Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Top 5 Pseudo-Scientific Beliefs of Portlanders

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in southeast or downtown Portland will quickly learn that Portlanders love their pseudo-science.  Does the scientific consensus over GMOs contradict what you believe about the evils of technology?  We've got pseudo-science for that!  Are you tired of all of the 'chemicals' that 'they' put in the water in order to poison/brainwash/control/enhance the dental health of the sheeple?   Well, no worries!  We've got pseudo-science to back up that bunk as well! Let's take a look at the five most popular pseudo scientific beliefs of Portlanders.

1) Flouride in the water causes brain damage/cancer/genocide-  In 2013 Clean Water Portland successfully defeated a ballot initiative to fluoridate Portland's water supply.  Despite the fact that water fluoridation is lauded by public health experts as one of the most successful, beneficial, and cheap public health policies every,  that over sixty years of community fluoridation across the country has yielded no negative health or environmental effects, that fluoridated water is the only defense that those living in poverty have against tooth decay, Clean Water Porltand managed to convince Portlanders that water fluoridation is a scheme by 'Big Fluoride' to profit from poisoning every resident of Portland.  Because, y'know, chemicals!

2) GMOs causes brain damage/cancer/genocide- GMOs are scary.  People don't want to eat 'genes.' Fortunately, we don't need to worry too much about GMOs according to more than two decades of GMOs existing in abundance in our food supply, and an overwhelming scientific consensus that GMOs have not been shown to harm personal health or the environment.  Luckily, if that pesky scientific consensus doesn't fit with your all natural worldview you can find your own 'science' to back up your beliefs, because that's how science works, you develop a belief, you try to prove it, and if you can't you keep trying until you make the data prove it.   This is exactly what we've done here in Portland.  There is a campaign going on here to put a proposal on November's ballot to require food manufactures to label GMOs in their food.  This campaign has glommed on to pseudo-science to push through their agenda!  Take for example the often cited is a study conducted by Gilles-Eric Séralini in which he found that GMOs fed to rats caused them to grow massive tumors.  The results were not so surprising when one considers that Séralini used a species of rat that is very prone to tumors, and that he covered the food in quantities of pesticides far in excess of what people would actually be exposed to when they eat GMO food.
and 'chemicals.'  Can't we just keep genes and chemicals out of our food, please? 

3- You can cure cancer/AIDS/autism/arthritis/obesity/ADHD/ and everything else with 'energy,'
'forces,' and 'fields'-
Portlanders love their alternative medicine.  Absolutely love it.  Why fill your body with poisonous 'chemicals' to cure your lung cancer when all you need to do is have your chakras realigned?  This city is awash in snake oil doctors that claim to be able to cure anything by harnessing your bodies own natural 'energy fields,' or aura, or whatever the hell forces reiki manipulates.  All of these services are couched in terms that sound sciency, but make absolutely no sense in context.  The next time someone tells you that you can cure your gout by harnessing your body's 'energy field' replace the words energy and field with their actual scientific definitions.  Energy is defined as the capacity for vigorous activity.  Field is defined as a region of space characterized by a physical property, such as gravitational or electromagnetic force or fluid pressure, having a determinable value at every point in the region. Now, you can cure your gout by harnessing your body's capacity for vigorous activity space characterized by a physical property.  Does that still make sense?

4- Organic Food will stop global warming and make you a superhero- We love our organic food here. Decades of research has shown two things about organic food.  First, that organic food is no more or less nutritious than conventionally grown food.  Second, that it is not necessarily any less destructive of the environment than conventionally grown food.  Either way, what the hell has science ever done for us anyway?
 Because only some food is organic, despite the fact that all food contains carbon (technically anything that contains carbon, ie; all living or formerly living things, is organic).

5- Vaccines Cause Autism-  I got my child vaccinated.
Two days later my child began to show the first signs of autism.  Vaccinations cause my child's autism, in   much the same way that my breakfast cereal caused the pimple that appeared on my ass five minutes later.  Any good scientist will tell you that correlation ALWAYS means causation.  Oh wait, no they won't, only a pseudo scientist like Jenny McCarthy would tell you that (althought, my partner thinks that she doesn't even deserve that distinction).  Unfortunately for many children their parents fall for this very basic logical fallacy, and the consequences are serious.  Because parents (mostly white, liberal, college educated, and middle class) are refusing or delaying vaccinating their children serious childhood diseases such as whooping cough and measles are making a frightening comeback.  Besides putting their own children at risk these parents are putting other children at risk who really can't be vaccinated due to real medical conditions.  If too few children are vaccinated then herd immunity is diminished, and the most vulnerable among us (the elderly, infants, the immunocompromised) are put at serious risk because 'I'm a super parent and being a parent gives me magical powers that allow me to ignore science and good public health policy.'  Oh yeah, and vaccines contain chemicals.

So remember, if you want to live in Portland, chemicals are bad, nature is good, and my science is better than yours.

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