Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense: chart of woo

Sometimes, when confronted with woo, it is hard to know exactly what sort of woo you're dealing with. To simplify this challenge while sparing you the agony of enduring any more explanations of ear-candling or aromatherapy than is strictly necessary, Crispian Jago has compiled a handy Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense.

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.

Religious Bollocks ∩ Quackery Bollocks ∩ Pseudoscientific Bollocks ∩ Paranormal Bollocks = Scientology

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. I like the diagram.  On a side note: can we retire the term “woo”?  I have no strong reason for this, other than I just don’t like it…

    I know that pseudoscience doesn’t entirely cover it, as some of this crap doesn’t try to assume the mantle of science.  But surely we can do better.

    1. I agree, both because woo already has a completely different meaning and because this new meaning is not well known enough to use with an expectation that the other person knows what you’re referring to.  I’ve tried to use it a couple of times, been completely misunderstood and have given up.

    2. Use of the term “woo” as a noun is a nearly 100% accurate signifier that someone has replaced an irrational belief (usually, whatever their parents or grandparents believed) with another irrational belief (something at least equally ridiculous, usually) and that they are completely incapable of reasoned skepticism towards their new faith, which they usually call “Science”.

      So, really, it’s a useful term.

      1. A certain amount of skepticism is healthy, but I’m convinced that we now have something called Skeptical Personality Disorder. It might work if they didn’t use such selective logic to prove their points.

      2. Sure, but it’s not a term that is familiar to a vast amount of well educated people. I agree John Fleeming above, I’d like to see it retired because I do not see it furthering the cause of rational thinking. It is a term well known to people who are really into scepticism (esp. it’s American arm), but in my experience it means nothing at all to ordinary people who are sceptical and well informed but not ‘in’ the sceptical movement/scene.

    3. Woo, for lack of a better word, is good. Woo is right, woo works. Woo clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the pseudo-scientific spirit.

      Also, I’ve never seen Deepak Chopra more rattled than when he defends himself versus charges that his pseudo-science is “woo.” If only for that reason alone, woo must be retained.

      1. It rattles Deepak Chopra?  All right, this is a definite point in woo’s favour.

        On the other hand, has anyone been able to observe his reaction to, say, ‘bullshit’?

      2. When somebody calls something “bullshit” I tend to think there’s a reasonable chance that they’ve genuinely thought it out, and concluded that it’s “bullshit”; but when somebody uses the word “woo” I cannot help but suspect that it is a catchall, knee-jerk word used by unreflective people who tend not to examine their own beliefs too strenuously, being particularly inclined to give a free-pass to the core-belief that they’re fucking RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING.

        Plus it sounds like a word that some dithering blunderhead in PG Wodehouse would use.

        1.  Excellent!  BS is good for this kind of woo and we can use woo- as it was intended:  to describe the girls that go “woo!” in bars.  Go woo-girls!

  2. Hey, audiophiles aren’t on there. Gotta believe it goes under pseudoscientific. Or maybe there’s a separate group we’re missing…

    1. You’d have to pry my B&W DA2s from my cold, dead hands, but yeah. Tough though, cos electronic reproduction of music is clearly science, and nice kit for doing it with makes it better, obviously, but fuck me they crazy.

    2. It’s on there but the noise floor is so high you need to go over the diagram with a green marker to bring it out.

  3. As a determined skeptic, atheist and realist, I would have agreed with with the acupuncture thing as being woo if I hadn’t been flat out in an agony of pain for several years (counting the days until my tween daughter was an adult so  I could just die without traumatizing her.)  I was diagnosed with a type of rheumatoid arthritis, had tried all sorts of diets, exercises, and pills and was injecting myself weekly with drugs that had side effects like possible leukemia.  In desperation I followed my sister-in-law’s suggestion of acupuncture hoping for just one day’s respite from the pain. It has now been five months, I’m off the meds and, with one visit a week, or even every two weeks,  I am once again a “normal” person (whatever that is!)  I even asked him if there was anything I could do to help me sleep, having tried EVERYTHING but literally not having slept a full night for over a decade — many nights watching the sun come up without having slept at all. But, now?  I haven’t had a Tylenol PM for four months and am sleeping full nights.  A lot of stuff IS woo.  But, then again, there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of… 

    1. Science has not explained it (yet), so: woo. Your experience means nothing. /sarcasm

      One important aspect of many of the listed practices/ideas is that it is hard to say who practices the real thing (usually few) and who just wings it (most). 

      If one is fortunate to experience a Tarot reading or Astrology or chiropractic or Ayurvedic medicine as practiced by a master, the viewpoint changes dramatically. Unfortunately many practitioners are far from mastery and often far from even true understanding and only create a bad name for the disciplines.

      As for the chart, it merely conveys its creator’s tendency to judge and works nicely in an environment of confirmation bias.

      I suspect I am not the only person on the face of the planet who has experienced dramatic improvement as the result of chiropractic treatment or going through a cleanse.

      1. There’s also the small factor of the incredibly powerful placebo effect. I know people have tried to do proper controlled trials for accupuncture, but they are hard (but not impossible) to do reliably.

        So until someone can demonstrate it’s not just placebo, it’s still woo.

        1. Well, Paul, I’d think that *someone* must have demonstrated that acupuncture works enough of the time that my insurance actually covers it.  Such companies are not known for either open-mindedness or open-handed generosity.

          1. “*someone* must have demonstrated that acupuncture works enough of the time that my insurance actually covers it.”

            Insurance companies will sometimes cover some alternative “medical procedures” if there is a market for it.

            If my company offers health plans from providers A and B from which I have to choose and plan B covers acupuncture, homeopathy, or chiropractic treatment I might be tempted to chose plan B if I believe in that nonsense.

            The market is not entirely rational.

          2. Also, Western medicine calling non-western (and older) medical practices “alternative” is a little like the church appropriating the word “morality.”

          3. I’m an insurance company. I can pay an acupuncturist to treat you for $50
            It’s going to cost me $150 to send you to a qualified medical doctor, have tests done, find out that nothing is medically wrong and you just need a hug.
            As an insurance company the $50 visit to the acupuncturist that makes you feel better and not cost more money is a solid bet.
            Also do you really want to get benchmark medical/scientific knowledge from insurance companies?

        2.  There’s more than one way to knowledge than controlled experiments. Until somebody builds a control to test whether the Brooklyn bridge really stands up, I’m not going to drive over it!

          Acupuncture has been “standing” for 5000 years, which is longer than all of Western medicine – and Western civilization, for that matter.

          1. My point is that if the criterion for something such as acupuncture getting labelled as “woo” is that it hasn’t been subjected to controlled trials, then so would … say … the incandescent light bulb. So if you read at night by incandescent light bulb, you must be a believer in “woo.”

          2.  Apparently we’ve bottomed out on the replies allowed.

            On the contrary, there is direct empirical evidence that lightbulbs produce light. There’s a lot more going on with something like acupuncture, and we would need to weed a lot of options out before we are able to say exactly what is happening. It’s not so simple as immediately apprehended phenomena. But I suspect you knew that anyways.

          3.  Rats! I was hoping it would increase the indent until we could only place one word per line.  :P

            Yes, I was trying to be pithy in pointing out that empiricism can be as valid as experimentation. Huge swaths of modern technology exist because a genius thought he knew how something would work, tried it, then found out that it did, and reliably.

            And this is what Asia has done with acupuncture since before Western doctors even knew the mind was centered in the brain. They’ve developed and honed it on billions of patients. To place it on a Venn next to anti-vaccination is flagrantly dismissive.

          4. WhydoesBoing Boing havecomment replies indentedto sucha degree that theybecome nearly unreadable like this one?Don’t theyhavethe ability to liberate the screen real estate just to the rightof indentedcomments? Whycan’tsomeoneat BB workwith Disqus to resolve this pepetual problem?It seems worst on BB relative to any other major website where this bizarre and stupic artifact affects the comprehension and readability of comments to be made in responseto others. 

          5. That Last paragraph is a fallacious argument from antiquity. Astrology has been practiced for at least as long as acupuncture, but that doesn’t mean it’s valid as a means of predicting an individual’s life events.

            Occam’s razor would suggest that acupuncture operates as an elaborate placebo, rather than some kind of effective medicine that manipulates an undetectable chi or life force.

            Not only are the proposed mechanisms of acupuncture flawed, it’s statistically no better than other placebos when the most thorough and high quality studies with the best blinding possible are taken into account.

          6.  It’s also worth noting that the placebo effect can be very powerful in many situations. I don’t see why an “elaborate placebo” that has measurable efficacy but very little risk and almost no side-effects isn’t preferable to a risky and expensive treatment that has marginally stronger efficacy but also significant side-effects. It strikes me as marketing by the medical-industrial complex that makes the latter seem preferable.

          7. You’re not understanding what a controlled trial is for, and the difference between a controlled trial and a bridge.  The bridge doesn’t need to be trialled because its result is tangible, and, more importantly, the pieces, materials, construction and engineering have all gone through previous rigorous iteration, if not trials of their own.  An RCT for medicine is used because 1. the results of a treatment are not, on their face, directly attributable to the treatment.  Unlike with a bridge, where you cross it, the result is immediate and causality is absolute.  The bridge didn’t cross you, you crossed the bridge and you are on the other side.  2. there are so many factors at play, that you cannot control them all, so in absence of absolute control of all patient characteristics and conditions around the treatment, you randomize them into equal groups, thus distributing any variation, putatively, equally.  So then you proceed with your treatment and placebo arms, knowing that you did your level best to deal with variations that exist in your cohort.  3. Blinding, preferably double-blinding, if done rigorously, takes care of observer effects on the outcomes.  If the people receiving the treatment were the ones registering the results, your results would be swayed by their subjectivity.  But if objective results are kept from the participants and the researchers, so that cause and effect are masked, then there is little chance for bias of the researchers wanting to observe an effect observing that effect because they willed it so in their data-collection.  There are many more reasons a bridge and an RCT are dissimilar.  But I’ll leave it to you to go look that up.  Hopefully this short lesson on why we do science the way we do it has been helpful and not too enraging.  Enjoy!

          8. Actually, you’re not understanding what my analogy was for. I know what the value of a RCT is, I just don’t think it’s necessarily the only way to arrive at knowledge. For instance, in building a bridge. I made the comparison BECAUSE a RCT is so inapplicable in the case of a bridge, which provides obvious empirical evidence of it’s success.

            The fact that we rely on RCTs in medicine so heavily, and not, say, in testing batteries on a 787 is perhaps just a quirk of our culture.

            There are other ways to perform science. Very little astronomy or geology was historically done with RCTs. It’s done empirically. How do you do an RCT in meteorology?! It’s a myth that all science is conducted with controlled trials. Most science outside of pharmaceutical laboratories is still conducted with observation, hypothesis, and empirical confirmation.

          9. The thing about medical studies as we currently do them is that they don’t actually work that well. They might be, on the whole, superior to other ways, but they’re still horribly imperfect, so we should stop talking about them as if they were the final answer to every question.

            Note the huge number of drugs that have been recalled because they didn’t work/ had terrible side effects/ etc. We put too much emphasis on study results when the anecdotal opinions of highly experienced clinicians are frequently a better indicator of whether or not something is working.

          10. Plenty of other perfectly valid observational methods exist in medicine, and are more appropriate in many situations.  RCT’s are but the pinnacle on the pyramid, with plenty of other types of inquiry filling important roles.  For definitive answers to treatment efficacy, MANY RCTs are needed to compose a Meta-Analysis. 

            Because all study is imperfect, bias creeps in.  Publication bias, the nastiest of them all, is how drugs get to market and have to be recalled, because the positive trials get published, while the neutral or negative trials rot in the dustbin waiting for publication.  So we are continually presented a falsely rosy picture in the literature for drugs that have not actually been proven to work.  That’s not the fault of the RCT or RCT’s in general.  That’s the fault of our medical literature and peer-review system, for allowing that pernicious, systemic bias.

            Not stress-testing a bridge design would be akin to publication bias.  Designs for bridges that designers “like” get built and their weaknesses downplayed, while sturdier designs that cost more or are ugly are thrown out like trash.

          11. If I recall correctly, whether or not acupuncture “works” or not depends upon what you’re asking of it.  

            Last I heard, acupuncture was shown to be superior to placebos in relieving pain.  However, where the needles were placed didn’t change the effect.

            It would seem, then, that while inserting needles in the skin does relieve pain, acupuncture’s model of how the body works isn’t supported by experiment.

        3. There’s fairly good evidence that it’s more effective than a placebo for chronic lower back pain, which is what I use it for (seems to work).

