Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Disproof of Rationalism?

Several weeks ago, I came across a website for someone diagnosing and curing "ayin hara" via lead-pouring (Bleigießen). Now, as regular readers know, I don't believe that these things have any validity. I carefully researched the topic of ayin hara, and wrote a study of the topic, and I think that ayin hara is nothing more than an outdated belief (and it should be noted that Rambam did not accept its existence, at least not according to its classical definition).

Furthermore, the idea that pouring lead could cure or even diagnose an "ayin hara" was preposterous. Bleigießen, otherwise known as molybdomancy, is a medieval superstition with no value (and in fact the potential for considerable harm, via lead poisoning). It is clear that such soothsayers, with Rebbetzin Aidel Miller being the most famous, are not "reading" people's problem at all; instead, it is a combination of subconscious cold-reading by the practitioner (whereby they give vague guesses and are able to hone in according to the answers received) along with the Barnum effect working its magic upon the patient (whereby people are inclined to give a favorable interpretation to such diagnoses).

But this website particularly took my interest. The person advertising this service, Rabbi Daniel Hool of London, was someone who I vaguely knew from yeshivah a quarter-century ago. I remembered him as an extremely intelligent and straight person, and I was (and still am) certain that he is not deliberately deceiving anyone. So I reached out to him, sent him my study of the topic, and recommended that he switch to using tin, so as to avoid lead poisoning.

We got into a discussion. Rabbi Hool said that he can't use tin, because it doesn't have the correct metaphysical properties. He then made a staggering claim of an efficiency rate of around 80% in diagnosing problems using lead-pouring.

So I decided to conduct a little experiment, to prove to him that he had no such power. I would have him work his magic for someone that I name. I would only give him the person's Hebrew name, and there would thus be no possibility of his engaging in cold-reading. And it would be someone with a very specific problem, so that there is no way to succumb to the Barnum effect.

Rabbi Hool agreed, and furthermore said that I only need to pay if he is correct. The only condition that he made, which is one for every case he takes on, is that I had to take upon myself a small and realistic acceptance to do some kind of improvement in my Avodas Hashem. Fine!

So I gave him the Hebrew name of someone that I know well. There was absolutely no way for him to know the person's real identity. And I didn't tell him anything at all about her. She was suffering from a problem with her right shoulder and arm, with the cause not yet diagnosed, as well as an extremely sore throat and an anxiety issue. I looked forward to showing Rabbi Hool that his imagined powers were not real.

Within a few hours, I received a response from him. Here it is, exactly as I received it from him:
Ok, so she had plenty of ayin horah and I dealt with it the best of my ability.... The lead tells me she has an issue with her head around about nose height.- that could be internal or external. She also seems to be suffering from headaches maybe towards the back of her head on the right.... There was also signs of either problem with right shoulder area or she is having stress from a close family member at the moment....
That was NOT the result that I expected!

How did he get the right shoulder correct?! (And anxiety could be described as in issue in her head.) Was that just an extremely lucky guess? (I told him that he wrong about the headaches, so he went to check the lead again, and said that he thinks it's actually a sore throat!)

I was extremely unnerved by this, so I ran the test with him a second time. This time, his hits were significantly less accurate than with the first patient. But he still correctly named one of the issues.

Since then, I've been engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth with him. When I pointed out how he missed several things, he countered that not every problem with a person is necessarily caused by ayin horah, and that if the ayin horah shows on a body part and there is no physical issue with that body part, then the ayin horah is still there but it is affecting another non-physical area of their life.
My counter-claim is that he is thereby setting it up such that he can never be disproved. And it's so easy for the Barnum effect to work here - most adults, especially the kind that feel they have an ayin hara, are suffering from lower back pain and various other ailments. Furthermore, seeing as he predicts five or six things with every patient, out of a potential list of around twenty body parts at the most, he is statistically going to hit the mark enough times for the Barnum effect to work its magic.

To this, Rabbi Hool responds that his hits are frequent and specific enough to discount the Barnum effect. He has been sending me accounts of many of the procedures that he does. Here is one recent example:
So this lady comes to me a few minutes ago and tells me she has terrible problems with her sinuses before the procedure. I do her procedure and tell her:  ''It's much worse on your right side than the left- correct?'' She says "absolutely!'' I then tell her she has a "problem with her left arm"- She says ''absolutely!'' I then tell her she has internal problem/indigestion chest left side -she says ''Absolutely!'' I then tell her she has lower back pain right side she says ''Absolutely!''. This- after telling me nothing other than she has a 'problem with her sinuses.' So you still think "statistically" anyone can do this???
Well, I'm still skeptical. And I think that there's a lot of flexibility being employed in confirming successes here, along with patients who are very eager to validate the procedure. But on the other hand, I'm also still a little unnerved by the shoulder thing!

