Far too much energy is being expended on producing and consuming the bullshit of the counterknowledge industry: nutritionism, homeopathy, and the various forms of energy medicine that rely on vitalism being prime examples of this industry. Worthless remedies are produced, and worthless books and pamphlets are published.
Let’s see if we can do something about that. I have one or two ideas and I’m sure people reading this can come up with a few additional thoughts (probably better thought-out and more practical than my own). First we need to reduce the amount of bullshit:
- Politely and diplomatically point out to your flakey friends that the books on crystal healing or conspiracy theories that they are buying and reading are a waste of their time and money. It may be worth lending them your copy of Bad Science and/or Counterknowledge or buying them their own copy. The fewer books on astrology or homeopathy that your friends buy, the less energy is wasted on the production of worthless pseudoscientific writings.
- The same goes for the remedies they buy. Why are they wasting their money on unnecessary food supplements (note: there are some exceptions to the rule that food supplements are unnecessary, but not many – you should probably consult a GP or registered dietitian for reliable information on necessary supplements)? Why are they buying homeopathic remedies likely to contain no active ingredient? Informing them of the nature of homeopathy might be a good start. Tell them that the evidence does not support the idea that popping antioxidant pills is a good idea, however much sense it seems to make to them. And continue from there.
- Write to the newspapers when they uncritically promote the latest AltMed fashion or print contrarian articles claiming that climate change is a myth. If you get nowhere, then complain to the PCC. If nothing else, you will take up the valuable time of a journalist/editor and embarrass the newspaper if the PCC adjudicate against them. It may be worth “keeping your powder dry” and saving your PCC complaints for the worst abuses of science. For example, an article that makes suggestions that may endanger public health.
- In fact, you could write to the Daily Mail and ask them to print only truthful and accurate stories. That should make for a much slimmer daily newspaper. Once you’ve persuaded the Mail, you might want to try other daily and weekly newspapers.
Can we re-use any of the pseudoscientific materials that are currently out there, having already been purchased? I think it’s possible.
- If you have a pet, why not use, say, the Optimum Nutrition Bible to line their cage? Other examples of potential cage lining include Daily Mail articles on health, or books on mystical crystal skulls.
- Alternatively, you could use literature such as the above mentioned ONB (or maybe one of Gillian McKeith’s efforts) to teach your friends (or members of the public) a bit about science. Begin by pointing out where Holford or McKeith get it wrong. You could simply tell your friends and family – or you could start a blog and inform anyone who is willing to read it.
- Need to water your plants? Don’t run the tap – simply use the unopened bottles of homeopathic remedies you have lying around (be careful, though, not to use remedies based on alcohol rather than water and avoid using potencies that have a good chance of actually containing some of the active ingredient – check the label first).
- Sweet tooth? You can reuse homeopathic tablets based on sucrose or lactose to sweeten your tea. Try to use “higher potencies” as these are less likely to contain any trace of the active ingredient.
- Paper from the aforementioned books and Daily Mail articles should be suitable for recycling. If you don’t know of a recycling facility that will accept paper, try asking your local council.
- Erm. You could try recycling plastic and glass bottles that used to contain food supplements pills or herbal remedies.
- Err… that’s it.
Caution: you should exercise common sense when considering my suggestions. They are not supposed to be entirely serious. Except the one about lining your pet’s cage with pages from the ONB.
Please post your far wittier and/or much more practical ideas in the comments section below.