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View Full Version : Appreciation of debunkers



kylenano
2003-Dec-10, 11:59 PM
I had a run in today with someone selling magnet therapy products, and I really appreciate what people like Phil do taking on bad science.

There is a small shopping mall near where I live, and some of the space is used to rent stalls that only stay a week or so. They sell things like calendars and replacement kitchens. Sometimes there have been chiropractors and magnet therapy products. Today it was magnet therapy again.

Perhaps it was partly because I'd just come from Dixons who were selling an 'accupressure' pen endorsed by the Science Museum (I've just emailed them about that!), but this time I couldn't just walk past without challenging them - usually I don't say anything.

I spoke to the man running the stall. I questioned why he was selling these products, when it had been shown 200 years ago that they don't work. And stated that the iron in blood is not magnetic. He said that magnetic therapy did work, mentioned a British Arthritis society, saying they endorsed it.

He also insisted that as there is iron in blood, it must be magnetic. His implication was that I was stupid not to believe that. He wouldn't listen to any denial. He asked what my background was - I said I had a science degree (looking back, isn't that close to ad hominem arguments?). But what he really didn't like was when I asked how he could justify defrauding people - he just said goodbye in an annoyed voice and walked away. I left, it was obvious I wasn't getting anywhere.

As usual, apart from a woman passing whom I heard comment that blood isn't magnetic, no reaction from anyone else. But I really believe that they are fraudsters. It is very easy to show that the iron in blood isn't affected by magnets. They are selling remedies that cannot possibly work, with the small print on their leaflets as a get-out clause. And they are rarely questioned.

But now I really appreciate how hard it is dealing with people like this. (Nancy and Co.). They have their own vested interests and do not like being challenged, and won't listen to other opinions. This man is probably making money selling overpriced jewellery. He'd lose out. I know he's wrong, but it's like hitting a brick wall. I found it exhausting dealing with him, even for a few minutes, let alone the longer radio shows Phil deals with. And you have to stay polite - I'm glad I managed to, otherwise it devalues the argument.

I try to appreciate that people are entitled to their own opinions, but I have read about the origins of homoeopathy, astrology, magnet therapy and feng shui amongst others, and have come to the conclusion that they are not harmless fun, but can be very dangerous. There are outcries when commercial companies produce medicines that don't work or are dangerous, the alternative lot get away with it again, and again and again... :(

Carolyn

zebo-the-fat
2003-Dec-11, 12:05 AM
Keep up the good work!
Ask them for their evidence ... not opinion, evidence.
Belief without evidence is just another name for superstition. (That goes for the God-botherers as well!) [-X

tuffel999
2003-Dec-11, 02:16 AM
kylenano feel free to drop into the bad medicine thread!

Reacher
2003-Dec-11, 02:18 AM
Half my family hates me because they went and bought magnetic therapy stuff. My sister is asleep under her stupid magnetic thereapy blanket right now. Appreciation for debunkers? I can hardly be called one, but I think I can safely say that, in my experience, such a thing barely exists. So yes, I can appreciate what the Good Doctor does. =D>

Glom
2003-Dec-11, 11:31 AM

TriangleMan
2003-Dec-11, 12:22 PM
And not surprisingly all of the ads below are for magnetic therapy products. *sigh* I hate medical quacks.

informant
2003-Dec-11, 12:48 PM
Here's a good website for you: Quackwatch (http://www.quackwatch.org/) :)

planethollywood
2003-Dec-11, 12:57 PM
i can't be bothered argueing these people any more, they have closed minds.

I first saw the magentic therapy stuff during an Amway meeting i was shanghi'ed into. straight away i could fathom why they would work and no-one could tell me.

the people who sell the stuff only have the speil from their employers to go off and its no surprise that there are no negatives or side effects in the sales info packs.

Ok confussion I was i Amway for a while and i had all the marketing material and no mention of failures or placebos or side effects in any of it.

In general i get people who want to know more about critical thinking to read chapter 12 of carl sagans "demon haunted world". It gives them a grounding in sorting out the bull dust from the facts or lack of.

TriangleMan
2003-Dec-11, 12:57 PM
Here's a good website for you: Quackwatch (http://www.quackwatch.org/) :)

Thanks informant but I already knew about it - even before I knew about the BABB. (yes, there once was a time without BABB).

informant
2003-Dec-11, 01:00 PM
:o
I thought, before the BABB, time and space became meaningless...! :wink:

planethollywood
2003-Dec-11, 01:02 PM
one other thought that came to mind , i can remember reading a small article in New scientist magazine about a french study that found human cells divided quicker when a weak magnetic field is introduced.

That surmised that the magnetic field made the cells skipped some of the gene checking mechanisms.

