I enjoy the process of debunking: the investigation into claimed evidence, and then communicating the results of that investigation to the public. But are there any claims that are simply too silly to even bother investigating? We've all seen videos on Youtube that make you shake your head in disbelief that the person in the video might actually be serious. There's older classics like Rainbow Sprinkler Lady (2008), there's people who spray the sky with vinegar to ward off "chemtrails" (2011), there's the burning snow (2014), and now we've got fireproof GMO cabbage (October 2016). Should we debunk silly things like fireproof cabbage? Well I did, and I'll explain why. But first, here's the video explaining what's going on with the cabbage. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VHVZrAcJHc So the question here is if there's any value in even addressing these claims. The natural response for most people is simply to laugh and even to mock the people making the claims. After all it seems obvious that rainbows have always formed in sprays of water, that a tiny bit of vinegar is not going to have an effect on clouds miles away, that snow does not burn, and that cabbage does not burn because it's mostly water. The natural response might even include questioning the honesty or the mental faculty of the person making the claim. Surely, you might say, only crazy people or liars would believe such a thing. And generally there's not much point in trying to argue with crazy people. But something that becomes apparent the more you look into this is that many of the people who believing these claims are neither crazy nor liars. The people who fell for the burning snow story were often just people who had not seen much snow, or perhaps not played around with fire much, so when they held the flame of a lighter under a snowball and saw the snow turn black then it was not a huge leap in their minds to accept that the snow was burning. People who frequently fall for "conspiracy theory" explanations of events have been described as having a "crippled epistemology" in that they are operating with a limited number of information sources. In each of the four examples given above it might not seem like a conspiracy theory, but at the beliefs are deeply rooted in conspiratorial thinking. Rainbow sprinklers mean that "they" are adding chemicals to the water. Vinegar spraying is necessary because "they" are spring the sky with chemicals. Snow now burns because it's infused with toxic geoengineering chemicals. Cabbage is now fireproof because GMOs are harmful, and the government is not telling us. The crippled epistemology here is twofold. Firstly there's a limited life experience, or an overly optimistic assessment of their own memory. People have either not come across the phenomena before, or they simply don't remember it. Since they are amazed by it now, the assume they would remember seeing it in the past. Secondly there's a lack of experience with things that makes it hard for them to accept the actual explanation. Rainbows happen in sprinklers for the same reason rainbows occur in the sky. The sun's rays bounce around in little drops of water and get split into the colors of the spectrum and reflected back at you, creating a rainbow. But if you don't know anything about refraction, then that's pretty meaningless - you just see a rainbow in water, and the only time you've see that is with oil on water, so you go with that. Should we bother debunking these things? Debunking is a two step process: investigation and communication. Now with claims like these the "investigation" part seems pointless - after all it's perfectly obvious what is going on. So many skeptics would ignore things like this simply because they don't need any investigation. However we are still left with the "communication" part. I think that even if there's not need for investigation, the need for communication still remains as important as ever. If people believe in something false then the harm is just as great if it's a silly thing as is it's a more plausible thing. I also think that the "investigation" part should largely be replaced with a "demonstration" part that in many respects resembles an investigation. A demonstration is something you do to help explain what is going on by setting up what essentially is an experiment, but one you know the answer to. In the cabbage video it's not really an experiment to see if cabbage burns - it's a demonstration of the fact that cabbage leaves are tough and mostly water. I show that it does not burn. I note that it's organic cabbage. I show the water steaming off the leaf when it's heated. I show that the leaf does burn, but only when it has fully dried out. I then repeat the demonstration with a piece of wet paper and a piece of dry paper. There's no investigation, but there essentially is an illustrative experiment. A demonstration. Perhaps the greatest example of a "silly" belief is homeopathy. The vast majority of scientists don't think there's any need for investigation into homeopathy as it has been shown time and time again that not only does it not work, but that it's impossible for it to work. And yet skeptics generally still have no problems communicating these facts to people. They even do demonstrations, like taking an entire bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills to show that they have no effect. Homeopathy of course causes harm, both financially from wasted money, and physically when it is used instead of effective treatments. A belief that snow burns does not have such an obvious harm. But one false belief leads to another. If we can show people that one of their beliefs is wrong, and teach them a tiny bit of common sense science along the way, then it moves them one step closer to a less crippled epistemology, and one step closer to a more rational and less fearful life.