All excerpted posts are © the original author. Please consult their blog for the full story and to comment.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

The only controversy here is why this is “controversial”

In life, there are things that are true and there are things that are not true. In between those things are things that could be true and things that could not be true. To figure out where things gall on that spectrum, we have science.

Science is not an abstract concept that is hard to understand. When you look at how science works, it’s a pretty simple thing. You probably do quite a bit of science every day and don’t even know it. Science begins with a question, then a period of gathering of evidence, then the formulation of a theory on what the answer might be, a series of experiments to confirm that theory, and then a period of analysis to confirm those findings. Very rarely will we scientists accept something as true based on one study or one set of data...

Read more at: The only controversy here is why this is “controversial” by Reuben

Nonsense Not Science – H:MC21

The sheer arrogance of our species in naming itself Homo sapiens (and sometimes the even more ludicrous Homo sapiens sapiens) never fails to annoy me. For a start, we’re not that wise as a species. If we were, we wouldn’t be killing each other in the name of invisible sky fairies that usually turn out to have the same historical folk origins as the other side’s. Reality-based bloggers, broadcasters, scientists, medics, pharmacists etc wouldn’t spend so much time having to explain to hairless, faeces-throwing chimps in the media and on Internet that yes, global warming is real and already under way, or that you cannot have continual economic expansion within a limited market. Nor would we have to continually expose and debunk the deep-rooted fuckwittery that is homeopathy.

Some people have likened fanatical religious belief – which is more widespread than you’d think, since many supposedly developed countries allow parents … Continue reading

The post Nonsense Not Science – H:MC21 by first appeared on Plague of Mice .

Friday, 29 August 2014

Working in the quote mine

If you’ve ever watched a politician speak, you might have noticed that they tend to be very, very careful with what they say. Most of them, anyway. They’re very careful with what they say because their opponents are quick to jump on the first little thing that doesn’t quite make sense. Remember John Kerry, our current Secretary of State and former Democratic candidate for President? He said that he voted for something before he voted against it. In the abstract, that sounds like a ludicrous statement. He sounded like a “flip-flopper” and the Republicans let him have it. When you look at what he did, you see that it was a procedural move to kill a bill. He voted for the bill in committee to then vote against it in the full Senate and kill it...

Read more at: Working in the quote mine by Reuben

Chinese medicine should not be available on the NHS | New Humanist

Thousands of studies have shown acupuncture to be little more than a placebo, and herbal remedies have been barely tested. There is no case for public funding, argues David Colquhoun

In April this year, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested that Traditional Chinese Medicine could be made available through the NHS, provided there was "good evidence" that it works.

At one level, the answer to this is simple. When TCM has been tested, it doesn’t work. There’s nothing unusual about that. Almost all of Western medicine from 100 years ago was equally ineffective.

TCM isn’t really traditional. In 1822 Emperor Dao Guang banned acupuncture and moxibustion from the Imperial Medical Academy. As practised now in the West, it’s essentially a product of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1966 (Atwood, 2009), though Chairman Mao didn’t use it himself. It started as a device to encourage Chinese nationalism, and now it is a mixture of nationalism and big business...

Read the full post here: Chinese medicine should not be available on the NHS | New Humanist

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Autism is not death, unless you want it to be

The latest scandal to rock the anti-vaccine crowd has done nothing to sway the opinions of the True Believers® about vaccines and autism. If anything, they think that they have a smoking gun and all the evidence in the world to point their fingers at vaccines as the causative agent of autism. At best (for […]

Read more at: Autism is not death, unless you want it to be by Reuben

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Even the bottom-feeding journals seem to have some sense

Thanks to a reader by the moniker of “Lawrence,” I’ve come to find out that “Translational Neurodegeneration” has taken down the article by BS Hooker on MMR and autism. Now, we have this:

The page where the article used to be now links to a PDF version of it with this message: “This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.”

I call this journal a “bottom feeder” because...

Read more at: Even the bottom-feeding journals seem to have some sense by Reuben

Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science. | Edzard Ernst

In 2004, I published an article rather boldly entitled ‘Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science’. Here is its summary: Ear candles are hollow tubes coated in wax which are inserted into patients’ ears and then lit at the far end. The procedure is used as a complementary therapy for a wide range of […]

Read on: Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science.

How to end a scientist’s career with some fancy editing

I’ve been taking extra strength exedrin today, all day. I have this nagging headache. See, I get these headaches when I hear people lying. It’s like a superpower, except that it hurts worse as I hear more stupidity. The “Thinking Moms” decided that they were going to have a “Twitter Party.” Well, they don’t know how twitter works. They thought that creating an echo chamber of anti-vaccine people repeating the same hashtag (#CDCwhistleblower) would make said hashtag trend and attract regular Twitter users to their message of anti-vaccine madness. That’s not how it works. For something to trend and be featured on Twitter, you need to have a lot of individual people using that hashtag in their conversation. A dozen people writing it a thousand times has an impact factor of 12, whereas twelve-thousand people tweeting it just once has an impact factor of 12,000...

Read more at: How to end a scientist’s career with some fancy editing by Reuben

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

More evidence regarding the anti-science stance within alternative medicine | Edzard Ernst

General practitioners (GPs) play an important role in advising patients on all sorts of matters related to their health, and this includes, of course, the possible risks of electromagnetic fields (EMF). Their views on EMF are thus relevant and potentially influential.

