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Unrestrained
 
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Taking candy from babies

01 February 2012, 16:00

This is not a long piece, as I’m searching more for what readers think, as opposed to wanting to make a point. This article relates to product scams and fads that regularly seem to sweep the world. South Africa is no exception. I’m talking about things such as wrist bands, which use voodoo spirit summoning to help you maintain better balance, and herbal footpads, which use ground mushrooms, vinegar, tea and some sciency-sounding sales pitches to suck all the bad bodily toxins out of your non-porous feet. Snake Oil has not disappeared from our world. That same old wolf has just become wise enough to always wear a new sheep’s clothing. 

 

Now, I am NOT attempting to start a debate around whether these things work. The simple fact is that science says that they don’t and, yet, the products still hit our shelves and people are scammed into spending hundreds of Rand on things that, in the end, only go so far as to take advantage of the Placebo Effect. For a more in-depth read around these issues, I would STRONGLY recommend the book ‘Bad Science’, by Ben Goldacre, which, quite frankly, should be a compulsory High School read.

 

Getting now to the point … let us assume, for the sake of this debate, that these things do not work. Despite this, many people will swear to the positive benefits that they have, personally, felt and will even go so far as to say that they do not care that science cannot back up the product, as it’s what they feel that matters in the end. In short, these products have ‘anecdotal evidence’ to fall back on. Despite this being a fallacious ground on which to base your product pitch, it does raise an important societal issue, one on which my friends and I cannot ever agree.  

 

What I would like to know, from you, the reader, is whether you believe that it is alright that these things are even allowed to hit our shelves. On the one hand, it could be argued that, in the lack of any supporting scientific evidence, these things should be kept from the public, i.e. that the state should protect its citizens from being taken advantage of by people who are only out to make a hit-and-run buck. On the other hand, there are those who would say that it is a free market, that, if people are stupid enough to buy these things, then they deserve to lose their money and that there is, in the end, little harm done, when people are placebo’d into thinking that they feel better. This is the skeletal outline of the debate and I will allow for the comments to fill in the flesh.

 

What do you all think?

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