On the whole, I'm inclined to implement the two-headed rhino principle. Which is more likely - that he has the ability to diagnose and heal physical ailments via the pattern of cooling lead (with all the ramifications that this has for our entire understanding of existence), or that I am somehow not grasping the cold-reading/Barnum effect in action? I think it's the latter.

Rabbi Hool has documented many of the cases that he does, on his website. I invite people to read the list (bearing in mind that he is an honest person, although still obviously biased to interpret situations favorably, as are his patients). You can also try his services, via email (he accepts payment via Paypal). If you do so, please first make a list of exactly what you suffer from, leaving nothing out!

(To obtain my monograph on the topic, see the post "The Surprising History of Ayin Hara")

73 comments:

  1. Are you getting some financial profit from Rav hool for posting this?

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    1. Do you realise how insulting this question is?

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    2. >> heal physical ailments via the pattern of cooling lead (with all the ramifications that this has for our entire understanding of existence

      Don't put this on Torah Judaism as a whole. It's ramifications are with your understanding of existence.
      In addition, planting a flag of "rationalism" in the middle of religion whose central thesis is a transcendent supernatural being, who has given us His "infinite" teachings, by a supernatural process of prophecy to people that lived over 2.5 millennia ago, and commandments that affect our souls supernaturally, and caused us to survive a history that should have, and would have, left any other nation extinct. Seems like yours is a pick and choose which supernatural (read: non-logical, possibly irrational) ideas suit you.

      If you find Jewish history and all that goes with it to be purely rational, then this is a dilemma for you. If you accept that this entire Torah belief system is rooted above our world and rationalizing supernatural beliefs, then this is just one more thing which we can just say, "I don't understand everything, nor most things about the spiritual universe and the worlds above, and this is just another of those things".

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  2. Yehuda OppenheimerJuly 20, 2019 at 11:33 PM

    Very interesting, and I am eagerly awaiting your further comment on this topic.
    You did not mention in your post whether the procedure helped to alleviate the symptoms, in addition to his diagnosis. Did it succeed?

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  3. Rationalism aside, there remains the problem of קוסם.
    All forms of divination (with few exceptions) are forbidden. Any non-natural method to reveal hidden matters falls under this category.
    The איסור also applies to a person who asks the phony mekubal the question.
    From a non-rational perspective, the results from lead pouring are caused by demons or other spiritual beings. There is no guarantee that these demons will be helpful and not deceitful or malevolent in even worse ways...
    Thus, it's the mystics who have more to fear from lead pouring.

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    1. If it actually works and aids in health, it is permissible. So that needs to be ascertained first.

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    2. David,
      You're conflating דרכי האמורי with קוסם. They are separate (though not mutually exclusive) violations. (Similarly, ניחוש is forbidden even if such omens do effectively predict the future.)

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    3. I don't have the source in front of me but: 1) Rambam (yes he is an outlier) would say that anything that works is not Kishuf or anything else prohibited.

      2) Ramban, IIRC, in his discussion of Kishuf in Chumash says that it is bad because it causes harm (it's unnatural etc). IIRC, he mentions the health exception there.

      3) If this is really an issue, then the field of Radiology would be assur. I fail to see the difference between lead-pouring that works and an MRI that works.

      Bottom line is that this is a problem if it is mumbo jumbo (which it is), but not if it works.

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    4. The Rambam does two things: he paskens the halacha & he states his opinion. By קוסם, he doesn't consider effectiveness a criteria for making it forbidden. He describes קוסם objectively- the same way mystics would without giving his opinion as to their authenticity. Only several paragraphs later does he proclaim:"ודברים האלו כולן דברי שקר " I don't think that later statement limits the earlier halacha's applicability.

