I’m doing a talk at Glastonbury, Saturday 5pm Green Fields Speakers Tent

June 24th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, onanism | 31 Comments »

Walk up the hill towards the Stone Circle, turn right at the homeopathy tent (if it’s in the same place this year), down Healing Broadway, nice big green tent on the right organised (among others) by my mate Shane Collins from t’ Green Party. I’ll be talking at 5pm on Saturday, just after Tony Benn, hard act. Not sure what I’ll do yet, maybe “medicalisation of everyday life”, maybe “how people deal with unwelcome evidence” (Rath, libel, drugs war nonsense, etc), maybe “how the green/left movement can shoot itself in the foot by associating itself with transparently obvious bullshit”.

At the risk of oversharing, it was partly in thoughtful outdoor scenes like this, during my early mid 20s in the late mid 90s, that I learnt how to argue and think, find evidence on ideas that went against the grain, but also how intolerance can strike in all kinds of funny places, and how people can think things for all kinds of odd reasons. Basically what I think I’m saying is I got really disappointed when half my anti-arms trade mates turned out to believe in reiki. I will not be talking about this. See you there!

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! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

31 Responses

  1. Ginger Yellow said,

    June 24, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Excellent. Could be a weird atmosphere with a small crowd of skeptics in a giant field of woo. I hope you’re not clashing with any good bands.

  2. Jo the Hat said,

    June 24, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Don’t suppose you heard Stephen Fry’s homeopathy joke in Monday night’s ISIHAC? While talking about the restoration work at the Old Royal London Hospital, apparantly disaster struck when the homeopathic wing collapsed – because they used scaffold poles that were one-millionth the strength of proper scaffolding that actually worked…

  3. Aly B said,

    June 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Ben
    Sorry to post in the wrong thread-the relevant one had 93 comments and I wasn’t sure you’d get this.
    It’s a piece of research from the Harvard Business School on the real effects of file sharing VS lost revenue for the music industry etc. It’s a nice read (the first couple of pages have the major headlines). Very much in tune (pardon the pun) with your Guardian piece a few weeks back.

  4. Synchronium said,

    June 24, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Sounds like you “expanded your mind” quite a bit in the 90s…


  5. vengeanceandfashion said,

    June 24, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Don’t associate the Greens with the Left, the socialist Left in particular is very pro-science, and doesn’t associate itself with any of the woolly nonsense espoused by the Greens.

  6. timbod said,

    June 24, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Ben, please don’t do the “how the green/left movement can shoot itself in the foot by associating itself with transparently obvious bullshit” as you’ll immediately alienate three quarters of the crowd.

    Much better to give a talk on “bullshit” that makes the audience realise that this “bullshit is transparently obvious”, and then the most with-it will think “maybe the green/left movement is shooting itself in the foot”.

    PS. Is a pacifist hypocritcal if they shoot themselves in the foot??

  7. Scrotley said,

    June 24, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Ooh, yes – do the green/left movement shoot foot obvious bullshit thing. I love you, Ben – but think of being remembered on the ten o’clock news as the first pacifist lynching .

  8. igb said,

    June 25, 2009 at 8:23 am

    I was supposed to be on a bus to Glasto this morning, but work has made it very clear to me that my attendance at a meeting in central London this afternoon would be much appreciated. So I’m going to be pitching a tent by headtorch at midnight (handily I bought a car parking permit for just this sort of eventuality). 5pm Green Fields sounds cool. I’ve not been to Glastonbury since 1982: I’m told the festival is a little larger, and Judie Tzuke isn’t headlining.

  9. SteveGJ said,

    June 25, 2009 at 12:13 pm


    “Is a pacifist hypocritcal if they shoot themselves in the foot??”

    If we avoid for now the metaphor (in which case you get into the debate over whether an argument in a weapon), and leave out the possibility that this was an injection of heroin (which would probably be “shooting up” anyway, and and odd palce to do it) and then stick with the literal interpretation, then one has to wonder what a pacifist was doing with a gun in the first place. I suppose the may be attempting a strictly non-aggressive attempt to prevent a suicide and somehow wounded themselves in the foot through an accident. Of possibly they has used peaceful powers of persuasion to get an armed agressor to had their weapon over, where, owing to understandable unfamiliarity with the instrument of death, the pacificist had another accident. Then there is the possibility that the pacifist was forcibly drafted into the military and his/her only method of extracting him/herself from this impossible situation was to incapacitate themself through such means.

    Actually, that very last one has happened in armies (although usually as a way of just getting out of a war, not necesarily for pacifist reason). For this reason, in most armies, deliberately self inflicted injuries are considered to be a serious military offense. In WWI, where it was potentialy a capital offense in the British army, almost 4,000 were convicted of the offense, although none were executed.

    So yes – a pacifist could, justifiably, shoot themselves in the foot in a literal sense.

  10. SteveGJ said,

    June 25, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Gee – far too many typos in the above…

  11. bigyaks said,

    June 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

    Ahh.. SteveGJ you’re assuming that the use/possession of guns necessarily means acts (or the intention to commit acts) of violence. I myself am a pacifist (and if/when sober a vegetarian) but very much enjoy shooting and am a member of a gun club; I find it very Zen and calming and good for centring my Chi.

  12. Oliver Humpage said,

    June 26, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I can’t believe someone just used the phrase “centring my Chi” in a comment on badscience.net… 🙂

  13. SteveGJ said,

    June 26, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I must admit I find the very possession and use of a gun and being a pacifist/vegetarian an odd thing. The primary function a gun is for shooting people and animals, either actual or, in the cae of humans, threatened to achieve some outcome.

    Now that’s not to deny that they can have secondary roles in entertainment, but there are surely skilled passtimes that don’t require such supping with the devil. Of course one might take the line that the use of a gun (or, for that matter violent video games) allows ones inner aggression to be dissipated which points to some inner turmoil and contradictions.

    I’m not wholly convinced by the idea of a gun-toting pacifist. It would be a bit like a cycle-riding hippy keeping a collection of Ferraris so he could sit in them and make engine noises.

  14. lasker said,

    June 26, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Anti-arms trade is all very worthy.
    But Reiki gets you laid.

  15. bigyaks said,

    June 26, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Vroom Vroom indeed! Thanks for that.

  16. pv said,

    June 26, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Just a question here for any forum members if they are reading this.
    Is the forum broken at this time? It’s unusable.

  17. Nero said,

    June 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm


    Broken for me too.

  18. pv said,

    June 27, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    All cured. Panic over.
    As you were!

  19. mikey2gorgeous said,

    June 29, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Saw this quote & thought of you…

    Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.
    – E. H. Gombrich


  20. JoanCrawford said,

    June 29, 2009 at 10:26 am

    So, how did it go?

  21. Mark Baker said,

    June 29, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I saw it, I thought it went well. A more sympathetic audience than I’d expected, perhaps most of the loonies in the next field didn’t know it was going on.

  22. Scrotley said,

    June 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Come on, Ben. How did it go?

    My mate Debs was going to come and see you but went to hear Bruce Springsteen instead. Hope you aren’t too put out.

  23. Scrotley said,

    June 29, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Bugger. Maybe he was lynched after all.

  24. Bill Bigge said,

    June 29, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Anyone notice the BBC story about doctors demanding that NHS staff should be allowed to offer prayer to patients? Shouldn’t they do clinical trials first?

    Read about it in my blog – unbeatable offer: be one of the first people apart from my wife and little sister to visit!!!

  25. Bill Bigge said,

    June 29, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Damn, it deleted the tongue in cheek “blatant self promotion” tags I put around that last paragraph.

  26. Mark Baker said,

    June 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Instead of seeing Ben’s talk from five til six, she went to see Bruce play from ten until half twelve[1]? That’s a very poor excuse.

    [1] yes, two and a half hours, and it was awesome!

  27. jonnie falafel said,

    June 30, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    How about the doctrine of historical neccesity as a bit of leftist dogma & woolly thinking. There’s a pretty significant bunch of us Greens who resist the ‘alternatives to medicine’ (as I call it) nuttiness.I know loads of leftifts and feminists into reiki & the like, ’cause they are perceived as ‘alternative’ or radical. I suspect one’s political leanings and woo beliefs are largely unconnected.

    While I’m here, as anyone come across a device produced by Ecozone (who make lightbulbs normally)which claims to prevent limescale in the loo by ‘magnetizing the water’ in the cistern? It consists of a magnet covered in plastic and costs a small fortune. My woo detector went off straight away. Is there anything in it; those in the know.

  28. graham4269 said,

    July 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    I was at the talk and later saw Springsteen!

    There was a lot of paranoid muttering at the back of the tent from people about Ben’s source of funding. I stood next to a very angry man. Just angry! He was banging on about homeopathy – which wasn’t really part of the talk. He assumed I was one of the ‘believers’ – perhaps because I have long hair but quickly got the message when I told him that homeopathy is a joke. Sure the fella’s making a living from peddling water so I can understand his resentment…

    I was glad to see that not all the environmentally concerned people there wanted to be associated with magicians and charlatans. Science based evidence about climate change should not be muddied by medieval superstition if we expect to be taken seriously.

  29. Scrotley said,

    July 1, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    @Mark Baker

    Debs clarifies – she went to see Gaslight Anthem on the John Peel stage, who were joined by an unannounced Bruce Springsteen.

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