A team of German and Danish researchers therefore conducted a survey comparing GPs using conventional medicine (COM) with GPs using complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) concerning their perception of EMF risks. A total of 2795 GPs drawn randomly from lists of German GPs were sent an either long or short self-administered postal questionnaire on EMF-related topics. Adjusted logistic regression models were fitted to assess the association of an education in alternative medicine with various aspects of perceiving EMF risks.

Concern about EMF, misconceptions about EMF, and distrust toward scientific organizations are more prevalent in CAM-GPs. CAM-GPs more often falsely believed that mobile phone use can lead to head warming of more than 1°C, more often distrusted the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, were more often concerned about mobile phone base stations, more often attributed own health complaints to EMF, and more often reported at least 1 EMF consultation. GPs using homeopathy perceived EMF as more risky than GPs using acupuncture or naturopathic treatment.

Read on: More evidence regarding the anti-science stance within alternative medicine

Stuff that occurs to me: What is a misleading homeopathy claim, and how to report it to the ASA

This post is written for people who might not have made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority before.

If you're irritated by homeopaths making misleading claims on Twitter, Facebook or on their websites (or in-shop leaflets or any other marketing) you can complain about those claims to the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA).

1. Make a complaint in the UK
This is the page on the ASA's website where you can make a complaint (you give your name and address but it isn't published):

2. Make a complaint in other countries too
The ASA deals with claims made on UK websites or leaflets but, thanks to its cross-border agreements, it will liaise with the relevant advertising standards authority in the following countries too -

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and of course the United Kingdom.

And that's it.

There's some extra background information at: Stuff that occurs to me: What is a misleading homeopathy claim, and how to report it to the ASA

UCL’s senior common room and the Boston marathon: emancipation in the 1960s, and now

I have always been insanely proud to work at UCL. My first job was as an assistant lecturer. The famous pharmacologist, Heinz Otto Schild gave me that job in 1964, and apart from nine years, I have been there ever since. That’s 50 years. I love its godless tradition. I love its multi-faculty nature. And I love its relatively democratic ways (with rare exceptions).
From the start, the intellectual heart of UCL has been the staff Common Room. As I so often say, failing to waste time drinking coffee with people who are cleverer than yourself can seriously damage your career (and your happiness). And there’s no better place for that than the Housman room.
It is there that I met the great statistician Alan Hawkes, without whom much of my research would never have happened. It was there that Hyman Kestelman (among others) gave me informal tutorials on matrix algebra over lunch. It was there where I have met John Sutherland (English), Mary Fulbrook (German), many historians and people from the Slade school of Art. And it was there where, yesterday, I had an illuminating conversation with Steve Jones about the problems of twin studies for measuring heritability...

Read on:  UCL’s senior common room and the Boston marathon: emancipation in the 1960s, and now

Monday, 25 August 2014

How dull my days would be without the joy of the ‘fan-post’ by devoted chiropractors | Edzard Ernst

DOCTOR Jeffrey Collins, a chiropractor from the Chicago area, just sent me an email which, I think, is remarkable and hilarious - so much so that I want to share it with my readers. Here it is in its full length and beauty:
If you really think you can resolve all back pain syndromes with a pill then you are dumber than you look. I’ve been a chiropractor for 37 years and the primary difference between seeing me vs. an orthopedic surgeon for back pain is simple. When you have ANY fixation in the facet joint, the motor untitled is compromised. These are the load bearing joints in the spine and only an idiot would not realize they are the primary source of pain. The idea of giving facet blocks under fluoroscopy is so dark ages. Maybe you could return to blood letting. The fact that you attack chiropractors as being dangerous when EVERY DAY medical doctors kill people but that’s OK in the name of science. Remember Vioxx? Oh yeah that drug killed over 80,000 patients that they could find. It was likely double that. Oddly I have treated over 10,000 in my career and nobody died. Not one. I guess I was just lucky. I went to Palmer in Iowa. The best chiropractors come out of there. I should qualify that. The ones that have a skill adjusting the spine...

Read the rest of this gem here: How dull my days would be without the joy of the ‘fan-post’ by devoted chiropractors

Sunday, 24 August 2014

My summary of 20 years of alternative medicine research | Edzard Ernst

Twenty years ago, when I started my Exeter job as a full-time researcher of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), I defined the aim of my unit as applying science to CAM. At the time, this intention upset quite a few CAM-enthusiasts. One of the most prevalent arguments of CAM-proponents against my plan was that the study of CAM with rigorous science was quite simply an impossibility. They claimed that CAM included mind and body practices, holistic therapies, and other complex interventions which cannot not be put into the ‘straight jacket’ of conventional research, e. g. a controlled clinical trial. I spent the next few years showing that this notion was wrong. Gradually and hesitantly CAM researchers seemed to agree with my view – not all, of course, but first a few and then slowly, often reluctantly the majority of them...

Read the rest here: My summary of 20 years of alternative medicine research

Robin Williams - Connecting In The Field? - WWDDTYDTY

It’s hard to know where to begin with this one, other than with the timeless advice that when the answer to the rhetorical question you pose in your headline is “no”, don’t write the article.

