I've been flying a lot this month. In total, I took something like 20 flights, mostly to speak for skeptic groups around the country. (Hello Boston, Syracuse, Houston, Atlanta, New Hampshire and Phoenix!) I stare at things during that uncomfortable time when I'm separated from life-giving electronics (such as this Mac), and a thought occurred to me... this plane is woo-free.
There are any number of strange (to me) objects on a plane, and over time I've learned to identify a few of them. There's a tiny vertical strip of metal on the wing that's used for safety lines so maintenance workers don't fall off. The fins at the tips of the wings are there to reduce drag and thus increase fuel efficiency. And yes, the arm rests on the aisle-side of the seats go up if you can find the latch-a handy trick for getting out of your seat without putting the tray up.
But I don't see anything that I could find in a New Age shop. No crystals, amulets, sigils, or red string. Heck, we didn't even start with a prayer service.
One of the things that's always puzzled me about the anti-vax movement is why people are motivated to rail against something with so much supportive evidence. Sure, there are legions of misinformed parents who think they're helping society by decrying the vaccination conspiracy, and there are certainly those that have experienced personal loss due to the very very rare negative side effects of vaccination. But Chiropractor Dr. Chad Rohlfsen illustrates in abundance what I think might be the primary motive for anti-vaccine rhetoric, and that is pure, simple, banal greed.
At the top of his vaccine911.com web site, Dr. Rohlfsen has the phrase "Because the right choice is the well informed choice." And I realize I'm Godwinning this article, but that phrase found on that site calls to mind the words Arbeit macht frei, which ironically graced the Nazi concentration camps. The fact that that statement is correct does not imply that reading Dr. Koren's material will lead to being well informed.
I used to write for the Huffington Post, an online news and blog collective. It was started by Arianna Huffington during the Bush Era as a response to all the far-right online media. I didn't agree with a lot of what was on there—I am more centrist—but at the time I thought it was necessary.
Then they started to promote far-left New Age nonsense, and when it came to vaccinations, HuffPo started posting all kinds of opinions that amounted to nothing more than out-and-out health threats. While they do sometimes post a counter-argument, it's still almost all alt-med, all the time.
On a recent trip to Sedona, I decided to feign naiveté and enter a few shops in the guise of an open-minded seeker of knowledge. (Wait, I really do try to be that! Guise not needed!) I was prepared to have my worldview changed completely based on what I was told and what happened. I simply would keep my opinion to myself.
I have a friend who has a serious heart condition. It is as yet undiagnosed, and it causes considerable discomfort. Many of the shops in Sedona sell crystals which are supposed to solve health problems such as these, so I presented my case to the shop owners and asked for help. It went like this:
ME: Hello, can you help me? I have a friend who's suffering from a heart condition, and I'd like to see if crystals could help.
CRYSTAL MERCHANT: Oh yes, they're excellent for that. Crystals are very powerful, and don't have the side effects of pharmaceuticals.
I have received a report from N. Innaiah, Chairman of CFI India, and M. Subba Rao, concerning the condition of our colleague Basava Premanand, the revered and justly famous Indian rationalist with whom I have had the honor to be associated for many decades. Premanand is the publisher of "The Indian Skeptic," a journal devoted to exposing the tricks of such frauds as Sai Baba, who is worshiped as a living god by countless naifs around the world. The excellent documentary film "Guru Busters" by British film maker Robert Eagle shows Premanand and his crew zealously exposing supposedly supernatural stunts such as levitation, flesh-piercing and live burials.
Premanand is now hospitalized with a terminal condition, his friends are caring for him, but he's not lost any of his zeal or determination to maintain his rational philosophy.