I'll try and supply a link to the article if i can find it at the new scientist web site.

so there could be some dangers involved with surrounding yourself with magnets.

TriangleMan
2003-Dec-11, 01:03 PM
I thought, before the BABB, time and space became meaningless...! :wink:
That would explain why before the BABB I was surfing the links at crank.net! :lol:

SciFi Chick
2003-Dec-11, 01:16 PM
He said that magnetic therapy did work, mentioned a British Arthritis society, saying they endorsed it.

He also insisted that as there is iron in blood, it must be magnetic. His implication was that I was stupid not to believe that. He wouldn't listen to any denial. He asked what my background was - I said I had a science degree (looking back, isn't that close to ad hominem arguments?). But what he really didn't like was when I asked how he could justify defrauding people - he just said goodbye in an annoyed voice and walked away. I left, it was obvious I wasn't getting anywhere.


I definitely understand how hard that was for you. However, you thought you were remaining polite, when I'm certain he thought you were rude for asking him how he could justify defrauding people. Why? Because, he probably BELIEVES IN what he's selling. People that want to believe look only at the positives. We've all heard stories of the mother who lifts a car single-handedly to save her baby. Those stories feel all warm and fuzzy, so why ruin them with facts? :D

Anyway, I've been where you are and it's how I ended up frequenting message boards. Message boards are a good way to practice debunking techniques because you have time to sit back and plan your responses without being interupted. My first taste was on a religion board with a bunch of free thinkers. I learned all about fundie tactics and how to combat them. Of course, most of the time you won't get anywhere with the person you're arguing with, but people LURKING and READING will be influenced.

So, don't feel bad that it didn't go the way you planned. You did better than I would have. 8)

NASA Fan
2003-Dec-11, 02:33 PM
...and at least you tried something, I would just have ignored the problem and gone on my way.

By the way, what is all this nonsense about magnets being useless, they work great...at keeping notes and pictures stuck to my fridge. :D

Sigma_Orionis
2003-Dec-11, 11:08 PM
A friend of mine was complaining the other day about an acquaintnance that was about to fall for one of those Nigerian 4-1-9 scams, despite all the evidence he showed her about those scams, she continued contacting the scammer, luckily for her the scammer never answered back.

[Editted to fix multiple typos (and on the same word!)]

swansont
2003-Dec-12, 12:09 PM
Most magnetic therapies insist on having all the poles face one way. According to them, one orientation inhibits and the other enhances cellular processes, so you wear them one way e.g. if you want to heal an injury but the other if you want to slow down cancer.

But the divergence of B is zero - the field line has to loop around on itself. If you draw the field for magnets lined up in the way they are in the therapies, you'll find that there is no difference in the field the body sees in the two orientations. (I wonder if the salesman could make such a drawing)


(edited for spelling)

Humphrey
2003-Dec-12, 01:27 PM
You want a easy way to reverse the polarity or apparent polarity? flip the person over. The the opposite field lines are being shown to the surface.

zebo-the-fat
2003-Dec-12, 02:39 PM
(I wonder if the salesman could make such a drawing)

If he saw the drawing would he understand it?

Betenoire
2003-Dec-12, 04:27 PM
Rent the stall right next to him and put up a big sign that says, "That guy is ripping you off. I will explain for free." Get a bunch of useful material, and while you're at it debunk some other frauds.

Rue
2003-Dec-12, 05:26 PM
What about using magnets to soften water?

BTW:look at the ads on the bottom.....

Cougar
2003-Dec-12, 11:21 PM
....I have read about the origins of homoeopathy, astrology, magnet therapy and feng shui amongst others, and have come to the conclusion that they are not harmless fun, but can be very dangerous....
Homoeopathy, astrology, magnet therapy dangerous? OK. Possibly. No argument here. But feng shui? Feng shui is basically just an artistic style of interior decor. "That table would look better here rather than over there." It's on the same level as, say, flower arranging. "Oh, what a pleasing arrangement!" I don't think one need fear feng shui...

BTW:look at the ads on the bottom.....
LOL. They're like "stalls" right next to all us "protesters" marching around carrying signs.... Can't imagine them gettin' too much business from this group! #-o

Jack Higgins
2003-Dec-13, 12:09 AM
I've got a black belt in feng shui...

:D

planethollywood
2003-Dec-13, 12:38 AM
feng shui i though was about improving positive energy flow in a room. not just interior decoration. Its the basis of feng shui thats in despute not the furniture moving.

Musashi
2003-Dec-13, 01:05 AM
Yes, but is it dangerous?

Jack Higgins
2003-Dec-13, 02:03 AM
Yes, but is it dangerous?
Nah... I know someone who does it as her job- all it is, is interior decorating, but it costs 20% more because it's done the feng shui way!

