Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 8.28

Well, it’s Thursday afternoon, and you all know what that means. Yep, it’s the time of week when we all exchange underwear.

So to the lucky person who drew my name, here are my boxer briefs. Don’t worry. They’re clean . . . . -ish.

And while we’re sorting out the Thursday Afternoon FUNdergarment Swap, you all can show your brilliance by answering the following:

In regard to fundamentalist religious sects and homeopathic medicine, is one more dangerous to humanity than the other and why?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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39 Comments

  1. Hard to compare but my gut says that the thing (whatever it is) that attacks people’s minds and leads to dangerous misguided decision making regarding a variety of social issues would be more dangerous to humanity on the large scale than decisions based on incorrect assumptions and woo that affect the small scale.

    fundamentalist religious sects > homeopathic medicine

  2. Fortunately, I think that the majority of people who use homeopathy will eventually turn to western medicine if they don’t seem to be getting better, or they’ll use their homeopathy in combination with real medicine.

    Joining a religion, though, that’s a commitment people intend to keep for life (and thereafter). The majority of people who join a religion do not end up leaving.

    [Lewis Black]
    Therefore the root of all evil is:

    Fundamentalist religious sects.
    [/Lewis Black]

  3. There are really two issues here, severity of the threat and the scope of the threat. In terms of severity, Homeopathy probably kills a higher percentage of the people infected with it. Fundamentalist religions, though, have infected many more people worldwide. When you consider the sheer numbers of fundie Christians and Muslims, and even radical Hindus and self-immolating Buddhists, the threat meter goes way up. Not to mention the viral aspect of religion itself. The apparent spiritual rewards for spreading your fundamentalism are probably far greater than the real monetary rewards of spreading your homeopathy. So, I’m going with fundamentalism over homeopathy with a TKO in 7 rounds.

    But what do I know, I thought for sure the CGI rhino would beat the CGI elephant on that Discovery Channel’s “Animal Face-Off.” Apparently rhinos are too stupid to compete. Who knows, maybe Homeopathy’s got a chance?

  4. Sorry: this is not the most compelling question ever. In fact, it’s no contest.

    Homeopathics can only threaten humanity if it becomes so wide-spread that doctors start using it to treat serious illness. And I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    Fundamentalism is, almost by definition, a means of “theming” other human beings… and that is about as dangerous a thing as can be devised.

    It’s already dangerous enough that, as a skeptic, I’m beginning to–more and more–label “them”. And to care less about them than us.

    Well, shit. I hadn’t actually thought of that until just now. I don’t want to sell you death sticks. I want to go home and reconsider my life.

  5. Damn. I hate agreeing with a consensus… Following homeopathy, ultimately can’t kill anyone except yourself and you children. Going to say setting off bombs in public places is nastier, even if the actual numbers of deaths are lower (I don’t know if they are or aren’t, and it’s not critical to my point).

    Killing yourself, I’m fine with. Period. If you did it through ignorance – well, such is life. Should have been more careful. Killing your children, while a tragedy, in a case like this is really just getting to them before they get themselves much of the time. Yeah, it’s harsh, but most kids believe what their parents believed. I’d prefer we could get the kids and teach them better, but until we start taking people’s children away because they’re stupid, that isn’t going to happen.

    Fundamentalist sects, on the other hand, engender the kind of mindstate that leads to killing other people. That’s a whole different ball of wax. True, not all fundies kill people – but they all have that potential. If you think otherwise, you really don’t understand the mindstate of the uber-religious.

  6. Boy, that’s tough. Homeopathy almost certainly gets people killed by not actually treating their illnesses and dissuading people from getting actual treatment….but fundamental religious sects sometimes kill people too. Humanity will always suffer from the death, but I hope one day we won’t from the closed-minded and hateful fundamentalists. So, I think I’m going to vote for fundamental religion.

  7. Both following a fundamentalist religion and using homeopathic medicine require you to believe things that don’t make any sense. The religion, though, typically teaches you to feel extremely guilty and unworthy if you question or doubt it and exhorts you to convert other people to it. That’s why I think fundamentalism is worse than homeopathy.

  8. This is one of the easier questions. Fundamentalist religion. No problem. That is the worst. Homeopathy didn’t park a Ryder truck full of homemade fertilizer explosives outside of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and blow it up. I’m going to skip the rest of the examples. I don’t want to start crying in the middle of the day.

  9. A glass of water never flew planes into a building.

    Yeah, a young Earth creationist never convinced anyone to stop treatment for breast cancer either.

    I’m not just trying to be contrary, but I think it’s important to remember not all fundamentalist sects kill people, nor do all homeopathic remedies. But each can be dangerous in other ways.

  10. I’m not saying belief in homeopathy isn’t a bad thing. It is. It’s insidious and dangerous – doubly so because it seems so innocuous. I just can’t recall the last time Homeopaths declared a fatwah on Salmon Rushdie, if you catch my meaning.

