Article Archive for September 2007

Holford on Applied Kinesiology testing: “there is little doubt that it works”
By jonhw
Posted in on 30 September 2007
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Holford’s Whole Health Manual is a real joy to read: flicking through it in the library, it provided excellent light relief from the more serious texts I was reading. As well as writing positively about health dowsing, Professor Holford of Teesside University also seems to have had a soft spot for Applied Kinesiology (AK):
While [...]

For your own good, don’t use that study!
By Sullivan
Posted in on 30 September 2007
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I just read something interesting on the web.  Someone was telling a petitioner in a Vaccine Court trial that she would have a better chance of winning if her expert witness didn’t use a research report by the Geiers.

Was this a blog?  Was this a yahoo group?  Nope, this was a decision on the Vaccine Court’s website.  [...]

Autism Parents and Celebrity Endorsements
By Mike Stanton
Posted in on 30 September 2007
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Now that the Jenny McCarthy bandwagon appears to be slowing down it is as well to remember that lots of parents are writing intelligent, heart warming and thought provoking accounts of their experience in raising a child with autism. Lacking McCarthy’s dubious claims to fame and fortune, not many of them get the chance to publish a book or [...]

A bad day for antivaccinationists: Yet another study fails to support an association between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders
By Guest Blogger
Posted in on 30 September 2007
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This blog entry first appeared at Respectful Insolence. It is reproduced here with permission.

A bad day for antivaccinationists: Yet another study fails to support an association between vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders
By Orac.

I’m almost beginning to feel sorry for the mercury militia.

Think about it. They’ve been claiming for the past several years that the mercury in [...]

Parabens
By valueaddedwater
Posted in on 30 September 2007
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Now that word has caused a lot of concern in the media thanks to the publishings of a certain Dr Darbre from Reading University.
There have been a lot of column inches devoted to this, and the C&T industry being what it is, there are now products out there that proudly proclaim “Paraben Free”
Now in preparation [...]

Happiness.
By Bullet
Posted in on 29 September 2007
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 We sit on the bench, the noise of the people moving around us making it difficult for me to even attempt rudimentary explanations of where we are. Pictures should have been thought of, of course, yet this event seemed to arrive so quickly. I do not know any of the signs, I cannot think of [...]

Dore pwned in medical journal: expensive and unproven ‘cure’
By jon
Posted in on 29 September 2007
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The Dore programme is an interesting ‘cure’ for all kinds of things: as Dorothy Bishop puts it, “Dore Achievement Centres are springing up world-wide with a mission to cure cerebellar developmental delay, thought to be the cause of dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia and Asperger’s syndrome. Remarkable success is claimed for an exercise-based treatment that [...]

UK Charitable Giving and Spending
By Kev
Posted in on 29 September 2007
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Research Autism – a UK website that takes an evidence based view of autism research – discusses a report recently released by New Philanthropy Capital. The report, entitled A Life Less Ordinary, is one of the most thorough and thoughtful pieces of Philanthropy I have read on the subject of autism.

The take home statistic is [...]

More Evidence for the Safety of Vaccines
By Guest Blogger
Posted in on 29 September 2007
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This article was originally published at the NeuroLogica Blog and is re-published here with permission.

By Steven Novella, MD
NeuroLogica Blog

A new study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Early Thimerosal Exposure and Neuropsychological Outcomes at 7 to 10 Years, does not support a correlation between mercury in vaccines and neurological damage. It adds [...]

Blog explosion and very quick html geekery
By coracle
Posted in on 29 September 2007
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Earlier I mentioned about a bunch of badscience forum-ites putting together their own blogs, now Ben has put together a site, with a little help, aggregating feeds from a whole bunch of forum-ites. This is great and should be a really good source for debunking bad science stories in the media. The list of aggregated blogs is below: A big side order of Why…A canna’ change the laws of physicsAction

An Incentive to Cheat
By kelvinthroop
Posted in on 29 September 2007
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Most people have heard of “The Law of Unintended Consequences”, the notion that the consequences of your actions may be far different to those you intended. It is possible that one Government policy is encouraging teachers to give unethical levels of assistance to their students.
Most have also heard of school league tables, which rank schools [...]

