Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Pseudoscience Predictions

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Another daily does of pseudoscience courtesy of The Times today, which printed an article, entitled “Can we really predict a baby’s sex?” It sited several ‘old wives tales’ and then explained if there was any scientific research or data to back up the claims. It ranged from bathing in different liquids in order to change the pH of the uterus, to eating lots of carbohydrates. This may seem like a harmless article but unfortunately this is a not just a pointless waste of newspaper column space. As we already know, the sex of a child is determined solely by genetics, the genes which are contained within the egg and sperm which come together at fertilization. It is articles like this that confuse the reader and have no scientific value; it is frustrating that people will still tolerate respectable newspapers printing this rubbish. The worst part of this article is that it suggested that eating a certain diet would give you a higher chance of conceiving a child of a desired sex. This is a ridiculous misrepresentation of a scientific study and is simply a correlation between two unrelated things. It may seem like a bit of a harmless report in order to fill the column space during the quite holiday period, but it undermines the reader’s intelligence and could easily guide an unquestioning reader to become mislead by the scientific sounding claims.

Another frustrating piece of pseudoscience which seems to have a growing following is baby sex predicting tables, like the one above. This may seem like a harmless piece of fun in developed countries, but these tables and charts are becoming wide spread across the world and making there way in to medical clinics and pharmacies in many developing countries.  The problem with this is that people using them are often uneducated and so are becoming mislead by there predictive claims. What is interesting about pseudoscientific charts like this is that when they are wrong they are never blamed, that it is somehow your fault, the dates you gave were not accurate, but when they happen to predict the sex correctly (50% of the time) then the chart is hailed as legitimate. Many people are conned out of money for these charts, often the poorest and least educated within the community and the people buying them feel guilty and cheated when the chart is incorrect. We have made such progress in science in the last few decades and yet people are still being swindled by this widely peddled pseudoscience. 

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