Indulging superstitions comes at a real cost

Often we think of people’s superstitions as harmless quirks that have are easily tolerated. No one gets hurt if someone says a prayer before eating, refuses to walk under a ladder or doesn’t go out on Friday the 13th. Those are all superstitions, ie irrational beliefs in the supernatural, but ones that are so common or harmless that we give them a free pass. When some people take their superstitions to even greater extremes, like claiming lego will destroy children’s souls or that Dungeons and Dragons is evil, we find it ridiculous but don’t pay it much attention other than as a curiosity. Continue reading

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Showing the importance of evidence

Late last month, I attended the MRC Early Career Scientist Conference which was two days of young scientists talking about the work they were doing. I got to hear about the different research being conducted all around the country and there were a few presentations that I want to share with you because they show how relevant evidence can be to people’s daily lives and come from a South African context. As far as I know all the research that was presented is unpublished and all I have to go by in reporting is my memory and the one page abstracts in the conference booklet. Continue reading

Rhinos need evidence-based thinking

Late last year the Western black rhinoceros was declared extinct in West Africa. This year South Africa, home to up to 80% of the world’s rhino population, has had to deal with incredibly high levels of poaching. They are being killed for their horn, even by the very people that are meant to protect them, which sells for an astronomical amount. If the trade on rhino horn was lifted South Africa would be sitting on a stockpile worth R10 billion! Continue reading