Hoaxes, Stupidity, and Damned Dirty Lies!

When I got home from work tonight, my mom approaches me and randomly says that I don't eat very healthy -- too much food in the microwave. Ok. I wondered what brought this up. A little later in the evening she says that I shouldn't microwave things in plastic containers, because the plastic releases chemicals that go into the food, which ultimately can cause cancer. Isn't this the typical scenario that everyone has heard.

-Mom, that sounds like a hoax.
-No Eric, it seems legitimate to me. And this isn't the first time I've heard of this.
-So because you've heard the same old wives' tale a few times makes it legitimate?
-Well, it's just something I've always heard, it's not good for you. I'll send you the e-mail

Of course, I did some real quick research. The first Google hit pointed me to snopes.com, a well-known urban legend debunking site. It very clearly pointed out that this was no more than an urban legend. Whodathought?

There is a very common pattern in these types of legends. They usually involve death. Mythbusters tested out a number of microwave myths a little while back to predictable results. It seems to come from strange cold war fears and people linking microwaves to nuclear-something-or-other, when a microwave has absolutely nothing to do with anything "nuclear".

It makes me wonder just how fucking stupid people are. You get an e-mail. Ok... it comes from a family members. Add 10 credibility points! If mama gustav said it's legit, then clearly it must be! The provenance of these e-mails is always very sketchy, and nobody bothers to check out any of the facts to make sure they've been corroborated elsewhere. This is just typical of how gullible people are. People hear something from someone from someone from someone who clearly must be an expert in the field, and it becomes a part of the culture.

This seems like a religious issue to me. I say this because I believe atheists are perpetual skeptics, and require a much greater burden of proof in order to believe something. The person who told me about this, my mother, is rather religious. The person who sent it to her is also religious (my grandmother). I would be willing to bet that there is a positive correlation between religion and gullibility. Just a hunch. They don't question God, so why not question microwaving plastic if an e-mail says so. After all, e-mails are never wrong!

Somewhere out there, there's a bunch of religious people who think that plastic in microwaves cause cancer, washing machines are the source of the devil, and taking showers over 5 minutes in length causes your skin to melt and warts to form over your eyelids.


At 8/4/06 6:48 PM, Blogger The Atheist Front said...

Being an atheist always involves being sceptic about every little tidbit of info our delusional society has to offer us! Its ridiculous how people will swallow anything that starts with the following: Latest research shows...insert dumb myth such as deodorant causes breast cancer...mama Gustav can you believe it! Being at a lower level of overall intelligence, religious people are always guilty of inciting fear by using pathetic old wives tales. But anywho, isnt religion just a big old wives tale after all?


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