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15 April 2010

So, "what's the harm?" you might ask

I really quite like this...

I found an interesting web site, today - dedicated to answering the question: "What's The Harm?"

It's a soft argument, often used by people of, what I would call, a non-skeptical nature... to refute the general argument that any false claim (by proponents of drugs that don't work or procedures that do little good) should be tracked down and advertised as non-scientific and unproven.

"What's the harm?" they say. By this, presumably, they mean "if it doesn't do any harm, then there's no problem with allowing people to keep believing it works, whether it does or not".

Now, besides the fact that I would disagree with this basic argument, on principal (more about that some other time, maybe)... even accepting the argument as a valid moral position - the truth of the matter is that many ineffective drugs, non-scientific procedures and false claims do do harm. I have heard many such examples over the years, usually while watching interesting talks from well known skeptics such as James Randi and Simon Singh (who won his libel case today - yay!).

The problem is, I always forget the details, and can't draw them up from my memory banks in a convincing enough way, when presented with the need to do so in argument...

And here's the answer: a web site devoted to recording, documenting and measuring the harm done by fallacious claims and bad (or non-existent) science.

What's The Harm

So bookmark it... and the next time someone says to you "but what's the harm" pull out your smartphone (no product bias here, thanks), load up this page - follow the link to the topic of the hour, and read out a few examples...

If the person you're talking with doesn't become violent with rage over what a smartypants you are, you might just have managed to make a well deserved point...

Have a quick browse through some of the topics covered. I found it quite interesting to see how much detail, and how many examples they've managed to collect.

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