2 November 2014

Skeptical about Skeptics

Filed under: bad science — homeopathy4health @ 9:41 pm
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This site has always been skeptical about skeptics.

Now there is a whole site dedicated to those who are devoted to

countering dogmatic, ill-informed attacks leveled by self-styled skeptics on pioneering scientific research, researchers, and their subjects.

Healthy skepticism is an important part of science, and indeed of common sense. But dogmatic skepticism uses skepticism as a weapon to defend an ideology or belief system, and inhibits the spirit of inquiry.

Visit http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org

5 January 2014

Skeptic persecution via Ben Goldacre BadScience Forum leads to patient suicide and medic perpetrator prosecution. GMC fails to act.


Perpetrator: Stuart Jones

Causing a patient to commit suicide by vicious bullying of the patient’s treating doctor specifically to “increase anxiety levels” in the victim doctor’s patients is apparently not a sufficiently serious crime to warrant more than a 2 year “caution” for the Health and Care Professions Council.

Although no charges were brought against the patient’s doctor by the GMC and the doctor was never called before the GMC, aborted investigations in 2006/07 cost the GMC £136,692.12 in solicitors’ fees and disbursements and a possible further £500,000 on internal costs – according to a report on a website set up to support the patient’s doctor by patients and wellwishers.

The GMC is funded by a levy paid by all medical doctors registered in the UK.

It appears also no action has been taken by the GMC regarding Dr Goldacre’s BadScience Forum activities.

The GMC is meant to act on patient complaints.  To complain to the GMC you can contact them on:

Email: gmc@gmc-uk.org.”

26 August 2010

Edzard Ernst Exposed

H:MC21 (Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century) report that Professor Edzard Ernst the leading ‘authority’ on homeopathy, and perhaps its most referenced critic, has no qualifications in homeopathy.

William Alderson of HMC21 also claims that Ernst’s book Trick or Treatment? shows Ernst to be unreliable as a researcher into homeopathy. He outlines 11 mistakes made by Ernst which can arise from ignorance of the principles of homeopathy, and which can seriously affect the reliability of randomised controlled trials and meta-analyses of homeopathy.

He says ‘We believe that it is time to recognise that opposition to homeopathy is largely based on the opinions of individuals who are unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly.’

29 May 2010

Skeptics becoming sceptical about Skeptic events

Filed under: bad science,science,scientism — homeopathy4health @ 6:45 pm
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I am pleased that skeptics are becoming aware of the pseudo-religiosity of Skeptic in the Pub movement and the financial exploitation of the skeptic population by the James Randi Foundation:


26 April 2009

Singh and Ernst’s book ‘Trick or Treatment?’ “has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine.”

From H:MC21: ‘Halloween Science’

A critique of Trick or Treatment? by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst written by William Alderson on behalf of H:MC21 (Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century); March 2009.

Trick or Treatment? by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst claims to “examine the various alternative therapies in a scrupulous manner” (p.3). This critique assesses the validity of this claim, both in general and specifically in respect of homeopathy, by analysing the authors’ own arguments and evidence for accuracy, consistency and reliability. Where information is lacking in Trick or Treatment?, the critique incorporates evidence from other primary sources (where possible) or reputable secondary sources. Some conclusions reached on the basis of Ernst and Singh’s own statements are also supported by reference to other sources. All sources are referenced.
RESULTS: We have identified nineteen major faults in the case presented by this book

Evidence: (1) The authors frequently rely on figures, trials, events, quotations, statements, opinions and explanations which are unsupported by reference to sources. (2) This evidence is frequently misleading as a result of being presented out of context. (3) The authors use different criteria when assessing the validity of evidence, depending on whether the evidence supports their views or not.

Science: (4) The authors commit the common fallacy of confusing absence of proof with proof of absence. (5) The importance of theory is minimized or even ignored, when discussing both science in general and individual alternative therapies. (6) The authors assume that orthodox medicine is scientific, but offer no justification for this position. (7) There is evidence that the authors do not understand the principles and practice of orthodox medicine.

