Wednesday, September 16, 2009

If it's woo-woo, call it woo-woo!

If you've read some of my earlier blogs, you'll know how I feel about pushers of woo-woo and this posting is no different.

I find myself in some pretty interesting situations - torn between being "polite" and dealing with something that is potentially dangerous.

We often, falsely, assume that because an event happened after another event, that the first event caused the second one. The phrase "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" is Latin for "after this, therefore because of this" refers to this common fallacy. It is why many people assume Jenny McCarthy's claims about vaccines and autism ("My child didn't have autism until they were vaccinated, therefore the vaccine caused the autism."). The reality is that simply not exhibiting signs of autism does not mean that the child did not have autism prior to the vaccine (but that's a whole different issue).

I was sitting at a dinner table with my wife and a number of other people and one of the other dinner guests described how taking a particular herb cures her kids' colds. She said she gives the herb to her kids when they get sick and a few days later they're all better. Apparently it was "impolite" for me to ask whether the results of taking the herb would be any different than the results from simply letting a "cold" run its course.

I may never get invited back to a dinner party involving this lady but I can assure you that the dangers of letting woo-woo go unquestioned are far greater than being called "impolite".

As my post title says, "if it's woo-woo, call it woo-woo."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I struggle with when it is appropriate to speak up also.

My wife says that it makes me look like I'm just looking for an argument but I see the need in addressing it as you have mentioned here.

It is nice to know that I am not the only one that struggles with it.