A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

What's the harm? No. 5

These links and comments illustrate the harm done by occult, paranormal, pseudoscientific, and supernatural beliefs. The harm may be tangible and easily documented: physical, financial, or interpersonal.

June 5, 2007. An Australian man died from extreme dehydration after an outback purification ritual involving an attempt to experience a native American ritual called a sweat lodge. Rowan Douglas Cooke, 37, died on November 3, 2004, a day after being dragged unconscious from a heated tent by his alert companions, ten of them, who thought he was astral traveling. The group had gone to the Gammon Ranges in South Australia's far north, for eight days of fasting, meditation, and purification. The group intended to sweat out toxins and prepare their spirits to enter an out-of-body state. One of the dead man's companions, Amy Davis, told an inquest that the surviving would-be Indians tried to revive their companions (another unconscious man recovered) by chanting, drumming, and breaking ceramic pipes over their bodies.

Who was it that said ignorance is bliss?

May 8, 2007. What's the harm in assuming it is true if an M.D. tells you that you have cancer and only a short time to live? Ask John Brandrick. He was told two years ago that he had terminal pancreatic cancer, so he quit his job and spent his savings. A year later he was still alive and wondering why. His doctors told him they were wrong. He wasn't dying. He has pancreatitis.

Imagine what he'd be saying if he'd gone to some quack after his M.D. told him there was no hope. The quack cured me! I was dying until I started coffee enemas and rubbing my tummy with beetle dung and carrot hair. Now I've just got a little inflammation.

It could have been worse. He might have committed suicide to spare himself the agony of a slow, painful death.

Moral of the story? Get a second opinion before doing anything rash when diagnosed with a fatal disease. You don't want to find out at your autopsy that the prognosis was wrong.

May 7, 2007. An unidentified old woman, suspected of being an Ol' Higue, was murdered at Bare Root, East Coast Demerara, Guyana, according to Stabroeknews.

According to local legend, an "Old Higue" is an evil spirit, usually a woman, who transforms into a ball of fire and sucks the blood of people.

She must remove her skin in order to perform this act. She can be stopped by grains of rice, which she is apparently forced to count and by being beaten with a manicole broom.

April 7, 2007. A study of herbal kelp supplements found arsenic poisoning when overused. UC Davis public health expert Marc Schenker and two researchers evaluated nine over-the-counter herbal kelp products and found higher than acceptable arsenic levels in eight of them.* The study, in the April issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (http://www.ehponline.org/) reports on a 54-year-old woman who was seen at the UC Davis Occupational Medicine Clinic following a two-year history of hair loss, fatigue, and memory loss. Schenker says that "chronic exposure to contaminated herbal supplements, even those with moderately elevated concentrations of arsenic, can still be toxic. Consumers won't find such label information on these products, so they could end up like that woman in our study who consumed dangerously high amounts of a toxic substance without realizing it."

larrow.gif (1051 bytes) What's the Harm? archives

* AmeriCares *

The Skeptic's Shop

About harm

It is difficult to assess the harm done to society and the world at large by the spread and encouragement of anti-scientific, irrational, and magical thinking. It is also difficult to measure the extent of harm done to individuals and their families who give up thinking for themselves to follow some guru astrologer, psychic, or cult leader.

It is impossible to calculate the losses to those bilked because they are ignorant of basic logical and psychological principles.

For those cancer patients who are thinking of trying an untested alternative therapy, please read Dr. Stephen Barrett's A Special Message for Cancer Patients Seeking "Alternative" Treatments.

Read this book and you will wonder no more about the harm done by false beliefs


This page was designed by Cristian Popa.