Sorry there was no column last week. I have not been killed in bizarre sexual experiment that went horribly wrong, a problem came up and I was out of earshot on my way to a conference, no excitement this time. Anyway, on my way through Manchester yesterday I came across Prof David Colquhoun having a debate with Felicity Lee, the previous Chair of the Society of Homeopaths. The debate itself was the kind of thing you’d expect and there’s a recording here:
But meanwhile, as well as doing lots of fun interviews with jolly famous science types on a posh broadcast recorder, I’ve also been carrying a little mp3 device around in my pocket, in case of serendipitous encounters. I said hello to Felicity and we had a chat on a bench, which you can listen to here:
Felicity has a very interesting history. Before becoming chief homeopath she used to work as a pharmacist in “Medicines Information”. They are the people you ring, as a doctor, for a quick clinically relevant precis of the latest research on efficacy for a given treatment, and they’re very handy indeed.
So Felicity knows about evidence, she has worked applying it for a living, and I hoped she could offer some insights into philosophical aspects of the meaning of evidence in homeopathy, and namely this: if the power is in the pill, as homeopaths claim, then why do they also say that you can’t measure the benefits like you would with any other pill?
As you can hear I wasn’t in combat mode – I never really am, I find this stuff interesting more than irritating – although it did get a bit wearying. Ultimately it was like those circular conversations you can end up having with the devoutly faithful, except Felicity’s beliefs didn’t seem to be labelled as “faith”, which I felt made things a little more tiring than they needed to be.
I guess there are more important things to homeopaths than my happiness.
Anyway, I’m posting it up unedited on the off chance that anyone is interested in having this kind of thing on in the background while they make some toast. If a budding media student wants to edit down to the interesting bits without making a hash of either of our views then feel free and I’ll post it, although I quite like the idea of unedited witterings in the background; and if any vaguely senior homeopath, vitamin industry person, stats god or evil big pharma suit wants to have a chat and see what kind of mood I’m in, give me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org as ever.
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