Dan Gardner `Mesmerizes`

Dan Gardner is a regular columnist in Ottawa’s most popular newspaper [[The Ottawa Citizen]]. He writes three articles a week that mostly focus on politics. While his focus on politics might not seem relevant to skeptics, he often finds a way to convince his readers to think logically and rationally about issues.

In today’s column, Gardner educates the reader on the fallibility of human perception. He decides to tell us about Mesmer who in the 1800s coined the term [[animal magnetism]] and who could supposedly heal people with what we would consider today to be magic. The people he treated claimed that they felt better, and therefore healed, but after a few controlled scientific experiments it was shown to be just the [[placebo effect]]. Consequently, no one today believes anyone can be healed through the application of ‘animal magnetism’. Gardner then goes on to critique Prime Minister Harper’s dismissal of crime statistics.

While Harper’s dismissal of the statistics provided by the extremely reliable [[Statistics Canada]] is troubling, I found Gardner’s history lesson in quack medicine to be the most interesting. People’s insistence that an ‘[[Alternative Medicine|alternative]]’ treatment works, despite any plausibility or good scientific evidence, has not changed much over the years. I find it interesting that animal magnetism is disregarded now, but a contemporary treatment at the time that has just as much plausibility and evidence (or lack thereof), is a million dollar industry. While most alternative medicine fall into this category, I’m currently thinking of homeopathy. You can buy homeopathic medicine from a growing number of local pharmacies, and consumers are often unaware that [[HeadOn|some products]] are even homeopathic (i.e. just a placebo).

Boy, I really wish we had more local writers like Dan Gardner…

30. January 2008 by Jon
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