Definitions: (8) Alternative medicine is defined in four different ways in the course of the book. (9) Other significant terms, such as ‘science’, ‘disease’, ‘cure’, ‘effectiveness’ and ‘orthodox medicine’ are undefined. (10) This allows arguments to be built on vague preconceptions rather than on clearly defined principles. (11) The differences between orthodox medical and alternative medical definitions is not taken into account, despite their impact on the design of trials. (12) The authors fail to present the ideas of evidence-based medicine accurately. (13) The authors fail to present the nature and development of homeopathy accurately, raising doubts about their presentation of the other therapies. (14) They also call into question the principles of orthodox drug therapy, despite the fact that the tests used by this therapy underpin much of their argument.

Analytical tools: (15) The authors fail to prove that their main tool, the randomised controlled trial (RCT), is valid for testing curative interventions, while presenting evidence that there are serious problems with using it for this purpose. (16) They show that a tool derived from these trials, the meta-analysis, is prone to lack of objectivity, yet they rely on this for some of their conclusions. (17) Their conclusions are also dependent on the concept of the placebo effect, but they make it clear that this effect has no scientific basis and is so unpredictable as to have questionable scientific validity in this context. (18) They acknowledge the importance of individuality in the curative process, but deny its significance for the design of analytical tools. (19) They fail to take into account the need for analysis of evidence from clinical practice.

CONCLUSIONS: Ernst and Singh have failed to provide a secure theoretical or evidential base for their argument, and have used analytical tools inadequate (in this context) for achieving objective and reliable conclusions. The result of these weaknesses is that their argument relies heavily on preconceptions, variable definitions and opinion, a problem exacerbated by a tendency to confirmation bias on the authors’ part. As a result, Trick or Treatment? has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine.

Full report here

21 January 2008

Rupert Sheldrake: we need to be skeptical of skeptics

Filed under: bad science,sceptic,scientism — homeopathy4health @ 10:09 pm
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Rupert Sheldrake,  one of the world’s most innovative biologists, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. He first worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University, and is currently Director of the Perrott-Warrick project.

The skepticism of believers 

I used to think of skepticism as a primary intellectual virtue, whose goal was truth. I have changed my mind. I now see it as a weapon.

Creationists opened my eyes. They use the techniques of critical thinking to expose weaknesses in the evidence for natural selection, gaps in the fossil record and problems with evolutionary theory. Is this because they are seeking truth? No. They believe they already know the truth. Skepticism is a weapon to defend their beliefs by attacking their opponents.

Skepticism is also an important weapon in the defence of commercial self-interest. According to David Michaels, who was assistant secretary for environment, safety and health in the US Department of Energy in the 1990s, the strategy used by the tobacco industry to create doubt about inconvenient evidence has now been adopted by corporations making toxic products such as lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, and benzene. When confronted with evidence that their activities are causing harm, the standard response is to hire researchers to muddy the waters, branding findings that go against the industry’s interests as “junk science.” As Michaels noted, “Their conclusions are almost always the same: the evidence is ambiguous, so regulatory action is unwarranted.” Climate change skeptics use similar techniques.

In a penetrating essay called “The Skepticism of Believers”, Sir Leslie Stephen, a pioneering agnostic (and the father of Virginia Woolf), argued that skepticism is inevitably partial. “In regard to the great bulk of ordinary beliefs, the so-called skeptics are just as much believers as their opponents.” Then as now, those who proclaim themselves skeptics had strong beliefs of their own. As Stephen put it in 1893, ” The thinkers generally charged with skepticism are equally charged with an excessive belief in the constancy and certainty of the so-called ‘laws of nature’. They assign a natural cause to certain phenomena as confidently as their opponents assign a supernatural cause.”

