Backed by famous actress, movement picks up momentum
Associated News Service, September 2009
For years, the conventional wisdom had been taken for granted: putting oil into your car will protect it from the effects of friction and maybe even increase its lifespan.
But now, in this era of ever-increasing consumer awareness, more and more drivers are questioning the value and the safety of this practice.
"Everybody's just always assumed they're supposed to lubricate their cars," said Big Tom, owner of Big Tom's Automotive and one of the few experts who's spoken out on this issue. "But is it really that smart to take the most important part of your car, with all its complicated little moving pieces, and fill it with this goopy black sludge? Most people never really gave it any thought. They just did it because they were told they should - because it's what everybody was doing."
So what's the harm? "You just don't know what that stuff is doing to your vehicle," Big Tom adds.
And that's where drivers have started getting concerned. Over the last few years there's been a growing epidemic of Random Airbag Deployment (known as RAD) as more and more cars reportedly have had airbags that, for whatever reason, go off when they're not supposed to. It's dangerous. It causes accidents and injuries. And worst of all, the vehicle suffers from erratic behavior that makes it unable to cope with most normal driving situations - or to engage in meaningful interaction with its driver. Drivers, shocked and devastated to find that their vehicles suffer from RAD, have had no idea where to turn for answers.
More and more, however, a small but vocal group has started theorizing that the effects of RAD are at least in part caused by some aspect of the lubrication process. And this group has gained increasing attention - as well as credibility - by the recent addition of a high-profile celebrity to its ranks.
Bimbo Larue, formerly a porn star, has since become a Hollywood icon, staring in such films as Honk if You Like My Bod, Randy High School Road Trip, and Pull My Finger. But three years ago her world was rocked when her car, a blue 2006 Ford Focus, was diagnosed with RAD.
She recounts her journey on her web site, as well as on any talk show that will have her: "The first time that airbag slammed me in the face like a brick wall... Well at first I was, like, shocked - then I thought, 'You know, there's really something special going on here.'" Based on her experience she came to believe that her car was a "Burnt-Orange Starship of a Higher Plane" and that she was its "Pilot/Aquarial Guide-Presence."
"I just knew that car was meant for great things," Larue said, "that it was just too great for this dimension, you know, too advanced for the narrow little roads it was forced to travel... With all that built up tension inside, it's no wonder it felt the need to just let go and throw out its airbag."
Since then, though, things have changed. "Now I realize that my car's just, like, broken - and it's all because those guys put oil in its engine."
She's since started up a crusade, becoming a leading figure in what's become known as the "Anti-Lubrication Movement." "My goal is to educate as many people as possible about the effects lubrication can have on a car - to tell my story and help others make more informed choices. The oil industry owes it to us to provide a safe way to keep our engines running without filling them with dangerous chemicals that expose our cars to the effects of RAD." And her car? She takes her vehicle in to Big Tom to have the airbag repacked whenever it deploys. She rejects conventional avenues, such as having her car's electrical system diagnosed or reexamining her driving habits - and she says there's no way she's changing her car's oil again. "They've already done enough damage to Mr. Ford Focus," she adds sadly.
Naturally, there's been a backlash against this movement, and against Bimbo Larue.
The Department of Transportation has begun the now well-known "Put oil in your car or your engine will get ruined" ad campaign. And several experts have started to express their disagreement with the movement.
"Good, clean motor oil is essential to the safe operation of a vehicle," says engineer Ed McCallister. "Without it an engine will simply burn out, and the car becomes useless... Really, I'm puzzled that there's even any controversy about this. There's absolutely no plausible reason to believe that airbag misdeployment could be caused by engine lubrication."
"Ridiculous," says Larue. "This one site on Google says that, like, 150 years ago, almost nobody lubricated the engines on their vehicles. And how many airbags misdeployed? None. Now we have airbags firing off left and right - after more vehicles got lubricated. Coincidence? I think not. Anybody who denies the effects of lubrication on RAD is either in denial or is willfully closed-minded to anything that doesn't fit their 'science.'"
But mainstream engineers like McCallister persist in their denial of the oil-RAD connection. "We'd been lubricating vehicles for decades before the airbag was even invented. And even now, the number of airbags that misdeploy falls within the expected range of electrical and mechanical malfunction. There simply is no 'RAD epidemic.'" However, most readers will easily identify McCallister as a mean old poo-poo scientist who never agrees with anything fun or interesting, and who only says boring technical stuff in interviews.
