What’s the harm?

By Phil Plait | February 12, 2008 3:00 pm

Antiscience kills. It does. Chelation, exorcisms, alternative medicine that replaces real medicine… all these (and many, many more) do real measurable damage to people.

But c’mon, folks like Sylvia Brown don’t really hurt us, right? They tell us what we want to hear, and that’s good. Right?



Fantasy has its place, but when it replaces reality it hurts us. We don’t seek cures, we don’t heal, we cannot make rational decisions. But specific examples of this are hard to pin down sometimes because of the vast number of cases which are spread out all over the place.

Well, not any more. Now when someone asks "What’s the harm?" you can send them right to What’s The Harm. This is a compendium of actual cases, real people who have been hurt or money that has been wasted due to magical thinking, from acupuncture to the Y2K scare. It’s a very interesting place to click around.

… until you see how children get hurt by this. Little kids, babies, injured or even killed by parents who were not able to break free of the blinders they wore due to some brand of antiscience. This is no joke, and it makes my stomach churn. People, sometimes children, die because of this.

Again, there are so many reasons to fight nonsensical thinking. But in the world, in the real world, it’s because we need to save peoples’ lives.

What’s The Harm allows you to submit cases yourself. Help them out, and let’s make this a resource for people all over the world to help save the world.

I’ve had this post in my drafts for weeks, so my thanks to Skeptico for reminding me to post it.


Comments (57)

Links to this Post

  1. Whats the harm « Lone Wolfs Den | February 13, 2008
  1. Davery

    Great resource. There is also:


    over at skepdic.com.

  2. I clicked the link to the What’s The Harm site and did a search for Sylvia Brown. I was presented with one result. I was also presented with a bunch of Google ads promoting psychic advice.

    I didn’t know who to believe – the web site or the Google ads. So I began to weep with confusion until my dog slapped me.

  3. Dave

    I have to object to anyone calling Y2K an unfounded scare. There were a lot of computer systems that were poised to break at midnight Dec. 25 1999. The fact that they did not is a testament to thousands of software engineers and programmers around the world (myself and my wife included) that worked their collective rear ends off to fix the issues before the deadline.

    I wont claim that civilization would have come to an end if the problems had not been corrected. But, to claim that there were no issues, and that the whole thing was just a scare, is just as bad as claiming the world is going to end in 2012!

  4. Jack

    I think it’s a bit unfair to list vegetarianism in the same category as psychic surgery… after all, if a couple of deaths in the line of practice is all it takes to label something dangerous, malpractice would keep us from going to doctors.

    I see the value in what they’re trying to do, but I think it would also benefit from a bit more information or links about the difference between safe and unsafe practice of vegetarianism or chiropractics. (Or should I argue when my doctor refers me to a chiropractor?)

  5. Fitz


    Dec 31, no?

  6. Togan

    The (?) link on the “moon hoax” page of that site actually links back to you :)

  7. Ian

    Apparently the only harm in the Moon Hoax is that if you harass Buzz Aldrin about it, you might get punched in the face…

  8. Dan

    On January 1st, 2000, my computer turned its clock back to June (something) of 1986. That always cracked me up.

    Of course, all I had to do to fix it was manually set the calendar and everything was fine from then on.

    Anyway, that’s an interesting site, and I’m looking forward to more info being posted there. However, I noticed a few of their correlations were somewhat dodgy, but they do get the point across on the importance of thinking critically.

  9. John Emmerich

    Just this once, Phil, JUST THIS ONCE, I’m going to have to disagree with you. Alternate medicine, IN SOME CASES, works. Please, before going to all discussions, note that I said “In some cases”. In my case, as an example, it worked excellently.

  10. JackC

    Y2K? Who needs that? What about the idiotic changing of the dates for the equally idiotic DST changes this year? How many hundreds of thousands of person-hours have been wasted on that mess?

    And that didn’t have a thing to do with computers about to bite the dust. That was entirely human-driven.

    With appropriately large values within the concept of “human” of course.

    OK – I admit it doesn’t necessarily fall within the scope of this thread.


  11. Jonas Engelhardt

    To be honest, that site is not worthy of the link from a great site like BA.

