Justin Ramsdell is a clinical psychologist, an expert witness, an assistant professor of forensic psychology at George Mason University, and a veteran pseudoscience detector.
What We Discuss with Justin Ramsdell:
- Why stressed brains don’t make great decisions (especially when there’s no light visible at the end of the tunnel to indicate that there is an end).
- How pseudoscience preys on our cognitive biases to convincingly give us the answers we want with the scantest of unprovable “evidence.”
- Why watching YouTube videos and ranting in Reddit threads doesn’t count as “research” in the same way that work done by field-experienced scientists with doctorate degrees and peer-reviewed studies under their belts counts as research.
- Be wary of intellectual trespassers — who might very well be field-experienced scientists with doctorate degrees and peer-reviewed studies under their belts, but make wild, pseudoscientific claims about areas outside their expertise (e.g., a chiropractor who claims to cure COVID-19 with massage).
- Why you don’t have to be a field-experienced scientist with a doctorate degree and peer-reviewed studies under your belt to avoid being hoodwinked by pseudoscience charlatans.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Science has allowed humankind to pull off some pretty incredible feats over the past few thousand years. We’ve harnessed fire to cook our food and forge our steel. We’ve eradicated crippling diseases and touched the moon. We can circle the world in hours instead of years, and we can communicate instantly with nearly anyone in any place on the planet. But just as we seem poised to really explore the limits of human potential, we’re inundated with an inescapable deluge of easily-spread pseudoscience that threatens to dampen that potential and bury us under endless piles of BS.
On this episode, I’m joined by professional anti-BSer Justin Ramsdell to explain exactly why this modern strain of pseudoscience is especially bad for society at large. With no basis in the scientific method, pseudoscience focuses on finding evidence to confirm whatever claims its snake oil merchants make, and this “evidence” is typically impossible to disprove. Practitioners invent narratives to preemptively ignore any actual science that contradicts their views. It might adopt the appearance of actual science to look more persuasive. However, all of these techniques only work on people who are willing to be lied to, or are willing to lie to themselves in pursuit of an easy fix to a complicated problem. Here, we’ll try to help you tell the difference between science and pseudoscience and avoid getting unwittingly smothered under that aforementioned pile of BS. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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THANKS, JUSTIN RAMSDELL!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Justin Ramsdell | George Mason University
- Justin Ramsdell | Robson Forensic
- Coronavirus: Outcry after Trump Suggests Injecting Disinfectant as Treatment | BBC News
- Colloidal Silver: Dangerous and Readily Available | JAMA Dermatology
- COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine: Get the Facts | The Mayo Clinic
- Newtonian Physics vs. Special Relativity | Futurism
- Steps of the Scientific Method | Science Buddies
- The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine | Smithsonian Magazine
- Star Wars: A New Hope | Prime Video
- ISIS’s ‘Very Own Jabba the Hutt’ Captured in Mosul | Military.com
- Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
- What is a Thesis Defense? | Grad School Hub
- The Pharma Shill Gambit Is Stupid | Skeptical Inquirer
- Alex Jones: 5 Most Disturbing and Ridiculous Conspiracy Theories | CNBC
- Is the Earth Flat? | Skeptic
- How to Use Occam’s Razor Without Getting Cut | Farnam Street
- Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
- Scared Straight! | Wikipedia
- Scared Straight? Not Really | PsychCentral
- Was D.A.R.E. Effective? | Live Science
- Great Wall of China Hoax | Wikipedia
- “They’re Turning the Frogs Gay”: The Psychology Behind Internet Conspiracy Theories by Amelia Tait | New Statesman America
- The Insulting Frenchman | Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Jonas Salk: Discoverer of the First Polio Vaccine | Biography
- Motrin (Ibuprofen): Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions, Warnings | RxList
- Restless Legs Syndrome Symptoms and Causes | The Mayo Clinic
- You Can’t Detox Your Body. It’s a Myth. So How Do You Get Healthy? | The Guardian
- Reflexology: Only Dangerous If You Use It | Skeptoid
- Why Isn’t Pluto a Planet Anymore? | Space
- Forest Bathing Enhances Human Natural Killer Activity and Expression of Anti-Cancer Proteins | International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology
- A Brief History of Pamplona’s Controversial Bull Runs | Time
- How to Rescue Your Loved One From an MLM Scam | Feedback Friday | TJHS 164
- Steve Jobs Didn’t Invent the iPhone — But He Did Make it Happen | The Thursday Thought
- Cool Science Experiment – Original Mentos Diet Coke Geyser | Sick Science
- The Truth About “The Secret” | Mark Manson
- The $100 MBA
- Cutting Up My Shoes | Jerry Seinfeld
Transcript for Justin Ramsdell | How to Detect and Disarm Pseudoscience (Episode 359)
Justin Ramsdell: [00:00:00] Their claims are beyond the reach of science. You see this with. Ghost hunting or telekinesis or things like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:06] So do you mean like established science can't measure the energy coming from this alien force field, so it doesn't matter?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:00:12] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:17] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's sharpest minds and most fascinating people, and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. Our mission is to help you become a better informed, more critical thinker so you get a much deeper understanding of how the world works and make sense of what's really happening. If you're new to the show, we've got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you're smart and you like to learn and improve, you're going to be right at home here with us.
[00:01:00] Today, Dr. Justin Ramsdell is an interesting cat. He's a forensic psychologist, expert witness, and trains federal and local police forces, as well as inside prisons. Justin and I share a personal and professional interest in pseudoscience and the negative effects of this fake science on society at large. In other words, we're interested in why BS is bad for you, why it's bad for us, and why it's bad for everyone else out there. Pseudoscience has no basis in the scientific method. It does not attempt to follow standard procedures for gathering evidence. The claims involved may be impossible to disprove.
[00:01:35] Pseudoscience focuses on finding evidence to confirm whatever claim you're making. Practitioners invent narratives to preemptively ignore any actual science, contradicting their views. It might adopt the appearance of actual science to look more persuasive. However, all of these techniques only work on people who are willing to be lied to or are willing to lie to themselves in pursuit of an easy fix to a complicated problem. As humans, we have a tendency to avoid complexity in favor of simple solutions. So think about the things your uncle says that Thanksgiving dinner with respect to how he would fix all the issues our country faces, and you're getting an idea for how people often look for simple solutions to actual complex problems.
[00:02:14] Now, of course, pseudoscience is present in pretty much everything from financial schemes to supplements, and today on the show, we're going to break down the elements of pseudoscience, teach you how to spot pseudoscience, and show you what to do when you find it. Towards the end of the show, we're even going to break down an advertisement, a fake one in real-time, and give you a chance to put your new-found pseudoscience spotting skills to the test.
[00:02:38] If you want to know how I managed to book all of these amazing guests and pull all these ideas out of thin air, it's always about my network. These ideas come from you and other people in my network. I'm teaching you how to build a network over in our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free, over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribed to the course in the newsletter. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here's Dr. Justin Ramsdell.
[00:03:08] Justin, thanks for coming back on the show.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:03:10] My pleasure.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:10] We talk a lot about pseudoscience and mistrust of scientific authority. Well, we talk about a lot of things, of course, but that's one of our favorite topics, and I have to ask, what is your opinion of what's going on right now. I'm from Michigan and I saw protests from people that were like this whole thing is that coronavirus is a hoax. It can be cured by -- and you see people online actually doing these mental gymnastics to figure out how injecting a disinfectant is legit because they don't want to admit that, like that's a bunch of BS and bad for you. It's just like this media circus. But people will do everything to reinforce a belief that I think even they know has to be BS. What's going on here?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:03:53] Well, there's a couple of things. So one, we should just remind everyone not to drink bleach or shower with disinfectant or buy colloidal silver, because that's not going to fix anything either. So there are a couple of parts to it. The first is that one of the things about this is that everyone's stressed. There are problems with the economy. There are people who are losing their jobs. People may have sick family members are taken care of and stressed brains don't make great decisions, right?
[00:04:21] One of the first things your body does when -- let's say if you're walking through the forest and you or the Savannah and you see a lion, then your brain is going to send all the blood to your arms and your legs, and not worry about digestion because it needs to survive. And one of the other things it does is send blood away from your frontal lobe, which is where you do some majority of your executive functioning and your real thinking and planning. And so stressed brains don't make great decisions. I see this often in my work with victims where afterward people were like, "Why did you act like that? That doesn't make any sense." Like, well, you're thinking about it now, right? You're thinking about it in a conference room. You're not thinking about it when you've got a gun pointed at your head.