    That said, I also can’t remember the last time I saw a TV ad for honor killings, so I will concede there’s a special kind of subtle danger to the homeopathy thing.

  11. @James

    I really do hope that everything works out with your sister in law. My grandmother had cancer when my mom was teenager and started using Laetrile. She spent all of her family’s money on it and ended up dieing of Laetrile poisoning (I am pretty sure it was cyanide poisoning, but I don’t know the exact symptoms) before the cancer had a chance of killing her.

  12. I thought for sure the CGI rhino would beat the CGI elephant on that Discovery Channel’s “Animal Face-Off.” Apparently rhinos are too stupid to compete.

    A real rhino would totally take a real elephant.

    Discovery Channel is just displaying blatant Pachydermacism.

    *****

    Fundamentalist religious sects > homeopathic medicine, because if you have the former, you will arrive at something like the later…eventually.

    Who else read that as “Fundamentalist religious sex” the when they saw it in post #3?

  13. Eventually she did get traditional (science based) treatment back in the UK where she lives. However apparently she still gets laetrile and inject it which can have significantly negative health impacts. The most credulous part of the whole thing was that her oncologist in the UK is the one who recommended trying the laetrile clinic. (head shaking, eyes rolling and audible groans emanating from between clenched teeth.

  14. A real rhino would totally take a real elephant.

    I can’t speak to that specifically, but the whole series was messed-up in a lot of ways. The lion v tiger thing was the clincher for me. You know, people have actually had that fight tons of times. History tells us the tiger wins pretty much every time. That episode is when I decided it was pretty much just a popularity contest… much like our presidential elections, sadly.

  15. I’ll go with fundamentalist religion because homeopathy makes claims that are more easily falsifiable. I don’t think homeopathy will last long in the grand scheme of things, but I don’t see fundamentalist religion going anywhere for a long, long time.

  16. The Fundies are way more dangerous.

    To be fundementalist, you automatically create “us and them.” There is then the impulse to eradicate “them”. Since we live in an age where the whole planet can be blown up, we all risk being killed.

    Homeopaths are not wanting to hurt anyone, they are trying to help. The cure offered is water. Harmless. The main threat is resurgence of disease. As a species, we’ve managed to thrive for tens of thousands of years with out evidence based medicine. What we’re talking here is an increase in suffering and decreased life expectancy should the homeopaths start to sway people.

  17. Homeopaths? Feh.

    The worst those quacks can do is to pretend to prevent malaria or cancer, when actually they don’t. Yes, people die from that. Bad, bad. But:

    Fundies crash frickin’ planes into frackin’ buildings!

  18. I can’t speak to that specifically, but the whole series was messed-up in a lot of ways. The lion v tiger thing was the clincher for me.

    Hold on… You mean they did Lion v. Tiger and somehow Lion came out ahead? I didn’t get to see that one. I lost too much money on the rhino and had to cancel my cable.

  19. You mean they did Lion v. Tiger and somehow Lion came out ahead?

    Yeah, they made up some crap about how the lion has more experience fighting or some crap like that. Sorry, but tigers fight crocodiles in the water. You know who else does that? No one. Not even Steve Irwin. Then they had the fight happen in the jungle, on the tiger’s turf.

    Sorry, but anything so badass it has to evolve to be bright orange just to give everything else in the jungle a fighting chance wins. When a species is so awesome, it’s selected to stand out from the background because if it blended in, it would kill everything and then starve, no lazy, scavenging, piss-pot lion with nothing going for it but size is going to beat it… especially when the tiger out-sizes it anyway.

  20. Hi MarlowePI,
    “I’d rather they used homeopathic weapons.”

    Well, if you believe in homeopathy, that’s how it would “work.” Personally, if I had to defend myself, I’d use lead bullets. But that’s just my reality-based world view coming out. ;-)

  21. @35:”When a species is so awesome, it’s selected to stand out from the background because if it blended in, it would kill everything and then starve”

    huh. I always thought they developed in tall grass. And wiki says: “It seems likely that the function of stripes is camouflage, serving to help tigers conceal themselves amongst the dappled shadows and long grass of their environment as they stalk their prey”.

    fun thought, though. Maybe you’re projecting your own high-visibility awesomeness? :D

  22. Oh, it’s flagrantly untrue… it’s just fun to say it that way.

    Also, I have a little personal experience of the super-ninja stealth powers of tigers. No dried grass and dappled shadows, just metric tons of awesome smoothitude.

    A bloody twelve-footer swam – swam– not ten feet away away from me while I was looking for the thing, and I didn’t see it. I knew it was there; I was looking right at it… then it walked behind a tree for half a second, and I lost it. So I’m looking all over, trying to find out where it went, and nothing. Like it vanished into thin air. A few minutes later, I see off somewhere else climbing out of the water, and when I track back the wake, it turns out it swam right past me. Now, I don’t have the best vision in the universe or anything, but it’s not exactly like the water was bright orange with black stripes or something… It was a Hell of a boost for the levels of respect I had for the animal, let me tell you.

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