“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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I started this post yesterday, feeling I should write one to commemorate the anniversary of this blog, which began a year ago on International Women’s Day.

On the same day 37 years ago today, I went on my first march for women’s liberation in central London. We demanded an end to discrimination in education and the workplace, as well as contraception, abortion and nursery places for all who needed them. We protested about the demeaning way women were presented by various media and we challenged the ideology that women were responsible for the hateful way we were perceived and portrayed and for the sexual harrassment and violence visited upon us. 37 years ago, if I’d looked this far into the future, I would have expected International Women’s Day 2010 to be a day of celebration.

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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.

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Here’s a quick post to express my sympathy with all the posters at the richarddawkins.net forum (RDF) —  a place I hardly ever visited and never posted at but which must have had something going for it because when it was closed earlier this week it had over two million posts.

Reading some of the reactions to it, I am again reminded that people who’ve never been part of an internet forum community don’t have a clue about how important are these places that allow people from all over the world in engage with each other. To thousands of atheists they are a godsend, so to speak. And many of those who do know the benefits and spend most of their free time on one just can’t comprehend why not everyone feels as they do.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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As the year draws to a close, I’d like to pay tribute to my many fans who use alternative therapies, especially those who have kindly commented on my various posts over the ten months since I started this blog. I’ve selected some of those comments for display in my new ‘Quackolades’ column below left. It’s my way of saying thank you for making my case better than I could. Please keep them coming.

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I’m delighted to draw readers attention to this fascinating insight into the mind of a quack blogger by reproducing a post from elephants and mice and, more importantly, the comments beneath it.  I wouldn’t normally do this but, for reasons that are not clear, the blogger has decided to censor one of my comments and to misrepresent what I say in it, which I’m not entirely happy about.

I’m sure he understands and is grateful for the publicity.

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I was unpleasantly surprised to find a bunch of spine wizards touting for business in front of my local Sainsbury’s superstore recently. At a time when the chiropractic branch of the…um…’healing arts’ in the UK is fighting tooth and nail to hang on to any vestige of credibility during the current onslaught of challenges by quackbusters, it seemed a strange way for people claiming to represent a serious healthcare discipline to behave. The only other hucksters I’ve seen hanging round Sainsbury’s are car washers.

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It was a borderline decision for me whether it was worth getting out of bed early to sit in on the House of Commons Science and Technology sub-Committee’s ‘evidence check’ on homeopathy yesterday and since the whole thing would soon be available online, I have to wonder why I bothered. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy witnessing the reassuring predictability of the top drawer defenders of homeopathy such as Dr Peter Fisher and Robert Wilson who, as it turns out, are no better at defending the indefensible than any of the common or garden homeoquacks and punters who keep themselves busy spreading their crap all over the web.

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On 31st October 2009, thousands of Muslims from up and down the country plan to converge in the heart of Central London in a spectacular procession to make their demands for the overthrow of the British establishment clear.

At the time of writing, that message, which was posted on 4 March 2009, is still on the website of Islamist nutjobs, al-Muhajiroun. But a few days ago they added another message, in the form of a press release, saying that it had

become apparent that certain right-wing/anti-Islamic organisations had become intent on preventing the march from going ahead, using threats of physical violence, including bomb and death threats to any member of the Muslim community who happened to attend the march.

In light of this, organisers of the March4Shariah campaign, after careful consultation, have decided to relocate the march in favour of securing the safety of the hundreds of Muslims who may have attended the march to voice their support for the Deen of Haq (Truth).

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I’m aware that I’ve blogged rather a lot about homeopathy being crap because I just love the lunacy of it so much but today I thought I’d redress the balance a bit by writing an equally objective and unbiased post about why chiropractic is also crap. I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. Take a look at this:

What I like to do is live a life of health and vitality by eating well, exercising every day, making sure I receive Chiropractic every week, take no medications, not getting vaccinated, drinking pure water, taking wholefood supplements/fish oil/probiotics, no smoking or alcohol and making sure I treat my body with respect.

When a chronically ill skeptic tells me that my lifestyle is quackery, I only feel sorry for them being trapped in a belief system that suppresses their quality of life. It’s not my job to change that belief system.

I like the fact that it is a free world and I get to choose what I do with my body.

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My father was a humanist and he should have had a humanist funeral. But he died many years ago, when their provision was far more limited than it is today. On being told my father had no religious faith in adulthood and his only ‘funeral request’ had been for cremation rather than burial, the funeral director simply said he’d let the vicar know. If he knew about humanist funerals, he wasn’t letting on, so he probably didn’t.

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In contrast to the preliminary hearing of the British Chiropractic Association v Simon Singh back in May, a good time was had by all of us in the public gallery at today’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice. All the more so because, given the illiberal judicial decisions made thus far in the case, there’d been a cloud of pessimism hanging over us at the start of the proceedings. We didn’t really expect it to go our way.

If we were surprised that nobody from the other side had turned up to the hearing, our surprise was short-lived. It took about a minute from entering the courtroom for the judge to tell us that he’d decided to allow a full appeal. This is catastrophic news for the BCA, who would have had advance notice of it. They probably didn’t feel like turning up and who can blame them?

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I see that both the English Defence League (EDL) and their opponents in Unite Against Fascism (UAF) are in the news again after a bunch of EDL supporters turned up in Manchester today to stage a protest against Islamic extremism. Apparently, the UAF didn’t like it so staged a counter-demonstration. The short clip viewable here shows EDL placards saying ‘Patriotism is not racism’ and ‘No more mosques in England’, while crowds of UAF people shout “Nazi scum: off our streets!” Predictably, EDL supporters commenting on the web today saw the UAF counter-demo as an attempt to suppress free speech and called them ‘Unashamed Actual Fascists’, and suchlike.

Anyway, aware that the messages of the newly emerged EDL (which seems to have evolved from a group calling themselves Casuals United) and the Stop Islamification of Europe group (SIOE) have resonated with at least a few nice, respectable, secularist folk, I decided to take a closer look at what they and their opponents are about.

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Didn’t we all feel horrible last week, on hearing the news that 14-year-old Natalie Morton died a matter of hours after receiving the HPV vaccine at school? How long would it be before we’d hear whether the vaccine actually caused her death or whether something else did? Not long, as it turned out. Three days later, an inquest was told that she’d died from a large and previously undetected tumour in her chest that could have killed her at any moment.

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Hey, I’ve arrived! A celebrity (well, sort-of, he’s been on TV), who didn’t like what I wrote about his excrutiatingly awful gig back in July, has penned a petulant little post on his blog about me in return. Credit where it’s due, however. Unlike his stand-up performance in Belsize Park, in his blog post Scott Capurro actually proves he can come up with a funny line or two. And I’m not being sarcastic!

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