How dumb can one company be?

January 10th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bbc, detox, references | 62 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
The Guardian,
Saturday 10 January 2009

Obviously by now you can interpolate my views on detox: meaningless, symbolic, gimmicky shortlived health gestures with a built-in expiry date, when we could be reading about the NHS’s surprisingly useful website to help you stop smoking (do it now: smokefree.nhs.uk/), or lifestyle pieces on the joys of buying a bike, and making a genuine move to integrate exercise into your daily life for the long term. I’m not trying to bore you. But after a few months of concentrating on dodgy reporting in the media, I had genuinely forgotten how far out a proper fruitcake can get.

Fate dealt me Nas Amir Ahmadi, managing director (which earns her the impressive soubriquet “MD”) of a company called Detoxinabox. I discussed detox with her on Radio 4. My interest in Nas’s work was first piqued when she began to deny actual verbatim quotes from her own website. What is the evidence that your detox regime will eradicate cadmium from my body, I asked? You must have the wrong website, doctor. Never heard of the idea, she said. But there it was, bright as day: “One of the most complex detoxification functions is against heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminum [sic], nickel, arsenic, and aluminum [which isn't a heavy metal].” And so on.

Now, of all the strategies for wiggling out of a foolish statement, simply denying you ever made it strikes me as the least intellectually sophisticated, possibly the most irritating, and certainly the most shortsighted. I’m sure she’s not the first. Nas says she made a mistake. No problem.

In returning to the website to check, I had a look around. There were lots of exciting claims. Here are five. “Pumpkin seeds are a natural depression cure!” “Lemon helps maintain healthy teeth and bones” “Olives help delay the effects of ageing.” “½ teaspoon of cinnamon per day helps lower cholesterol!”, and “Tuna helps lower blood pressure”. I asked Nas if they had any evidence to back up these claims.

No, she agreed. They do not have any “scientific evidence”.

Then she seemed to change her mind, and offered some. The evidence she offered included: a study involving 7 people; a random webpage that says “Lemons build bones and teeth and nourish the brain and nerve cells”; a typically tenuous nutritionist chain of reasoning involving the almost-dead antioxidant hypothesis; weak observational correlations; and so on.

But some of the site, like a page titled “Which Came First – Depression or Diabetes?“, stuck out a mile. It was quite sciencey, quite plausible, and quite interesting, a write up of a proper research paper. Was this really written by Detoxinabox? No. In fact, they simply copied the entire text, verbatim, hundreds of words, from a blog post by a proper pharmacist named Jennifer Gibson, and passed it off as their own, removing only her name, and swapping in their own images. The original image in Jennifer Gibson’s blog post would have given away the actual source. Ownership of ideas is a grey area, but this seems to be a rather clear example of plagiarism, over 500 words from start to finish. The person running the Brainblogger website, where the piece was published, has described detoxinabox as “thieves”. Detoxinabox have not responded to me on this issue, but they have removed the page from their site.

And interestingly, Nas’s difficulty in recalling the claims about cadminum from her own website might also be explained by their original source. The entire sentence “One of the most complex detoxification functions is against heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminum, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum.” appears, verbatim, on another company’s website, detox-guide.com, complete with that tell-tale mis-spelling of cadmium.

There’s nothing unique about Detoxinabox. What’s amazing is the ratio between their competence and their media penetrance which is unreplicated, I would say, in any field outside science. Let’s just re-examine the crimes. You deny what is plainly true. You make claims without evidence. You admit that, but then you change your mind. Your evidence is magnificently poor. You seem to plagiarise whole articles, verbatim, from real everyday people who’ve actually bothered to spend some time familiarising themselves with science, and write about it online because they’re passionate about it. And finally, crucially, your industry’s nonsense ideas get more – and more favourable – coverage in mainstream media than any piece of actual science, or any meaningful public health intervention.

Nas has explained to me that she is mystified why so many people from the world of science and medicine seem to be annoyed with her. Yup. It’s a mystery.

Advert Break #1:

The Guardian’s ads text-sensitive “context” ads online around my articles are getting properly far out. Anything I write on MMR is accompanied by ads for clinics offering quack treatments or single jabs. And these for today’s piece. Comedy genius:

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Advert Break #2:

I don’t take ads for my online empire (which is just one of many reasons why it’s probably not worth suing me, the other being that I’m right about you, and if you can show I’m not, I’ll cheerfully clarify anyway). This is from my friend Robin. He has paid me in bumsex. You cannot win Robin’s bumsex by suing me.

I am performing a 52 date tour around the UK. The new show is about crazed fundamentalists, Carl Sagan, intelligent design, the poo fairy, US foreign policy and greedy, pea eating monks amongst other things. Like most comedians, I’ll probably steal some of Ben’s best lines and pretend they’re my own, he likes that. Most of the dates can be found at robinince.com. I will try not to get too cross about Ann Coulter’s book Godless, but you never now.


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If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

62 Responses



  1. gaygael said,

    January 10, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Now, now, Ben, since you’re not a homo you don’t get bumsex – it’s discrimination but surely we deserve something special for ourselves. Ahem.

    I wrote to Nas and she replied:
    “I am astounded that scientists and physicians have started such a campaign. I apologised for a genuine mistake, although you will probably not believe me. Should I wish you well in your endeavour to damage a business which I have put my heart and soul into for the past 4 years?
    You have no idea how this is affecting me on both a personal and business level.”

    To call it brazen would be an understatement. Bravo on highlighting this nonsense!

  2. briantist said,

    January 10, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    “You have no idea how this is affecting me on both a personal and business level.”

    Did she add that she was going to tell her mum on you?

  3. giblet said,

    January 10, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    We should have a whip-round and send her some pumpkin seeds.

  4. Jo said,

    January 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I have enjoyed this tale immensely :)

  5. MrChris said,

    January 10, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    I can almost hear her stamping her feet as she wrote this.

  6. JQH said,

    January 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Typical woo attitude. Telling the truth about them is spun as a malicious attempt to damage their business. Reminds me of the weay certain people connected with Dore blubbed and bleated when Duck pointed out the lack of evidence base for their treatments.

  7. Ciaran said,

    January 10, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Incompetence is a dish best served staggering. That way it helps your natural credulity systems cleanse you of your skeptism, reason and that most complex of all detox functions removing your hard earned cash from your wallet.

  8. Eric said,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Did she just call arsenic a metal? I mean, it’s one thing to call a non-heavy metal a heavy metal, but that’s just horrific.

  9. jimmyf said,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    Looking at thier site, £16.50 per day for a healthy box? My family sized veg box is £16.50 per week, including delivery. Then again, I expect I’ll die from “cadminum” poisoning, that’ll teach me.

  10. pseudomonas said,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I thought arsenic was one of the elements with a lot of metallic properties? It gets called a metal quite widely.

  11. Eric said,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Metalloid=/=Metal

  12. Jamie Horder said,

    January 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    They’ve changed their website again. No more references to heavy metals. Or even metalloids.

  13. pseudomonas said,

    January 11, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Eric: I stand corrected :)

  14. Circe said,

    January 11, 2009 at 12:43 am

    “You have no idea how this is affecting me on both a personal and business level.”

    Waaahhhh!!!
    And YOU, Ms Silly Bitch, have no idea how you are stealing from / manipulating innocent people in lying to them by making totally false claims, and taking their money in exchange for a service you don’t provide.
    If you were just offering ‘healthy meals’ without all your rubbish claims, the situation would be different.
    No sympathy, I’m afraid. Hope your “business” fails bigtime !

  15. brainduck said,

    January 11, 2009 at 12:52 am

    JHQ – yep, why do people take these things so personally? Just pointing out that someone is not providing correct information /= a personal attack.

    If detox-in-a-box just said it was selling a healthier alternative to takeaways & ready meals for people who don’t like cooking, nothing much to complain about. Quasi-medical claims that *aren’t true* shouldn’t be necessary to sell it.

    If Dore just said ‘look, doing exercise is good for you, and maybe it might be good to work on your co-ordination if it’s a bit wonky to start with, we’ve conducted one pilot study with so-so results’, fair enough.

    If you really believe in what you are selling, then lying shouldn’t be necessary. If you’re just mistaken, try working out why instead of sticking your fingers in your ears & hoping it will go away.

  16. Jude said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Judging from a testimonial on the Coach My Sales website, I think Ms Amir-Ahmadi is just following the teachings of her sales consultant:

    “The focus Chris has brought has been invaluable… Today Chris constantly reminds me of that bigger picture and steers me away from the day to day detail.”

    It’s that day to day detail – such as what your company’s website actually says – that will always get you in the end.