I don't think she really believes in it though, because her house is a complete wreck, and certainly wouldn't relaxation or positive energy flow in most people! She doesn't seem to take it that seriously any time i've ever talked to her about it...

Glutomoto
2003-Dec-13, 12:14 PM
If magnetic therapy had more than just a placebo effect, Then I think there would be one or two miracle cures caused by the huge magnetic fields used for MRI scans.

:-?

ToSeek
2003-Dec-13, 06:46 PM
Can I bring back page two?

ToSeek
2003-Dec-13, 06:47 PM
Yep! Interesting little bug there - wonder if the phpBB folks know about it.

SeanF
2003-Dec-13, 07:08 PM
Notice that the "Number of replies" on the first page is one less than the actual number of replies in the thread. Somebody must've deleted a post.

Wonder who it was?

Might've been somebody who was full of beans . . .

(Which is an inside joke that only one other person on this board will understand)

Musashi
2003-Dec-13, 07:23 PM
I'm not that person, but I understand it!

kylenano
2003-Dec-14, 06:14 PM
SciFi Chick wrote:

I definitely understand how hard that was for you. However, you thought you were remaining polite, when I'm certain he thought you were rude for asking him how he could justify defrauding people. Why? Because, he probably BELIEVES IN what he's selling. People that want to believe look only at the positives. We've all heard stories of the mother who lifts a car single-handedly to save her baby. Those stories feel all warm and fuzzy, so why ruin them with facts?


I appreciate that, I try to respect other people's views. In the film Revenge of the 50ft woman (not a particularly good film!) there's a man (and his donkey) who have been gold prospecting for 30 years and never found any. It's never stated explicitly, but everyone knows there is no gold, but if the prospector admits that, he has to admit to wasting 30 years of his life. It's often difficult to admit your are wrong. And, as you say, it's cosy answers. And the money ...

There isn't room to tell the whole story, but I was looking at their booklet before I spoke to the stall holder, and there was one page that really annoyed me. The company is Ecoflow (http://www.ecoflow.plc.uk/). The product is Biophone & Bioguard (http://www.ecoflow.plc.uk/uk/Lifestyle/life_prod_vector.htm).

The diagram in the booklet isn't on the website. It shows a sine wave labelled 'body wave generated by incoming electromagnetic radiation' and, reflected in the x-axis, which is labelled 'time', a mirror image of a sine wave labelled 'body wave mirrored with help of biophone and bioguard'. The outcome 'resultant normalised body wave' is the x-axis (graph of y=0). The implication is that these devices will cancel out all e-m radiation hitting your body (by destructive interference?). I know it's possible to cancel out sound this way (and you can buy expensive headphones that do this), but all the different e-m wavelengths with one small device?

This is so far from making sense. I feel if someone is selling something they ought to be knowledgeable about it. But if this lot were really knowledgable about their subject, if they had any integrity :D wouldn't be selling their range of remedies at all.

Oh, and about feng shui. I should have said some of that list of dodgy 'sciences' were dangerous. Eg I borrowed a book from the library on astrology by Nick Campion, and I hate to thing anyone would seriously take health advice from it. (And why do plants (herbal remedies) have their star sign determined by species, not the time they germinated??). Nick Campion (www.nickcampion.com) supports The Sophia Project (http://www.sophia-project.org.uk/) which is funding PhDs in astrology (http://www.astrology-research.net/current_research.htm) at the University of Southampton, and has set up Kepler College of Astrological Arts and Sciences (http://www.kepler.edu/index.html) in Seattle, which is 'the only college in the western hemisphere authorized to issue BA degrees in Astrological Studies'.

To get back to feng shui... I think it is more daft than dangerous. eg using mirrors to reflect sound. Except - I heard that if your front door faced south west (ours does) you should use the back door. To do that we'd have to go through next door's garden and climb a fence. :D

I think I'll stick to writing letters in future!

Carolyn

kilopi
2003-Dec-14, 06:54 PM
LOL. They're like "stalls" right next to all us "protesters" marching around carrying signs.... Can't imagine them gettin' too much business from this group!
And their advertising is helping to sustain the group.

2005-Jan-26, 03:55 PM
LOL. They're like "stalls" right next to all us "protesters" marching around carrying signs.... Can't imagine them gettin' too much business from this group!
And their advertising is helping to sustain the group.
its been a while ? Folks are wondering? Me2?/? HUb

ToSeek
2005-Jan-26, 04:39 PM
....I have read about the origins of homoeopathy, astrology, magnet therapy and feng shui amongst others, and have come to the conclusion that they are not harmless fun, but can be very dangerous....
Homoeopathy, astrology, magnet therapy dangerous? OK. Possibly. No argument here. But feng shui? Feng shui is basically just an artistic style of interior decor. "That table would look better here rather than over there." It's on the same level as, say, flower arranging. "Oh, what a pleasing arrangement!" I don't think one need fear feng shui...

