nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
See here for more discussion.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

One Of A Million Roads To Irrationality: "Thinspiration" Websites That Promote Starvation And Malnutrition

  The Age of Aquarius brings you "Thinspiration" websites to cure the biological requirement for nutrition.

What a deal.  If we didn't have to eat anything, think of the money we could save on groceries.  Oh, would put farmers out of business...but, but they could save money and survive (for a while) by becomining anorexic, too.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins did a study that surveyed 180 pro-eating disorder websites.  The findings are sad, a symptom of our need for belief, in something, irrational or not.
"About 91% of sites were open to the public — though many warned that "wannabes" should stay away — and about 79% had interactive features, such as calorie and body-mass index (BMI) calculators.  About 16% had a "creed" or "oath to Ana," such as the "Thin Commandments," or 10 rules for eating disorders, such as: "Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty," "Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterward," and "What the scale says is the most important thing."  ...about 43% provided specific instructions on concealing eating disorders" (from USA Today's Health blog (June 19).
This study comes at a time when I'm reading The World Turned Upside Down, by Melanie Phillips.  Phillips is a journalist who became perplexed at how "Reality seems to have been recast, with fantasies recalibrated as facts while demonstrable truths are dismissed as a matter of opinion."
"Nothing is really as it is said to be.  Society seems to be in the grip of a mass derangement.  The sense that the world has slipped off the axis of reason has been greatly exacerbated by the fact that so many prominent people--professors of this and research directors of that, chief scientists and Nobel Peace prize winners and fellows of the Royal Society, judges and diplomats, intelligence agents who suddenly materialized from the shadows and starting firing off in public--have been saying all these strange and disturbing things.  How could they all be wrong?  Am I perhaps wrong?  How is anyone to work out who is right in such a babble of "experts" and with so much conflicting information?"
This strikes a chord with me.  I once watched a physics department chairman forced to share a news broadcast--to "debate" ridiculous cold fusion theories--with a guy who claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine.  Why did such lunacy receive validation through a public forum?

For every rational and common sense conclusion, there's an "expert" who argues that it's all an illusion, or prejudice, or just the opposite, or "only true for you."  How can we function under these circumstances?  Battered by Truthers and Birthers and Princess Di murder advocates, it's hard to decide how to live, or even to decide how to decide.

Phillips concludes that the abandonment of reason is driven by those with a desire for power--not that startling--but she goes on to say that at bottom all these irrational power-seekers share an intent to unmoor our sense of reality, to disorient us in a way that creates a vulnerability to false visions of human perfectability.  The "Thinspiration" websites fit right in, taking advantage of this chink in our rational armor; promoting denial and punishing the body to reach a state of personal power and worth.

Recommended reading.

Rule of thumb:  If something sounds new and startlingly at odds with accepted knowledge, it's not because centuries of evidence have been shown to be false, that all the uncertainty  and confusion we experience has been overcome by this singular insight... it's probably because it's crap.

Doc D

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