Last week I visited the state of Arizona in the US, to marvel at the stunning natural beauty arising (or indeed quite the opposite) from what are IMHO some of the most bizarre geological formations on Earth.
I came away astonished not only at the Grand Canyon's vastness, not only at the hauntingly colourful Painted Desert, not only at the frankly daunting Red Rock State Park or the extraordinary Petrified Forest; I came away absolutely stunned at the sheer volume and outlandishness of Arizona's woo community.
Previously I was sure that pseudoscience thrived in societies where there was a perceived disconnect between a 'natural' lifestyle (whatever that may constitute) and our 'modern, hectic' way of life. That the desire to 'get back to nature' drove urbanites towards credulous beliefs in the healing power of crystals or sugar pills or some such bollocks du jour. In other words, that the heart of woo would be, well, Islington. Not so, at least not once I'd been to Arizona.
Maybe it's the way I was brought up, maybe it was the school I went to or the folk I work with or the food I eat, but when confronted by a 1-mile deep, 270-odd mile long Canyon with rocks as old as 2 billion years on view, or by crystallised silicate deposits that preserve millenia-old trees with spectacular and bewitching results, I'm left in awe at the sheer power of nature, physics, chemistry, call it what you will. You could even claim that one goes to such places in search of inner peace, in search of a sense of calm and belonging - you'd almost certainly find it just by standing amongst these features and taking it all in. Why then, with evidence of the Earth being at least 2 billion years old staring you plain in the face, do the good folks at the Creation, Evolution and Science Ministries, run by a Mr. Russ Miller, insist that the Canyon was created in three days? Due to a lack of time (and more pertinently because there's no chance I could have kept a straight face) I didn't go on the tour they offer, but according to their website, they
provide folks with overwhelming evidences of the Truth of God's Word.How I wish I had gone on that tour.
And Lo, there was more. And it was Good (at least if you're looking for mumbo-jumbo). I stayed in Sedona, a tourist-tastic town in the midst of Red Rock State Park, famous for, err, its Red Rocks. And here I found people selling tours to Sedona's famed Vortexes (sic). Now, to me, a vortex is a whirlpool, caused by water spiralling around rocks creating a nice place to relax and bathe. To New Age Arizonians, however, vortexes
are swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth. This energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest. There are four main energy vortexes in Sedona. The subtle energy that exists at these locations interacts with that which is inside every person. It resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person that comes within about a quarter to a half mile of it.
Take a look here for more on how vortexes are supposed to work. Anyone else's woo-dar going way off the scale right now? Well, this town's full of such energy-balance stuff. As well as
Sedona Energy Crystals [which] are tuned by our Reiki Master to attract what you want into your life using profound Sedona vortex energyToo. Much. Woo. Can't. Breathe. Need. Crystal Healing...
I am not attempting to pick on individual healers/creationists/vortex mongers/Reiki masters here, I'm just using the above examples because they were the most visible during my trip. There are literally hundreds of other insitutions I could mention here, but in the interests of time I'll sum up thusly:
WHY CAN'T WE BE LEFT ALONE TO ENJOY THE INCREDIBLE NATURAL BEAUTY OF ARIZONA WITHOUT BEING TOLD ABOUT VORTEXES, CRYSTALS AND THE THREE-DAY FORMATION OF THE GRAND CANYON? WHY CAN'T WE LOOK AT WHAT'S AROUND US AND, FOR ONCE, SAY 'WOW, NATURE'S AMAZING!'
In other words, why, at the very place where one should feel closest to nature and all the extraordinary geological and biological phenomena on show, why here of all places is there a veritable profusion of bullshit?!