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Skeptic James Randi challenges sellers of scam medications as hundreds stage worldwide "overdose" on homeopathic pills

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.--To expose a scam industry that endangers and rips off millions of consumers a year, world-renowned conjuror, escape artist, and skeptic James Randi has put one million dollars on the line.

In a video statement released at 10:23 a.m. (ET) today, Randi joined hundreds of consumer advocates in more than 25 countries in exposing so-called homeopathic remedies--scam medications with no active ingredients that are sold by major retailers with no warning to customers. Demonstrators around the world swallowed homeopathic products by the handful, in a worldwide day of action inspired by a lecture by James Randi in which he downed an entire bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills to show they had no effect.

Have you heard of the tree octopus? This is an endangered cephalopod that lives in the trees of the pacific northwest. Of course, the tree octopus does not exist - it is a famous internet "hoax" beloved by skeptics as a common example of human gullibility. It is right up there with dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) - a component of acid rain, a chemical so deadly that if you breath it in you can die, and in gaseous form it can cause severe burns. DHMO is otherwise known as water - but it is easy to get people to sign petitions banning its use.

The inherent gullibility of humanity is a lesson important to the skeptical outlook for it speaks to the need to have a skeptical filter in place - a bullshit-detecting filter or baloney detector. But how gullible are people, generally?


 

Comments

"How Gullible Are You?" is broken, should be here.

With regard to the innate gullibility of children - it does make the Jesuits seem to have a real handle on it, does it not? http://www.newstatesman.com/200408020016

Gulibility and skepticism aren't different ways of thinking: they are products of different socializations.

I, for one, am not "gullible" enough to believe the account of the topic from some blog post with virtually no citations. Children, however, would - since developmentally they will advance and socialize most quickly by mimicing and accepting the representations of adults, all information from adults should be accepted by default.

No one remains at the "default" level of children, however. Once one becomes an adult, one decides which adults to trust. I respect the authority of a peer reviewed study from MIT, and not a blog post, because I have been socialized, though an expensive education, to do so. It isn't a matter of logic or first hand knowledge: I accept counterintuitive conclusions about the universe because they come from Stephen Hawking and not the Pope.

People who accept the rules of a church, or dispute evolution or global warming, or believe what Glenn Beck says, aren't more gullible than anyone else - they have been socialized to accept a different set of people to trust.

WOW! That petition to end woman's suffrage was shocking! My kids spend the whole month of February learning about black history and are even forced to play out discrimination in the classroom. Yet zero time is spent learning about Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Stanton and their drive for woman's rights.

They're going to hear about it tonight.

I was mildly interested in Veen's vindication vis a vis the butterflies, but even more interested in Cowan's hi-jacking of the comment thread there and old hat's permissive attitude toward same.

How many of you are familiar with THE STRAIGHT DOPE? Here is an excellent column about homeopathy from way back in 2000:

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2539/whats-up-with-homeopathy

Homeopathy! I can't believe this has made a comeback. The last time homeopathy was big, Ulysses S. Grant was president. Now here it is, two months into the year 2000, and you walk into one of these pricey organic supermarkets and see aisles full of homeopathic nostrums, all of which have a proven effectiveness on a par with eye of newt. So, recognizing the complete futility of the effort, I feel obliged to state for the record: Come on, folks. This is nuts.

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