BTW:look at the ads on the bottom.....
LOL. They're like "stalls" right next to all us "protesters" marching around carrying signs.... Can't imagine them gettin' too much business from this group! #-o

One of the current ones (http://www.christiansky.com/ad2.html) complains that the constellations are pagan and should be replaced with Christian ones!

Captain Kidd
2005-Jan-26, 05:00 PM
I'm still reading it but I absolutely love this one and had to surface to make note of it.


But to find Jupiter in the sky or to earn a view of the rings of Saturn, I had to peck my way through a jungle populated with pagan deities.

So, it's distasteful to use pagan named star constellations in order to locate a pagan named planet?

Kristophe
2005-Jan-26, 05:17 PM
What if you do it on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday? Is it ok to look at planets named for pagan gods on days named for them?

aurora
2005-Jan-26, 05:40 PM
feng shui i though was about improving positive energy flow in a room. not just interior decoration. Its the basis of feng shui thats in despute not the furniture moving.

I always thought that feng shui was just some woo woo plastered over the top of good common sense and useful suggestions for landscaping and interior design. However, after listening to a few different practitioners over the years, they don't leave it at that. They go farther and get all mystical with practices that go beyond arranging stuff.

I don't know if it is actually harmful, but it's more annoying than I originally thought.

ToSeek
2005-Jan-26, 06:47 PM
What if you do it on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday? Is it ok to look at planets named for pagan gods on days named for them?

Not for Quakers.

beskeptical
2005-Jan-26, 07:01 PM
Some good posts here. More folks should confront the sellers of quackery. But it probably mostly makes the confronter feel good but won't change many sellers minds.

I have to point out, though, how much of the quack stuff is on your supermarket shelf, not just at the local health supplements store or mall kiosk.

Listerine and Lysol are my biggest pet peeves being in the infectious disease field. Neither of those two products prevent any infectious diseases over just brushing your teeth or just regular cleaning products.

Listerine might have very limited usefulness after mouth surgery or something but even that is questionable. Lysol is totally worthless, especially any spray variety.

Maddad
2005-Jan-26, 09:27 PM
My sister sells magnetic therapy quackery. The interesting thing for me is that she's been caught up in a religious cult for the last 30 years. Part of their indoctonation is to hammer it into you to just accept; don't think. After a couple of decades of this it really didn't surprise me all that much when she accepted, without thinking, the claim that magnets can heal you. She's trained not to think.

Kebsis
2005-Jan-27, 01:18 AM
Debunking is a thankless job. I try to save my friends money whenever I can by telling them that magnet therapy (or whatever nonsense they're paying for at the moment) is worthless. It seems they don't want to know it; they want to pay for something and use it and tell people how much better they feel/see/read etc. because of it. It doesn't matter if it works or not.

Maksutov
2005-Jan-27, 02:06 AM
[edit]One of the current ones (http://www.christiansky.com/ad2.html) complains that the constellations are pagan and should be replaced with Christian ones!
That is hilarious!

It definitely put me in a jovial mood even though the mercury is running a bit low. I almost hurled my Neptune Salad! But there's no way that mars my upcoming participation in the saturnalia down in N'awlins next month! Oh well, back to reading an art book (whoa, check out that Venus di Milo!) and looking for astronomy texts at Urania (U.S. Naval Observatory). (http://moon.usno.navy.mil/Urania.htm) Plus it's time to check on the rovers, wonder how many Sols those little fellows have amassed? I'm sure the JPL/NASA site will tellus. Meanwhile it's time to feed the dog. Here, Pluto! Here, boy!


Perhaps by replacing those "pagan" constellations with xian ones, they will get better results with their astrological predictions. :)

Kristophe
2005-Jan-27, 04:34 AM
Perhaps by replacing those "pagan" constellations with xian ones, they will get better results with their astrological predictions. :)

And next, children, we'll learn about Jehova's four largest moons, called the Galilean Satellites after the Sea of Galilee. There's Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Mary!

kylenano
2005-Jan-27, 08:01 AM
The first impression I got was that the site is an ad for a book.

What a horrible name for a beautiful star cluster (Pleiades):


Sodom's Cinders is nothing to fear, though: a recent measurement conducted with the Hubble Space Telescope puts Sodom's Cinders a safe 2500 trillion miles from earth.

Another ad for a book:Stars of Destiny: A Scientific Look at Astrology, Patrick Moore (http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0953786862/202-6431619-9471057). A slim volume, and fun, and non-technical, read. He proposes new constellations such as the fish slice and Brontosaurus (I know brontosaurus is now called by another name).