September 27, 2006

Science: Vile Skepticism!

I work in an organic resturaunt/bakery. Nothing special, I just wash dishes. But there are fringe benifits to the place: great people to work with and the regular exercising of my skeptics muscle. (Or is it a gland? Hm.)

For instance, in the attached store one can find some crystals that you can put in your water. The packaging mentions various and sundry things that this is supposed to accomplish, but as none of them are possible I'm not going to bother mentioning them. Another is an entire selection of basic vitamins that apparently contain "women's energy". I wonder if the women in question are missing it? How is it supplied? Most importantly, if I take some, will I grow breasts? Heck, it's got to be cheaper than implants...

But there is a far more serious side to being a skeptic.

One of the employees is taking an iridology course. For those who aren't familliar with it, iridology is the idea that diagnosies can be made by examining the eye; specifically, the iris. The belief holds that the iris will show a trained professional where a corresponding ailment is. For instance, difficulties with the head will show up in topmost quadrant of the iris, whereas digestive problems will appear in the rings directly alongside the pupil.

Really, it's amazing what some easily reachable bits of our body can tell us about other, more embarassing bits of our body. You'd almost think that these things were developed at a time where the examination of a person was to be avoided if at all possible! Like, say the early and mid 19th century (phrenology and iridology), or the beginning of the 20th century (reflexology).

C'est weird, eh?

What will end up happening, should you attend one of these folks, is that you will be diagnosed with a multitude of ailments, any of which could be right. What happens next depends on just how corrupt the practicioner is: either you will be sent off to purchase various and sundry homeopathic medicines and a litany of oils, minerals and possibly crystals to restore your health (more likely to be called "balance"); or if they are a total scam artist instead of merely deluded you will be presented with a series of medicines to purchase directly from the iridologist, who will claim to be the only or best source. The more confusing and obscure the diagnosis, the more frightened the patient, just like in most homeopathy.

The kicker is that most homeopaths are really nice, middle aged women. I always feel guilty in disagreeing with them over something they've dedicated time and (invariably) money into. It's like I'm sticking my tounge out at my mom. Except that my mom is a fully rational RN - and DON'T get her started on "therapeutic touch"! When a ten year old can devise a simple protocol to show it doesn't exist...

So what do I care what some kid is doing with her time and money? It's not like I'm ever going to go to her for medical advice, after all.

It's because ignorance weakens the society I live in. It's the same reason why I care whether or not the poor can get medical care, or that there is a fire department, or that the best education can reach the greatest number of people: the people around me are the society I live in, and I want that to be as rational, as intelligent, and frankly as healthy as possible.

And I don't ever, ever want to have this happen again.


posted by Thursday at 9:41 pm


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