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Idle Science

Canadian Blood Services Promotes Pseudoscience 219

Posted by samzenpus
from the type-A-negative-personality dept.
trianglecat writes "The not-for-profit agency Canadian Blood Services has a section of their website based on the Japanese cultural belief of ketsueki-gata, which claims that a person's blood group determines or predicts their personality type. Disappointing for a self-proclaimed 'science-based' organization. The Ottawa Skeptics, based in the nation's capital, appear to be taking some action."

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Canadian Blood Services Promotes Pseudoscience

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  • Not surprising. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LikwidCirkel (1542097) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @07:53PM (#30291096)
    If you lived in Ottawa, like I do, you'd understand that we're nearly the most absurdly "politically correct" place on earth. This is reflected by a common effort to be "inclusive" to other schools of thought. Also, there are more complainers and "letter writers" in Ottawa than any other city on Earth. I'm sure, so none of this seems out of the ordinary to me.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @07:58PM (#30291168) Journal
      Wearing one of these [wearscience.com](I am not affiliated with or profiting from, merely amused by) or being sure to use the phrase "So open-minded your brain has fallen out" is the only viable response to such behavior.
    • If you lived in Ottawa, like I do, you'd understand that we're nearly the most absurdly "politically correct" place on earth. This is reflected by a common effort to be "inclusive" to other schools of thought. Also, there are more complainers and "letter writers" in Ottawa than any other city on Earth. I'm sure, so none of this seems out of the ordinary to me.

      It's still stupid, and as a Canadian I'm just glad that I live in Quebec and we run our program separately [hema-quebec.qc.ca]. english version [hema-quebec.qc.ca]. ... though someone shou

      • by Daengbo (523424) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @09:18PM (#30292038) Homepage Journal

        You're lucky you live in Quebec. I had to endure the torture of "What's your blood type?" from all my friends the whole five years I lived in Korea. I obnoxiously answered "I don't know" (even when I did) just to avoid being typed. Of course, I answer the same to Thais when they ask "What days of the week were you born on?" and to westerners' "What's your sign?" Unfortunately, I can't pretend I don't know my birth date. Western culture doesn't seem to take the matter too seriously, but Korean and Thai cultures do.

        These practices all need to die. Do you want to understand me? Get to know me.

        • by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @09:30PM (#30292140)

          I answer the same to Thais when they ask "What days of the week were you born on?" and to westerners' "What's your sign?" Unfortunately, I can't pretend I don't know my birth date.

          If you can even give a toss about this, try figure out what the LEAST compatible sign for each sign is, then ask them theirs and adjust yours to fit. Not like you want someone who really buys into that around you a lot anyway, right?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tomhudson (43916)

          Unfortunately, I can't pretend I don't know my birth date.

          [_] "I was adopted, you ignorant clod!" (and watch them go "Oh ...")
          [_] I was born February 29th so I only have a sign every 4th year.
          [_] What sign was I born under? Yellow Cab | Maternity Ward | Abortion Clinic ("I was a screw-up even back then")
          ... or if you really want to scare them off ...
          [_] What's my sign? Well, I was born a [insert bogus info] and I was born again in [insert month] so now I'm really a [insert bogus info], so let me

        • Western culture doesn't seem to take the matter too seriously, but Korean and Thai cultures do.

          You are clearly a Sagittarius, with the Moon rising over the plain of Mars in retrograde.

          I'm not sure about you, but I know plenty of Americans who seem to take astrology and numerology a little too seriously.

          I'd love to go on the show Deal or no deal (The one with the women holding the suitcases), and select my suitcases in numerical order (1, 2, 3, etc)-- because my chances are EXACTLY THE SAME as someone who se

          • "Sure, some people play the odds"

            Yep, those people are usually refered to as "the house".
          • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @11:07PM (#30292952)

            I'd love to go on the show Deal or no deal (The one with the women holding the suitcases), and select my suitcases in numerical order (1, 2, 3, etc)-- because my chances are EXACTLY THE SAME as someone who selects the cases according to their own numerological theory.