      In מורה נבוכים in his discussion of דרכי האמורי he states the סגולות mentioned in the משנה are allowed because חז"ל proved them effective experimentally. To the Rambam, experimental success is equivalent to a natural phenomenon. Now, the רשב"א cites the מורה (though in a version where the ordering of text is mixed up) and seems to have no problem citing the Rambam להלכה while still allowing for the existence of סגולות.
      So non-natural divination for the Rambam is forbidden BUT non-existent. The halacha remains theoretical insofar as real divination is concerned.
      So what would the Rambam say if he was shown a James Randi approved demonstration of divination? Would he forbid and change his mind? Or would he insist that it's permitted and that James Randi should keep his million dollars?
      My point is that there's room to pasken like the Rambam and forbid, while disagreeing with him that effectiveness is proof of naturalness.

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    5. >>From a non-rational perspective, the results from lead pouring are caused by demons or other spiritual beings.

      Wow. Please don't say things from medieval christianity, that even they gave up, and pin it on Kabbalah, without ever having spent time trying to learn it.

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    6. I don't think this is correct. Rambam says that the things that are prohibited don't work. His view is that they lead you to incorrect views not that they are impure or the work of the Satan. If they work, they are not prohibited. There is no such thing as "non-natural divination", not it is assur, but an empty set.

      Rashba questions the Rambam and argues with him. However, if it works as a cure and is not AZ, then he permits as well IIRC.

      As I mentioned, if this worked, but was forbidden, then an MRI would also be forbidden.

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    7. Who said anything about קבלה? The people who are into these things often believe it's demons that are causing the effects. This is what I've seen written in שו"ת תשורת שי, and in מנשה בן ישראל centuries earlier.
      Maybe you can cite a source in קבלה, accepted by all/most, which unambiguously permits any form of divination.

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  4. I myself had an encounter with Rav Yakov Meyr Shechter, I was going to ask him an appointment when he seized my right hand and began to enumerate an accurate list of my imperfections, then looked at me quite astonished and asked me on which hand I put tefilin, I answered on the right because I'm left handed so he took my left hand and found some qualities. So there things that go beyond our rational understanding, but it doesn't mean you have to swallow every rubbish.

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    1. caleb afendopouloJuly 22, 2019 at 4:05 PM

      The problem with this is that whatever you tell someone today of his/her imperfections you will probably be right.חכם עיניו בראשו

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    2. You just missed the point, he didn't expect to find something like that on my right hand.

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  5. You really need to learn a little about statistics. Not much you can take from a group size of one. I have long suspected that you are way more mystically minded than you let on, and your being “unnerved” by the not particularly impressive results of the non-scientific experiment only add to that.

    If you are going to do this then do it properly, with:
    - a statistically significant sized group
    - a control group
    - double blind process
    - clear criterion for “success” in an individual level and a clearly defined (in advance) metric for success or otherwise for the test as a whole (no post test data mining)

    Shouldn’t be too hard to set that up and I’d be happy to help with the stats bit, but would be good to have someone with actual clinical experience, or at least scientific publishing experience to help with the study design.

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    1. Like this?

      https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.621.290

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    2. Just read the abstract, but yes - something like that. I doubt that you’ll get through 200 patients, but you can get statistically significant results with a smaller group too.

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  6. I was just wondering the same thing.

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  7. I must say I am an avid reader but I read in order to argue and disprove. I must say I am very impressed at your intellectual honesty.

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  8. I'm surprised at your surprise. This is classic cold reading. He listed many, many possibilities at various degrees of vagueness. You say the he accurately predicted the shoulder and arm pain, but what he actually predicted was different: problems [not pain] in the right shoulder area [not the right shoulder] OR some completely unrelated and very common condition (stress from a close family member). As it turns out, point prevalence of shoulder pain is up to 26% with lifetime incidence of shoulder pain is up to 70% https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03009740310004667

    The part where you gave him a second chance was also not surprising. You didn't object to the "issue with her head around about nose height" so he guessed sore throat another common malady.

    His self-description of his own successes are of no probative value whatsoever.

    A much better test would be to identify 5 people with a given ailment and 5 without and let him tell you which is which. Your test had not real success criterion nor were there any control subjects.

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    1. That won't work. The demons who assist these soothsayers do not like to be tested. They respond to such lack of faith by giving the wrong answers...

      ...or hexing you with an עין הרע.

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    2. I'm really sorry to have to do this as I believe Rabbi Hool is acting in good faith, but when I looked into Rebbetzin Aidel Miller's claims, I discovered that the Teshuva from the Tzemach Tzedek that is quoted, actually states (if you read it) that he permits its use on Shabbos as it has no medicinal properties, therefore it's not Ossur Mishum Refuah. Hardly a glowing approbation!

