Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Superstition is Not Harmless

I'm an outspoken person. I care a lot about things like science, equality, and the truth. I'm also pretty stubborn, especially when I know I am right about something. Taken together this makes me fairly argumentative at times. I know, shocker, right? On several occasions I've run into people who don't understand why I'm arguing, though. In fact, I've been called a jerk for arguing as vehemently as I will do on occasion. Why do I have to be right all the time? Why not just let some things go and let the crazy people be crazy? And I can see their point. There's no sense in getting worked up over every single issue. I think it is a mistake, however, to trivialize the impact of the 'crazies'. Anti-Vax, Homeopathy, Mysticism...these things may seem like abstract concepts, but people really do believe in them and those beliefs get people killed. Whooping cough is making a comeback and killing children. Ignoring science-based medicine in favor of alternative methods that are not supported in any way by science will only lead to more tragic, preventable deaths.

'But Mysticism is harmless, right? It's just a bunch of superstitions. No one takes them too seriously...right?' Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just ask the ACES Wildlife Refuge in Belize. When two children went missing, a Mayan psychic predicted that they had been fed to the crocodiles at the sanctuary. The resulting mob destroyed the facility and killed several of the animals.

Albinos in Africa live in constant fear of being attacked and sold for parts. Seriously. Right now. Today. This is really happening, because witch doctors are telling people that the blood and body parts from albinos will enhance spells or attract fish. And people believe it! Enough people with enough money believe it that you can make a sizable profit just by killing a few people that don't really count as people anyway because their skin doesn't produce melanin.

It's insane to me that things like this are still happening, but they are. Dismissing superstitious beliefs as harmless has not helped. If people who know better don't get angry and argue and protest, how will it ever change? Even if the crazies will always be crazy, how can we stop them from influencing others without demonstrating loudly how completely and irrevocably wrong these people are? Taking a position and defending it does not make you a jerk. Discrediting someone elses' position with facts and evidence does not make you a jerk. Saying and doing nothing when faced with people acting irrationally because of faith, or encouraging others to do so? I'd rather be a jerk.