“…Yet today, reason has a battle on it’s hands. I want to confront the epidemic of irrational, superstitious thinking”. – Richard Dawkins
The way this documentary has shaped the way I see the people of this world can be summed up thusly: No respect for evidence.
I wonder how I haven’t watched the series “Enemies of Reason” already, but I am glad I have now. Dawkins brings up so many valid and arguable points that it brought me tears of joy to listen to it. I didn’t actually cry, but it did make me feel like some of my own theories and thoughts were justified and that made me happy. If you haven’t seen this series, you will find it at the bottom of this post.
I have a lot of respect for people like Dawkins who demand evidence and proof for anything in our world, and he doesn’t deny that anything could be possible. He simply states that without evidence, it is very unlikely and therefore not something that he believes in and I think that even though this isn’t a standard many seem to follow, it is one that, in my opinion, should be followed by a larger percentage of the world’s population.
As you can see from this documentary, there are a lot of beliefs out there that are solely that – beliefs. Psychics, for example. There’s no solid, rational reason to believe it other than that it allows someone to make money from fooling gullible people. They prod you until they come across something which sparks some sort of memory or reaction from you, and run with it from there. Despite being called out in this programme, they still stick to their guns. Why? People will still continue to be fooled by it, and they’ll continue to profit.
One thing I ask anyone who believes in this sort of thing is – why don’t more psychics win the lottery? Why don’t they have the answers to the really important questions like the key to curing terminal disease or how to solve the world’s problems of war or famine. The same reason everyone else doesn’t – they don’t have any more answers than any other human being.
The idea that we can change the course of events simply by doing some sort of lucky ritual is something that up until today, I hadn’t put much thought into. To be honest, I did things like this on a regular basis without even thinking. Using the phrase “knock on wood” or thinking that one object or another was “lucky” was something I actually thought would help.
While I trained harness racehorses I would think that when a horse won, nothing could be changed the next time it raced. I had to get things ready the same way, stand in the same place to watch the race, and all kinds of other silly things that made me think that by doing them, I would have a better chance at having my horse win.
This is, of course, nonsense. To think that actions like this would actually change the course of events is just silly. When this happens to work out, it only reinforces the behaviour. Dawkins outlines this by explaining an experiment done with pigeons. Food would pop out at apparently random times, but because it came out a few times after the bird had looked over it’s left shoulder, it was convinced that that was what brought the food. The bird became obsessed with looking over that shoulder, thinking that it would bring him the reward even though the timing really was random.
Here is a link to more information on that pigeon – http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Skinner/Pigeon/
This is the same thing that happens to people when their little quirks appear to work out. The same results probably would’ve come even without these rituals, but people will do them anyway – just in case.
Here is a little joke that I heard from an acquaintance in the backstretch of a Southern Ontario harness racetrack:
There once was a man obsessed with the number four. His horse would jog four miles, get four flakes of hay a day, he would warm up four laps before a race, and he would pat him precisely four times before the race. To his excitement, he drew the number four in his race one day. So he made sure everything in preparation for the race was done in fours and sent him out to race… He was fourth.
Whether or not his little story was based on true events or he was just trying to be smart, it always kind of stuck with me.
Homeopathy is another subject I’ve always just dismissed since I’ve never had solid evidence of it working. What I didn’t realize was how many people really do believe that diluting something so that the active ingredient is quite literally non-existent will really heal their ailment, and do it more effectively than modern medicine!
Apparently I am in the wrong industry. I could be putting water into little dropper bottles and smacking a label on that says it contains diluted horse manure and someone would buy it thinking they were going to be cured of the common cold. Why haven’t I thought of this before?
One of the beliefs is that water has a memory. To this, I say:
The fact is, homeopathic remedies are unproven, unrealistic, pseudoscientific jokes and I for one will not fall into the herd of gullible people who have been hooked by the people promoting them.
They do not replace modern medicine and I truly believe that the people selling/prescribing these things are conning people into believing it will cure them. Let’s put them in a double blind controlled trial and see how they stand up. Let’s see if there is more than a tiny shred, a whisper of promising results. There is no science behind any of it, and if anyone reading this does have access to studies proving the efficacy of a homeopathic remedy, please share it with me. But please note that individual, non-controlled “studies” don’t count. Not even a little bit.
One part of this series actually goes on to state that homeopathy is actually taking money away from real medicines that are in the process of being rigorously tested and proven so that they can confidently say they can help real maladies. This is really disgraceful.
There is a double standard now, wherein orthodox doctors need to spend years proving their theories,yet no such standard is set for homeopathy. It is based on ignorance and developed before Dawkins states that it undermines sciences and deludes people. It is so easy to sell something without proof because people seem to distrust science more than they distrust the hocus pocus suggestions of homeopathy.
Can you say placebo effect?
Some will say that it is “one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world”, like the woman in the series. Dawkins makes a very valid point in saying,
“In medicine, ancient also means developed before we understood the causes of disease, before germ theory. It was based on ignorance then, and age makes it no truer. We misguidedly look back to a golden age that never was. Ours is the golden age of safe, tested medicine. Effective beyond placebo, in which we’ve cut infant mortality and conquered disease, then forgotten they existed”
The miracles of things like surgery, blood transfusion, and other great medical findings could not a happened with science. So-called alternative medicine has not made progress of any sort. Instead it attempts to bring back bronze age silliness. We may as well bring back leeches as a cure.