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  9. One thing I've always wondered about these procedures: do they ever admit that there is no ayin hara, or do they just take people's money because it makes them feel better? Implying that everyone suffers from an ayin hara when something goes "wrong" is a little too convenient.

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    1. In this case the claim has Talmudic basis:

      בבא מציעא קז: דרב סליק לבי קברי עבד מאי
      דעבד אמר תשעין ותשעה בעין רעה ואחד
      בדרך ארץ

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    2. The term עין הרע is the same. But you'd have a hard time providing a convincing argument that the Gemara's definition of עין הרע is the same as how it's understood today.

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  10. David Ohsie's BrotherJuly 21, 2019 at 11:40 AM

    This isn't a rigorous test, but I would suggest something that I saw James Randi once do with someone who did palm reading (I think) and who sincerely believed that what they were doing was real. He had the reader purposely give a reading that was the opposite of what they really saw. The palm reader was amazed at how his purposely incorrect readings were perceived as accurate by the subjects he was reading.

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    1. David Ohsie's Brother's BrotherJuly 22, 2019 at 12:37 AM

      I think that he had something also where he wanted to the seer to identify who was alive and who was dead.

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  11. Stress from a close family member?
    I venture somewhere between 90-100 % of the population can say yes to that.
    I don't believe this nonsense at all.

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  12. Purim is 7 months away. Please hold off with the nonsense posts until it is timely and appropriate.

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  13. "(with all the ramifications that this has for our entire understanding of existence)"

    Can you just stop and take a deep breath?

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201404/do-psychic-phenomena-exist-0

    Even some neurologists and psychologists have acknowledged that members of the same family can be in psychic contact with each other over large distances.

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    1. The article you cite defiles the publication it appeared in. It's written by occultist who happens to have a PhD. All I have to do is cite the following quotation:
      "there is nothing about microcosmic quantum physics which excludes the possibility of telepathy"

      When debating politics, bring up Hitler. When debating pseudoscience, bring up Quantum Physics. (Extra points if you refer to Godel too! But the crackpots are not that consistent.)

      The argument is like this: We see weird things on the quantum scale- so weird things can exist on the macro scale. It's proof by speculative weak analogy. Not impressive.

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    2. I understood the author was trying to wean the materialist from his smug assumptions that everything about the universe must make rational sense.
      It was one of seven arguments.

      I especially liked his 7th because it seems that it was written with this blog in mind:

      "7. Scepticism of the Skeptics. Without wishing to be personal, I often find myself distrusting the motives of the fervent materialists who are determined to debunk paranormal phenomena. I certainly don’t mean that these people are corrupt, only that they have unconscious psychological motives. To be able to ‘explain’ human life and the world is a powerful human need. You can see this in religions, which provide a strong ‘narrative framework’ which makes sense of the individual’s position in the world, and their life. In my view, the materialist worldview provides the same function: it provides a narrative which makes sense of the world. As a result, materialists react in a very hostile way to any phenomena which contradicts this view of the world, just as religious people react in a hostile way to evidence against their beliefs. This creates ‘cognitive dissonance,’ and believers will go to almost any lengths to explain away contradictory evidence.

      Perhaps there is an issue of control too. As the scientist/philosopher Francis Bacon wrote, "Knowledge is power." To be able to explain the world brings a satisfying feeling of control—to feel that nature is ‘under our thumb,’ that it is in thrall to us. To admit that there are phenomena which we can’t fully understand or explain, and that the world is stranger than we can conceive, weakens our power and control—which may be another reason why sceptics are reluctant to accept psychic phenomena."

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    3. Argument #7: You are all biased. I'm the only clear thinker.

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    4. When we say תמים תהיה, it means we trust in הקב"ה even if we don't have all the knowledge of the future other hidden matters. We don't know 100% what's coming next and we can't fully prepare and control for it. Despite the pleading of the above occultist, it is he, not the skeptic, who is seeking power & control.

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    5. Interesting to see how all the extremists here ("fervent materialists") react to someone calling them out on their extremism.
      You immediately try to shoot back instead of stopping for a moment to consider whether maybe your view is indeed too extreme.

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  14. You did not take into account the issue of probability, namely that out of many readings some will be more accurate than others. Since you are working with only one reading as a sample, it’s possible that it was more accurate than his average.

    After all some if his many readings will be at least partially (and occasionally more than partially) accurate based simply on probability, especially since the problems he diagnoses are (1) described relatively generally, (2) quite common, and (3) given several at a time, and with some opportunity for correction on the second pass.

