On the birthday of Jesus Christ – who was clearly a very nice guy, giant sky wizard issues aside – I can think of no better bible reading than this, Daniel 1:8, a description of the first ever clinical trial.
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 19 December 2009
It’s been a vintage year for dodgy science in government. We saw reports on cocaine that were disappeared, dodgy evidence to justify DNA retention, and some government advisors who estimated the cost of piracy at 10% of GDP, to media applause, and then failed to tell everyone they’d got the figure wrong by 1000%.
Last year I ran into Ariane Sherine. She had found that no charity would publicly take money from a book written by atheists at Christmas, since Christians give so much money for good work, and they didn’t want to annoy them. Luckily the Terence Higgins Trust stepped up to this bizarre challenge, which is excellent, because Aids is important, and THT do good stuff (especially on education), and they hold the line on evidence and common sense, as witnessed by their immediate response of “yes please” when offered cash. So, support THT, buy it now. There are chapters by Simon le Bon, Charlie Brooker, Richard Dawkins, David Baddiel, AC Grayling, and many many more. My chapter is below, it is about the power of ideas alone to do good and harm, and it is filled with mawkish Christmas cheer. In other news, Manto Tshabala-Msimang – South Africa’s health minister, who presided over that horrific period of institutionalised Aids denialism – has died today. You will have your own thoughts.
Ooh, starting tomorrow is this year’s run of our amazing super-nerd-comedy-musical spectacular Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. It’s a galaxy of stars, Richard Dawkins, Johnny Ball, Barry Cryer, Chris Addison off the Thick of It, Brian Cox, Richard Herring, Simon Singh, me, and many many more random people. This is variety at its most various. Bloomsbury shows all sold out, returns only, some tickets still available for Hammersmith, but I recommend moving fast.
Sorry, this felt a bit rushed and PollyFillaesque, I hope it’s vaguely interesting…
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 12 December 2009
So as we career towards a mediocre outcome in Copenhagen, why do roughly half the people in this country not believe in man-made climate change, when the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists do?
Yesterday morning I helped to launch the libel reform campaign in parliament with Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science. To be fair, the best line came the day before at the celeb launch from Alexei Sayle, who explained that he was once sued for libel by someone, and it cost over £100,000 to defend: “it would have been cheaper”, he explained, “if I’d just stabbed the f*cker.”
Ben Goldacre, Saturday 5 December 2009, The Guardian
Here is a mystery. Rom Houben, a Belgian man, was diagnosed as being in a coma for 23 years, and he has now made a partial recovery. This has been demonstrated with a series of recently developed brain scanning techniques (whose predictive value is not entirely known, but they are promising), and he is also opening his eyes. But the story goes further than that: it is also claimed that he was conscious all along, but simply unable to move, a well-documented phenomena called “locked in syndrome”. This has been reported as a news story around the world, in The Sun, Sky news, CNN, the BBC, the Telegraph (repeatedly), Der Spiegel, Australian TV News, The Guardian (in 4 separate pieces) and hundreds more.
Here’s a piece by me in the British Medical Journal this week, published online already, and in the print edition this Friday. It’s a head to head with Vincent Lawton, who until recently was head of Merck in the UK. Briefly, I set out the quantitative evidence demonstrating the scale of the problem, and he says: “oh, we’ve fixed everything now, and anyway some academic trials are dodgy too, here’s one what I found”. That’s a paraphrase, you can read his response for free on the BMJ website here, since they’ve decided that this is an important issue which deserves open access. If you’ve got something really clever to say about these pieces then you might also want to comment in the “Rabid Response” section of the BMJ version of either article.
We were going to have a debate on the Today programme on Monday morning, and then tomorrow morning, but unfortunately it’s been ditched. If you work in mainstream media and would like to cover this issue I’m always keen, and amazingly easy to get hold of, firstname.lastname@example.org. Although I realise that your idea of a meaningful critique of the crimes of big pharma is “chemotherapy hurt my grandma that’s why I love vitamin pills and hate teh vaxxines lol freedom”. Read the rest of this entry »