"There is a plague of Jellyfish off the coast of Spain as reported in the Guardian this week. Ben, why not take a holiday there this year."

October 2nd, 2008 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 8 Comments »

Here is the review of my book in “The Homeopath”, esteemed journal of the Society of Homeopaths:

Oh no, hang on, there isn’t one.

imageDear Robin Harvie,

You were kind enough to send me a copy for review for The Homeopath. After consideration by a reviewer, the editorial team have decided that the book is not suitable for review in our journal. Would you like me to send the book back to you, or to send it to another reviewer for another journal on your behalf, or I could dispose of it for charity? (I have my own copy already).

I am sorry for any inconvenience,

Francis Treuherz

Now, three things interest me about the Society of Homeopaths’ review.

1. This book has been in the top 30 on Amazon for a month. It is the best selling science book at the moment, and it is also, I suspect, the best selling book about homeopathy for a long time. It makes some very clear criticisms, insofar as it surveys and explains the evidence, but it also contains useful ideas about how homeopathy might appear to work, as well as some clear constructive suggestions of ways forward for building an evidence base. It’s also, importantly, not a hysterical demand for homeopathy to be banned (which I suspect irritates them, because homeopaths are an angry bunch, as you can see from their blogs, and find it hard to engage with people outside their discursive template of embitterment and enmity).

2. This is part of an enduring pattern with homeopaths: while eschewing criticism, they are keen to engage in rather unseemly campaigns of bullying and harrassment against critics, such as Professor Edzard Ernst (they exerted pressure to have him sacked, for the crime of performing systematic reviews of the literature); they refuse to say what is in the lectures or exam questions of their university BSc courses (in case someone commits the moral crime of criticising their ideas); and, in the very specific case of the SoH, they offer to sue people who dare to criticise their ideas and activities, and threaten their webhosts with legal action (do please give it a go, we would find it enormously enjoyable). Academia and medicine are founded on critical self-appraisal: this is how ideas got better with time.

3. My last contact with Francis Treuherz was odd – although I should say I quite like him – and consisted of this unsolicited email, which I am sure was meant with the best of intentions:

There is a plague of Jellyfish off the coast of Spain as reported in the Guardian this week. Ben, why not take a holiday there this year. if you are stung take a pill. Take a pill from an un-named but numbered bottle. One of two bottles. One is sugar pills. Two is a dilution of Medusa 30c. If you can detect the effect from the dummy and the real pill as different you will have an anecdote, n=1.

Or try taking Aesculus hippocastanum 30c daily for up to a month and observe the changes in your health if you start to do a proving.

best wishes

Fran

Homeopaths: funny bunch. They don’t like to engage with people who question their ideas: and better than that, they still don’t understand that this is why they are so much fun.


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8 Responses



  1. stavros said,

    October 3, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Ben, I had no idea your book was doing so well! Congratulations! I got it last week and have found it very *very* informative and amusing so far (halfway through)!

    I was very interested on the bit where you said you are constructing a summary with some colleagues on homeopathy research. I assume you will let us know when that happens, right? :-)

  2. Seahorse said,

    October 3, 2008 at 7:04 am

    The best answer to his disingenuous question is presumably to suggest that he gives his review copy to a teenage family member or friend, or to the library of his local school.

  3. NuclearChicken said,

    October 3, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Maybe Mr Treuherz should “put his money where his mouth is” and demonstrate the awesome curative power of Medusa 30c? A video on YouTube would be most welcome.

  4. DrJon said,

    October 3, 2008 at 10:49 am

    I was very nicely sent a free copy of your book by the BMJ (for emailing them) and I must say I was surprised by how good it was – better than expected. After reading a disappointing (though not bad) book by Derren Brown I was worried I’d be disappointed again. Not so. Really very well done, and I’ll be annoying people by buying them copies for a while. Christmas is coming, and I imagine quite a few people will be getting a copy of this book in their stockings (though some of them may prefer coal, I hope they’ll give it a go – there’s diamond inside). Damn I hate writing gushing things.

  5. Neil said,

    October 3, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Why not encourage them to really go to town on your book and provide closely argued refutations of your main points? After all, you wouldn’t want a watered-down review, would you?

  6. Wyle_E said,

    October 3, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Has any homeopath remarked on the necessity of using only newly-synthesized water for preparing homeopathic remedies? After all, if water “remembers” everything it has ever been in contact with, water from any natural source will have “memories” of all sorts of shit, from heavy metals to every kind of _literal_ shit. Only by making new water from reagent-grade hydrogen and oxygen could one avoid this vast range of unintended, unpredictable side effects. This, of course, assumes that the elements don’t have “memories.”

    The homeopaths may retreat from “water memory” to a psychic theory, arguing that it is the intent of the practitioner that produces the effect. That would have the advantage (for the quacks, that is) of being harder to test, because they could say that the mere presence of a skeptic is enough to spoil the magic.

  7. Sili said,

    October 4, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    As I understand it, Wyle_E, that’s what the special magical shakingsuccussion is for. It ‘resets’ the memory. Vewwy clever.

    Let’s look at the bright side. At least they have enough moral fibre that they’re not publishing a bad review – obviously they must recognise that it’s a good book.

  8. Bud82 said,

    October 7, 2008 at 10:56 am

    “One is sugar pills. Two is a dilution of Medusa 30c. If you can detect the effect from the dummy and the real pill as different you will have an anecdote, n=1.”

    Which one is the dummy pill here?

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