            I'm not so sure about that. The only thing required to make the game fair is to ensure the contestant has no idea which suitcases contain which prizes. There is no reason some person on the show can't be distributing the cases according to their own idea of 'randomness'.

          • Many American gamblers also tend to believe in numerology a little too much.

            Not those of us who are successful...and btw, do me a favor and quit trying to tell the unsuccessful ones what they're doing wrong. ;)

        • I obnoxiously answered "I don't know" (even when I did) just to avoid being typed. Of course, I answer the same to Thais when they ask "What days of the week were you born on?" and to westerners' "What's your sign?"

          Can't speak to the others, but if a westerner asks you what your sign is, they were hitting on you.

          Or so I have heard. Oh wait... you're on slashdot too. Yeah, she was trying to steal your credit card, so good job.

        • I say, "I'm not sure, I was born on February 30th."

          The few who get the joke are marginally worth speaking with.
        • by Toonol (1057698)
          I'm a Libra, and Libras don't believe in astrology.
        • by syousef (465911)

          Unfortunately, I can't pretend I don't know my birth date.

          Sure you can. Just pretend you're an adopted orphan.

        • by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday December 02, 2009 @02:41AM (#30294314)

          These practices all need to die. Do you want to understand me? Get to know me.

          I had a psych lecturer who said: "I don't believe in the power of Astrology to fortell the future, but I do believe in the power of Astrology to influence the way others perceive you." So what he had done is "change" his star-sign every year so that people getting to know him one year would think him a Leo and react accordingly, people getting to know him the next would think him a Sagittarian etc etc.

      • It's still stupid, and as a Canadian I'm just glad that I live in Quebec and we run our program separately [hema-quebec.qc.ca]. english version [hema-quebec.qc.ca]. ... though someone should tell them the blink tag is dead!

        Nonsense. I lo

        ve having to sto

        p reading every h

        alf second while the

        text is blinked ou

        t.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          They should also get rid of those "news crawler" tickers along the bottom of tv shots. Put the text up a line at a time and we'll read the at our own speed.

          Or how about 2 feeds - one with the stupid crawlers, and one without.

          Or maybe if I fiddle with my remote, there's a custom setting so I can stretch the screen enough to hide it.

    • Re:Not surprising. (Score:5, Informative)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:26PM (#30291498)

      If you lived in Ottawa, like I do, you'd understand that we're nearly the most absurdly "politically correct" place on earth.

      From what I've seen, the Japanese take this only slightly more seriously than people here in the US take horoscopes. If Ottawa is actually concerned about not offending Japanese Ottowans, I think they should probably be more concerned about not assuming the Japanese are that stupid.

      Looking at the website in question though, it seems like it's just a gimmick to get people to donate.

      For type O here is the full extent of the information:

      So, you’re an O. You already know that having type O blood suggests that you might be competitive, goal oriented and a real meat eater. Did you also know that anthropologists believe that type O is the oldest and most common blood type, originating in Southern Africa?

      [next page]

      45% of Canadians have type O blood. Group O blood is like no other and can only receive blood from other people who are group O.

      One unit of your blood can help save up to three lives, and we know that giving blood is in your nature.

      Many experts believe that your personality, career and even your diet can be influenced by your blood type. In addition to your tendency towards romanticism, an aptitude for writing and a love of hearty eating and exercise, here are a few other things you should know about being an O [3x3 chart here with fluff]

      [next page]

      All Types

      Every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood. Blood is used to help save the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary health situations.

      If you are unsure of your eligibility, please take a look at our basic eligibility and temporary and indefinite deferral information, or call 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236-6283) for assistance.

      If you have already made an appointment to donate, thank you. If not, please review our clinic locator and call 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236-6283) to book an appointment or to find a "What's Your Type" even in your community today.