          The fact that we don’t know the mechanism doesn’t necessarily mean it is woo. That is true of a host of conventional medical treatments, including chemotherapies for cancer and drugs that target the CNS. It’s not inconceivable that acupuncture really does something, even if all the chi and energy flow explanations that acupuncturists are going to give you is very woo-ey.

          1. Is it not REALLY hard to have a control group when you’re testing the efficacy of sticking pins in folk? I’d have thought that it’d be self-evident if you got the placebo…
            (only kind of joking, I see the extract says ‘sham acupuncture’ was used. Anyone got a line on what sham acupuncture consists of?)

          2. I believe it is sticking needles in places other than as directed by the prevailing schools of thought.

          3. When you receive acupuncture, you don’t always feel the needles go into your skin. Trials that have attempted to use “retracting” needles have shown improvements beyond the placebo effect. The “putting the needles in the right place” bit is still mixed.

          4. I have no problem with non-western medicine.  If it works, even if by placebo effect or some other unknown mechanism, then great.  What I have a problem with is when it blurs the line and actual treatments that are known to work are eschewed and people suffer and die when they don’t have to, and they put their families through hell and perpetuate quackery.

          5. I totally agree with you there! I think it’d be irresponsible for anyone to treat someone with acupuncture or other alternative medicine instead of western medicine that actually works. And if it’s a progressive condition, life threatening, or causing avoidable suffering, then I’d say it’s grossly unethical. 

            Acupuncture is only really useful at the borders of medicine, where the existing treatments aren’t very helpful and it’s mostly a quality of life issue. Chronic pain and nausea would be the best examples and are fairly well supported by evidence.  Unlike homeopathy, which is actual quackery bollocks, doesn’t have a potential mechanism of action and is completely unsupported by evidence.

        4. Some say placebo, some say psychological technique. Whatever. The results are what matter. I’m still mystified by the “it’s just a placebo” argument which is similar to “it’s just in your/his/her head” dismissive stance which used to be the norm in medicine not that long ago.
          If “just a placebo” turns to be more effective, yielding better results than estabilished “reputable” procedures, isn’t it worth looking into rather than being dismissed as some kind of superstition? Remember, it isn’t that long since washing hands before surgery was considered to be “just a superstition.”

        5. So why wasn’t the incredibly powerful placebo effect kicking into high gear with the “diets, exercises, and pills” or cavalcade of prescription drugs he was taking?

    2. If acupuncture worked as suggested–needles in your foot and calf can affect various disease processed in your liver and pancreas, for example–why don’t amputees suffer greatly in ways unrelated to the amputation?  

  4. A chart displaying and reveling in an attitude equally as appalling and revolting as that of the fundamentalist (top left, as I recall), some, most of those things are bullshit, and some of them are simply things that require a bit of interior application to appreciate and use. Some of them can only be apprehended by actually applying oneself to the work in question, which I doubt the artist/skeptic will choose to do. It is easier to wave your hand and cry “bullshit”, much as the uber-waver Penn Gillette gets so much traction out of, than it is to actually still the mind and body and discover what might actually be at the root of our experience.

  5. I love the fact that folks are defending thier version of Woo while agreeing with the general premise. It so fits my rational belief that you are crazy unless you agree with me.

    1. It is acceptable to question other people’s definitions of woo. Just because I don’t believe that acupuncture does not belong in that “bucket” does not mean than I cannot believe that other things (e.g., moon landing denial, creationism, etc.) do. 

      1.  I’ve never understood why “I’m going to get the kinks worked out of my back” gets lumped in with “I’m going to drink diluted water to make the tumors go away”.

        1. If you want to get the kinks worked out of your back, get a massage.

          (Some) Chiropractors, on the other hand, claim they can heal a vast array of illnesses by magically manipulating you spine. That claim is, of course, utter bullshit.

          1. In the US, physicians commonly recommend chiropractic treatment and insurance pays for it. It’s mainstream medicine for musculoskeletal disease.

    2.  Everybody else is crazy. Or, perhaps they don’t even exist. In either case, only I am sane.

  6. Where is “fan boys” e.g. for Apple, Star Trek, comics, Justin Beiber, etc? Or does that just fall under Religion?

  7. James Randi’s wrinkled, strong hands are lambasting each of these items with a swift, accurate blow upside its dunderhead.

  8. The ‘Materialist’ hypothesis should be sharing the same space as Scientology. Worst thing to happen to science in the last two centuries.

      1. Are you talking about materialism as obsession with wealth, or the belief that matter and energy are all that exist? I agree that the first is problematical, but no rational argument exists against the second, (and more relevant for this discussion) meaning. Yes, theologians don’t like it, but that’s just because if they accept it, they would have to find some other career, not because they have an argument against it.

        1. The latter.  And I find discussing it with someone whose best response is a snarky meme to be about as satisfying as talking color theory with a blind person who claims that vision doesn’t exist and we’ve made the whole thing up.

          1. Materialism is a hilariously tautological presupposition, at best. It only confirms the efficacy of the model of analysis in question. That’s it. It’s no more scientific than ‘spiritualism’, and should be dismissed as such. It’s been retarding scientific inquiry for long enough. Popper warned against it, Sheldrake warns against it, Feyerabend has destroyed it. I swear, the only humans that seem to champion the materialist presupposition aren’t scientists, but ‘fans’ of science. Go back to school. signals received by a model which is designed to only find such signals do not ‘mean’ that they are the only potential signals. Duh.

        2. Consciousness exists. And without an explanation of the “hard problem” of how consciousness *could* emerge from dead-unthinking matter, I see no reason to accept insistences that it *does* emerge from such. I suspect that consciousness is at least as basic as matter and energy, and characterizes these.

          1. If you don’t think that the material computer called the brain can adequately explain “consciousness”, then it is up to *you* to demonstrate the soul or whatever while the rest of us rely on the physical explanation that seems to explain everything observed thus far. Nobody has to disprove things that have no evidence of existing in the first place.

          2. No, it really isn’t. It’s a lot more self serving to pitch for the other team — the Vatican is a pretty posh set of digs, after all.

        1. It’s one of those things like recognizing facial expressions or subtext. Some people don’t get it. And some of them rather angrily deny that such things exist because they can’t perceive them. I don’t mean to imply that everyone with an ASD is a materialist, just that it’s one of those blind spots similar to ones seen in some people with ASDs.

