The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense

Religious Bollocks ∩ Quackery Bollocks ∩ Pseudoscientific Bollocks ∩ Paranormal Bollocks

The curiously revered world of irrational nonsense has seeped into almost every aspect of modern society and is both complex and multifarious. Therefore rather than attempt a comprehensive taxonomy, I have opted instead for a gross oversimplification and a rather pretty Venn Diagram.

In my gross over simplification the vast majority of the multitude of evidenced-free beliefs at large in the world can be crudely classified into four basic sets or bollocks. Namely, Religion, Quackery, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.

However as such nonsensical beliefs continue to evolve they become more and more fanciful and eventually creep across the bollock borders. Although all the items depicted on the diagram are completely bereft of any form of scientific credibility, those that successfully intersect the sets achieve new heights of implausibility and ridiculousness. And there is one belief so completely ludicrous it successfully flirts with all forms of bollocks.

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19 Responses:

  1. Reading about "alphabiotics" gave me a nice chuckle.

  2. 47f274a3faaf says:

    I thought acupuncture has a decent amount of positive research behind it for various indications. Something about stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.

    So what if the people doing it talk about qi flows instead of nerve fibers. In the middle ages folks figured out "miasmas" around infected people spread disease, and you'd have done well to take heed.

    • Nick Lamb says:

      No, acupuncture doesn't have any positive research.

      The research found that if you poke people it can have some interesting effects (e.g. reducing perceived pain). But it makes no difference whether you actually do acupuncture, whether you use a trained acupuncturist, obey or even know the supposed principles of acupuncture or anything like that. Those are all just irrational nonsense.

    • deathdrone says:

      Western intellectuals have a lot of disdain for the placebo effect, even in cases where it's the most effective medicine available.

      • Karellen says:

        It's not that there's disdain for the placebo effect per se, but that there's disdain for wrapping it up in a bunch of medieval pseudoscientific magical-thinking quantum bollocks.

        What's particularly looked down upon are those "medical practitioners" who don't even know that they're administering a placebo, but really believe the bollocks instead. The idea that someone so misinformed, so un-versed in actual basic biology, chemistry and physics, so closed off to the best available evidence we currently have, is giving fucking medical advice and prescribing interventions, is one of the scariest things I can think of. Not to mention that these quacks often aren't capable of diagnosing some serious real diseases, and wouldn't refer patients to real doctors anyway if they did.

        If a doctor knowingly administers a placebo, that's fine. What they tell the patient, and how they dress the placebo up, in order to give it maximum effect, is certainly subject to discussion about medical ethics and informed consent. But not knowing what's a placebo, and what's actual medicine? That's not what I call a doctor.

    • Jake Nelson says:

      What I've seen is that acupressure (pressing on the acupuncture points) is more effective than acupuncture every time they've been compared.

      Both are considered "no better than placebo", but that gets into a complex discussion about what constitutes a relevant placebo for a non-drug treatment, the fact that not all placebos are equal, and that placebos can have large benefits.

      Basically, most forms of massage > acupressure > acupuncture. Also, acupuncture has risks (needles break sometimes) that acupressure and massage don't.

  3. wkrick says:

    Darn, BodyTalk isn't big enough to get a mention. Though, it might fall under the blanked of "applied kinesiology"...

  4. phuzz says:

    Crop circles do exist, and although they're generally made by blokes called Dave rather than aliens, they're still very impressive.

  5. deathdrone says:

    Anti-vaccination - the radical idea that covering yourself with cow puss might not be an effective way to prevent smallpox.

    • Tim says:

      Anti-vacctination - a reactionary (not radical) anti-science belief system which requires its followers to be thoroughly immune to knowledge about how the human immune system works, the relevance of dosage to toxicity, and so on.

      (p.s. Smallpox vaccination never involved "covering yourself with cow puss [sic]". Also, it was so effective at preventing smallpox that the disease was eliminated in the wild in the late 1970s.)

      • deathdrone says:

        This is from wikipedia page on smallpox:

        "In 1796, Edward Jenner, a doctor in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, rural England, discovered that immunity to smallpox could be produced by inoculating a person with material from a cowpox lesion."

        The wikipedia page has been changed since last I last read it. Now it seems to claim that dudes in India 3000 years ago inoculated themselves by snorting scabs.

        If anyone has links to any scholarly work regarding the efficacy of scab snorting, I be happy to review them. Does that make me crazy?

        • Tim says:

          "Inoculating a person with material from a cowpox lesion" != "covering yourself with cow pus". In two ways, not just one! Cowpox inoculation involved breaking the skin with a pointy thing dipped in a cowpox virus preparation, not smearing cow pus all over one's body. And the virus was usually taken from cowpox lesions on humans, not cows.

          And yes, that really worked, disgusting though it may seem. Jenner didn't know how, but today we do. Except for the antivaxxers, who wallow in deliberate ignorance.

          • deathdrone says:

            You're fucking retarded.

            Like I said, if anyone has any links regarding the efficacy of injecting yourself with pus and eating scabs, I'd be happy to take a look. I'm afraid I wasn't able to find any good ones on my own.

          • Don't waste your breath: deathdrone here is trying to be coy about it, but one of the more hilarious little beliefs among the antivax crowd is that the smallpox vaccinations (ranging from Jenner's crude experiments with cowpox all the way through the WHO campaign in the 1970s/80s) didn't actually work, and that the disease disappeared due to some combination of random chance, better sanitation and good vibes.

    • Chris says:

      Your username is surprisingly apt.

  6. Jake Nelson says:

    Worth noting in regards to chiropractic, there are lots of rational chiropractors out there who just work on back (and sometimes joint) issues, which they're good for. (Depends where you are whether you can find one amidst the loonies though.)

    "Straight chiropractic", as it's properly called, is the quack doctrine that subluxation is the cause of all ills, and that chiropractic adjustment can cure cancer.
    I encountered one who managed to be a big proponent of every single thing in that chart whose business cards said "alt-med generalist/straight chiropractic practitioner", which given the above definition is like a Christian Scientist pharmacist.

    • Tim says:

      Eh. I don't think it's worth giving any of them credit. The "rational" ones help fool the public into thinking there's something slightly respectable about chiropractic. There isn't, it's complete nonsense. It's a farce that any of them, "rational" or not, call themselves "doctors", suggesting a level of training similar to a real M.D. The ones you speak of ought to be called massage therapists.

      And they ought to be retrained to real standards. Chiropractic schools have no requirement to teach their students anything about how the human body actually works. That's a necessary component of teaching them rank bullshit like subluxations, after all. It's a total crapshoot how competent at massage therapy any given D.C. is.

      This variability in training is especially important if you're going to let one manipulate your spine (and usually that's what people go to them for). There have been many incidents of chiropractic-induced injury and even death. Deaths are usually due to severed blood vessels and the subsequent bleed putting pressure on the spinal cord, plus the D.C. failing to recognize symptoms because they were never taught anything about real-world spinal injuries.

      • Jake Nelson says:

        The good ones in my experience were basically physical therapists with less certifications that cost a lot less than hospital-based physical therapists. Made good use of TENS and ultrasound, which I rather enjoyed. The bad ones didn't qualify as massage therapists either (and generally weren't actually that good at adjustments, for that matter...).

        In my opinion, "doctor" is one of those things where the problem is more the public's false perception... it means "lecturer", not "physician"... but I know, good luck fixing that error...

        I agree entirely with your last two paragraphs.

  7. 205guy says:

    It was my understanding that the presence of Scientology at the quadruple intersection was by conscious design of its founder(s). They wanted to take advantage of as many human "weaknesses" as possible, as well as the religious tax breaks.

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