Medicalisation - don’t take it lying down.
By Ben Goldacre
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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Ben Goldacre
The Guardian
Saturday September 29 2007
One thing that always fascinates me, as I tug on my pipe in this armchair, is how reductionist, how mechanical, how sciencey and medical we like our stories about the body to be. This week a major new study was published on acupuncture. Many newspapers said it showed acupuncture performing [...]

Homeopathy: Liberal and Extreme
By The Broken Hut
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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On Professor David Colquhuon’s blog, there was a discussion
about the closing of the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathy Hospital (I use
that last word advisedly). This
comment
from
Le Canard Noir
struck some bells:

The real menace comes not from medical homeopaths, but from lay
homeopaths, represented by the Society of Homeopaths, who are often
dangerously deluded and a threat to peoples’ well being.

This seems remarkably like the view that moderate religious
believers act as enablers for the extremists. They dare not
criticise the extremists, no matter how distasteful they find their
actions, because any criticism they use will necessarily be just as
effective against them.

It’s the fact that these moderates still believe in physics
and germ theory—rather than the ability of homeopathy to cure
malaria, for example—which dampens their zealotry. The
“lay” homeopaths who come into it without much in the
way of scientific training are just believers, through and through.
They have all the assurance of the creationists who blithely state
that evolution breaks the second law of thermodynamics.

And the matter then becomes, as it is with religion—is a
comforting belief useful to have around, or is it just too
dangerous for a society to harbour any
“official untruths”?

Mobile phones damage hearing - according to dodgy research
By nicholasmarsh
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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Fusion is a dish best served cold
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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A comment to Conspicuous by its absence: any science brought to my attention something quite interesting about Emilio Del Giudice and Giuliano Preparata. They were two of the three authors of the “Water as a Free Electric Dipole Laser paper1 which often gets cited as “del Guidice et. al.” (sic.) by quantum homeopaths looking for scientific evidence for the memory of water.2

Now I was assuming that this was a decent if unimportant paper which just showed how water molecules line up in electric fields - Physics Review Letters is one of the highest impact factor physics journals and they have high standards - which has been misunderstood and misappropriated.

But maybe I’m the one who misunderstood, because it turns out that following this publication Del Giudice and Preparata seem to have gone to work with Fleischmann and Pons on Cold Fusion. They turned up in October 1991 (unnamed) in a review in La Repubblica of a book by Axel Kahn called False Prophets, objecting (for some reason) to being described as “fornicating priests”. They sued3, lost,4, complained5 about Ref. 4 and got smacked down.6

So thanks to apgaylard.wordpress.com for ruining the one citation I thought was respectable in Milgrom’s papers.

  1. Emilio Del Giudice, Giuliano Preparata, and Giuseppe Vitiello. Phys. Rev. Lett. 61 (9) 1085-1088 (1988)
  2. L. R. Milgrom. Homeopathy 96 (3) 209-219 (2007)
  3. Alison Abbott. Nature 363 (6425) 107 (1993)
  4. Alison Abbott. Nature 380 (6573) 369 (1996)
  5. Emilio Del Giudice and Giuliano Preparata. Nature 381 (6585) 729 (1996)
  6. Douglas R. O. Morrison. Nature 382 (6592) 572 (1996)
One from the vaults - Peter Fisher’s first homeopathy publication reported a negative result
By gimpy
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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Searching PubMed using the terms “”Fisher P”[Author] AND homeopathy” I think I found Peter Fisher’s very first publication on a homeopathic remedy. Peter Fisher and others investigated the “effect of homoeopathically diluted lead on urinary lead excretion in the rat, controlled against distilled water and the chelating agent DMPS.”. Sadly I can’t find [...]