    In addition, you must take into account that this is your line of work, with your eyes always open toward seeking and testing non-rational practices, and so statistically from your end too, you will occasionally hit upon a test that hits closer to its mark.

    (Then there’s the issue of p-hacking, which means that looking backwards at a test to determine accuracy, without establishing the scoring criteria prior to the test, tends to affect the results. In this case it accounts for your assigning greater significance to the shoulder diagnosis because it ‘feels’ more accurate and important (and more ‘spooky’), as opposed to the others, whereas if you were to establish the criteria up front you would likely assign less weight to the shoulder. P-hacking also ties in to some of the other points I made above, for example that fact that you cherry-picked one particular test out of many you come across.)

    All of these factors, in addition to the others described in your post and in some of the other comments should be sufficient to account for the “accurate results” you experienced.

    But it felt spooky and magical, which is exactly how these things work!

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    1. Einstein though also that entanglement was spooky action at distance but experiments make him wrong, even we don't quite understand how it works it's nonetheless a fact. rationality is one way our mind works and mystic an other, both are the product of evolution and helped us to survive and thrive, and if we rely on the Jewish tradition are means trough which God make Himself known to us, in our modern world we could doubt of the relevance of mystic, but in the same time there is no scientific proof that rationality is an accurate tool, the only thing we can say is that it help us to construct research programs that gave us power over the matter, but on the other side this was also the purpose of magics, and notwithstanding the Rambam opinion an Sanhedrin was not condemning to death a sorcerer because of his foolishness, he had to perform an real action with magic, creating a collective illusion was not enough to be put to death.

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  15. Here are the first few paragraphs of a NY TIMES book review critical of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult. The same sentiments can be directed at Jewish Orthodox fundamentalism.

    By C. E. Morgan
    July 1, 2019

    LEAVING THE WITNESS
    Exiting a Religion and Finding a Life
    By Amber Scorah
    Though religious fundamentalism has surged globally in recent decades, the anti-intellectualism of these authoritarian movements, their staunch refusal to cede ground to reason and empiricism, often confounds nonbelievers. How can people devote the totality of their lives to the unseen, the unevidenced? How can faith subsume thinking?
    But reason is a poor weapon against the believer whose very religious identity springs from an embrace of the unreasonable. Many fundamentalists are conscious of the seeming absurdity of their position, but it is precisely the stridency of their faith, their ability to withstand the irrational, that confirms for them their exceptionalism and salvation. They reject modernity’s demystification project and instead construct meaning in the supernatural. Their faith becomes very thick armor indeed, one that even the sharpest Enlightenment rationalism won’t penetrate.
    But the stunted psychology of those raised in extreme religion is another problem altogether. For these children, there is no obvious forfeiture of common sense or flight from existential chaos that informs adult conversion. Rather, they experience a totalizing indoctrination that so severely limits the formation of an adult psychology that many don’t ever achieve maturity in the way secular society conceives of it, a state of empowered capability that permits complex life choices, a state in which contradictory ideas can be held in tension without psychic recoil. Instead, the fundamentalist child, raised on fear and limitation, lives a life of diminished options, constrained by strict dualisms: black and white, good and bad, God and Satan, and (perhaps most alarmingly for the broader culture) us and them.

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  16. From Rabbi Hool (posted here with his permission):

    "Well.....I disagree with your conclusion on a rational level.
    Instead of attributing my successes to some kind of in-explainable-super-duper-Barnum-effect-on-steroids- the likes of which no-one can explain, (e.g. the woman with the cast on her left leg and stomach cramps, the three kids with spine, migrains and stiff neck all at once -(when I've only mentioned two spine cases in 65- which were both correct-by the way) etc etc etc, I think it would rather actually be more rational to conclude that the Tzemach Tzeddek ztzl (who is quoted by the Mishna Brurah) knew what he was talking about when he allowed heating up the lead on shabbos(!) to try and save someone's life, Ayin horah does exist as Rashi tells on chumash numerous times, and the Peleh Yoetz ztz'l knew what he was talking about when he advises carrying the Rudah herb to protect from ayin horah...."

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    1. It is not hard to explain. Cold reading is a long practiced art. So is exaggerated self-promotion.

      Tzemach Tzedek was absolutely right halachically. That doesn't mean that he was right scientifically.

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    2. Also someone above claims the quotation from Tzemach Tzedek is a misquotation.

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    3. Here is the relevant excerpt:

      ולכאורה גם בזה יש ללמוד היתר ממ''ש המ''מ והביאו המ''א סי' שכ''ח סק''ד שבחולה שיש בו סכנה עושין לו אפי' דברים שאין במניעת הדבר ההוא סכנה.

      וא''כ הסגולה הנ''ל לו יהא שאינו רפואה בדוקה לא גרע מדברי' שאין בהם צורך כ''כ עפמ''ג סק''ד.

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    4. It's not clear that the צמח צדק is discussing the same act of lead pouring as Hool & Aidel. The same goes for a parallel תשובה by שלמה קלוגר- it's also not clear what "medical art" he's referring too.
      None of the two פוסקים describe the procedure as one which diagnoses AND cures עין הרע.

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  17. Some people are granted greater powers of perception or intuition than others, and neither they nor other people necessarily understand it. Whatever mumbo jumbo they might do or not do is incidental. You're under no compulsion (1) to deduce that Rabbi Hool really knows why he has this knack, or (2) to come up with your own reason. Chiropractors have bogus theories but some (and not others) have helped me with back problems.

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  18. I once had terrible hemorrhoids, so I concluded I must have been infected by the Ayin Hora. I tried that Bleigiesen stuff but it didn’t work. So I looked for other more effective antidotes. Sure enough, I investigated the Malocchio remedy for ayin hora and after a 2 week regimen my hemorrhoids improved greatly. If Bleigiesen doesn’t work, try this.

    https://www.ciaopittsburgh.com/italian-superstitions-the-evil-eye-malocchio/

    BTW, who says that Rashi, Tzemach Tzedek etc. were always right when employing means to vanquish the Ayin Hora? The Malocchio therapy works a lot better!

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  19. If it isn't falsifiable it isn't science.

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  20. Please tell me this is really early Purim Torah. Check out some of the 'success' stories:

    Shabbos 23/03/19- A man tells Rav Hool- "Remember you did the procedure and told me I have an issue with my left foot and I told you I have no issue at all! Well a few days later I had an accident and almost broke my left foot!" So it seems either the 'left foot-ayin horah' was detected but not destroyed, or indeed it was destroyed and that's why he didn't actually break his left foot!"

    So apparently, since ayin horah doesn't follow any physical/scientific rules, we can just make them up as we go along, and fit them in with whatever 'evidence' presents itself! I understand that this is a friend of yours, Rabbi Slifkin, but I'm astounded that you're offering any level of vindication, much less suggesting that people contact him under any circumstances. Whether or not he is consciously doing it, the man is a con-artist, preying on the vulnerable and gullible. Please don't support this endeavour in any way - there are enough scam merchants out there without another one on the scene.

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  21. Not sure what Rabbi Hool's procedure is but I've seen Eidel Miller's shtick and it is clearly a scam. She repeats the pour several times, each iteration showing fewer lead clumps (Einayim Rahim?) until final clarity. Your cured! The problem is that she can control the number and size of clumps by varying the height and rate of the pour.

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    1. I also have witnessed it, by a family in Meah Shearim. They usually do no more than three pourings. The third pouring is a quick spill, so that the lead cools in the water rapidly. It forms spikes instead of round "eyes". For the reasonable price of 50 NIS per patient!

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  22. I didn't read Rabbi Slifkin's monograph about Ayin HaRa, but certainly there are cases of Ayin HaRa in Chazal, that don't seem so anti-rationalist. In many cases, it appears as a type of קטרוג against a person brought up by other jealous individuals--much like Bilaam trying bring up the חטא העגל in order that his curses will be effective vs. עם ישראל.

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  23. Wait - but did you pay him??

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  24. I didn't want to say this when I mentioned about the Rambam and miracles to you Rabbi Slifkin nor do I believe that the Rambam switched his opinion but some academics not just the one I link to below think so. In any event miracles are not precluded by science. Science deals with the repeatable. If it's not repeatable by all it's not science even if you can demonstrate that something really happened or like the splitting of the Red Sea you believe it happened.

    The usual YA

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    1. Where did your definition of science come from? Who says something scientific needs to be repeatable "by all"? Being repeatable by experimentation is required to prove a scientific theory. That is when repeatability is required according to the "scientific process" to prove a theory or hypothesis, not to prove if something is scientific.

      Science is nothing by a way (or a system through which) to measure the natural world.

