From Hampstead to Cape Town

August 26th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in africa, bad science, dangers, death, matthias rath, nutritionists, scare stories | 44 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday August 26th, 2006
The Guardian

What happens if you transplant western ideas like nutritionism, and anti-vaccination panics, into a developing world context? Unfortunately that’s not a thought experiment. Between 600 and 800 people die every day in South Africa from HIV/AIDS, and their government was roundly criticised at last weeks International AIDS conference in Toronto.

Everyone knows that the South African government is headed by a longstanding denialist of the link between HIV and AIDS, Thabo Mbeki, who held back anti-retroviral treatment for many years; but less well known is the fact that his health minster, Tshabalala-Msimang, is also a staunch advocate for weekend glossy magazine-style nutritionism, an ardent critic of medical drugs, and a close associate of a controversial vitamin salesman.

South Africa’s stand at the conference was described by delegates as the “salad stall”, and consisted of some garlic, some beetroot, the African potato, and other vegetable action. Some boxes of Read the rest of this entry »

AIDS Denialists Galore

August 17th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in africa, bad science, references | 32 Comments »

Just for completeness sake, I was worried that some of you might have missed this absolute corker of a 15 page article in Harper’s (circ: 230,000) by AIDS-denialist Celia Farber, in which all kinds of entertaining claims get an airing. AIDS is actually a “chemical syndrome, caused by accumulated toxins from heavy drug use,” “many cases of AIDS are the consequence of heavy drug use, both recreational (poppers, cocaine, methamphetamines, etc.) and medical (AZT, etc.)”; “HIV is a harmless Read the rest of this entry »

“Now Look What You’ve Made Me Do”

June 12th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, africa, bad science, dangers, herbal remedies, homeopathy, times | 27 Comments »

Poor old Susan Clark, previously a regular Bad Science target when she was writing “What’s The Alternative” in the Sunday Times, she is now in a position of total safety at The Observer.

Apparently in the past the poor thing has had such a hammering for her advice on malaria medication, that now her readers have to suffer. Actually it’s all my fault. No hang on. It’s your fault for encouraging Read the rest of this entry »

Resistance is worse than useless

February 11th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in adverts, africa, alternative medicine, bad science, dangers, herbal remedies, times | 63 Comments »

Ben Goldacre
Saturday February 11, 2006
The Guardian

Let me take you back to 2005, and one of several Bad Science stories about Susan Clark and her What’s The Alternative column in the Sunday Times. She’s no longer in that post – if you’re lucky we’ll have room to talk about her successor soon – but she stood out on account of her Read the rest of this entry »

Health Cheque (Bad Science June 30 2005)

June 30th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, matthias rath, nutritionists | 3 Comments »

Health cheque

Ben Goldacre
Thursday June 30, 2005
The Guardian

· And so to Africa, where there are “complementary and alternative medicine” practitioners pursuing the fashionable attack on mainstream medicine, just like in the UK. Take Matthias Rath and the Rath Foundation vitamin empire: they’ve been running advertising campaigns in newspapers and poster campaigns near HIV/Aids treatment centres, telling people that anti-retroviral drugs undermine the body’s immune system, and that “micro-nutrients alone can Read the rest of this entry »

Pope Dope

April 7th, 2005 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, religion | 1 Comment »

Bad science

Ben Goldacre
Thursday April 7, 2005
The Guardian

• Pope of Popes, the People’s Pope, Pope John Paul the Great. But to many he will perhaps be remembered as the African Aids Victims’ Pope. Who could forget Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, telling us all that HIV could pass through impermeable latex condoms? “The Aids virus is 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon,” he said. “The spermatozoon can easily pass through the ‘net’ formed by the condom.” The devil sent Read the rest of this entry »

Atomic tomatoes are not the only fruit

December 16th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, alternative medicine, bad science, celebs, channel 4, channel five, cosmetics, dna, express, gillian mckeith, herbal remedies, independent, letters, mail, MMR, nutritionists, oxygen, penises, PhDs, doctors, and qualifications, quantum physics, references, space, statistics, telegraph, times, very basic science, water | 9 Comments »

This article is a rough transcript of the most excellent Bad Science Awards 2004 that were held in the Asylum Club on Rathbone St W1, a tiny basement club with a fire safety license for 150. We were expecting 20 people but to general astonishment there were queues down the street, and an unruly crowd who were drunkenly, loudly, and at one point quite violently baying for Gillian McKeith’s blood. Also performing were the excellently frightening and dangerous Disinformation presents “National Grid”, performance terrorism with victorian electrical equipment and rubber gloves, featuring Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor and Guardian Far Out fame.

Thursday December 16, 2004
The Guardian

Ben Goldacre on the gongs nobody wants to win…

Andrew Wakefield prize for preposterous extrapolation from a single unconvincing piece of scientific data

With its place at the kernel of Bad Science reporting in the news media, this was bound to be a hotly contested category. Were there any Read the rest of this entry »

Water torture

January 15th, 2004 by Ben Goldacre in africa, bad science, celebs, homeopathy, times, very basic science, water | 3 Comments »

Water torture

Ben Goldacre
Thursday January 15, 2004
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to catch a Sunday Times beauty journalist out. “Harriet Griffey thought bottled water was a con, until mountain-pure H < ->2 O healed her senses.” Let’s stop her right there. I think I can write these things for myself these days. Don’t tell me: water comes in funny “clusters”, which only beauty journalists and the people who make the stuff can detect. You make them smaller with a special secret process, and then they hydrate and absorb toxins better. Oh, and the special water is really expensive (let’s say £13.95 a bottle) but they’ve proved it works with some special science. Which hasn’t been published anywhere. Did I miss anything?

· Let’s just check the inventor’s website. He has an authentically large beard, and the process works “under the principle of implosion and magnetic transfer”. It continues: “This natural magnetic transfer using electromagnetic waves does not come from using magnets or electricity.” Wow, neither? Now that’s impressive. Back to lovely Harriet, in her white chiffon A-line lab coat. “Well, that’s the science _ I am as sceptical as the next person, and am not convinced by hype.” Yes: she’s going to prove it for herself. Experimentally. “Take one lemon. Cut it in half and squeeze each half into two identical glasses. Place one next to a bottle of Blue Water, the other on the opposite side of the room. Wait five minutes, then taste … While the juice in one glass remained wincingly sharp, the lemon in the other, placed next to the Blue Water, was noticeably softer and less tart. Even through glass, the effect of the water is enough to change the taste of the lemon juice.” Head of particle physics on line one for Ms Harriet Griffey.

· Meanwhile, it was a delight to see intellectual Jeanette Winterson, following her recent article on the predictive powers of her favourite astrologer, writing in the Times on Saturday about a project to treat Aids sufferers in Botswana – where 48% of the population is HIV positive – with homeopathy. Some might say it was slightly patronising, unrealistic or even pointless to take your western, patient-empowering, anti-medical establishment and culturally specific placebo to a country that has little healthcare infrastructure, is frequently engaged in a water war with Namibia, and suffers frequent droughts. But we can only guess what the people of Botswana might say.