    Watch out, mr. Plait. Do not let the antiscientists drag you down to their level.

  12. Jeffersonian

    “So I began to weep with confusion until my dog slapped me.”
    How much for yr dog to send me a phone blessing?

    @John Emmerich
    “Alternate medicine, IN SOME CASES, works”
    In which case we simply call it ‘medicine’, no?

    Phil, yeah cool link. 10Q.

  13. Crux Australis

    I had acupunture once. I experienced slight relief in my headache. Not exactly miraculous, but interesting, especially since the needle was inserted into my calf muscle.

    On the CHILD site: sweet merciful crap, that’s disgusting. I’m glad to read that most of those parents were convicted. Brought tears to mine eyes.

  14. Jeffersonian

    …though there’s an awful lot of correlation fallacy on that website. Many of the people described are probably just idiots and the events described are thinly related to many of the supposed causes. The stuff on chiropractic is good.

  15. Bastian

    This site disappointed me as well. A site that’s ostensibly for educating people and promoting critical reasoning should be something that, well, that educates and encourages critical reasoning. What it should not be is a laundry list of two-sentence anecdotes* that don’t even come close to giving the whole story. That’s not really any better than the kind of “evidence” that woo sites use to present their case.

    *OK, for the sake of fairness I should point out that there were some more loquacious entries that made it to three sentences.

  16. Max Fagin

    Playing devils advocate for a moment, I get the feeling that mentioning whatstheharm.net would be a bad idea in a debate. Pointing out the harm that paranormalists have caused will only get them to start screaming about the atomic bomb, biological warfare and all the other harm that real science has supposedly “caused”. Now I know science is no more the cause of this harm than climatology is the cause of global warming, but I think that that is the way a paranormalist would see it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think paranormalist are deluding themselves, but I think that it might be better to simply point out the errors of paranormal claims, rather than espouse upon the harm that the paranormal has caused, since that is an open invitation for them to turn the argument around.

  17. Alex

    While I am not at all religious I would object to lumping the choices of Jehovah’s Witnesses into the category of harm from pseudoscience or antiscience.

    The JWs in no way contest the therapeutic benefits of blood transfusions. They have not created an alternative pseudoscience explaining how blood transfusions are actually useless. Nor, in my experience, do they believe that prayer is likely to help them. Nor do they believe that there is a pseudo-scientific harm to taking blood transfusions.

    An adult JW with diseases requiring blood transfusions for treatment are perfectly aware of the fate to which they are condemning themselves and they make that choice.

    I think there is a fundamentally important distinction there and their more anti-scientific thinking on evolution and geology.

    Full disclosure: I was raised for several years as a JW but departed the religion at a young age (14) when I screwed up the courage to inform my parents and the elders that I was an atheist.

  18. Max Fagin

    Also (continuing to play devils advocate) the fact that practice X SOMETIMES causes harm is not necessarily an argument that practice X is wholly illegitimate.

    You could probably find somewhere in the medical literature a few cases where a legitimate medical practice (chemotherapy, for example) actually did more harm than good. But these isolated cases do not indicate that chemotherapy is psudoscience. Similarly, I think a paranormalist would argue that the collection at whatstheharm.net does not weaken their case.

    Again, I think that paranormalists ARE incorrect, but I think that pointing out that their actions sometimes cause harm is not the correct way to demonstrate the error of paranormal claims.

  19. Radwaste

    “The fact that they did not is a testament to thousands of software engineers and programmers around the world (myself and my wife included) that worked their collective rear ends off to fix the issues before the deadline.”

    Thank you. The Federal Government even switched to PC architecture from Apple in time to cost you a couple million tax dollars where I work (Savannah River Site). It also took years to convert all the regulatory-level documents, which had to be correct to the last character. Yippee.

    And the Pentium 100 that’s running our smart air-conditioning plant is still running, untouched. Way to promote hysteria.

  20. Ian

    Re: the comments about alternate medicine,

    It seems to me that the biggest problem by far with alternate medicine is the word “alternate”. Some of these things may in fact be effective, but they should only be used as a supplement to conventional medicine, not as an alternative.

