Pseudoscience at a Science Museum?

During a recent visit to Dallas’ new science museum, Tim Crookham, found some Perot Museumpseudoscience in the museum’s gift store, and he brought it to the museum’s attention.  The following is his account of what happened.

On Saturday, March 9th, I went down to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. It’s a new museum that opened in Dallas in December of 2012. At the end of my visit I stopped by the gift shop. While looking around the museum store, I saw a necklace in a box with the words “Titanium Sport Energy Necklace” printed on the box. It looked like the braided necklaces I’ve seen baseball players wear. I picked up the box and the description on the back read something like “works with your body’s energy field to increase energy and promote well-being.” It also had things like “good for those with back pain and poor circulation”. I’ve seen enough Randi talks, Penn & Teller B.S. shows, and Richard Saunders clips that the skeptical alarm bells were ringing loud and clear. I was both shocked and disappointed that this found its way into the museum. I tried to find an employee to tell, but the store was packed.

Titanium_sport_energy_necklace

I went back to the store the next day and talked to an employee and the store manager and told them this necklace was pseudoscience and doesn’t belong in the museum. They told me that the buyers for the store are in California and that they would pass along my concern. They didn’t seem to understand that this was not a good thing to have in a science museum. I went home and drafted an email to the museum in which I included some web links such as one from sciencebasedmedicine.org regarding the unscientific nature of the product. I remembered Eugenie Scott saying that it’s important to CC: knowledgeable people and organizations on emails and the two that came to my mind were the JREF and the Skeptics Society. I also copied the museum’s PR director since the email address for the museum was just a generic inf@ email address. Below is my email:

Dear Perot Museum Representative,

I came across some alternative medicine pseudoscience being sold at the Perot Museum Store and was shocked and disappointed. The item that caught my attention was the Titanium Sport Energy Necklace. This item claims to work with the body’s energy field to increase energy and promote health. There is no scientific evidence to support those claims. As a member of the Perot Museum, I request that Titanium Sport Energy Necklace and any other pseudoscientific merchandise be removed from the museum store so as to align the store with the scientific mission of the rest of the museum. Below are articles regarding energy necklaces and their lack of scientific support.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/pseudoscience-sells/#more-15791

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-4525964.html

http://www.wired.com/playbook/2010/11/baseball-phiten-neckwear/all/

Regards,

Tim Crookham

Perot Museum Member

The next day I received a response with the words, “Thank you so much for your input. We will coordinate with the Museum Shop to effect removal as soon as possible.”

Yay for science and skepticism!!!

UPDATE: This story has also been covered by D.J. Grothe on the JREF Swift blog: Score One for the Good Guys

Welcome to Science

Zen Pencils, Welcome to Science, Phil Plait

Welcome to Science

There are a number of web comics that promote skeptical thinking and science; prominent examples are xkcd and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  Recently, I discovered Zen Pencils which started in February 2012.  The general theme of the Zen Pencils is to illustrate inspirational quotes from famous people.  The most recent installment is Welcome to Science which quotes Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer.   The full quote comes from a speech Phil gave at a science fair in 2005.  It captures well what the skeptic movement and science advocacy are about.

Skeptical comics are not a recent phenomenon.  North Texas Skeptics has been publishing comics as part of their publications dating all the way back in the 1980′s.  You can find the comics in the newsletters archived on this web site, and there is a collection of some comics on the Cartoons page.