Thursday 23 April 2015

Spam kills

The sad case of the woman killed by "diet pills"  wasn't the first. She probably wasn't even the first person killed by spam. But since she bought the deadly pills online, it's obvious to me that she most likely heard about it from spam; I get dozens of slimming cure spams sent to me each day. It's almost as if they somehow know that I'm overweight!

What can be done about this?

Education isn't going to help. You can tell people until you're blue in the face "Don't believe emails from people you don't know" - they aren't listening. And anyway, modern spam can masquerade as an email from someone you do know.

You can tell people until you're blue in the face "If something sounds too good to be true, then it usually is", but the problem is, people are conditioned from an early age to believe things that are too good to be true, such as the promise of eternal bliss if you just have faith in a god. Faith is, by many, considered to be a good thing. But faith is a synonym for gullibility, a willingness to believe what we want to be true, on no evidence. Like being able to lose weight by taking a pill, without any evidence that it works and won't kill you.

What we need to do, is teach critical thinking, and we need to teach it from an early age. Critical thinking, is where you don't just believe what you're told. You try to assess the evidence for what you're told, and if there isn't any, you don't believe it.

And here's one of the problems. Faith schools. Faith schools teach the exact opposite of critical thinking, they teach gullibility. And worse - they teach divisiveness; think about protestant and catholic schools in Northern Ireland - was that ever a good idea? So why are we doing exactly that in England?

But I'd go further than critical thinking. I'd advocate critical speaking. When you see something that seems to you to be wrong, speak out against it, and say why. Because perhaps if more of us who can think critically, were also to speak critically, then maybe some people who currently don't bother with thinking, will be incentivised to try it.

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