Bad Science and Harmful Beliefs


Today a friend of mine sent me a link to the blog Bad Science that is written by Ben Goldacre for a specific post titled “Matthias Rath– steal this chapter.” Ben Goldacre wrote a book titled “Bad Science: The Doctor WIll Sue You Now” about some of the things that he writes about on his blog such as the pseudo-science of homeopathy and how to evaluate a bad argument. This particular post Goldacre writes about Matthias Rath who is supposedly a former medical researcher from the Linus Pauling Institute. Rath is a very wealthy man and has a large following amongst people interested in alternative healing. He sells vitamins and touts the virtues of a nutritious diet which is all quite good, but he goes so far as to say that vitamin supplements can prevent HIV and cure AIDS. And he has been pedaling his vitamins in South Africa where the AIDS epidemic has been devastating. Please take a look at: http://www.badscience.net/2009/04/matthias-rath-steal-this-chapter/ This chapter in the book could not be published originally when the book was published because Rath was suing Goldacre.

As I read this post I thought about the various beliefs and misconceptions that abound and how they obscure the truth. And hurt people. Things like:

1. Vitamins can cure AIDS and prevent HIV infection. A good diet complete with beetroot, lemon peel, and African potatoes will make a person healthy.

2. Abstinence is the only way to prevent teen pregnancy.

3. AIDS is not real. There is no such thing as HIV. It is a moral judgement because of bad behavior. Or alternately, a curse from God and if one just acts in an upright manner the curse will be removed. Or it is caused by anti-retroviral medications.

4. It is possible to pull oneself up by one’s own efforts and anyone who isn’t doing so just doesn’t want to succeed. Poor people are poor because they are lazy.

5. There is no such thing as global warming and climate change. It is all a matter of a conspiracy for climatologists and scientists to rake in big bucks doing research and getting tax payer dollars in the form of grants.

6. We all create our own reality. Seriously think about this one and take it to its logical conclusions.

I could add more. Can you think of others?