[00:05:02] And so stressed brains don't make very logical decisions to start with. And then on top of that, there's this aspect of this that we don't know when it's going to end. And if there's a finish line in front of you and you're running a 5K or a marathon, and you see the finish line, then you know. You're not just going to stop. You'll find a way to push yourself through. And if everyone knew that this was going to end next week, then everyone would just deal with it. But we don't know, right? There is no vaccine. And so not having a finish line, it makes it far more difficult for everyone to deal with. It makes them far more stressed. And then you see people doing mental gymnastics to try and convince themselves primarily, but other people around them that there's a solution and we can all just get back to normal. So they're essentially trying to force the finish line when there isn't one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:53] That's interesting, the forcing of the finish line. And we kind of talked about this pre-show where I was convinced that a lot of the people [00:06:00] who are saying, "Oh, well this is, you know, hashtag freedom and dah, dah, dah. I'm essential even though I own a comic book store because making a living is essential." Like, I get it there's economic pressure. I'm not doubting that at all, but I think that there's a little bit more. Like you said, mental gymnastics going on where they're like, "You know, I don't want to sort of admit the financial pressure is getting to me and that my family is driving me crazy. So I'm going to do this kind of -- I'm going to listen to whoever I want in the media who's telling me what I want to hear, and then I'm going to make this argument that this thing is already over." Because we went over the first hump, or that it's a massive hoax. Some other reason that just allows me to get out of the house without admitting that I'm being blatantly irresponsible.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:06:41] Right. Well, I mean, that gets to the core of what pseudoscience does. It plays on people's cognitive biases, and there are preconceived notions, and most pseudoscientists don't actually provide much of an explanation at all. What they do is provide you with just enough information so that you can provide your own explanation for why things work or why things should be a certain way. And with this crisis, you know, science moves slowly and the scientists are moving as fast as they can to create better tests and find the vaccine, but that process isn't quick. And when you would rather focus like pre-coronavirus if you could ignore lots of things that were bothering you about your particular home situation or relationships or financial situation. But now that you can't, you start searching for an explanation that will put an end to this so you can go back to ignoring it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:39] Right. That's interesting. I think there's probably something here, and the tricky part is nobody really is going to admit that. Nobody's going to say, "I got all these problems at home. I can't really, I don't have the patience to deal with my kids. I'm not good at homeschooling them. I don't like it. I miss going to the office cause I had a break. I miss focusing on my work. I feel a little less useful because I'm not being productive, so to speak." So instead of saying all of those things, because there's an element of shame attached with not being able to deal with your family or not being able to handle your home life or feeling useless. And I know what that's like. When I had to start my show over a few years back, primarily I felt like I'd lost identity because I'd lost my purpose in a way. I hate that word because it's so misused. But I'd lost kind of my day-to-day, what am I doing? What's the mission? What's the business doing? Because they didn't have the business anymore. So I felt very useless and lost. And I think that feeling is very unsettling. You'll do almost anything to get over that. So then you kind of concoct your brain. I'm not saying this in a malicious way, but your brain will concoct pretty much anything that you're able to believe that will tell you it's okay to do what you already wanted to do.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:08:50] Oh, totally. And we're seeing that purpose issue. With a lot of people where some people have reacted to this by completely letting go. Let's say if they weren't necessarily driven by work or by purpose of their job, then they're done. They've checked out, they have a hard time getting them on video conferences or get them to do anything, and then there are people who really took that identity from work and now are home all the time with their family and they're doing work all the time because now they're going to be working all day. And even in the evening when maybe they wouldn't be working before they're still going to be working because there's trying to grab onto that sense of identity or try not to lose that sense of identity. People tend to flow one way or the other and there are plenty of people who are healthy -- like I do my job and then in evenings, we have family time, but I can see people that pendulum swinging one way or the other very easily.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:42] Where does alternative science, and I put that in air quotes specifically for you because I know how you feel about this, but where does alternative science fit in here? Because that's what a lot of people are basing their decisions on. They'll say something like, "Well, you know, do your research." And their research is, of course, just looking in weird sort of alternative Reddit or Facebook groups or something like that, and they'll go, "Yeah, well, you know, my kid has this and this and this. Rather than taking him to the evil doctor, which is in the pocket of big pharma, I'm going to ask a bunch of random parents in Ohio." I always pick on Ohio, sorry, Ohio. "I'm going to ask a bunch of random parents in Indiana what I should do about my kid's 104-degree fever." And no one says, "Oh my gosh, that's horrible. Take him to the hospital," because they're all part of this echo chamber. But instead of saying, "Hey, we're in a group with a bunch of people with no medical experience that has no scientific backing, no research, and no idea what we're doing." They say, "Well, I follow Dr. so-and-so, and she says," and of course, this person is a self-appointed doctor, or like -- again, sorry, chiropractors, but like a chiropractor that decided that they were also a vaccine expert last month and now has a Facebook group where they sell their eBook about not getting vaccinated and just doing their specific brand of yoga.
[00:11:00] And I pick on chiropractors because I see this a lot with certainty -- what is it called? Intellectual trespassing. It's not just chiropractors, but it's like doctors who know about one thing, trespassing in another area where they really don't know what they're talking about. Case in point, there's a video recently, I'm sure you heard about it. And by the way, chiropractors, fine, look, I have no problem with you guys. Don't send me an email. Love you guys. I just mean the ones who claim they can cure coronavirus with massages. Okay. But there are the two doctors and this video aired on YouTube and YouTube removed it. Do you know what I'm talking about, Justin?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:11:31] No, no, I don't know.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:33] Okay, so these two doctors basically made a video. And they said, this is not as fatal, and look at these statistics from testing and look at the overblown issue here with coronavirus. And YouTube removed it because all of these actual experts, we're very quick to point out one the holes in their methodology. They were basically choosing like testing results from a certain area. And saying, "Yeah, look, it's not that fatal. Look at all these people that got tested from this random sample of like, you know, 19 people and only one of them died or two of them died." And it's like, that is a ton. And they're like, "No, no, it's more dangerous and dah, dah, dah." And then of course all these critics were like, "You guys run an urgent care facility. You're not doctors that work at a hospital. You're not doctors that work taking care of these people. You're doctors that are losing your shirt because you own five urgent care clinics and they have no business right now because people aren't going to get care." And they kind of said, "Oh, you're just throwing that in our face." And they pulled out all of this "expertise" that was very quickly debunked by real infectious disease specialists. So it's really easy for those of us, like me and you or the average person to get really hoodwinked by these folks. Because if a doctor tells me something, I'm going to tend to believe them and I'm highly skeptical. It's only after I google them, do I find out that the same, suppose a doctor has a degree from a school that got shut down by the government and also has no idea what they're talking about and believes that they cured their spinal injury by meditation or something.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:12:58] I mean there's a couple of issues with that. I think the first one is as someone who's a college professor and has a doctoral degree in psychology, there is a certain amount of mission creep that I don't ask for that other people kind of throw at me because I train lots of different people and some of them are police officers and sometimes I'll get questions from them and they'll just be like, "Well, What do you think about this, doc?" And then they'll ask me a question. It can be very difficult to stay in my lane and be like, "Look, I don't know anything about that thing." Or they just have this like, "Well, you're a professor, you're a generally smart person."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:35] You have a doctor in front of your name. What drugs should I take for that? By the way, what is your PhD? And I don't even know, now that you've mentioned it. I should know.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:13:41] Clinical psychology.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:42] It would be like if you created a video about why this isn't that deadly. And it's like, "Well, it's Dr. Ramsdell," so you know.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:13:49] And so they just ask questions and there's well-intentioned like they want my opinion. But as a responsible and ethical practitioner, you have to stay in your lane. So say like, "Look, I don't know anything about that. You guys need to ask somebody else because I know as much as you do." And so that's part of it. Doctors are just behaving ethically. But the other part of it is like the ways that you can protect yourself. From being hoodwinked by these people, which involves just being able to spot the techniques that pseudoscientists or people who are operating outside their own like knowledge-base and ethical bounds will use when they're trying to make arguments.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:29] I definitely want to outline each of those. What I do want to start with though is what about people who are going to preempt this by going, "Sure, sure. But science has tons of mistakes. Look at all the things we used to think were true and aren't." That's what a lot of people who believe in pseudoscientific cures will say, they'll go, "Yeah, well, you just don't know about it. Like you don't know, 5G causes cancer because they didn't know about germ theory in 1640 or whatever." So of course, they were all wrong and spreading the black plague around Europe or whatever it was. But you don't know about 5G and I do, because I've got this specialized knowledge, and I know we'll get to that. But what about people who try to poke holes in real science by saying, "Look, there are mistakes in here too. So, therefore, my tincture that I developed in my mom's basement is just as good as the vaccines developed by Merck.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:15:19] So there are plenty of mistakes in science, and that's part of the process. You need to make mistakes. You need to rule out all other possible explanations before you get to the one that actually works. Otherwise, you can't say that this is the real explanation for a specific phenomenon because you haven't removed all other possibilities from the process. So there are bound to be mistakes and our technology has changed. Our ability to measure things has changed over time. And so things that we necessarily -- and I say we just as like the human race.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:53] Yeah, I'm not researching anything right now.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:15:56] Things scientists thought were true. It turned out that when we got different instruments or better instruments that we were incorrect in our understanding of that. And then that's why Newtonian physics was the way to go until Einstein came up with a new theory. And sooner or later with the research that they're doing in Europe with the particle accelerator like they're either going to confirm that or deny it or come up with an amendment to that particular theory. And that's how science works, which is one of the things that we'll get into when we go over how people try and hoodwink you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:29] The point I want to highlight here is there is no such thing as an alternative science. Science involves some mistakes, like you mentioned, but we don't really have a system of inquiry capable of achieving what science does which is to move us closer and closer to truths that improve our lives and understanding of the universe. There's no other path that you can choose to believe that does the same thing, right?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:16:51] There is no such thing as alternative science, but for the purposes of our conversation, the scientific method is about trying to learn an objective truth about the world around us, whether or not we like that truth. We're just trying to learn the objective truth, but the scientific process, and this is why there is no alternative science, that scientific process involves trying to find the objective truth while simultaneously protecting that truth against ourselves, against our own cognitive biases. The truth can be a matter of perspective. I think that's a problem. And one of the things that kind of feeds the idea of alternative science.
