Monday, August 8, 2022

Viral BS: Book Report

Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall For Them, by Dr. Seema Yasmin

Book Report by Crisandra Civatte

The book Viral BS by Dr. Seema Yasmin is a collection of medical myths most commonly heard and talked about around the world.  There are multiple topics discussed, including those about vaccines, certain medications and drugs, and much more into the health and science world.  A lot of these are common misinformation that many people have been subjected to believe is true, despite there being a surplus of scientific, fact-based evidence to debunk these rumors.  Dr. Yasmin provides the origin of these myths, and then dives into the research and science to prove why they are labeled as myths.  Dr. Yasmin is a CDC- trained disease detective, journalist, doctor and professor and she makes the chapters easy to read and simplifies the topics covered, but still providing necessary information.  While studying contagious diseases around the US, she learned how quickly false information can be spread, and by writing her book she is determined to hopefully convince readers to put an end to the misinformation and shine some light on truths.

My favorite part of this book is actually at the very end of the read.  Dr. Yasmin provides a "Bullshit Detection Kit" that lists twelve questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if something you read or hear about is true, or in fact, "bullshit".  I believe these questions are very helpful, especially in today's time with social media and rumors being able to be spread like wildfire.  Some of the questions and thoughts to consider when wondering if something is true include who is making the claim, who is supporting and funding the person making the claim, if the claim can be backed up by organizations not affiliated with the source, if personal beliefs drive the claim, and much more.  I believe this section relates a lot to our critical thinking part of class.

I believe this entire book relates to the concept that was consistently emphasized throughout the course that "pseudoscience relies on fast-thinking and heuristics; science relies on slow and critical thinking."  Certain myths in this book are created to give people a fast, easy way out of a topic they do not want to believe is true.  As Dr. Seema says, it is easier to sometimes believe lies than it is to believe the truth.  For example, the very first chapter debunks why the common "flat tummy tea" we commonly see supported by celebrities is completely untrue, and even dangerous.  The majority of this book is about pseudoscience, and actual relevant real-world scientific myths.  I have realized that a lot of the myths that were discussed in class are a lot like the myths we see today.  Back when we all thought the world would end in 2012, it seemed very believable to some, but today in 2022 that information was clearly false.  As for today, many people may actually believe that some vaccines can cause autism, but hopefully in years to follow this idea will be a thing of the past.  

When I first read Viral BS, I realized this had just been published last year.  During last year, the covid vaccine was working its way through the globe, and the push to be vaccinated caused a lot of controversy and arguments.  This vaccine once again sparked the antivaxers and vaxers disagreements, and the concepts of vaccines were at the foremost conversations.  I was interested in how Dr. Yasmin was able to debunk a lot of these covid vaccine myths, and was able to find a video of her explaining just that, down below.  Furthermore, the new monkeypox epidemic is another great topic to consider.  It is no secret that there are rumors about this disease that are clearly arbitrary, yet this misinformation is still being strewn across the internet.  It is important, especially now, to really understand where certain opinions or facts are coming from, and how to interpret them for your own sake.  Before reposting information, really do the research on if this is a true and reliable source before sharing it for others to also see.  This is where mass hysteria arise from, and being able to credit information responsibly can save everyone unnecessary stress. Dr. Yasmin's report on Covid myths. Here is Dr. Yasmin's official website, where her other books, important information, and a little about her can be explored as well.

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