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It's Not Just US PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

I was in Canada recently. I live in Vermont and Montreal is a short drive north, but even though we're right next door, Vermonters talk about how things are better in Canada. Affordable health care, less crime, less bigotry, more accessible higher education, more progressive politics, etc. Even their football fields are longer. All of those opinions are debatable, but I did notice a few things of interest.

In many ways, Canada really does seem more advanced. I'll give you one concrete example: traffic signals. All around Montreal, the familiar red, yellow and green traffic lights have been replaced with lights that have red squares, yellow triangles, and green circles. It looks like this (if they were all on):

You can determine the signal by color, position, or shape, which I'm sure is appreciated by people with color blindness. Also, if you have a green light before the opposing traffic does, it blinks rapidly to let you know it's safe to turn across the lane.

Yes, a very small thing, but it's ubiquitous and you're forced to pay attention to it. When you add this innovation to Canada's superior currency and their use of the metric system, it's not that hard to come away thinking, "Wow, the US is so backwards."

Today, my 13-year old son said to me "We're so stupid here in America." Indeed, for the last decade, that's how it's felt. I had to explain to him that we're not a stupid people, that every country has it's ridiculous problems, and that he is fortunate to live in such a great country.

I told him about Canada. It looks great.. it IS great, but it's far from perfect.

An example: I went into a pharmacy (I love unusual candy, and they have a lot of it. Winegums!!) and on the shelf I found the familiar homeopathic "remedies," Kalms and Oscillococcinum, at ridiculous prices. Hanging on a rack nearby were magnetic bracelets, including Q-ray knock-offs.The herbal supplement aisle was long and well-stocked.

These things are for sale here, because Canadian's buy them. Just like Americans do. And the British do, and most everyone else in the developed world.

If you ask Randi if the U.S. is somehow more "woo-woo" than the rest of the world, he'll answer with a decided "No" and explain how other countries simply have different versions of the same old thing.

Because the JREF is in the US, you'll see us write about many of the woo-woo beliefs here, but never think that belief in the unreal is an American problem: It's a global problem.

If you're from a country that is not the US, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave a comment regarding your country's most popular delusion. I'm very curious to see what the results will be.


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it's the same everywhere you go
written by MadScientist, January 23, 2009
I'm reading John Allen Paulos' book on Innumeracy and he makes a point that, partly due to sheer numbers, the USA will have more and better scientists (just an example) than other nations like, say, the United Kingdom. I remember making a similar comment to a guy I was chatting with in the San Francisco airport a few years ago. I was explaining how the USA still leads the world in the development of many alternative power sources and such things as so-called 'clean coal' and carbon dioxide geosequestration. It's not that these things have a high priority, but by sheer numbers, as a nation, we spend more on these things and do more work on these things even though as a percentage of gross domestic productivity we spend relatively little money on these things. So it's really extremely hard to beat the USA at anything. The phrase "only in America" whether said in praise or exasperation is not likely to go away; although we may be the world leaders on many good things, we also lead the world in many bad things.

Having traveled the world a bit, I can vouch that every place (at least every place I've been) has its share of fantastic people, absolute losers, and the terminally stupid. One thing that's hard to miss is that countries with high standards of education and widespread and affordable public education systems are much more productive than countries without all that. Countries with decent education systems also give me the impression that superstition is less rampant.

Now all that quackery in Canadian pharmacies doesn't surprise me at all; Australian pharmacies have been pushing that goop for years. I can walk into just about any pharmacy and buy an 'ear candle' to burn my eardrums with. I wonder if I can do that and claim a few million in compensation ... then I'll have enough money to do the sort of research I'd like to do. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by heathencat, January 23, 2009
I'm from Canada, and right now a ton of my friends seem obsessed with the whole Mayan calendar, 2012 end-of-the-world stuff. Those same people shun religion... I'm not really sure why they can't see the parallels.
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Germany
written by srudloff, January 23, 2009
Being German and having lived in the UK for two years now, I'd say alternative medicine is an everyday delusion in most countries nowadays. I get the impression that in Germany dowsing and even more so the the whole "electrosmog" / magnetism / ley lines proponents seem to be bigger than in other countries. Still, while many Germans may look down on dowsers, they may think magnetism and related topics are "scientific" and hence merit attention.

One comment on MadScientist: I am glad that you closed with "although we may be the world leaders on many good things, we also lead the world in many bad things." To me it's obvious that a larger population will have a larger number of scientists and (hopefully) invest more in science and technology in absolute terms. Still, as a percentage both may be similar across (at least) Western countries. At the same time, as a larger population, you will also have more scientific illiterate people, and have to invest more money (in a absolute terms) to change this. It's just a matter of statistics. BTW, does anyone happen to have a comparison of the amount of science-related expenditure related to GDP?