      For more information on blood and blood types, please browse our Web site or visit:

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by roguetrick (1147853)

        There are plenty of Americans who take Astrology WAY too fucking seriously

        • There are plenty of Americans who take Astrology WAY too fucking seriously

          Astrology is not a complete waste of time. To paraphrase a well-known British astronomer: "Astrology has proven one law of science: there really is a sucker born every minute!".

      • by Gramie2 (411713)

        From what I've seen (lived there for 7 years and married one of them), Japanese do indeed believe this blood type stuff. I was giving blood last month and saw a pamphlet that had the text you quoted. I just assumed that it was a goofy "would you believe..." kind of thing.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @07:55PM (#30291122) Journal
    The thin edge of the wedge with this sort of thing is its popularity with the public at large. I'm sure the logic at CBS HQ was (unless the staff are themselves woo peddlers) "Well, yeah, it's pop-nonsense; but if it will draw attention, we'll get more blood donors, and we really need all of those we can get." That can be a compelling argument, and the compromise can seem so harmless at the time.

    You also see this sort of thing happen when otherwise respectable medical schools will get endowed institutes in nonsenseology because some big donor has $200 million; but also believes that squirting coffee up his ass cures cancer.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Also note that "not for profit" doesn't mean that the people who work there cannot make mad cash in personal compensation...

    • by iamacat (583406)

      Ok, explain to us why you think this is NOT harmless. It's not like they are saying that HIV doesn't cause AIDS and telling infected people to donate.

      • by Jonny_eh (765306)
        Read the article. That's the whole point of it.
      • by Toonol (1057698)
        Ok, explain to us why you think this is NOT harmless.

        I had a friend who had a really stupid sister. His sister had a young toddler, and she was discussing him with another really stupid woman. Her stupid friend asked what sign the kid was. She answered (I don't remember what sign). Her stupid friend clucked, and said "Oh... I'm sorry" and she stupidly nodded and said "yeah, I know, it's hard..."

        Belief in magic personality-determining preordination is harmful. You think that kid wasn't harmed by
        • by iamacat (583406)

          Toddlers are not harmed by mother's belief in astrology. A 2 year old is perfectly capable to defend his/her own personality and also tell parents what their personalities should be like. They are harmed by junk food, lack of exercise and lack of proper supervision in the presence of dangerous objects. You are accusing two people of stupidity and yet your own skills in the same area (parenting) are lacking in much more fundamental way.

          In the same way, people are less harmed by blood type personality beliefs

    • by Rary (566291) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @10:46PM (#30292796)

      Honestly, I don't see what the big deal is. It clearly states that "The What's Your Type? program is a recruitment program with information provided for the participants' enjoyment" (emphasis added). It's just a silly recruitment program, and it blatantly says so. They're not claiming that there is any science behind it. This is not the science-oriented people in CBS backing this, it's the PR-oriented people.

      There is no conspiracy here to to drive a wedge of Japanese pseudoscience into an otherwise scientific organization. This is a bit of silliness to get people interested in donating blood.

      Seriously people. Relax. Loosen your tinfoil hats. "They" are not conspiring to take your precious science away.

  • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @07:57PM (#30291156)

    After looking through the site, it's pretty clearly just a marketing ploy to engage with people who believe it to be true.

    It even says right up front: 'The What's Your Type? program is a recruitment program with information provided for the participants' enjoyment. You should seek medical supervision for all matters regarding your health.'

    I don't care if you believe in pseudo-science, if I need a transfusion and you're a blood match as long as it's clean _Go team blood-donor!_

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      But, but, what if I end up getting a blood transfusion from a donor whose blood predisposes them to believe in blood-based pseudoscience? What then?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant (592200)
      After looking through the site, it's pretty clearly just a marketing ploy to engage with people who believe it to be true.

      It's not even that. It's a way to break the ice with people who would be bored to tears with "facts" about blood. It's meant for fun, not education, other than educating people that giving blood is a good thing.

      It's not the Canadian Blood Service's job to teach every person on the planet every fact about blood nor are they required to UNteach every superstition.

      As for the "skeptics",

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      They also mostly steer clear of the dangerous stuff. The personality types are basically a horoscope and all they do is suggest two of the types might benefit from a "healthy diet" (no duh), the third might enjoy vegetarianism, and the fourth might be a meat eater.

      It's stupid, but not like the summary suggests.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:04PM (#30291256)

    Type A: Asshole

    Type B: Bitch/Bastard

    Type AB: Asshole and a Bastard

    Type O: Okay

  • by xrayspx (13127) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:04PM (#30291258) Homepage
    The Ottawa Skeptics, based in the Nation's capital

    If they're based in Toronto, why are they called the Ottawa Skeptics?

    /Go Boomer!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Skeptical of the actual location of the capital?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tanktalus (794810)

      You've obviously never lived in Toronto. They think they're not only the centre of the universe, but that "Canada" and "Toronto" are the same thing.

      Those who have actually passed (the local version of) geography assume that because "Ottawa" is in "Canada" that it must be a suburb of Toronto.

      • It's been great for National Unity - some of us can remember life before Toronto replaced Brian (Bullwinkle) Mulroney as the one thing the rest of the country can hate (who had replaced "and God Damn the CPR!") [google.com].

      • by Mr. DOS (1276020)

        Mod parent up - he's totally right on this one. I know a guy from Toronto who's lived in a rural town West of Ottawa for almost (over?) two years now, and he still won't shut up about how Toronto is better in almost every way. (For those wondering why he even moved, it's because his wife's parents are out there.)

              --- Mr. DOS

    • by syousef (465911)

      If they're based in Toronto, why are they called the Ottawa Skeptics?

      Maybe they moved and couldn't decide on a new name. Or maybe they had a membership drive in Toronto one year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Joe Snipe (224958)

      It's the membership application test. A card will be mailed to you shortly.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      If they're based in Toronto, why are they called the Ottawa Skeptics?

      Everyone knows that Toronto thinks they're the center of the universe.

    • Because the Toronto Skeptics are based in Vancouver.

      Don't even get me started on the Unsure People of Montreal. Splitters.

  • NCCAM [nih.gov] started as a promise to put "complimentary and alternative medicine" (CAM) to scientific scrutiny, with politically predictable results [csicop.org].

    As much as I love science (and how!), I'm ambivalent about even the idea of NCCAM. Testing herbal remedies... I don't know, maybe we'll find something great. But testing things like homeopathy, which even NCCAM admits "a number of its key concepts are not consistent with the current understanding of science, particularly chemistry and physics," is just a waste of r

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      There funding was cancelled this year and is unlikely to ever be renewed.

  • Why is this news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:20PM (#30291436)
    This seems like a fairly harmless "just for fun" type thing. This is like ripping on someone for reading a fortune cookie.
    • by Tridus (79566)

      Yeah, seriously. It even says so clearly on the page:

      "The What's Your Type? program is a recruitment program with information provided for the participants' enjoyment. You should seek medical supervision for all matters regarding your health."

      Gogo stupidity in idle?

  • There's another form of pseudo-science that is more rampant in the clinical world -- genetic testing. Or, more specifically, carrying out genetic tests for things that only contribute a small fraction (say 2%) of the total variation, and making it out that it's closer to 100%:

    "Oh, you have type O blood, that means you're at risk for cardiovascular disease."

    • by Toonol (1057698)
      There's a tendency for scientists to concern themselves only with the traits of objects that they can reliably measure. It's understandable, but can cause problems, and inconsistent definitions of terms. If a gene contributes 10% to a behavior, and "parental involvement and love" contributes 90%... well, crap. They'll measure the gene.

