We are living in bleak times. No, I’m not talking about the Bush junta or islamist terrorism, nor about climate change or no more Harry Potter novels. I’m talking about the endemic spread of superstition that has especially gotten hold of the fairer sex in this country. Talking with females in Germany you’ve got a 95 percent chance that they’ll be humourless devotees of some obscurantist creed, be it astrology, homeopathy or the healing power of stones. Worse still, being attached to these would-be witches or fairy queens, even sober males lose their natural bond to rationality and skepticism and send their dogs, cats and kids to psychics and natural healers.
Being as mad as I am about this fact – seriously, it means that any decent conversation with, like, 60 percent of the population is going to end in embarrassment sooner or later – I take some perverse pleasure in any event that purges the last remaining twists in my very own sobriety. Something like that just happened when I found this recent gem by star science journalist Malcom Gladwell in the current issue of the New Yorker: Gladwell dismantles the popular folklore about and praise for forensic psychology and the work of profilers. It turns out that not only they are not better as psychics, actually both professions exploit the same tricks.