Quacks spread false hope and endanger people’s lives

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Posted 26 April 2016

This article, Quacks spread false hope and endanger people’s lives, by Professor George Claassen, was published online (25 April 2016) at Bhekisisa, Centre for Health Journalism. Prof Claasen is an important and vocal voice against pseudoscience.

Professor George Claassen is director of the Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication (Censcom), at Stellenbosch University. He is the author of a book on quackery in Africa, Quacks, Tricksters and Scamsters: How a nonsense detector can save your life, which will be published later this year.

Some extracts:

“Why do apparently irrational beliefs claim so many strong and vocal adherents? Why, when these beliefs are demonstrably false, is it often impossible to shift the mind-sets of the believers?

The action against a professional health practitioner who prescribed prayer as a solution – without any scientific evidence that it can work and beyond the boundaries of her profession – at the expense of proven medical treatment, gives rise to the question on formal and informal interventions against quacks in Africa. Are the regulatory authorities in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent doing enough to protect the often illiterate and superstition-vulnerable people in especially the rural communities?

Have no understanding of the scientific method and how important the process of peer review and evidence-driven science is, and propagate new diets, “inventions”, “findings” and other non-scientifically proven products (the Theunissens, Landman, Mazarakis, John Webb, John Maytham, Bekker and a host of other media personalities).

The role the media can play to counter pseudoscientific beliefs, cannot and should not be underestimated. Recent developments in the field of science journalism in Africa have led to serious concerns about the independence of science journalists to report on dubious health and marketing practices by companies.

. . . scientists have for too long been too quiet about quackery and pseudoscience. They should be far more outspoken against practices that endanger the lives of innocent people, acting as a united front to campaign against the scourge of quackery.

Read the complete article here

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