The Blessed McTaggart loves to present herself as a groundbreaking scientist and some kind of medical savant. Her book The Field is categorised in the quantum physics section of the catalogues (presumably Deepak Chopra’s books get the same; they are identically ignorant about the concept).

So you’d have thought that by now McTaggart would have mastered one of the simplest and most fundamental elements of science: coincidence...

Read on: Robin Williams - Connecting In The Field? - WWDDTYDTY

A vindication of Linus Pauling’s bizarre theory that vitamin C prevents cancer? | Edzard Ernst

Linus Carl Pauling (1901 – 1994), the American scientist, peace activist, author, and educator who won two Nobel prizes, was one of the most influential chemists in history and ranks among the most important scientists of the 20th century. Linus Pauling’s work on vitamin C, however, generated considerable controversy. Pauling wrote many papers and a popular book, Cancer and Vitamin C. Vitamin C, we know today, protects cells from oxidative DNA damage and might thereby block carcinogenesis. Pauling popularised the regular intake of vitamin C; eventually he published two studies of end-stage cancer patients; their results apparently showed that vitamin C quadrupled survival times. A re-evaluation, however, found that the vitamin C groups were less sick on entry to the study. Later clinical trials concluded that there was no benefit to high-dose vitamin C. Since then, the established opinion is that the best evidence does not support a role for high dose vitamin C in the treatment of cancer. Despite all this, high dose IV vitamin C is in unexpectedly wide use by CAM practitioners.

Yesterday, new evidence has been published in the highly respected journal ‘Nature’; does it vindicate Pauling and his followers?

Read on: A vindication of Linus Pauling’s bizarre theory that vitamin C prevents cancer?

Friday, 22 August 2014

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield plays video director while African-American Babies die, or something

Let’s say that I have a secret. Well, not that I have the secret but more like I discovered a secret. Let’s say that it is a secret so heinous that telling it to the world may change the world or, at the very least, save a lot of lives. And let’s say that I’ve vetted the information contained in that secret and I have found it to be true. Do I…

Read more at: Andrew Jeremy Wakefield plays video director while African-American Babies die, or something by Reuben

Then we’ll just have to fight, won’t we?

There’s a scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” where Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, tells Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, that “there’s a storm coming.” The scene starts off innocently enough with the aged Bruce Wayne showing up at a high-society party. There, he ends up seeing Ms. Kyle and asking her to dance. He deduces that […]

Read more at Then we’ll just have to fight, won’t we? by Reuben

Another dodgy study of homeopathy | Edzard Ernst

Dodgy science abounds in alternative medicine; this is perhaps particularly true for homeopathy. A brand-new trial seems to confirm this view. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that homeopathy (H) enhances the effects of scaling and root planing (SRP) in patients with chronic periodontitis (CP). The researchers randomised 50 patients with […]

Read on: Another dodgy study of homeopathy

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Perils of Complementary Alternative Medicine | Edzard Ernst

An article with this title was published recently by a team from Israel; essentially, it reports two interesting case histories:

Case I

A 59-year-old male underwent a course of acupuncture for chronic low back pain, by a acupuncturist. During the therapy, the patient noted swelling at the point of puncture, but his therapist dismissed the claim. The region continued to swell, and three days later his family doctor diagnosed cellulitis and prescribed oral amoxicillin with clavulanic acid. The following day the patient’s condition worsened—he started to suffer from chills and more intense pain, so he went to the emergency room. At that stage, the patient had a fever of 37.9°C, a pulse of 119, and a blood pressure of 199/87. Edema was noted over the patient’s entire right flank (Figure 1A). Laboratory results were notable for a level of glucose of 298 mg/dL, sodium of 128 mmol/L, and white blood count (WBC) of 26,500 cells/μL with left shift. An emergency CT revealed an abscess of the abdominal wall involving the muscles, but no intra-abdominal pathology (Figure 1B)...

Read the rest here: The Perils of Complementary Alternative Medicine

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

“The evidence does not support treating migraine or osteoarthritis with homeopathy” | Edzard Ernst

“If ever there was a permanent cure for migraine, homeopathic medicines are the only one that can do this miracle. It may sound like an overstatement and quite quackerish, but it’s true. Long term treatment with homeopathy has an excellent cure for migraine headaches.”
Statements like this can be found by the thousands on the internet, not just in relation to migraine but also about osteoarthritis. Both migraine and osteoarthritis are important domains for homeopathy, and most homeopaths would not doubt for a second that they can treat these conditions effectively. This is why it is so important to highlight the few sources which are not misleading consumers into making the wrong therapeutic decisions. […]

Read on: “The evidence does not support treating migraine or osteoarthritis with homeopathy”

Ideas are like a virus

Ideas are like a virus. They seem to come out of nowhere and spread like wildfire before something bring them under control, especially the bad ones. Take, for example, the idea that vaccines cause autism. We had heard before that vaccines could cause this or that, but it wasn’t until something sent the idea over the critical threshold and into the minds of anyone willing to accept the idea. Was it Andrew Jeremy Wakefield’s sham paper-not-a-study in 98? Was it Jenny McCarthy’s entrance into the vaccines-cause-autism debate? Who knows for sure, but I do know that the idea that vaccines caused autism acted very much like a virus and only a deep understanding of biology and virology/immunology (or just blind trust in the medical establishment) were necessary to counteract the effects. […]

Read more at: Ideas are like a virus by Reuben

Monday, 18 August 2014

Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism

This post deals with the most contentious and serious aspect of Steiner schools, racism. It makes, in my view, a convincing argument that Steiner’s undoubtedly racist views remain a problem today. They can’t be dismissed simply by saying that Steiner was a child of his times.

This post was written by an ex-Steiner school parent, known on the web as @ThetisMercurio.

The essay supplies yet more reasons to think that Steiner schools are all based on pseudo science: Steiner’s Spiritual Science. It is important that we understand these schools because funding of these schools is imminent, through Michael Gove’s Free Schools policy.

Extracts from works by Olav Hammer and Peter Staudenmaier are included with the permission of the authors.

Read on: Steiner Waldorf Schools Part 3. The problem of racism

The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2

This essay is largely devoted to the methods used by the Steiner movement in the hope of getting state funding. That involves concealing from ministers and inspectors some of the less desirable aspects of the cult. That is sadly easy to do, because ministers and inspectors usually use a tick box approach that can easily be corrupted (just have a look, for example, at what goes on at the University of Wales). It is a classical case of bait and switch, a method that was used by chiropractors and acupuncturists to pervert the normally high standards of NICE. The technique is standard in alternative medicine, as described by the excellent Yale neurologist Steven Novella, in The Bait and Switch of Unscientific Medicine..
Steiner 1905
Steiner’s bible of the cult, 1905
The involvement of a few universities with Steiner training is every bit as disgraceful as their involvement with quack medicine, In fact Anthroposophical medicine is among the barmier forms of quackery.

Read on: The Steiner Waldorf cult uses bait and switch to get state funding. Part 2

The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1

I have to admit that until a few years ago I had thought of Steiner schools as being rather cuddly experiments in progressive education. Perhaps a bit like Montessori schools or A.S. Neill’s Summerhill School.

But then I discovered that they advocate "biodynamic farming". That includes utterly barmy doctrines about how the phase of the moon affects crops and such like astrological baloney (as well as some possibly sensible stuff about compost). Then I had a series of mails from a correspondent that made me realise that Steiner schools have some much more unpleasant ideas than a bit of astrological baloney, including the dangerous ideas about anthroposophical medicine.faceless dolls

Read on, it gets worse: The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Acupuncture and most other alternative therapies for MS are not evidence-based | Edzard Ernst

For every condition which is not curable by conventional medicine there are dozens of alternative treatments that offer a cure or at least symptomatic relief. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is such a disease. It is hard to find an alternative therapy that is not being promoted for MS.

Acupuncture is, of course, no exception. It is widely promoted for treating MS symptoms and many MS patients spend lots of money hoping that it does. The US ‘National MS Society’, for instance claim that:
acupuncture may provide relief for some MS-related symptoms, including pain, spasticity, numbness and tingling, bladder problems, and depression. There is no evidence, however, that acupuncture can reduce the frequency of MS exacerbations or slow the progression of disability.
And the ‘British Acupuncture Council’ state that:
acupuncture may provide relief for some MS-related symptoms, including pain, spasticity, numbness and tingling, bladder problems, and depression.
Read the rest at: Acupuncture and most other alternative therapies for MS are not evidence-based

Naming and shaming for ALS awareness

Anyone who knows me well (or reads this blog on occasion) will know I have little tolerance for quacks who claim to have cures or magic potions for incurable diseases.

What’s the harm I hear you say? Well, in the least, ripping people off when they’re most vulnerable costs them money and is just plain asshatty.

At the worst, people can die, either as a result of the “treatment” or more commonly because they cease their evidence based therapies for the quackery.

A particular bug bear of mine is people who claim to have “cures” for Motor Neurone Disease (MND, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I work in ALS research, so I know some stuff about the disease and the (lack of effective) treatments. And I also know it’s a bastard of a disease. People lose the ability to walk, to speak, to swallow, to breathe, but all the while their brain functions normally. So effectively, you’re watching yourself die. Devastating.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to name and shame a chiropractor who FBorked† this post about the current viral ALS Awareness Campaign, #ALSicebucketchallenge...

Read the rest of Naming and shaming for ALS awareness at The Sceptics' Book of Pooh-Pooh

Proof of homeopathy’s effectiveness? | Edzard Ernst

Readers of this blog will know that few alternative treatments are more controversial and less plausible than homeopathy. Therefore they might be interested to read about the latest attempt of homeopathy-enthusiasts to convince the public that, despite all the clinical evidence to the contrary, homeopathy does work.

The new article was published in German by Swiss urologist and is a case-report describing a patient suffering from paralytic ileus. This condition is a typical complication of ileocystoplasty of the bladder, the operation the patient had undergone. The patient had also been suffering from a spinal cord injury which, due to a pre-existing neurogenic bowel dysfunction, increases the risk of paralytic ileus.

The paraplegic patient developed a massive paralytic ileus after ileocystoplasty and surgical revision. Conventional stimulation of bowel function was unsuccessful. But after adjunctive homeopathic treatment normalization of bowel function was achieved...

Read the rest here: Proof of homeopathy’s effectiveness?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

WDDTY, Kingsley and cancer – A vital report that’s a gift for you

This has just landed in my email inbox: I removed the link for the download, since it’s only valid for 72 hours. Yes, I downloaded the pdf. Yes, it will be passed around for gleeful evisceration. The rest of the email was yet another attempt to attract subscribers, so I left it out as well; [...]

The post WDDTY, Kingsley and cancer – A vital report that’s a gift for you by appeared first on WWDDTYDTY.

Friday, 15 August 2014

How safe are herbal medicines? | Edzard Ernst

If you believe herbalists, the Daily Mail or similarly reliable sources, you come to the conclusion that herbal medicines are entirely safe – after all they are natural, and everything that is natural must be safe. However, there is plenty of evidence that these assumptions are not necessarily correct. In fact, herbal medicines can cause […]

Read on: How safe are herbal medicines?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Some more pharmacological history: the legend of the Brocken and the statistics of purity in heart

This post follows directly from "Some pharmacological history: an exam from 1959". In that post, I related how two of my teachers in Leeds, James Dare and George Mogey, had encouraged my interest in statistcs. George Mogey had worked previously at the famous Wellcome Research Labs in Beckenham, Kent. He had been there at the same time as J.W. Trevan, who pioneered accurate methods of biological assay.

Another person who overlapped with Mogey and Trevan at Beckenham was C.L. Oakley. I’m told by Audrey Mogey, George’s widow, that they were good friends of the Oakleys and that probably explains why George Mogey introduced me to Cyril Oakley, who had the chair of bacteriology at Leeds while I was an undergraduate there. Oakley’s Biographical Memoir makes no mention of statistics. The only person I’ve located who knew him is Keith Holland (professor of microbiology at Leeds). He told me...

Read the rest at: Some more pharmacological history: the legend of the Brocken and the statistics of purity in heart - DC's Improbable Science

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Humpty Dumpty of blackmail | The Poxes Blog

I’m still on vacation in an undisclosed part of the world that is south of Florida and west of Havana. If you can’t figure it out, it’s too bad. All the clues are there, and you shouldn’t really care where I am. Likewise, you shouldn’t really care who I am. Rational people need only be worried about the accuracy of my writing, the science behind my observations, and the veracity of the accounts that I put forth. All others should get a hobby rather than trying to figure out my real identity.

Yes, they’re at it again. I received an email via Facebook from a person who will be anonymous for the time being. She said she knew I’d publish her email, but I think she did it more out of wanting attention and getting some sort of credit for her efforts. I write that she is a “she” because the name she used on Facebook is 99.9% of the time used by women.

I’m not going to post her message to me. That is exactly what she wants. Instead, I’ll tell you the gist of it. She claims to have figured out who I am in reality and is threatening to go to anti-vaccine people at different anti-vaccine blogs with that information. She gave me until midnight tonight to reveal my identity or “face the consequences.” She said I was an “existential threat” to her non-vaccinating self and her children. So I guess I’m worse than whooping cough. She closed her email by claiming that she would not rest until I was “brought to justice” for my “crimes” against vaccine refusers...

Will Reuben be unmasked at last? Read the rest here: The Humpty Dumpty of blackmail | The Poxes Blog

Why many results of alternative medicine research are wrong | Edzard Ernst

Blinding patients in clinical trials is a key methodological procedure for minimizing bias and thus making sure that the results are reliable. In alternative medicine, blinding is not always straight forward, and many studies are therefore not patient-blinded. We all know that this can introduce bias into a trial, but how large is its effect on study outcomes?

This was the research question addressed by a recent systematic review of randomized clinical trials with one sub-study (i.e. experimental vs control) involving blinded patients and another, otherwise identical, sub-study involving non-blinded patients. Within each trial, the researchers compared the difference in effect sizes (i.e. standardized mean differences) between the two sub-studies. A difference <0 indicates that non-blinded patients generated a more optimistic effect estimate. The researchers then pooled the differences with random-effects inverse variance meta-analysis, and explored reasons for heterogeneity...

Read more: Why many results of alternative medicine research are wrong

What are the adverse effects of yoga? | Edzard Ernst

My sister-in-law is a long time yoga practitioner. She was recently diagnosed with severe glaucoma. She had the notion that headstands would help her glaucoma (probably with the idea of bringing more blood flow to the eyes), but I found several PubMed abstracts about inverted poses being hazardous for glaucoma sufferers as they dramatically increase intro-ocular pressure...

Read on: What are the adverse effects of yoga?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Homeopaths certainly help to make the world a more scary place | Edzard Ernst

This is not a hoax! Homeopaths have jumped on the Ebola-bandwagon and are recommending we treat this infection with homeopathy. You don’t believe it? Read for yourself; the following text is taken from a pro-homeopathy website:
Your best bet is to find a homeopath to treat yourself or your patient. With Ebola this might not be so feasible, and if you find there is no other assistance available, continue as described below.

Add a pill or two of the homeopathic remedy found to have the most similar symptoms to a plastic cup filled with water (tap or mineral water). Starting with Crotalus Horridus 30C is probably the best idea. Stir the cup with a plastic spoon until the pills dissolve. With the spoon, place some drops of the remedy on the patient’s tongue....

