and what we know about the abilities of people to go into hiding for so many years because it is seemingly impossible to truly be hidden for so long.

A big factor in the evidence behind the theory is the issue of Elvis’s cause of death. When Elvis died, an autopsy was performed that same day and within a few days following, he was pronounced dead due to a heart attack. A conflicting toxicology report later showed that Presley had ten different pharmaceutical drugs in his system, including extremely high levels of codeine, which lead people to believe that a drug overdose was the cause of death. An investigation took place around Elvis’s doctor, Dr. Nichopoulos, that looked into why he prescribed Presley so many different pharmaceuticals, especially prescription painkillers that Presley was addicted to. “Doctor Nick wrote prescriptions for Elvis for at least 8,805 pills, tablets, vials, and injectables. Going back to January 1975, the count was 19,012,” (Rodgers 2017). Dr. Nichopoulos was eventually exonerated, but there were still doubts over whether or not Presley’s drug addiction had caused his death. Presley was in extremely poor health prior to death and had trauma to his brain. His heart was also enlarged, and he was found to have genetic conditions relating to heart disease. Because of the ambiguity of his cause of death, Alivers site that as evidence that Presley is still alive. A more plausible explanation is that Presley had multiple injuries to the head and was prescribed (and arguably over-prescribed) many pain meds, became addicted, and suffered many horrid side effects that lead to the decline in his health. He also had genetic predispositions to things like heart problems and obesity, which were both health conditions he suffered. Overall, his poor health on top of abuse of multiple prescription drugs lead to his heart failing, which is how he died.

Another argument Alivers make is that some fans have seen Elvis in person after he “allegedly” died. The descriptions of the sightings were ambiguous, people claim to have seen a man with slicked back black hair who acted as if he didn’t want to be seen. Back in the 1980’s, Elvis’s look was extremely popular. It’s pretty easy to debunk these eyewitness accounts because they are in fact anecdotal and have no proof to back the claims. Another piece of evidence that Elvis is still alive is the claim that Elvis was a government agent assigned to investigate The Fraternity, a crime organization. Elvis’s life was in danger after he testified against The Fraternity, so he had to go into the witness protection program to avoid being killed. There has been no evidence, however, that Presley was in the FBI nor did he testify against any crime organizations.

Alivers pose the question to any skeptics: “Can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977?” (Lacey 2009). They have used the method of reversing the burden of proof onto disbelievers of the claim, which is a hallmark of pseudoscience. Instead of providing real evidence that Elvis is actually alive, they put the burden of proof on skeptics to prove he actually died. Another cognitive contribute in believing Elvis is still alive comes from confirmation bias. Alivers seek out evidence that only would prove that Presley is alive and ignore all the evidence that refutes it. They simply ignore evidence that refutes their claims and go through mental gymnastics to justify the fact that they think Presley is still alive. They completely ignore testimonies from doctors and medical examiners who autopsied his dead body as well as the large number of people who saw his body in the hospital and those who attended his funeral.

Alivers come from a community of mostly die-hard Presley fans. Presley died fairly young, only in his 40s, and was a rock and roll icon of his time. His music was incredibly popular in the 1950s and 60s. I think his fans were in denial that he died, they wanted his legendary status to last forever. Even though Presley was deteriorating the years before his death, citing a divorce from his wife and multiple health complications due to his drug addiction and some overdose scares, he juggled his issues with continuing to make music and tour. Fans wanted to continue his legacy by starting rumors he was still alive either in hopes of continuing to hear music from Presley or to keep the magic alive as well. Another reason people believe this theory is that Elvis was so big, deemed the King of Rock and Roll in his time, so the fact that he died of a heart attack simply was not to the caliber of the excitement of Elvis. Fans denied he died this way because it was not a satisfying way for the King to die.

Overall, the theory that Elvis is still alive but in hiding is only held by a minority of people. As time goes on, Elvis’s legacy is less salient, and people care less about proving whether or not the rock and roll legend is alive or not. Reasons why people believe Presley is still alive are based in confirmation bias as well as our tendency “to match up the sizes of cause and effect, so we think if something has a large effect, it must have a large cause… We can [make them balance] by hypothesizing a bigger cause or denying the effect,” (Lusher 2017). People want to believe Elvis’s death would be more grandiose than just his failing health, especially because he died so young and unexpectedly.