      One example is neurology. Neurologists can identify patterns in the brain that correspond to interest, arousal, anger, and so forth... but it's a mistake for them to de
  • Canadian Blood Services has already proven themselves to be an organization that makes decisions according to myth and rumor rather than fact. Despite a large amount of controversy (and a grilling of one of the organization's leaders on CBC radio) CBS not only refuses to take donations by homosexual or bisexual men (despite the fact that every unit of blood that is donated is tested) who have been sexually active since I believe the late 70s, but refuses to take donations from women who have been sexually

    • by jpmorgan (517966) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @10:34PM (#30292714) Homepage

      You may not remember this, but back in the 90s blood services in Canada were run by the Canadian red cross. They infected tens of thousands of people with HIV and Hepatitis, due to improper handling and care. CBS was created in response to this scandal, so unsurprisingly they have always been enormously risk-averse when it comes to infectious disease. I, for example, am not allowed to donate blood because of time I spent in the UK- they're afraid I may be a mad cow. It seems a bit silly, but I understand the reason. Not everything is bigotry.

      • by Gramie2 (411713)

        I know the head of the local CBS branch, and because she spent several years in the U.K., she's not able to donate.

  • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:59PM (#30291870) Journal

    Can someone remind me why ANYONE needs to do something about a private non-profit expressing views that haven't been vetted via the scientific method?

    • by chebucto (992517) *

      They aren't any old non-profit, they are the people who handle the medical blood supply. The lives nearly all surgical patients and all blood donors are in their hands. When people in their position screw up, other people die (indeed, the Red Cross used to handle the blood supply in Canada; they screwed up back in the 80s and a bunch of people got AIDS and hepatitis C. Canadian Blood Services only exists because that mistake made people lose trust in the Red Cross.)

      So, given the critical place of Canadian B

  • I don't know much about this blood type thing, but a cursory look suggests that the foundation holds some logic.

    The blood types, like any difference owed to evolutionary forces, have roots which can be traced with relative ease across anthropological history.

    For instance, type O's owe their genetic origins to hunter-gatherers; they thrive on foods available to such cultures, i.e., red meat and complex animal fats whereas they are not primed for efficient digestion and use of grains and similar plant materia

    • Ha ha! I said "Tenants" of science. Like they pay rent or something. :)

      -FL

    • by smoker2 (750216)

      And that "Sceptic" when pronounced with a soft "c" refers to sewage. But for some reason people look uncomfortable when I bring that up.

      People look uncomfortable because *you're* full of shit. Sceptic means exactly the same as skeptic. Septic is the spelling that refers to a tank for holding sewage.

      • People look uncomfortable because *you're* full of shit. Sceptic means exactly the same as skeptic. Septic is the spelling that refers to a tank for holding sewage.

        Oh dear! Touched a nerve, did we?

        The spelling depends on which dictionary you happen to be reading from. For some reason which I find curious, dictionary instances of the double spelling are much more difficult to find on-line than they were only a few years ago. Though I distinctly remember seeing the alternative spelling in dictionaries when

  • by thirty-seven (568076) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @10:19PM (#30292592)
    The Canadian Blood Services "What's Your Type" page (linked in the summary) says (emphasis mine):

    The What's Your Type? program is a recruitment program with information provided for the participants' enjoyment. You should seek medical supervision for all matters regarding your health.

    No matter which blood type you select, it gives you a few tidbits of bullshit about what your personality and preferred diet might be, then a few tidbits of bullshit about what careers you might do well at. Then it tells you that no matter what your type is, it is important to donate blood, how you can donate, etc.

    So I don't think this is an example of Canadian Blood Services promoting or believing this pseudo-science. I don't have a problem with them having a "fun" online activity like this, if it encourages more people to give blood. However, I would prefer if it more explicitly said on the first page that these are beliefs from the Japanese culture, and state that they have no basis in science, but that they can be fun and interesting to read about.

  • It's not like it would have been hard for them to acknowledge that it's just "popular myth" or something, and keep all the rest of their little attention-drawing page as it is.
    People like idle little bits of trivia, even if they know there's no scientific basis.
    "A+ people are pretty! Like me!" et cetera.

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