In general, I'd expect that the larger a population, the higher the probability that you get both brilliant science and extremely obscure woo-woo. What kind of woo-woo will largely depend on the culture and history of the population.
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Traffic lights
written by srudloff, January 23, 2009
Oh, and the traffic lights: I LOVE the Canadian approach. Two things I love in the UK compared to Germany: Roundabouts instead of crossings. Makes traffic a lot smoother, and obliterates the need for traffic lights. Plus: In Germany you have traffic lights only on your side of the crossing. In the UK, you have also ones on the other side of the crossing, so you can just look straight ahead and not have to turn your head, especially if you are the first in line.
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your country's most popular delusion
written by Valis667, January 23, 2009
Well, our president believes taking a shower after sex cures AIDS. Another popular belief among the populace is that having sex with a virgin also cures AIDS (Why we have a large proportion of one-year-old babies being raped). No, I'm not making this up! We have the largest rate of AIDS infections in the world. Our Minister of Health propounds eating beetroot as a cure for AIDS. No, seriously, I'm not making this up! The people also largely believe in witches and witchcraft, human body parts get sold for a premium. We actually have two witches as Members of Parliament, they wear inflated goat's bladders on their heads. There is widespread belief in the Tokoloshi, a small mischievous demon. People but their beds up on stilts, so as to allow this (small) demon to run underneath. No seriously, etc. These are commonly held, widespread beliefs. (There are others, but I don't think anyone will believe me.)
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Netherlands
written by yarro, January 23, 2009
In no particular order:

1. Medium Yomanda - does healings, cold readings, radiated water, the lot;
2. Astro TV - Live astrology, tarot and psychic advice on TV. Despite the mediums being exposed as fraudes, it is still shown on some TV channels and people keep phoning in to the phoneys;
3. Alternative medicine, especially homeopathy is very big in the NL and ;

In the last 10 to 15 years woo woo has been on the rise in the Netherlands. All down to the secularisation of Dutch soceity. A majority of the Dutch no longer believes in the christian god (53% I think it was). Less than 8% of all christians go to church regularly. Christian faith has been replaced by woo woo and Ietsism = although they no longer believe in god, they think there must be something (iets) out there.

On the other hand the evangelicals and/or fire and brimstone churches (so strict in their belief system that they make American evangelicals look like devil worshippers) are still going strong and are even represented in Dutch Government...
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written by Frodis, January 24, 2009
...I found the familiar homeopathic "remedies," Kalms and Oscillococcinum, at ridiculous prices. Hanging on a rack nearby were magnetic bracelets, including Q-ray knock-offs.The herbal supplement aisle was long and well-stocked.


We keep those for American tourists! smilies/wink.gif
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UK
written by Marcus Hill, January 24, 2009
I'm delighted that (as regular readers of this site will know) the UK seems to be moving in the right direction, removing state funding for homeopathic "hospitals" and now requiring many woo-woo types to be properly registered. I'm just eagerly awaiting the day for the requirements of this registration to include proper proof that their claimed powers actually function as advertised.

On the other hand, the popular media are just as replete with supernaturalist rubbish, usually uncritically accepted, as their American counterparts. And don't even get me started on the religites bleating about how oppressed they are whilst the state funds huge numbers of church schools and bishops get parliamentary seats just because of their position in the established church.
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written by Urmensch, January 24, 2009
The one thing that jumps out at me in the UK is the whole detox nonsense. That and food sensitivities.
As I'm vegetarian there is a place I go to buy tofu, miso and stuff like that. They are always selling loads of stuff for detox. There is one tree syrup that sells for £40 a litre that is supposed to help detoxify. It really is a racket.
Don't they know what the kidneys and liver are for?
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written by jensfiederer, January 24, 2009
Of course, there are some downsides to Canadian health care - although my Canadian friends seem pretty satisfied with it. When you want some treatment you can't get in Canada and are willing to pay for it, it is not a long drive to the U.S.A - although in the movie The Barbarian Invasions socialist principles get in the way ( http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=2756 ).

There is a parasitic quality to the Canadian approach that concerns me if we try to emulate it. Over there, they get their drugs cheap (under implied threat of not honoring our patents). Over here, our over-payments fund pharmaceutical research for the whole world. If you really think the drug companies have it so good, go ahead and buy their stocks.
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I'm from Argentina
written by Julián Rodriguez Orihuela, January 24, 2009
I'm from Argentina, and I'd say the most acclaimed woo-woo here must be Homeopathy, herbal remedies and such. Oh, and perhaps feet massage or, as some people like to call it, reflexology.

I don't know if psychoanalysis is considered woo by the JREF standards, if it is, add it to the list!
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Sweden...
written by Jakse, January 24, 2009
Astrology, alternative medicine and that kind of woo is fairly common, as is the belief in what's generally refered to as 'something' (ie not exactly a god, but something), unfortunatly it also appears that organized religion is on the rise aswell.
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Norway...
written by Ratatosk, January 24, 2009
The usual acupuncture, homeopathic remedies etc. And the latest addition: A healer called "Snåsamannen" that thanks to major media attention is getting more and more credit and has a book that sells more and more...
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written by StarTrekLivz, January 24, 2009
In October 2008 I visited my godson in Romania; the Orthodox Church sells "miracle" ikons (mass produced paper pictures of historic painted religious art laminated onto plywood) to safeguard homes against fire, marital strife & infidelity, and to ensure fecundity.

Charms, spells, and countermeasures were available in street corner stalls (one across the street from the University of Galati medical school).

My godson's best friend paid to have an Orthodox priest bless his car and hang tiny ikons in it (which didn't seem to work, the car was vandalized and items stolen from it 3 days later).

The "farmacii" (pharmacies, unlike American drug stores, they are tiny stores selling only prescription medication) dispense homeopathic remedies and herbal concoctions (which their doctors prescribe). (Note: before I went there since I have health issues I checked the US State Dept. advise for travelers to Romania: they said bluntly, "If you have a medical issue in Romania, go to Germany.")

Country roads will have shrines to local saints to protect against evil spirits and traffic accidents.

Parts of the country were just like any "Dracula" movie you've ever seen, with peasant remedies like Orthodox crosses & ikons, holy water, & garlic. Once you get out of large cities like Bucureşti or Timişora or Constanţa, you're back in Bram Stoker's novel.
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written by Paul Claessen, January 24, 2009
I see people from various countries here mentioning mediums, astrology and alternative medicine.
I'm sure the most popular and common delusion out there is still religion!
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Finland
written by Esc, January 24, 2009
Heya!
I see... Here in Finland (I have thought) we don't have that much "woowoo". We do have few 'famous' super-woo-masters. One that believes in everything suspicious from "secretly inserted chips in our brain" to UFOs. I remember her name was Rauni-Leena Luukanen-Kilde. Here's one of her many videos with English subtitles... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eotAFPvzbNQ
Next super-woo-master would be Juhan af Grann. Don't know much about him.
For overall peek in our country's condition, I think our biggest problem is alternative healing methods and UFOs. Nothing big, but still... smilies/grin.gif
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The Netherlands
written by beowulff, January 24, 2009
The Dutch love woo so much we even import it. Uri Geller is back on TV, and the American medium Char is still popular.
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North Carolina
written by Cuddy Joe, January 24, 2009
Southern Baptist Church.
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written by Thanny, January 24, 2009
I have a quibble with this. Superior currency? Last time I went to Canada, which was about ten years ago, I several times handed a cashier paper money weighing a fraction of an ounce, and received back as change fifty pounds of coinage. I did not once receive a smaller denomination of paper, only slabs of metal.

Any currency which threatens to throw your back out the more you shop with it has a design flaw.
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written by Michelle, January 24, 2009
I like Canada... I'm from Quebec City. But it has many faults. Freedom of speech is, like in the US, constantly spat on. There was a case a few years back when the CRTC (our FCC equivalent) said they wouldshut down a ratio station completely in Quebec City because they didn't like what the folks there said. But a few protests and bows and apologies later, the station is still there. But it suffered a lot, they fired their main jockey.

And yea, the nonsense is here too. I always freak out when I see the homeopathy in pharmacies. One of them even sells their own brand of woo medicine. Their own homeopathic pills, their own magnetic bracelets... It's disgusting.

My friend gives homeopathy to her rats. She swears it works. Of course, rats have a small life expectancy to begin with so when they die she can fall back on that excuse... She also belated the vaccines on her child because she feared it would give her autism. It's shameful.

Great friend though.

Religion side, we're a bit less catholic around here. But it's still there. We have our share of pedophile priests. One of them was moved by the church from here to france when the scandal arose. He got arrested there for pedophilia. Looks like he didn't grab his chance at redemption.
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UK, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by markbellis, January 24, 2009
Less bigotry? Jeff, if you moved to Montreal, it would be illegal for you to send your son to an English language school, if you could find one, as the language police in Quebec made them cover up their signs. At the beginning of this year, there was a comedy show produced in Montreal by Radio-Canada which said it was "...practical to have a black U.S. president because he will be more visible in the White House and easier to shoot" and which frequently used the word « nègre » to describe blacks - and despite what you might read, using it in that context in French carries the same sense that the equivalent word has in English. And you can even get 714-x here, which is most a solution of camphor in water formulated by Gaston Naessens, who settled in Canada after being convicted of illegally practicing medicine in France, and who enjoyed the support of a provincial cabinet minister who was responsible for banning the public use of English who thought this magic potion was shrinking the cancerous tumor that eventually killed him.
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written by brucea, January 24, 2009
A few comments, as a Canadian.

