The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Woo Beliefs: What’s the Harm?

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 18, 2009

As a skeptic, many times when I argue with people about various woo beliefs, I hear them say, “What’s the harm in believing X?” My answer: there can be plenty of harm in believing in X.

X could be homeopathy, creationism, psychic or paranormal phenomena, Holocaust denial, or all manner of other pseudoscientific or pseudohistorical woo.

The next time you are discussing any skeptically-oriented topic with someone (whether they’re a woo believer or not), and they ask you that now infamous question, refer them to this website – Whatstheharm.net

whatstheharm

That website is a collection of stories relaying just how harmful such woo beliefs can be. As the opening line of the website states:

368,379 people killed, 306,096 injured and over $2,815,931,000 in economic damages

That’s a lot of harm. The damage in these stories ranges from minor financial loss, such as when believers are swindled by TV psychics or faith healers, to the death of a loved one at the hands of a “natural cures” practitioner. If you take some time to read through just a few of the topics over at Whatstheharm.net, you’ll see pretty quickly that it is worthwhile to keep tabs on those who push such nonsense and the role that some basic skepticism & critical thinking can play in protecting you from the damage that can be wrought by this woo.

I think it was best said by famous magician & skeptic Penn Jilette when he said…

Well said, Penn. People really do need to see how damaging & dangerous pseudo- and anti-scientific beliefs can be, not just for themselves but the rest of us & society as well.

Remember it, folks – Whatstheharm.net – and refer people to it often. Knowledge is power.

One Response to “Woo Beliefs: What’s the Harm?”

  1. Badrescher said

    What I love about the website is that it isn’t just about woo.

    I talk about how academic dishonesty is not a victimless crime when I discuss research ethics with my classes, but too many people do not “get” the harm in just allowing people to make poor decisions in their everyday lives.

    Maybe if sites like this can get people to realize that critical thinking is important, more will be motivated to learn the skills, use them, and teach them.

    Nice plug for a site that should be plugged!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: