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Monday, 18 March 2019


This is a post about heartburn and the origins of religious belief.  Run with me here...

You can give pigeons religion.  You observe them and, whenever one sticks its left wing out, say, you give it some food.  Soon the pigeons have a conditioned reflex that sticking out their left wing produces food. It becomes their "Give us this day ours daily bread" prayer.  Random coincidences can give the same effect without the intention of an experimenter: breaking mirrors and bad luck, and so on.

I have suffered from heartburn for a few years.  This year, I decided to do something about it.  So

  1. I changed the foods I eat.
  2. I changed the time of day of my main meal.
  3. I stopped drinking regular coffee.
  4. I started taking betaine hydrochloride (to increase stomach acid) and pepsin before every meal.
  5. I started eating a small amount of ginger (of which I am anyway fond...) after every meal.
Now.  I'm not a complete moron.  I know that the scientific way to do this would be to change just one thing at a time and to record the results.  But I wanted a cure NOW, so I just threw everything that might work at the problem at once.

And that everything did work.

But now I don't know which of those five changes made the difference.  I could just cut one out at a time and see when the problem returns.  But I really don't want the problem to return.  So I'll just carry on with my cure in ignorance of which bits of it actually worked and which are just snake oil.

And, of course, the snake oil bits are my religion.  They do nothing.  I half have faith that they work.  And I'm not prepared to subject them to empirical verification.

They are my pigeon's prayer.