    My mother practices qigong (2 hours each day!) to fight her recurring breast cancer, but she *also* sees an oncologist and undergoes chemotherapy. She’s done miraculously well with it — before she started in 2001, her doctors were talking only about extending life and improving quality, not even considering the possibility of remission. She attributes a lot of this success to the qigong.

    I don’t see it the same way (although there is some science appearing to show that qigong may be helpful in healing, if only as a breathing exercise), but I do appreciate her attitude in recognizing that her conventional treatment is equally if not more important. Without that, I fear she would have died years ago.

  21. A guy I grew up with is a pseudo-science practitioner. He believes it all. He has spent thousands of dollars being “trained” in just about every sort of alternative treatment from homeopathy to acupuncture to transcendental meditation. A few years ago he was diagnosed with adult onset leukemia. His family had an intervention and was able to persuade him to go for traditional treatment rather than self medicate. After a few years now he has had a full recovery. Unfortunately, this close call did not dissuade him from his life’s work. He continues to practice his fantasy based medicine oblivious to the irony that it was traditional medicine that saved his life and now allows him to continue dangerously misinforming his patients.

  22. MandyDax

    BA, with there being people here who are actually defending complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), perhaps you should point once again to the Science-Based Medicine blog. Just do a search for CAM (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?s=CAM) and read those articles. One can quickly see why homeopathy, acupuncture, prayer, etc. do not have any credibility by anyone with a skeptic’s eye. While it’s more extensive (reading makes mah brain hurt!!), I find it much more convincing than pointing out examples of death, damage, and disability to a few people. I agree with many of the commenters above that the “What’s the Harm?” site is not terribly credible, as it uses anecdotal evidence instead of studies. If people dying (especially when they have a condition witch is terminal in many cases) is the only measure of whether something works, then gene therapy would be considered a complete scam. Remember that child who developed leukemia in France. Case studies are one thing, and a lot of the links on the cases are to good case studies. However, there is still the problem of reviewer bias even in those. Double-blind studies with a large sample size to determine the efficacy of these “treatments” is the best way to debunk them. If their advocates are confident in their beliefs, there should be no logical objections to such research.

  23. Shane

    What we have above are a number of anecdotes that say that their pet alternative therapy worked for them or someone they know. Anecdotes. That’s great but where’s the evidence for or the mechanism behind the said therapy?

    To the people who think we can’t mention or use as evidence that alternative therapies can sometimes cause harm? Why the hell not? Not showing that something that doesn’t work can also actively cause harm is not just dumb it is unethical.

    Equating alternate therapies to chemotherapy on the harm stakes is a mistake too. Some alternates won’t do any harm and some will do a little. Bogus is still bogus. Chemo can potentially be extremely harmful. My understanding is that it is supposed to kill the cancer before the chemo kills you. It can work though and is based on real medicine. So potential harm from chemo is nothing like potential harm from alternative meds especially since chemo is aimed at life threatening illnesses and alternate meds aren’t (or shouldn’t be). If chemo kills you before your terminal cancer does, well, life sucks. If, however, your alternate med cold supplement kills you then you’d be pretty pissed off.

  24. Joran van der Boot

    Slightly OT, nice cartoon regarding denial of evolution.


  25. Shane

    Y2K was a funny one. Hard to tell now if the hysteria was fully justified or not. I worked on Y2K fixes because the money was good. I had to keep up with the literature and consensus at the time was that Russia and China and most of the third world were doomed. In the west we professional IT people may have saved western civilisation from collapse but in the east I don’t particularily remember aircraft falling from the sky or anything.

  26. DexX

    To be fair, “real” science and medicine can start out in the realms of “pseudoscience” and alternative therapy, but can gain legitimacy once they are understood. Just because practitioners wrongfully claim the workings of god, spirits, chi, or humours doesn’t mean there can’t be a real, rationally-explainable biological process going on.

    Look at accupressure points and reflexology, for example. I have used these on other people and had them used on me, and I know they can work. This doesn’t mean I think energy flows are being manipulated or any crap like that; I suspect there is some kind of complex interaction between nerves going on, possibly triggering various brain activities or chemical releases.

