Pseudoscience and Magical Thinking: What’s the Harm?

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What’s The Harm is a website that lists cases where a lack of critical thinking has caused unnecessary harm, death, injury, hospitalization, major financial loss, or other damages.

Here are 10 striking examples where pseudoscience and a lack of critical thinking has lead to a great deal of harm.  WARNING:  Some readers might find this content disturbing.

Photo of Amora Bain Carson

Amora Bain Carson

Age: 13 months
Henderson, Texas
December 2, 2008
They believed the child was possessed and tried to rid her of demons. They allegedly bludgeoned her and bit her more than 20 times. She died. Her mother and a man were arrested and held on $2 million bond.Read more

Photo of Isabella Denley

Isabella Denley

Age: 13 months
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Died (untreated epilepsy)
October 19, 2002
Isabella was prescribed medications for her epilepsy. Instead of using them, her parents consulted an iridologist, an applied kinesiologist, a psychic and an osteopath. She was being treated purely with homeopathic medication when she died. Read more & more

Photo of Brittney Dorcy

Brittney Dorcy

Age: 2
Vancouver, Washington
Murdered by her mother
June 12, 2004
Brittney’s mom suffered from severe depression. Her medical treatment for this was very successful and lauded in a local news article. But she decided to discontinue medication and treat herself with St. John’s Wort. A tragedy resulted. Read more & more



Myanmar’s economy

Yangon, Myanmar
Economic collapse
September 1987
General Ne Win’s astrologer and numerologist told him his lucky number was 9 and he would live to be 90 if he was surrounded by 9s. He reissued the currency in multiples of 9 causing mayhem and new insurgencies. He resigned within a year. Read more



39 cult members

Rancho Santa Fe, California
Mass suicide
March 26, 1997
The members of the Heaven’s Gate cult convinced themselves that a UFO arriving with Comet Hale-Bopp would take them away. They committed mass suicide. Read more



Chayya Lal

Age: 16
Asharita, Sarangpur, India
September 9, 2008
She was traumatized by TV programs about the opening of the Large Hadron Collider, which talked about the end of the world. Her parents told her not to worry and diverted her attention to no avail. She drank a pesticide from her father’s farm. Read more & more


Photo of Harrison Johnson

Harrison Johnson

Age: 2
Tampa, Florida
Died (untreated wasp stings)
Harrison was stung by wasps while his family was visiting church friends. They prayed over the boy but did not seek medical help because they believe doctors practice witchcraft. When an EMT was called 7 hours later, the boy was beyond help. Read more & more


Photo of Pam & Craig Akers

Pam & Craig Akers

Richwoods, Missouri
Told their son was dead when he was not
February 26, 2003
The Akers are the parents of Shawn Hornbeck, a child who was kidnapped. Sylvia Browne told them he was dead on national television. Four years later, he turned up quite alive. Read more

“Jane Roe”

Age: 56
Melbourne, Australia
Died (liver failure)
July 2002
A naturopath prescribed an herbal anti-anxiety pill containing kava. She later suffered fatigue, nausea and jaundice and went to the hospital. Her liver failed five days later and she had an emergency transplant, but died. Read more

thousands of Airborne customers

Bonita Springs, Florida
Misled that it could cure colds
March 3, 2008
Airborne is based on Chinese herbal remedies and large doses of vitamins. The box claimed it could cure a cold based on a study that was discovered to be bogus. A lawsuit awarded $23.3M to defrauded customers. The product is still on the shelves. Read more & more

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