Monday, 26 January 2015

A Doctorate in Flushology!

A big bug bear of mine with the paranormal community has always been the attempted claims at expertise in subjects though the adoption of titles such as Demonologist and Empath or Psychic. This amounts to little more than a pathetic game of one ups manship among believers attempting to convince the gallery that their particular brand of bullshit is somehow more valid because of an often self-awarded title. Its also an attempt to lend some form of academic credibility to a subject lacking the same.

And where there is a desire for credibility there is money to be made by so-called diploma mills where a qualification can be garnered for relatively little cash and work. This is a pretty common tactic amongst creationists, a famous example being convicted fraudster Kent Hovind who gained his doctorate through Patriot Bible College (Hovind's dissertation is an absolute hoot, and may be viewed here, its probably the only doctoral thesis that starts with the words "Hello my name is..."). Its win win for everyone, the college gets money, and the bullshitter gets a qualification to wave in the face of objectors and to fool their followers with a false air of legitimacy.

Its no great surprise that there also a multitude of organisations offering "qualifications" to those interested in the paranormal. One such organisation recently brought to my attention was The American Institute of Metaphysics.

So what's on offer:

Bacholor of the Arts Theology.... hmmm... that sounds ALMOST legitimate, Folklore and Mythology degree, yep I've heard of those areas of study in legitimate institutions. Vampire studies, Demonology and occult sciences, not so much. Demonology even comes in a doctorate here!

And the prices are very reasonable, only $129 for one course (plus a delivery charge for my course materials)! I'll take the full course or "Scholar's program" (*snort*), a snap at $1450!

I'll start with online Demonology first I think. I don't to rush straight into the doctorate unprepared do I. Thankfully there's a handy youtube video narrated by the director of the institute, "Dr" William Lester himself!

Hmmm... not a great deal of information there. I'm informed that enrolling in the course will leave me changed forever.... well my wallet is certainly lighter that's a change. One thing I love about the images in the video, and almost all the images on the site itself, they are all lifted from alternative sites and therefore Google searchable. Almost as if someone has been going along Googling "demon" and "vampire" as they are writing the various course material. Hmmmm....

"Dr" Lester. Oxford alumni... possibly.
But what of "Dr Lester" what exactly is he a doctor of and what lofty institution did he study with? Well that depends on who you ask. On Lester's Linkedin page, he claims that he graduated from Morris Brown University, which he attended between 1990-1993, with a Bachelor of Science degree. He also claims that he gained a doctorate in philosophy at Oxford university, although he gives no details of the period he actually attended Oxford. Nor can I find any record of a doctoral dissertation.

Lester also makes these claims on a site where he seeks work as a voice over actor under the heading "training". It does seem a little odd that a doctor of philosophy, who runs an educational institute should be looking for voice over work.

In an interview with Lester in June 2014, he mentions he has a further undergraduate degree in English and education. A quote taken from that interview gives some indication as to why Lester maybe tempted to exaggerate his academic achievement, he believes they lend him credibility:

"Do you think that your academic background gives you cred in the mainstream world? 
Yes, it does. I have an undergraduate degree in education and English, and my masters in history and philosophy. People from the outside, when they find out about my background, say, “clearly he is not a crack pot.” They assume I couldn’t be involved in education for so many years and be one of those guys with tinfoil on their heads...."
I'd disagree. There are plenty of crackpots with PhD s. This is a blatant appeal to authority that Lester makes on his own behalf.

Let's forget Lester's doctorate for a second, how good is your doctorate going to look?

Sounds good. And it requires a dissertation so its got to be serious.
"A dissertation is required for all doctoral candidates. This research and writing project must reflect a level of commitment to one's chosen discipline. Moreover, the work must contribute to the wider body of existing knowledge."
Well that's certainly, at least basically, what a dissertation is.

"The dissertation must be a minimum of 30 pages. It must be typewritten, with a font size of 10-12. The Times New Roman font style is recommended. Other traditional, easily-read font styles are also acceptable."

That all seems.... wait. 30 pages! That's an extremely short doctoral dissertation!

In 2013 Marcus Beck used the database at the University of Minnesota to measure the average length of dissertations in fifty subjects with the highest amount of the same. His results show most of the topics upper and lower percentiles ranged from between around 100 and 250 pages. With numerical studies such as economics and maths lower quartile sitting around 80 pages. So you are really getting off light here. Certainly Marcus' data shows some low outliers, but even these are around 50 pages.

So all the better for me! It seems like only a matter of time before I myself will be bursting in through vulnerable family's doors, waving my certificates,  declaring "There's a demon in the house! I'm a certified demonologist! I should know!". And when I'm not doing that... I'll be using my qualification to win arguments on paranormal pages on Facebook!

Unfortunately it doesn't seem like I can direct people to my dissertation, I can't find a trace of the "AIM library" online.

But just as I'm about to enroll and begin my studies of the paranormal, I read this disheartening message:
"NOTE: Education at the American Institute of Metaphysics is not intended to serve as a substitute for education at a traditional college or university. Because AIM does not seek to indoctrinate students into the mainstream, Western paradigm, traditional mathematics, literature, and science are not taught...."
No its not because of "indoctrination" is it? Its not a "substitute" for education because its fundamentally NOT education. Its like a restaurant serving you a brick as your main course and declaring "this isn't intended as a substitute for food..." So what's the purpose then? Why bother?

Does "Dr" Lester consider his questionable education as "indoctrination"?  If western education is so flawed why boast about it by referring to yourself as "Dr" and "Ph.D"? Surely such titles are symbols of indoctrination that should be discarded?

No, because you need them Lester. To inspire confidence in the rubes that you seek to dupe, who, guess what? ARE GOING TO USE THE BULLSHIT YOU SELL THEM TO INSPIRE CONFIDENCE IN OTHERS AND DUPE THEM!

The irony would be delectable, if the whole process wasn't so depressing.

So why is this post titled "A Doctorate in Flushology"?

Because you might as well flush the equivalent cash down the toilet as spend on it this drivel.