Thursday, June 24, 2010

If you believe this..... you will believe anything!

Utah has a reputation for being the fraud capital of the country. There has been a correlation between the exploitation of the local beliefs and the predominate religion and the fraud. If you can show that you are a card carrying mormon (or you pretend to be) you can get into peoples wallets and manipulate their emotions based upon your connection to their belief system. I have found two examples of this manipulation in the last week.

The first was an amusing billboard and corresponding website for "LDS Agents". It seems that these capitalists have found a way to connect with Mormons around the country through real estate transactions. It is not that they are great real estate professionals that sets them apart it is the fact that they share a similar religious ideal and as a result they are more qualified to serve you in your home purchase. The premise is laughable however it must be an effective marketing tool to justify their overhead.

The second is a little more concerning. I was in our local grocery store and saw a poster on the community board for a conference on holistic living. I have been a vocal critic of alternative medicine for a while. This conference is called LDS holistic living.  There seems to be an attempt to sell someone something based upon a common religious belief.  While I say "sell"  you might say "exploit" based upon a common religious belief.

I am always concerned about niche markets designed to prey upon religious people; because, the devout  seem to be ripe to manipulation in many ways based upon their ability to suspend disbelief.  They also have an admirable quality of wanting to believe in the inherent good in people....again leaving them ripe.

Of concern with the above listed organization is the list of speakers and the suspect level of expertise they have in their field.  Included are Natropathic Physicians, Vaccination deniers, and yoga instructors all of which have taken on the suspect roles of encouraging the potential attendees to give up on traditional western medicine and practices in favor on unproven and in many cases dis-proven remedies.

Here are some facts.  First not only is there no link to vaccinations and autism but it has been studied, published, and peer reviewed and proven not once but in at least three major medical studies.  Second, there is no proof that organic food is better for you than commercially grown food.  Third, there is no evidence that vitamin supplements, herbs, and Acai  berries do anything but give you expensive strong smelling urine.

So why do I care?  Because bad science results in attacks on our health.  Not just the health of the person engaged in the "alternative" therapies but the health of the community as a whole.  This is evidenced in the recent out break in pertussis discussed here:  Follow the link article and view the video.  For some reason I cannot get it to embed.

Pertussis is preventable but we are choosing snake oil over science.  Even in the face of overwhelming evidence the vaccine deniers refuse to let go of their ill informed beliefs at the expense of our health, their children's health and even their own.

The problem as I see it is "snake oil" salesmen are exploiting a faithful people.  They do not have to really quantify their claims and any real effect of their treatments is largely anecdotal.  There is no causative correlation to their claims and the result their patients feel.  In many cases the resulting confirmation bias is self deluding and the real underlying problem is at least temporarily denied.  When allowed to go unchecked many of the underlying problems will be debilitating and some fatal.

The video below (originally posted by PZ Myers)  has some language and it does not tread lightly on ones beliefs.

I just have one question to those who sell this.... when your child is in imminent jeopardy of dying... do you continue down the holistic path or do you seek the best doctor and highest trained specialist western medicine has to offer.  Do you defer to faith alone or do you bring a scientist into the room?