Cracked Science: Fear and Anxiety | The Body of Evidence

Cracked Science: Fear and Anxiety

Every month, the podcast will conclude with a segment entitled Cracked Science in which I criticize bad science and talk pseudoscience. Here's the transcript from the latest segment:

What do you think if I say "We're sicker than we've ever been"?

How do you react to the claim that "Europe is an empty crib"?

What do you feel when you hear, "Our children are in danger"?

These words were spoken by either Brian Clement or Dominique Belpomme, two pseudoscientists whose talks I have attended. Do you notice a pattern?

A common trick used by swindlers is to utter ominous lies from the pulpit in order to generate anxiety in their audience. They will speak of rising cancer rates with assurance; of the carcinogenic transformation of cooked food as if only fools would argue with the claim; of devastating drops in fertility rates caused by pollutants as a sign that the end is nigh.

The goal in delivering these pronouncements with confidence is to provoke an anxiety which they relieve in their discourse by providing simple but radical answers. In the case of Belpomme, pregnant women must be protected from any contaminant if we are to save the human race; for Clement, the way to a healthy life is through the consumption of raw sprouts and the use of pseudoscientific interventions like colon hydrotherapy. They cannot sell you their salvation if you are not worried sick about the problem for which their product is the answer.

If a health advocate's discourse is based on fuelling fear, odds are they are trying to sell you something that is not based on good evidence. Health issues are rarely apocalyptic. Catastrophizing from the podium is often done to alter your decision-making process. As Frank Herbert wrote in his seminal novel Dune, "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer."