Every day we get bombarded with fake scientific messages, whether it be from advertisers, the media or politicians. Pseudo-science is a menace because it uses scientific words out of context and distorts the actual facts to suit whatever product or ideal is being promoted. This sort of deception may be noticed by those of us out there who have some scientific background or general interest but for a lot of people, science was just a subject they had to study until they were sixteen and then they forgot all about the details and most importantly the analytical process through which you should consider new information to allow you to form a balanced opinion. Science teaches us to question everything and to move with the times when old theories are disproved and new ones take their place as our understanding of the universe grows.
Pseudo science is a perpetual player in the cosmetic industry, every advert you see implies some kind of beneficial effect due to a key ingredient contained within the product; shampoos boast that they can make your hair shinier, face creams claim they can turn back time by reducing wrinkles. The TV adverts all show the active molecules in the products entering the hair strand or the skin cell and getting to work at making them bigger, better, faster and stronger, and we buy into it. We spend millions on cosmetic products and for what? The studies they use to trial and test their products are usually restricted to a small group of people and are based on those people’s opinions of how well the product worked, not a result of genuine scientific testing and often confused by confounding factors.
What about the snake oils sold to men promising to prevent hair loss? Marketing men have seized on men’s baldness insecurity and produced products which are about as effective as rubbing coffee on your scalp but yet somehow they have convinced millions of men that it (might) work. I did a little bit of research on one of the leading product’s webpage, not the best piece of literature I have ever laid eyes on but they did have several links to clinical trial reports of caffeine being investigated as potential deterrent to hair loss. Unfortunately only two of these studies related directly to the product in question. One was to do with reducing dandruff in comparison to another anti-dandruff shampoo. The results showed that the market leading anti-dandruff shampoo was in fact marginally better at reducing dandruff, big surprise. The second report tells us a lovely story about how the product delivers caffeine right into the hair roots and prevents any further hair loss, unfortunately they didn’t bother to conduct the experiment in a scientific manner i.e. double blind trials and therefore the results are very much subjective and would not be accepted in any peer-reviewed journal.
Anyway, these are just silly examples of pseudo-science; they don’t really hurt anyone, just play on a lack of knowledge to sell more products. An example of a dangerous scientific claim was that the MMR vaccine caused autism. This little nugget from Mr Wakefield caused bedlam, parents were afraid to immunise their children against three serious diseases because there might be a chance the vaccine would lead to autism. All it took was for one group of scientists to find a very tenuous link between autism and the MMR and that was that, the rabbit was out of the hat and it took years of constant reassurance before parents felt safe getting their children vaccinated again. How many children died needlessly from measles or rubella during that time?
Don’t even get me started on alternative therapies.
What about the hilarious claim by Congressman Akin that women can decide not to get pregnant if they are “legitimately” raped. I don’t know where he got that from, it is true that some female animals in the wild will “hold” sperm until the time is right to fertilize her eggs but I have never met a human lady who could do that! Sure why would we bother taking the contraceptive pill or using condoms if we had that capability. No doubt he picked this up off the crazy pro-lifers who often purport to be Christian but act in a very un-Christian way towards any pregnant woman who wants to make a choice about her own life and body.
Akin’s not the only one from the Tea party who spouts this kind of bile, remember Michelle Bachmann and her claim that the vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus was dangerous and that a woman had approached her and said that after receiving the HPV vaccine, her daughter had become mentally handicapped… still haven’t seen the daughter in the flesh to back up this claim. This vaccine prevents cervical cancer; do the tea party republicans want women to develop cervical cancer?
In my opinion the American fundamentalist Christian movement is probably one of the worst offenders when it comes to just making science up to suit what they believe (i.e. exactly what is written in the bible), and unfortunately our politicians here in Northern Ireland hold similar views, especially the Unionist parties who hold Christianity at the very heart of their campaigns. Am I the only one who thinks it is ridiculous that Ian Paisley Junior sings a little hymn every time he gets elected? We have a number of creationists sitting in Stormont right now, educated men who have decided to ignore scientific FACT in favour of faith. It’s aggravating because we live in a first world country, we have all the access you could hope for in regards to information and yet our politicians continue to cling to the Bible as their guide.
My friend put me on to this webpage – www.conservapedia.com – go and have a look, it’ll make you laugh at first but when you think about it for a minute or two, it’ll upset you. These people actually believe this bullshit whole heartedly.
They have this funny little campaign out at the minute called “Question Evolution” where they encourage people to put questions to atheists. I had a read through and to be honest I could answer most of them off the top of my head and I am no evolutionary biologist. Here are a few of their reasons as to why evolution by natural selection couldn’t happen:
If evolution were true then there should be more than one species under the genus Homo. Umm there are, they are just all extinct, Homo habilis, Homo floresiensis…. Or were they just fossils put there by God to trick us?
If evolution were to explain where human beings come from then personality type should benefit human life, this isn’t true because of murderers, psychopaths etc. Well if you look at it from the selfish gene perspective then murderers and psychopaths might have done very well in the population a few hundred years ago when laws weren’t so strict and well enforced.
Go and have a read for a chuckle, and then consider the fact that these people might be in charge of arguably the most powerful country in the world soon, and a frigging Mormon at that!
Words: Ashleigh Evans