  9. I’ve been a life-long atheist, materialist blah blah blah myself but my readings of philosophy and life experiences have found me bored with board-up-the-ass rationality. Yeah, angels and crystals are pretty dumb but what about Hegelianism and Nietzsche’s Eternal Reccurence? I’m sure that’s stuff that would suffer ridicule at the hands of some parochial prigs as well but please don’t strand me on a desert island with them. 
    I think most of the crap in the diagram is fairly harmless and should only rouse the ire of skeptic-cops who patrol the halls of thought, myth and ritual looking for violators of the sacred scientific method like an army of Dawkins school marms.
    Having moved from America to England I was beyond relieved to escape Jesusism only to find that to a large degree new agey hoo-ha has taken its place here, but it doesn’t bother me. No one here interrupts my dinner to wave crystals in my face.

    1. The thing is, medical quackery is not harmless. It advertises itself as if it’s real medicine and causes people who are too busy, lazy or ignorant to value it as legitimate treatments and cures. This in itself is harmful. For instance, the antivax movement, who believe that vaccines cause autism, are harming those who can’t be vaccinated by discouraging people who can from being properly vaccinated. This reduces herd immunity and puts the most immune compromised among us at risk for infection. That’s socially immoral, and what’s more it’s predicated on no evidence other than a few discredited studies that were poorly done and have been superseded by many high quality studies done since the old, poorly done studies were published.

      1.  And its burying the REAL problems with some vaccines in the process. That’s the main issue, really – by allowing the bullshit to take over, it’s harder to find the truth.

      2.  Anti-vaccination is a bad example of medical quackery. It’s something far worse. It’s not based on “poorly done studies.”

        In reality, it’s conspiracy theory, piled on fear-mongering, based on outright fraud.

        1. True enough, but there were some really bad studies done in the late 90s linking vaccines to autism. They didn’t start the antivax movement, but they certainly did add fuel to the fire.

          There’s harm in homeopathy too, since it encourages the use of implausible, pseudoscientific garbage that’s been proven to be a placebo as a replacement for real medicine. People have stopped chemotherapy in favor of homeopathy, that’s harm right there.

          1. …there were some really bad studies done in the late 90s linking vaccines to autism.

            I’m not sure that “bad” adequately covers “deliberately fraudulent and fabricated”.

          2. I suspect Idobe is referencing epidemiological studies.  You know, that rarified universe where correlation always equals causation.

      3. Not to mention that the anti-vax movement, the curebie movement, and others, all silence autistics and portray autism as a terrible condition, so that the anti-vaxxers can say that autism is worse than losing herd immunity, and the curebies can say that autism is worse than shock collars/poison gas/torture.

        It leads to hate. It leads to the sense that we’re less than human, and parents killing autistic children, or bullies setting fire to autistic teenagers. It leads to calls for extermination.

        1. Absolutely agree. Autism isn’t the end of the world. It’s certainly not a walk in the park, but the hatred and fear I see of it is both confusing and saddening. People are people, and that includes those with autism, ADHD and all the other atypicalities.

        2.  I’d never heard the word ‘Curebie’ till today. Having looked it up, it seems far too cutesy a word for what curebies seem to be. It makes me think of a Furby in a white coat with a toy stethoscope.

      4. Antivaxxers are the new untermenschen.

        Lazy, ignorant and of course socially immoral, and their very existence is harmful.

        It gets scary in here sometimes.

        1. What I’m getting at is that not vaccinating when you can because of denial of the well established efficacy of vaccines is immoral in the same sense (but of course not the same magnitude) as an HIV denier who is HIV positive having unprotected sex with someone HIV negative and not informing them beforehand.

          It’s not an apt analogy, but I think it’s in the right direction. Not vaccinating oneself puts others at unnecessary elevated risk. That’s immoral, especially when those who can’t be vaccinated are at an increased risk of complications and death from infection.

        2. Huh. When I encounter anti-vaxxer and curebie claims, I feel like they’re treating us as the new untermenschen.

          It’s all about how we’re a burden, and how to eliminate us, amid murders of autistic people, and not about how we’re still people, or how to accommodate us. And none of our needs are unique to us: there are allistic people who find eye contact painful too, and if society stopped demanding it, that would benefit them as much as us; there are allistic people who can’t read faces either, and if society stopped expecting it, that would benefit them as much as us; there are allistic people who find bright lights and high-pitched noises painful, as well as many autistic people, and if places weren’t so brightly light, that would benefit them too.

        3. …their very existence is harmful.

          They act as disease vectors as much as rats or mosquitoes do.

  10. Acupuncture, really??

    Is there a list of things that were previously considered woo, and that now are not?  I’ll start:

    anabolic steroids
    life outside planet Earth

    Uncritical belief in anything depicted on that diagram is deleterious to society; uncritical dismissal only a little less so.  “Uncritical” being the operative concept …  Yeah, the diagram is cute and fun (just like feng shui!), and filled with mostly safe bets, but there’s a couple that are accepted as mainstream science in some cultures, and most likely will be one day in Western culture, too.

      1.  Is science supposed to have a culture?

        I don’t know that it’s “supposed to” but it is, in fact, approached and perceived differently by different cultures.

      2. How can science exist separate from its [surrounding] culture?

        For example, we each have certain cultural presuppositions. For any given phenomenon, there are multiple explanations, and we tend to treat explanations which contradict our cultural presuppositions as being more complex than explanations which reinforce our cultural presuppositions, regardless of what other auxiliary hypotheses each one requires. See the Duhem-Quine thesis. In an extreme case, there’s the example of Jefferson dismissing the Weston meteorite discovery as fraud, because fraud exists, and he was sure meteorites didn’t.

      3. Is science supposed to have a culture?

        If it doesn’t have a culture, how can you feel like you belong to something?

        1. All I’ve got is something along the lines of “Quantum Mechanics?  Yeah, I used to be in to Quantum Mechanics, I guess, I’m really more into String Theory now”

    1.  There is some evidence that acupuncture may be more effective than a placebo for certain types of pain relief. I would argue that it’s still woo as long as most acupuncturists make unsupported claims about its effectiveness and claim they’re manipulating qi energy when there’s no evidence that such energy even exists. It’s like if doctors claimed aspirin could cure cancer and worked because it contained tiny, benevolent elves. Wouldn’t make it any less effective for what it actually does, but…

  11. The chart doesn’t make much sense.

    For example, moon landing denial is bad history, but it’s testable. Something that’s testable and disproven doesn’t fit in the same category as something that’s untestable.