Skepticism has even deeper roots in religion than in science. The Old Testament prophets were withering in their scorn for the rival religions of the Holy Land. Psalm 115 mocks those who make idols of silver and gold: “They have mouths, and speak not: eyes have they, and see not.” At the Reformation, the Protestants deployed the full force of biblical scholarship and critical thinking against the veneration of relics, cults of saints and other “superstitions” of the Catholic Church. Atheists take religious skepticism to its ultimate limits; but they are defending another faith, a faith in science.

In practice, the goal of skepticism is not the discovery of truth, but the exposure of other people’s errors. It plays a useful role in science, religion, scholarship, and common sense. But we need to remember that it is a weapon serving belief or self-interest; we need to be skeptical of skeptics. The more militant the skeptic, the stronger the belief.”

20 January 2008

Fact or FLACT?

Sceptics like to twist things around, notably Ben Goldacre (junior liaison psychiatrist, of the ‘it’s all in your head’ school of medicine), according to twisted logic.

It feels like this:

I might say ‘I like yellow’.

A sceptic might then claim ‘H4H doesn’t like white, red, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, black or brown.’  This would not be true as I also like blue and purple and I can tolerate all the other colours too.

I have a new term for such logic-derived ‘facts’: ‘FLACT’.

*4th February 2008.  Updated* to incorporate my justification of including Ben Goldacre from responses to Andy Lewis (aka le canard noir):


The low cholera mortality rates under homeopathic treatment: When Cholera finally struck Europe in 1831 the mortality rate (under conventional treatment) was between 40% (Imperial Council of Russia) to 80% (Osler’s Practice of Medicine). Out of five people who contracted Cholera, two to four of them died under regular treatment. Dr. Quin, in London, reported the mortality in the ten homeopathic hospitals in 1831-32 as 9%; Dr. Roth, physician to the king of Bavaria, reported that under homeopathic care the mortality was 7%; Admiral Mordoinow of the Imperial Russian Council reported 10% mortality under homeopathy; and Dr. Wild, Allopathic editor of Dublin Quarterly Journal, reported in Austria, the Allopathic mortality was 66% and the homeopathic mortality was 33% “and on account of this extraordinary result, the law interdicting the practice of Homeopathy in Austria was repealed.’

Ben states:‘Homeopathic pills won’t do anything against cholera.’

So by his logic (and yours) most of the people treated with homeopathy just got better anyway: ‘the homeopaths’ treatments at least did nothing either way’

So logically: If people just got better anyway, by this evidence they should just have been left alone when they got cholera and the death rates would have been much lower. And his other part of Ben’s logic is that cholera death rates were so high because allopathic medicine made them much worse: ‘high allopathic mortality rate was due to dangerous practices’

So my point is why would the population worry so much about cholera then?

But they did:


‘New York was probably the most thoroughly scourged among the states. Each of the thriving towns along the Erie Canal suffered in its turn, despite quarantines and last minute attempts at ‘purifications.’ . . .Small villages, even isolated farms, were stricken. And here the disease was most terrifying; it had to be faced alone, often without friend, minister, or physician. The appearance of cholera in even the smallest hamlet was the signal for the general exodus of the inhabitants, who, in their headlong flight, spread the disease throughout the surrounding countryside.’


‘Asiatic cholera is a very violent intestinal disease, usually running a short course to dehydration and death, often in a matter of hours. Its very violence ensured that it would not be the type of disease which could be overlooked or treated with little concern’

‘The social and economic consequences of cholera were quite significant. Community life was completely disrupted whenever a new pandemic arrived. Usually panic gripped the populace and all persons who could leave the affected area promptly did so. The spectacular deadliness of the pandemic of 1826-37, which was the first to strike Europe and America, set up a psychological conditioning which assured that all subsequent invasions would induce panic. Normal economic and social life came to an end. Governmental activities were carried out with difficulty. Even medical and nursing services were impaired–sometimes to the extent that the sick were left untended and the dead unburied. Travellers and strangers often were treated badly. Gradually, as an epidemic waned, normal routines were resumed. Practically every community added boards of health and sanitation, which were supposed to take preventive measures against new outbreaks of cholera.’

