Private Eye

August 14th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, onanism | 20 Comments »

Swimming through piles of references this afternoon I stumbled upon this golden gasser from yesteryear, Private Eye 29th April 2005 to be precise. As an aside, I’ve found myself archiving quite a lot of paper stuff with a camera recently, it’s definitely cheaper than paying for photocopying in libraries, fellow skinflints, and with my MDA Vario – the hallmark of the nerd – I can email it straight to myself or others. Geek lifestyle tips and quackbusting: you get your money’s worth on badscience.net, let me tell you.

ben private eye


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20 Responses



  1. tom p said,

    August 14, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    It’s not the only time that Sutherland has been retarded when it comes to science.
    Does anyone else remember his utterly useless interview with Michael Behe? www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1567967,00.html

  2. coracle said,

    August 14, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve just googled MDA Vario and Good Grief!! it doubles as a paper weight too: T-Mobile MDA Vario Review.

    Got any functions on that? If it doesn’t make my breakfast, I’m not interested.

    I’m just jealous, I’m too much of a skin flint to upgrade my Nokia 8210 which surprisingly holds a reasonable value of £12 on ebay.

  3. dbhb said,

    August 14, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    @tom p: thank you- I *knew* I knew the name.
    @coracle: you are a spammer and you are going to the very special hell.

  4. superburger said,

    August 14, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Hmm,

    I had suspected for a while to Dr Goldacre and Private Eye’s MD were one and the same.

    Clearly I am wrong. Unless it is all an elaborate double cross.

  5. coracle said,

    August 14, 2006 at 5:56 pm

    dbhb,
    Damn it, rumbled. I couldn’t interest you in some bank details could I. Just give me your email and I’ll send you the details…

    You weren’t being serious, were you?

  6. Frank said,

    August 14, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    haha coracle, you’ve failed the Turing test! :P

  7. raygirvan said,

    August 14, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    It’s not the only time that Sutherland…

    Yep. I love his historical fiction analyses (“Is Heathcliff a Murderer” etc) but he founders when he gets away from history and literature. In “Where was Rebecca Shot?” he made a number of techie mistakes, such as confusing the physical properties of TNT and nitroglycerin.

  8. RobBuckley said,

    August 14, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    MD is Dr Phil Hammond. He’s probably best known as part of the early 90s GP double act ‘Struck Off And Die’, but he does other things less humorous, too:

    www.imdb.com/name/nm1097131/

  9. kim said,

    August 14, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    As an avid Private Eye reader, I read that particular story at the time. Would you like us to keep our eyes open for Dr Ben references and let you know about them when we see them?

    Completely by the by, the other half of “Struck off and Die” is Tony Gardner, who is the star of My Parents Are Aliens, one of my favourite tv programmes. (This is probably an embarrassing admission from a woman my age. Then again, when you’ve spent three years watching The Tweenies and The Fimbles, your standards do get lowered.)

  10. Ben Goldacre said,

    August 14, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    As an avid Private Eye reader, I read that particular story at the time. Would you like us to keep our eyes open for Dr Ben references and let you know about them when we see them?

    a quick email or forum post would always be great if you remember, thanks, v kind.

  11. Filias Cupio said,

    August 15, 2006 at 3:18 am

    In the spurious statistics department: This one was from the New Zealand Herald, about 1997. It was a one-paragraph story, with graphic, under a title something like “Its a fact!” (I think it was some daily statistic snapshot or something.) I’m approximating from memory:

    “CHILD SURVIVAL RATE IN NEW ZEALAND NEARLY DOUBLES IN A DECADE
    The New Zealand infant mortality rate from 1975-1985 was 8.3%, and from 1985-1995 it was 4.3%.”

    There are two major errors. Most obvious is that halving mortality does not equal doubling survival. The second is that mortality figures were too big by a factor of 10. A statistician friend tracked down the WHO report which was the reporter’s source, and they’d taken per-1000 numbers as percent.

  12. teddy boveri said,

    August 15, 2006 at 7:43 am

    It’s not the only time that Sutherland has been retarded when it comes to science.
    Does anyone else remember his utterly useless interview with Michael Behe?

    Judge John Jones gave him a much tougher time! Read the full version of his ruling on whether intelligent design should be taught in schools here:

    www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

  13. Dr Aust said,

    August 15, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    “MD is Dr Phil Hammond”

    Yes, had always assumed he was the man. Has he ‘fessed up, or is this just common knowledge in London meejah circles?

    The MD column is quite good. Wonder how “MD” feels about Private Eye’s bizarre obsession with MMR and “St Andy” Wakefield?

    I am a hardened Private Eye reader of nearly four decades, having started reading my dad’s copies in the 60s, but I just don’t get their MMR conspiracy obsession. l’m sure jazzz from the Bad Science forums could explain it to me, though.

  14. foggy said,

    August 15, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Oh dear!
    You have Jazzz in your forums too?

    That’s not the only place he posts his ranting hysteria…

  15. kim said,

    August 15, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    It’s been well-known for years that MD is Phil Hammond – I’ve seen several references to it. I think he once even mentioned it in one of his own columns (can’t remember the exact reference but it may have been a reference to a book or tv series he had coming out).

  16. ceec said,

    August 16, 2006 at 10:26 am

    Filias – the child survival thing also wrong if they measured infant mortality – child mortality and infant mortality being completely different measures. Not sure if that’s their mistake or yours in the recollection, though.
    (inf mort: deaths under 1 year, child mort: deaths from 1 to 4 years)

  17. Filias Cupio said,

    August 17, 2006 at 2:52 am

    I think that’s my error. I recall now noticing at the time that there was such a distinction, so I’m pretty sure I’d have remembered if they had got it wrong. I can’t now remember whether it was child or infant mortality rates, but I think they were at least consistent. (I’d guess it was infant mortality – there was quite a bit being done around cot-deaths (SIDS) in that time-frame.)

  18. chloella said,

    August 17, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Phil Hammond wrote an article as MD a while ago about MMR. His tack was, MMR is safe, he would give it to his kids, but lots of people think it isn’t so single vaccines should be available so children at least get something.

    The MMR issue is the only thing that pisses me off about The Eye, otherwise I love it. The articles about PFI are essential reading.

  19. Mojo said,

    August 21, 2006 at 10:12 am

    tom p said, “It’s not the only time that Sutherland has been retarded when it comes to science.
    Does anyone else remember his utterly useless interview with Michael Behe?”

    I wouldn’t say it was utterly useless. The spectacular mixture of an argument from ignorance and a false dilemma in Behe’s first response, followed by the words “that’s essentially the design argument”, is always handy to quote in arguments with IDers.

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