  17. Doire said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:19 am

    The “general” BBC opinion seem to be with you now.
    Today’s “News Quiz” featured de-tox as an example of inaccurate publicity by people trying to part you from your money.

  18. The Biologista said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Sounds like the woman is in over her head in this. I feel a little sorry for her. In a way she’s become an easy focal point for the scientific community’s frustrations on a much bigger problem. But given the broader impact of what she’s doing, and the fact that her nothinginabox will doubtlessly sell quite well anyway, well… I’ll get over that feeling. Down with this sort of thing.

  19. mrmuz said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:57 am

    Not reading the comments very closely I thought this woman got beat up a bit more than necessary over the ‘cadminium’ thing. Just make the point and move on, I thought.
    After reading about this extra stuff now I think, yeah, they can stand some more beating.

  20. gaygael said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:01 am

    They now have a few testimonials, as well as links to 2 Daily mail reviews/advertorials (which are actually the same article, word-for-word). Nas has retained her MD status, which might be kosher if it wasn’t a pseudo-medical site. I agree that she shouldn’t be bullied for the sins of the entire snake-oil industry, but they’re ripping people off and are fairly reluctant to give any sort of mea culpa.

  21. mockingbird said,

    January 11, 2009 at 8:11 am

    *ahem*

    ‘Following Nas Amir-Ahmadi’s appearance with Dr Ben Goldacre on this morning’s Today programme, the company would like to make the following statement:

    “We acknowledge that Dr Ben Goldacre was correct at the time of interview that the Detox in a Box website did contain the words ‘”One of the most complex detoxification functions is against heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadminium, nickel, arsenic, and aluminum” and apologise for not confirming this at the time. The website has now been amended to avoid any further confusion.”

    Over the past four years we have been delivering healthy meals to many happy clients, and they have reported back to us many benefits & positive experiences. We have relied on their word of mouth to promote our business as we have been unable to fund large advertising campaigns.

    We strive to be a happy & vibrant lifestyle company, promoting healthy eating in a “fast food” nation, because we are passionate about food and feeling good.

    Much of what we do is common sense, but we provide an efficient service delivering meals to people who may not have the time or cooking experience to do it for themselves, or who may prefer to achieve their weight loss goals with real food and a structured eating plan.
    Our food is delicious with a Middle Eastern influence; we use an abundance of fresh herbs and spices rather than artificial flavourings. We do not use red meat, wheat, dairy products or artificial sugars, colouring, flavourings or additives our meals are all low in salt, but we aim to make them full of flavour.’

    www.detoxinabox.com/diet-a-detox/detox-benefits.html

  22. EleanorC said,

    January 11, 2009 at 10:32 am

    “… cadminium …”

    *snort*

  23. David Mingay said,

    January 11, 2009 at 11:25 am

    To be fair, googling “cadminum” produces over 7.8 million hits, including a misspelling in Part I of the Irish Government’s Statutory Instrument No. 294/1985 — Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 (Control of Cadmium Discharges) Regulations, 1985.

  24. Dr_John_Crippen said,

    January 11, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I see on Day 6 that Nas MD is offering:

    Oats Reduce hardening of the arteries!
    Detox – in a box Tropical Muesli
    Serve with cold or warm soya milk
    Quinoa is a complete protein & high in vitamin B!
    Herb & Walnut Omelette With Curried Quinoa,
    Toasted Almond & Raisin Salad
    Defrost thoroughly & Serve cold
    Aubergines help reduce high blood pressure & protect the heart!
    Aubergine& Puy Lentil Moussaka
    Pierce film on lid of container, heat in the oven at 180c until piping hot.

    But Nas has claimed her food is free of DAIRY

    You can’t make an omlette without breaking eggs. Can you? Am I missing something?

    John

  25. emen said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Dr Crippen,

    dairy is milk and milk products

  26. Dr_John_Crippen said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Ah! OK

    Most of my patients use the word “dairy” to include eggs. Maybe they are wrong. I wonder if it includes straw?

    John

  27. evidencebasedeating said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Brilliant, Ben

    What is even more irritating is how personalising others opinions regarding her crappy product somehow gives her a legitimate counter-argument to sound scientific attacks.

    Don’t waste your money on this silly product promo’d by this silly business woman (cos if she isn’t plain silly, she is plain immoral in pushing a product that makes ridiculous health claims that are completely unjustified).

