Let’s talk about
. . . a demographic that doesn’t care how a product works; they just want it to work.
That was recently uttered by Mr. Scott E. Gurfein, president of a company that sells a magical cream that erases your facial wrinkles. Of course the demographic to which he is referring includesÃ‚Â women old enough to have a few wrinkles, self-conscious enough to want to be rid of them, rich enough to drop a hundred dollars for a cosmetic, and naive enoughÃ‚Â to not care that it’s unproven.
First, I want to admit to a bias. I’ve long held a disdain for people who go to great lengths to enhance their physical appearance. I hate this about myself because it’s an unfair generalization. When I meet someone with obviously fake breasts, collagen-injected lips, gobs of make-up, over-gelled hair, bulging muscles, or leathery tan, I don’t just think, Wow, that’s unattractive — I actually think, Wow, that poor schmuck has to be messed up in the head.
And of course, that’s unfair. Fake tits are not just for brainless bimbos. Big, veiny muscles are not just for pill-popping egomaniacs. And as much as I want to say otherwise, a woman in her 40s who spends $100 on a jar of cream to get rid of some wrinkles is not necessarily unable to cope with the reality of growing older. Sometimes, you just want to look how you feel, and every adult has the right to alter his body in any way he sees fit.
So, I’d rather focus on the quote above. He is referencing a cosmetic, but he could just as easily be talking about any number of other things. Consider psychic surgery, for starters. Very sick people travel to remote locations to be healed by means they don’t understand — all they know is that it might work. They believe this because they heard it worked for those people they met on the Internet, orÃ‚Â because they saw a 20/20 special about it. Maybe they’ve even experienced it themselves when the surgery temporarily worked for their symptoms in the past.
But does psychic surgery work? Can these “healers” really cure people of their terminal cancer? No. It’s a magic trick masquerading as medicine to turn a fast and easy buck from the desperate.
So let’s go back to that quote:Ã‚Â peopleÃ‚Â don’tÃ‚Â “care how a product works; they just want it to work.” The truth of the statement goes beyond a superficial (so to speak) reading. He didn’t say that people don’t “care how a product works; they just care that it works,” because in reality they don’t. They only care that theyÃ‚Â want it to work, and somehow that’s enough. Here we’re only talking about cosmetics, and the worst that could happen is that someone could spend a good deal of money on a useless paste. But this sort of thinking is precisely the same as that which can result in someone losing much more than just money.
Okay, I won’t leave you hanging. Does the wrinkle cream work? Maybe, though probably not in the way the company claims, not more than temporarily, and not any better than many cheaper alternatives. More info (and the source of the above quote) can be found in this New York Times article.
There’s a new episode of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast out for this week. As always, you can download from the web site or subscribe on iTunes. If you go the iTunes way, please subscribe and give us a raving review! We’re currently #53 on the top 100 science podcasts, and I expect — nay, demand — that we crack the top 50 by next week. The shows keep getting better, especially as I’m getting more comfortable interacting with the fine skeptical fellows on the show. There’s a place for feedback on the podcast home page, so if you have any thoughts you can feel free to use that form, or if you just want to reach me you can, as always, e-mail me (though I often take forever to respond). Thanks to everyone who has tuned in thus far!