On the 2nd Saturday of each month, Mrs. Rationalbrain and I visit the Kyneton market to browse and pick up the usual farmers’ markety kind of stuff – bread, olives, plants and so on. We did this again yesterday, just after an excellent breakfast at the Little Swallow, just across the road in historic Piper St. What does this have to do with skepticism or rational thinking you ask?
Not much, except that, amongst the various ointments and balms being sold at one of the stalls, I spied some Elmore Oil, which regular readers will know from earlier blog entries (actually I’m now kind of fond of the stuff, having made it my own personal crusade). There it was, in its natty little display box. And unlike the online promotions, the claims on the box and on the bottles were really rather modest – boasting only ‘temporary relief of the symptoms of …[insert whatever ails you here]”.
After excitedly pointing the display out to Mrs. Rationalbrain, I initially received support, but then a kind of look one gives to the pet dog to let go of that damned chew-toy. But before she had the opportunity to shepherd me away, we became engaged in conversation with the friendly vendor, who proceeded to explain all the many and wonderful benefits of Elmore Oil, and that it was very popular, that you should apply it before and after exercise, and that he got this lot directly from the folks at Elmore (the town), and that he couldn’t get much more due to the huge demand from overseas yada yada yada. He then proceeded to offer us a brochure.
In response to his very persuasive patter and offer of a brochure, my brain formulated a witty and biting put-down, but somewhere between my brain and my mouth the words changed to “that’s ok, I’m already aware of its benefits, thanks.”
As a result of this sudden attack of cordiality, I walked away feeling good about myself, realising that nothing could really be achieved by preaching to this stall holder. In any case, he wasn’t really making any unrealistic claims about the stuff, other than that you rub it in for temporary relief.
There is a moral to this story, and it’s also one of the maxims of the rational thinking community: DON”T BE A DICK. This pithy entreaty should be borne in mind by all those seeking to expose those charlatans and nutters out there. We should take care to read the situation, and not be too quick to take out the baseball bat. Sometimes a gentle slap will do.