The mirror self-recognition test is flawed, specious, obtuse, ignorant, and offensive

The mirror self-recognition test first described by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. in 1970 is an experiment to test whether animals or young children have a sense of self. It involves marking the animal/child (e.g., using a marker or paint or something to put a dot or x on their face) and then presenting them with a mirror and seeing if they show any interest in the mark. Most animals and even many human children tend to “fail” the test.

This test is all kinds of bad science. The biggest reason is that it presumes the animal/child even knows that the mark is unusual in the first place. If the animal has never seen its reflection before, why would it bother touching the mark? For all it knows, that’s just part of what it normally looks like, especially if the animal has stripes or spots or ingeument or pimples or scars or any other sort of markings. Just because the animal doesn’t pick at the mark doesn’t mean it doesn’t realize that’s its reflection, it just means that it doesn’t have any reason to or any interest in it.

Moreover, the test presumes that animals would be unaccustomed to their own reflection because there are no mirrors in nature. That’s obviously not true. While it might be amusing to picture, animals don’t routinely freak out and assume another animal is coming at them whenever they go to take a drink at a watering hole. They are fully aware that they are just seeing their own reflection. Duh. 🙄 And thanks to all the metal and glass that humans are putting everywhere, more and more animals are getting accustomed to seeing reflections and rapidly evolving.

One way to attempt to fix this test is to present the animal/child with a mirror before marking it and letting it get a good, long look at itself for a while, and then mark it with something over like a large neon-colored x (and do it quickly to ameliorate any effects of short memory). That way, the animal will actually be able to detect a change worthy of investigating (though even then, maybe it just doesn’t care 🤷).

Conspiracy theories fail at basic logic

There’s a (conspiracy) theory that John Lennon made a deal with the Devil which is the reason that he was able to create the Beatles and become famous. The rumor says that he made a deal that the Devil would “collect” his soul after 20 years and that Mark David Chapman’s killing of him was the Devil reaping his soul.

The fact that Chapman was actually religious and his primary motivation for killing Lennon was specifically a religious one (e.g., Lennon’s misunderstood statement about the Beatles being bigger than Jesus and not believing in Jesus), there are some massive logical failures with the theory.

Let’s start by working backwards to determine when this supposed deal was made. Lennon was killed on December 8, 1980, so according to the theory, that would mean he made the deal with the Devil on December 8, 1960.

For one thing, Lennon had already evolved from the Quarrymen to the Beatles months earlier (mid-1960), but that was still essentially his first band. If he were going to make a deal with the Devil, why would he have jumped to it after barely even one band? To believe the theory, you’d have to believe that he was impatient and/or lazy and didn’t even try before resorting to selling his soul.

More importantly, the band wasn’t yet famous or known, so how would anyone know the exact date and terms of the deal? 🤨 It’s not like Lennon did (or even would) ever state publicly such a deal, so how and why would anybody know about such a deal about someone who at the time was still just some random nobody? 🤦

Of course, conspiracy-theorists have an answer for everything and they’ll probably just make up some stuff like someone happened to find a copy of the deal (which I guess was inked in paper rather than some supernatural æther or something and John just happened to have lying around and the person who found it only told some crackpots instead of taking it to the news 🙄).

Pretty much every conspiracy of this type has the same logical fallacy, they presume knowledge of a deal with the Devil that was necessarily made when the subject of the conspiracy theory was still a nobody and thus, there would be no reason for people to watch or track or know anything about them or their goings on, and ignore the fact that any such deal would obviously be kept a secret.

The better theories attempt to lend credence by claiming that the subject had better skills at something (usually music) after the deal, completely ignoring the concept of practice. I guess they believe that nonsense about doing something over and over again being the definition of insanity when it’s actually just practice. 🙄

The top-tier conspiracies will actually go so far as to try to repudiate practice as an explanation by claiming the increased skill was sudden, it they went from bad to amazing overnight. For one thing, that’s not impossible, it can and does happen; there are plenty of times when something just “clicks” and suddenly something because easy. But even more likely is that the claim of sudden improvement is just made up; nobody who repeats the story actually knows or remembers or was there and it’s just myth.

Why (Evil) Ghosts Can’t Exist

I like scary movies at least as much as the next person, and like most people, I too get a little creeped out and unsettled when going to bed in the dark after watching a horror movie. One fly in the ointment of horror however is the logical fact that evil spirits simply cannot exist.

There are two basic, low-level scenarios:

  • Ghosts do not exist at all (i.e., there is no after-life)
  • Ghosts can/do exist (i.e., there is indeed an after-life)

If the first scenario is correct, then there is no reason to fear ghosts because they just don’t exist under any circumstances, period.

What if the second scenario is correct and ghosts can or do exist? If ghosts can or do in fact exist, then there is indeed an after-life. If there is an after-life, then we have to examine the kind of ghost in question.

If the ghost (or the person who died) is/was good, then either they have already already ascended to Heaven, or they are only sticking around to take care of some unfinished business like getting their killer caught or looking after their loved ones. Either way, there is no reason to fear them (unless you killed them).

If the ghost (or the person who died) is/was bad, then why would they be allowed to stick around Earth and harass people? Shouldn’t they be forcibly pulled into Hell? Why would reporting to Hell for punishment be optional? Go straight to Hell, do not pass Go, do not haunt people or collect $200.

The only scenario that lets evil ghosts work is if you believe that there is an after-life and ghosts, but not believe in Heaven or Hell. There are not many cultures that believe in an after-life that does not include some sort of Heaven/Hell concept, but if you are one of those kinds of people, then you can still fear evil ghosts haunting you; otherwise, there’s no need to fear them.