    Why not try www.dietchef.co.uk instead?

    And no, I have nothing to do with the site. But the ideas a good one – if you can’t be bothered to choose the lower calorie supermarket sandwich/ microwave meal options or cook yourself a meal from scratch.

  28. emen said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Straw?? You mean hay?

    Dairy includes milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt etc.

    The misunderstanding might come from the two different types of vegetarian diets.

    Vegetarians don’t eat meat.
    Vegans don’t eat dairy products or eggs, either.

  29. Despard said,

    January 11, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Or honey, apparently. At least that’s what my vegan friend told me.

  30. Jeesh42 said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Aargh! Detoxinabox now has the gaul to write on their website that their products are “as seen on TV” – technically true, since they did have their claims rubbished again and again on the BBC. These people have absolutely no shame.

    Once more, the BBC should share the blame on this one for giving them any airtime whatsoever. Wer can’t stop people being quacks – that’s their right. We should however stop them from infecting our airwaves.

  31. Jeesh42 said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    In fact, I hold the BBC more responsible for this attention-grabbing than Nas. I’m guessing a fortnight ago most people hadn’t heard of Detoxinabox. That must have changed for the worse now it’s been on several major BBC shows (with special mention to BBC Breakfast, which went into all-out advertising mode when she was on).

  32. emen said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    mm
    or mushrooms, some of them
    claiming that they are animals really
    other vegetarians eat fish

    oh, I’m glad I’m not “anything”, I can eat pork liver and poppy-cakes and all things nice…

  33. Cannonball Jones said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I love the ad suggesting that a photo of the inside of your guts might be gross and that they can get rid of all kind of gross stuff for you. Well yeah, semi-digested food of all descriptions in a big puddle of acid will tend to look gross. I think my body has its own (slightly gross) way of getting rid of it though… As for the main article, it’s getting me more and more convinced that I should make my fortune by marketing some new woo-based product, maybe biscuits containing fragments of tarot cards blessed by an alien at Stonehenge which will cure man-flu. Seems like the more bizarre and less substantiated the claim the more likely you are to be taken seriously. Somewhere in hell Goebbels is saying “told you so…”

    Thanks for the heads up on the Robin Ince tour, will be sure to catch him on the Edinburgh leg.

  34. brainduck said,

    January 11, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    The no mushrooms thing is apparently something to do with Tai Chi. They also aren’t allowed onions or garlic or potatoes.

  35. MDB929 said,

    January 11, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Is it just me, or are vegans generally poorly-looking things? Every one I’ve ever met looks like he or she could really use a good hot meal of something rather substantial…

  36. outeast said,

    January 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

    David Mingay posted,
    To be fair, googling “cadminum” produces over 7.8 million hits

    I get 6,000. Did your search automatically include the corerect spelling, I wonder?

  37. NorthernBoy said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, there is a market for it, but it is a market that one gains entry to by lying and cheating. Why is this any different from any other form of fraud, where people make untrue claims?

    Are you really saying that it is OK to cheat people out of their money as long as they are not too bright?

    I really do not understand this sort of argument “Oh, it is only stupid and gullible people who are being harmed, so let’s not worry about.

    I think that most of us think that it is exactly the gullible and foolish who we should be looking out for. re you really suggesting that we should only try to catch people scamming the intelligent and educated?

  38. CDavis said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    This whole thing, surely, is just another step along the road to Perdition that is the fad for ascribing health benefits to everything edible or potable.

    An alien browsing though a food shop nowadays could be forgiven for assuming he’d wandered into a pharmacy for gullible acetics: boiled sweets are ‘lo fat’, while lard is ‘lo carb’. Tea is full of antioxidants, and bottled water comes with a complete periodic table. Simple nutrition – or even the enjoyment of food – seems to have become a minor consideration.

    CD

  39. rubberduck said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    @CD – I agree with you as far as general detox insanity goes – but I don’t think detoxinabox is anywhere near as guilty as some of the other horrors that do the rounds. The maple syrup lemon juice in hot water thing is essentially a way to starve yourself to death. What was once the preserve of desperate brides a week before the wedding is now something we’re all meant to opt into.

    Once you peel back the biobabble, though, the actual detox in a box food looks like it might be ok – although not as OK as their claims suggest. They’re advocating three meals a day, your five a day of fruit and vegetables, some carbs and some protein, plus most of it looks like it might be quite enjoyable and tasty.

