STORY TIME! Embarrassing Tale of That Time I Fell For Pseudoscience!

STORY TIME! Embarrassing Tale of That Time I Fell For Pseudoscience! March 8, 2018

I wrote up this story on my blog a few years ago and I thought it would make a really great story time video. It’s the story of the time I totally thought we were all going to die. Here is the video:

From the original blog post:

I like to think of myself as an intelligent woman, but Godless Mom was not always this way. I was once a stupid teenager and I, admittedly, fell for some shit from time to time.

I grew up on the West Coast of Canada, where earthquakes happened and were often talked about. For as long as I can remember, the threat of the “Big One” loomed unpredictably over us, thieving sleep and infiltrating dreams. In school, we had earthquake drills and were taught earthquake preparedness over and over. We had evacuation plans and escape routes, we had preparedness kits and checklists, there were cans of beans and bottles of water shoved in the darkest corners of every classroom, and I swear those canned fuckers would whisper, “did you feel that?” from time to time to keep us on our toes.

No kid in Southwest BC grew up without some fear of the Cascadia Fault. None of us reached adulthood without the ghost tremors now and again. The paranoia ran deep and where there is paranoia, there is always some profiteering motherfucker waiting to prey on it.

Every month or so, one of these fear mongers would lie his way to the news and foretell that a large seismic event was imminent, sending shockwaves of terror throughout the city. Bottled water and spam would disappear off the shelves at Safeway and suddenly every Lower Mainlander had become critically aware of every last sliver in their doorways.

When I was around 13, on a Friday night over a feast of Domino’s pepperoni pizza, my Dad flipped from my Muchmusic countdown to the news. I was none too pleased, and held a small, teenaged protest as I grumbled my way through a pie slice. I hated the news, I hated it when my parents watched the news and I would always leave the room when they did. There were never any cute boys on the fucking news, who the fuck needed it?

On this evening, however, I stuck around because pizza. I was 13. Pizza was my tertiary interest after cute boys and music videos.

I stared blankly at a brief story about the Middle East, then there was something about a lost dog in Port Alberni, and then finally, as I was taking my last few bites of grease casserole, a “scientist” was consulted about our ever-threatening fault line, and he assured us all that the Big One was going to hit tomorrow, for sure, beyond any doubt.

Inner panic. I stopped mid-chew and waited for my family to fucking melt down. They didn’t. I didn’t understand why they weren’t reacting. Throwing down my crust, I shrieked,

“What’s wrong with you people? Didn’t you hear what he just said?”

My 8 year old brother looked at me, curiously and said no.

“The Big One is happening tomorrow! And you’re all just sitting there! What’s the matter with you?”

“The Big One? You mean the earthquake?” My little brother was starting to look concerned.

“Yes! The earthquake!”

He began to cry, “What are we going to do, Mom? We have to go get bottled water.” He continued to list off things we would need through sobs.

You can read the rest here.

Have you ever fallen for pseudoscience? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Morgan Lefaye

    I freaked out over Y2K to the point I was worried the water pipes would stop working and I wouldn’t be able to take a bath!

  • Haha! Yeah, I was a little worried myself.

  • Illithid

    I was so relieved when 2012 passed without incident. Not because I was worried, but because that was the final date I had heard bandied about my whole freaking life for the end of the world. From Late Great Planet Earth, to 88 Reasons the World Will End in 1988 (and ’89), Y2K, etc. Finally, all done.

    Then came Harold Camping, and I knew it would never be over. 🙂

  • Jim Jones

    BC is still very lackadaisical about quakes. IMO, a 10 is not impossible.

    All those downtown east side hotels with the brick exteriors could become a pile of bricks and bodies. And the city has bought some?

  • Snagglefritz Sagenschnitter

    As a ten year old I convinced myself that the dam across the road from our place was bottomless. I was mightily pissed off when a friend decided to prove me wrong by taking off his clothes and wading across it. The water didn’t even get up to his bum. I hated him!