    Same goes for aromatherapy. Lavender oil puts me to sleep. Nothing magical about it, I’m sure it’s just some chemical compound with a sedative effect of some kind. Same with chamomile. Let’s not forget that willow bark was a herbal remedy until someone packaged it as aspirin!

    Going further afield, I believe that astrology was an early attempt at personality typing, the kind of thing done with legimitate science by Jung, Myers, and Briggs. I don’t think they correspond the birthdays, but I’ve been tempted to do some research and assign MBTI types to all the star signs. :)

    All I’m trying to say, I suppose, is to judge things by their results, rather than dismissing anything that comes bundle with a mystical explanation.

    That said, take the conventional medical treatment as well as the alternative therapy. :)

  27. There seems to be some more of the usual pattern of skeptics reasoning themselves into losing the argument in the comments here.

    Someone up there was suggesting that Y2K wasn’t an irrational fear. That’s silly. Some aspects of Y2K – such as software compliance – were definitely not irrational, but other aspects – like claims the electricity would go out permanently, that aircraft would fall from the sky, that the monetary system would collapse, and so forth – obviously were apocalyptic nonsense. I notice that What’s The Harm isn’t taking any software engineers to task for making their databases Y2K compliant. Instead, they’re pointing out a guy with gray skin because he thought antibiotics would disappear in the post-apocalyptic Y2K world, and a bunch of cultists who died.

    Similarly, to cut JW’s some slack because they don’t deny the efficacy of blood transfusions – sorry, but that’s like making distinctions about the weight of the freight train that is going to run you over. JWs are antiscience because they “believe weird things,” as Shermer would put it. Just because one weird thing isn’t among their vast inventory of weird (and harmful) beliefs doesn’t suddenly make them rationalists. They have earned a place in What’s The Harm.

    As for attacking What’s The Harm because it is anecdotal, commits correlational fallacies, etc – well, read the FAQ. The maintainer is aware of this, and says some sensible things about use and misuse of the resource. Site management, whoever they are, don’t seem to be subject to any delusional thinking about the validity of isolated outcomes.

    What’s The Harm seems to be designed to deal with a specific rhetorical maneuver of the woo-meisters, and that is to say, after they’ve been buried with evidence that their beliefs are crazy, that even if it (whatever “it” is – reiki, homeopathy, belief in ghosts, etc) is wrong, it isn’t harmful – after all, what’s the harm in believing these things? The thing is, belief in these things *is* harmful. We know this not because of these isolated outcomes, but through other, non-fallacious means. But trotting those means out is a good way to lose the argument, and look like an intellectually elitist stiff in the process.

    What we have here is a catalog of outcomes to throw back into their faces when they say “what’s the harm,” a rhetorical maneuver specifically designed to ignore and cast doubt upon all the evidence that was dumped in their laps a few minutes previously. As skeptics, we need to honor correct thinking, but we *also* need to fight in a rhetorically savvy way. (Anyone who has heard Randi speak will know exactly what I mean.) This is a substantial rhetorical tool for our side.

    So repeat after me, skeptics:

    This is a GOOD thing.

  28. Dave says: “I have to object to anyone calling Y2K an unfounded scare. There were a lot of computer systems that were poised to break at midnight Dec. 25 1999. The fact that they did not is a testament to thousands of software engineers and programmers around the world (myself and my wife included) that worked their collective rear ends off to fix the issues before the deadline.”

    I agree. One of the biggest problems with emergency preparedness is that the better you are at your job (i.e. identifying and mitigating consequences), the less happens. If you are REALLY good, like the Y2K thing, then people don’t believe that it was ever really a problem and the conspiracy theories start multiplying like bacteria in agar.

    – Jack

  29. Larry

    I don;t quite know why, but does any of this “What’s the Harm” remind anyone else of Hitchens??

  30. Shane

    Regarding Hitchens, I not as afraid of alcohol as I once was if that is what you mean?


  31. Larry

    I mean to imply that some degree of crap
    can poison some degree of whatever.

  32. StuartVO

    blue collar scientist

    <enthusiatic>clap! clap! clap!</enthusiatic>

    Well said. We skeptics do, indeed, sometimes tie ourselves into recursive knots, missing the bigger picture. Thanks for clarifying things.

