Colder Than a Witches Teat


We recently discussed how lack of science can end up harming a lot of people.  This made me think about faulty science doing the same.  The first thing that came to my mind when thinking about faulty science was the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600's.

                This article gave a list of many experiments that were used during the trials to prove if one was indeed a witch.  The use of the experiments shall be used quite loosely when talking about these.   If someone reported to have a dream in which someone was seen doing the devil's bidding that alone was enough to convict someone.  The courts had touch test in which a victim would be having a spasm and if the accuser would place his or her hand on the individual and they stopped convulsing than that indicated a witch.  Which was clear proof as that was the evil venom returning back to the host.  The worst would've been the lose-lose Bound Submersion.  In which the accused was bound to a rock and tossed in water.  If the accused floated to the top than he or she was a witch if not....well sorry about your luck.  From these trials came the classic saying of "colder than a witch's teat".   If said teat had a blemish or mole it was poked with a needle to see the reaction of the accused.  If no reaction (which was common due to the needle being blunted) it indicated a witch because it demonstrated the cold and evil way of a witch.  There was another test in which a person was repeatedly dunked in water until they gave a confession. Doesn't this sound awfully familiar (water boarding)?

                This post is all about how faulty science in itself can cost lives. However, this article really touches on another topic that we discussed in class.  This is the fact that religion or supernatural explanations need to stay out science.


With Halloween vastly approaching this was an interesting read with all the witch talk. However, although I don't agree with how they treated people they thought were witches, can we really blame them for having these beliefs when they didn't have much to go off? These days we have technology that helps prove accusations because we have the right equipment to host proper experiments. A side from that I completely agree with your point on religion staying out of science. Religion is solely based off faith and believing and where as science can be tested and proven. I believe in God's creation and to hear about scientist "Big Bang Theory" (although I feel that it's very interesting) it bothers me how people try to go against God with "facts". In case you've never heard of the Big Bang Theory, here is where you can read all about it

First of all, props on the moxie you had to post a title like that. In your post you detailed a few methods that early Americans used when testing to see if a woman was a witch. One of the most popular misconceptions surrounding the Salem Witch Trails was that the accused were often burnt at the stake, when in fact there is no evidence of this happening. I find it interesting that the scientific way of thinking was wholly and inexcusably neglected during the time period you described. Had the accusers invested an ounce of logic in the trials, they would've come to very different conclusions, I think. They only ever used Ad Hominem attacks (faults in character) and Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc rationality (stating something happens because of a totally unrelated thing).
Here's a link to what I was writing about earlier - it's interesting:
And Happy Halloween.

You raise some interesting points about how doing science or testing wrong can lead to negative outcomes such as the peoples deaths as you mentioned. The title you used gave me a little laugh and was a great way to get me to read and I liked that you used the Salam witch trials as a examples as to how bad testing or lack of science in our lives could end up killing us or hurting us. Those people died because of some people's ignorance and absolute false hypotheses they made up and it ended up costing people their lives.

When you come to think of it, there were many false accusations in the past that killed innocent people. It still happens to this day, people go to jail by human error and must suffer the consequences. Even cases of the death penalty were given to people who were deemed innocent after the damage was done. The concept that fascinated me most about that time period of the Salem witch trials was their experimental strategies to test if the human woman was indeed a witch. In extreme cases, only eye witnesses could result in the death of another person. In even more extreme cases, the victims were crushed by stone until they confessed--or died. Here is a list of the top ten tests for guilt used back then: This was the extent on their scientific knowledge and hypothesis testing. Look at how far we've come.

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