I played Trivial Pursuit yesterday. I was surprised by some of the questions which came under the green “Science & Nature” category:

What do pointed letters mean to a handwriting analyst?

I’m not entirely convinced that graphology really counts as a science. Last year, when there was the disgusting spectacle of the media making fun of the fact that Gordon Brown has messy handwriting, ignoring the fact that he is completely blind in one eye and has impaired vision in his other eye, the BBC, for some fucking reason decided to compare the handwriting of various recent prime ministers.

“There is no credible scientific evidence with it at all,” says Richard Wiseman, a professor of public understanding of psychology. “Every controlled test has showed that no evidence has emerged.”

Well, I agreed with Richard Wiseman until I read the amazing insights graphologist Elaine Quigley revealed after looking at samples of handwriting from Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher.

GORDON BROWN
This absence of flow suggests he doesn’t communicate naturally […] The right-hand-side of the letters signify one’s connections with other people and the future. The way they are cut off suggests he can’t empathise because it’s not part of his make-up.

Amazing. That really does sound like Gordon Brown!

TONY BLAIR
His words have an easy flow to them and this suggests he has a lot of charm and is very articulate […] The T-bar pointing down suggests he is stubborn. All the writing has a right slant which means that he gravitates towards people and he can charm them.

This woman is incredible! Tony Blair is famous for being charming and articulate! And he’s also quite stubborn!

MARGARET THATCHER
It’s a masculine script, not prissy or emotional, but it is still elegant. Unlike Mr Brown’s, her writing has charm and elegance. Underlining it is that she likes control. The vertical spacing means she is independent and doesn’t like to be crowded by others. There is a general sense of confidence from the writing.

Again, she’s spot on! It’s incredible! Like Richard Wiseman, I used to believe that there was no scientific evidence for the efficacy of graphology, but the facts speak for themselves. Richard Wiseman is an idiot. He’s not a wise man at all.

In case you’re reading this, Richard Wiseman, and you have realised the error of your ways and accept that graphology is definitely a legitimate branch of science, this is the answer:

Another question interested me:

What toe is the foot reflexology pressure point for the head?

Again, I wasn’t sure if reflexology is actually a science. Wikipedia lists some of the criticisms of reflexology:

Common criticisms of reflexology are the lack of evidence for its claimed effects, or of a scientific or demonstrated basis for its theories, of central regulation, accreditation and licensing, or of medical training provided to reflexologists, and the short duration of training programmes.

That sounds like quite a lot of reasons to be critical of reflexology, but then I had a look at the website for the Association Of Reflexologists and it says:

What is reflexology?
Whilst the art of reflexology dates back to Ancient Egypt, India and China, it wasn’t until 1913 that Dr. William Fitzgerald introduced this therapy to the West as ‘zone therapy’. He noted that reflex areas on the feet and hands were linked to other areas and organs of the body within the same zone.

In the 1930’s Eunice Ingham further developed this zone theory into what is now known as reflexology. She observed that congestion or tension in any part of the foot is mirrored in the corresponding part of the body.

Reflexology is complementary therapy, which works on the feet to aid healing to the whole person not just the prevailing symptoms.

Well, that sounds quite convincing. It was developed by a doctor, so it’s proper medicine. Ben Goldacre, please take note, here is the answer to the question:

This question was also quite odd:

What was Christ’s zodiacal sign?

I guess they chose Jesus because everyone knows when he was born, but they don’t ask “What was Jesus’ zodiacal sign?” or “What was Jesus of Nazareth’s zodiacal sign?” or something like that. They ask for Christ’s zodiacal sign. “Christ” demands an element of faith, which the more neutral “Jesus” doesn’t. But as this is a Science & Nature question, you are expected not only to believe in Christ, but also to think that astrology is a form of science.

My friend Simon refuses to have a star sign. I’d do the same if he hadn’t thought of it first. Richard Dawkins once attacked astrology, saying:

My case is that […] serious newspapers should never give named astrologers the oxygen of publicity, that astrology is neither harmless nor fun, and that we should fight it seriously as an enemy of truth. We have a Trade Descriptions Act which protects us from manufacturers making false claims for their products. The law has not so far been invoked in defence of simple, scientific truth. Why not? Astrologers provide as good a test case as could be desired. They make claims to forecast the future, and they take payment for this, as well as for professional advice to individuals on important decisions. A pharmaceuticals manufacturer who marketed a birth-control pill that had not the slightest demonstrable effect upon fertility would be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act, and sued by trusting customers who found themselves pregnant. If astrologers cannot be sued by individuals misadvised, say, into taking disastrous business decisions, why at least are they not prosecuted for false representation under the Trade Descriptions Act and driven out of business? Why, actually, are professional astrologers not jailed for fraud?

I wonder if it was the threat of prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act which made Russell Grant to include the following disclaimer on his website:

All readings are solely for entertainment purposes only.

I wasn’t entirely sure if belief in Christ was compatible with belief in astrology, but then I found this website which explains:

The first thing that the would-be astrologer should do is discard the idea that all forms of astrology is superstition mingled with the paranormal which can only be understood by mystics steeped in occult lore. Today, some astrology is presented this way, but this is not true “traditional astrology”. Did you know that Astrology was considered science in man’s early history? And some still do,with good reason […] Also until just a short time ago it was considered the same as astronomy, an extension of it if you will, and uses the same tables as do the astronomer and the navigator.

Do not expect that horoscopes (from anyone at all) tells you your irreversible future! We are not lame puppets dangling on some mad God’s string! Though God knows our future, rest assured we have not been stripped of our free will! Astrology only tells us tendency, personality and probability. Though these are very strong and WILL occur if unchecked, it is still not the end all and be all. What astrologers try to do is to describe tendencies in the characters of individuals, to suggest dangers, challenges and opportunities which may come to them, and to advise how to react to those circumstances when they do arrive.

Do you see, Dawkins, you idiot? I bet you feel stupid now, don’t you?

This was the answer:

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