    Also, good on you for saying, in effect, RTFFAQ. :-)

  33. bassmanpete

    That said, take the conventional medical treatment as well as the alternative therapy. :)

    Just be sure the conventional treatment isn’t spelt V-I-O-X-X!

    Quick story – about 18 months ago I suffered an abscess on a tooth. Dentist prescribed an antibiotic before operating on it. He never mentioned any side effects of the medication, nor did the chemist (pharmacist) when I had the prescription filled. I checked on the net for the side effects of this antibiotic (Clindamycin) one of which was bleeding from the bowel that could start several weeks after finishing the course of tablets.

    About a month later I started bleeding from the bowel. Cutting a long story short, it was concluded that it was caused by the proliferation of a bacterium (Clostridium difficile) which is resistant to Clindamycin. If I hadn’t checked the side effects at the time of taking the Clindamycin I doubt I would have made the connection with it & the bleeding.

    The point I’m trying to make is, just because you’re being treated with conventional medicine doesn’t mean it’s not going to harm you. Never check your scepticism at the door!

  34. Sue Mitchell

    I think some of those are a bit of a stretch.

    Take the creationism one. It was a bar fight, guys! If they hadn’t got into an argument about creationism v. evolution, then chances are that they would’ve argued about something else – Kylie’s a better singer than Madonna perhaps?

    Hm. Maybe that would’ve been put down to death caused by Mariolatry?

    Then again, some were just plain stupidity. Darwin Awards anyone? 😉

  35. Charles

    The Y2K issue was very real to a lot of companies who had legacy ERP (enterprise resource planning, think SAP) systems that were not ready for the change. It would have been very disruptive to mitigate these after the fact and thus it was in the corporations’ best interest to fix them beforehand. They did, and the day came and went with little fanfare as many of us who had been involved in managing projects to insure that very thing happening had worked for.

    Just because a bomb didn’t go off doesn’t necessarily mean that there never was a bomb. It could also be saying that someone disarmed it before the boom.

  36. Hi guys, I’m the creator of the Whats the Harm? site. Some valid complaints above, but as the Blue Collar Scientist pointed out, I am well aware of them. They are all covered by the FAQ on the site (http://whatstheharm.net/faq.html). Please read his post and the FAQ carefully.

    I do realize that a few of my existing cases are somewhat weak. The site has only been online for three weeks, and I’ve only been researching it for about three and a half months. We’ve got a long way to go yet. I expect to fill out some of the categories with more cases, add new categories, and probably cull some of the weaker cases as I go on. I’ve already rearranged some categories once or twice. I plan to take the Y2K category and fold it into “fear of the apocalypse”.

    For the person who complained about the shortness of the summaries, every story has at least one, sometimes as many as four supporting links. I encourage you to explore them to find out more details about each person. Maybe I need to make that more clear.

    And for the complaint about the search: I’m using Google, and I’m at the mercy of whether their crawler has covered my site. If something doesn’t appear, its because they haven’t crawled that page yet. And as for the ads, AdSense does not let you block enough ad URLs to really guarantee that pseudoscience or paranormal topics will not appear. So I haven’t even attempted to try. I’ll continue to research that as I tweak the site.

    Thanks for all the comments.

  37. Just wanted to agree with Blue Collar Scientist that Tim’s site is a specific comeback to a specific line the woosters trot out. It’s not meant to be a definitive woo-debunker, like Skepdic. Not to mention, as Tim mentioned above, the site’s in its infancy. You can follow the development of the site, and pitch in with your suggestions, over at the JREF forums:

  38. Alex

    Similarly, to cut JW’s some slack because they don’t deny the efficacy of blood transfusions – sorry, but that’s like making distinctions about the weight of the freight train that is going to run you over. JWs are antiscience because they “believe weird things,” as Shermer would put it. Just because one weird thing isn’t among their vast inventory of weird (and harmful) beliefs doesn’t suddenly make them rationalists. They have earned a place in What’s The Harm.

    I in no way deny that JWs have antiscience beliefs. But the refusal of blood transfusions for spiritual reasons is not one of them. If I don’t deny that smoking kills but that in the end I prefer to smoke and live with the outcome, that isn’t antiscience it is just a personal decision many would disagree with.