    For example, searches for other ape species were good biology, but are increasingly unlikely, especially in late Holocene North America. Something that’s searchable and increasingly unlikely can still deserve consideration, though Bigfoot doesn’t deserve much consideration any more.

    But Hollow Earth doesn’t even make sense.

    So I’m not sure what unites these three types of claims as “pseudoscientific bollocks” as apart from all the other claims.

    For example, early homeopathy doesn’t work, but it’s testable. So it’s testable and disproven, much like moon landing denial, and belongs in the same category as moon landing denial, but it’s not.

    Mind you, I think *most* of this stuff is bollocks, but the chart is also bollocks. It looks like they took a bunch of stuff they didn’t like and threw it in a bunch of classifications, but not in any coherent order. Without any explanation of how something qualifies as bollocks or how anything qualifies as each type of bollocks, it it indistinguishable from the usual sneering at religion as superstition.

  12. I, for one, thinks every single one of the items listed belong on the woo chart. But there is one entire sectror missing, you know the one; containing singularitards, transhumanists, and climate-change deniers. The fact that your preferred brand of wishful thinking is grounded in grotesque over-extrapolation of science doesn’t make it scientific and doesn’t mean you’re not indulging in prime bullshit woo. 

  13. Once again, Science knows everything about everything and only the details are left to sort out.

    1.  Please find one citation where science or even one specialty of science has claimed to “know everything about everything” or even know “everything about” one thing.

      Strawman: Look it up.

      1. “We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.” – Simon Newcomb (1888, astronomer)

        “The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote…Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.” – Albert Michelson (1894, Nobel Prize winner in physics)

        “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” – William Thomson (1900, physicist and inventor of intercontinental telegraphy)

        And if you’re not a fan of the Golden Oldies, here’s one of the latest to hit the charts:

        1.  None of those say “science knows everything about everything”

          None of them even say they know everything about one field of study.

          No wonder you people believe all sorts of useless crap.

      2. oops. someone did the work for me. and i know what a strawman is. you should look up the limits of logic to explain observed phenomena. thanks. now begone.

        1.  He was rather splendidly served right there, but I find your butthurt at the mocking of woo somewhat telling. what’s your preferred flavour that they’re slinging mud at there, may I ask?

          1. Well, I accept your apology in advance for your incorrect assumption. I do not like any worldview claiming a unique perspective on the actual real truth. Not even Scientific Materialism.

          2.  Fair do’s, I can go with that, what with it being a very sane and reasonable thing to say and all.
             Some of the stuff that’s on there does tend to get my dander up to the point of rudeness, as I’m sure you can understand. Not so much where this conversation’s been tacking – philosophy, metaphysics, the acceptance that we really don’t know why/if/how some things work, and that dismissing them out of hand would be both foolish and arrogant. Plus, arguments ‘twixt empiricism and philosophy are best settled with a poker… ;)
            The opposite side of the coin, ‘open-mindedness’ to the point that alomost ANY of the things in those sets is acceptable, even mutually contradictory ones,so long as it’s not the standard consensus is as frustrating as po-faced materialism though, innit?

  14. How can an out of body experience be ‘irrational nonsense?’ If your own personal experiences are nonsense, then you might as well include things like colors and temperature in there as well.

    1. Erm…I think the fine point of distinction is that you’re not literally out of your body when you have this experience.

        1. The burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim. Anyone can say you’re surrounded by invisible intangible ghost unicorns that only they can see, and you’re supposed to prove them wrong… how?

          1. Ah, but what counts as an extraordinary claim depend on what people accept as obvious truths from their culture… there is no objective standard for an ‘extraordinary claim’ or for who should have what ‘burden of proof.’

            As long as someone’s talking about their own personal experience, I think that should be respected, but once someone proposes universal interpretations, from ‘the mind is separate from the body’ to ‘the mind is malfunctioning,’ I don’t think these should be accepted without evidence.

          1.  Occam actually said you should consult the bible first. If the answer is there, it’s correct. So you’ll need a theologian to sort this out.

          2. Actually it’s not a philosophical bias. It’s based on probabilistic mathematics, and you yourself apply it every day to reject obtuse explanations for common occurrences. I put it to you that it’s only when it doesn’t suit your preconceptions that it suddenly becomes a “philosophical bias”.

          3. you yourself apply it every day to reject obtuse explanations for common occurrences

            That sounds remarkably like an appeal to common sense, which has been appropriately deprecated.

          4. When applied inperfectly in our day-to-day lives it often resembles common sense for most people. Applied formally to test an hypothesis the results may not seem to be common sense at all. This paper may help clarify my position-

    2. What they mean by “out of body experience” is not that you “felt” like you were out of your body at the time (eg, during vivid dreaming), but that you actually were out of your body at the time you had that experience.


      I love this Venn diagram overall. But “out of body experiences” would be my minor point of contention. Out Of Body as a sign of Heaven, sure. But, OOB experiences have been well-documented as a feature of epileptic seizures or auras, specifically those arising from the mesial temporal lobe (more often the right hemisphere, but could be either side).

      So in a way, investigations of the “near-death-experiences” ultimately point away from this being an “experiencing Heaven” phenomenon. The experiences are most commonly described in the setting of (a) epileptic phenomena; (b) more rarely complicated migraine, most likely with some epileptiform activity; and (c) near-death episodes.

      The “Life After Life” folks make the error of thinking that asystole (cessation of heartbeat) equals the end of metabolic activity of neurons in the brain. Not so at all. There is no reason why changing patterns of activity in the mesial temporal lobe and hippocampus — either by hypoxia or by seizure — can’t induce the impression of being out of body, of moving down a tunnel, of approaching a bright light, of feeling an intense sensation of spiritual ecstasy, of seeing one’s life flash before one’s eyes, or seeing one’s loved ones from childhood. But the fact that all of these phenomena occur with epileptic seizures is overlooked by the “Life After Lifers,” because it doesn’t fit with their desired conclusion.

  15. I am offended that my brand of irrational nonsense gets lumped in there with all the irrational nonsense.

  16. It is extremely strange that so many people demand scientific proof for something when science has been dead wrong about so many things over such a long period of time. For example, science tells us that the sun is powered by fusion. That means the inside should be hotter than the outside, and the reverse is true. But scientists are not considering any other possibilities. And you want to trust this bunch to approve beliefs that people base their lives on?

    1. Science refines itself. Currently there are at least three satellites observing the sun, the SDO STEREO and SOHO. These telescopes are being used to refine our undestanding of the sun, hemispheric dynamics, and figuring out how the corona is hotter than the core.