Our health care system is okay. The waiting lists for non-critical care are perhaps a bit too long, but for critical care I will put it up against any system in the world, based on personal experience, and discussions with others receiving critical care. In my circumstance, my 17 year-old son (sad story) had an issue with his leg. He visited the local emergency department on a Saturday; was scheduled for an ultrasound on the next Tuesday; it didn't look right, had x-rays same day; looked worse; had CT scan the next Wednesday; not good; flown (yes, airplane, at no cost) to closest Cancer centre the next day; biopsy on the Friday, and stared chemo on the Monday. Working for a large company, I don't think we could have acted at that speed. During the course of treatment, he underwent a couple of MRI's, with no delay. Unfortunately, we caught it too late Osteogenic Sarcoma, the same cancer Terry Fox had, but during the over two years of treatment, I have few complaints. I've heard similar stories from others - if you are truely sick, our system is top notch, but if it is non life-threatening (i.e., hip replacement etc.), we are perhaps a bit slow (but getting better). This begs the question - what should peoples expectations be? (How do you control costs?)

Never mind Q-Ray knock-offs. The Q-Ray bracelet is still advertised on television here. Bummer.

Traffic lights are a provincial thing - the Quebec situation is only in Quebec. Fortunately, I believe around the world, the order of the lights is the same, which means that colour-blind people are fine (my father is colour-blind, and he depends on light position, not colour). Regardless, if it is a good idea, it likely will be adopted country-wide within a decade.

Roundabouts - Canadians can' do roundabouts. We lived in Oz for three years, and loved the roundabouts - the rules were clear, and Aussies knew the rules. For low to medium volume intersections, they are brilliant. Unfortunately, we don't do them well here (Canadians typically hate roundabouts, or "Traffic Circles" as they are more typically known.

Currency - for a brief time, in the last two years, the Canadian $ was worth more than the yankee $. With the meltdown, the $ has regressed to about $0.80US. As far as style of currency - I love the different colours of Canadian versus American currency (which tends to be green, green, green...). My favourite currency that I have been exposed to is the Oz currency - different colours, plus it is basically indestrucbile plastic. In addition, they have ridded themselve of the curse of the penny as cash, which I'd love to see Canada do. (The penny continues to exist for non-cash transactions such as cheques, EFT's, etc.)

I also love the "loonie" (one-dollar coin) and "twonie" (two-dollar coin). It only takes one visit to the US to realize how fortunate we are.

And finally - the metric system. (full disclosure - I'm an engineer). Canada has accepted fuel by the liter, and temperature in Celsius. However, we still sell a lot of things by the pound, talk about fuel efficiency in mpg, and build our house using 8' studs (or 10', or whatever food). This sucks. Australia did a much better job of the conversion by expunging imperial units. Fortunately, I believe future generations of Canadians will be metric (talk to a 10-year old about 25 cm, and they know what you mean; talk about 1 inch, and you get a blank stare.

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written by Diverted Chrome, January 24, 2009
It's always fun to acknowledge the differences. It's why we travel.

"but even though we're right next door, Vermonters talk about how things are better in Canada."
Even though? I would assume that's the reason they talk about it - most of them have seen it first hand.

I've been to Canada numerous times and visited half the provinces. I've also worked in America with a Canadian group. You might think that it works both ways, that Canadians would say "things are so much better in America" but I have found this not to be the case. Most Canadians like what they have and know what they've got. I've yet to meet a Canadian who observes the differences and then concludes the USA is a better country overall. America's nice, too, but Canada is a fantastic country from a social perspective, for reasons you mentioned and more. They don't have the "big brother is watching you" mentality. I've witnessed ultra-laid-back occurrences in that country that no-way-in-hell could happen in the US. We're very over-regulated and creatively strangled in the US and we have an "I'm telling!" attitude of taking advantage of each other. We have a very competitive distrust-your-fellow-man atmosphere that I haven't experienced up there (though that tide may now be shifting here). Canada has the strategical advantages of a)better transportation b)lower birth rate c)lower poverty d)lack of poverty-stricken hopefuls pouring over the southern border e)excellent education and the biggest of all: 1/10th the population using a larger land mass! If they found themselves with our population things would be different.

America got lost for two decades regarding health care, education, and religion (ask a Canadian if a non-theist can get elected or if a Prime Minister can ask people to pray or go to church and still hold office). The one thing Americans believe about Canada is that it's too cold/dark to bother with (Windsor Canada is actually the same latitude as New York and Montreal the same as Portland Oregon). It's NOT easy to move there, I looked into it. Also, it was only on my most recent trip north that the US$ was weak. Every other time I went north the dollar was strong (Canada was still too expensive) and that will happen again in time.

Re: Canadian education - why is the US the only 1st world country where you have to pay your own way through university at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars? Even in Russia you go for free.

BTW, I haven't seen those traffic lights in Vancouver or Calgary; maybe they're just a Montreal thang. But in CH lights turn yellow again to warn you that they're about to turn from red to green. This prevents a lot of problems. Why the heck can't we do that here?
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The right not to be offended
written by NoDeity, January 24, 2009
In Canada, there is the belief that if someone says or prints something that makes somebody else feel bad (eg. by saying something bad about their religion), it is necessary or even desirable for a governmental kangaroo court to step in. So, we have an organization with the Orwellian name, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and all the various provincial and territorial HRCs, each of which practise depriving people of their right to freedom of expression.

