Friday, 15 June 2012

RSPCA frighten people with hysteria and misinformation

Yesterday I blogged about the RSPCA campaign in Eastern England which was scaring people with poor information. Today I am blogging about a pretty egregious example of frightening people. Th4y are not giving out the false story that children are at risk.

An article in the Ashbourne News contains much of the poor stuff from yesterday but it also contains these quotes.
“We are certain that if the animals’ owners were aware of the dangers, then they would remove this weed immediately"
 Actually this is the kind of certainty that is often the problem. The certainty of ignorance. There is as I have mentioned before a phenomenon called the Dunning Kruger Effect where people lacking in knowledge are overconfident about things. Owners who are knowledgeable about biology may well realise quickly that animals are designed by nature and evolution to avoid eating poisons.

“We hope to raise awareness across the region of the dangers and will be posting leaflets in all local vets and drawing it to the attention of landowners.” While ragwort should be dug up and burnt in late June, once the weed starts to flower, some farmers have admitted they are “unconcerned” about the effects of the plant and refuse to dedicate time to removing it, despite it’s potentially harmful effects on their livestock and young children."
Farmers may actually know what they are talking about. They may actually spot hysteria when they see it.

Now this is a really bad example of spreading hysteria. Now they are telling people that their children are potentially at risk  This is really questionable for a supposedly respected charity to do this. There is no evidence at all that children are put at risk in anyway from the presence of ragwort. There probably are far more dangerous things in every house than ragwort.

This is another classic example of the problem of people repeating things that they feel should be true on the basis of flimsy evidence. Feeling type people tend, some of the psychological theories tell us, not to be good at the rational thinking needed for a good understanding of what constitutes a rationally establishable scientific fact.
Oh yes, and to top it all the picture on the website isn't correct. It isn't Common Ragwort, the plant in question, but Oxford Ragwort a plant of waste ground, and cracks in the pavement!

As ever there are pages of good information at
Ragwort Facts
Ragwort Myths and Facts
The second site is written by top class  European ragwort expert Esther Hegt who has gathered a stellar cast of international experts to help her explain the science.

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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