[00:17:32] Like you could watch like the first Star Wars movie, right? Episode Four. Maybe enough people have seen that where the example will make sense. You could look at the first Star Wars movie, and if you ask somebody to describe it, they may say it's the epic story of a young man learning the truth about who he really is while saving the galaxy from an evil empire. Right? Okay. That works as an explanation for Star Wars. Alternatively, you could look at that movie and describe it as the story of how a religious cult brainwashed as a young man into blowing up a government installation and then trying to kill his own father.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:09] Interesting. Yeah.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:18:10] That is a completely plausible explanation, depending on which group you're in when you start watching the first movie. Now, science isn't going to explain the first Star Wars movie either of those ways. It's going to take out references to things being good, things being bad. And it may just summarize the movie as an organized group of non-governmental actors who want a different political structure in their galaxy. And they attempt to persuade people to join their cause and eventually use lots of different people, including people with criminal records to help destroy or disable a governmental building project.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:53] Yeah. So it's kind of like a little bit like ISIS, maybe not quite as bad. Sorry, Luke.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:19:00] And I think that feeds like where you start from feeds on how you view objective information as truth. And when we talk about doing something as a scientist, we're going to try and describe Star Wars in the most objective terms and all of its complexity without putting any of our biases and preconceived notions of good and evil onto that description.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:25] So what's the difference between, let's say, bad science and pseudoscience?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:19:29] That's a really interesting question. The difference between bad science and pseudoscience is that bad science is just a flawed version of good science. Now in the scientific process, there are a lot of things that determine how well an experiment gets done or how well the scientific process is used. Some of that is funding. Some of it is availability of participants in your study. Some of it is the equipment that you use. And no study is 100 percent perfect because we live in a very complex world with lots of different variables. But if you're following the scientific method and staying true to that, then it might not be great science and it'll have flaws, but it won't be pseudoscience. You're still attempting to determine an objective truth to the best of your ability. Pseudoscientists, they're not going to care about objective truth at all, and in fact, are going to run away from it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:24] Okay, that's interesting. So bad science might be like, "Hey, your control group was too small or didn't exist, or your sample size is too small. You only tested 19 but you needed like 19,000 people." That can be bad science. But pseudoscience now let's get into that. Because that's something that you explained very, very well and there's different, I guess, can you say pillars of pseudoscience? Not really. They're kind of the opposite of pillars, right? They’re holes.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:20:49] Yup.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:50] Specific places where the pillar would be but isn't
Justin Ramsdell: [00:20:52] It’s exactly it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:53] One key difference here is good researchers, any real scientist almost wants to have their work challenged and argued against because -- and isn't this what a PhD dissertation is? Of course, I'd never made it anywhere near that far in academia but isn't the reason they call it defending your thesis because other established doctors or scientists in your area sit there and poke holes in your work and you have to figure out how to defend that.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:21:17] Yeah, that's exactly it. And that's the exact same process that researchers go through when they submit an article in a peer-reviewed journal. You submit an article, it gets sent to a bunch of people that are also experts in that particular topic. They go through your work and your methods and your results with a fine-tooth comb and ask you questions, suggest edits, state where they think you might be taking things too far. And essentially challenge and help edit your work. And then after it's gone through that process, that's when it gets to everyone else. So there's no scenario in science and in peer-reviewed literature where your work is not being criticized.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:54] And pseudoscientists stay away from this. In fact, I see this online, whenever I or anyone anywhere tries to challenge somebody who's got pseudoscience, immediately it's, "Hey, this is one of those big pharma back chills, or this person's trying to hurt you by not letting you get the real information." You see this from people like Alex Jones who are like, "Oh, this is all a conspiracy. It's all a cover-up. Everyone's lying to you." Nobody says, "Yeah, yeah, poke holes in my theory, it just makes me stronger."
Justin Ramsdell: [00:22:23] Right. So there are two things there. Like, one of them is a kind of conspiracy theory -- which I want to come back to you in a second -- and then the idea of testing. So any purveyor of pseudoscience, whether they're trying to sell you a product or a service, is going to do one of two things when it comes to testing. First, refuse it outright, and they'll say that they already have evidence that this works, even though they don't, or that gets into emotional and narrative appeals, which we'll talk about later. Or they'll say that their claims are beyond the reach of science. You see this with ghost hunting or telekinesis or things like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:59] So do you mean like established science can't measure the energy coming from this alien force field so it doesn't matter?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:23:06] Yeah, exactly. You don't have the tools to measure the thing that I'm talking about. And then if they actually do conduct research, it will be -- and I use research in air quotes there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:16] Right.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:23:18] It will be research that's designed to give them the results they want that cannot be replicated by others at all. And like replication is the basis for science. If I come out with a new study saying that, "I took a hundred people who wanted to lose weight and we fed it, all of them, eight pints of Ben & Jerry's for two months every day."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:38] I want to be in that study, for sure.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:23:41] Seriously, with all the flavors, but at the end of the two months, they all lost weight. Well, somebody's going to try and replicate that study.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:48] I volunteer
Justin Ramsdell: [00:23:48] That's not going to go unnoticed. So pseudoscientists if they did conduct their own "research," it won't hold up under a replication or they won't allow people to replicate it. But that's not necessarily information you want the consumer -- you don't expect the consumer to understand because you don't expect the consumers to read journals. It's our job to distill that and get it back to everyone. Nobody's doing that level of research on their own. I want to make a note about how important testing is because there are plenty of things that just seem like a really good idea. Then once you get into them and you start looking at them and do research, it turns out they're not such a good idea. Scared Straight Programs are a good example of that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:32] Oh yeah, tell me about that because those seem like a good idea. First of all, this is when young delinquent kids ended up going into a prison and all the cons are like, "You couldn't handle it in here. I'll eat your liver for lunch." That kind of stuff.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:24:45] Exactly, exactly. And that sounds like, okay, that would have worked for me. Right? Totally. Like, I wouldn't want to go to prison. Well, you know, I didn't want to go to prison before.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:53] True.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:24:55] So the kids who are participating in that program are very likely from a low SES background, have, were abused physically, emotionally, sexually, children, and probably don't have a father figure and all of a sudden you're giving them someone to look up to.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:09] Oh, man.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:25:10] You providing them with somebody and when they've done the research on these, they did it study -- on Petrosino in 2002 did a study that found that Scared Straight Programs, and I'm quoting the article, "Were more harmful than doing nothing." Meaning they actually increased juvenile, like antisocial and criminal behavior. In 2005, Lilienfeld at Emory did another one that found that Scared Straight Programs actually make all the symptoms of conduct disorder worse.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:39] What is that?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:25:40] Conduct disorder is like the precursor to antisocial personality disorder. Like not obeying rules, getting into lots of physical fights, that type of thing. And there are plenty of other examples like that where, you know, it seems like a good idea, but once you get the data, not that great. D.A.R.E. programs, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education programs, fit into that where they either do nothing or introduce a bunch of high schoolers to all sorts of drugs they didn't know existed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:07] Yeah. I remember learning about tons of drugs and then hearing about how bad they were, but I was like, "There are so many drugs."
Justin Ramsdell: [00:26:15] There are so many drugs, right. And so those actually have also very little or are harmful. But the point is that it's important to test. Just because it seems like a good idea, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a good idea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:27] I mentioned this before, but one of the other non-pillars -- we've got to find a better word for that -- it's like one of the other giant holes in pseudoscience. Almost all of these are backed around some sort of conspiracy theory, whether it's like, "There are chemicals in the water. Turning the freaking frogs gay. Or there's like, "Oh, this whole thing is a big pharma cover-up. It's a Chinese hoax." You know, whatever you're referring to, and I say Chinese hoax because anything now that's bad is a Chinese hoax according to somebody like anybody. Just find anybody on the Internet and they'll say it's Chinese hoax because they're this scary authoritarian thing on the horizon right now. But those conspiracy theories surrounding this and that baffles me a little because I'm thinking if this really was a concerted effort by companies, you'd have to keep something secret from millions of people that those same people largely would profit in the hundreds of billions if they just didn't keep it a secret and marketed it or monetize it in some way.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:27:30] So, yeah, conspiracy theories are -- I think they kind of have their own gravity because they allow people to blame something other than themselves. So that's really, really convenient for humans, especially people in rough situations. And aside from allowing you to place the blame on someone else, they're always, even though some of them may seem complicated, when you really kind of break them down, they're all far more simple than what the actual truth is.
[00:28:00] And as people, we have a tendency to avoid complexity. I’d love things simple -- that makes life easier -- and conspiracy theories work like that. But you know, if you've ever had that feeling where -- I don't know if you've ever worked at a job and you're like, "I don't understand why these people aren't doing this, and blah, blah, blah, and everyone's doing wrong and management is making horrible decisions." And then you finally move up the ladder high enough and you get to see behind the curtain and see how the sausage is made and you're like, "Whoa, this is really complicated. Like, I didn't understand all of these different things." But we have a tendency to want things to be simple and to look at other people and assume that they're either not doing a competent job or they're actively trying to prevent us from getting the things that we need.
[00:28:45] So, you know, there's plenty of things that are undiscovered in the world. It can be easy to place blame on our own unfortunate circumstances on other people. "I think at that promotion, not because I'm awkward and minimally skilled, I got it because Jerry in accounts receivable has an unfair advantage because he's got whatever, blonde hair and takes this nutritional supplement," or whatever it might be but that's not the case. if somebody could have made money off of this something, they would have done it already. Right. So you've got the, like the bad nonexistent testing. You've got conspiracy theories, and then profit is a big part of -- you said, what was it? Gaping holes in the ground, right? Let's call them like canaries in the coal mine --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:31] Okay.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:29:32] -- for pseudoscience, and profit is one of those. We live in a capitalistic society. If there was an idea or a product or a service that somebody I could make money off of, they would have done it already.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:45] Right.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:29:46] Like that's how that works.
Peter Oldring: [00:29:50] You are listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Justin Ramsdell. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:55] This episode is sponsored in part by HostGator. Your dream is an idea until you take action and the best action you can take for your business is to start a website using HostGator. Have you made a website for your business, Peter?
Peter Oldring: [00:30:08] Well, I mean, I have, but it's more on a placard. So I don't know if that counts. It's like --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:13] Ah, I don't think it does. It's like having a lemonade stand in everyone else's pocket instead of just on the table in your office.
Peter Oldring: [00:30:19] It sounds like that would make some pocket stains.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:21] Yeah, good point. Well, what I'm trying to say is that a website offers longevity. Social media apps, they come and go, but your website should always remain the backbone of your business, and since yours is a placard, it actually makes sense how your business is doing given that.
Peter Oldring: [00:30:34] Of course.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:35] It's important to set your website up as soon as possible. It motivates you to take the next step towards your dream that can lead to opportunities and lead gen while you sleep. You got to own your own domain. A lot of people don't do that. They're like, "Oh, I don't need that. My business isn't online right now." And then someone else snaps it up. You see these super famous type of people that have millions --
Peter Oldring: [00:30:55] Make tons of money because they came up with, you know, cuddlecats.org.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:00] Yeah. Except somebody else had the dot-com so now that other person is getting all their traffic.
Peter Oldring: [00:34:04] They’re loaded.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:04] That's the problem. HostGator, they host over two-million domains. Their expert tech support is available 24/7, 365. They offer a one-click WordPress install, 45-day money-back guarantee. Tell them where they can get a deal on HostGator.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:35] This episode is also sponsored by DesignCrowd. You ever use one of those websites, Peter, where you, you submit designs and you get a bunch back and they're all crap?
Peter Oldring: [00:31:43] Yes, precisely. I do it all the time. It's almost like a form of punishment. I'm not sure why I do that, but I do all the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:49] If you decide to break the mold and get some designs that are not crap, you can go to designcrowd.com/jordan. That's D-E-S-I-G-N-C-R-O-W-D.com/jordan. You post a brief describing the design you need. Then you'll get like three-quarters of a million designers from around the world that will respond to your request or some will respond to your request, and within hours you get the first design. Over the next week, you get 60 to 100 more different designs from designers around the world.
Peter Oldring: [00:32:16] That does feel like a lot of designers that you've got access to 750,000 designers.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:21] And there's a little plus next to it, which means there's even more than that.
Peter Oldring: [00:32:24] I’d like to get all of those people into one space and just kind of, you know, see what everyone's wearing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:28] And see what they're wearing, bounce ideas off of them. You get a bunch of designs. Not all of them will look like the Uzbekistan flag. Some of them will be really good. You can use them on your stationery, t-shirts, anything you need for your business, anything you need for your kid's birthday party, whatever it is. And if you don't like anything, you can get your money back. So if you need a label for your bottle of bathtub hooch.
Peter Oldring: [00:32:49] You know, I do know I do
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:52] Your unlabeled bathtub hooch is really just a wasted opportunity.
Peter Oldring: [00:32:56] Well, I mean, because people are using it for shampoo, and of course, it's not that. It's hooch.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:01] Well, if only there were a label, then DesignCrowd can get you on and there's a deal, of course, that people can go and get, tell them how to get that
Peter Oldring: [00:33:08] Right now. Listeners of The Jordan Harbinger Show will receive up to $150 off their design project by going to designcrowd.com/jordan. That is D-E-S-I-G-N-C-R-O-W-D.com/jordan or just entering promo code JORDAN when posting a project.
[00:33:29] And now back to Justin Ramsdell on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:35] They're not hiding the cure for cancer because the other drugs make more money. Like the cure for cancer could be priced at pretty much anything, and hospitals would even subsidize this because they would have to do less. They would come out of pocket less by taking care of people long term, they would just cure cancer. There are plenty of other ailments that people can treat. And yet there's this narrative that like all of these secret cures are being hidden, but if you buy this vitamin that I developed in my garage -- this, however, which is just like elderberry root or something like that, if that, if that's even a thing, this is the thing that they're hiding from the world. It's never like this complicated scientific concoction either. It's always like some weird appeal to nature. Like, "Oh, we've had the cure the whole time. It's existed for 10,000 years. It's written in these ancient scrolls."
Justin Ramsdell: [00:34:26] That's exactly it. It's funny because the logic doesn't work in and of itself. If this is something that a pharmaceutical -- pharmaceutical companies draw the ire of a lot of people and part of it they earned.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:40] Yeah, I agree with that. Part of it is them being giant dicks.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:34:43] Yeah. They're doing, they're doing research to make money. So they have a financial incentive for their research to turn out a specific way. And at the university, like if we run an experiment and we don't get the results we want, no one's losing their job about it. Like that's just the process. At a pharmaceutical company, if you spend $500 million developing a new drug and it doesn't work, then that's going to be problematic. So it's that mixture of profit and science has caused problems for them, kind of in the past. But if you think about the logic of the pharmaceutical companies that don't want you to know, there's a good chance that they're aware of -- what was it? You said elderberry root.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:22] Yeah, I just made that up. I don't even know if that's a thing.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:35:24] No that’s fine.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:25] But you know what? I have that in common with people who make these sorts of pseudoscientific concoctions.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:35:30] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:31] I just made it up. I mean, it's equally valid. It's equally valid. It's equally effective as elderberry root in curing cancer, I'm sure of that or anything that I just spouted off.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:35:40] You just laid out a business plan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:41] That's right. That's right.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:35:43] Yeah. So the pharmaceutical company is very much aware of elderberry roots. They've probably looked at it, they've probably tested it. If they could have turned it into something where they would have made a ton of money, they would have done it by now. There can't be a conspiracy because if they come up with a product that works better than what they have, they're going to make more money. They're incentivized to do so. And that's where those explanations fall flat.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:08] What about the idea that, well, they wouldn't make more money because if you can sell 10 doses of a drug. You're going to make more money than if you can only sell one, right?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:36:17] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:18] Like the 10 months of chemo versus one magic pill, of course, you're going to make more money doing chemo, right?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:36:23] Right. But it assumes that the people who are doing the research and the people who are concerned about shareholder dividends are the same people. They're all like evil fat cat kind of rolling their fingers in a smokey boardroom when the people who are doing the science are interested in curing cancer. You don't spend all that time becoming a doctor and a PhD and researching cancer treatment because you're not invested in it personally. And so like those people, they want to cure cancer. And you know, if they managed to do that right, then the amount of money that they would make is astronomical.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:03] Sure. Yeah. It's massive. It's massive. And you'd get a Nobel Prize and you'd be in the history books forever. Like Jonas Salk who invented the polio vaccine was what? Like an international hero and everyone knows his name.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:37:14] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:14] And he cured a disease that was a scourge of humanity, but I don't really know, but I don't think polio was anywhere near the volume and scale that cancer is.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:37:22] Yeah. I certainly don't have the data or information on that. But you were the person who managed to stop human cells from reproducing in ways that they shouldn't. You would be in history books.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:33] Yeah. Yeah. Live on in infamy. And then people are like, "Yeah, but you could make a few extra million dollars bonus." "No, no, I'm going to go ahead and take the Nobel Prize and live in infamy forever. I'd take that as a scientist." You're still going to make more money than you could ever spend in your whole life so why double that.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:37:50] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:51] Something else that I've noticed, and this isn't universal, but something else that I've noticed about pseudoscientific BS health treatments is one, they never just kind of address one thing. It's always like, "Oh, this fixes anxiety," which has also multiple things, I think. But it's like, "It fixes anxiety and depression," or, "It fixes obesity and hair loss because it's those male vitality pills." So of course, you know, "It's because you have low testosterone that you feel bad, that you have anxiety, that you're overweight and that your hair is falling out. So take this vitamin that is specially formulated by my secret scientists that somehow don't work for pharmaceutical companies or research agencies. They just work for me, the Internet guy, and this will fix the problem. And it's a monthly subscription,” which is just very convenient.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:38:41] Right? That happens all the time. We call it a panacea which is a solution for all problems. First of all, they don't exist. I think the closest thing society has to it, panacea, would probably be like Motrin or ibuprofen, but that provides a good example. If you break your arm and you take 800 milligrams of Motrin, you're going to feel a little bit better. It's going to bring the swelling down. It's going to bring some of the -- pain is going to reside and you're going to have to keep taking Motrin, but you'll feel a little bit better. But Motrin doesn't fix a broken arm.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:13] Right. It just gets the pain to subside. Exactly.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:39:15] It feels like a panacea because it can also help you with a fever or it can help you with cramps or joint pain, arthritis, so her muscles, but it really just does one thing and it doesn't fix any of those problems. It just addresses one of the symptoms. That allows you to feel a little bit better, but I think that would be like the closest that I can think of to anything that's an actual panacea. Now, when a pseudoscientist is trying to sell a product or a service, they're going to tell you that it fixes stress, hair loss, lack of energy, obesity, skin problems, whatever, you name it. And it's essentially -- remember they're in this for a profit. So they're throwing the spaghetti against the wall. Trying to figure out what sticks. Like if I name off enough stuff, then some of this is going to apply to the person that's listening. And in this case, you are the wall.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:09] Right, because if I'm all like, "Hey, this fixes restless leg syndrome," which is something that I still can't believe exists. I mean, I'm not saying it's not real. I'm just saying it's such a weird thing that apparently exists.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:40:20] It's very specifically named.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:21] Yes, it really is. It's like, "Oh crap, my arms are restless at night. I guess this won't work for me." But if you're creating ads that get blasted all over your sketchy website and or banners on the Internet, on other websites, you want to cover as many people as possible. So you ever noticed, and maybe this is a different thing, but I don't really ever see too many ads for things like Motrin. I remember seeing Tylenol ads as a kid, like, "Hey, I have a headache." "Oh, here's Tylenol." But that's a painkiller. And that's, that is the example of something that works for a lot of different things. But if I just say, "Hey, do you have anxiety?" The person might be like, "No, but I'm fat and bald." It's like, "Oh, well you just missed them." So it makes sense to be like, "Are you overweight? Are you also balding? Do you feel down sometimes? Do you have anxiety? Maybe your vision isn't as good as it used to be. Maybe you feel a little out of breath when you walk around at night. Is your child keeping you awake at night? Are you not sleeping well?" I mean, and then it's like, "By the way, we have this thing that cures all of those and it's reasonably expensive. But it's sure cheaper than getting medical treatment for each one of your disorders individually. That also takes a lot of time."
Justin Ramsdell: [00:41:26] Exactly. And that's why the idea of panacea is so compelling, but relies on you lying to yourself. If I just buy this one thing and take this product, or if I just do this one thing or subscribe to the system, then everything will get better. And people totally ignore the fact that this means that for all of those things to get better, you would have to be a totally different person than you've been for the past 25 years, and that's not going to happen by you buying one particular thing, especially when it comes to like habit change, not so much with hair loss or other things like that. And the reason that they will throw all that stuff against the wall is because they need to do so, so you can lie to yourself. Now, lying in some respects is a cooperative act. You know, if you ask someone whether or not you look nice in a particular outfit or how your solo in church sounded the other day, you're pulling for a response.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:22] Fat man, terrible. Give up now.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:42:24] No, but you're not looking for real objective feedback. And you and I have talked about this before. If you want actual objective feedback about your performance, you have to try really hard to get it. It's not easy to get people to be totally honest with you about like, "Oh, this one thing that you do is really annoying."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:42] Right, like you have to get your friend to ask somebody else, but not taint their answer by hinting at the answer that they actually want. And then also not make the person feel like they're being a jerk for saying, it's like, "No, no, no, no. This is going to help her. No, I'm not going to tell her. That's you." You have to do these sort of double-blind -- that's the whole point of these experiments is you have to get the feedback somehow from somebody, who's going to be honest about that and not give you the answer that you want or try to help your feelings or be extra hard on you because they don't like you. And then it also has to get back to you somehow in a way that's actionable.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:43:15] Right. And the point there that being lied to is in some respects, cooperative. You have to be willing and receptive for the lie. And that's easiest when we're lying to ourselves because then you're both sides of that debate. You're asking the question and you know how you want that question answered, and when, when the purveyors of pseudoscience throw all of those different things against the wall, then you can just grab on to all the ones that make sense for you. I'm like, "Oh, I want to get better at this and this and this," and I'm going to totally ignore the fact that this means I need to turn into a totally different person or behave in a way I haven't ever done. I know this is going to work because I want an easy solution.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:57] Also a lot of the claims tend to be very vague and I get that because if I say I have pain in my elbow or my head take Tylenol, that can also be kind of vague, but I'm thinking more along the lines of these claims you see in self-help books, especially the ones written by business people that didn't really have an idea for the book and just wanted a speaking career. So they write a book that's like, "Break the rules, trust your gut. Make sure you be a Maverick. Go against the grain." And it's like, cool, I saw all those bumper stickers on various cars on the drive over here, but what are you actually saying? Is there something I can use here that's not just like something that sounds cool when you tell your golf buddies?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:44:37] Right. Is there something actionable here?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:40] Yeah.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:44:40] Well, part of the issue is that when. Someone is being vague or using jargony terms, then again, that allows the listener to fool themselves. Because jargony words are vague words can mean anything that we need them to be. Now, trust your gut, break your rules, these maybe for some people in certain situations, a very good idea. For other people and other situations, that is a recipe for failure. But they're so vague that they sound nice because then that person can just apply it to whatever it is that they need to apply it to. When scientists are talking to each other, we spend an incredible amount of time defining terms. When we talk about happiness, what are we talking about? When you talk about anxiety, as you mentioned earlier, what is it exactly we're talking about? Because science is meant to clarify things not to obscure, which is what that jargon and vagueness sound like. I hear things like toxins, chemical imbalances, words like that. And I don't understand what you mean by any of this, when you say toxins, right? And that this product will help you get rid of all the toxins in your body. So without explaining it, I don't know how this is going to help me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:00] If I know that this -- let's say a specific blood pressure medication works, or Tylenol, let's go back to ibuprofen or acetaminophen -- if we know that that works for headaches, I can look up the exact mechanism by which this works. I can find this and it's very clear. Yeah, this such and such substance gets into your bloodstream through digestion and osmosis or whatever, and then it attaches to this receptor and the receptor doesn't allow the transmission of pain as much as it did before, thereby dulling the pain sensation. But if we ask how something works with a pseudoscientific cure, what we often get is either something very vague or we end up with a lot of jargon. And I think that's because people have seen this work in the past where they go, "Oh, well, what happens is the metatarsal, they reform in tubular ways around your meta forces. And that's how it works in someone who's not really inclined to look that up just goes, "Oh, well, that sounds scientific. I'm going to -- yeah, okay. That sounds right." "Yeah, it blocks and inhibits the down receptor regulatory, python hormones." I mean, they just say stuff like that. I see this on Reddit. I mean, that's an exaggeration. Obviously, like a mad lib. But I see stuff like this all the time where people go, "Yeah, I want to prevent a receptor re-uptake downregulation." And then a scientist will go, "That's not a thing that happens. That's not a real process. There's no such thing as that."
Justin Ramsdell: [00:47:21] Right. And then these cases, one of the main differences between something being jargon or being vague and that idea of the panacea is that when someone talks about a panacea, they're giving you the information. They're telling you, "I'm going to fix this specific thing." They're lying to you. When they're using jargon or vagueness, they're facilitating you lying to yourself in a very easy way. All of a sudden you start listening about whatever up-down regulation and toxins and you're like, "I need to get rid of the toxins in my body."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:52] Ooh, toxins. Nobody wants those.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:47:55] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:56] "How do I have all these toxins?" "You don't. You have a liver. Your liver is getting rid of the toxins," but anyway --
Justin Ramsdell: [00:48:00] It's already getting these taken care of, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:01] Right.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:48:02] And one of the things that dovetail with the jargon and the vagueness is the idea of like a plot hole. That there's a bunch of the story that you're not getting and you see this is another one of the canary in the coal mines for pseudoscience -- is that because we have that tendency to avoid complexity -- purveyors of pseudoscience will explain something. There will be this big gap between step A and step D where they don't talk anything about B or about C. And I know earlier you were talking about chiropractors. But when I think about something like reflexology, where they will claim that there are certain parts of the feet that correspond to my intestines or my kidneys --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:46] My mother-in-law had me go to a reflexologist and she goes, "Oh man, your feet are really tough," which they are. I have flat feet and they're like little rocks. And she's like, "Do you get headaches?" And I was like, "No". And she goes, "Are you sure you never get headaches?" And I was like, "Everybody gets headaches sometimes." And she was like, "Well, you know, you probably have some spleen issues." And I go, "Oh, that's interesting. What kind of spleen issues?" And she just goes, "Well, spleen, spleen issues." And I was just like, "Interesting, I'll write that down and I'll get some actual blood tests that would show any sort of spleen issue, for sure. Because you know that's important. And then it would be like, "Ooh, yeah. Ooh, yeah. Ooh. Do you have trouble walking? You must have a lot of hip pain." "No."
Eventually, she just gave up, like trying to do the whole -- it's basically just cold reading. Like a psychic would do. "Do you have hip pain or knee pain?" "Yeah, a lot of 40-year-old men do, but I don't because I'm an indoor kid. Nice try. I look a lot more athletic than I am you, ma'am. You've missed -- you whiffed on that one." So she just kept asking me, "Do you get headaches?" "Every human in history has gotten a headache. I'm going to remember the last one I got If you're asking me if I ever get headaches."
And so I just thought it was kind of interesting. "Oh yeah, you must get ankle pain. Look at this, look at this, this tendon here." This that I've had my entire life, by the way, in that exact same stuff. "Oh, your veins are running on this side of the bone. That means you have ankle pains." No, it means my veins run on that side of the bone. I've had that vein there since I was in forever, first of all. But I remember in karate class in fifth grade, somebody saying, "Ugh, you have a vein on your foot right there." And it just happened to be right there. It has nothing to do with my anatomy other than where my veins are. And it just reminded me of when you go to a fair and there's a crystal ball, tea leaf, whatever reader, and she says, "Ooh, do you have any relationship problems in your past?" And it's like, "Well, I am human and I do go outside. So yes, I've had a relationship problem in my past."
Justin Ramsdell: [00:50:36] Yeah. Well, you're incredible.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:38] Yeah. Wow, blown away. "Your parents wanted you to be successful." Yes, they did along with literally everyone else's parents ever in history.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:50:46] Right. And that's the plot hole with reflexology. That there's some connection between this particular part of your foot and your intestine. Now, I'm not saying that reflexology doesn't work or that people don't feel better when they get done. Because who doesn't feel better after they've got a foot massage?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:01] Yeah. In fact, at the end, my mother-in-law goes, "What do you think?" And I go, "Decent foot massage. She was really strong." She was punishing me for not agreeing with her. I mean, she was getting in there and she was like, "Oh right. You don't have a headache now. Let's see how you feel after I get done digging my knuckle into your foot for an hour.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:51:21] And so, yeah, that's exactly it. Like I'm not challenging the result. I'm challenging the mechanism of action, challenging the plot hole. And there is no evidence that the specific part of your foot is linked to your spleen but those explanations are simple. They provide clarity for people without providing complexity, and that makes us feel better. So I can certainly understand it, and I certainly understand people feeling better. But when you add like that jargon and the vagueness in with a plot hole, that becomes a very useful argument for using a certain product.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:00] Something I mentioned earlier that I wanted to touch on this appeal to ancient wisdom. I'm not saying that there's no such thing as ancient wisdom. I think a lot of times, you know the old like go outside and get some sun. That's ancient wisdom probably or at least close to it. And it works for me a lot of the time. Go outside and get some sun. Yeah, my headache went away. It turns out sitting and staring at a screen all day isn't good for your eyes and your head, right? But there's this idea that’s like, "Oh, well, ancient scrolls that are from Egypt say that this concoction will help male vitality." I say that a lot, not because I've seen a lot of videos for that recent BS. But because male vitality has been a thing since like pre-biblical times. I think the Pharaoh had male vitality concoctions buried with him in the freaking -- since there've been males, we've been trying to get it up and stay there. So we see this appeal to ancient wisdom, but there's like no improvement on that ancient wisdom other than the packaging and that it's now in a capsule form. There's just no change in it since the initial publication. But if you look at an astronomy book from when I was in middle school, and you look at one right now, we don't even have a freaking planet Pluto anymore. Everything is different. Not everything, but so much is different. Right?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:53:18] There's a very good reason for that because if you look at -- like you said, Pluto is not a planet anymore. Our understanding of the universe as people has changed over time as we've gotten better technology. Theories have progressed and so now Pluto, yes, it's around. Yes, it orbits the sun, but it doesn't clear its neighborhood. So meaning it doesn't have gravity strong enough to pull things towards it. And so now it's not considered a planet anymore. Much to the chagrin of lots of people like you and I who knew it as a planet. And now it's a dwarf planet. And the same thing is true of just about everything in science. It progresses and it should progress. Now, pseudoscience doesn't progress. You mentioned going outside earlier, so some ideas are great. There's really good research evidence that suggests that people who spend a weekend in the woods, either like hiking or camping when you come back, your killer cell levels, and your immune system have increased by 50 percent.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:15] Really? Is that true?
Justin Ramsdell: [00:54:16] That's true, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:17] Wow.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:54:18] And those results stay for three to four days. You have elevated levels of killer cells and your immune system works better. And they've figured that out. There are some things that we've known for a long time as people were just kind of good ideas and the research has backed it up. Now, on the same token, like they've been running the bulls since the 14th century in Spain and doing that a long time. But that doesn't mean I want to stand in front of an angry one. It doesn't necessarily make it a good idea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:47] And when this fails, we go to the use of narratives and emotional appeal. This kind of seems self-explanatory, but I would love to hear your take on this because this is their emergency parachute. People go, "Hey, this didn't work for me," and this can happen with panacea BS formulas and vitamins and things like that, but it also happens with these business systems that all these sorts of grifters on the Internet, especially these influencer grifters are pedaling. Where if it doesn't work, "Well, you just didn't work hard enough." Every multilevel marketing company out there uses this one too. "If you really want it, you'll do it. See this guy, he really wanted it and he was successful. All these other people that looked like they really wanted it, but quit and lost a bunch of money, they didn't really want it, so they didn't really do it. But if you're really excited right now, that's all you need.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:55:37] Yeah. Those narratives and emotional appeals are incredibly powerful and every commercial on television tries to paint a quick 15-second or 30-second story about what goes on. You see the people, the people are super excited after buying their new car. Or arthritis commercials show people playing tennis or whatever it is. Somebody gets the promotion after they start using the dandruff shampoo. And they tell those little 15-second stories because they work. It's a mini-narrative and it's essentially like lifestyle porn. Like you do this and all of a sudden you'll have these results. But because pseudoscientists don't have the evidence or the data to back up any of their claims, they have to rely on narratives and emotional appeals. Now, some outcomes, even like very unlikely outcomes, will happen if there's enough times that something happens over and over again. So you mentioned a self-help book or a system multilevel marketing. If someone gets into that, 90 out of 100 people or 99 out of 100 people --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:41] it's more than 99 out of 100 people will lose money.
Justin Ramsdell: [00:56:45] So over 99 percent of people are losing money. It's going to work for somebody, and you just need that one person to write a testimonial and then you've got it. And then all of a sudden there's the lifestyle porn and you put their happy face up with their new cars and their whatever, like a beautiful new spouse and happy kids. And everybody's going to want that thing, even though this was only one out of the hundred people and the other 99 are in debt, miserable and totally disconnected from their friends.
Peter Oldring: [00:57:19] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Justin Ramsdell. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:24] This episode is sponsored by Better Help. Now is a great time to get therapy. A lot of us are cooped up at home. Better Help offers you a professional therapist within 24 hours of request. You can call, you can video chat, you can chat, you can even text your questions and your sessions with your counselor. Have you ever taken therapy online or at all for that matter?
Peter Oldring: [00:57:43] Myself? Of course, but not online. This is time for me -- it's a perfect time to do this because of course, I'm not really going to a therapist’s office currently.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:52] No, it's terrible. You've got to drive across town. You live in LA, you got to drive three hours.
Peter Oldring: [00:57:56] Well, my therapist is in Toronto. So it's a real long haul.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:00] Yes, that is quite the haul. There are 3,000 Better Help counselors, probably more than that by now, in all 50 states and across the globe, so any time zone. You don't have to worry about the appointment stuff because there's so many of them -- anxiety, which a lot of people have right now. Anger stuff, grief-related issues, any sort of job stress. Better Help is professional, quick, secure. And they've got a deal for us. Peter, tell him where to get it.
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[00:58:46] Support for today's episode comes from Progressive Insurance. Fun fact, Progressive customers qualify for an average of six discounts when they sign up for Progressive Auto Insurance. Discounts for things like enrolling in automatic payments, ensuring more than one car, going paperless, and of course, being a safe driver. Plus customers who bundle their auto with home or add renter's insurance save an average of 12 percent on their auto. There are so many ways to save when you switch, and once you're a customer with Progressive, you get unmatched claim service with 24/7 support online or by phone. It is no wonder why more than 20 million drivers trust Progressive. And why they've recently climbed to the third-largest auto insurer in the country. Get a quote online at progressive.com in as little as five minutes and see how much you could be saving. Auto insurance for Progressive Casualty Insurance company and affiliates, home and renter's insurance not available in all States, provided and serviced by affiliate and third-party insurers. Discounts vary and are not available in all states and situations.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:44] A lot of people ask me what shows I listened to. And after the episode, we have a preview of a show by my buddy Jonathan Fields called the Good Life Project. So I'll make sure that after the show you are listening because we do have previews for other shows as well as trailers for this show. That's a new thing we're going to be testing is trailers for this show so you can make sure you didn't miss anything amazing. We made these trailers, they're going to be amazing, and they're also in our animations, which you see on social media. So stay tuned after the episode for a preview of the Good Life Project and after every episode for a preview from The Jordan Harbinger Show.
Peter Oldring: [01:00:17] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going. To learn more and get links to all those great discounts you just heard so that you can check out those amazing sponsors for yourself, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. And don't forget that worksheet for today's episode. The link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Justin Ramsdell.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:44] I won't even get into this cause that's a whole tangent, but I found out that a lot of times, even the extra 0.4 or whatever, people out of a hundred that do make money with MLM, they're around breakeven for all of their time and/or they were given since they might be somebody who comes in with an audience like me. I've had this offer. That's how I know about this. They'll say, "Look, what we'll do is we'll give you your first, like a hundred people underneath you, so you're already at break even or close to it." And I'm like, "Well, how is that fair to everyone else who actually built that 'team'. That downline, it's called." And they're like, "Oh, they'll be fine."
Justin Ramsdell: [01:01:23] It's not.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:25] Yeah, the answer is it's not, and when that person sees me above them or right below them or whatever it is, they're going to be super pissed off because now they're another rung down from the top. But I just got inserted in there because I know the guy who runs the whole scam and he wants my big audience to join and he wants my face on the website. So he's willing to really just give that guy a nice little jab. That guy is so invested because he's been with the scam for three years and invested a hundred thousand dollars. That he kind of has to stay with it and just grin and bear it. And, I'm thinking, "Wow, is that dirty?" So there's a lot of skewing even of those horrible, horrible statistics, which by the way are self-reported. This isn't like the FTC said, "Oh, 99.4 out of a 100, 99.6 out of 100 people don't make money." This is what I think, like Herbalife and I could be getting that wrong, so don't quote me on that Herbalife legal team. But these are self-reported, like these publicly traded MLM companies, these are their self-reported numbers, which you know they report in the most positive light they can possibly do using any kind of math that's just not straight-up illegal. So the stats are actually even worse than now.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:02:36] Wow, I mean, you'll see these narrative appeals anytime somebody is trying to make an argument without having the facts on their side. I hesitate in bringing politics into the discussion. Politicians on both sides, we'll always rely on narrative and emotional appeals when they want to avoid the facts about what they're talking about.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:55] Sure. You see it, though, with things like -- I read Reddit a lot because I have no life, especially right now. But if I'm up at night with like baby stuff, I'll read Reddit and there'll be people who are like, "This does this, this and this," and someone will go, "No, this is not how this policy is going to work." Or, "This is not how this supplement or drug is going to work." Or, "This is not how this MLM is going to work." And someone will say, "You just want everybody to be poor because it makes you feel better about yourself."
Justin Ramsdell: [01:03:21] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:21] And it's like, "Whoa, Whoa, Whoa." Well, that's an ad hominem kind of thing. But you even see it with addiction counseling. It's like, "Well, there's no evidence that that works." "Oh, you just want addicts. You hate them because they've done poorly. Well, I'm a forgiving, nice person and you're not. So I'm going to continue to champion this super expensive rehab that grifts people and doesn't have any efficacy whatsoever according to their own studies. But you're a bad person, so you're against it."
Justin Ramsdell: [01:03:46] You see this quite frequently and addiction treatment literature where there's always a couple of happy, smiling people on the pamphlet, and then when you actually ask them for their data and not just like how many people are using two weeks after they use the program, but a year after they've left your program. How many people are still clean? You're going to have a hard time getting that data from most places.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:07] Yeah. "Oh, we don't track it because it's probably really bad. Sign here."
Justin Ramsdell: [01:04:11] Real science doesn't care if it's acceptable or appealing or approachable. The data is the data, and that's the explanation. So it doesn't have to be approachable or appealing, but weight loss and makeup ads do.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:27] And last, but certainly not least, these prophet-like champions, P-R-O-P-H-E-T-like champions. So this is very common right now, especially with the Internet and the influencer thing, which is kind of one of my new favorite things to hate because profit P-R-O-F-I-T doesn't necessarily have to be money now. It can be attention. So we see a lot of folks who are like, "I figured out the secret to making money online from home, and I'm going to show you how to do it. Seven days a week, I'm going to have an Instagram story that's like, ‘You're enough. You're loved. Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself nice things,’ that kind of thing. But every Friday I have a paid or free webinar that gets you into my sales funnel where I will share with you my secrets about how I did this and nobody else has these secrets, only I do,” which is just ludicrous. Or it's, “I used to be a religious figure or a monk or something, so I have these secrets to mindfulness,” which is trending right now, and it's just like, "Well, wait a minute, man. There's no secret here. Meditation is about as simple as it gets. Real scientific progress is accomplished by teams of people working for years on a single issue. But no cool that you graduated from college and immediately had a bunch of secrets that nobody else could figure out and here we are watching your Instagram Live.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:05:45] We have a history of lifting up or venerating certain identified individuals as geniuses or disruptors or mavericks and telling some simplified version of the story. Steve Jobs did incredible things. People love to talk about the iPhone because it's been a revolutionary product, but it wasn't Steve Jobs in a garage by himself like it wasn't the '70s with Wozniak. When they created the iPhone, Apple was an $18-billion company. Like the idea that we're pinning it on one person is this like champion of it is not the real story.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:23] It's just kind of human nature though. We don't think like, "Wow, this really well-run organization has accomplished something really great." It's like, "Wow. It's kind of easier for me to just venerate the guy who's streaming into my living room right now."
Justin Ramsdell: [01:06:34] Totally. And if the origin story for any system or product involves someone spending 20 years in a cave and trying to solve one particular tiny issue and then coming up with a solution all on their own without a team, that's going to be problematic. And they give the Nobel Prize to individuals. But as soon as that person gets up to give their speech, the first thing they do is thank their team because that's how discovery and science works.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:00] In closing here, how do we get better at spotting and ideally debunking for ourselves anyways pseudoscience because it is everywhere. It's everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, especially right now. When times get tough, I feel like pseudoscientific BS climbs up even more because I don't know, maybe people who would normally have a regular job just get more desperate and they're like, "Screw it. I'm going to go ahead and grift because I need the cash." Or because they just send some more victims out there and desperation is higher. They were kind of more sheep willing to buy into stuff that they're selling.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:07:30] The easiest place to start -- when it comes to the way that people make arguments or try to sell your products, the low hanging fruit are advertisements. That's always a good place to start, and it's important to note that when you're talking about panaceas, jargon, or people being vague, profit, motive, all the things that we've talked about, one of these things on its own doesn't make something pseudoscientific. If someone's using jargon or being vague, it could just be that they don't understand something.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:56] They're bad at explaining stuff where they also don't get how it works and they don't want to sound dumb.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:08:01] Totally. So that doesn't mean it's pseudoscientific, but as these things start to pile on top of each other, one after the other, that's going to create some problems.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:10] We'll list all of these different categories, these missing pillars, so to speak in the worksheets. People who are like, "Oh man, these are interesting. How do I use this?" They're going to be in the worksheets, which are always on the website.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:08:20] Right, okay. And then after advertisements, the second place I would try and hone your skills are newspaper articles about science. Because when the research gets done, they published the article in a peer-reviewed journal and nobody's reading that except the interested individuals. But the university will put out a press release saying, "Oh, hey, we just did this research," and they'll try and get a newspaper to pick it up. So by the time it gets to you, it's gone from the researcher to the universities' communications department to the reporter, and then through their editor and then to you. So you're getting some kind of distilled version of that, and they're going to pull the aspects of that scientific literature that they think is going to help them sell a paper out. And that's what they're going to write about. So when you read a study about how white-collar workers, I have fewer back problems or a white wine helps lower heart disease, then you can look at the different variables and try to make the connection. Like where's the plot hole here? Where's the variable in between two glasses of red wine a night and low heart disease that actually explains this.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:26] What plot holes are we looking for?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:09:28] in general -- so here's a good example, let's say that you decided to start taking a particular supplement every morning and it's a powder. You bought it. You want to grow your hair and be taller and stronger and not have depression. And so you start putting this every morning in a smoothie. You buy the blender, you get everything all set up, and then you start taking it and you feel better. Like, "Wow, look at that. Like, Hmm, I really do feel better. My skin does look clear. I have more energy. This is really amazing. This stuff is fantastic." Well, the plot hole there is that what you wound up doing. So the product you've got did nothing. What you ended up doing was placing the two packages of pop tarts and Diet Coke that you had every morning for breakfast.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:15] That sounds really good right now, but continuing
Justin Ramsdell: [01:10:18] You ended up replacing that with a fruit smoothie. Like that's the mechanism of action. It's the diet change. It isn't whatever it was that was in that powder. If you put that powder in your Diet Coke and you continue to have two packages of pop tarts and the Diet Coke with that powder in it, nothing would change.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:36] Yeah. You just ruined your Diet Coke.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:10:39] Exactly it. It probably would explode.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:41] Yes. Yeah, I've seen that on YouTube. Exactly. That's some real science right there, the Mentos and Diet Coke. If you want to look at it. Well, we'll link to it in the show notes. That's what the show notes are for. So we look at the advertising and we say, "All right, here are the holes that I'm seeing in here, or just the missing steps that are not detailed," or, "Oh, look at all this jargon. Let me look up what all this stuff means. Huh? It's just a bunch of jargon that says the same thing, only also really vague, in a really vague way." It's bigger words to say the same thing. Like It might help you do this. And also of course, if you're paying attention to disclaimers, which most of these don't have, but if you're paying attention to disclaimers, which are often legally required but not always present, you can find some serious holes, especially in some of the financial stuff where they're like, "This is proven to work." And then the fine print is like, "Results not typical. Well, we did this. One person out of 700,000 did it, and it's the owner of the company." So you get a little bit of a hint there. Most people aren't ever going to do that. And I realized we're also preaching to the choir here. There's a lot of people who are like, "Huh, I didn't really believe pseudoscience before, and I'm going to use these tools to get better at. Not leaving it." But somebody who's just like, "Nope, this YouTuber that I really like has this male vitality formula and I'm buying it, and it's definitely working." They're not really listening to this show, and they're sure as heck not going to listen to somebody who sends them this show and then go through and do the work because of -- why is that? Is it that people want to believe? I mean, that might be a good place to leave it because you can trick people with pseudoscience, but at some point, we have to also be complicit. At some point, those people also have to be complicit. Yes, you can blatantly lie to certain people, but when something really takes off like wildfire, like some BS, like a secret, where you just believe something and it starts to happen because you're changing the vibration of the universe or some other thing that is completely not based in science at all, people want to believe that stuff. And no amount of evidence and framework and worksheets that we create for them is going to change that.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:12:36] And so I think when you talk about what you can and can't do to protect yourself, you can divide that into two categories. The one that we were just talking about with things involve other people lying to you, right? Or at least lying by omission, being vague, not explaining the mechanism of action and providing the plot holes, all of that stuff. And then there are the ways that you lie to yourself. And like we said earlier, those are the easier of the two to do and they're also simultaneously the most dangerous.
[01:13:07] My best advice for someone who is not interested and looking at whether or not they're getting taken by a pseudoscientist is to start with yourself. You need to understand what it is that's actually bothering you. You need to be objective about your actual financial situation, about your relationship status and have difficult conversations with yourself. Because once you stop lying to yourself, it will be way harder for other people to lie to you, but that's not human nature. We tend to reject objective information about the two categories or three categories in life where we should have the most objective information, and that's our finances, our health, and our work performance. It's important to get that objective information, and if you want to protect yourself, you need to treat your body and your life like an experimenter would treat their experiment. You need to control for variables. You need to get objective data. You need to try things and see if they're working and you're not going to know if they're working without objective data. So I think treating yourself like an experiment is probably the most useful and frankly, the least judgmental way to go about doing that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:14:22] In closing here, I want to go over a fake commercial that we created. So Justin Ramsdell and I, we created for you listeners, a fake Herbal Opera BS pseudoscience product. And we had my friend Omar from a $100 MBA podcast voice this over with a testimonial with a voice you might recognize is producer Jason. So let's play the commercial here and then break it down. Here we go.
Omar Zenhom: [01:14:48] Everyone is stressed, tired, and overworked, especially these days. We all seem to be in need of an upgrade to help us through these tough times. But I'm here to tell you about a new amazing product that can help nearly everything that life throws at you. Herbal Opera is a revolutionary dietary supplement that is now being produced in the United States. Herbal Opera has been years in the making, but it's not a new idea. This herbal supplement has been used by the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest for centuries. It wasn't until 25 years ago that Dr. Meylin Groves, a world leader in bio-based exploration, discovered this miracle plant and brought it to her laboratory.
[01:15:29] Dr. Groves discovered that the Bouzouki has used symphozopan, the main ingredient in Herbal Opera in their tea as a spice in their food for longer than written word exists. The Bouzouki had virtually no heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. And until modern researchers and scientists arrived to study the tribe, the tribe members have never been introduced to the concepts of depression or anxiety.
[01:15:52] Herbal Opera is a once daily herbal supplement that can be taken in pill form or mixed into your favorite smoothie. The symphozopan mixes with your body's natural dihydrogen monoxide to cleanse your body of toxins and restore the chemical balance in your body's energy systems and brain. Don't take our word for it. Listen to the testimony of Franklin, an early adopter of Herbal Opera.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:16:15] I was always tired and as a result, I wasn't as socially engaged as I hoped. On top of that, I had professional aspirations and personal goals that I felt were unrealistic. When I started using Herbal Opera, everything changed. In a little less than a week, I had more energy, aced a big project at work that got me back on track for promotion, and reconnected with old friends. My depression and anxiety evaporated. After a month, my skin was clear. I lost 10 pounds and the benefits just keep coming. Thanks, Herbal Opera. You changed my life for the better.
Omar Zenhom: [01:16:48] He got the upgrade he needed. It's time for you to do the same. This is the supplement that big pharmaceutical companies don't want you to know about. Dr. Groves has been an advocate for symphozopan since the mid-1990s. She's seen enough evidence in her 25 years of interacting with the Bouzouki tribe. She has seen the real-world effects of this plant and now wants to share it with the world.
