You’ll remember the Durham fish oil “trial” story, possibly the greatest example of scientific incompetence ever documented from a local authority.
Initially they said – to blanket media coverage – that they were running a trial on fish oils, giving pills to 3,000 children to see if it improved GCSE performance. I pointed out, along with several academics, that their experiment was incompetently designed, for no good reason, and so would only produce false positive results. They responded that this was okay, as they hadn’t called it a “trial”. This was very simply untrue: Read the rest of this entry »
As someone who is nerdishly fascinated by the systematic analysis of health risk data – check me out, ladies – I sometimes look at the health pages and try to work out what they’re supposed to do, what kind of information they offer, and for who.
This week, for example, you’ll have found: “Teenager helps his twin brother by donating a piece of his back“; “In pain? Take one Botticelli three times a day“; “Taking antibiotics to prevent premature birth can ‘increase risk’ of cerebral palsy“; Read the rest of this entry »
Oops sorry, in all the excitement about Matthias Rath I forgot to post last week’s column, here it is.
Saturday September 13 2008
Here is a cautionary tale for anyone working in research. “Captain Cook and Lord Nelson seem unlikely figureheads in the fight against climate change alarmists,” said the Sun. “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook’s ship logs question climate change theories,” announced the Telegraph. Oh that’s handy. So perhaps we can just keep on burning oil regardless then? “The ships’ logs of great maritime figures such as Lord Nelson and Captain Cook have cast new light on climate change by suggesting that global warming may not be an entirely man-made phenomenon.” Read the rest of this entry »
Also I’ve been bullied into making a facebook page which is here:
It’s just been publicly announced that the vitamin pill magnate Matthias Rath has pulled out of his gruelling legal case against me and the Guardian. He bought full page adverts denouncing Aids drugs while promoting his vitamin pills in South Africa, a country where hundreds of thousands die every year from Aids under an HIV denialist president and the population is ripe for miracle cures. I said his actions were highly worrying, in no uncertain terms. I believe I was right to do so.
This libel case has drawn on for over a year, with the writ hanging both in my toilet, and over my head. Although fighting it has been fascinating, and in many respects a great pleasure, it has also taken a phenomenal amount of my time, entirely unpaid, to deal with it. For the duration of the case I have also been silenced on the serious issues that Rath’s activities raise, the chapter on his work was pulled from my book, and I have been unable to comment on his further movements around the world.
This will now change, Read the rest of this entry »
Slightly tiggerish and lacking in gravitas but that’s roughly what you’d expect from a 12 year old delivering a 100,000 word thesis on mainstream television in 3 minutes.
It starts 8 minutes in. As you can see the presenters really engaged with the film, they loved the book, and it triggered a thought-provoking discussion of the issues raised. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday September 6 2008
Britain’s happiest places have been mapped by scientists, according to the BBC: Read the rest of this entry »
As the pace of medical innovation slows to a crawl, how do drug companies stay in profit? By ‘discovering’ new illnesses to fit existing products. But, says Ben Goldacre, in the second extract from his new book, for many problems the cure will never be found in a pill.
Monday September 1 2008
When you’ve been working with bullshit for as long as I have, you start to spot recurring themes: quacks and the pharmaceutical industry use the exact same tricks to sell their pills, everybody loves a “science bit” – even if it’s wrong – and when people introduce pseudoscience into any explanation, it’s usually because there’s something else they’re trying desperately not to talk about. But my favourite is this: alternative therapists, the media, and the drug industry all conspire to sell us reductionist, bio-medical explanations for problems that might more sensibly and constructively be thought of as social, political, or personal. And this medicalisation of everyday life isn’t done to us; in fact, we eat it up. Read the rest of this entry »