Skeptics of all stripes get asked what the harm is all the time. What’s the harm of alternative medicine? Of acupuncture? Of placebos? Of beliefs not supported by evidence? Fortunately, there’s a good answer to that – “What’s the Harm?” chronicles cases where a lack of critical thinking made things go wrong.
However, this week, I got asked about the harm in totally different context – in response to a discussion about online tracking and behavioral advertising. Although I managed to come up with an answer, which I won’t bore you with here, it threw me. The worst part was that we had just been discussing a case (Target’s targeted ads, for those who are interested) where harm had clearly been caused.
Sometimes “what’s the harm” is a genuine question, but sometimes it’s merely a derail, meant to make someone advocating a position stop to explain all the potential bad consequences. Often, calling it out as a derailing tactic will only make things worse.
Have you encountered situations where you’re asked “what’s the harm?” How do you typically respond?
Image courtesy of What’s the Harm?