Don’t be fooled by pseudoscientific “facts” online | The Triangle

Don’t be fooled by pseudoscientific “facts” online

Photo credits courtesy of Mark Dixon at Flickr

From fake news articles to clickbait “facts,” the internet has given rise to massive misinformation campaigns that make you question how gullible people actually are. But of all the levels of this new trend, pseudoscience has the most far reaching consequences with its seeming grounding in fact.

Pseudoscience, the collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method, is much more damaging because even those who would fact check articles are able to find enough supporting evidence to back their claims. Seemingly scientifically proven theories are presented as laws of the universe with little to no review from outside sources.

Some beliefs are relatively harmless, like the belief that Earth is flat. Even though this goes against a millenia’s worth of observation, even if it can be disproven by every space mission ever, even if all known physics would break down before this became the truth, people still choose to believe it. It is completely ridiculous but, fortunately, equally innocuous.

By putting astrology in this same category, I know that there will be backlash, but there is no other place for it to fall. Newsflash, the revolution of planets and the stars in the sky are so regular that we can plot their paths for the next thousands of years. Are you that self-centered to believe that these astrological movements of massive entities will have an effect on you, a singular human being? It is mind boggling to me that if you are born on March 20th, you are Pisces and you are considered fearful, but one day later and you are Aries and you are courageous. So one single day, one microsecond cosmically speaking, can completely define your entire personality. That seems doubtful, but again, more or less a harmless belief.

But what if the belief was in something more harmful? The same disregard for the facts would persist, but lives would now hang in the balance.

Essential oils have become popular recently with their ability to do everything, from calm panic attacks to cure cancer. Let that sink in. People legitimately believe that their essential oils can be more effective than chemo- or radiation therapy.

If it seems to you that mankind has taken a step back into the dark ages, I was equally shocked to read the websites of a couple of essential oil vendors. One website even backed up their claims on frankincense cancer fighting oils by saying, “do a search on the internet” because apparently they don’t believe in peer-reviewed journals.

The same is constantly said for those who believe that vaccines cause autism. While we do not know exactly what causes it, research has shown that it is definitively not vaccines. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has an article on its website which takes the research done by these supposed experts and proves that the scientific method was not followed for the study done by Andrew Wakefield on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in children. Thus, the results are biased and invalid. If 90 percent of the population in England got the vaccine and the researcher only uses the twelve children that have developed autism in the study, there is clearly a correlation of the researcher’s own making. When we say that vaccines have no link to autism, we are not basing this off of some half-done study done 50 years ago, but actual decades of peer-reviewed scholarly journals that reject this hypothesis.

Even if all of this research is completely wrong and vaccines do cause autism somehow, only 1 in 68 children have autism compared to the millions that would die or never be born because of completely preventable diseases. By not vaccinating, you are saying that you would rather have your children be more likely to die than to have autism. The odds of being diagnosed with autism do not change with vaccination, but the odds of living past childhood increase greatly. How is this still an issue?

There are multiple places where this growing belief in pseudoscience could have come from. Perhaps it was those who are used to their print media source having a rigorous fact checking process, and don’t understand that the internet has no such rules. Maybe it is the plethora of scholarly articles that allow people to pick and choose “science” that fits their personal narrative, no matter how subjective the researcher. Maybe it is just people wanting to blame their problems on some massive conspiracy, instead of putting effort in their lives to make it better.

In any case, the use of essential oils for healing rather than medically proven treatments and the avoidance of vaccines for illnesses that are threatening the community are profoundly dangerous and a symptom of a wider problem.

This new, widespread, acceptance of these inane theories is no longer just a dealbreaker on a first date — it is now hurting those who cannot protect themselves. That is the definition of abuse.

So next time you need to make a medical decision, talk it over with your doctor who spent years of their life becoming an expert, years longer than a single week’s research on the anti-cancer effects of clary-sage oil. Blind belief is unacceptable when it comes to the health and wellness of those we love. Inform yourself before it is too late.