At last, astrology

July 10th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, celebs, mail, mirror, nutritionists | No Comments »

At last, astrology

Ben Goldacre
Thursday July 10, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· Not content with dragging our morality back to the Victorian era, the Daily Mail continues its campaign to to reduce us all to medieval superstition. No half-truths about the MMR jab, diet fads or air ionisers this week though, or rather, no more than normal. But they do publish an article by the author and alleged intellectual Jeanette Winterson about the amazing prescience of her own personal psychic astrologer. Now I can be a sceptical waverer of the “well I can see how the season of birth and winter vegetables in the womb might give you a certain temperament” school with the best of them. But please: when your psychic astrologer tells you to beware of triangular relationships and you’ve written at least two novels about them, the only mystery is the extent of your own credulity. Winterson says she bought a house – sight unseen! – at the behest of her astrologer. Or perhaps I’m being mean. No, hang on. “As a Virgo with a Gemini Moon, Mercury was apparently my ‘double ruler’,” writes Winterson. “Could it be coincidence that I had often used the word ‘mercurial’ to describe a character trait that is both my greatest weakness and my greatest strength?”

· The Mirror’s gossip columnists were delighted to spot Stephen Hawking at Stringfellows lapdancing club in London, where he was treated to dances by 19-year-old called “Tiger”. Perhaps she reminded him of his other Tiger, the Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder built to record cosmic rays at the McDonnell Centre for the Space Sciences. I’ll stop now.

· And finally, I am delighted to see the Consumers for Health Choice movement is still going great guns with its campaign against the EU’s sensible plans to regulate and label potentially dangerous dietary supplements and herbal remedies. This in the same week that high-dose zinc supplements (as doled out by alternative practitioners for “physical and mental development, protection and healing”) were shown to more than double men’s risk of prostate cancer. You might be interested to know that the managing director of Holland and Barrett, Barry Vickers, is one of the directors of CHC. Anyway, if you are still keen on high doses of zinc, Auravita ( will happily sell you 200mg zinc sulphate tablets at £5.99 for 90. But remember – that’s double the dose associated with prostate cancer. Just because it’s alternative doesn’t mean that it won’t kill you.

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