      Delete
    2. Look in any science textbook at the very least. In science you test a theory. If the test isn't repeatable it's interesting but not science. It's then called at best an anomalous result and at worst an error. On the moon they droped a penny and a feather to subject gravitional theory to the test. If they dropped at different rates it would have put gravitional theory at risk.

      The usual YA

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    3. Practically speaking, if they had dropped a penny and feather and they dropped at different rates, they would assume something went wrong with the experiment. It would take a good deal of droppings to get anyone to seriously question the Law of Universal Gravitation.

      When observations of distant Galaxies didn't follow universal gravitation and the theory of Relativity, Scientists just came up with "dark matter" (conveniantly invisible) to explain away the anomolous results.

      Delete
  25. Whoops: I forgot the link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20100933?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    The usual YA

    ReplyDelete
  26. I never realized that you could divine with just about anything. Wouldn't all of these fall under the issur, if done for that purpose?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methods_of_divination

    ReplyDelete
  27. Since it's coming up in the three weeks aggadata, it looks like what Nero did shooting off arrows outside Yerushalayim was Belomancy:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belomancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another understanding was that he sharpened/polished the iron arrow until it was very shiny and then gazed/scryed into it (like one would peer into a magic mirror or crystal ball.)

      Delete
    2. Interesting. I never heard that one.

      Delete
    3. That also could explain why Chazal say that Yonatan and David engaged in a type of ניחוש by shooting arrows--even though Yonatan had used them more as a סימן for David to stay away, by purposely overshooting his armor-bearer. The arrow-shooting is a type of ניחוש--but Yonatan wasn't doing anything forbidden.
      -Yehudah P.

      Delete
  28. "He then made a staggering claim of an efficiency rate of around 80% in diagnosing problems using lead-pouring."

    I would suppose his own biases would overstate his claim- his success rate is more likely be 66%. Now let's examine his latest "cold reading" ("cold leading?" "hot leading?"):

    1) an issue with her head around about nose height.- that could be internal or external.
    2) headaches maybe towards the back of her head on the right
    3) problem with right shoulder area
    4) stress from a close family member at the moment ->
    4a) mother
    b) father
    c) sister
    d) brother
    e) other sister
    f) other brother
    g) son
    h) daughter
    i) other son
    j) other daughter
    k) husband
    l) maternal grandfather
    m) maternal grandmother
    ...etc.. you get the idea!
    Now suppose that any of the above items have a 5% chance of being an issue for any random individual. We can calculate that the average person will have more than 60% chance of suffering from at least one of the above items. If we assume the individual has any complaint at all that would warrant a visit to a mekubal, the percentage would be higher- say 70%.
    But even if we stay at 60%, his success rate of 66% would only be 6% greater than chance.
    Conclusion: Violating a Torah prohibition may pay off a little, but why bother?

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  29. Utter fraud and will put my money up. We will conduct a valid statistical experiment and if the test shows the Rabbi's method works I will pay the Rabbi or to a charity of his choice an agreed upon sum. ACJA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why is your starting point that it is fraud? isn't that intellectually dishonest to choose a starting point and set out to prove it?
      Btw, Rabbi Slifkin, did your friend's condition improve after thsi procedure was done? That would seem to also be a big piece of this experiment.

      Delete
    2. @Raymond - Even if the friend's condition improved, it is still pure BS. ACJA

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    3. I am putting up my own cash with no potential of any return. The Rabbi(s) have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I only request is that if the test fails they never ever again engage in the practice. ACJA.

      Delete
    4. If you're going to make such an offer and hope to seem credible, maybe "anonymous" isnt right name to use.

      Delete
  30. This reminds of a Michael Shermer video where he tested a "Vedic Astrologist" to do readings for 5-10 people but mixed up the names and birthdates (without the Astrologer knowing) so that the person the Astrologer was doing the reading for was not the person sitting in front of him. To Shermer (and my) astonishment, the Astrologer correctly described the real person despite getting consistent negative feedback from the person sitting in front of him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I went back and found the video on YouTube. I had misremembered it somewhat. The Astrologer gave readings for 9 people, two of whom were reversed with each other so that the wrong person got the reading and none of the people were in front of him. His accuracy rate was 77% despite not having the person in front of him to read.

      Delete
  31. One way to test the lead pouring method is to have a doctor guess the people's ailments without doing any lead pouring. Compare the doctor's "diagnosis" with the lead pourer's and see who is more accurate.

    ReplyDelete

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