Skepticism

Pseudo-Science at the State Fair

Muscles aching with exhaustion, belly full of things that were once on a stick and toting various animal skins I staggered into my house early this afternoon. I spent the day at the Iowa State Fair. Going to the State Fair has been an annual tradition of my family for longer than I have existed in my current state.(State of existence not state of the U.S.) If I dare say so this trip to the State Fair was the best in known recollection. Some of the highlights were finding a beautiful real leather purse for a great price, discovering the wonders of chocolate covered cheese cake on a stick and receiving a 150th anniversary addition of The Origin of Species featuring an introduction written by Ray Comfort.

On Nov 19th of last year, just a few days before the 150th anniversary of the book, 50,000 copies of this ‘unique’ edition were given away at the top 50 universities of America. The 50 page introduction is full of ad hominem attacks against Darwin as well as arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity about transitional species and DNA respectively. The most disgusting thing about the introduction is Comfort attempting to connect evolution with Adolph Hitler. I was interested in the creationist edition of the book for it’s novelty and collectors value. But unfortunately I was not able to make it to one of those universities on the critical day. When my sister and I popped over to the large and well funded creationist booth, hoping for some Chick tracts, we found they were giving away the creationist The Origin of Species. I was delighted the opportunity that had come and gone a year ago was given to me again. My sister and I left, laughing about what a great conversation pieces our books would make.

The young earth creationist booth is a bit scary with its HD tvs showing videos, piles of literature and pamphlets and large, elaborate dioramas. It is frightening how well funded this fringe, radical organization is. What is even more worrying is that they weren’t the only pseudo-science I encountered. In the building under the grand stands filled with miracle carpet cleaners and unnecessary kitchen gadgets there lied a new kind of charlatan. I saw people who claimed they could figure out someones personality by the structure of their feet. I saw diagrams explaining how you can remove toxins trough your feet with foot pads and soaks. There’s something about the feet that these people really seem to like.

Is the Iowa State Fair the exception or the rule? How’s does your state fair, or any state fair you’ve been to, compare in terms of being taken over by pseudo-science? And should there be a skeptical booth, handing out pamphlets right next to the creationist booth?

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Lyra Lynx

Lyra Lynx

1 Comment

  1. mushka
    August 20, 2010 at 10:09 am —

    As I’m in Australia, our state fairs are called “the royal show” The royal show travels from state to state and is basically an agricultural show, the emphasis being on livestock, but – most importantly to city kids – showbags and sideshow alley, which is basically rollercoasters and rides, encouraging parents to spend as much money as possible making kids sick after eating chocolate from their show bags.

    I have noticed an increase though in new agey, crystals and biorhythms bullshit, along with commercial interests like massage chairs and super chop, dice and slice-o-matics.

    Having said that, it’s still a good day out, there’s a lot of free exhibits and it’s always good exercise walking around for 7 hours looking at stuff. Just ignore the aura readers and go watch the sheepdog trials instead…

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