Who Could it Hurt?

I’ve got a post or two I could write up from what I experienced at ScienceOnline 2011, but for now, a link that was mentioned in one of the discussions.

Maria from Skepchick mentioned what’s the harm, which is a collection of incidents of people being harmed by uncritically accepting “alternative” medicine or antiscience. These beliefs are not benign. Logic is not usually effective in convincing someone who has made an illogical choice; I suppose e.g. a good rebuttal to the argument that such-and-such traditional mimbo-jumbo has been used for hundreds of years is that the dramatic lengthening of our lifespan has only occurred with the advent and adoption of modern medicine, and ask why that didn’t happen because of homeopathic acupuncture* (or whatever), but in case that doesn’t work, you can find actual instances of people being harmed by a particular practice.

Not all information is created equal. Some of it is correct. Some of it is incorrect. Some of it is carefully balanced. Some of it is heavily biased. Some of it is just plain crazy.

It is vital in the midst of this deluge that each of us be able to sort through all of this, keeping the useful information and discarding the rest. This requires the skill of critical thinking. Unfortunately, this is a skill that is often neglected in schools.

This site is designed to make a point about the danger of not thinking critically. Namely that you can easily be injured or killed by neglecting this important skill. We have collected the stories of over 670,000 people who have been injured or killed as a result of someone not thinking critically.

*which I practice. I have diluted it down to zero needles inserted into my back.

3 thoughts on “Who Could it Hurt?

  1. While I agree with the intention here, we have to be careful not to simply present anecdotal evidence in such an argument. I’m sure there are far more cases of people being harmed by conventional medicine. Anecdotes are what cause many non-critical thinkers to shun conventional medicine in the first place. Look at the whole autism/vaccination debate, for example.

  2. While it’s true that the plural of anecdotes is not evidence, there is a situation where anecdotes are valid: when someone says X cannot happen. Any instance of the event happening does constitute evidence, even if it is anecdotal.

    So these do provide a rebuttal to a claim that a practice is innocuous because it can’t cause harm, or to someone who asks, “what could happen?”

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