To get a close-up look at this foolishness, go to YouTube and do a search for Ezra Levant, the former publisher of a magazine that dared to reprint the infamous Danish cartoons.
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NORWAY! NORGE! NORUEGA! NORVEGESE!
written by Adavidson, January 25, 2009
Right, my name is Andrew Davidson, I am half Scottish and Norwegian, moved to Norway at 7, I am now 20.
Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, and we have year after year been if not the best, then damn close to the best country in the world to live in.

Norway is a christian country, some 90% of the population are members of the church and although most people will say they do not believe in the traditional teachings of the church, they will almost definitely say that they believe in God, a higher power, and Jesus. Norwegians are mostly loving, harmless people, but they have a few quirks.. :

1. A great deal of the population believes in healers.
There are pleanty of places to go were you can have people put their hands on you, touch a few pressure points and cure you of just about any medical problem you might have. What bothers me the most is that a lot of norwegian docters send patients to such places because of thier own, subjective belief in them. Their has recently been a lot of whoha over an 75 yo old man who has been healing people his whole life. He has never charged anyone money, nor recieved any, and is sincere in wanting to help people. He has become public figure number one and everybody loves him...

2. Ghosts and psycics
Their is a program on the tv called "åndenes makt", ~ "power of the spirits". Two or more psycics go into haunted houses etc, tell people who lived here, fish for information that sometimes strikes a hit. Norwegians love this stuff, and most people who I have spoken to just accept it as real without any further investegation. When I tell them a little bit about James Randi, Derren Brown, Michael Shermer etc they are often in shock. I sometimes wonder if they are aware that there are other countries.

3. Anything supernatural
If it sounds spooky, seems or looks unexplainable they will suck it up like gello. I am actually amazed to discover that their are so many people in my generation that truly believes that Jesus was the man the bible says he was, and that they have a personal relationship with him. Most of them have not even read the bible, and when I quote some Jesus for them, like in Matthew 25:1

"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom." Or this one, my favourite; lukas 19, 27:

"But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."

A loving people, but desperate to have something to hold on to. Not all of them of course, there ar a few like me too. That have "faith" in themselves, their family and friends.

Finally I would like to end this with a quote from Americas finest philosopher, Homer Simpson:

Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else -- and it hasn't -- it's that girls should stick to girl's sports, such as hot oil wrestling and foxy boxing and such and such.
-- Homer Simpson
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If not god or religion then somethingelse.
written by Josh111485, January 25, 2009
This is in response to heathencat's earlier comment. I think that if by some "miracle" everyone stopped believing in god and everyone shunned religion tomorrow there would still be woo-woo. I know atheists who believe in the efficacy of chiropractic and others who believe 9/11 conspiracy theories. If not god and religion it will be some other form of woo.
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USA
written by bosshog, January 25, 2009
I think the biggest fallacy in the US is the belief that the possessive form of the pronoun "it" is spelled with an apostrophe (it's).

I kid, I kid.

I've long felt that the world community shoots itself in the foot when it belittles the USA. We are, after all, composed almost entirely of YOU (excepting the Native Americans, of course). What we exhibit is really just a composite of human nature under the conditions peculiar to our form of government and social structure. Humans are both wise and foolish, skeptical and credulous, and it shows. But overall I'd say that the countries with the highest educational levels display the least (or at any rate the least egregious) reliance on superstition.

Stay the course, Adam!
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Religion Still the Greatest Woo-Woo and More on Romania
written by StarTrekLivz, January 25, 2009
I agree heartily with Paul, above, that Religion is the greatest woo-woo.

In my visit to Romania, I was astonished how the combination of the Orthodox Church and a rural peasantry followed by the economic problems leads to a desperate belief in spirits, potions & charms for love & prosperity, etc. (agriculture is still their largest "industry," and they still use horse-drawn wagons & plows; the Indian magnate Mital bought the steel works in Galaţi which employed 10,000 people, and it cost less than his house in London -- the Nicolae Ceauşescu years were terrible for Romania [e.g., 1/2 of all newspaper article content had to consist of praise of Ceauşescu, and he did not encourage the study of Science or Rationality because it conflicted with his cult of personality] and that ideology does not create a wealth-building society).

But here in the USA, are we really any better? We have Mormons & Scientologists (whose religions can be demonstrated to be 19th & 20th Century for-profit corporations), people seeing Jesus and Mary in their grilled-cheese-sandwiches, in spite of the horrific scandals and financial malfeasances, Ted Haggard's, Rick Warren's, and the Roman Catholic churches are still going strong, duping people into "Pay Now, Live Happy in Heaven Later" schemes.