Patrick Holford Endorses Allergy/Intolerance Blood Test: House of Lords Wants Responsible Professionals to Cease Endorsement of Such Techniques
By shinga
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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Professor Patrick Holford of Teesside University endorses a blood test that was recently criticised in a House of Lords report that called upon various health professionals to stop endorsing it: so that’s OK then.

A Pyramid of Bad Statistics
By apgaylard
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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A review of Bhat, et al  “Housing in Pyramid Counteracts Neuroendocrine and Oxidative Stress Caused by Chronic Restraint in Rats” [1]

This is probably both the silliest paper I have ever read and the most blatant example of ignoring the simplest of statistical tests.

The basic premise of this paper is that “…The space within the great [...]

Victory for science and rational thought
By teekblog
Posted in syndicated on 28 September 2007
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Hello world!
By mugsandmoney
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Crooked cross as dangerous as ley lines.
By The Broken Hut
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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I really deplore magical thinking:

The U.S. Navy has decided to spend as much as $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that one its building complexes looks like a swastika from the air.

The four L-shaped buildings, constructed in the late 1960s, are part of the amphibious base at Coronado and serve as barracks for Seabees.

From the ground and from inside nearby buildings, the controversial shape cannot be seen. Nor are there any civilian or military landing patterns that provide such a view to airline passengers.

But once people began looking at satellite images from Google Earth, they started commenting about on blogs and websites about how much the buildings resembled the symbol used by the Nazis.

I wonder how many people I would have to kill before my symbol is seen as inherently “evil”. I haven’t decided what my symbol will be yet - I can’t quite decide between the circle or the square.

Conspiracy theories against alternative medicine
By The Broken Hut
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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So Ben Goldacre links to a homeopathist
gloating over the result of David Colquhoun’s legal set-to
with a couple of snake-oil peddlers. (Keep an eye on
Goldacre’s Delicious links at
http://del.icio.us/begoldacre.
There’s some good stuff there.)

The outcome was reasonably good for the forces of reason, but as I
mentioned on the Bad Science blog, there was still a lot of
wishy-washy speak from the official statement. So the woo peddlers
have been capitalising on that, and even casting it as some kind of
victory:

So, we now have agreement that abuse is not debate! What a victory!
Professor Colquhoun has taken legal advice to ensure that his blog
‘adopts the right tone’, because he made
‘defamatory’ remarks about herbalism.

The official statement from David Colquhoun and UCL said, amongst
others,
“UCL will not allow staff to use its website for the making of personal attacks on individuals”.
His enemies have really run with this one.

Amongst other things, they make great play of the
downtrodden and underprivileged
snake oil salesmen, who obviously don’t have the money of the
“big pharma”:

I wonder how much that legal advice from Queens Counsel cost, and I
would make the point that he was lucky to have access to enough
funds to pay for it. I hope people remember that this is the
privilege of the 10% and not for the many?

No mention of the fact that legal advice was only necessary because
of the attempts to censor scientific criticism through legal means.
But that is by the by.

A lot of the rest of the article is full of silliness about mercury
fillings and fluoride in the water. (Gotta keep control of your
precious bodily fluids kids! The commie is sneaky that way! Deny
them your essence!) That is also not relevant here.

What I really wanted to highlight was the overtones of conspiracy.
There’s also a helluva lot of conspiracy. I mean, I’m
talking bagloads here. There are repeated and unexplained
references to an anonymous “they”, who are out to
damage children and extort your very last penny from you.

They
can‘t explain how paracetamol works so they manufacture vast amounts and sell it, why? Because they know it works and it will make then vast amounts of money (what price proof here?). They know mercury is a poison in large amounts so they fill our children’s teeth with it. They know fluoride is dangerous in large amounts, so they manufacture it and use trace amounts to ’benefit’
our health (isn’t that a homeopathic principle?) They have
known for years that salt is dangerous in large amounts, so they
add far too much to our food, such that we have to have a TV
campaign to get them to withdraw it. They also know that sugar is
dangerous in large amounts so they add far too much to our food
such that we have a massive obesity problem. They know that sugar
substitute is dangerous, so they sell it all around the world?