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Well, it wasn’t pseudoscience but something else we got fed in my young days as a New Yorker (and most of the rest of the US too). It was all about THE BOMB. RUSSIA HAS THE BOMB. World War III was always just around the corner. And of course since I lived in the most extra special totes important part of not just the US , but the WHOLE WIDE WORLD more bombs would hit us (or near us, since i didn’t live right in NYC) than anybody else. There would be so many bombs dropped on NYC that people as far away as Canada would glow in the dark.Such nice happy dreams I had.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Meh, just click once a week, you will see at least one ‘end of the world’ story. If it aint some asteroid ‘PASSING REAL CLOSE’ it will be some new disease that is about to break out all over the world. Or some insect that chemicals just wont kill. You could make a bingo card from em (;

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I was working in tech support at the time and luckily our company was not as Y2k insane as some. But I DID have a neighbor ask me ‘can you tell me if this calculator is y2k compliant?’ When I explained that since it did not have any kind of calendar or date functions, it was fine. He THEN asked me if his microwave was going to be safe to use after Y2k.. /facepalm

  • Yeah, my mom told me about growing up through that and having to do drills in class. That definitely would have been terrifying.

  • Haha, I guess you can’t argue with the evidence there!

  • Oh, I know a big one is possible and yeah, Vancity isn’t so well prepared. Glad I got out. I’m out in the Okanagan now.

  • This is one of the questions I plan on asking my Jehovah’s Witnesses next time they stop by unannounced. Do they know how many times their cult has predicted the end of the world and been wrong? I bet they don’t. There’s always some doomsday prediction looming on the horizon, but I think the first one you hear can be scary for sure.

  • They really are abundant, doomsday predictions.

  • Daniel Brookshier

    I am pseudoscience. I have not fallen, I am falling for pseudoscience all the time (I have attained a stable orbit around pseudoscience and “feeling fine.” All my drugs, real and fake, work better because of the placebos. All my drugs, real and fake,have horrible side effects too because of the nocebo effect (hint: avoid reading the side effect section of the drug fact sheet or talking at any length with our pharmacist). On good days, I feel lucky that the world is flat (at least as far as the horizon). I blindly hope that political science will save our political system, even though there is no science to politics. I fear the world will end one day and there are too many imagined gods of god like substitutes like GMO, genetic engineering, and government conspiracies to know who or what to worship or tithe to keep myself in the queue for for absolution. It goes on, but I hold only hold one truth as sacred: Humans are, as a species, not immune to pseudoscience and the only thing you can do choose to fight the dragons of truth as soon as your realize they might be windmills covered in misinformation illusion.

  • Demons. After the big Satanic Panic of the 1980s I was terrified that demons were alive and well and roaming the earth to inflict harm upon us humans. I am embarrassed to say that up into my early 20s I was afraid that real live demons were coming after me. I had been taught that if you command demons to leave in Jesus’ name they have to leave, so I was always commanding them to leave (though I made sure no one was around to hear me doing it out loud). My mom was afraid of them too….. whereas I got over religion and deconverted, she never did.

  • Morgan Lefaye

    I bet my poor ex-husband was facepalming at my fear the water pipes would stop working!

  • hisxmark

    I don’t know how to break it to you: We are all going to die, maybe not all at once, but certainly over the next hundred and fifty years. Or, maybe will die all at once when an asteroid hits. Have a nice day! (It may be your last.)

  • RichardSRussell

    Of course, it’s Christians who are the leading purveyors of the meme about “the end of days” or “the Apocalypse” or “the second coming”, to the extent that something like 40% of the American public thinks the world is gonna end in their own lifetimes. [Here insert facepalm!]

    For sanity’s sake, people, why are we still talking about the 2nd coming of Christ? The very people promoting this idea are apparently incapable of reading their own holy book (Matthew 24:30-34), where Jesus clearly says he’ll be returning during the lifetime of his own disciples. But guess what? He didn’t! Didn’t come back then, hasn’t come back since, isn’t back now, and won’t be coming back in the future.

    And why not? Because he’s DEAD, you fools! Dead, dead, dead! Dead and gone. Dead and buried. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a rock. Dead as a dodo. Flatlined like Kansas. Belly-up like a dynamited carp. Dead and never coming back!

    It’s been TWO THOUSAND YEARS, people. Time to get over it. I’ve heard of slow learners, but this is ridiculous. Sheesh. Grow up and face reality.

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    I had to laugh, your dad is great. Back in the late 50s early 60s when I was young, the big thing was nuclear war. To place this geographically, it was in Yuma, AZ, which is on the Colorado River. My dad refused to build a bomb shelter in our yard. My parents knew someone who had done so. My dad said, “Hell, the Russians will target Hoover Dam and the river will wipe out all the dams below and we’ll be under 10 feet of water. An underground shelter won’t save anyone.” I don’t know how accurate he was, but I thought he had a good point. And we lived our life as we had been, not worrying, fatalistically shrugging – eh, if we all die, we will all die together.

  • Preach!

