The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The War against Reason.

The modern world is not as rational as one would hope, or perhaps, believe. Everywhere I look, I see pockets of unreason...indeed, infestations of unreason, illogic, superstition, belief in the unbelievable and various kinds of delusion. The world is quite mad, in many ways.

Yesterday evening I found myself sitting in a talk that had been billed as being about “health”. I was there because my wife had heard about it and I decided to accompany her. It was a strange experience. At first, I listened with the quiet expectancy that I would be given the explanation as to how the speaker had recovered from a serious case of system wide nerve degeneration, 7 years ago. Although I listened carefully for two hours, he gave no answers as to what had happened to him, or how he had recovered, (though he did show a video of himself ostensibly afflicted, and in the midst of early recovery some years ago.) What I did hear however, was “proof” that there were aliens and that they had visited Earth, throughout history and “proof” that water has memory, of the events that occur to it – even emotional events. Scattered amongst this were little snippets of what kinds of contaminants are in modern foods. Some of these statements were factually wrong, but sounded convincingly alarming to those who didn’t know better. Throughout, the talk, were repeated statements that the audience didn’t know how the world really worked, but that the speaker did. He spoke as if he had privileged access to the secret of the Universe. Yet, he said nothing about what this secret might be...he just hinted that he knew it. To bolster his standing and credibility before the audience, he referred to his past working life as a “pioneer scientist”, who brought certain “advanced technologies” into Malaysia. These “advanced technologies” are actually many decades old analytical techniques which are widely known and available to every well equipped lab in the world. He spoke of all the diverse things he had worked on. He claimed to have been tasked by the Malaysian government to identify the remains of the Mongolian “model” Shaariibuugiin Altantuyaa (note that her mother has stated she never actually worked as a model). The technologies he spoke of in connection to his work, could not be used in such a way. DNA testing was used to identify her – but he never mentioned any proficiency in those I doubt his claim. At times, he seemed paranoid, attributing dark motives to unseen others, for why certain information (or misinformation, in fact) was not widely known. Again, he implied that he knew better than the media, than the Government, than the man in the street – that he had privileged understanding. What most concerned me about his presentation was that he mixed in real science, and real theories and made reference to the work of very famous scientists – such as Albert Einstein, to bolster the credibility of what he was saying. He name dropped such things as the Unified Field Theory of Albert Einstein (which, incidentally, was never actually worked out), to support his very tangential and completely unbelievable utterances about his world view. I thought this was most dangerous, since any non-scientist in the room might be convinced by the decoration provided by these famous names, and famous theories, into believing there was something to what he was saying.

The talk was free. However, at the end he gave a sales pitch for two other two day courses, which were far from free. These were presented as providing knowledge of “how the world really worked” and would “change how you saw the world forever”. No indication as to their contents was mentioned.

The thing about the speaker was that he seemed in earnest. However, no real scientist could possibly believe the mix of pseudoscience, superstition, delusion and paranoia, he came out with, even though there was a dash of science as flavouring. No real scientist could do anything but what I did...squirm throughout and often place my hand on my forehead, as if to note to myself that I couldn’t quite believe what was being said. I felt very uncomfortable listening to his nonsense, which, throughout was delivered with a beaming smile.

The talk was very vague and lacking in substance, though he constantly said: “I have so much to tell you, so much...”. Yet, he didn’t seem to have any real points of substance. He excused this by also repeatedly saying: “If you want information, go to Google...I am not going to give you information...what I teach is more experiential.”

By the end of it, I was very keen to leave. I had one word in my mind to sum up the feel of the whole “experience”...cult! Yet, he said, at one point, “This is not a religion, it is a science”. Well, it is most certainly not science...but could only be excused as a rather paranoid, delusional kind of religion.

He claimed, as we made our goodbyes, that he was establishing a postgraduate course in “Energetic medicine”, in Malaysia and Singapore, but when queried as to where, he said: “That is confidential”. Again, he had recourse to the air of secrecy , to project that there was something special going on. I was rather appalled at the thought that he might actually be teaching a postgraduate course in this nonsense. Unfortunately, there is a sufficient lack of rationality in Malaysia (but probably not Singapore), to allow such a course to happen. However, I sincerely hope not.

Rather worryingly, the crowd was slow to leave and seemed interested in talking about what he had said, afterwards. No-one else seemed to have twigged that the speaker had been spouting nonsense for two hours. They were a typical “new age” crowd and seemed the sort who were quite able to believe anything at all, especially if it were utterly preposterous.

Most concerning of all, was that he had a book out about his healing experience and his new world view, which he claimed was a best seller (in fact he said THE best seller), in Malaysia and Singapore. So, there is, it seems, a popular interest in his views. It seems that ignorance and delusion are to triumph over reason, at least in South East Asia (though no doubt the rest of the world suffers from similar problems). Notably, on the front cover, he claimed to be a “molecular biologist”. Now, this may be so, for all I know, but I have never encountered, in my life, a scientist so susceptible to pseudoscience and delusional nonsense as this one.

There is only one remedy to this kind of pseudoscientific cult – good basic science education for all. Unfortunately, most people are scientifically illiterate and are susceptible to this kind of nonsense. The sooner the world’s science education is improved the better. In the meantime, irrationality like this talk and its associated cult, will thrive.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:27 PM 


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