Read on and weep: Homeopaths certainly help to make the world a more scary place

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Acupuncture research: I am afraid, much of it is unethical abuse | Edzard Ernst

There must be well over 10 000 clinical trials of acupuncture; Medline lists ~5 000, and many more are hidden in the non-Medline listed literature. That should be good news! Sadly, it isn’t.

It should mean that we now have a pretty good idea for what conditions acupuncture is effective and for which illnesses it does not work. But we don’t! Sceptics say it works for nothing, while acupuncturists claim it is a panacea. The main reason for this continued controversy is that the quality of the vast majority of these 10 000 studies is not just poor, it is lousy.

“Where is the evidence for this outrageous statement???” – I hear the acupuncture-enthusiasts shout. Well, how about my own experience as editor-in-chief of FACT? No? Far too anecdotal?

How about looking at Cochrane reviews then; they are considered to be the most independent and reliable evidence in existence? There are many such reviews (most, if not all [co-]authored by acupuncturists) and they all agree that the scientific rigor of the primary studies is fairly awful. Here are the crucial bits of just the last three; feel free to look for more...

Read on:  Acupuncture research: I am afraid, much of it is unethical abuse | Edzard Ernst

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Student Film Suppressed By Anti-Vaxxers Has Finally Been Released

Two years ago, students at Carlsbad High School began filming a documentary, The Invisible Threat—a report on the "science of disease and the risks facing a society that is under-vaccinated." But it is only now that the public is able to see the film, which became the target of a national anti-vaxxer campaign.

The 40-minute documentary is an extracurricular project produced by CHSTVfilms, the California high school's award-winning journalism and film program, which has also produced documentaries on food insecurity in affluent areas of San Diego County and the experiences of American teenagers first learning about the Holocaust.

But when a local newspaper reported that 16 students had begun tackling the issue of immunization, the documentary became a lightning rod for anti-vaxxer outrage even before it was finished...

Read the full article on io9: A Student Film Suppressed By Anti-Vaxxers Has Finally Been Released

You can also visit the CHS TV website and donate to the project on their website.

Cervical Arterial Dissections and Association With Cervical Manipulative Therapy | Edzard Ernst

The above title was used for a Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

I have taken the liberty to quote its abstract in full:

Purpose—Cervical artery dissections (CDs) are among the most common causes of stroke in young and middle-aged adults. The aim of this scientific statement is to review the current state of evidence on the diagnosis and management of CDs and their statistical association with cervical manipulative therapy (CMT). In some forms of CMT, a high or low amplitude thrust is applied to the cervical spine by a healthcare professional.

Methods—Members of the writing group were appointed by the American Heart Association Stroke Council’s Scientific Statements Oversight Committee and the American Heart Association’s Manuscript Oversight Committee. Members were assigned topics relevant to their areas of expertise and reviewed appropriate literature, references to published clinical and epidemiology studies, morbidity and mortality reports, clinical and public health guidelines, authoritative statements, personal files, and expert opinion to summarize existing evidence and to indicate gaps in current knowledge.

Read the full post here: Cervical Arterial Dissections and Association With Cervical Manipulative Therapy

Homeopathy vs Science - a Metaphor

Cafe wall optical illusion

Homeopaths: The horizontal lines in the image above are not straight. Furthermore, the way they bend changes as you look around the image.

Science: The lines bend depending on where you look? But the image is on a normal computer monitor, it can't know where you're looking. It isn't scientifically plausible, we'd have to throw away our current understanding of physics.

Homeopaths: We don't know how it works, we just know it does. We have testimony from millions saying those horizontal lines bend.

Science: Ok, we've tested your theory. Turns out the lines don't bend at all, it's an optical illusion, the human brain simply thinks the lines are bent.
Here, drag this ruler to the top of the page, you can see the lines are straight.
30cm Ruler  
Homeopaths: Science can't explain everything, what about the human spirit? The soul?

Science: It's nothing to do with that. Do the test with the ruler, it's just an illusion.

User of Homeopathy: Hey, my cat looked at that picture and he pulled a face that said "Man, those lines are bent". How can it be an illusion if it works on animals?

Science: Wait, what? You're casting your own judgement of the situation onto the animal. The animal isn't experiencing the illusion, you're deciding it does. Look at the ruler, it proves the lines are straight!

Homeopaths: Ahh, the lines don't bend when it's tested, it's not something that can be tested. When it's not being tested, it works, fact.

Science: That's not evidence, that's just trying to protect yourself against evidence.

Homeopaths: You're part of a government conspiracy to force us to believe those lines are straight!

Science: What? We could gain just as much by claiming those lines are bent, it doesn't benefit us financially, we just want the truth.

User of Homeopathy: Look now, does it really matter? I agree with homeopathy, some people don't. To me, those lines are bent. Does it really matter if they really aren't? Where's the harm?

Homeopaths: Yes! Pro choice! By the way, if you want to see some really cool lines, you should totally stare at the sun for 20 minutes.

User of Homeopathy: I totally should!

This brilliancy was originally posted at: Homeopathy vs Science - a Metaphor by Jake Archibald

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Natural News warns against homeopathy

I’ve mentioned wootastic webshite Natural News before, if only in passing. It’s run by brain-addled bullshit-huckster Mike “Health Danger” Adams, and promotes just about any half-arsed fringe therapy Adams can find, providing there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support it. If it’s actively dangerous, so much the better, it would seem. The only reason I haven’t blogged it before is, well… Where to start? The site is packed to the gunwales with WTFuckery and blatant profiteering, and these are frequently the same thing.

Anyway, I am much indebted to ever-reliable frothing homeoloon Laurie J Willerg, who recently tweeted this:

The drug in question is Xanax. OK, what’s in Xanax, then? Let’s turn to a drug info site such as Each XANAX Tablet, for oral administration, contains 0.25, 0.5, … Continue reading

The post Natural News warns against homeopathy by first appeared on Plague of Mice .

Home-hypnotherapy for chronic low back pain – at least it is inexpensive and safe | Edzard Ernst

We all know, I think, that chronic low back pain (CLBP) is common and causes significant suffering in individuals as well as cost to society. Many treatments are on offer but, as we have seen repeatedly on this blog, not one is convincingly effective and some, like chiropractic, is associated with considerable risks.

Enthusiasts claim that hypnotherapy works well, but too little is known about the minimum dose needed to produce meaningful benefits, the roles of home practice and hypnotizability on outcome, or the maintenance of treatment benefits beyond 3 months. A new trial was aimed at addressing these issues...

Read the rest here: Home-hypnotherapy for chronic low back pain – at least it is inexpensive and safe

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Vitamin B scam. Don’t trust Boots

(First posted 21 Nov, 2007)

This advertisement has to be one of the sneakiest bits of spin that I’ve seen in a while. It appeared in today’s Guardian. And a lot more people will see it than will look at the homeopathic nonsense on the Boots ‘education’ site.

What on earth does it mean? One interpretation could be this. We can’t make false claims for Vitamin(s) B in print, but your Boots Pharmacy Team will be happy to do so in private. OK gang, let’s find out. Get out there and ask them. I’ll be happy to post the answers you get (one of those little mp3 recorders is useful).
Boots advert Guardian 21 Nov 07
The Boots web site isn’t much better. Their Vitality Overview says...

Read the rest here: The Vitamin B scam. Don’t trust Boots (DC's Improbable Science)

Another ‘natural’ medicine hits the dust | Edzard Ernst

Niacin – also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid -is a natural compound C6H5NO2) and an essential nutrient for humans. It is water-soluble, which means it is not stored in the body. Excess amounts of the vitamin leave the body through the urine. That means we need a continuous supply of niacin in your diet.

Niacin is found in variety of foods, including liver, chicken, beef, fish, cereal, peanuts and legumes. It can also be synthesized from tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in protein. Niacin has long been an accepted treatment for high cholesterol. It is well-documented to increase the levels of high-density cholesterol (HDL or “good cholesterol”) and to decrease the levels of low-density cholesterol (LDL or “bad cholesterol”).

But what do these effects really mean? Do they translate into true health benefits? A brand-new study casts doubt on the value of niacin therapy:

After a pre-randomization run-in phase to standardize the background statin-based LDL cholesterol-lowering therapy and to establish participants’ ability to take extended-release niacin without clinically significant adverse effects, the researchers randomly assigned 25,673 adults with vascular disease to receive 2 g of extended-release niacin and 40 mg of laropiprant or a matching placebo daily. The primary outcome was the first major vascular event (non-fatal myocardial infarction, death from coronary causes, stroke, or arterial revascularization).

Read it all here: Another ‘natural’ medicine hits the dust

The makers of Harmonized Water (a.k.a. drinkable sunscreen) do a “clinical trial.” Hilarity ensues. – Respectful Insolence


About a week ago, my good bud Steve Novella noted a tasty bit of silly pseudoscience finding its way around the usual places, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like. It was one of those times where I smacked myself on the forehead (metaphorically speaking, of course) and asked, “How on earth did I miss this bit of pseudoscience?” It is, after all, more than Your Friday Dose of Woo-worthy, even though I haven’t done a YFDoW segment for over a year. (Remember, I found that my creation had become too constraining; so I retired it. I might bring it back someday, but today is not the day, obviously, because it’s Wednesday, not Friday.) In any case, Steve had fun with something called Harmonized Water by Osmosis Skin Care.

The website claimed these sorts of miraculous properties for its “drinkable sunscreen”...

Read more, but do NOT drink coffee as you do so, here: The makers of Harmonized Water (a.k.a. drinkable sunscreen) do a “clinical trial.” Hilarity ensues. – Respectful Insolence. The sellers of this quackery claim to have done a clinical trial...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Snake oil and Ebola

You know how I can identify a con artist in a crowd? They’re the ones that jump at an opportunity to sell you something you don’t need. They’re the ones selling rain ponchos in Amarillo, Texas, in December. They’re also the ones selling “essential oils” under the guise of said oils being some sort of a protection against Ebola.

By the way, if you want to read up on Ebola from a scientific and medical point of view, here’s a run-down of bloggers with good reputations taking on the myths and misinformation of what is happening in Western Africa. Now, back to the woo…

Read more at: Snake oil and Ebola by Reuben

The allure of Alternative Medicine: The pros and cons | Insufferable Intolerance

Not too long ago I did a post on the tactics alternative medicine uses to not only get more customers through its door and separate people from their money but also ways in which it drives people away from actual medicine which I posted on my facebook page for interested people to read.

