Now I’m not an animal nut by any stretch of the imagination, and I love me some rare steak, but I think it’s a damn shame when an animal is poached to extinction for use as a panacea that has no basis in science.*
In practical terms that’s just a waste of a perfectly cool animal. In ethical terms that’s just off the charts ridiculous. In historical terms… well, in historical terms I guess that’s par for the course.
I don’t like excusing stupid behavior in the past but there was a time when we actually didn’t know any better. There was a time when we didn’t have the scientific method. There was a time when truth and tradition were synonymous, and we relied on our senses as accurate indicators of reality.
Well we know now how incredibly susceptible to bias our senses truly are and how inaccurate as portrayers of what is actually happening around us they come off as. And how long they have fooled us**. The scientific method was developed specifically as a tool to eliminate our shortcomings in these areas and provide us with information that we could, once tested, reliably claim to represent a very good approximation of what is happening in reality. It cuts out biases, wish fulfillment, delusions and in the case of magic rhino horn elixirs, the placebo effect. It’s also testable and open to change in the face of new evidence.
Of course there’s good reason to exploit the placebo effect: because it works. But there’s absolutely no reason for it to be used at the cost of an endangered species when a sugar pill would have done exactly the same thing. Ignorance, greed, tradition and magic win this round. Ground up rhino horn incidentally has the same magical properties as biting your fingernails, since they are both made of the same stuff. Keratin, natures plastic (also used to make feathers, hair and hooves in addition to nails and horns). So the next time you feel the urge to kill a rhino (provided you can find one) because you have a headache, stop, and chew on the hair of whoever is standing next to you instead. I promise your ‘original’ headache will disappear much quicker.
Doubtless you’ll be miffed if you are a practitioner or subscriber to Eastern
magic medicine or similar practices that use the placebo-with-a-cost logic. But please, if you want to have a conversation about these things, have the courtesy to clap your hands and realign your Chakras before you start talking. Just so we all know where each other stands in regards to fantasy and reality before someone wastes a breath.
Thankfully (though it sickens me to put it this way) most new age practitioners-of-anything ancient-and-exotic tend to stay away from the ground up rhino horns and tiger penises. “Because that’s yucky.” So most of the market for killing endangered species stays in China or Chinatown.
Instead they throw money at Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) hipper, mainstream brands of garbage. Things like reflexology and acupuncture. I don’t mince words here, because a spade is a spade and acupuncture is garbage. Ancient nonsense repackaged to hip, “holistic” medicine—free from the crushing grip of “big pharma” and “doctors.” You show me a study where acupuncture is shown to work as well as a placebo, and I’ll show you research that shows that a placebo is no better than doing nothing at all. Invariably, whenever acupuncture comes up in conversation, it turns to our favorite phrase, “What’s the harm?”.
[This is where I post a gruesome photo of a rhinoceros with half its head taken off with a chainsaw, left to die. But I'm beyond shock tactics.]
Even if you agree that taking ground up rhino horns for your flaccid penis is superstitious nonsense; even if you pour money into wildlife preserves and conservation efforts, if you spend money on traditional chinese medicine—pin pricks and glorified foot rubs included—you’re funding the type of people who are paying those poachers to drive animals like rhinos and tigers to extinction in the name of ancient magic.
In the words of the inimitable Tim Minchin,
By definition, alternative medicine has either not been proved to work, or been proved not to work.
Do you know what they call “alternative medicine” that’s been proved to work?
This post was brought to you by Antimony (Sb).
Big thanks to the various outlets who gave props to The Moon Illusion, Nadir’s Pioneer Plaque, and Frickin’ Lasers.
If you don’t already read BoingBoing, you really should.
*The issue of enabling the market by not outlawing or enforcing poaching which in turn encourages the magical-tradition as well as non-medicinal uses is an argument for the longevity of these practices but my main concern is why the magic exists in the first place.
**My senses, Fool me once, shame on you, fool me 250000 years, shame on me.