  • Stephen Peirce

    Hell. When I was 11 or 12 I remember a catholic friend informing me about hell and as you can probably imagine I was terrified. Later that night my mother came to the rescue and explained that my friend had it wrong and that hell was not a real place. Since my mother was a JW, and therefore a religious authority in my eyes, I was assuaged.

  • ThomasBonsell

    I didn’t fall for either one, but the two incidents that caused alarm were the Cuban missile crisis and June 6, 2006 – shortened to 666 .

    In Los Angeles a near panic pervaded the college I was attending about the missile standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba. I had just finished four years in the Air Force involved in intelligence work and tried to calm fears by saying the Soviet ships would stop in mid-ocean, just over the horizon where American blockade personnel couldn’t see them. They would send a ship or two on toward Cuba to test the blockade and if there were a blockade they would radio back to the fleet, and the ships carrying missiles would turn around and return to the Soviet Union. That is apparently what happened and occurred just as my intelligence training and experience thought it would.

    Laughed a tad at those serious Christians who were afraid all “hell” would break loose on 666; and of course it didn’t because 666 doesn’t mean what they” think” it means.

  • Brent L
  • Richard McLeod

    When I was a bairn I used to worry that world super powers would annihilate each other in a nuclear holocaust. Oh no wait……. that was actually true!!

  • Sherey Gould

    Working as a freelance translator, Y2K was THE BEST year for my Christmas gifts to clients. Had mouse pads printed up to read “Y2K-compliant mouse pad” with my logo on it. Have not been able to top that in any ensuing year since!

  • Tuna

    I won’t say I was worried about Y2K, but I did stock up on bottle water and canned foods.

  • Mythie

    I just recited Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch in my head 🙂

  • RichardSRussell

    Didja hear about the non-mathematician who drowned while wading across a river with an average depth of one foot?

  • Almost a chimp

    Oh, way to make me feel ancient; I was one of the kids doing those drills. We also had regular bomb drills because the I.R.A. had started bombing English towns and cities.
    Strange, really, that at the same time as the teachers were drilling us on how to survive, they were giving us pieces of asbestos to experiment with in science classes.

  • Almost a chimp

    I did find the ‘alien intervention’ hypotheses of von Daniken and others intriguing for a while, but that’s about as far as I’ve been down the pseudo-science rabbit hole.

  • Yeah, my mom used to tell me stories about doing bomb drills. That would have been so terrifying.

  • That must have been really scary. To truly believe in that sort of thing and fear it. I’m sorry you had to go through it.

  • I think I would have been scared during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    I don’t remember doing bomb drills. Yuma was/is not very large. There is a Marine air base there, but it is a training base, not a full combat base. Regardless of whether Yuma was directly targeted, Hoover Dam would have been at least on the second round. Yet – no bomb drills though a lot of people in town were talking about what to do if…. Seriously, if the Marine base had been targeted, Yuma would have completely disappeared and no bomb shelter would have protected you. And I believe my dad was correct about the consequences of losing the dam at that time. Unlike today, when the drought has been so severe for so long, the lake behind the dam was full. No one was going to be able to survive it collapsing. And I have never been afraid of dying, even as a child. I always thought it would be similar to before I was born – just a lot of nothing. Not scary, perhaps regretful for all the life not lived, but not frightening.

  • Atrus

    I did that as well. Not realizing that there were people who didn’t believe in god or a higher power, it was how i reconciled how everyone could believe in something, yet have the details vary so wildly. Everyone interacted with aliens and was interpreted differently by groups around the world. Once I realized that there was no proof of a god or higher power, and that atheism was even an option that people believed I dropped the alien idea.

  • Almost a chimp

    My interest was more to do with the supposedly ‘impossible’ feats of ancient engineering; the pyramids, Stonehenge, Mayan super-cities, Easter Island’s giant stone heads, and so-on.
    I was only just into my teens at the time, so knew little of what ancient people were capable of. It didn’t help that many of the ‘authoritative’ books on the subject professed ignorance of how such feats of building, of moving multi-ton blocks of rock hundreds of miles, of standing those blocks on end, could have been achieved, so as far as the young me was concerned, the alien hypothesis was better than none at all.
    Then I started learning geometry, physics, etc., and archeologists and anthropologists began making better cases for human-only ingenuity being behind the ancient marvels, so the aliens were sent back to the Fiction section.

  • Michael Crichton

    I fell for HIV denialism for about a month. Then I realized how incredibly stupid it was, and was never that gullible again. Until I voted for Nader in 2000… 🙁

  • Oof, but you learned – that’s the important part!