Anyone up for a challenge?

October 9th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, hate mail, homeopathy | 2 Comments »

Anyone up for a challenge?

Thursday October 9, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· I’ve been invited to put my money where my sarcastic little mouth is. Soroush Ebrahimi, “a professional and licensed homeopath”, is angered by my dismissive attitude towards expensive therapies not backed up by systematic reviews of the research data. He has written in offering to prove the efficacy of homeopathic remedies – by making me very unwell with them. First I have to have a checkup from a doctor and a licensed homeopath to make sure I am “well and fit for the ordeal”, and then he will feed me homeopathic remedies diluted 1:100 exactly 30 times. “When you have had enough and can no longer endure, we will list the symptoms you report and can be observed. We get you and your witness to sign them as being correct and then will compare it with the symptoms listed in [a] sealed envelope.” Then he’ll make me better again. With homeopathy. Apparently I can’t just stick his water on my cornflakes, but instead have to sit around in a room containing the sealed envelope, witnesses, video recorders and, I fear, Mr Ebrahimi making funny faces at me. If anyone thinks they have the time to spare, email me.

· In a week when I’ve had more hate mail than usual (“your stance has all the hallmarks of being an ideological rather than a scientific one”, being the most rational), it was a relief to see the bad science still coming in strong. Reader Jenny Haxell writes: “The packaging of Ecover’s squirty surface cleaner SquirtEco sports the legend: ‘Safe around food: plant based ingredients.’ So I guess Socrates couldn’t have died from drinking hemlock then, and we’ve nothing to fear from ricin…”

· Our collective joy at winning the Nobel prize for MRI scanners is only slightly tempered by the shameful lack of recognition for other great British inventions also taking advantage of the peculiar properties of paramagnetic substances. The Tecno AO, available – I suspect exclusively – from the Healthy House catalogue I have been sent by Andrew Currie, allegedly produces magnetic radiation in the 8-12Hz range to induce alpha waves in your brain. This, they say, will relax you as you sit at a computer, and it counteracts the dangerous effects of high- frequency energy on your “bioenergetic field”. If it were true it would have worrying implications, not just because alpha waves are incompatible with concentration and work. Still, apparently, it works because it contains a paramagnetic substance: the most common of which are water and air.


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