Many other drivers agree, and they're growing angry that they've never been informed of the dangers of lubrication, or the fact that there are alternatives. The government still requires people to lubricate any vehicles they drive on public roads - but in some states they can apply for an exemption based on religious preference or personal fears.
"[The exemption] is a positive first step," says Big Tom, "but there's still much more progress to be made both in laws and in overall public perception. People need to be made aware of their rights. Is it possible that oil might help a vehicle? Some studies say yes - there have been isolated cases where engine seizure has been attributed by some to a lack of motor oil. But there are a lot of different theories out there, and we really need to inform people of both the dangers and the benefits - then let them make the choice."
Tom emphasizes open-mindedness. He adds that the Anti-Lubrication trend is not monolithic, that even within the movement people don't agree on everything. It originally encouraged people to avoid oil altogether. Over time, a few people started demanding the removal of substances like sulfur, detergents, and alkaline additives before they would lubricate. And when a study showed that these measures made no difference in the rate of RAD, some advised spreading out the oil changing schedule - changing the oil only every four to five years, or adding only a quart at a time. "The beautiful thing is, we have our differences, but unlike the 'scientific' community, we can live with them and be open to each others' ideas. That's really what this is about: letting people decide for themselves."
So what about the body of evidence that contradicts the Anti-Lubrication movement? Why would anybody listen to Bimbo Larue when experts with years of mechanical experience disagree with her?
Perhaps she says it best: "I'll always trust my driver's instinct over the so-called experts. I have Mr. Ford Focus back home - he's my years of mechanical experience."
* DISCLAIMER: All people, movements, and organizations named or implied in this article are fictional, except for "the government" and the Department of Transportation. No actions or stances attributed to government agencies in this article are real.
By Daniel Florien on September 24, 2009
When I was a creationist, I thought life on the earth was “intelligently designed” by God. It was common sense — it looks designed, so it must be. I didn’t realize how quickly the argument degraded into a web of inconsistencies.
Consider a lion. A creationist looks at one and thinks, “What agility! What speed! What skills! This must be created by God.” It’s a common sense explanation, and people believed such things for thousands of years, because they didn’t have a better explanation. The best they could come up with was “magic man done it.”
But after a while the thoughtful observer notices that these amazing creatures cause an immense amount of death and suffering. Indeed, they are very quick — the better to catch living things and snuff the life out of them. They have beautiful sharp teeth — the better to eat you with, my dear.
If lions were designed, they were designed to be killing machines. Life is based on death. And that realization should make any honest creationist pause.
I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s observation in The Diary of Adam:
[Eve] engages herself in many foolish things; among others; to study out why the animals called lions and tigers live on grass and flowers, when, as she says, the sort of teeth they wear would indicate that they were intended to eat each other. This is foolish, because to do that would be to kill each other, and that would introduce what, as I understand, is called “death”; and death, as I have been told, has not yet entered the Park. Which is a pity, on some accounts.
Once a creationist realizes life is designed to kill, they are faced with a theological problem: what kind of malevolent, sadistic designer would design this?
This is where the common sense stops, and the superstition begins. If you ask most creationists why there is death in the world, they will tell you the ancient story of Adam and Eve. They believe there was no death before the forbidden fruit was munched on. You might find it a satisfying answer, as long as you don’t think about it too much and are the type to believe in stories with talking snakes.
But if you start getting specific, the mythic spell is broken and you’re left with absurdity. Before “The Fall,” how could carnivores have survived on only plants when they were biologically “designed” to eat meat? Why would they have sharp teeth designed to pierce skin if they were supposed to eat grass? And if they didn’t die or eat each other, wouldn’t the earth be overflowing with insects and animals within a few weeks? What did the venus flytrap eat if it couldn’t eat insects? How did mosquitoes suck on plants instead of blood? What about parasites? There are thousands of questions like this, all requiring a creationist to to perform amazing feats of logical gymnastics.
The myth of Adam & Eve was a noble attempt to explain death and suffering, but it is ultimately a theological nightmare and at odds with all our scientific evidence. It is, in other words, completely unconvincing to the modern rationalist.
Occam’s Razor says the simplest theory that answers all the problems is the best choice. Creationism requires jumping through so many theological and scientific hoops that it is anything but simple.
Use Science, Not Myths
The simpler answer, of course, is based on science, not common sense and ancient myths — the explanation that evolution did it without supernatural intervention. Then all the theological problems go away, and they become scientific and philosophical issues to discover or formulate.
So next time you see a mosquito sucking blood and spreading diseases, or a lion catching and devouring prey, be thankful we have a better explanation than that our ancestors ate some fruit.