2 January 2008

Goldacre’s conflicts of interest exposed.

Cultural Dwarfs and Junk Journalism by Martin J Walker: free download available at www.slingshotpublications.com

Dr Ben Goldacre is the author of the Guardian’s Bad Science column and has authored ‘A Kind of Magic?’, in which:

“he produced what might appear to be a thoroughgoing, devastating critique of a bogus therapy, but the article is at best a farrago of truth, half-truth and downright dissembling. Given the lengths that the Guardian and other British newspapers go to be apparently objective on any vaguely radical subject, one can’t help wondering why the Guardian is happy to let Goldacre romp through, and tread down, all previous standards of fair debate.

Broadly speaking, the essay that follows is the latest addition to my ongoing analysis of the British corporate science lobby and its popular campaigning arms, skeptics and quackbusters. Specifically, the essay focuses on attacks on Patrick Holford, the independent nutritionist, while trying to place the quackbusting journalist Ben Goldacre, who began this round of attacks, in a social and political context.

Dr Ben Goldacre rarely draws attention to the fact that he is a medical doctor, nor does he ever discuss, even in the most general terms, patients with whom he has come into contact, in the way that, for example, James Le Fanu does in his intelligent Sunday Telegraph column.  In fact, nothing Goldacre says seems to be grounded in everyday life, the condition of ‘ordinary people’ or the public at large.

Despite claiming to spend most of his life working in the NHS, he is circumspect about which London hospital he works in and what kind of medicine he practises. For someone who spends considerable amounts of time criticising those who practice non-allopathic medicine, for example nutritional practitioners, he might, one would think, make more of his NHS position.

Despite his claim to be a serious academician, and despite the fact that a number of his PR puffs say that he ‘has published academic papers in neuroscience’, there is no record on the significant databases of his having co-authored more than one academic paper, apparently written while he was a visitor at Milan University. The only way in which academic status can be measured is by the number of peer-reviewed papers or other notable publications such as books. It should
be pointed out that the engorgement of un-provable academic credentials is one of the major points of criticisms he addresses when writing his quackbusting articles.


In 1999, two years after New Labour had come to power and Lord Sainsbury had been rewarded for his campaign donations, Goldacre was funded by the British Academy to do his Masters degree in philosophy at King’s College.

Today, the British Academy (BA) is funded by the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI), which sits within the DTI.28 In the past it has always been linked to both the Royal Society and the Royal
Institution. It claims to ‘maximise the contribution made by our science, engineering and technology skills and resources to the UK’s economic development, and to the quality of our lives’. Of course, one is bound to wonder how the quality of public life could be enhanced by Ben Goldacre gaining an MA in philosophy.

King’s College is the bastion and training ground for The Lobby. It is where Simon Wessely, the premier master of scientific spin, resides, working, mad-professor-like on endless projects to prove that organic environmental illness does not exist, and that anyone who suggests it does is deluded.

The most empathetic and forgiving of us were imagining that Ben was a junior doctor in a heavily pressed casualty unit in an inner City area. If Ben was dealing with the dirty life and death of motor accidents, shootings and drug-related deaths in north-east London for example, perhaps he might be forgiven his hard bitten views, and his anti airy-fairy concerns about people affected by electric air waves, chemicals and bad vaccines.

It appears, however, that he has always been a post-grad clinical research worker, now possibly studying for a Phd at King’s College, the home of the psychiatric school of ‘all-in-the-mind aetiology’. In all probability Goldacre has been at this University Hospital since taking his MA, and was probably attached to it when he was taken on by the Guardian.

If this is the case, most probably he doesn’t see patients, except when he passes them in the corridor at the Maudsley as he makes his way to the Liaison Psychiatry Unit within the Institute of Psychiatry,where he is studying under the Prince of Spin Professor Simon Wessely, the head of the Liaison Psychiatry Department. Wessely is an advisor to the Science Media Centre and on the Advisory panel of the US American Council on Science and Health, one of the most heavily funded pro industry lobby groups in the world.

The really good thing about Liaison psychiatry is that you can blend all kinds of social issues with lots of mad-cap psychiatric ideas that work well for industry. Liaison psychiatry is a form of psychiatry in which the psychiatrist informs unsuspecting ordinary citizens who report to hospitals with organic illnesses that they are actually mentally ill. This diagnostic ability is particularly acute when the Liaison psychiatrist meets up with anyone who has suffered an environmental illness, a chemical insult, or any industry-related illness.

For some time now, King’s College has been deeply involved in the programme of spin designed by industry and the New Labour government. However, as is evident from the involvement of Goldacre there, the relationship between The Lobby, the University and the hospital, is not simple. As well as Wessely’s role, ex-Revolutionary Communist Party members have also played a part in bringing vested interests to the college. Together with pseudo-scientific research into mental illness and environmentally caused illness, King’s is deeply involved in risk analysis for various controvertial environmental factors.


Can there be any doubt that the industry directed research at King’s, with which Goldacre is associated, or his association with Professor Wessely, whose research on ME, Gulf War Syndrome and EMF never benefits patients but always government or industry, constitutes a conflict of interest that should from the beginning have been declared by Goldacre, every time he says anything about science in the Guardian
or anywhere else?”

30 December 2007

Why science does not define reality

Filed under: bad science,Homeopathy,philosophy — homeopathy4health @ 5:13 pm
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Why Science Is Wrong « Bill Allin: Turning It Around

Science has done arguably a better job selling itself as a kind of humanistic religion than most religions have done selling themselves in recent decades. In the process, western society has transformed itself into materialistic cultures of doubters, naysayers and acquisitors. We believe nothing is credible unless it can be proven and nothing is of value unless it can be related somehow to money, its acquisition and its spending. While science has not taught this directly, the belief results from the prevailing beliefs and structures of science and their pervasive influence on our lives.

Moreover, science positions itself as the ultimate authority on “what is,” as it dictates that what science can understand and define should be all that we believe is correct and real. Science, through multiple sources, inputs that message of “provable equals real” into our brains to the point where many believe that only those things which we can detect using our senses are real.

In his book The Sense of Being Stared At and Other Unexplained Powers of the Human Mind, Rupert Sheldrake cites several case studies of people who have sensed that they are being stared at by someone other than those in front of them, then turned around to find someone doing just that, meeting them eye to eye before turning away. Most of us have had such experiences, though science calls them coincidences. For some, that kind of coincidence would be like winning a lottery three times in the same week.

We imagine, science says, false explanations for events that are nothing more than coincidences or events that could be explained otherwise by scientific study. It calls everything that people experience but that science can’t explain paranormal, with their stories being anecdotes, until enough scientists (or “amateur wannabes”) do more extensive research and publish their results, in which situation they become case studies. Even case studies, science maintains, are not the same as proof.

Science has, inadvertently, turned us into beings of the here and now, believing nothing that cannot be explained by what science knows or theorizes today. Science, meanwhile, has told itself that its own theories are fact so often that it accepts its favourite theories as soon-to-be-proven or all-but-proven truths. Theories that go against widely accepted scientific theories receive little attention and much derision when they get some. Theories about gravity, evolution, even Einstein’s relativity have doubters, but they receive little acknowledgement. Yet even Einstein had doubts about some of his work.

The “discovery” of cold fusion by Fleishman and Pons and its subsequent media attention resulted in their careers being trashed, though several scientists support their results today and efforts are being carried out in the US and France to build plants that will produce electricity through fusion at near room temperatures. Science changes its tune (and soon forgets its errors) when evidence proves the preachings of the science establishment to be clearly wrong.We, as societies, have accepted that nothing that cannot be proven or at least supported by our senses can be true. Thus we accept what our brain tells us is fact, but ignore or deny what our mind tells us exists even though it cannot be explained.

