Aside from asking the nerdiest of questions here at Overthinking It, I'm also a ranger for good science. As such, I constantly have my eye out for the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ugliest--pseudoscience--is often the hardest to hunt down and remedy.
Much ink has been spilled over countering crazy contraptions, alternative medicines, and conspiracy theories, but we hardly ever hear the other side of the story. By definition, pseudoscience lacks empirical support, but I'm feeling generous. What if "woo" were true? If magnetic people really existed, what would that mean for society? If homeopathy really worked, how would medicine change?
Over at my new Reductio ad Absurdum column for Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, I am going through classic pseudosciences to explore the real-world implications of these ideas and theories. My latest, published today, takes a look at homeopathy:
When homeopathy is a medical reality, diseases and cures are in constant tension, like the struggle between anti-matter and matter. The unstoppable force and the immovable object; the Joker and Batman. Each malady is a potential miracle. If a cure were just an anti-disease, medicine would encounter an enormous ethical obstacle. With all the potential cures available in our bodies, herb gardens, and duck livers, the question is no longer how should we treat, but who should we treat. To meet the demand of an ailing population, enormous storehouses of homeopathic tinctures would need to be erected. Like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault does for the world's seeds, tincture vaults would safely store cancer cells, allergens, viruses, and other anti-diseases.
Strip club patrons would get quite a show, more so than usual, if people really were magnetic.
Amid the dollar bills and drunk-at-noon businessmen, a magnetic stripper, if she spun fast enough around the pole, would melt it. At the very least she would shock herself before shocking the crowd. When a conductor like metal meets a changing magnetic field, the magic of reality induces an electric current in it. Flip-flop this current around enough, and the metal heats up to the point of melting.
You can read the rest of that column here.
By turning the tried and true skeptical method of reserving judgment or conclusion until proper evidence is presented on its head, I hope to attack pseudoscience from a new angle. Rather than looking at systematic reviews that most people wouldn't understand, I want to take the weird into the world, using our own observations as the evidence. It's something that anyone can do, and I hope that you have fun reading what I came up with.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Kyle Hill is a science communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. He has a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering and a master's degree in communication research (with a focus on science, health, and the environment) from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.