The first book I encountered at university was a slender volume called Reading English by George Story and E.R. Seary. It explained how a student reads for a degree and how important it is to read critically and not believe everything just because it is on paper. Smallwood suffered from that inability. He was a voracious reader who didn’t know how to read. He thought incorrectly, that if you read something in a book; it must be true.
Unregulated wild west
So, it is today with the burgeoning “internet.” It is a modern almost unregulated wild west of information where anyone can write the most outlandish things and still find an audience. When you sit to the keyboard there is no one to tell you to stop your foolishness.
Consider the dangerous false hope held out to people suffering from multiple sclerosis by the now discredited Zamboni treatment. A procedure by an Italian doctor Paulo Zamboni had at its base the dubious notion that MS was caused by a blocked vein in the neck. Word of that spread like wildfire on the internet and sufferers of MS spent a lot of money going to places like Poland for a medical procedure of unproven value. It was a shame because it took advantage of people who were suffering and separated them from their money. In the end Dr. Zamboni himself came around in the face of evidence and said the treatment had no real value
More recently there is the very dangerous and idiotic notion that vaccinations cause or lead to autism in children. This is a particularly virulent bit of misinformation because it is causing some parents to keep normal immunization vaccinations from their children. It rears its head in measles. That disease had all but been eliminated in Canada. Now it is back. There have been measles outbreaks in Europe particularly areas with a subpar medical network and cases have been brought to Canada by travellers.
Now the normal childhood vaccines protect our children against measles and other things but here is the problem that is hurting. Vaccines only work if you have been vaccinated! There is now that deeply disturbing trend of parents making decisions based, not on something their physicians or their government told them, but instead something they saw on the glow of a computer screen and given credence by people clicking like on a Facebook page. There is more!
Again, it is the internet that is allowing wacko ideas to find traction. I know an ordinarily normal person who believes that ‘Big Pharma’ and the larger medical community are part of a giant conspiracy to keep people on drugs and give them things they don’t need. The motive in the theory is; profit. Just click ‘Big Pharma’ on Google and the load of responses will cause your house lights to dim. It has all gone mad and it is all a shame. Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism published in 1709 said; “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Mr. Pope was very right.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org