March 24

Let's ban water


A friend sent me the amazing video posted below. It’s a Penn & Teller film in which an interviewer goes around asking people to sign a petition banning water with hilarious results. The petitioner, of course, doesn’t say the word ‘water’ but says its chemical name instead: dihydrogen monoxide.
It’s stunning to me to see how many people simply signed the petition without even asking what the chemical was. The petitioner spoke in the same whiny, nasal, sing-song voice that all these save-the-world types speak in, so I guess the petition signers all figured she was speaking their language, and since they all spoke the same language, they must all have the same worthy goals.
I’m sure that most of the people in this video are fairly bright, but a big part of their world view is that chemicals are bad. So when someone comes along asking them to sign a petition to ban a chemical, there first response is: where do I sign? Not what is the chemical? Is there another name for it? I’m quite sure that most of them–if they stopped to think about it even for a minute–could figure out that dihydrogen monoxide is water, but they were thrown into non-think mode when they heard the name of a chemical.
I suspect it’s this same non-thinking mindset that drives people to low-fat diets–even those (some physicians, for example) who should know better. Many people, for no good reason (certainly no biochemical reason), have got it in their heads that fat in general is bad and that saturated fat is positively evil. When these people hear the word ‘steak’ or ‘prime rib,’ they experience the same knee-jerk response as the folks who signed this petition.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the same reaction when they hear the words ‘organic, pure cane sugar.’  So much the pity.

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  1. Great fun Dr. Eades: As a chemistry teacher, I have got to love it. It’s amazing how little the public knows about some common chemicals. I tell my students about the dangers of hydrochloric acid and then say– it’s in your stomach (and they get all worried). I think the analogy to dietary foods is spot on. My visiting brother (a triple bypass vet, and adherent of an ultra low fat diet thanks to his cardiologist) watched me make your recipes for lemon ricotta pancakes and homemade breakfast sausage this morning, and shuddered at the fat content, and was horrified at my usage of “real” butter on the griddle, and then he proceeded to eat a heart healthy bagel along with cereal coated with dates and raisins, (about 100 – 150 g of carbs with the skim milk!!). My lipid profile numbers adhering to your low carb-high protein diet consistently outdo his. But I understand his fear, I never understood how low-carb works and makes you feel until I tried this diet – it really works! It will be 4 years on this wonderful diet come April 2. Unfortunately, very few cardiologists would ever let my brother take the route I do – his doctor says that “I’ll be sorry some day for going down this path.” (quote) I don’t think so. Thanks.
    David Futoma
    Hi David–
    Too bad about your brother.  Maybe some day he’ll wake up and smell the bacon…and eat it.  Keep your fingers crossed.

  2. Evaporated cane juice sounds really healthy and seems to be acceptable to people who avoid sugar. A rose by any other name will still need dihydrogen monoxide to live.
    Clever indeed! 

  3. Love it! I’m not surprised at all that no one questioned what the chemical was.
    I’ve long been bothered by the way people frequently use the words “chemicals” and “natural”, the former generally in a negative sense and the latter in a positive sense, but neither in a way that generally makes any sense, ie., “I don’t want to eat food full of chemicals; I want natural bamboo sheets”.

  4. I saw another video (wish I remembered where) where the people with the petitions went out asking college women to sign a petition against “women’s suffrage.” Most didn’t know what it meant, although one college MALE correctly identified it while his female companion signed the petition.
    Hi Victoria–
    You gotta give that guy credit, looking out for the little lady and all.

  5. There is an old website that looked in detail into this “evil” chemical.
    Made me chuckle when I first run on it.
    Hi gallier2–
    Made me chuckle too.  Thanks for the link.

  6. It seems to me that there is a more basic, philosophical problem, and it is that such a large number of people live in “non-thinking mode” all the time. People want their answers to any situation, good or bad, to be easy and instantaneous. No one takes a breath to figure out what is being talked about.
    I remember years ago, when going into a supermarket I was asked by petitioners to sign a petition to put an initiative on the ballot about dog racing. I actually stopped and explained to the person trying to get my signature that by NOT signing, I was making my intentions known. He insisted that I had to give everyone a chance to vote on it. No, I said, if you don’t get enough signatures to put it the ballot, the voters’ interest has already been made known. Poor guy couldn’t understand what I was talking about, and now I can’t remember if it even made it as an initiative.
    Marketing and corporate news media(same people if you ask me)depend on this non-thinking mode to get their messages across. Just look at the low carb/high carb controversy–an absolutely manufactured situation.
    Hi LC–
    It’s sad, but you’re right.  Most people don’t think critically (or much at all, for that matter).  Why?  Because it’s hard.  It takes effort to think something through and derive an enlightened opinion.  It’s much easier to let someone else do the thinking then just follow them, which is what all too many people do.

  7. There was one done for “women’s sufferage” too. A lot of people voted against it. Without knowing they were voting against women being able to vote! I think the Man show did it. (Does it count if women sign?)
    Thank God for men.

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