    They don’t deny the benefits of blood transfusions. They do deny that blood transfusions are always necessary in situations where they are commonly used and have promoted alternative surgical methods in certain cases, but none of the stories on the site about JWs fall into this realm.

    If we want to label all religious and spiritual thought as antiscience then we could do so but I think you’ll find a lot less support for that (though I do think that pretty much all religious and spiritual thought is most likely wrong).

    Since the site includes as “harm” someone giving up their career to pursue their spiritual beliefs then the much more significant economic “harm” of JWs is in their discouragement of post-secondary education.

  39. alfaniner

    It’s “Sylvia Browne“. Much about her and her methods can be found at http://www.stopsylviabrowne.com, and some discussion about “What’s the harm?” can be found at The Wall of Harm discussion/a>, and many other threads at the JREF Forum.

  40. Sue Mitchell

    The real harm from the J.W.’s refusal to accept blood transfusions comes when parents refuse an essential transfusion for their child, choosing to let it die.

    It’s their choice, not the child’s. And if the child were given a choice, it’s been brainwashed into following the J.W.’s teachings. :-(

  41. Michelle

    Owch. I hope this website will develop more and become a slap in the face for some folks, because when I see things like that…

    Lisanne Manseau
    Age: 12
    Hull, Quebec, Canada
    Died (untreated diabetes)
    March 28, 1994
    After consulting a crystal ball, a pendulum and an angel, a naturopath replaced Lisanne’s insulin with a variety of natural remedies to “detoxify” her. She died only three days after beginning treatment. The naturopath was convicted of manslaughter.

    It just hits me in the chest. But frankly, I gotta ask something I often ask when kids are involved in this… Good thing the naturopath murderer is in jail, but what about the PARENTS? How come the parents were not jailed as well? They are victims of their own lack of knowledge, yes, but I’m pretty sure that there are other cases were your incompetence towards your child can get you jailed.

    I hope they didn’t have more kids.

  42. Gary Ansorge

    JWs have a point about blood transfusions,,,AIDs is passed that way, as well as malaria(which is how I caught malaria in 1948).
    Vit C mega doses may or may not be of some use, but note that none of the great apes are capable of internal production of Vit C, but gorillas(massing an average of 350 lbs) ingest some 5000 mg of Vit C in their normal daily diet, while humans typically ingest some 100 mg(w/o supplementation). Since we share some 96% of our genes with gorillas, I expect we should be ingesting around 2000 mg/day, based upon body weight. Since I weigh 240 lbs, the 2000 mg/day I take should be somewhere in the ball park. HAving mega dosed on such for over 40 years, I expect if there were notable side effects, they should have appeared by now,,,

    Now, about Vegans,,, please note that the majority of the worlds population have to get by w/o meat in their diets so that they are, by necessity, vegetarians. Vegans make an ethical choice to eschew meat, because we treat animals as though they are a manufactured product, rather than living beings subject to the same ills and pain we all experience. My daughter has been a vegetarian/vegan since she was 16 years old. At 36 years old, she seems in excellent health, though she has to take zinc supplements, since plants do not fix zinc in their tissues.( The zinc we get from eating animals is ingested by the critters when they eat grass and the dirt in which they grow. Vegans don’t have that dietary access.)

    Though I tend toward the carnivore side, I do recognize the value of plants,,,sometimes they’re pretty,,,

    GAry 7

  43. nobody seems too terribly concerned about the Y10K bug. We never learn.

  44. Please note that all of the vegetarian/vegan cases I have are toddlers, the oldest person was 17 months old. There are legitimate concerns with feeding a toddler a vegetarian diet as they have different nutritional needs than an adult.

    Perhaps I should relabel that category “Child vegetarianism” or something like that to make it more clear.

  45. Sue Mitchell

    To Gary 😎

    Re-giving blood.

    In the U.K., we do give our blood; we don’t sell it. This means there’s no incentive for a donor to try to sneak their blood through if they know they’re infected.

    There was a serious problem with haemophiliacs some years back, largely owing to lack of relevant information at the time, but nowadays, it’s probably about as safe as it can get.

    Donors are screened pretty thoroughly before every donation, and the blood is also screened.

