I am a person who is most comfortable with proof and facts and figures and I understand that some people are more content with matters of faith than with matters of science. I do truly understand that there are some things that science can’t explain and that scientists can get it wrong and don’t know it all. And for the most part I’m happy to live and let live – I don’t believe in healing crystals, or that we are thetans that inherit soulless human forms but some people do and that’s pretty much none of my business. I have two exceptions to that rule;
- Where a belief is harmful to others, and
- Where a belief is used to fool vulnerable people, particularly where information is censored or manipulated in order to prove a point that has been debunked.
I have spent many an hour debating vaccination online with people that fall into both categories; they risk the lives of children in our community by knowingly propagating mistruths about vaccines. Sometimes they have a vested financial interest in industries that try to compete with vaccines, and sometimes unfortunately they are simply part of a larger cult and have for all intents and purposes, swallowed the Kool-aid.
More recently, however, these groups have morphed into anti- government anti-science collectives that proactively discard any piece of information that has been scientifically proven. Looking for a fight, they call scientists shills and science believers sheeple. They point to conspiracy after conspiracy, gleefully dismissing Occam’s Razor, which suggests that the simplest answer is usually correct;
‘In explaining a thing, no more assumptions should be made than are necessary.’
Since most of the time these true believers will only engage in discussion with those they believe they can convert or those they know are already converted, it is very difficult for a science loving person like myself to find out what the real motivation is, and how they can willingly believe – with no evidence for but mountains against – the disproven hypotheses they claim to know as fact. They often have idols who speak maniacally about government conspiracies and hold extreme views of everything known to be true. Some may even have convinced their followers that the earth is indeed flat.
Recently I came across Blocked By Pete Evans, a Facebook group patronised by thousands of other science believers who have been denied the right of response by the self proclaimed health and diet guru. And it occurred to me that to have eagerly and zealously blocked so many people simply for stating an opposing fact, (one backed by rigorous scientific study even), perhaps this is the new form of cult. It kind of defies logic – if a group with thousands of members is named for your habit of silencing them, it may be time to reconsider your position. Assuming you are not too far down the rabbit hole already, which I’d wager you probably are.
Fascinated, I visited Pete Evans’s page, (I have not actually been blocked myself yet). I found references to diet curing everything from Asthma and autism, to mental illness and conspiracies about everything from vaccines to fluoride.
I’ll just pause a moment and let that sink in, because unfortunately we hear these crazy ramblings far too often and with an obligatory eye roll and annoyed grunt we get desensitised to the Pete Evans’s of the world.
According to the site, mental illness can be cured by a Paleo diet. Surreptitiously or otherwise, I actually witnessed a woman being encouraged not to use her meds by commenters because Paleo could save her. There was talk on another thread about how chelation can help ease the symptoms of autism. Pouring bleach down a little child’s throat will apparently cure them of autism.
I have seen threads online with commenters begging the question, “Why so much hate for Pete Evans?” Well, this is why. Because lives aren’t perfect and vulnerable people are always going to be desperate for solutions, and as long as humanity hangs onto this earth by a thread, the unscrupulous Pete Evans’s of the world – the cult leaders if you will – will be there to suggest that a low carb diet can save the afflicted. Except it can’t and the notion is downright dangerous.
The people on my side – the side of science – don’t care what you eat or how you raise your kids, (even if you are denying them decent dental hygiene). They don’t care until until your cult leaders look to cause real damage in the name of furthering their own agenda. Until they put the mentally ill, the neurodiverse, even the adiposally challenged, at real risk. Then it’s not about a diet anymore. It’s about responsibility and a lack of regulations. It’s about protecting vulnerable people from snake oil salesman, especially when that snake oil is poisonous.
I know the internet brings with it a brave new world and censorship is a tricky subject, but surely when people with such a high profile are engaging in such reckless and dangerous behaviour, there is scope for some kind of regulation, or at least a response?
I’m all for the cult leaders having their say – I firmly believe in the scientific process and if that process is correctly followed science wins every day of the week. It has to, because it’s very purpose is objectively identifying the truth. But when they censor information, when they silence critics and knowingly post false and misleading information to thousands upon thousands of followers? There needs to be a voice that speaks against them.