Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Website of the Week: What's The Harm?

I gave up on this (WotW) endeavour for a while, due to a substantial lack of free time, but the very recent news from the skeptical front (as described in my recent posts: here and here) gave me a gentle nudge to plug in this Web site:

What's The Harm

As described there:
We are all confronted with new information daily. It comes to us via newspapers, radio, television, websites, conversation, advertising and so on. Sometimes it seems like a deluge.

Not all information is created equal. Some of it is correct. Some of it is incorrect. Some of it is carefully balanced. Some of it is heavily biased. Some of it is just plain crazy.
It is vital in the midst of this deluge that each of us be able to sort through all of this, keeping the useful information and discarding the rest. This requires the skill of critical thinking. Unfortunately, this is a skill that is often neglected in schools.
This site is designed to make a point about the danger of not thinking critically. Namely that you can easily be injured or killed by neglecting this important skill. We have collected the stories of over 670,000 people who have been injured or killed as a result of someone not thinking critically.
We do this not to make light of their plight. Quite the opposite. We want to honor their memory and learn from their stories.
We also wish to call attention to the types of misinformation which have caused this sort of harm. On the topics page you will see a number of popular topics that that are being promoted via misinformation. Many of them have no basis in truth at all. A few are based in reality, but veer off into troublesome areas. We all need to think more critically about these topics, and take great care when we encounter them.
Many proponents of these things will claim they are harmless. We aim to show that they are decidedly not.
Please check out the list of topics and read what interests you.
[What is this site?]

As stated above, we are under a deluge of uncritical thinking. We run into people trying to get out money, even if it means hurting us. We all see it in our daily lives, sometimes without even noticing it. We all know not to trust a "car salesman", because that's what our experience tells us (they are there to make money), but we trust anyone who appears to try to sell us a book about healthy living, a revolutionary dietary supplement, or an incredible new therapy which cures it all. We might go to a doctor, who seems to have all the proper education, training and experience, but at some point he or she had dived into some sort of alternative medicine. Some of them might do it for profit, some out of honest belief that they are helping us. But belief alone, while providing a nice placebo in some instances, will not cure a real ailment, and if we give ourselves blindly to such beliefs, they just might kill us. Learning form other people's mistakes could save our wallets, health and maybe even our life.