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Beware of Bogus Scientific Claims

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

Unfortunately, spotting voodoo science, especially in regards to medicine, is a skill that the average person doesn’t posses. People can easily be bamboozled by technological gibberish that may sound very persuasive or by hi-tech claims that can sound very convincing. Many will even provide you with supporting evidence and testimonials that are no better than Arafat’s promises of peace. One has to learn to differentiate between scientific theory and fact – between science and pseudo science.

In 1989, two chemists from the University of Utah claimed that they had discovered cold fusion – a way to produce nuclear fusion very simply yet it turned out to be sheer nonsense. Beware of  health food claims that promise miraculous cures or long life. A number of years ago a health food company advertised a dietary supplement called Vitamin O which turned out to be ordinary water. People spend lots on money buying bottled water in the belief that their sink water is contaminated or unhealthy. Vitamin companies spend millions of dollars in advertisements convincing people of their great importance and necessity. They claim that stress “robs” the body of vitamins and creates vitamin deficiencies even though there is no scientific evidence to support their claims. The myth that some people possess miraculous remedies that modern science cannot understand or is unwilling to accept is sheer nonsense. Don’t be fooled by those who will sell you all sorts of magnetic, electronic, or mechanical devices that they claim can relive pain or cure the incurable. Medical claims must be proven through randomized double-blind tests before they can be accepted. Alternative medicine must be properly proven before given any credence.

Understandably, the news of the recent SARS virus is enough to make anyone nervous and this brings the scam artists out of the woodwork. According to the FTC, bogus operators have started to sell products guaranteed to prevent, treat, or cure this disease. They range from various pills to $150 air filtration systems to droplets of medications and ointments like “colloidal silver generator” that sell for as much as $99. Government officials warn that consumers should exercise a healthy amount of skepticism before buying any products from today’s snake oil salesmen.

Scam artists have taken advantage of the dangers attributed to cell phone radiation in order to sell us all sorts of “shields” that supposedly eliminate exposure to the dangerous radiation they emit, yet according to the FTC, these devices are absolutely worthless and are no different than an antigravity or perpetual motion machine.

It’s desperation and wishful thinking that distorts all reason and common sense. Health quacks are usually super salesmen often confusing people with double-talk and other gibberish. Just because some prominent person or scientist endorses a product does not mean that it will work as advertised. Legitimate products don’t need endorsements, and few honest scientists are willing to provide them. Don’t assume that just because a product is endorsed by a prominent athlete, that product will turn you into a champion or improve your athletic performance. The United Sciences of America is a multilevel marketing company selling various vitamins and health products. It claims that their products protect against many diseases and were endorsed by a prominent 15-member scientific advisory board that includes two Nobel prize winners. Yet, they were later discovered to be fraudulent endorsements. Testimonials are usually the cornerstone of a quack’s success. Don’t fall for them no matter how great they may sound!

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