There is a bunch of homeopathic organisations in the UK. Unfortunately, one of them has the same initials as the British Humanist Association, an organisation I am proud to have been part of in various ways for some 20 years. Although I had no part in writing any text on the organisation’s website about homeopathy, I’m happy to defend its stance, which happens to coincide with my own. It is a stance entirely in keeping with a humanist world view, which judges each situation on its merits according to standards of reason and humanity.
The British Homeopathic Association is a charity whose overall priority is to “ensure that homeopathy is available to all”. It doesn’t appear to be a membership organisation but it seems anyone can become a ‘friend’ of theirs for an annual donation of £25.
Patrons are just royals and assorted celebrities. Idiots, obviously.
It seems the British Homeopathic Association takes strong exception to a short piece on the British Humanist Association’s website. Here’s a snippet:
British Humanist Association Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns Pavan Dhaliwal said, ‘The fact that some NHS trusts continue to spend money on treatments known to be ineffective at a time when the health service is facing tremendous financial pressure is astonishing. Not only is this wasteful, but it could even put public health at risk. Public money could be better spent providing treatments that have been proven to work.’
A few days ago, Margaret Wyllie, Chair of the British Homeopathic Association, published the piece below on their website. It is so awful, I am happy to do them the kindness of bringing it to a wider audience.
It’s good to see that Edzard Ernst’s latest book is already selling so well but if you haven’t yet got a copy, I hope a few reflections of my own will encourage you to buy it — especially if you are a devotee of any kind of ‘alternative’ or complementary medicine and especially if you think you already know all you need to know about Edzard Ernst.
A Scientist in Wonderland is more than an autobiography and I’m not sure I can do justice to the riches to be found in its pages. Sometimes it’s reminiscent of a black comedy, other times it’s almost too painful to read. If you already understand what is meant by scientific rigour and how medical ethics depends on it, there are parts of Edzard’s story that will probably make you despair.
But what if you don’t understand? What if you are one of those who accuses the man of being a liar, a fraud, a pharma shill — not because you’ve ever seen an iota of evidence that he is any of these things but because you are so deeply invested in what he famously opposes that this kind of vilification sounds intuitively right to you? Are you open-minded enough to read and learn from this book? I doubt it but I would love you to prove me wrong.
The truth about the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) can actually be found on its own website and on related websites such as those of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (asbof). But those whose living depends on being allowed a measure of artistic licence in how they promote their goods and services aren’t going to let the truth get in the way of an unbelievably silly smear campaign against the advertising regulator for trying to do its job properly.
The list of gripes they dream up in order to try and discredit the ASA is seemingly endless and, frankly, barmy but I think the main ones are:
The pen is mightier than the sword, unless you’re Jerome Burne, who describes himself as a health journalist, who’s written for most of the national newspapers and a variety of magazines, in recent years mostly for the Daily Mail. Last year he won an award from the Medical Journalists Association. He also co-authored a couple of Patrick Holford’s books and is mysteriously described by Dana Ullman, of all people, as a ‘leading skeptic’. I confess I’d never heard of him until last week but then I don’t usually read the Daily Fail, so what would I know?
Being an award-winning medical journalist and having done all the careful, thorough and objective research that description implies, Jerome Burne will know all about homeopathy. He will know that it is based on fanciful pre-science notions about disease and he will know that most homeopathic products contain no trace of active ingredient. He will know that the homeopaths’ belief that diluting and shaking an ingredient increases ‘potency’ is irrational because it breaks basic laws of physics and chemistry.
Most readers will already know that Holland & Barrett are currently running a promotion called ‘Ask our owls’, inviting customers to ask their specially trained staff about any of their products. If the staff member can’t answer, the customer gets a 20% discount. The month-long promo was launched on 9 June complete with one of these Twitter things #askourowls, thus providing, as this blogger put it, an open goal.
It was a sweet opportunity for the well-organised and gobby skeptics, who are waging a war on homeopathy ‘just because they don’t understand how it works’, to launch a…ahem..’spontaneous’ attack. (I imagine all you conspiraloon quacks reading this nodding sagely at this point.) The @Holland_Barrett twitter account was inundated with tweets and retweets by those seriously questioning their ethics, by those taking the piss and by those just gloating at how the H&B twitter account had been inundated with skeptics questioning their ethics and taking the piss.
Oh, good grief! I’ve just read the Alliance for Natural Health’s report on a meeting convened last week by David Tredinnick MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare. Miles Lockwood of the Advertising Standards Authority was the invited speaker. The exact purpose of the meeting is left to our imagination and I imagine Miles Lockwood used it to put people straight on a few things. The purpose of the ANH report was evidently to try to make it look as if the ANH are doing something useful in the battle for the rights of promoters of mostly useless ‘therapies’ to mislead the public. Continue reading
It’s high time I jumped on the Burzynski bandwagon. The reason I didn’t do so earlier is that I was aware of a bizarre correspondence taking place between award-winning grassroots skeptic, Rhys Morgan, and one Marc Stephens, who claimed — truthfully, as it turns out — to be representing Stanislaw Burzynski. I was waiting for Rhys to tell the story publicly and now he has.
