Howdie skeptifans. Here are the media Fails and Wins you sent me last week.
Don’t swallow everything: Alternative medicine
David sent in this win from the Vancouver Sun. The article covers an upcoming book “Dr. Joe’s Health Lab” by chemistry PhD Joe Schwarz. The book discusses the chemistry behind health, beauty, and food science while debunking many natural health remedies in the process. With all the alternative health books on the shelves, it’s great to see a book aimed at the average person which covers these topics in a more scientific way. Let’s hope this book turns out to be as evidence based as it sounds.
Parents face inquiry for treating son with alternative medicine
Paul sent in this link. You may have heard of this sad case. The parents of an Italian boy chose to treat his fever with homeopathy instead of medicine. The four year old endured this fever for several weeks before they finally took him to hospital. By this time, he was too weak and did not survive. Italian police are launching a manslaughter investigation into the case. While the parents need to be held responsible for neglect, why are we leaving homeopathy peddlers off the hook? I certainly won’t pretend pharmaceutical companies are run by saints, there would be hell to pay if they released a product with claims that it managed fever that failed to show any benefit in proper tests. Homeopathy has nothing in it, yet it still manages to kill. We need to treat it as harmful and go after the snake oil salesmen selling it.
The high cost of ignoring scientific facts
Erik sent in this Win. On this blog we tend to focus on issues of health and safety, since these seem to be the highest priority areas to apply skepticism. But of course there are many areas where skepticism should be applied that affect our well being. In this article Gwyn Morgan does a fantastic job at covering examples where our tax dollars are wasted on red herrings and bad policy because scientific evidence is ignored. This quote sums it up nicely,
Public-policy decisions that ignore scientific facts in favour of pressure from vocal minorities can kill job-creating commercial ventures, or cause unnecessary public expenditures. In both cases, society loses.
Texas conservatives reject Harper’s crime plan
While we’re on the topic of public policy, let’s talk about Harper’s crime plan. Marion sent in this link. The ethics of how to treat criminals can come down to personal and political philosophy, but that doesn’t mean this issue is outside of the realm of scientific thinking. At the end of the day we can look to evidence and experience to see what policies produced the outcomes we desire. I think we can all agree that we would like to improve public safety and reduce crime without running up our costs. So why are we looking at implementing harsh mandatory minimum sentences that even US conservatives admit was a plan that did not work? This article takes a look at some of the FBI data after Texas passed laws similar to what Harper is proposing. It’s worth your time to understand what we might be getting into if we don’t put some pressure on our elected representatives to change this plan.
That’s the Fails and Wins this week, folks. See you again soon. Send me your links at firstname.lastname@example.org.