Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s term is:
We all know what quacks are. They’re people trying to sell you pseudoscientific garbage that will benefit your health, beauty, intelligence, sexual prowess, or whatever. We should all be on guard against quackery.
But I recently discovered another term, a term which comes to us courtesy of Val Jones at Science-Based Medicine: shruggies. I’m not sure if this term has really spread beyond the Science-Based Medicine website, but I’m definitely adding it to my vocabulary.
Shruggies are people who, when presented with pseudoscience, just shrug. Bold, unrealistic claims? Shrug. Lack of supporting evidence? Shrug. Science… pseudoscience… what’s the difference? It’s not worth arguing about.
I recently saw an example of this on television, on one of those shows where they give out free medical advise. They were talking about leeches. Yes, leeches. Apparently Demi Moore has been using them as part of her beauty regimen, and gosh doesn’t she look young and beautiful?
Of course, these aren’t just any old leeches from your local swamp. These are “medically trained” leeches (Demi Moore’s words, not mine). So if your blood is full of toxins, if your body is full of negative energy, you can turn to Mr. Leech to suck it all out.
The show’s hosts—who are supposedly real doctors—just smiled and made jokes. One of them decided to try it for himself and put a leech on his hand.
They did not endorse this leech therapy thing, but they didn’t say or do anything to discredit it either. Basically, they shrugged. And by shrugging, they sent a clear message to their viewers at home: if you want to look young and beautiful like Demi Moore, maybe leeches are worth trying.
So beware of shruggies. They’re as bad as quacks. Maybe worse.
P.S.: I should mention that the F.D.A. has approved the use of leeches for medical purposes. Apparently they can help treat certain kinds of blood clots that can be difficult to treat using other methods. I guess this is the kernel of truth at the center of this leech therapy nonsense.