Works Cited

Lacey, Patrick (2009). There’s No Debate: Elvis Is Not Alive. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

Lusher, Adam. (2017). Why Are People So Convinced Elvis Is Still Alive? Retrieved April 10,

2018, from elvis-is-still-alive/ar-AAq9W4M

Rodgers, Garry. (2017). Elvis Presley’s Death — What Really Killed the King? Retrieved

April 10, 2018, from what_1_b_9157820.html

Applied Kinesiology

by Hannah Hites

I have always found extraordinary beliefs concerning medicine or healing to be especially interesting. There is almost always studies that prove these various alternative medicine techniques to be ineffective, yet people still use and support them anyways. Why is this? I think there are several different factors that could make people want to believe in these methods, but the reasons for each method may differ. One of the most interesting forms of medical pseudoscience that I have found is the concept of applied kinesiology. Applied kinesiology is a technique in alternative medicine that is supposedly able to diagnose illnesses and select treatments by testing muscle strength and weakness. The principle belief behind this method is that doctors can tell what is wrong with a patient by seeing the way his/her muscles respond when they are pushed on. A chiropractor named George J. Goodheart came up with the concept of applied kinesiology in 1964. He began practicing and teaching these methods to other chiropractors. He even started an organization called the Goodheart Study Group Leaders that now goes by the name of “The International College of Applied Kinesiology”. This is mostly used by chiropractors, but it has started to gain popularity with other practitioners. In recent years, it became the 10th most used chiropractic technique in the United States. This technique is extraordinary because there have been studies to show its ineffectiveness, but it is still being practiced and promoted.

Applied kinesiology is a way of evaluating structural, chemical, and mental areas of health by using manual muscle testing (MMT) along with conventional methods. The idea behind this technique is that every organ dysfunction is associated with weakness in a corresponding muscle. This is called the “viscerosomatic relationship”. The evidence for this form of alternative medicine is based mostly on anecdotal evidence from practitioners’ assessments of muscle response making it not very reliable. It is also argued that there is no scientific understanding of the viscerosomatic relationship. Only the anecdotal reviews have shown positive support for applied kinesiology. Every peer-reviewed study has concluded that there is no evidence that applied kinesiology is able to diagnose organic diseases or conditions. In the US, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the American Cancer Society have all released position statements saying that applied kinesiology should not be used in the diagnosis of allergies, cancer, etc. There are also many other organizations just like these from other parts of the world that have a similar stance on this form of alternative medicine.

I think that many people believe in the use of applied kinesiology because there are still many chiropractors and practitioners that support and promote it. They are considered people of authority in this subject area making people trust their opinions and recommendations. I think these people are misinformed by their doctors of the studies supporting applied kinesiology. I think the chiropractors and practitioners that support and believe this are misinterpreting evidence and taking anecdotal evidence as fact. I think conformation bias may play a role in this belief as well. If a practitioner happens to make the right diagnosis, they will surely attribute it to the use of applied kinesiology even though it has been said that the use of applied kinesiology to diagnose is no better than random guessing.

I think that just like any other form of alternative medicine, believers come from people who do not agree with the use of mainstream conventional medicine. I also believe that some people only turn to alternative medicine because other traditional methods have not worked for them, so they use it as a last resort. It could be because they simply want to try something new, it was recommended to them by another practitioner, or other methods have not helped with whatever they are dealing with. Some people may try applied kinesiology and find that it did not work for them which would discontinue their belief. Others may try it and find that it works most likely due to the practitioner’s convincing or the ever-common placebo effect. Either way, this would reinforce some people’s beliefs and continue its spread. Believers comes from all different backgrounds and communities. There is no stereotypical person for this belief though those people who already believe in or use other forms of alternative medicine may be more likely to believe in applied kinesiology.

Applied kinesiology is just one of the many different types of alternative medicine with lacking studies to prove its effectiveness. Most people that believe in it are convinced because of the authority figures that promote its use or from personal experience with other forms of alternative medicine. The fact that so many medical organizations have made statements rejecting its use should be enough for people to realize that its effectiveness is just an extraordinary belief, at least you would think so. Obviously, this is not the case since so many people are still promoting and using this practice.



Alien Abductions

by Donovan Condon

The claims of being abducted by aliens have been happening in the United States since the mid-20th century. People claim to be taken into alien ships and used for many types of research. Wide varieties of people believe these phenomena happened to them or others ranging from regular citizens to even some psychologists. Since the first claim of an abduction in 1961, accounts have risen greatly even to this day. Information on alien abductions and UFO sightings can be found all over the internet, including websites like,, and, along with many others as it is has a huge following across the globe. These claims are important to the world of psychology because it can show us how people can be swayed by types of practices and social influences, especially media into genuinely believing the improbable.

The basis of these claims lies mostly with multiple, vivid hypnotic therapy sessions. Mainly the fact that so many accounts were emotionally painful and strikingly similar has become the sole focus of those who study and vouge for these abductions being real. The people who undergo hypnosis to find repressed memories tend to have very emotional and surreal details to their stories that is hard to believe it didn’t happen. Top that off with the amount of people who have similar stories down to descriptive details, how could it not be true? Unfortunately, there is little to no physical evidence of these abductions other than those stories and memories.

Budd Hopkins is a famous author who “helps” a lot people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. He meets up with many victims and performs hypnotic therapies on them to try and find their memories of the encounters. The problem with hypnosis is when performed wrong by someone who is not a professional, such as Budd, false memories can be formed or strengthened. In many of his cases, he leads and pushes them to possibly create more details than they would’ve normally. The people see him as an authority figure and with his instigation of their stories, it may hurt rather than help their fears and bad memories. He also has group therapy sessions, in which, he pushes the victims to connect their stories with others, reinforcing their beliefs of the encounters. I believe the biggest cognitive problem is the therapists interpretations of the phenomena. By giving assumptive interpretations, the victims confirm their beliefs and are further traumatized by them. This is mainly due to the therapists and is less of a fault of the victims.

Another issue with alien abductees is how the media influences them. After the first encounters, tv shows and movies started to arise which portrayed imaginative situations involving aliens capturing people and performing procedures on them. These shows and movies like The Stranger Within or Close Encounters of The Third Kind, have given people a basis of which to base their claims. Since these type of media have come out the number of cases has risen exponentially, along with the vividness of those cases. Many of the memories told by victims draw a striking resemblance to pictures seen in movies and tv, from aliens with wide black eyes to bright lights and futuristic technology on the ships. I believe this is the cause for the large amount of similar cases that have been recorded, so the claim that this would be proof of alien abductions does not hold as true. These media sources immensely help to sustain the beliefs of abductees and provide guidance for their memories.

The combination of alien abduction media and hypnotic therapy both help to account for this phenomenon. By getting a basis of what the aliens and UFOs can look like through shows and movies, the victims can create stories and false memories of what everything look and sounded like. After reaching out for help with the wrong people, through hypnosis, these memories can be distorted, which will hurt the victim overall. People tend to believe in the interpretations of the authority figures due to the appeal to authority and confirm the beliefs they are looking for because it is easier, rather than find alternative non-supernatural conclusions. Alien abduction stories will continue to emerge as long as there are media sources giving them life and authority figures helping them to confirm those claims.


by Georgia Kinch 

When was the last time you walked through the grass barefoot, allowing the soles of your feet to connect with Earth’s surface? In today’s culture, keeping your feet protected with sturdy shoes is the norm. But there are some people who believe that such contact between our bodies and the Earth is essential to our health and wellbeing. The process is referred to as “earthing” or “grounding”, and the idea is that the Earth’s surface contains free electrons that can be transferred to human bodies via direct contact, and that these electrons then act as antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals in our bodies to reduce inflammation and prevent disease. The idea of earthing is nothing new, as the practice began with our ancient ancestors who often had no choice but to walk barefoot and sleep directly on the Earth. Today, the practice is most common among people who follow a holistic health approach, which emphasizes the interaction between our body and the environment. There are countless websites and books that provide information on earthing, including the website Barefoot Healing: Australian Earthing Specialists, which makes the claim: “Earthing outdoors is easy, just touch your bare feet to the grass for at least thirty minutes or go barefoot at the beach and notice how fast stress and pain reduces and energy improves!” [1]. The reason that the belief in earthing is extraordinary is because behind such substantial claims, there is little clinical evidence to prove that earthing is actually an effective health practice.