I received a message from a reader offering to explain why people (who are often people who have non-curable chronic illnesses) turn to alternative medicine. As someone who has a chronic illness (IBS) I can empathize with people who turn to alternative medicine in desperation to get relief from their illness. I can tell you first hand that chronic illnesses with no cure can really suck. Fortunately for me I can manage mine but I still get the occasional flare up that knocks me on my arse. It feels like my stomach is trying to claw its way out of my body, the cramps make me feel like a wrung out sponge which leaves my curled up on my bed until they pass so I can slowly standup and feel like a human again. When my illness first appeared – I spent more time up at the hospital doing tests to rule out serious illness than at home. It sucked and the stress of not knowing what was going on only made it worse. I lost 10kgs in 4 months from stress, I couldn’t eat – everything would make me sick. My iron levels dropped. I felt awful. So I can emphase with the want for a cure, I recognise the allure of alternate practitioners but I never saw one – because my need for evidence outweighed my need for relief. I wasn’t prepared to take something on faith...

Read the rest here: The allure of Alternative Medicine: The pros and cons

Monday, 4 August 2014

Harpocrates Speaks: Richard Dawkins is Illogical and Insensitive

There's been a bit of a to-do recently in the skeptical community. Usually when something like that occurs, it has to do with women's rights, harassment, sexual abuse, or some combination of those. This time is no different, and it involves an individual who has gotten in trouble on these topics before. He apparently just is incapable of learning. It's like there is some sort of psychological block that comes down, a subconscious censor in his brain sticking its fingers in its ears, going "Lalalala! I can't hear you!", preventing him from really understanding what is explained to him.

Trigger warning: this post is going to discuss rape....

Read the full post here: Harpocrates Speaks: Richard Dawkins is Illogical and Insensitive

Ayurvedic medicines: efficacy doubtful with considerable risks

One alternative therapy that I have so far almost entirely neglected is Ayurveda. It is said to be one of the fastest growing system within this sector. Ayurvedic healing includes herbs, nutrition, panchakarma cleansing, acupressure massage, Yoga, Sanskrit, and Jyotish (Vedic astrology). The website of the ‘Choppra Center’ explains:

Recognizing that human beings are part […]

Read the whole post by Edzard Ernst here.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

‘Sleeping with baby’ a factor in cot deaths

At first sight, you’d think this headline had been brought to you from the Dept Of The Bleedin’ Obvious: Well, yeah, except smothering isn’t usually classified as SIDS. If you actually look up that article, which is here – Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants (Jeffrey D. Colvin, MD, JD; Vicki Collie-Akers, PhD, [...]

The post ‘Sleeping with baby’ a factor in cot deaths by appeared first on WWDDTYDTY.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Peer review in alternative medicine is farcically inadequate | Edzard Ernst

When someone has completed a scientific project, it is customary to publish it ['unpublished science is no science', someone once told me many years ago]. To do so, he needs to write it up and submit it to a scientific journal. The editor of this journal will then submit it to a process called ‘peer review’.

What does ‘peer review’ entail? Well, it means that 2-3 experts are asked to critically assess the paper in question, make suggestions as to how it can be improved and submit a recommendation as to whether or not the article deserves to be published.

Peer review has many pitfalls but, so far, nobody has come up with a solution that is convincingly better. Many scientists are under pressure to publish ['publish or perish'], and therefore some people resort to cheating. A most spectacular case of fraudulent peer review has been reported recently in this press release: SAGE statement on Journal of Vibration and Control

Read on: Peer review in alternative medicine is farcically inadequate

Homeopathy and Ebola - Plague of Mice

There are a number of homeopaths currently holding forth on the subject of homeopathy and Ebola, claiming their nostrums can treat the disease. The usual suspects, of course. For example:

Joette Calabrese, currently in the middle of a huge self-publicity drive, including buying followers and cross-posting everywhere she can: Bioterrorism and Epidemics: Knowing Homeopathy Can Help Make the World a Less Scary Place. There is, of course, a difference between “less scary” and “safer”, but Joette hopes you won’t spot that one. It gets worse.
As a preventative if an outbreak happens nearby, Crotalus horridus 30C, one dose daily, until the threat is out of the area is the method many homeopaths familiar with this disease suggest.

Read the rest here: Homeopathy and Ebola - Plague of Mice

Natural News: A Truly Deadly Brand of Pseudoscience | Big Think | Neurobonkers

If there was an award for the single greatest hub of pseudoscience on the internet, the website Natural News would well and truly take the crown tin foil hat. Expect to find anti-vaccine paranoia which extends not only to your garden variety antivaxxer favorites such as the debunked link to autism but to crackpot claims that vaccines caused the "cancer epidemic" and were even responsible for the "origin" of AIDS. According to Natural News, Microsoft is developing "eugenics vaccines that target specific races and nationalities with infertility-inducing pharmaceuticals". Alongside this you'll also find full blown AIDS denialism (emphasis mine)...

Read the rest here: Natural News: A Truly Deadly Brand of Pseudoscience | Big Think | Neurobonkers