I’m a big proponent of using snark when setting people straight, but not all people. I tend to use snark with people who either should know better (because of their education, experience, or position at work) or those who claim to know better. I don’t use snark when someone who doesn’t know better or isn’t supposed to.
However, I’ve been told that snark is not always the way to go. I’ve been told that I will hardly ever change a person’s mind if I’m snarky at them in explaining to them why they’re wrong. But I tend to believe that the True Believers™ are the ones whose mind won’t change no matter what. That is, I could be the nicest person in the world to them, understand them, put my arm around them as I explain to them a principle of science or reality, and they would still not change their minds. That’s how True Believers™ are.
My wife showed me an article written by a colleague of hers in which it was asserted that “electromagnetic frequency (EMF)” was the likely cause of several ailments. It’s “electromagnetic radiation,” by the way, not “EMF”. That was only the first red flag. The author of the article wrote other things about “electronic pollution” and such.
I’ve heard it all before, and it’s all an exaggeration based on some bad understanding of how the universe works. Is electromagnetic radiation bad? Yes and no. Like any other thing in the world, the dose matters. First, electromagnetic radiation is non-ionizing radiation, meaning that it doesn’t have enough energy to cause irreparable damage to your DNA. The only way this kind of radiation can cause damage is by heat, and it would take a very strong source of it to heat up your insides to the point of causing damage.
All of this I learned in high school and college physics and by reading “Physics for Future Presidents” by Richard Muller. I also learned some of it from my dad. He was a scout for a uranium mining company when he was young. So he got to chat a lot with people knowledgeable about these things.
I wanted to respond to the person who wrote that “EMF” article, and I wanted to be very, very snarky. Not only am I tired of the “electromagnetic sensitivity” stuff, I’m also tired of people who should know better doing things like this. Some may ask what the harm is in an article in a newsletter for physician assistants like that article. But there is a harm when people with actual medical conditions are led — by people who should know better — into treatments and remedies that will do nothing. Delaying treatment while chasing a phantom disease is not a good idea.
But I was discouraged from responding because the author seems to be a True Believer™, and there’s little to anything you can do with them… In my experience.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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