Science is still a dirty word: Mysticism still runs rampant.
Recently, I lamented the loss of aspiration in schools. But society is not just bereft of those seeking to become great scientists or writers, it still has to endure science being seen as a dirty word. Stupidity is everywhere, even in today’s enlightened times when we have the ability to travel to the moon, Voyager I has left the solar system, the cure for AIDS gets closer each day and we have managed to build a particle accelerator and discovered the Higgs-Boson on March 13th of this year. But at the same time, homeopathy is considered medical science, anti vaccination campaigns exist, creationists still preach their utterly false doctrines and many other idiotic ideas are held to be right when they patently are not. We are encouraged to ‘respect’ a variety of outmoded or just plain wrong ideas, to consider ‘alternative ideas’ like tarot reading and crystal therapy as valued beliefs for our time. And this isn’t just idiocy of the highest level, this is a dangerous precedent of mysticism and foolishness that threatens our very society.
We’ll have a look at three stories from the last year, that show the dangers of this neo-mysticism, and we shall begin with homeopathy. In July of this year, homeopathy reared its head again when it emerged that Prince Charles had met with the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and discussed the delay in the creation of a formal register for herbal and chinese medicine practitioners (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2370754/Charles-NHS-homeopathy-row-Prince-holds-secret-meeting-Health-Secretary-lobby-treatment-denounced-doctors-witchcraft.html). it reminds us that alternative therapies are actually being formalised as an acceptable treatment, and that we even have NHS Homeopathic Hospitals. These are treatments that contain absolutely no medicine at all, and have been shown to only offer the same medical help as a placebo treatment in random controlled trials, being given out to the public with taxpayer funding. Your money is paying for something that is empirically non-medical. So, the first danger is to your wallet, mysticism often requires payment for a fraudulent treatment or product, and is therefore equivalent to theft.
We shall now go to America, and to Texas, where a measles outbreak recently occurred. What was it linked to? A ‘megachurch’ which actively stands against vaccinations (http://www.ibtimes.com/texas-measles-outbreak-tied-anti-vaccination-megachurch-1400981). The anti vaccination movement was based upon a single study by Andrew Wakefield, a study that has now been thoroughly refuted and shown to be fraudulent, that linked autism to vaccination. As a result, many concerned parents did not vaccinate their children, and one can sympathise with those who acted in this manner at the time the study was originally published: it appeared scientific, and the media hype was massive. But even now people do not vaccinate, and this behaviour has led to multiple outbreaks of diseases that we once thought we had defeated. Homeopathy also stands against vaccination, ironic really as it’s the closest example of working medicine to homeopathy, and instead provides their own vaccinations, that do not work. Chiropractors, that is to say those that adhere to the complete chiropractic idea created by the ‘magnetic healer’ D.D. Palmer in 1895, often stand against vaccines as the very idea of vaccines goes against the provably incorrect notion that chiropractors live by, that all illness can be traced to the spine. So, these mystical and pseudoscientific theories and notions often affect our health negatively – they are a danger to life.
Finally, we have the intellectual threats of new-age and mystical thinking, epitomised by the idea that the world was created 7000 years ago by God: creationism. We go back to Texas again, where debate has sparked up again over textbooks and the teaching of creationism in schools (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/texas-textbook-hearings_n_3949676.html?utm_hp_ref=politics). The creationist side argue that the evidence for evolution is severely lacking, and that radiometric dating is flawed. These are lies, there is no other way to say it. Lies that are easily shown to be false by looking at Wikipedia. If you want actual evidence, visit the Natural History Museum in London, or the Smithsonian in Washington, or read the innumerable scientific papers and books that have been published that provide and cite the evidences for evolution: microbial mutations, DNA analysis, fossil records and even our ability to selectively breed plants and animals. This type of new-age mumbo-jumbo is perhaps the greatest danger to us, even more so than the danger to our health posed by the medically unsafe cures and practices of the magnet therapist, the homeopath and the chiropractor. This third danger, the intellectual danger, is an assault upon our very understanding of the universe: it is an assault upon logic, reason and science, the very methods we use to create medicine, morality and mathematics, to focus on the letter M alone.
All of the three stories mentioned have been from this year alone, recent events that affect us all. They are three examples from the massive mountain of ‘alternative therapies’, ‘new-age ideas’ and other such unscientific concepts. They are dangerous, with ramifications for our financial, physical and intellectual well being. These ideas are inherently anti-science, and their proponents actively dismiss evidence and reason in favour of their own ideas. These ideas cast science as a dirty word, and all actively try and suppress opposition to their ridiculous ideas, and even try to get these ideas into schools and hospitals. In some cases they have succeeded. And until we can remove this rot, until we can leave behind this stone-age mysticism that poisons our world, we will be trapped by it and held back. Science is not a dirty word, it is incredibly important to our development: without it, we would have no heart transplants, no cars and no mobile phones. Science is a wonderful thing, and we cannot let it be corrupted by quacks and frauds.
- Homeopaths Without Borders practice exploitation not humanitarianism (richarddawkins.net)
- We Thought We Already Eradicated Measles – But Thanks To Ongoing Anti-Vaccine Beliefs, It’s Back (thinkprogress.org)
- Opinion Survey by JREF and Women Thinking Free Foundation Supports Childhood Immunization (randi.org)
- Gohmert Calls Vaccines a Liberal Plot as Measles Outbreak Tears Through North Texas (burntorangereport.com)
- No, homeopathy didn’t cure you [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com)
- Exploring the occult sciences (dnaindia.com)
- Newcastle to honour Higgs Boson professor (thejournal.co.uk)
- Science Talk: Vaccination (ilastreasures.wordpress.com)
- The Higgs Boson and Its Discovery Explained with Animation (englishblog.com)