Wednesday, April 28, 2010

on dark urine

In the past few months, friends and family have e-mailed me links advocating quack science of all kinds. Of all of the things that pass my view that I want to comment on, the quack science claims lauding vitamin megadosing, organic foods, natural cures, perpetual motion machines, healing crystals, magical thinking, or young-earth creationism tend to rile me up the most. Unfortunately for me, however, I find myself consistently unhappy with my own writings on these topics. I often write posts during one sitting, let them ruminate overnight (as is often my M.O.), and realize the next day that I have managed to be both condescending and insulting to my friends and family I am trying to persuade and also essentially unpersuasive.

As it turns out, I am not a great science writer. As passionate as I feel about the value and importance of science, I am not particularly skilled at explaining how and why science is important, and why it makes me so angry that people make so much money by selling false hopes and worthless medical products.

And so I hope you'll take 17 minutes to let Michael Specter's TED talk do it better than I can.

Some day I may be up to the important challenge of convincing my friends and family not to waste their time, money, and energy on ginko, echinacea, acai, and organic foods. I hope to also prevent them from falling victim to anti-vaccination dogmatism, conspiracy theories, or global-warming alarmism. Until I can find a way to do all of this without angering and offending all of the people I love, however, I think I'll probably stick to 500-word diatribes about contemporary politics, religion, and philosophy; you know, the topics people don't take so personally.

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