If science cannot cope with what we know are realities, what our experiences tells us are real, we must accept that these are failings and inadequacies of science. It’s not the role of science to make the realities of our lives trivial or inconsequential, but to explain what it can with the limited tools it has developed for itself to work with.Science is not the arbiter of reality in our lives, merely a tool we can use to explain some parts of our experience. We don’t use a hammer to drive a screw, nor do we deny the screw exists or claim it’s a figment of someone’s imagination because we don’t have a screwdriver. What science can’t do is its own problem, not one to be adopted by all of society.Science should not determine what we believe is real, only explain what it can about why we understand something as being real. We should not accept the labels science applies to what it cannot explain, words such as paranormal and supernatural, even hallucination, as if science is the sole judge of what is normal, what is natural, what is reality and what is truth.We should not give science that power over us and our lives. We have the potential to be much greater than science would allow is possible. Succumbing to the dictates of science makes us followers, as much as the followers of a false religion or an unmanageable political ideology.There are some things about life, truths and realities, that we don’t understand. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. It simply means that we can’t explain them.And that’s just fine. We must not allow science to bully us into believing that they don’t exist or that they are figments of our imagination.Bill Allin

22 December 2007

Fundamentalism – one of the great problems facing the world – leading to extreme scientism?

Homeopaths will recognise some of the themes in Dr Barry Morgan’s speech about how the rise in fundamentalism is polarising the world, in the current negativity about homeopathy from sceptic scientists who claim homeopathy has no scientific proof and should therefore be excluded from the already limited NHS provision despite high levels of reported effectiveness.  Is this homeophobia an indication of how extreme fundamentalist scientism will shape future health care?


The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has described a rise in “fundamentalism” as one of the great problems facing the world.

He focused on what he described as “atheistic fundamentalism”.

He said it led to situations such as councils calling Christmas “Winterval”, schools refusing to put on nativity plays and crosses removed from chapels.

In his Christmas message, he said: “Any kind of fundamentalism, be it Biblical, atheistic or Islamic, is dangerous.”

The archbishop said “atheistic fundamentalism” was a new phenomenon.

He said it advocated that religion in general and Christianity in particular have no substance, and that some view the faith as “superstitious nonsense“.

God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety
Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan

As well as leading to Christmas being called “Winterval,” the archbishop said “virulent, almost irrational” attacks on Christianity led to hospitals removing all Christian symbols from their chapels, and schools refusing to allow children to send Christmas cards with a Christian message.

He also said it led to things like “airlines refusing staff the freedom to wear a cross round their necks” – a reference to the row in which British Airways (BA) suspended an employee who insisted on wearing a cross necklace.

Dr Morgan said: “All of this is what I would call the new “fundamentalism” of our age. It allows no room for disagreement, for doubt, for debate, for discussion.

Children's nativity play

Only one in five schools perform a traditional nativity, say bishops

“It leads to the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that, because God is on our side, he is not on yours.”

He said the nativity story in St Luke’s Gospel, in contrast, had a “message of joy and good news for everyone”.

He said: “God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety.”

Dr Morgan said it was “perfectly natural” to have a “coherent and rational debate about the tenets of the Christianity”.

But he said “virulent, almost irrational” attacks on it were “dangerous” because they refused to allow any contrary viewpoint and also affected the public perception of religion.

This month community cohesion minister Parmjit Dhanda said the UK should “celebrate” the role of Christianity in the country’s heritage and culture.

His comments came after Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for The Wrekin, called a Westminster debate on “Christianophobia“, saying attempts to move Christian traditions to the “margins” of British life had “gone far enough”.

The National Secular Society has said Christians in the UK have “nothing to complain about“.

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