Saturday December 1 2007
If you were going to be actuarial about media coverage – an eighth of a column inch for each premature death perhaps – then this paper would be filled with diarrhoea and Aids. Today is World Aids Day: so come with me on a world tour of Aids quackery.
South Africa is traditionally where we would start such a voyage, headed as it is by President Thabo Mbeki, a man who remains an HIV denialist and recently told a biographer that he regrets withdrawing from publicly discussing his beliefs. He has compared Aids scientists to Nazi concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted orthodox Aids science as “self-repressed” victims of a slave mentality. Read the rest of this entry »
Time after time, properly conducted scientific studies have proved that homeopathic remedies work no better than simple placebos. So why do so many sensible people swear by them? And why do homeopaths believe they are victims of a smear campaign? Ben Goldacre follows a trail of fudged statistics, bogus surveys and widespread self-deception.
Friday November 16 2007
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This is a piece I wrote in today’s edition of The Lancet. You can also see this article there in a nice Lancet PDF, along with a “world report” on homeopathy, and the references in pleasantly accessible Crossref format. To be honest, it almost feels silly writing about homeopathy in the Lancet. Read the rest of this entry »
To my mind this is one of the most important parts of the story about the Society of Homeopaths bullying its critics: it’s the incredibly polite and courteous email that Dr Andy Lewis sent to the SoH after his hosting company received the first threatening letter from their solicitors. Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday October 20 2007
Let’s imagine that we live in an exotic parallel universe where I am able to use an amusing but trivial news event to illustrate a wider cultural and intellectual issue. Dr Andy Lewis runs a website called Quackometer: he criticised the Society of Homeopaths (Europe ’s largest professional organisation of homeopaths) in no uncertain terms. Read the rest of this entry »
Okay, I’ve got a few interesting follow-ups to post, starting with Peter Chappell who you will remember from last week‘s Bad Science column in the Guardian.
As you know I am always keen to engage in discussion with people – see here for example – and particularly keen to hear my own ideas and criticisms themselves being critically appraised. Peter Chappell has responded on his website, and I am very happy to help open up his response to as wide an audience as possible: Read the rest of this entry »
September 15th, 2007
Okay now look: there’s nothing wrong with the idea of homeopaths giving out sugar pills. The placebo effect can be very powerful, because it’s not just about the pill, it’s about the cultural meaning of the treatment: so we know from research that four placebo sugar pills a day are more effective than two for eradicating gastric ulcers (and that’s not subjective, you measure ulcers by putting a camera into your stomach); we know that salt water injections are a more effective treatment for pain than sugar pills, not because salt water injections are medically active, but because injections are a more dramatic intervention; we know that green sugar pills are a more effective anxiety treatment than red ones, not because of any biomechanical effect of the dyes, but because of the cultural meanings of the colours green and red. We even know that packaging can be beneficial. Read the rest of this entry »
Many thanks to everyone who took part in the Homeopathy Journal Club. The standard of commentary was very high and I think a fair amount of this stuff deserves the chance to be published in the journal itself. I know a couple of people have already submitted their work as letters, but Read the rest of this entry »
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:
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