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Feng Shui Hooey

Posted in Skeptico by Skepdude on March 26, 2009

From this thread at JREF I learned of a recent post at a blog called Fengshui Forward (“We aim to gather fellow Chinese Metaphysics enthusiatics to discuss and promote Chinese 5 arts”), entitled United we stand, Divided we fall!.  The author, ken, is bothered by the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode on Feng Shui – the one where each of the three Feng Shui experts comes up with completely different recommended colors and arrangements of furniture at the exact same house.  Unfortunately ken has completely missed the point of the P&T program, and criticisms of Feng Shui in general:

It is very easy to discredit a practice like Feng Shui because Metaphysics is defined by Wikipedia as “investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science”.

No, that’s not how to discredit Feng Shui, although I agree it is  easy to discredit.  P&T discredit Feng Shui not by reference to a definition in Wikipedia (which would be an absurd way to do it anyway), but by simply showing that three so called “experts”, all using the exact same “science”, come up with completely different recommendations for the same problem.  Let’s face it – they can’t all be right.  The fact that they’re all different just demonstrates to any rational person that it’s nonsense.  How would you tell which of the recommendations was right and which wrong?  If Feng Shui had any actual real effect then it ought to be possible to tell by testing.  But according to ken, you can’t test Feng Shui:

Feng Shui is not superstitious.  It merely looks superstitious because it is beyond science and hence science cannot explain it and neither can humans.  How do you expect a kid to explain the action of his parents?  Since Feng Shui transcends science, one cannot get a satisfactory explanation of Feng Shui using scientific principles.

“Beyond science”?  Science is just an organized way of testing hypotheses against reality.  The phrase “beyond science” just means “can’t be tested to see if it works”.  But why not?  If it has any real effect surely that effect must be measurable (ie it is testable).  If it’s effects really aren’t measurable, then what is the difference between Feng Shui and something that doesn’t exist?  (Clearly, nothing.)

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