Despite a lack of concrete evidence, believers of earthing do put forth a convincing set of assertions. Some of the benefits that supposedly come from earthing include: Defuse the cause of inflammation, reduce/eliminate chronic pain, improve sleep, increase energy, normalize the body’s biological rhythms, improve blood pressure, lessen menstrual symptoms, and dramatically speed healing time (just to name a few) [1]. A review of earthing research conducted by the Developmental and Cell Biology Department at the University of California at Irvine found that reconnecting the body to the Earth’s surface electrons actually may result in significant improvements in sleep disturbances and chronic plain. One of the studies reviewed involved randomly assigning subjects with sleep or pain disorders to sleep on conductive carbon fiber mattress pads, half of which were connected to the Earth’s surface, and half of which were not. The subjects who were connected to the Earth’s electrons reported a significant improvement in quality of sleep, feeling rested upon waking, muscle stiffness and pain, and general well-being when compared to the control subjects [2]. The review concluded that more research does need to be conducted, but that earthing very well may be an essential element in the quest to increase human longevity.

While subjective responses and anecdotal success stories may be enough to convince some, there are plenty of non-believers in the supposed benefits of sticking your bare feet in the ground. The main argument against earthing is that the explanation of electron transfer doesn’t quite make sense from a scientific point-of-view. An article, eloquently titled “’Earthing’ Is a Bunch of Crap”, explains that from a chemistry-standpoint, electrons are electrons, and there is no significant difference between an electron that comes straight from the Earth and one that comes from any other synthetic material. The author also states that while there is an interaction between our bodies and the Earth’s electrons, it lasts such a short time that no enduring effect could be expected. He gave the example of what happens when you shuffle your feet across a carpeted floor (losing billions of electrons) and then touch a metal doorknob (instantly getting them all back): “It’s simply not possible to build up and maintain a significant charge imbalance between your body and the rest of the world, because everything we interact with contains electrons, and they move back and forth between objects all the time” [3]. So, when you look at earthing through a scientific-lens, it really is hard to believe that the Earth’s electrons are of much more value than those of our own floors at home.

With little scientific evidence to back it up, why are there still such avid supporters of earthing? Several cognitive processes seem to be at play, with the most influential one being the confirmation bias. When someone has a specific belief about how an event will play out, they tend to focus on the evidence that supports their belief while ignoring evidence that contradicts it. This is often seen in the medical field and is known as the Placebo Effect. In the case of earthing, believers go into the practice with the hope that they will experience the health benefits that it is known for. With such expectations in mind, the body can actually trick itself into producing those effects on its own, and when the participant notices those changes, they likely will attribute the success to earthing.

At a time when death by chronic disease is at an all-time high, it’s unsurprising that so many people are turning toward alternative methods of medicine to maintain or restore their health. Believers of earthing typically belong to the holistic health community which, in general, has been growing in popularity for several decades. According to The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, approximately 38% of adults and 12% of children in America are using some form of complementary medicine [4]. While earthing is by no means a part of traditional medicine, it does belong to the group of practices that is becoming more socially accepted as an effective way of maintaining health. As more people begin to support and practice integrative medicine, it can be expected that earthing will be socially reinforced and gain more popularity.

While earthing is difficult to validate from a scientific point-of-view, the testaments from those who practice it are quite inspiring. The idea that we can improve our health by reconnecting with nature is intriguing for many, but the Placebo Effect makes it almost impossible to determine whether the health benefits do indeed come from earthing, or if they come from our desire for earthing to work. Regardless, earthing appears to be a holistic trend that will continue to grow. Perhaps the next time you’re feeling sluggish, try taking a walk in nature and see what happens for you!