    People have been exaggerating the benefits of various substances and elixirs since mankind evolved a class system and some could afford more than others. Now, there are diet initiatives that aren’t just bullsh*t, they’re dangerous. Detoxinabox is bullsh*t, but it doesn’t look dangerous…

  40. NorthernBoy said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I am probably late to the party on this, but this story was just blogged about on “The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe”, which is one of my favourite podcasts. It is always god to see these things gaining momentum, and so hopefully getting more deeply into the public consciousness.

  41. mikewhit said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Hang on – maybe her detox (not to be confused with Dettox which is a household antiseptic …) really does remove cadminium ! From the universe – see, there’s none in this universe now …

    [Reminds me of a Star Trek NG episode - a super-alien in human form said he'd killed all the evil dudes that killed his Mrs. "Fair do's", said our intrepid away-team.
    "No, you don't understand, I killed them ALL. That species no longer exists..." (from memory !)]

  42. daniao said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Are we and Ben going for the wrong target here? This lady’s obviously out of her depth and easy to attack, but (I note from Prof Colquhoun’s blog) the original list of eleven products examined in the Sense About Science paper, which kicked this whole thing off, have worse products. They include two particularly egregious examples from people who really ought to know better: Boots. A reckless High Street chain should be relentlessy attacked before we go for the lunatic fringe.

  43. E@L said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Wondering if this Ms Amadi would be complaining of her personal and business damages quite so loudly if she’d been tarred and feathered and rode out of town backwards on a donkey, like we done to them snake-oil websites in the good olde days, when cadmium was spelled properlike and arsenic was what you got on your butt after been kicked with a spiky boot…

  44. mrjeany said,

    January 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Stupid newbie question here, but what’s the origin of the term ‘woo’?

  45. j said,

    January 12, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    One answer was posted here:

    “”[B]eliefs that clearly demonstrate magical thinking, uncritical acceptance of things for which no good evidence exists. This includes, but is not limited to, psychic phenomenon, ghosts, the paranormal, “energy healing,” the use of “colon cleansing” and “liver cleansing” to rid oneself of “toxins,” homeopathy (especially quantum
    homeopathy), and a wide variety of other mystical and pseudoscientific beliefs. Woo is resistant to reason. Indeed, woo has a double standard when it comes to what it considers to be good evidence. It is very
    accepting of a wide variety of fuzzy, mystical ideas, but is often incredibly distrustful and skeptical of anything having to do with “conventional” science or “conventional” medicine. Woos tend to be very quick to react to defend their particular brand of woo and very unforgiving of its being questioned.”

  46. mrjeany said,

    January 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

    That’s excellent i, thank you so much! Wooooooo

  47. The Biologista said,

    January 13, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    daniao,

    You’re quite right to say that there are bigger fish to fry. Ben wrote about this incident because he experienced it first hand. It was implied that he was confused or foolish when in fact he was right on the money. Us lot then fixated on DetoxInABox in a manner which was probably disproportionate to how important that service is in the grand scheme of woo. But they got caught denying the easily provable, and so bad stuff happened.

    Boots are certainly far more worthy of our attention, but you’ll also find them to be far more careful. They’re a huge company who have been flogging the “detox” concept for many years without any major challenges. But they’re also not making the sorts of barndoor foolish claims that Nas’ site was making.

  48. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 13, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    it’s an interesting question: what constitutes a fair target. this was, as TB says, a completely arbitrary one, because i happened to come across them, could’ve been any one of hundreds and thousands, but then they did put themselves forward as spokespeople and nas was on half a dozen media outlets that day, so a fair stab at a reasonable choice, surely?

    but there is a more general issue, on how you go about critically appraising the ideas and claims of a vast army of small players who collectively hold sway and represent the undoubted hegemony? especially if you want specific claims that are good examples, rather than uninformative handwavy generalities.

  49. Doug Mackie said,

    January 14, 2009 at 12:10 am

    re 30.

    One understands the tension between poms and frogs but it is galling to see English mispeaked.

  50. NorthernBoy said,

    January 14, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Surely it is sensible that we attack the targets who best present themselves. Those of us who support skeptical enquiry tend not to do it as a day job, and so we are not likely to be able to bring down any major area of woo anytime soon. This being the case, we need to search out the best bang per buck, as it were. Someone stating a clear mis-truth on BBC Radio is about as clear a target as we are likely to get, and so I don’t think that it makes sense to criticise people when this is who they go after.