      We have to refine our theories according to evidence, and the observations of the sun point to fusion much more strongly than any other known mechanism.

      Perhaps you have a theory that can consistently explain the sun better than a hundred years of science can? If so, I’d love it if you would share it with us since you seem to think there are valid alternatives to the current theory.


        In the case of the sun, it seems like we’ve been fudging the math forever to make our observations fit the theory, rather than the other way around.  I would not be so quick to dismiss Jewels’ point… if you dismiss his valid questioning without doing some serious study, you are making a faith-based argument.

        1. It seemed to me that Jewels was claiming that alternative theories to fusion should be considered. What alternatives to fusion are there? Given the sun’s mass, density and overall temperature, what could possibly be heating it? Honestly, I challenge Jewels to work up a theory that does better than fusion, and send the link out to people who can do the math, and see whether there’s any plausibility to it.

          He also seemed to imply that the description of solar dynamics is set in stone, when it obviously isn’t. Various space agencies including NASA are planning and implementing and getting data from numerous observatories in order to refine the description of the sun, and figure out why the corona is an order of magnitude hotter than the photosphere. He says the science is done on that problem, when the truth is, the opposite.

          1. Ok here is the link:

            Current theory is not set in stone, it is set in books and papers and people’s minds. Stones can be ignored, but reprinting books is expensive, and changing minds hurts.

          2. The introduction to the primer on EU misinterprets mass-energy equivalence early on. That’s a pretty fundamental flaw and does EU no favors. I’ll keep reading it I guess, but so far I’m not convinced.

          3. @boingboing-430cc6899313afb79f799dc72fb58493:disqus : You seem to be willing to do some research and keep an open mind, so my blanket condemnation of the followers of “Scientism” doesn’t really apply to you.  In fact if you’re willing to do personal experimentation and accept empirical evidence over textbook preachings, you’re the opposite of the woo woo crowd that blindly worship the white lab coat.

      2. The most common remark heard when a new observation is made is “We never expected this!” They don’t admit the theory has been disproved, they only make up fudge factors so they can continue using the old model.

        Yes, there are competing theories, but that has nothing to do with science hanging on to the currently accepted theory when it’s obviously wrong. The point is these people have an absolutely lousy record of judging things based on observations. They simply can’t be trusted with subtle topics not based on observations.

        1. Well, who do you suggest the  baton is passed on to vis a vis ‘figuring out how the Sun works’?

    2.  Science isn’t perfect, and doesn’t claim to be. Science isn’t a set of immutable truths, it’s a set of theories that best fit the evidence, which are constantly evolving and shifting as new evidence is discovered. You seem to be upset that science isn’t right about things 100% of the time on the first try. Well, what exactly do you propose as an alternative to evidence-based belief, and how would it be more effective than science has been? What should we base our lives on, that’s never wrong about anything?

      1. Science isn’t perfect, and doesn’t claim to be. Science isn’t a set of immutable truths, it’s a set of theories that best fit the evidence, which are constantly evolving and shifting as new evidence is discovered.

        I’d be more likely to say that science is perfect, but that we’re still pretty crappy at doing it. People who work in clinical medicine are far more humble about it than people who work in labs or, god knows, people who comment about it on the internet. At the clinical level, the hunch component of medicine is highly visible.

      2. I am not upset that science is wrong, but I do object to people assuming that only science is qualified to judge whether non-scientific things are right or wrong. Science is anything that can be measured. Science is not qualified to judge anything that can not be measured.

  17. Closed-mindedness at its best. I’m disappointed.
    Many of listed items are quite reputable and serious IF you choose to ignore the fringe. Tarot? What’s wrong with tarot? Why didn’t they include I_ching or is it too cool in nerd subculture? (you know, it’s like binary, like computers, man) Crop circles? A legit phenomena. Ayurvedic medicine? Wtf gives anyone the right to disregard thousands of years of tradition, history and civilization as “bollocks?” Stigmatas? A well documented phenomenon, whatever its cause. As for Bigfoot, they could have listed “Giant squids” as well…
    Basically, this is as unscientific a world viewpoint as it can get. I can’t explain it so it’s bullshit and doesn’t exist.

    1.  Tarot’s basically cold-reading with props. Crop circles? People did those. With wooden planks and string (bit like the Nazca plains in that respect). Giant (sic) squids? Seeing as they are an actual, real thing, of which we have both verified footage and actual specimens, it’s hard to see why they should be lumped in with Bigfoot (though I now need to ask ‘Jim’ll Paint It’ for an MSPaint rendering of Bigfoot wrestling Archeteuthys). Ayurvedic medicine? Same as medicine medicine; test it, if it works, as per Dara O’Brien’s excellent piece on the subject, it’s medicine. If not, it’s soup (possibly Arsenic soup at that) And stigmata? Really? OK, it may indeed be a phenomenon, inasmuch as ‘people fake religious stigmata quite a lot’ is pretty fucking phenomenal (as in ‘fucking weird’). What part of expecting things to be tested rigorously to ensure they work is ‘unscientific’? ESPECIALLY if they involve the continued wellbeing of those suffering from illnesses or infirmity, or struggling with bereavement and loss, if you want to talk tarot, and other cold-reading type Woo?

      1. “Cold-reading with props” — I like that. The thing is, the practitioner might not even know that’s what they’re doing. They’ve found some method, reinforced by whatever irrational belief they may have.  I think dowsing is similar. (Didn’t see that on the chart but it belongs there.) People who are successful at it have learned how to read the land a bit, and are using the dowsing rods to distract themselves from that. Wax on, wax off. They’re subconsciously guiding the rods.

        The Amazing Kreskin had a similar trick he recommended. Put a weight on a string and hold it over a cross-hair with Yes on one axis and No on the other.  Ask yourself questions.  You’ll subconsciously guide the swing of the pendulum to one or the other. The Ouija board effect. 

        1. “Readings” using tarot, astrology, clairvoyance and so  on, as perpetrated by psychics seem often “unconsciously” to give the answer “do nothing”. People who describe themselves as “spiritual” suffer more mental health problems than those who describe  themselves as “religious”, who suffer the least. “Psychic” readings seem to consist of a lot of random ideas but  lack any inspiration or motivation to deal with perceived problems or find any meaningful connections and relationships or course of action. The problem is always outside your head and the time to act can never be precisely determined by any one single reading. This is the opposite of religion which says the problem is in your head and the time to act is always now albeit with the support of God. Science and scientific methodology will not supersede religion (and woo) until it finds a language in which to motivate non-scientists in their everyday lives. 
          Woo causes psychological problems every bit as much as medical problems.
          If science cannot motivate people as religion does when religion fails science allows woo in.

