The Economic Argument Against Pseudoscience

If it worked, every company would’ve jumped on the bandwagon:

The hidden text:

Not to be confused with ‘making money selling this stuff to OTHER people who think it works’, which corporate accountants and actuaries have zero problems with.

(via XKCD)

  • Richard Wade

    This is great. I remember one time our friend Siamang, commenting to a young-Earth creationist, built an excellent argument with a similar thrust. He said that if the Earth was so young, then those greedy oil companies would not be hiring geologists who use old-Earth theories to guide their search for oil, since their science would be so off-base they wouldn’t find any.

    The profit incentive is a strong argument for sorting out what actually works. Greed has a purity about it that we all can understand.

  • ML

    One of the “Seven Deadly Sins”….LOL.

  • Valhar2000

    Eventually, arguing that these things work means arguing that modern capitalism isn’t that ruthlessly profit-focused

    I wonder how many people do believe that it is ruthlessly profit-focused, rather than just straight up evil. This comic strip illustrates quite well a pattern I have noticed very often in fictional works that attempt to critique the capitalist model: any similarity between what is shown and an actual profit-driven enterprise is accidental.

    On the other hand, there are examples of companies failing to make a profit in the most obvious way, like the recent BP Oil spill, where they lost countless dollars worth of oil in order to save a few bucks on the infrastructure. And it is only one in a long list of similar blunders by oil companies.

  • http://skepticalrockhead.blogspot.com/ Rockhead

    Sadly, I have heard stories of oil and mineral prospectors falling for remote viewing and dowsing scams. And I’ve observed (recently) engineers relying on dowsing to locate buried utility lines.

  • David

    There are is a lot missing from the list. Just think of how much money the cops would save tracking down criminals if these items worked or even the criminals themselves in planning the crime and dodging the police afterwords.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Kind of says it all but Rockhead’s scaring me. David it does irk me when police use physics though I wonder how often they really do that versus its portrayal in movies and television.

  • Guy G

    David it does irk me when police use physics though I wonder how often they really do that versus its portrayal in movies and television.

    The police absolutely should be using physics to help solve certain crimes. To dismiss something that absolutely works and has been proven time and time again would be idiotic. ;)

  • http://www.thegodlessmonster.com The Godless Monster

    I took it a step further and made it a patriotic and national security issue. They (creationists) claim to be the torchbearers for the American Way; it’s time someone turned the tables on the bastards.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Some defense-related research agencies have a “no stone unturned” policy of funding any project with even the slightest hope of success. For example, one agency has funded anti-gravity studies. Srsly.

    Promoters of woo like to tout such interest as some sort of official stamp of approval. Remote viewing proponents, for example, are eager to mention that the U.S Army once had a project to study that. Somehow, the fact that the army ended that project doesn’t count as an argument against it though. And if remote viewing actually worked, and the military had it, how could someone like Osama bin Laden evade capture for years and years?

  • http://jawsforjesus.tumblr.com JawsForJesus

    I see XKCD forgot to tell a joke again.

  • Stephen P

    Promoters of woo like to tout such interest as some sort of official stamp of approval.

    Aaargh! You just gave me a flashback. Many years ago my mother was rather enthusiastic about various versions of woo (not that the word woo was in use then). Whenever I attempted to suggest that X was not well grounded in fact we had a heated discussion that frequently ended in her exclaiming “even the Russian government is investigating X!” At which point my heart would sink at the prospect of trying to scrape off the layers of daftness underlying that statement, and I’d give up.

    Fortunately I eventually managed to pursuade my parents to stop taking the Daily Mail and get a newspaper instead. Things improved after that.

  • http://www.thegodlessmonster.com The Godless Monster

    @Stephen P,

    “even the Russian government is investigating X!”

    One word:
    Lysenko

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Well remote prayer does work if you just confirm the times that it works. Perhaps I could start a company that will pray for your loved ones and you only have to pay if they get better.

    But I see that this strategy violates the hidden text. Oh well…

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Or if I really want to be evil, I’ll call my company a church and get even those for which the prayer doesn’t work to (gladly) pay me…. and I won’t have to pay taxes on the tithe income.

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    Damn science, always coming up with things that work in the real world.

  • Secular Stu

    Sadly, I have heard stories of oil and mineral prospectors falling for remote viewing and dowsing scams. And I’ve observed (recently) engineers relying on dowsing to locate buried utility lines.

    The point is those stories are not common. Almost all of the things in the first column have been around for hundreds of years. If they really did work, somebody should’ve used them successfully by now.

    It’s easier for a few companies make a foolish mistake as opposed to every company making a foolish mistake, and none of them realizing the competitive advantage from these phenomenon.

  • http://skepticalrockhead.blogspot.com/ Rockhead

    Dowsing for utilities is actually quite common in my experience. I know many engineers and even a couple of geologists who practice it or at least believe in it. It’s dangerous and I don’t allow it on my projects, but it’s an ongoing battle. I’ll post more on my blog when I get some time.

  • Stephen P

    @Godless Monster: yes, indeed. One of the things most wrong with the statement.


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