In a notable “coincidence” of timing, today (October 10) is Christopher Columbus Day, and October 13 is recognized as International Skeptics Day. Now, you should all be aware at this point that Columbus didn’t “discover” America — and if we can no longer believe in that fundamental elementary school truth, what CAN we believe in?
So to celebrate Columbus Skeptics Day, let’s call into question a few beliefs that some Americans hold — starting with the man himself.
Christopher Columbus Discovered America
Landing in a place where millions of people had already been living for 14,000 years and saying you’re the first to get there is some next-level gas-lighting. Can you imagine if some dude in a puffy shirt said he “discovered you” in the coffee shop you go to every day? Then claimed he was the new manager of the shop, murdered every customer, and made the baristas slaves? Yeah, it might be time for Columbus Day to go.
Skepticism Level: HIGH
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 Was Started By Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow
This adorable story was made up by a Chicago Tribune reporter to create more colorful copy for a fire that killed 300 people, caused $200 million in damages and made an innocent cow the Andy Dufresne of the nineteenth century. That reporter’s descendants are now in charge of fact checking for Fox News.
Skepticism Level: Highly Suspect
Albert Einstein Failed Math
This anecdote is commonly used to encourage children and people who work in offices to keep trying after they’ve bombed at a task. Problem is, Einstein not only didn’t fail math, but his mother sent braggy letters to her friends that showed that Einstein was a baller at calculus before you even lost your baby teeth. So next time you can’t figure out how to replace a printer cartridge, don’t turn to Einstein — invoke Abraham Lincoln instead, cause that guy dropped out of school at TWELVE and went on to save America and wear really great hats.
Skepticism Level: Sadly Elevated
You Can “Detox” Your Body
No, putting celery in a blender and drinking the resulting mixture will not remove “toxins.” No, neither will paying $25 to go to hot yoga. No, getting an exorcism probably won’t help, either. At this point, “toxins” just seems to be a catch-all word for when you feel like garbage and should probably drink some water and eat a vegetable. No Vitamix required.
Skepticism Level: Just go to bed earlier
Vaccines Are Evil
See above — drinking a green juice and doing back bends won’t prevent your kid from getting whooping cough. The ghost of Jonas Salk weeps each time a D-list celebrity or wealthy parent invents a bogus reason to opt out of vaccinations.* Get a public health degree or a PhD in epidemiology and then we’ll talk evidence.**
*Also, every time you confuse correlation with causation.
**Blog entries do not constitute acceptable evidence.
Skepticism Level: Are you kidding me??
Look like Columbus’ lasting legacy (besides the genocide, he really did that) will be teaching Americans to believe nothing without a healthy side plate of skepticism. So the next time you see a photo of a college-aged Obama reading a dossier labeled “9/11 Plans” and you think to yourself, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure about that one,” you can thank Christopher Columbus.