[1] What Is Earthing? (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from

[2] Chevalier, G., Sinatra, S. T., Oschman, J. L., Sokal, K., & Sokal, P. (2012, January 12). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from

[3] Orzel, C. (2014, May 28). “Earthing” Is a Bunch of Crap. Retrieved April 12, 2018, from

[4] The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. (2017, September 24). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from







The Flat Earth

by Carissa Zurbrugg

For this blog post I am going to write about the theory that the Earth is flat. Here is a description of the belief: the Flat Earth Theory was formed from the ancient flat earth model that presents earth as a disc. Flat Earth believers think earth is a disc with the Arctic Circle in the center, and that Antartica is a 150 foot-tall wall of ice around the rim (Wolchover 2017). They believe that the idea of the world being round is a conspiracy or cover-up arranged by NASA and other government agencies. This theory is believed by various people, some well known and famous such as B.o.B and Kyrie Irving, as well as many ordinary people, many of which belong to a supposedly growing “Flat Earth Society.” The Flat Earth Society is well known and criticized among other scientific groups. Becoming an associate member is free, and becoming a “friend” costs 12 dollars; they even have their own website that includes information and history of the society, a blog, and featured articles. As for popularity, the Flat Earth theory was most attractive during ancient times, especially in ancient Greece until the classical period and China until the 17th century. It is still popular to this day, just not as popular as it was in ancient times. Information for this belief can be found all over the internet, books, and especially from This belief is important because it is an ancient notion about the way Earth is constructed and interacts with the Sun, Moon, and other planets, and because we live on Earth, this affects all of us. This belief is extraordinary because believers go against concrete evidence, such a satellite images of Earth from space, to stake their claim.

The facts of the matter: Evidence for the Flat Earth Theory is presented in a couple different ways. One bit of evidence provided by the society’s website uses Lunar Eclipses to explain a flat earth, using their own sources to basically say that during a lunar eclipse, the shadow of the Earth on the Moon is not actually the shadow of Earth. They basically think that the Earth, Sun, and Moon do not fall into a direct line, so it cannot be the shadow of Earth that is showing on the Moon. This “evidence” is described in a couple of different books such as Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe by Samuel Rowbotham, and One Hundred Proofs That The Earth Is Not A Globe. Another lunar eclipse inconsistency by Rowbotham is that the moon’s entire surface has been distinctly seen during the whole time of a total lunar eclipse (Davis 2016). Flat earthers also try to provide proof for their belief using Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. In another article by Davis (the president of the American Flat Earth Society), this is explained. As I am not able to explain it briefly in my blog post because I don’t really understand it myself, I will provide a link to it at the end of my post, and encourage you all to take a look; maybe someone will be able to explain it to me in the comments. As for evidence against this belief, well, it is staggering. First and foremost, the spherical Earth is the post popular idea when it comes to the structure of our planet. The hardest evidence we have are the thousands of images and videos of Earth from space, and a live stream of a continually changing globe from the International Space Station. Also, word from all astronauts who have been to space and seen Earth from orbit (of course flat Earthers say these images are false and deny anything astronauts say). People who believe in a spherical Earth claim that there is no evidence for the “globularist conspiracy” which is the idea that basically all hard evidence of a round Earth is fabricated and a cover up by NASA and the government. By the time of Socrates and Plato, Greeks already knew that the Earth had to be spherical. Sailors also noticed that the surface of the sea is slightly curved, like the surface of a ball. Aristotle furthered evidence of a spherical Earth with the phenomenon of the Lunar Eclipse as well, claiming that when the Moon passes through the shadow of Earth, the shadow is always the circular shadow of a sphere. Most people who believe in the round Earth truly believe the debate about the shape of Earth has been settled for over 2,000 years (Loxton 2018).

Those who believe in the Flat Earth Theory are clearly misinformed, in my opinion. They are very severely misinterpreting the evidence for a round Earth, saying pictures and videos are fake and made up by the government, when there is no evidence of that! These people may have become mistaken for their distrust of the government.

There isn’t a specific community that these believers come from; like I said, a lot are ordinary people and some are high profile people like B.o.B., Kyrie Irving, and Shaq. Many belong to the American Flat Earth Society, which I suppose could be one community of Flat Earthers. Some don’t belong to any specific club or organization, and this is just what they believe to be true. The American Flat Earth Society and it’s website is a good example of a social influence that helps them to sustain their belief. Also, people like Shaq and B.o.B. are social influences they help these people sustain their belief by putting their messages out into the media.

In conclusion, psychological explanations for these believers are probably just that these people have are free thinkers, and a strong distrust in our government. To think that our government officials fake evidence for something as important as the shape of the planet we live on, there has to be a little bit of paranoia there. I’m a believer in hard evidence, and the pictures and videos don’t lie. Try as hard as they may, they will never prove their theory of a flat Earth.