People frequently turn to Religion, especially "conservative" or "fundamentalist" religion when times are bad; freethinkers & rationalists should be concerned (for example, Obama is merely reorganizing the "Faith Based Initiatives" Office in the White House, not eliminating this blatant violation of Constitutional principles separating Religion and the State.

PS I misspelled a couple of the city names: Galaţi, Timişoara
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Australia
written by BillyJoe, January 25, 2009

Chiropractic, acupuncture, magnets, herbs, liver detox, and ear candling.

As for the metric v imperial system: it's just that the metric system is so much more practical, but the imperial system is definitely and by far the sexier. It's just common sense to have the metric, but I hope all thise sexy imperial words do not disappear from our language.

And, as for the person who said the imperial system evolved and therefore should be preferred, it would be wise to remember the appendix, coccyx, and wisdom teeth that have also outlasted their practical usefulness.

BJ
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written by luisclaudio, January 25, 2009
Here in Brazil we're having much less woo-woo than few years back, but what happened left some scars, like for example acupuncture being a medical specialty, having an official Medical Homeopathy Brazilian Association and some weird cases like a criminal being considered not-guilty after a psychic send a letter from the victim saying that the defendant wasn't his murder. And,cherry in the cake, our most famous debunker is a catholic priest, the spanish Óscar González y Quevedo.
But lately there's a few paranormals in evidence. Saturday reappeared the "ufologist" Urandir Fernandes de Oliveira, (interesting enough, his initials are U.F.O.), who has a farm in brazilian highlands called Projeto Portal where he receives thousands of people and says that he can talk with Ashtar Sheran himself. Another one, a man called Jucelino Nobrega da Luz, who claims to dream with disasters and writes letters warning people from the catastrophes, and got authorization by the brazilian national court to seek for the reward of the capture of Saddam Hussein from the government of the United States, which he wrote a letter describing his secret hiding, was last seen in Japan, on a TV show, showing his claims and proposing to find the murder in a famous case.
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written by Kimpatsu, January 25, 2009
I had to explain to him that we're not a stupid people, that every country has it's ridiculous problems...

and
These things are for sale here, because Canadian's buy them.

Evidently, Jeff, one of the problems that is ubiquitous is the misuse of the apostrophe...
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written by JimC, January 25, 2009
I wonder what Randi thinks about this commentary in light of his decision long ago to move from Canada and become an American citizen. Perhaps he'd write a comment of his own.
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written by janis1207, January 25, 2009
LATVIA
Dowsing, of course. No "sensible" person here will build a house without consulting dowsers first! And it's not just MBA's, it's engineers as well...
Then of course we get Russian woo-woo imported. They have a lot on offer! Books and personal visits from the miracle workers Alan Chumak, Pavel Globa, various cure-it-all devices, torsion field based stuff, etc.
Homeopathy is mainstream. Various herb based remedies are traditionally also called "homeopathic" here, so one must be careful indeed before purchasing anything of the kind.
With kids more or less free to choose subjects they wish to study in secondary school it's small wander they are selecting history of art or literature over physics and chemistry. It's easier this way. Unsurprisingly, without understanding how the world really is working, they are very susceptible then to various "energy" and "alternative" teachings.
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BC Canada
written by Newcoaster, January 25, 2009
I'm a physician who moved from the Prairies to the wet coast a few years ago.
The west coast mentality is certainly soft on all kinds of alternative medicine and New Age religion. I live in an area that is particularly rife with it, and even some local MDs offering sCAM services, like acupuncture, EFT and Healing Touch. I've had to educate myself about all these things, and challenge patients and colleagues about unsubstantiated beliefs many of them hold. JREF has always been a great resource for quickly boning up on something I've never heard of.

Overall though Canadians are just as gullible about stuff as Americans, though to our credit, we are less religious, and you rarely hear of religion/god mentioned in our politics.
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France
written by advancedGIR, January 25, 2009
National lottery scratch cards with a very low actual gain potential (most of the "gains" are just ticket refund), and a president that said in a public speech that the morals of a schoolteacher will always be inferior to the one of a priest.
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Japan
written by Vratar, January 26, 2009
I lived in Japan for three years teaching English, and one superstition that seems very prevalent at all ages is that your blood type determines your personality. This actually has an impact on who people are willing to date and marry. They limit the superstition to just the major type -- A, B, AB, and O. Positive or Negative doesn't seem to have any impact.

One of the first things the kids asked me on my first day of class was what is my blood type. They were amazed that I didn't know, and had to look it up on my Red Cross card in my wallet. I, of course, had no idea why they were asking me this question, which amazed them even more; EVERYONE knows how important your blood type is!
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written by dead yeti, January 26, 2009
There is a chinese CAM store/practice in my hometown in West London, UK which has a hugh poster across its outside wall advertising fertility by accupuncture.
Someone has then graffitied across the bottom of it 'Small pricks making women pregnant since 1976'
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written by grochon, January 26, 2009
Great article Jeff. I'm Canadian and will be the first to admit that Canucks are not immune from woo-woo ways of thinking...
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written by tokoloshe, January 26, 2009
I picked up this at the robot (aka traffic light) a while ago.