  46. Tim Farley – I know what you mean about ad servers. A site I frequent is newshounds which exists soley to point out that Fox news isn’t fair, balanced or honest.

    But ad servers look at the content of the site and serve ads based on the words – not the intent. So they get a lot of ads for books authored by fox “journalists.”

    My site is about model airplanes. Because the word “air” is used a lot I get tons of ads about air conditioning which has nothing to do with anything on my site. I think I mention air conditioning once in the 700+ pages when I’m talking about setting up a shop.

    Anyway you have the right idea. Most sites – particularly by us little people who don’t do it professionally, evolve a lot as we learn more and get more content that needs to be organized and easy to find. I’ve reorganized my entire site perhaps a dozen times and with as many pages as there are now it takes weeks to do it.

    Sorry for the o/t Phil. Thanks for the new source of ammo (Tim for creating it and Phil for telling us about it).

  47. “Perhaps I should relabel that category “Child vegetarianism” or something like that to make it more clear.”

    Or maybe just “child endangerment.”

  48. Note, also, that several veterinarians have reported serious problems in cats from being fed vegetarian diets. Cats are obligate carnivores; without the amino acid taurine in their diet (found only in meat), they first lose night vision, then go blind, then die of brain damage. Usually it doesn’t get as far as the latter; most cat owners will take a cat to the vet earlier than that. A good source on this is the book The Cat that Couldn’t See in the Dark. Don’t remember the author’s name, unfortunately, but a web search should turn it up.

  49. Doc


    “Vit C mega doses may or may not be of some use…”

    I know of people who have wound up with ascorbic acid crystals forming in their kidneys (and causing pain and damage) due to megadoses of vitamin C.

    Having had kidney stones myself (oxylate, not vitamin C related), I hope you continue to get enough fluids so you pass the excess vitamins painlessly.

  50. Christopher Ferro

    I take issue with some of the “harm” being deaths that happened to occur while someone was practicing a pseudoscience behavior.. like deaths from fires set by candles. The pseudoscience didn’t harm those people, the fire did. The same thing could happen by me lighting a candle during a power outage. While one may successfully argue that the candle wouldn’t be lit if that practice wasn’t going on, I feel that is a weak argument.


  51. Clair

    *tongue planted in cheek… sort of…*

    Maybe by leaving these people to scam, it’ll help push the species to evolving once again. Since we’re curing many diseases, “correcting” mutations, and creating extraordinarily resilient bacteria (while not creating resilient immune systems), we’ve stopped evolving anything other than our brains.. and even that has been retarded by the elimination of these fine craftspeople and (scam)artists!


  52. Shane

    The risk of disease isn’t why the JWs refuse blood transfusions. Anyway blood screening makes the risk of contracting anything from blood products these days vanishingly small especially in the west. We in Australia aren’t even allowed to donate blood if we’ve lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996.

    Vitamin megadoses may not cause problems for some people but I’m yet to be convinced of any benefit. Gorillas may share 96 percent of our genetic makeup but they’re still not people. Better than most people certainly but just because they’ve evolved to eat more vegies (bamboo and roots etc) than we do doesn’t mean we could exist on the same diet or even benefit from that diet.

  53. DexX

    Even queer Aussie men can’t donate blood, which annoys me a tad. I want to donate blood, but they don’t want it.

    Regarding child vegetarianism, I have vegie friends who feed their kids meat, and will continue to do so until the children are old enough to make their own lifestyle decision. I applaud them for that, especially since preparing meat is so distasteful for them.

  54. Shane

    Hey DexX, you can donate blood. According to the Red Cross all you to do is wait 12 months from the last time you had “male to male sexual activity”. Easy! :-)

  55. Pat

    Re: competing claims of science and alternative medicine:

    Nobody has ever made the claim that an atomic bomb would heal you of your foot corns and cure your cancer.

    Radiation, on the other hand, has at least had some inroads into the second claim.

    The same cannot be said for acupuncture. Nor, for that matter, could acupuncture be turned into a weapon of mass destruction. It would have to be effective for that to happen.

    Magical thinking is the culprit – and I’m sorry, but “in some cases” as a case for some alternative therapies is synonymous with “anecdotal,” and the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”


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