Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Why is there so much quackery in Australia?

The real reason why Australia is so full of quacks, woo-woo merchants, snake-oil salesmen and homeopaths is that people are prepared to shell out money for their products. The real question is why people are so gullible, and it probably comes down to poor education.

Let me share with you one factor which, I'm positive, can be put front and centre of a firing squad for complicity in mass stupidity:

Thursday afternoon I was, for reasons not quite clear, not so much off-colour as severely out of sync with reality. And when I progressed from feeling slightly ill to making silly mistakes I knew it was time to go home.

On the way home, I had the sudden desire, possibly fueled by impaired impulse control, to track down and buy a copy of Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins. So I dropped into the most convenient shopping centre on the way home and steered a direct course for the resident Angus & Robertson bookshop.

Where I circled the shop three times, feeling increasingly like a refugee in the Twilight Zone, looking for where they might have put a book on evolutionary biology. I eventually found the Science section, around the back from the Natural History section (good candidate, but no). It was one shelf-unit wide. It was a little less than 1m wide and about that tall. And did not contain Climbing Mount Improbable, possibly because there was no room left after the three copies of The God Delusion had occupied all the available space.

I stared at the Science section in a small state of shock before my eyes were irresistibly drawn to the New Age (four shelf-units wide) and the Alternative Heath (three wide and twice the height) sections for comparison. And I fled the store before I started ranting at the first person to so much as acknowledge my presence.

I fled to Dymocks, downstairs. Where I only needed to circle twice before finding the science section. Which was the same size.

I didn't look for the New Age or anything else by way of comparison, I just fled.

I personally believe that any society which allows homeopaths to flourish and which is prepared to pay $100 for a tub of face cream with an "exclusive olive extract" in it is a society on the cusp of madness. And major bookstores are not helping.

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