      2. Tarot is an ancient and rather beautiful cosmological/psychological system well worth studying, as it was by some of the best minds of humanity. Crop circle debunkers have been thoroughly debunked a while ago; no one has yet managed to produced a crop circle which exhibits physical particularities of the “naturaly” occuring ones. Giant squids were routinely lumped with Bigfoot less than a decade ago and recent discoveries of new pre-homo sapiens species which lingered on till less than 10000 years ago lend more credence to the possibility that some of them might have survived into modern age. Ayurvedic medicine – by your standards “mainstream” medicine should be dubbed bullshit as well. A significant and well documented portion of stigmatas are definitely not faked but are still considered to be an unexplained psychosomatic phenomenon (or religious one, if that is your cup of tea).

        My point is not that all these phenomena are “scientific facts” but that they still largely fall outside the science proper and are in the realm of “phenomena” – which does not make them any less real or significant, if only as “just” psychological or sociological phenomena (and we all know how insignificant psychology and sociology are in the human realm). Those who dismiss them as “unscientific” are erring in pretty much the same way as those who consider them “true.” Both attitudes are just different sides of the same dull coin.

        1. I have to call you out for a specific claim – Tarot is not “ancient” (at least, not any more ancient than Eton College in England), it’s circa the mid 15th century from Italy.  I mean, believe what you want to believe, whatever, but Tarot has only been around for a few hundred years.

          1. OK, but what about the Tarot portion of that?  When did the cards come into it?  Keep in mind, I’m not saying I believe/disbelieve in any of this, it just gets my dander up when the word “ancient” is used as a way of telegraphing “it’s old so it must be good”, especially when it’s not actually ancient.  It’s always struck me as a pretty weird thing about the early Enlightenment, that you had all these fairly new things (the Illuminati, Mason, and Tarot I guess) purport to have roots stretching back thousands of years.  Of course, we’re no better nowadays, look at Wicca.  I don’t see any problem with concocting a religion and following it (it’s probably as good as any others out there, including agnosticism & atheism) but can’t you own up to it?  Do you have to have “secret traditions stretching back thousands of years”?  Sorry for the wall of text, guess I was a little more bothered than I thought.

          2. Apocryphal Tarot history puts the invention c. 1200 CE in the city of Fez. Either way, I’d consider 15th Century ‘ancient’. I don’t think that the word is reserved for classical antiquity or the archaic period.

        2. Citations plz. How can mainstream medicine, as you put it, be deemed bullshit by ‘the same standards’, exactly? And which significant portion of stigmata (there’s no ‘s’) are not faked? By whose metric? You’ve just said that these things are not scientific facts (sans scare quotes), but that people are erroneous in dismissing them as unscientific. And finally, we’ve had pretty well-documented evidence of giant squid as long as we’ve been hunting whales. No real scientist was lumping them in with bigfoot a decade ago. Please don’t give me ‘naturally occurring crop circle’ links though, if you’d be so good. They make my teeth hurt.

  18. There is a mixed, but growing, body of evidence supporting some types of acupuncture-type therapy for a narrow band of pain-related problems. Which is a lot of conditionals, I agree, but I think that removes it squarely from the realm of “irrational.”

    Also, “transubstantiation” isn’t irrational; it’s metaphysical. You’d be hard-pressed to conclude that belief in transubstantiation is necessarily irrational in-and-of itself.

  19. Isn’t this diagram standard issue for Hollywood wannabes?

    “Now son, you’re gonna have to getcha some mystery – summat people put thar faith in, jes’ cain’t compr’hend it.  Careful though – some big players already staked out their terrtory on the ace of spades at the bottom – yup *spit* scinetology.  You’d better mebbe gopher ear candles first, see how the public responds”

  20. Just because we can’t scientifically explain how acupuncture works doesn’t mean the practice is quackery. The current theories might be pseudoscience or metaphysics, but the practice works. Physicians in western medicine faced the same issues when they didn’t have scientific explanations for why some of their practices worked (like hygiene, washing hands, etc.) before the discovery of microscopic organisms. Hygiene wasn’t quackery just because they couldn’t explain why it worked. Neither is acupuncture. And the placebo effect refers to statistical results in controlled studies. People shouldn’t just throw the term around to dismiss everything they can’t explain.

      1. You can repeat it ad infinitum, it won’t make your statement true. Instead, you should take your conclusive proof to the insurance industry, who would gladly pay you millions to disprove the effects of acupuncture since most states in the US mandate insurance coverage for acupuncture treatment.

        1. Have you ever paid much attention to the people who write legislation?  They let their irrational beliefs guide legislation with alarming frequency.  See: chiropractors being allowed to call themselves “doctor”, all restrictions on abortion prior to viability, blue laws, legal discrimination against the LGBT community, etc.

    1. The problem there is that there’s been no studies that have shown any effect. I agree that the underlying theory may be complete BS but if it does actually work, it should stand up to a controlled study.  Acupuncture hasn’t.

      1. Clearly you don’t read Chinese. Or is it that you assume research conducted by Chinese scientists is less valid?

        My point is, there is a great deal of research on the efficacy of acupuncture, published in other languages. The Chinese government has gone to great lengths to standardize Chinese Medicine, and legitimize it in the eyes of “western science”. (For whatever that’s worth.)

        The fact that this is disregarded in discussions of the subject in English, is evidence of a huge cultural bias, and a knowledge base limited by monolingualism — not a lack of valid studies.

        1. I neither read Chinese nor do I assume Chinese research is less valid than non-Chinese research. If you could provide citations to such studies I would be interested.

        2. Edit on the iPhone doesn’t work well, so having to reply twice. Wanted to add that all studies I’ve seen indicate that if the patient thinks they are getting acupuncture, they report a benefit. However none I’ve seen report alteration in the progress of disease. I’m all for folks doing that makes them feel better, whether or not it is demonstrated to be objectively efficacious as long as its practice and pursuit is not causing harm.

    1. One of my closest friends has a really bad case of chemtrails/HAARP conspiracy-virus. It’s very upsetting.

      1. One of my yoga students, whom I had chatted with on many occasions, used the word chemtrails one day. I’m pretty sure that my face went completely dead.

