Every morning, I sit back at the breakfast table, crack open my newspaper, and think, "Man, there is a lot of nonsense out there." Or sometimes, "Really? I'm still buying paper newspapers? What is this, 2002?" In any case, the media is always full of ill-supported claims, from house hauntings to aura cleansing to UFO sightings. And these last couple of weeks have been no different. But what can you do to combat this nonsense in the media and around the world? Well, I'm glad you asked. Here are a few ways you can turn a media mess into a skeptical success.
American Homeopath Peddles Fake Medicine in Haiti
What's Happening: News came out this week of a Massachusetts woman who has been working with the organization Homeopaths without Borders to teach locals in Haiti how to use homeopathy to allegedly treat various ailments, from headaches and acid reflux, to eye problems and severe anemia. As regular readers of randi.org know, homeopathy is, by definition, not medicine. Homeopathic remedies contain no active ingredients, and their use may delay a patient seeking real treatment, sometimes with dire consequences.
What You Can Do: Write a letter to the editor at fosters.com, and tell your fellow readers why it is dangerous for organizations like Homeopaths without Borders to promote fake medicine where people are most in need. Be brief and to the point. Be sure to reference the article, "Mass. woman helps promote homeopathy in Haiti."
Ice Loves Coco and Coco Talks to Dogs
What's Happening: Pop culture icon Ice T and his wife are enjoying their third season of Ice Loves Coco on E! and this week, Mrs. T revealed that she has psychic abilities which allow her to wordlessly communicate with dogs (video at the link). Her baffled husband offers her some pretty good advice: "These conversations you have with me, like this; don't have them with other people." Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! Here I thought dogs mostly communicated through barks and the affectionate leg hump, when all this time, I should have been sending my mutts concentrated brain waves.
What You Can Do: Tweet at Coco and encourage her to take the JREF's Million Dollar Challenge, to demonstrate her ability to communicate with non-human animals. With a million extra dollars, she can pocket the cash or give it to the charity of her choice. Be sure to tag us @jref, and as always, be polite.
Superstorm Sandy Victims Deal with Devastation
What's Happening: Unfortunately, this story is not a tale of superstition. The hurricane which ripped through the east coast has left 185 dead, more injured, and totaled at least $20 billion in damage. And now some of the victims are preparing for another storm.
What You Can Do: Show your support for the victims, and promote critical thinking by wearing a Disaster Relief Placebo Band (which turns the "Power Balnce" band on its head). For each disaster relief Placebo Band sold, $2 goes to Hurricane Sandy disaster relief, and for every watch sold, $5 is donated to the cause. Get yours here.
Want to do more to fight woo in your area? E-mail us to get started doing skeptical activism in your home town.
Carrie Poppy is the director of communications at the James Randi Educational Foundation, and a regular contributor to Randi.org.