Soap, Unfollowing and the Fallibility of Science

soapThe exchange below are comments in response to a post I put up on Facebook about putting a bar of soap in your bed to alleviate calf cramps at night.

Anonymous: Can you explain how lemon water, which is acidic, and soap, which is alkaline, could both have the same effect? Also, since it’s nearly impossible to change the actual pH of your body to a significant degree, how does soap in the sheets keep muscles from cramping?

Me: I really can’t explain it other than it works. Many people I know who have tried it have had success. My favorite story being the wife who didn’t tell her husband what she was doing. It worked and then six months later when the cramps returned, she changed the soap and they went away again.

Anonymous: Maybe the leg cramps come and go on their own, as most people report they do if they’re being honest. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t hold much weight, particularly if you’re presenting yourself as an authority. The fact that this doesn’t strike you as absurd is troubling and makes me question anything else you might have to say.

Me:  Ok. Have a nice day

One of the many things I say in my classes (I tend to repeat myself over and over again) is it is my job to be super confident. If I’m going stand up before groups of people it only makes sense for me to project that I know, and am right about, everything.

I believe in science and provable ideas but I also believe in what works and don’t always need to understand the how and why of everything.

Just last week my family was away at the hippie family camp where we go every summer. While there I teach yoga and some workshops and at night they have programs, very often of a liberal bent. One of the programs that I listened to and enjoyed wholeheartedly was called The Fallibility of Science.

This appealled to me greatly because while I’m a believer in science I am not a big believer of the profit motive or at least I should say I have a healthy skepticism of science directed by a profit motive. A portion of this talk was about the fact that there is no science research without someone funding the science research, and all research on science research has shown that scientists have a predisposition to find results that match the desires of their patrons.

I have written about soap in bed and calf cramps before and received a great deal of response from people of use this trick and provided anecdotal evidence as to its efficacy.

I honestly said that I couldn’t explain it but had received so many emails in response to prior writing about the subject with so much anecdotal evidence to suggest that it worked.

I particularly love the story of the woman who didn’t tell her husband about putting the soap in the bed because he would have reacted like the commenter. But it worked, unbeknownst to her husband, because he wouldn’t have believed her, even after it worked.

Well as it turns out this not enough of an explanation for the above reader who unfollowed me because of my irresponsible employment of anecdotal evidence which in his eyes is meaningless.

What do you think?


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