And when the author has finished on “them”, she brings
in the “orthodoxy” and a bit more of the worldwide
conspiracy is put in its place:

So why does orthodoxy apply ‘science’ to their chosen
phenomena and chosen substances and to pharmaceuticals and
vehemently exclude alternative medicine? Do you think it has
something to do with the means of production and the profits they
can potentially make? It is not possible for them to make huge
profits out of alternative medicine, so of course it must be
banned! Is this what they call ‘science’? Is this what
they call ‘Public Health’?

At least “the orthodoxy” is slightly more defined than
“they”, but not by much. Strange, though, this
assertion that
“it is not possible for them to make huge profits out of alternative medicine”.
This is patently false: there are people out there making
fortunes out of sugar pills and plain water sold in
expensive vials—and you can buy them in every branch of Boots
in the country.

The vehemence of the abuse defaming alternative medicine far too
often takes on the hysterical screeching of the
‘I know I am right brigade’ who advocate a one size
fits all ideology, and such beliefs are fueled by
‘poor science’ that uses magicians to defame reputable
scientists who do try and investigate alternative medicine. The
message went out clear as a clarion call all around the World. Do
research into alternative medicine and we will hunt you down and
destroy you!

This is interesting stuff. “Abuse”,
“screeching”, claims that someone wants to
“hunt you down and destroy you”—these are
exactly the claims used to argue against Richard Dawkins,
Sam Harris et al, when talking about religion. This isn’t
argument, this is just stoking paranoia. It’s certainly not
in the best interests of anyone to suggest that the person holding
an opposing viewpoint is also rigging the system too.

When writers make the claim that the “arrogant” Richard
Dawkins wants to “round up all the believers” not only
are they grossly misrepresenting his wishes, but they’re
feeding a feeling in their audience that they are under attack for
who they are. That they, as people, are being subjected to abuse.
Those same emotive words are used here to distract from the fact
that it’s the
complete lack of tangible evidence that is the
point of contention.

… Is it any wonder that the research follows the money? Is
it any wonder that scientific research cannot conduct such studies
without attracting ignorant abuse? Personally, I do not call this
‘science’. I call it a witch hunt.

Next stop in the conspiracy theories—follow the money! In one
sense, the author is right. It would be foolish for us to ever
trust anything a pharmaceutical company says in promotion of its
own products. But that’s why we demand trails of evidence and
accountability.

What the author implies, however, is that the alternative medicine
industry (or homeopathy in particular) is not big
business. She wants you to believe that it’s all garage
enthusiasts and community-driven amateurs. And maybe there is some
of that. But resting atop the cottage industry of crystal healers
and aura cleansers is a full-blown (and very lucrative) industry of
people making a lot of money from woo. Gillian McKeith (the Fraud
Previously Known as Doctor) gets paid for talking shite.

No-one is in love with the pharmaceutical industry. It needs to buy
its favours with lobbyists. The alternative medicine crowd have
already won the hearts of their followers and don’t need to
concentrate on argument at all. It is in their best interest to
obfuscate the facts at all costs. Each study which shows that
homeopathy is no better than placebo, or that real and sham
acupuncture are equivalent, has to be discredited in some way. If
all these woo therapies were shown to be nonsense to the general
public, poor Patrick Holford, GMTV’s darling nutritionist,
would be much less of a success. The author is right, follow the
money—but follow it in both directions.

Further conspiracies

More recently, the same Professor Colquhuon was involved in a
Channel 4 slot about
alternative medicines being dropped from the NHS to save money.