[01:17:12] Are you ready for the benefits of Herbal Opera? Are you ready for the supplement that has taken Dr. Groves to the top of her field? Are you ready for the supplement that got Franklin's physical health, personal life, and professional career back on track? Do you believe that you have untapped potential? If you need an upgrade, get the upgrade. Get Herbal Opera.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:36] All right, Justin. So we just heard this commercial, this fake commercial for Herbal Opera. What are we looking for when we're breaking down this ad? What is the language that we're looking for? What are the concepts we want to dissect?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:17:46] I think the first thing that sticks out to me when I listened to it is just the sheer number of things purports to help you with which is that panacea idea. So it claims that it can fix stress, lack of energy, obesity, skin problems. And then it also implies that it can help because the tribe didn't have any issues with diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety. And again, they're just throwing all of these things like spaghetti against the wall, which is you, and trying to find something that sticks. It's just so many things. It's impossible. The only thing I think would have been better would have been to say headaches.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:24] Right. Okay. So this cures heart disease, diabetes, obesity, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That's what I remember from the ads here. And it's a pill form, or you can mix it into your favorite smoothie. So it's super easy. It doesn't require any sort of critical thinking. So it's an easy-to-apply panacea. What else?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:18:40] And then on top of it, there. Using either made-up terms, so jargon, or completely vague terms, and I think it'd be good to start with jargony term.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:52] Yeah. Let's start with the jargon.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:18:53] So symphozopan.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:18:55] Right, this fake ingredient.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:18:57] Right. And it should be noted that the name Herbal Opera was actually made-up by my nine-year-old son because he's like, "It should sound classy, dad."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:05] Yes.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:19:06] And so he thought the opera needed it, and that the chemical should have like symphony or something in it because that sounded classy. And so like, that sounds really nice.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:15] right? I can get behind a symphony and an opera, like I want to put that in my body.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:19:19] Exactly. And then, I think it also mentioned dihydrogen monoxide.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:23] Yes. Water, right?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:19:24] Which is water. Right, exactly. And there are plenty of ads that either have very complicated explanations for simple products and make them sound way more scientific than they really are, or just completely make-up terms altogether. In fact, when I teach these things in my course, I have my students read a one-page paper that I wrote that's a bunch of BS that includes words like, I don't even remember what's in there. They're all things that I made up.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:52] I mean, you could just make up new words because it doesn't matter. They're equally valid as the words you made up when you wrote the document.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:19:58] Exactly. And then I have them to actually take a quiz on it, and most of them do really well on the quiz. They got like 10 out of 10 questions correct. But then I asked them to explain it to me like. So this chemical reaction that happens? Like what is it? What really goes on, and when I started asking questions, they can't answer the question. It's like all they did was memorize the terms and it gives them that sense that like, "I really understand it because I memorized this stuff enough to take a quiz and I got 100 on a quiz, so I must know it because that's what school is." I'm like, "Yeah, but explain it to me." And when I ask them to explain it, they can't. As soon as I asked just a moderately probing question about one of the chemicals, they're lost in the woods because they really don't understand it. The jargon and those broad terms give us that security blanket, like we do understand it when in reality we don't at all.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:47] I'm also seeing that this is discovered. By a doctor who explored -- bio-exploration expert, right? And this is a tribe. So this is an appeal to ancient wisdom, but also combined with, "Oh, but I trust the person who discovered it because they're a doctor too." So this doctor who knows seemingly, or at least we would assume. Everything that one would need to know about modern medicine also found this ancient medicine that we've never seen before, and that's the magical combination.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:21:16] Totally. Because it provides that prophet-like champion, it describes the doctor as a world leader in bio-based exploration.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:23] Right. So a credible expert seemingly from the sound of it, anyway.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:21:27] That is not illegally controlled term. If I want to call myself the world's leading expert in something, I can totally do that and put it on a business card. I am legally allowed to do so. I don't think most people kind of realize that. And then there's this kind of implicit notion that Dr. Groves has figured this thing out when no one else would listen. That she stayed true and knew that this was a great product and a great chemical. And researched it in her cave and stuck with it. But an alternative headline for this would be totally average scientist wastes 25 years barking up the wrong tree.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:05] Right, right, despite pleas from everyone around her of colleagues and family alike to stop wasting your time.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:22:11] Exactly. And so when you mix that prophet-like champion and then with the jargon, and we didn't even mention the vague terms, like upgrade. Like, "Do you need an upgrade?" "Oh yeah, I need an upgrade."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:24] Yeah, always.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:22:24] Yeah, all the time. It would be like me saying like, "Do you hurt?"
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:28] Yeah. Or it's, "Do you ever get headaches?" "Well, yeah, I do, but it's not because of something you're pushing out of my foot right now, man."
Justin Ramsdell: [01:22:33] Right. And so this is just rife with that potential chemical imbalance, toxins, all of those words. So you throw all that in there and it makes for a pretty convincing ad. If I hadn't written it, I might be interested.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:45] Yeah, no kidding. Who doesn't want to lose 10 pounds getting rid of their depression and anxiety because of the Bouzouki tribe's secret ingredient discovered by Dr. Groves that supplements -- the big pharmaceutical companies don't want us to know about. They don't want us to know that the solution to our problems is not expensive drugs with side effects that took years of research, but it's this thing. That they've been keeping under wraps that Dr. Groves robotically has championed.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:23:09] You know, the conspiracy theory angle is one of the things that gets really dangerous in our kind of Internet-driven world, Facebook, Instagram, they all track so many different variables that people don't realize they track. I think the last was at 98 different categories.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:25] Of what?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:23:26] 98 different variables are tracked by Facebook for every user.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:30] You mean like location data? Are they using Wi-Fi? Is that the stuff you're referring to?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:23:34] The location, age, gender, race, type of Internet connection, but it's also like the year, the make and model of the car you drive, whether or not you purchase over-the-counter medications and what medications those are, what TV shows you typically like to watch or endorse. There are all sorts of like -- it really kind of incredible data. And when you put all that together with their ability to target people, you can put together the profile of someone who would definitely be interested in a product like this. One of the data points Facebook has heavily alcohol purchasing. So if you mix that with like the fact that you moved to a new city, which they would know and track. And maybe a career that's hasn't moved and you haven't changed in a while. then you can put together the profile of someone that this product would be perfect for, and what they've done is kind of supercharged that 3:00 a.m. infomercial and make it so that rather than just spraying it out over the airwaves and having whoever happens to be up, watch it, they're putting it right in the inboxes or on the advertisements, on the side of the webpages of the people who are most vulnerable to being taken by a product like this.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:46] Right, like when you're homesick as a kid and you see these infomercials and it's like, "Why do they think I'm unemployed?" Oh, right, because most of the people who are at home right now aren't fifth graders who have the flu and stomach pain, they are people who don't have jobs. They're watching Jerry Springer 18 reruns.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:25:01] Seinfeld used to do a bit about the Ginsu knives where he's watching the commercial and says like, "I don't think any of my knives can cut through a shoe. I need my knife."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:12] What about the appeal to emotion? Is that what's going on here with the testimonial?
Justin Ramsdell: [01:25:17] Yeah, absolutely. Well, there are essentially two testimonials in that commercial. There's one of them that's overt, and another one that's implied. The one that's overt is that from Franklin, where he's basically like saying, "Do you want to be like Franklin and succeed at your job, lose weight, and have more friends?" And that one's kind of obvious because it's in your face, but then the implied emotional appeal is based on the tribe. They have no heart disease. They have no diabetes, they have no obesity. They've never even heard of depression and anxiety before a Western scientist got there. And while that certainly doesn't seem like a narrative, it is because they're painting a picture of this tribe that doesn't have these problems that you have. Kind of like the overall message in the commercial is we don't need to test our product because we already have proof.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:05] Ah, interesting.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:26:07] Right. So we don't need to put it in the lab.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:09] Oh, that's interesting. I didn't really see that. So there that I didn't even catch. We don't need to test this. It doesn't matter that it's not, it's been evaluated by the food and drug administration or any pharmaceutical company, because look, there's tribe's been using it for thousands of years. That goes kind of back to the appeal to ancient wisdom.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:26:27] Exactly, yep.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:28] Justin, thank you so much for coming on, for creating a fake commercial, teaching us how to shred it. I think this kind of thing is useful and I'm really glad that we got a chance to not only explain it but also do a case study here, or at least a quick example. Because I think this will help other people who are listening to this disassemble these ads when they see them. Because these are everywhere, especially right now. And it's not going to go away anytime soon. The FDA doesn't even look at supplements anymore, so this is only going to get worse as people become more desperate to fix problems, more economically and secure things like that in our current day and age, our current economy. So I think this is going to be a useful skill set for years to come.
Justin Ramsdell: [01:27:05] My pleasure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:09] Thanks to Justin. You know, after the show we talked about targeted ads that gather information through social media, they can really tailor the message. So you're worried about your weight, depression, anxiety, love. They can really tailor the message of pseudoscience BS to you as an individual. And they can make these invalid arguments that they're already making. They can make those arguments all the more convincing and get you to purchase their product because they know what you are looking for, a search history, what you've liked, what you're watching. So you got to be aware of that. They really are targeting your insecurities deliberately. He doesn't have a book, but he should. Links to his stuff will be in the website in the show notes. Please if you do buy books from the guests you hear on the show, use the links on the website. It helps support the show. You know, what our hosting bills are. You don't. You know why? Because I don't have to complain about him because some of you use the website links. The rest of you, you’re freeloaders. Use the website links please and support our sponsors. They're good people, generally. Also in the show notes, there are worksheets for each episode, so you can review what you've learned here today from Dr. Justin Ramsdell. There's a worksheet for this episode as well as every other. We now have transcripts for each episode. Those can be found in the show notes as well.
[01:28:16] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Now, don't kick the can down the road and do it later. You got to dig the well before you are thirsty. Build your network before you need it. Even if it means starting from scratch. Procrastination leads to stagnation. You know, it rhymes, so it's got to be true, right? That's the pseudoscience thing right there. But networking, not a pseudoscience. I'm really working hard to show you how to do this in a simple way. The drills take just a few minutes per day. This is the stuff I wish I knew 20 years ago. It's been crucial for me. Find it all for free at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:28:57] By the way, most of the guests you hear on the show, they're doing the course. They're on the newsletter. Come join us, you'll be in smart company. In fact, why not reach out to Justin Ramsdell? Tell him you enjoyed this episode of this show. Show guests usually love hearing from you. You never know what might shake out of that. And speaking of building relationships, add me on LinkedIn. I'm there all the time. I post a lot. I answer my messages. I'm also at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.
[01:29:20] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and engineered by Jase Sanderson. The ads were fun because of Peter Oldring. Show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola. I'm your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And I'm a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. I'm sure as heck, not a doctor or a therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. So if you know somebody who falls whole-hog and buys a lot of pseudoscience, or somebody who's a little gullible and can't spot it, or somebody who would just find this psychology interesting, share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode, so please do share the show with those you love. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:30:17] A lot of people are asking me what podcasts I recommend and listen to, and one particularly smart show run by my friend Jonathan Fields, who happens to be here with me right now, is Good Life Project. Jonathan, what do you have for us lately with the show?
Jonathan Fields: [01:30:30] Yeah. We've got an episode up recently with a guy named David Sinclair, who is an absolute genius. a scientist, a physician. A guy who's got so many different patents, I think has co-founded 14 different companies and he focuses on aging and age reversal. He's got this just tremendous wisdom. About how to slow down and even reverse aging. He kind of describes how the way we look at aging is entirely wrong, and if you look at it as something that can be cured or at least treated and slowed down and even reversed, then you start to discover all of these things that you can do and potentially take or consume that can really profoundly change the way that you experience life and potentially even slow down, stop or reverse a lot of the things that we experienced is aging in our body. So it was amazing, insightful, really specific in what he said.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:31:22] So if you want to become the next Benjamin Button, go check out Good Life Project anywhere you get your podcasts or at goodlifeproject.com. Thanks, Jonathan.
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