It’s not always easy being a skeptic.Â Being the voice of reason can sometimes get translated into being the ‘buzzkill,’ particularly when it comes to the more ‘socially acceptable’ forms of pseudoscience.Â Is it really that big of a deal that your co-worker checks her horoscope every day?Â So what if crazy cousin Jimmy believes in ghosts?Â Â What about good luck talismans?Â In India, it’s common to hang lemons and chillis over the door of a house or shop. Sort of like hanging a horseshoe, it’s said to prevent the ‘evil eye.’Â Little traditions like this or similar seem silly, but surely they’re mostly harmless and maybe even a little fun to indulge in once in a while. (Lemons and chillis make your house smell exotic!)
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Alas, it’s a slippery slope.Â Have you ever been talking to someone about some form of pseudoscience and had them say ‘well, why not just give it a chance?’Â Ever have them argue that there’s no harm in keeping an open mind to alternative medicines or treatments or therapies?Â Â My friend and fellow Atlantan, Tim Farley heard that argument one time too many.Â So he’s spent the last few months compiling a list of exactly what the harm is and created What’s the Harm.
Tim has collected examples from anywhere he could where he could find real stories and facts about actual harm done by pseudoscience and lack of critical thinking.Â So far, he’s up to 2,427 people killed, 17,708 injured and over $89,328,989 in economic damages across about 60 topics as varied as ayurvedicÂ medicineÂ (20 people harmed), faith healing (16 people harmed,Â 9 deaths)Â and apocalypse fears (1,807 people harmed, mostly dead.)
The list keeps going.Â The data is real, the facts are scary, and it’s only the results of a few short months of data collection.Â This is a great resource, for the next time you need data on the dangers of the next big pseudoscience kick.Â The thing that really hit home for me was the data around innocent victims.Â Tim’s got a whole section on examples of children harmed by people not thinking critically (16,753).
Help Tim out by contacting him with other examples of physical, emotional, financialÂ or psychological harm that has been caused to people.Â And next time crazy cousin Jimmy comes by, tell him that ghosts are crap and that believing in them can do serious harm.Â And have the facts to back it up.
Â And for any other folks in Atlanta, come join Tim and other cool skeptics for Skeptics in the Pub in a couple of weeks:
Saturday, February 23, 3:30 p.m.
North Avenue Room
(at the corner of North and Highland Ave.)
See you there! And remember – CONSTANT VIGILANCE, my skeptic friends!Â Harmony is no fun anyway :)
Cross posted at Masala Skeptic.