Signs You're a Quack | The Body of Evidence

Signs You're a Quack


Seeing as we're all familiar with "The Mote and the Beam", you may be wondering if there is a beam in your eye. More specifically, if you toss and turn at night and wonder "Am I a charlatan?", you may be looking for a mote-in-his-eye fella to describe the gargantuan wooden beam that's blocking your vision.

In the interest of encouraging self-awareness in charlatans, I present to you the following Signs You Are a Quack.

1.    You spend most of your day scaring people.

If you look in the mirror and see Boris Karloff looking back at you, it may be because you are scaring innocent villagers. Brian Clement, he of the raw-vegan-diet-cure-all, loves to tell the people who pay to be in the same room with him that we are sicker we have ever been. Our water has to be demineralized using industrial-grade equipment. A third of our young couples are now sterile. Fear mongering is a hallmark of charlatans. They have to create a problem before they can sell you the solution, and if they get your heart to race as you fear for the safety of your family, all the better.

2.    You block people who politely disagree with you.

If I am wrong about something, I want to know about it. As hard as it is to admit to having made a false claim, learning to say "I was wrong" is the single, most important step toward intellectual integrity and the truth. Which is why charlatans don't do it and run away from dissenters with their fingers in their ears. The Food Babe is notorious for blocking people who have pointed out that she was wrong. I just found out she blocked me on Twitter and I don't remember ever engaging with her. During a Periscope chat, she can be seen blocking a user who was merely asking a question she didn't want to answer. Building an echo chamber around yourself so people can pat you on the back for the nonsense you spout is a sign a duck bill might grow out of your face soon.

3.    You name-drop to impress.

Since you don't have good arguments, you need to wow your audience with your self-determined importance. You mention all the universities where you have done research... or, you know, gave a talk to... for a student group there... or maybe even just visited their campus. McGill, Cambridge, Stanford, Yale. You keep mentioning those "top scientists" you're buddies with, even though they are clearly making fringe claims with little data to back them. You're the Gino Camaro of the medical world. You're clearly overcompensating.

4.    You are David fighting Big Goliath.

You are the One and you must bring the Truth to your enlightened community while fighting off the giant conspiracy of Big Pharma, Big Agro, Big Food, etc. You are just one ordinary citizen, but you feel compelled to share your insight with the public because it is so important. Also, it makes you money. You don't have to be a quack to criticize the pharmaceutical industry; Dr. Ben Goldacre does a fantastic job in his book, Bad Pharma. But he uses well-researched facts and doesn't advocate for the use of wishful thinking. If a system is broken, it needs to be fixed. Just because airplanes occasionally crash does not mean we should switch to flying carpets.

5.    You like straw.

Refuting actual arguments is difficult, especially when you're wrong, which is why you prefer to put words in people's mouths and attack those. In his new book, Brian Clement claims that medical doctors and scientists say "sugar doesn't feed diabetes". I don't know where these doctors and scientists hide, since diabetes is, by definition, high blood sugar! When told to attack a flesh-and-blood opponent, it is much easier to build up a straw man, stab him, and declare victory over your opponent. If you find yourself surrounded by scarecrows and an unsullied sword, be worried. You may be a charlatan.

If you have recently come to realize you may be a quack, do not panic. You can be rehabilitated. You can still do good.

The first step is admiting you're a quack. Come clean, apologize, maybe sell the mansion your dirty money built, and start dedicating your life to promoting actual science.

Stop talking like a duck and embrace reason.


That's gonna happen.