People like this can wield great power in South Africa. There are still more than enough naive suckers who believe all this bullshit with wide eyed fear. And pony over fistfuls of cash for various treatments / remedies / magic spells etc.



Thought the back of the flyer was worth scanning too. That's some impressive cream!




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Less Bigotry?
written by cwniles, January 26, 2009
Less bigotry? In what respect? Are you somehow trying to say that Canadians are more tolerant of differing opinions/lifestyles/races than Americans? That strikes me as a generalization that cannot be proven to a reasonable degree.

Affordable health care, less crime, more accessible higher education, more progressive politics, etc. longer football fields, yeah, sure, that can qualified with stats etc. but that bigotry thing...I have to disagree with you on that one.
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written by Adam_Y, January 26, 2009
Yes, a very small thing, but it's ubiquitous and you're forced to pay attention to it. When you add this innovation to Canada's superior currency and their use of the metric system, it's not that hard to come away thinking, "Wow, the US is so backwards."

No. I come away thinking that this is the most pathetic argument I have read on the Swift blog in a long time. Oooooo.... Traffic signs for the color blind. It's not like you can't find traffic signs for the blind in the United States.
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written by Cuddy Joe, January 26, 2009
Though I like plaid flannel, I've never forgiven Canada for sending Martin Short south.
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UK
written by latsot, January 26, 2009
As others have said, probably the most apparent delusion in the UK is in the area of food and other health fads including the usual suspects of homeopathy, accupuncture, detox diets, anti-aging diets etc. Don't get me wrong, we're a bunch of anti-vaccine, anti-science, magical-bracelet-wearing, astrology-believing idiots as well, but the food and health scams seem to be both more prevalent and more mainstream. Our media has a casual attitude to this kind of thing and you'll find the BBC news endorsing one brand or another of this nonsense on a daily basis. The media just dob't care whether what they are promoting actually works (or even whether it is harmful). They justify this shameless behaviour with the familiar and odious "it's what people want to see."

Another problem in the UK is our attitude towards religion, which has led us in an unfortunate direction. Criticising religion is now widely frowned upon and the spectre of 'causing offence' by simply disagreeing with someone about a magical sky fairy has a large and negative impact on our society and law-making.
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written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
Criticising religion is now widely frowned upon and the spectre of 'causing offence' by simply disagreeing with someone about a magical sky fairy has a large and negative impact on our society and law-making.

In Australia recently, an atheist organisation that wanted to place advertisements on buses, as has already happened in England, was refused on the basis that the ads may "cause offense".

(In the news today, it was reported that the atheist organisation would be taking the issue to court)

BJ
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MEXICO!!!
written by David C., January 26, 2009

It can't get more ridiculous than the Guadalupe virgin, every catholic household has an image of it and they usually never throw them away when its in the form of a calendar . And lets not forget that almost every town has their own virgin Mary in some other dress color, she must have her own designer.

David C.
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written by NoDeity, January 26, 2009
In Canada, criticizing Christianity is socially acceptable but criticizing Islam can get you in hot water, both socially and legally. I strongly disapprove of Christianity but it's becoming increasingly clear to me that Islam is even worse.
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written by BillyJoe, January 26, 2009
criticizing Islam can get you in hot water

...as the danish newspaper cartoons demonstrated.
Those cartoons should be printed every day until muslims understand that freedom of speech is as important to us as Muhammad is to them.



A secular society is one in which no one loses any liberty as a consequence of someone else's religious beliefs.

BJ


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written by NoDeity, January 27, 2009
Those cartoons and others like them should be printed and reprinted until Muslims understand that their religion does not entitle them to special rights (eg. the right to not be offended. http://tendersensibilities.com/
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written by latsot, January 27, 2009
The violence and outrage associated with the Danish cartoons was largely a set-up. First, the cartoons had been published (in Denmark) for about six months before anyone (in other countries) suddenly found them offensive. This was a result of various people organising a campaign to deliberately incite outrage and - I strongly suspect - violence. Second, the cartoons muslims found most offensive were not even included in the original publication (and are not pictured above). One, which appeared to depict Mohammed with a pig's snout, was added later and never published by the Danish paper. It was actually a badly photocopied picture of a Frenchman taking part in a pig squealing competiton, whatever one of those is.

This deliberately orchestrated campaign had a sadly predictable result and resulted in property damage, injury and death.

I don't believe in causing offence on purpose, no matter how ridiculous the target's belief. But I resent very strongly the assertion that certain ideas are beyond criticism and the idea that being offended is a justification for violence.
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written by latsot, January 27, 2009
Quoting myself: "I don't believe in causing offence on purpose, no matter how ridiculous the target's belief."

I should probably have added that neither will I don kid gloves. If what I say offends people, that's tough. But I don't set out to offend people, as a rule. Except when I do.
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Jesus said THAT?
written by AlmightyBob, January 27, 2009
Adavidson wrote:

>when I quote some Jesus for them, like in Matthew 25:1
>"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet >the bridegroom."

Um, yeah, that does sound a little strange. If you read the rest of the parable, though, instead of taking one line out of context, he explains what he means by that.

And:
>Or this one, my favourite; lukas 19, 27:
>"But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in >front of me."

Andrew, did you even read the passage, or just look for nasty-sounding lines. Look it up again - this line is spoken by a cruel-sounding character in a story J is telling.

And yes, foax, I'm expecting down-votes for this - that's what you get when you post something that's not anti-religion enough. smilies/wink.gif
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written by BillyJoe, January 27, 2009
Although my experience is similar to yours, and I now regularly receive negative votes, even for rather innocuous or tongue-in-cheek or obviously humerous posts, I think you will fare better here. However, if there is any subtlety in your response and it sounds even remotely against the general consensus, expect to be knocked down with negative votes without any reasons given (the invisible voter). My suggestion is to ignore the votes because they are almost meaningless.
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written by NoDeity, January 27, 2009
That brings to mind another silly popular belief, which is that democracy is a valid means of deciding what is true or what is the right thing to do.
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written by WendyInCanada, January 27, 2009
I'm from Canada, and I think our most ridiculous delusions are pretty much the same as everywhere else: religion, homeopathy and other alternative "remedies", astrology (UGH!!!!)... Etc, etc. People will believe whatever you tell them!
Our politics may be secular and even progressive sometimes, but as an American I'm sure you'd agree with me when I say a country's politics don't always reflect its people!
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metric? No thank you!
written by maddog, January 28, 2009
I contend that the biggest problem with the metric system is that many of the complex units are *named*, instead of keeping their derived-base-unit terms. This makes it more difficult not only to learn the system, but also to get a feel for the physical meaning of the unit. Also, without that intuitive feel for the unit, it is really difficult to know when you need to multiply or divide by 10, 100, 1000, or some other power of ten.

For example: Pressure
In the English (aka Imperial) system, pressure is most commonly measured in "pounds per square inch". Well, even if I didn't have the greatest concept of how much pressure was a lot, I know what pounds and inches are, so I'm likely to be able to figure something out from there. Also, it's easy to see that you can figure the total force by multiplying the pressure by the area (in square inches).

In metric, pressure is measured in Pascals. No offense to Monsieur Blaise Pascal (and really, you want to honor a total WOO-head like him?), but WTF is a pascal? I think it is a re-naming of "Newtons per square meter". Or it might be "Newtons per square centimeter". I can't remember for sure, and that exemplifies part of the problem - because there's a factor of 1000 that I could be off. And then... um, what's a Newton? Isn't that a brand of cookie with figs in the middle? No, it's a measure of force, either kilogram * g (gravitational constant) or gram * g, again I can't remember which; another possible error factor of 1000. But then, isn't a kg a force? It's a weight, isn't it? Or...

Not that the English system is perfect, but, personally, I vastly prefer it.
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written by LuigiNovi, January 28, 2009
The color blind can determine the status of U.S. traffic signals by position too. The only thing that the Canadian ones have that the American ones don't is the shape.
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written by BillyJoe, January 28, 2009
I can see absolutely no reasom to have the different shapes. Is there a before and after study to see if they actually help prevent traffic accidents?
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About the traffic lights
written by Jetfire, January 30, 2009
The horizontal traffic lights are a French (or French Canadian) thing. You only see those in Quebec, Northern New Brunswick and in Moncton, New Brunswick. (Even in Riverview, so close you can only tell you left Moncton and entered Riverview by the signs, I think they have the 'standard' vertical traffic lights). There may be a few other French enclaves with them as well, but those are the only areas I see them.

And the Flashing Green signal is used in the States too; generally in places where they were too 'cheap' to buy lights with Green Arrow signals.

As for Metric vs Imperial, I (in my 30's) am definitely a hybrid. Celsius and Kilometers and Liters are my main measurements and I have to think for a second when I get Fahrenheit/Miles/Gallons, but for smaller measurements I'm more for inches. (And I have no head for weights/masses at all, so grams or pounds make little difference to me. smilies/tongue.gif )
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written by BillyJoe, January 30, 2009
As for Metric vs Imperial, I (in my 30's) am definitely a hybrid. Celsius and Kilometers and Liters are my main measurements and I have to think for a second when I get Fahrenheit/Miles/Gallons, but for smaller measurements I'm more for inches. (And I have no head for weights/masses at all, so grams or pounds make little difference to me

That about sums it up for me as well...
...but don't you think pounds and inches sounds sexier than grams and centimeters?
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Note on Japan:
written by donjunbar, February 01, 2009
That blood-typing superstition comes from Nazi propaganda.

http://www.physorg.com/news152723712.html
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