I recently saw this excellent clip from Penn & Teller's incisive program Bullshit wherein a woman with a clipboard is able to easily get many signers for a petition to ban the chemical compound "dihydrogen monoxide" at an environmental rally. Apparently, this campaign originated back in 1989 and has a pretty large following online. Here is an excerpt from their wacky propaganda:
Dihydrogen Monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year...Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting, and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.
Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the Midwest, and recently, California.
Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!
The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation". In fact, the Navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.
It's not too late!
I'm not exactly surprised that people are gullible and scientifically-illiterate, just that they are able to take this ignorance far enough to get other people to be surprised about it. Like the middle schooler who was able to win a statewide science fair by convincing so many people to sign on to the above petition. Or the even better instance of a California city council introducing an ordinance to actually ban the deadly substance a few years ago.
A related sentiment is even more common: my mom is always telling me about how she avoids eating certain foods because they have chemicals in them. These environmentalists are such ninnyhammers, if they ever succeeded what would I put in my cocoa?