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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Skeptical activism project. I need your help!

Hey folks, I hope you've been enjoying the blog so far.  When I started, I had intended it to be about skeptical issues concerning Oklahoma, but it quickly evolved into an entirely different beast.  I still cover the occasional Oklahoma topics, but they are normally just a thread in a much larger tapestry.

 And on that note, I recently had an idea for a new activism project.  A major part of the skeptical movement and being a good skeptic is consumer protection.  So with that thought, I want to find as many commercially available items that are based on a pseudoscience as I can.  Then I will either go to their website, or contact them directly and see how they claim it works (quantum mechanics, healing energy, chi, chakras, bio-mechanical, bio-electrical, natural cure, boost immune systems, etc..) and try and get their research, if there is any, and check it.  If it's feasible, I will either have it tested or perform the test myself and compare the manufacturers claim to either what actually happens or what the experts have determined, depending on my ability to test the claim, and preexisting research.  If there is a major discrepancy, then I am going to confront the manufacturers with the results and expert opinions and see what they say.  Then I'm going to post the results for everyone to see.

This is where your assistance comes in.  Basically, I'm giving you a homework assignment.  What I want you to do is contact me with any Woo or pseudoscience product you find.  This can be something you see in a Sunday paper advertisement, walking the aisles in your favorite (or least favorite) store or pharmacy, a product someone tells you about,  or even a late night infomercial.

There are a few ground rules:
1) No psychics or faith healers- The ones you see may not be local enough for me to test, and some of them are damn bloody expensive.  Remember the skeptical movement isn't actually backed by Big anything, so cost is an issue.  Unless someone wants to help fund the testing, this has to be done on my budget of minimal dollars and 0 cents.  If someone is willing to fund part or all of the evaluation of a psychic, faith healer, reiki healer, or anything along those lines, send me an e-mail, and we'll talk.
2) Nothing potentially deadly-  I am not going to use dowsing rods on live explosives to find out if they actually work or not.  2 explosions are enough for my lifetime.  And yes, people have asked me to test things like rattlesnake repellents and a "mystical chi shield" (I still have no idea what it was supposed to do, but the watermelon didn't suffer long.)
3) It must be an actual product- It can't be "I heard about a thing that does a thing from a guy in the hallway."  Imagined products are worse than imagined results.  I could waste a lot of time trying to chase down something that doesn't exist.  This leads to the final rule.
4) Send as much information as you can-  The name of the product is a good start for me to start looking, but the manufacturer, any associated websites, news articles, press releases, and other information makes the research process much easier, and it will allow me to get as much information on the item or service as I can before either testing it, or presenting it to someone that can explain what actually is happening versus the claim(s) the product makes.

So that's it.  Send me the dubious or crap products you encounter, I'll check them out, and possibly confront their makers with the facts and ask them to explain their claims.  The idea is similar to what the Australian Skeptics did with the "Power Balance Band" and they actually got them to issue refunds. This is just on a larger scale in terms of the number of products.  You can leave your suggestions in the comment box at the bottom and I'll get back to you.  Make sure to mention the Questionable Products Project so I know it's not a random troll on the page.

Everyone at The Skeptical Okie Headquarters thanks you for your help on this project.  I doubt we'll be able to do much to effect Big Alternative Medicine (B.A.M.?), or any other Woo mongering businesses out there, but if we can bring the facts and data to an even broader public awareness, maybe we can save some people a lot of trouble down the road.  Until next time, Be good, Be Well, and Be Skeptical.

The Skeptical Okie

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