Lee’s Lookout: Pseudoscience discredits hippies

Shaina Lee, Photo Editor

This past weekend I attended Karma Fest, a free-spirited festival held annually at Oregon Ridge, where one can expect to see drum circles, loose-fitted clothing, musicians with names such as “The Troll Tribe”, vendors selling crystals, tie-die of all sorts, and plenty of vegan food. I frequently go to events of this sort, and have fun dancing, meeting new people, and letting go of stress.

Despite my admiration for the fundamental values of encouraging deeper introspection and love for nature that constitute this culture, I have problems with some of the methods used to carry them out; take pseudoscience for example.

In a world where we want to believe that anything can heal us, it’s difficult to decipher the truth from scams, especially for those who don’t have much education. Crystals are one of the most benign forms of this, where the energies of different rocks are believed to provide spiritual assistance and wellbeing. In the extreme, they are believed to provide medical assistance as well, but for the most part, they are used for creating spiritual balance. This in itself is harmless, because tools that people use to enhance their spiritual experiences can be whatever they want them to be, since spiritually in itself does not have to be rooted in science in the first place.

However, these types of beliefs become serious when vendors try to push absurd ideas promising medicinal benefits onto their customers by using false science as “proof”, which is something I encountered multiple times throughout the day. For example, a woman offered that, for a dollar a minute, she could make someone healthier by assessing their DNA using soundwaves, and adding new strands of DNA to their genes—a feat that is beyond any remote grasp of logic, let alone the fundamental principles of genetics. In another scenario, people could sign up to have their organs screamed at in order to “fix” them. Yes, you read that correctly.

Eventually, I had enough of it and decided to confront a man at a booth who was selling a device made out of some type of mineral that was supposed to go on your wrist to protect you from the radiation of technology. He provided diagrams and pamphlets detailing a clinical trial conducted on this device to back what he was selling. After reading the pamphlet, I went through the trial step by step with the man, outlining everything wrong with it by using what I have learned about statistical inference and proper experimentation, and further emphasized that one trial is not enough to significantly back any claim in order to present it to the public. In his frustration, I proceeded to question him on how the device actually worked on a biochemical level, to which he could not respond thoroughly and scenically. Eventually, he began ignoring me, and refused to acknowledge anything I was saying or my presence.

Not everyone who attends these events buys into these ideas, but many do, which raises the concern that they rely on pseudoscience to fix potentially dangerous health conditions. Furthermore, this behavior discredits some of the genuinely beneficial elements of “hippie culture”.

Not all tools of wellness that these people use are invalid. For example, practices such as yoga have been scientifically proven to actually decrease stress levels and boost overall wellness, along with meditation.