        1.  My mother has it too, she’s never met a conspiracy theory she didn’t like (I’m quite fond of the ‘Fake Paul McCartney one, mind).  They’re fucking horrible, pernicious things though, like computer viruses for the human mind. It pisses me right off that people cheerfully make a living selling books full of them. Selling smack’s more ethical than peddling conspiracy memes to the vulnerable.

  21. Can anyone point to good suggestions for how to talk people out of belief in some of this?  I have a very close family member who lives her life closely following 90% of the subjects in this chart.  

    Incidentally since I have to hear about almost all of that stuff on at least a weekly basis, I can say that the chart is incomplete as it has left out all the economic “bollocks” that are out there: Bilderberg conspiracy, IMF plans for gold-backed global currencies, balancing budgets by revaluing currency holdings from third party countries. The chart also misses other scientology-like belief systems

    1.  Personally, I’m a fan of Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid podcasts. He covers a very wide variety of subjects, explains things clearly, backs everything up with evidence, and treats the subjects fairly without dismissing anything out of hand. I have no idea if it would change the mind of a true believer, but it might be enough to get them thinking about it from a different viewpoint.

    2. I wish I knew. As I said above, someone very dear to me has this bad. I really do think conspiracy memes are very damaging; they exacerbate depressive behaviours, and ramp people’s paranoia up dangerously.  I think reading lots of fiction’s a good prophylaxis, if you want to stay uninfected yourself.
      It’s interesting that a lot of these have such a strong anti-intellectual bent to them – and then there’s some rather unpleasant echoes of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in there too – I’ve tried pointing out that, for all the alternative, new-age trappings, you can trace the tropes & ideas of a lot of them back to old-school wackadoodle right-wing survivalist pamphlets as well. The internet just gave them new shiny veneers of crazy to add to the palimpsest that was already there. I fucking hate the things with a passion.

      1. Well, maybe someone out there in BoingBoingland would be willing to compile a way to help loved ones out of the bs and paranoia.  Thanks for mentioning that I’m not the only one out there with loved ones like this.  You’re right about the paranoia and depression.  There’s also a lot of self-inflicted damage to the believer’s interpersonal relationships.

        I’ve been feeling that somehow the world has less of a grip on the truth than it used to, like there are fewer truths that everyone agrees upon. Somehow I feel like we as a society need a better, widely popular way to establish what actually is truth.

  22. There is woo, and then there is woo. How do you tell one woo from the other?

    One day I saw a man sit down to lunch. He opened his lunch bucket, spread a red bandanna across his lap, took out his pocket knife and started peeling his apple. “The skins give me gas,” he explained.

    Well, I happen to have studied nutrition a bit and I know that apple skins have no direct connection to production of gas. I also noted that there was no way he could have known that skins caused gas but the rest of the apple did not. I did not say any of this to him. I could see that he had found peace and I respected his little ceremony even though it had no provenance in my understanding of things.

    That is a discernment that the rest of the world needs to learn.

    1.  NO! you must find that man, right now, and hector him about his apple-peeling ways! FOR SCIENCE!

    2. The skin of apples makes the roof of my mouth itch intensely.  Perhaps this bandana-man shares this allergy.  Telling you it gives him gas may be a quick, simplistic explanation to give the random, gawking stranger to make him go away.

  23. Quite a queasy slice of cognitive imperialism.

    By the same logic…
     – dreams aren’t understood by science so are woo.
     – love cannot be reliably recreated in a control group, so is woo.
     – science has not yet integrated quantum mechanics and general relativity, so the universe is woo.
    – woo is based on subjective assumptions about a priori truths, so is woo.

  24. My only argument there would be that chiropractic and kinesiology cross over from woo to glorified/dressed-up massage, which clearly isn’t woo, but even the field of theraputic massage also has quite a bit of woo-fan dress up around it at times.  For a chiropractor to make an “adjustment”, the muscle tissue has to be supple enough to allow it.  So even though the aim is over *there* any practical benefit is over *here* and is a side-effect of the aim. A bit of misdirection that targeted physical therapy could achieve as well.  (As to the chiropractic theory of disease — bollocks plain and simple.)  

    And I’ll make one “defense” of one “homeopathic” remedy.  I buy a capsaicin-based nasal spray as a “homeopathic” remedy — I won’t buzz market the brand. :-) The dilution is homeopathic in magnitude, but one blast of that up the nose and you know it’s not diluted to nothing.  It burns, it makes my nose and eyes water, and when I need that, it’s a good thing.  But it’s homeopathic in name only.

    1. Hmm, I’d be intrigued to know the brand. I used to stick a LOT of caustic, and otherwise chemically-active shit up my nose, with the result that it was constantly blocked, and even now, whenever I get a cold, my nostrils lock tight up by the bridge of my nose, and the only thing that will allow me to breathe at night is oxymetazoline spray, which is bad for your nose in its own right, so an alternative sweet, sweet, nosebreathy release would be a wondrous thing if it works on me like…

      1. Having been forced to give up Sudafed, I’ve been reduced to just chewing up an Altoid. It works pretty well.

  25. Doh! I was wondering why QI was on the chart. I know the show gets a few things wrong, but Stephen Fry is pretty good at admitting their mistakes in subsequent shows. Now I realise my mistake.

    I also thought it was a bit rough to put acupuncture in the diagram. Some of parts of it are bollocks (that you can cure cancer by massaging the sphincter in your stomach), but for muscular and nerve lower pain it’s recommended in the UK by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (the body that approves prescription drugs for use in the NHS) 

    According to the NHS web site:

    “There is some evidence that acupuncture works for a small number of other conditions, including migraine and post-operative nausea. However, there is little or no scientific evidence that acupuncture works for many of the conditions for which it is often used. More scientific research is needed to establish whether acupuncture is effective against these and other conditions.There is no scientific evidence for the existence of Qi or meridians. More research is needed before acupuncture’s method of action is fully understood.”

  26. I find trite bullish*t such as this chart tiresome. So clever, and otherwise a complete waste of time. It’s the kind of thing I might have drawn on my notebook cover in high school.

    However, the discussion in these comments is excellent. Vigorous, cogent and civil debate and comment really can happen on blogs. It’s not a myth after all! My faith in human intelligence has been boosted. Thanks… :)

    1.  Finding it elsewhere is harder. There’s a reason I’ve been reading BB for years ;)

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