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South Africa: Flim Flam country

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Description: Who will stand up against the flim flam being pushed down our throats everyday?
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Coenie777
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« on: February 19, 2009, 23:51:03 PM »

I read this in about every magazine now adays. Adverts for foot patches that will detoxify you, a shangoma offering his service for everything you can think about, homeopathic remedies sold as if it is this medical break through.

And nowhere do I see a scrap of evidance of someone openly going against these companies and trying to contest or at least expose them.

We often hear that murderers or hijackers have consulted a shangoma before committing a crime to get "protection". Things that will make them invisible and what not. Has anyone ever heard of a national task team set up to investigate which shamngomas are colluding with the criminals, and do something to them? They are accomplisace to all crimes doen with their "spells' in place surely.

If we can get enough people with enough knowledge and will to pool together and form a body that go out and expose these things for what it is, I will gladly sign up.

Coenie
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Mefiante
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2009, 08:28:13 AM »

The basic problem is that very few of these purveyors of woo-woo are transgressing any laws, mainly because no relevant laws exist.  By its nature, the law can only be reactive, meaning that it can only address what someone has actually done, not what they might do.  Consumer protection in SA is admittedly in its infancy, but I would rather live in a country where caveat emptor is the order of the day than in a place that is stiflingly regulated to the point where you have to watch your every step for fear of Big Brother’s constant interference.  Because, really, the latter is where overregulation tends to head, as evidenced by several EU countries, particularly the Scandinavian ones.

BTW: “Shamgomas” – you just gotta love it! Grin

'Luthon64
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Coenie777
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2009, 22:43:05 PM »

It was late! Did you see how I spelled accomplices?  Wink

I am not talking about legal action per say, just some exposure to what it actually is these people are selling. And to name and shame a few well known chain stores that is always first to take these products onto their shelves. But I guess you will not find a chemist in SA today who do not stock homeopathic remedies of some sort!

But this shangoma connection is something that I am sure can be proved to be contravening some law??
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Mefiante
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2009, 11:28:47 AM »

Do you have some kind of medium or format in mind for doing such exposures?  Short of establishing regulatory bodies (a move we would advise against for reasons given earlier), the least troublesome place for such things is the Internet but that requires directed effort and time to build up a sizeable following.  However, consider that Quackwatch has been going for somewhat more than ten years and that it attracts a large number of visitors daily, yet still people continue to peddle and buy bogus medicine.

The basic problem is that too few people really care enough to make a big, public fuss and the harm is not directly obvious.  It would surprise us to learn that there isn’t anyone in your own immediate family with a penchant for such quackeries.  The old saying applies: “Charity begins at home.”  If one can first make a difference there, one will actually have achieved quite a lot because word is bound to spread among the family.  That is where we concentrate our efforts, augmented by the occasional letter to a newspaper or magazine to protest or critique an article.  It’s a thankless, often frustrating task because few of the letters are published, and when they are they often invite uninformed responses that miss or obscure the basic issue.

'Luthon64
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Spike
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2009, 15:51:16 PM »

Quote
But this shangoma connection is something that I am sure can be proved to be contravening some law??

Tricky.  A.  Because people are too scared to expose the shamgomas  B. You would have to prove that the shamgoma actually influenced the outcome of their venture. At most, you could try "defeating the ends of justice" if they were aware of a planned criminal activity and did not disclose this.  But then you would have to prove that they knew that their clients were planning a criminal activity and not just some general venture where they needed special powers.  C.  If you can prove B, what are you going to charge them with?  Doing magic?   

Quote
However, consider that Quackwatch has been going for somewhat more than ten years and that it attracts a large number of visitors daily, yet still people continue to peddle and buy bogus medicine.

The problem with Quackwatch is that most of the local products are completely off the radar.  I agree that the industry should not be overregulated, but we should at least be able to substantiate the manufacturer's claims of ingredients
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2009, 16:30:37 PM »

There is much truth in Sentinel's signature quote:

Quote
"The problem with the World is stupidity. I'm not saying there should be a capital punishment for stupidity, but why don't we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?" George Carlin

Simply let natural selection run its course, as it has done through several millennia, without the help of sceptics.

Do we really have an ethical obligation to teach scepticism? Will it not be equally repulsive and akin to Christians trying to convert the secular?

I think you either seek the truth by your own accord, or you don't. Scepticism can't be taught.

Mintaka
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Mefiante
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« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2009, 18:40:55 PM »

Unfortunately, natural selection won’t do the job, or if it does, it’ll take a really long time.  If it could, we’d’ve lost our propensity for imprecise and undisciplined thinking already.  One must remember that such loose and fuzzy thinking confers on those who practise it a huge survival advantage, namely that we react quickly instead of hanging around, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on.  The situation is summarised by the saying that it’s better to run away from a tiger who isn’t there than it is to check and then find out that there really is one.  Natural selection only cares about things that either improve or impair survival advantages, not those that are in those terms neutral.  Superstitions may have had some advantageous origin in the past but today they merely make people look stupid to others without affecting their survivability, but that doesn’t mean they lose any of their momentum.

As for an ethical obligation to nurture critical thinking, I think we owe it to future generations not to screw up the world too much for them.  Presently, we’re doing lots of things wrong that we could do considerably better if only some critical, consequent thinking was applied.  Planned parenthood and curbing rampant consumerism are just two obvious examples.  But no, we have various religious and cultural barriers which it is more important to respect than safeguarding the planet’s future.

'Luthon64
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2009, 19:16:22 PM »

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The situation is summarised by the saying that it’s better to run away from a tiger who isn’t there than it is to check and then find out that there really is one.

Fair enough, but remember that the environment is changing. A human child's survival depends less on believing that a river has crocodile, and more on distrusting strangers, witch doctors and alternative medicines. The future environment may well start to favour critical thinkers.

But you raise a point in that this evolution may very well take longer than the time needed to completely stuff up the planet.

Mintaka
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Mefiante
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2009, 19:51:08 PM »

The future environment may well start to favour critical thinkers.
I wish I could be that positive.  The problem is that science and technology, including evidence-based medicine, have been and continue to be so singularly successful that they can carry along enormous amounts of deadwood.  In western societies, for example, most children with serious afflictions who do not respond to woo-woo medicine (actually, their own bodies’ healing abilities) inevitably end up in a modern hospital’s emergency ward when their situation becomes critical.  There, they are in most cases saved, only to be subjected to more woo-woo later on.  That is, the parents won’t learn, so how can one expect that the children will?  In tribal societies, no one much cares if a child dies in the service of some ancestral ritual.

One can reasonably ask how it is that educated people – and by that I mean university graduates in applied sciences – can buy into Feng Shui and assorted other forms of lucky-charm nonsense.  The answer is that they can and do because, firstly, it satisfies, at least temporarily, their craving for the mysterious and mystical, and secondly, it makes no essential difference to their ability to survive.  That is why superstitions continue to be rife even in the most sophisticated societies.  The superstitions are just of a different order of merit, that’s all.

I think that general stupidity will persist more or less at the current relative level simply because there’s enough leeway in the system to allow it.

'Luthon64
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