Conservative and liberal fear of science

I am not by any means good at science, in fact I avoid taking science classes as much as possible knowing I'll be confused on the first day. But I try to stay as informed as any lay person can. For most of my life I lived in Orange County where a good portion of the population believes in Creationism or Intelligent Design and deny Global Warming. Now, I live in Eugene, where a good portion of the population are non-religious and very liberal. However, I've noticed a similar level of superstition, especially at the UofO campus. While many of the students understand the basic science of evolution and global warming, there is still a big support of pseudo-sciences like homeopathy, "energy," and conspiracy theorists.

I remember trying some homeopathic pills for my chronic insomnia. I took more than the recommended dosage because they weren't really working. In fact, I felt almost more alert on them. I looked at the list of ingredients and was surprised to find arsenic and caffeine. That does not make any sense! Why would someone give another person arsenic in any dosage? And who thinks caffeine is a perfect ingredient for a sleep-aid? Even if the the solution is diluted to the point where it is nearly impossible to actually ingest a harmful level of arsenic, it still is a scam.

I can understand why so many college students are drawn to alternative medicine. Mainstream (or accurate-usually)health care is so expensive and often time consuming. I don't have health insurance and while the campus health center is less expensive than most, I know plenty of students who still can't afford to get the medical treatment they need. I haven't seen a General Practitioner since I was like 7 years old because my family cannot afford health insurance. This is probably why I was sucked into taking unnecessary supplements, "body cleansing" and homeopathy. They were readily available and didn't require the expensive task of finding a doctor. These alternative medicines are also displayed right next to other supplements (multi-vitamins, Omegas, protein shakes) and antibiotics (Tylenol, Asprin, Motrin etc...) that have been used and proven affective more many years. It's easy to believe that HeadOn is as safe and effective to use as an Asprin.

Along with the high price of seeing the doctor and using prescribed medicine, a lot of students (and adults on the left) have a lot of distrust for pharmaceutical companies and even the FDA. I don't know personally how trustful we can be of pharmaceutical companies but I don't understand how many doctors would willingly give their patients harmful medicines without careful watch of any harsh side effects. However, I have had a psychologist prescribe me an anti-depressant for my insomnia quite rashly even though I'm not depressed. There are always a few careless ones. But it seems to me that the Homeopathic Practitioners are scamming poor college students who feel wronged by the medical community and the FDA.

I am a liberal/progressive, feminist and environmentalist; but I feel almost pigeon-holed into accepting the entirety of liberalism, including the extreme end of alternative medicine. I do accept that certain herbs/flowers, like Chamomile, can have healing effects, I feel they should be accepted only as complementary to actual medicine. I take camomile or eat probiotic (or normal) yogurt when my head or stomach hurts and I always feel better afterwards. But if I were having intense migrains, nausia or abdominal pain I don't think yogurt will help. I even will agree that yoga does make me feel good and is a healthy exercise to help someone relax or become more flexible and I say the chant out of respect. But I usually ignore all the spiritual stuff. I feel as if the Atheist or Skeptical community is non-existent at the campus - maybe because it is assumed that everyone is fairly secular. But I think Skeptics or Naturalists need to have more of a presence to bring awareness and education of New Age scams to this area. We also need to present the skeptical view as a more holistic and caring one to liberal students who might confuse us with conservative neo-cons.

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Comment by russell on February 19, 2009 at 6:07pm
I lived in eugene through the nineties, and eugene is a religious town. The stuff I was told with a straight face, like, "if this crystal touches my skin it will burn me, but i need it to be near my skin." what else,, Oh yeah, "The Grateful Dead sound good." Technically not superstition, but it often borders on a cult-like obsession. Besides, the Dead don't sound good most of the time. But the yoga certainly works. Strangely enough, Alistair Crowley tried to strip it of mysticism. His problem was that he was born into Christian fundamentalism. He went the other way entirely. Now damn near anything he says of merit is tainted foolish exploits into the Darkest Brand of Sorcery.
Comment by Talibangelist on January 23, 2009 at 7:37am
This is by no means a criticism but avoiding science classes will, just by itself, paint a path straight to homeopathy. Ayurvedics and the like have been PROVEN in lab trials that they are worthless. Those damn footpads that suck the poisons out of your body via your feet are of the same worthless nature.

Not liking science and remaining ignorant of and to it are two different things. The more science you can pump into your brain the better the efficiency of your "baloney detection kit", of the Sagan variety, will work. The more tools and the better they are, the better armed you are against wasting time in general, not only on homeopathy.

Chamomile and some of those other herbs do have some evidence to support that they are medicinal. White willow bark is where aspirin comes from, for instance. So those aren't all bad but half of the stuff is just "baloney". I'm an engineering physicist, not a doctor or biologist, but I know enough about biology and medicine, through chemistry, to have figured out some of that homeocrap thoguh. If it weren't for sitting through those science classes and learning what does what and how, I'd be a lot more open to homeopathy, which is why it is popular. It is easy to have someone stock items near legitimate medicine and have people assume it is similar, but it is harder to learn and understand the science enough to avoid the junk.

Just my thoughts. I hope you can get insured and/or find the means of affording medical care. I too have no medical insurance and I know how scary and frustrating it can be. Best of luck to you.

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