  51. BuggyBY said,

    January 14, 2009 at 9:54 am

    How unfortunate that they don’t simply claim to detox the body of all chemicals, or we’d have an RSC prize candidate.

  52. lawnjam said,

    January 14, 2009 at 11:24 am

    @BuggyBY – google for detox “all chemicals” and you will find some potential prize winners (and, mercifully, some debunkers too)

  53. Psychedelia Smith said,

    January 14, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Am I the only one starting to worry about the shocking fall in the BBC’s news production values over the last year or two? Not only do the Detox people effectively get free advertising, but check Ben’s miniblog (‘People in the media do this…’) and it also turns out they recently misquoted genius mental health writer Dorothy Rowe to make it look as if she said something that was pretty much 180 degrees from her actual position.

    There’ve been a couple of other examples of woo/other rubbish making its way onto the BBC – the ‘society caring more about Downs Syndrome’ story (Radio 4); ‘Britain’s happiest places mapped’, loads of Dore stuff, plus that wierdy pipe thing that was supposed to produce green energy. Not to mention an entire episode of Panorama – Panorama, for Chrissakes! – devoted to panicking people about WiFi.

    I suppose it’s a media-wide problem, as Ben never tires of highlighting, but it’s still depressing to find out they just pull half their bloody stuff off the wire.

    At least, in their defence, they occasionally give Ben some airtime.

  54. pv said,

    January 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

    NorthernBoy said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, there is a market for it, but it is a market that one gains entry to by lying and cheating. Why is this any different from any other form of fraud, where people make untrue claims?

    I’ve been saying this for years about homeopathy and all forms of quackery. It’s against the law to make false financial claims (even using the words “apparently” and “allegedly”) in order to swindle people out of their money. But when it comes to sCAM products the same fraudulent claims are ok even though people are being taken for suckers and their pockets being raided. Fraud is fraud. It’s still lying with intent to extract money, and it’s disgraceful.

  55. gaygael said,

    January 15, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Here’s more nonsense – Shola Oslo (www.sholaoslo.com) offers herbal remedies to get rid of pelvic inflammatory disease, chlamydia, hydrosalpinx (blocked Fallopian tubes), etc. Unfounded and dangerous claims that she spreads on YouTube. Amazingly she reckons that being a kinesiologist qualifies her to give medical advice.

  56. SliderSteve said,

    January 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    @Psychedelia Smith

    You are not the only one worried about the fall of the BBC’s standards. BBC news was always my news channel/bulletin of choice and the BBC News website was always my daily fix for the days news but in recent years I’ve started to notice a noticeable decline.

    I often find myself saying now, “Where’s the unbiased reporting gone?, why is he/she considered an expert?” etc but worse is when they have guests or ask opinions of people who have a huge vested interest – such as someone selling a product!

    DetoxInABox is one example but one other which really irked me was on the story of Britain’s energy future. They had a politician( trying to remember his name) and the expert they chose to was a businessman who owned a solar panel company. he spent the entire time selling his products and the reporters didn’t even blink.

    This media-apathy is spreading so it’s not only the scare mongers that are adding to the misinformation miasma but now once reputable news outlets are at it.

    A fight that helps to ensure that all stories, reports etc are up to a good scientific standard while at the same time engaging and comprehensible is a fight worth taking part in.

    What starts with the correct reporting of a relatively small company/issue can be replicated across the board.

    This should hopefully return the trust we could have in media outlets.

  57. daniao said,

    January 15, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    re 60 and 61, there’s an interesting post on Prof Colquhoun’s blog at dcscience.net/?p=790 which says that a law passed last year in the UK brings unproven medical claims within the remit of trading standards.

  58. Psychedelia Smith said,

    January 16, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    SliderSteve:

    I’m starting to worry about a few other media outlets too – CNN have apparently sacked their entire science team, according to this link I found via www.realclimate.org

    www.cjr.org/the_observatory/cnn_cuts_entire_science_tech_t.php

  59. Psychedelia Smith said,

    January 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    And here’s the consequence:

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/cnn-is-spun-right-round-baby-right-round/langswitch_lang/de

  60. jms1917 said,

    January 17, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Does religion count as Woo. And if not, why not? I think we should be told.

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