You might be amused by this piece from the Independent’s health reporter Jeremy Laurance today. It’s about what a bad man I am for pointing out when science and health journalists get things wrong. Alongside the lengthy ad hominem – a matter of taste for you – there are a number of mistakes and, more than that, a worrying resistance to the idea that anyone should dare to engage in legitimate criticism. He also explains that health journalists simply can’t be expected to check facts. This worries me. Read the rest of this entry »
One for the small print maybe, but I think this is culturally quite interesting, because to me it tells a small part of the story on how you can maintain a belief system by avoiding appraisal of your ideas.
As you will remember, Craig Sams, a confectionery millionaire, recently wrote an article which I suppose you’d have to describe as an “attack” on me. This was close to what I’m hoping for – which is an attack on my ideas – and I genuinely wish he’d engaged with any single one of my criticisms of McKeith and the wider nutritionism industry. As I have said many times: there’s nothing I like better than people engaging in a discussion about ideas, and criticising mine. If you haven’t read Sams’ article already I’d highly recommend it for sheer enjoyment. Read the rest of this entry »
This post is only if you’re not bored of the rather trying electrosensitivity lobby. Here is a letter which has popped up all over the interweb, I assume it is genuinely from Dr Carlo, who is hawked about as a rather eminent figure, and not a fake created in an effort to smear him.
Read the rest of this entry »
Craig Sams is the founder of Green and Blacks. He made his money from chocolates, ice cream, and biscuits, and he is very angry with me for questioning the science behind Dr Gillian McKeith PhD and their corporate world.
This gem is from Natural Products magazine, the in-house trade publication of the nutritionism industry. I’ve included the original advertising from the page it appeared on, so you didn’t miss out on the context. That’s correct, by the way, your eyes do not deceive you: a whole page of the leading trade publication from this billion pound industry is devoted to me. Read the rest of this entry »
Bit of a ramble, so feel free to bypass this post, but this is quite odd to me. When a chap receives a communique from one of the Directors of the Society of Homeopaths, that august representative body, it only seems fair to give it some thought and some space. This charming email from Lionel Milgrom Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday September 1, 2005
Â· “One of Britain’s most widely prescribed antidepressants has been linked to a seven-fold increase in suicide attempts.” Hold the front page! Oh hang on, it’s on Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday February 3, 2005
Â· Sometimes people ask: what are your qualifications, to decide what is and isn’t bad science? The answer is that it doesn’t take much. Take the new television advert for cleaning product Cillit Bang: “Limescale is simply calcium that sticks, and if solid calcium dissolves this fast [lump of solid calclium starts fizzing], imagine how Cillit Bang works on taps and sinks.” Limescale is not calcium that sticks. Limescale is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is a chalky substance rather a lot like, let’s say … chalk. You may have noticed the white cliffs of Dover not fizzing. Whereas calcium is a shiny silver metallic substance that is shiny, silver, and a metal, unlike limescale and chalk. When you throw a lump of calcium into water, like most people did aged 15, it fizzes and dissolves. And all those of you who thought calcium was white and opaque like teeth and bones and milk: isn’t it great to peer behind the curtain?
Â· Of course, some people don’t appreciate critical appraisal of their ideas. There isn’t enough room in the paper for me to pour sufficient bile on the ludicrous claims of Penta water, so I wasn’t going to bother, but now I’m strangely motivated. After last week’s piece about their failure to provide compelling evidence for bizarre claims about clustered water (uncritically written up in half a dozen national publications) I started receiving nasty, menacing text messages from them. Imagine this buzzing into your pocket: “Goldmember I do hope you are a better physician than you are a journalist when we publish you will of course be informed out of the decency/courtesy you didn’t show to us! Sleep well tonight and think about how and why you tried to fuck us over and practice [sic] keeping one eye open.” Needless to say, I’ve gone to the police. When I say I don’t like being threatened, I don’t say that to sound tough. I mean, it’s not very nice being threatened. In fact, they sent it twice, just so that I could be in no doubt. Then suddenly I started getting calls from PR guru Max Clifford to apologise for a “hotheaded” Penta staff member.
Â· Now, how often do you reckon a loser science journalist gets a call from Max Clifford PR? Weirdly, I last got one about six months ago, when we were looking into someone you may remember. She was called Dr Gillian McKeith PhD. What could she have in common with Penta water? They have each been the subject of more than five Bad Science columns. But, hang on, Penta’s only been in two. So far, that is.
Anyone up for a challenge?
Thursday October 9, 2003
Talk bad science
Â· I’ve been invited to put my money where my sarcastic little mouth is. Soroush Ebrahimi, “a professional and licensed homeopath”, is angered by my dismissive attitude towards expensive therapies not backed up by systematic reviews of the research data. He has written in offering to prove the efficacy of homeopathic remedies – by making me very unwell with them. First I have to have a checkup from a doctor and a licensed homeopath to make sure I am “well and fit for the ordeal”, and then he will feed me homeopathic remedies diluted 1:100 exactly 30 times. “When you have had enough and can no longer endure, we will list the symptoms you report and can be observed. We get you and your witness to sign them as being correct and then will compare it with the symptoms listed in [a] sealed envelope.” Then he’ll make me better again. With homeopathy. Apparently I can’t just stick his water on my cornflakes, but instead have to sit around in a room containing the sealed envelope, witnesses, video recorders and, I fear, Mr Ebrahimi making funny faces at me. If anyone thinks they have the time to spare, email me.
Â· In a week when I’ve had more hate mail than usual (“your stance has all the hallmarks of being an ideological rather than a scientific one”, being the most rational), it was a relief to see the bad science still coming in strong. Reader Jenny Haxell writes: “The packaging of Ecover’s squirty surface cleaner SquirtEco sports the legend: ‘Safe around food: plant based ingredients.’ So I guess Socrates couldn’t have died from drinking hemlock then, and we’ve nothing to fear from ricin…”
Â· Our collective joy at winning the Nobel prize for MRI scanners is only slightly tempered by the shameful lack of recognition for other great British inventions also taking advantage of the peculiar properties of paramagnetic substances. The Tecno AO, available – I suspect exclusively – from the Healthy House catalogue I have been sent by Andrew Currie, allegedly produces magnetic radiation in the 8-12Hz range to induce alpha waves in your brain. This, they say, will relax you as you sit at a computer, and it counteracts the dangerous effects of high- frequency energy on your “bioenergetic field”. If it were true it would have worrying implications, not just because alpha waves are incompatible with concentration and work. Still, apparently, it works because it contains a paramagnetic substance: the most common of which are water and air.