And yet again, the conspiracy theories were called upon to
cultivate that sense of attack from outside that helps bind
communities. The homeopaths suggested that:

  • There was some cadre of “retired or senior” doctors
    who were out to get the woo medicine people (for some unspecified
    reason). So that would be a conspiracy, then?
  • These same people were defenders of genetically modified foods.
    This was (a) irrelevant, (b) not necessarily true and (c)
    unsubstantiated anyway. But there’s no better way of making a
    scientist look evil than to suggest they want to feed your children
    “Frankenfoods”.
  • There were undisclosed conflicts of interest on the side of the
    scientists. Which is to say, we’re to believe they were in
    the pay of Big Pharma and were not to be trusted. These claims were
    not substantiated either.

At no point in the proceedings did anyone on the homeopathy side
cite evidence that what they were promoting actually worked. But
they cast a lot of aspersions—which are like spells, only
harder to get rid of once you’ve been caught in one.

… on the evidence of clinical effectiveness
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 28 September 2007
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So it’s been recommended that the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital have its NHS funding withdrawn, to much rejoicing, even if there are those who say that “giving a harmless placebo to people who cannot be helped by medical drugs - but who demand the ritual of treatment” serves a useful purpose.

That’s a good point, but the problem I see with letting patients with minor self-limiting (or non-existent) conditions go to CAM practitioners is that it leads to increased ignorance of the benefits and limits of proper medicine, and hence more people going to doctors for the wrong reasons or with the wrong expectations, more disillusionment with proper medicine, and more support for unproven CAM. I am not a doctor, though, so I defer to the experience of those who are.

And maybe I’m a bit naïve in expecting better general medical understanding amongst people.

Ear candling - the BBC’s dustier corners
By Ray
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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I mentioned in the previous post that the BBC’s Complementary Medicine health section had been revised. I still think it’s inferior to Channel 4’s (which for every therapy has a prominent “what’s the evidence?” paragraph that isn’t afraid to say when t…

Skeptic’s Circle, and a doctor’s spleen
By jonhw
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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I don’t know, you can’t put together a decent conspiracy nowadays without some daft blogger publishing all the details on his public site.  All these years of working with Big Pharma, the Illuminati, and the alien lizards - planning for ultra-secret Skeptic’s Circle action - and now the Conspiracy Factor blog has put all the [...]

One Down, Four To Go…
By andrew
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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The NHS in Kent have stopped funding the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital, which leaves four NHS-funded homeopathic hospitals. This is, of course, a good thing: homeopathy is (and let’s be fair to it) total bollocks, and while there’s nothing particularly wrong with homeopathic hospitals existing*, giving them public funding is quite indefensible. Apparently, the decision [...]

Jenny McCarthy circumcision and autism
By Mike Stanton
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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Thank you Jenny McCarthy. Since I wrote about you my readership has doubled. That is still not enough to offset the harm that will ensue if even a tiny fraction of your TV audience swallow your message that the MMR vaccine caused your son’s autism. But here is a chance for you to make amends. Have you heard of the [...]

Media and bad science #1 - correction
By Ray
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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As a major news medium, the BBC has a vast influence on the dissemination and perceived validation of information. Like most media outlets, it makes mistakes. How good is it at correcting them?      I’ve had mixed experien…

Name this molecule
By gimpy
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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 This is a highly dangerous neurotoxin that when ingested has the following effect:
“The facial and throat muscles are the first skeletal muscles that become weak and progressively paralyzed, causing diplopia, ptosis, dysphagia and facial paralysis. The paralysis progressively descends to affect muscles of the trunk, including the respiratory and visceral muscles (if death occurs, it is [...]

Homeopathic Motions
By apgaylard
Posted in on 27 September 2007
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There is an early day motion (EDM) before the House of Commons, protesting risks to funding of NHS homeopathic hospitals.  As of 27th September 2007 it had collected 197 signatures from Members of Parliament.

It contains a number of impressive assertions.  Are they relevant?  Are they backed up by good evidence?  Let’s examine them one at [...]