Over the past decade or so, Martin J Walker has self-published a bunch of books on the evils of Big Pharma. The latest one, which is an update of an earlier one, is entitled, ‘Dirty Medicine the Handbook’ (DMTH). Its message, in a nutshell, is that every individual or organisation who dares to challenge or criticise alternative therapies and food supplements, together with anyone who recommends vaccination, is an agent of evil Big Pharma.
Hardly original, I know. But kudos to Martin for his entrepreneurial spirit in finding a way to charge £15 for the privilege of reading him repeat what his target audience already believe to be true.
The unique selling point of DMTH is, as one reviewer put it,
It names the players, the committees, the organizations, the networks, the back room people and the front men and women who provide a distraction and tie up resources while the bricks are put in the wall.
OK, the second half of that sentence is gibberish but you get the idea. It names names and Martin’s target readers have bought into his notion that knowing who their enemies are will help them in their endeavours to continue conning us into buying their soothing chit-chat and worthless cult therapies.
Oscar Wilde regarded the theatre as the “most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being”. I’ve no idea what he was talking about but I often feel I don’t want to read or write another word about homeopathy, so it’s nice to blog about something else for a change.
More than two months after its launch, the Nightingale Collaboration is still attracting flak from CAM practitioners who apparently can’t abide the prospect of being held to the same standards as advertisers of other products and services. I don’t expect many of these critics to have the stomach to read much of what I say here. For them, I’m putting the case for the Nightingale Collaboration in a nutshell at the beginning:
P1. We believe we should be able to make an informed choice about healthcare treatments as we do about anything else
P2. Making misleading claims about healthcare therapies in order to encourage sick people to try them is unethical and potentially dangerous
P3: The vast majority of misleading claims are made about CAM treatments
P4. There are regulations in place intended to prevent questionable claims being made in the promotion of healthcare therapies
C1: Healthcare practitioners shouldn’t make misleading claims in their advertising
C2: We can and should challenge those misleading claims and try to get them withdrawn.
Science says that thinking for myself is dangerous. You must trust in the Lord Science.
You have to hand it to those homeopaths! They are terrific at sending themselves up, generously giving us a laugh at their expense. Very much in vogue at the moment is the creation of little animated dialogues between typically dim-witted homeopaths and typically arrogant skeptics. My favourite one appears on UK Homeopathy News. (Edit: if it can no longer been seen there, this site also has it.) The homeopath’s vacuous arguments could have been lifted from any homeopath’s blog.
This will be short. In a previous post I quoted Dr Tom Dolphin’s dignified apology to witches for ever calling homeopathy ‘witchcraft’. Since his retraction, I have been mildly irritated by the continued references to his original description. I still keep seeing the claim that “the BMA calls homeopathy ‘witchcraft'”. Not any more! It’s now just “nonsense on stilts”, OK? (And, of course, the BMA did not call homeopathy anything. The BMA simply voted in favour of a perfectly polite and reasonably-worded motion to stop funding this batshit insanity on the NHS.)
I’ve been off-line for a couple of weeks so this is a very belated response to Frank Swain’s gig at Westminster Skeptics at the beginning of August.
Frank Swain, aka SciencePunk, no longer calls himself a skeptic. This isn’t because he’s become less of one. On the contrary, he described himself as being “born of the skeptic movement” and “hugely enamoured” with it. But he has, in recent years, distanced himself from the “skeptic community” because he doesn’t want to be associated with its attitudes and behaviour.
“First they came for the homeopaths…”
I’ve lost count of how many self-pitying blogposts by homeopaths I’ve seen begin with those words. The assault on homeopathy is continuing relentlessly and the poor homeopaths don’t know what’s hit them. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a bit sorry for them.
This year sees the centenary celebration of D.D. Palmer’s great work entitled, The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic, in which he claimed that “A subluxated vertebra… is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases… The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column”. Not that I’ve noticed any chiropractors celebrating.
Dr Sarah Myhill is evidently a doctor who cares passionately about her work and about people’s health. She is highly motivated to help and empower us to keep ourselves well and to make us better if we are sick. For her pioneering work treating patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) aka myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), she has become a heroine to many of them.
Yes, I really did go to this and, no, it wasn’t the shortest conference in history — it lasted a whole dreary day. They didn’t know it was me because I had cunningly disguised myself as a middle-aged, middle-class woman so I wouldn’t stand out.
You may be wondering what possessed me to spend a day listening to a bunch of quacks talking piffle. Having done it, I’m wondering the same. The best I can say is that I went for the same reason I once consented to an examination by a chiropractor, wore a niqab and gave birth at home (not all at the same time) and why I might yet have a reiki massage and do the alpha course: I wanted to see what it was like. I saw it as part of the rich tapestry of out-of-the-ordinary experiences that life has to offer. What could be more bizarre than to sit listening to “top PhD research scientists” talk about one of the loopiest of all quack therapies as if there was a serious chance it could revolutionise health care systems in the developed world?
Is there no end to the bullying by the British Chiropractic Association? Not content with putting the man through two years of hell with their ridiculous libel action against him, this morning brought the news that they have now decided to deprive Dr Simon Singh of his day in court, where it was confidently expected that he would wipe the floor with them.
This morning the British Chiropractic Association, whose members happily promote bogus treatments for which there is not a jot of evidence, got what they deserved from the Court of Appeal: a judgment against them that was about as emphatic as it could be and it was delivered by England’s two most senior judges, the Lord Chief Justice of England and the Master of the Rolls, together with Lord Justice Sedley who is one of the most respected judges on the Court of Appeal.
Ernst is vociferously campaigning against the very libel laws he has just invoked to threaten not me, but my 21 year old website designer who isn’t remotely connected to complementary therapy and had never even heard of Edzard Ernst until yesterday.
So says the diabolical blogger whose nasty, vicious and unsubstantiated attack on Edzard Ernst, I blogged about yesterday. Chris Holmes had posted three articles entitled ‘Edzard Ernst is a fake’ on a blog called Truth Will Out. Less than 24 hours later, I’m pleased to report that all three of these articles have been removed.
Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, has always struck me as a sweet and mild-mannered German teddy bear of a man, yet the quacks hate him with a passion that makes them look even uglier than they are already. It’s no longer a surprise to me that quacks ignore the science and prefer instead to vilify their critics – they don’t have many proper arguments, after all. But it was a bit of surprise that someone sent me a link to a post on the ironically named ‘Truth Will Out’ blog entitled, Edzard Ernst is a fake-3. As that post is a particularly vacuous attempt at character assassination, I assume it was sent to me so I could give it the treatment it deserves.
The first thing that struck me, when I visited a chiropractor recently, was that the surgery looked almost exactly like a normal doctors’ surgery. The only difference was a folder full of glowing customer testimonials sitting on a low table in the waiting room, together with a supply of the General Chiropractic Council’s Patient Information Leaflet – the one that was the subject of a successful complaint to the Advertising Standars Authority (ASA). The leaflet was in Polish but that hasn’t stopped it finding its way to the ASA. Continue reading
The open letter to Boots on the 10:23 campaign website currently has 1450 signatures on it. I hope everyone reading this has added theirs. I know many of you will be in Red Lion Square overdosing alongside me next Saturday morning. I’ve already bought my ‘poison’ and I compensated myself for the embarrassment of buying a homeopathic remedy by leaving piles of leaflets about the 10:23 campaign by the shelves of these remedies at the both the Boots stores in my nearest town centre. To my fellow overdosers: in case things don’t go according to plan, I’ll take this opportunity to say it’s been a privilege and a pleasure…
And to all those who argue that homeopathic remedies are individualised, that it needs a consultation with a homeopath to build up a ‘symptom picture’ and that getting the remedy and dosage right is highly skilled work for which homeopaths are comprehensively trained, I trust you will join the campaign because otherwise you’ll look a bit silly.
Real life has got in the way and I haven’t had time to blog recently. No big fat cheques from Big Pharma for me so far this year! Let’s see if I can’t squeeze a few bob out of them now.
Who’d have thought I’d end up writing a part 3? Having, in my previous two posts, made a genuine attempt to engage with homeopaths and deepen my understanding of the therapy they invest so much in, I envisioned writing a post entitled, Homeopathy: there’s something in it after all!
But not a single homeopath has deigned to respond to any of the questions I raise in my previous post. So, in spite of my extensive reading on the subject, homeopathy remains an unfinished jigsaw to me and nobody seems prepared to step up and help me complete it. The more I’ve learned about homeopathy, the more I’ve come to understand that it’s not a case of bits of the jigsaw being missing; the bits are mishapen and simply don’t fit together to make a coherent whole.
Ever open-minded and keen to unlock the mysteries of the supposedly great healing art known as homeopathy, here’s another post primarily for my friends who are users and practitioners. I hope your responses will bring me to greater understanding.
I can’t help but notice that homeopaths themselves don’t seem to agree on what homeopathy does. In a TV discussion with David Frost and Simon Singh, Jayne Thomas of the Society of Homeopaths, gives her version of what homeopathy does: