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BMJ Group promotes acupuncture: pure greed

Posted in improbable science by Skepdude on November 11, 2008

Today brings a small setback for those  of us interested in spreading sensible ideas about science.  According to a press release

“The BMJ Group is to begin publishing a medical journal on acupuncture from next year, it was announced today (Tuesday 11 November 2008).

This will be the first complementary medicine title that the BMJ Group has published.”

And they are proud of that? What one earth is going on?   The BMJ group is a publishing company which says, of itself,

“Our brand stands for medical credibility.   We are one of the world’s best known and most respected medical publishers.”

Well perhaps it used to be.

They have certainly picked a very bad moment for this venture.  In the last year there have been at least five good books that assess the evidence carefully and honestly.  Of these, the ones that are perhaps the best on the subject of acupuncture are Singh & Ernst’s Trick or Treatment and Barker Bausell’s Snake Oil Science.  Both Ernst and Bausell have first hand experience of acupuncture research.  And crucially, none of these authors has any financial interest in whether the judgement goes for acupuncture or against it.

Here are quotations from Singh & Ernst’s conclusions

“Reliable conclusions from systematic reviews make it clear that acupuncture does not work for a whole range of conditions, except as a placebo.”

“There are some high quality trials that support the use of acupuncture for some types of pain and nausea, but there are also high quality trials that contradict this conclusion.  In short, the evidence is neither consistent nor convincing – it is borderline.”


Slogging my way through the meltdown of the religious right…

Posted in Happy Jihads House of Pancakes by Skepdude on November 11, 2008

The aftereffects of the Obama win are echoing throughout the World Wide Weirdosphere. Let’s see, what do we have here…? Ah, J. Matt Barber, making an ass of himself as usual. It’s called: “Obama Promises Blood for the Bloodthirsty.”

You can almost smell the puddle of urine he was sitting while he wrote it.

The opening is pretty funny, if death by genital mutilation is your thing, or if you just like hyperbole:

It’s a day like any other. The kids are safe at school and you’re at work wishing you weren’t. All is as it should be. Then your cell phone rings. On the other end is your twelve-year-old daughter’s junior high school guidance counselor. Amid nervous hemming and hawing you detect that something’s horribly wrong. Then the words, “I’m sorry, she didn’t make it.”

At first it doesn’t register. Then it clicks and your soul is pierced. The room begins to spin and rapidly close in. You sink deep and grab for something. But nothing on this earth will hold you up.

Nightmare becomes reality as you learn that your little girl has just bled to death, alone and afraid, on a cold slab at the local Planned Parenthood clinic, the victim of a botched abortion. She was driven there, unbeknownst to you, by the very guidance counselor to whom you speak.

You didn’t even know she was pregnant. Like any child in her shoes, she was afraid to tell you, afraid of what you’d think, afraid you’d be ashamed. So she told someone else. Someone she trusted. Someone she thought cared for her. Someone who decidedly did not.

No one called. No one asked. No one said a word. They didn’t have to. They killed your baby and your baby’s baby in secret.

You feel powerless.

You should.

You are.

It was all legal, you see, and there’s not a thing you can do about it — nothing.

“… Sure, you could have talked to her ahead of time about the options that were available. If she had been on birth control, this would not have happened. If only your school district hadn’t been an abstinence-only district!

“For the rest of your natural life you will wonder why she didn’t trust you? Was it because of the years of indoctrination that left her unable to cope with the real world, or that convinced her that you were unprepared for the real world? Perhaps instead of scaring the shit out of her with your crazy-assed proselytizing, you might have talked to her. But now the little slut is in hell and there’s nothing you can do about it.


Logical fallacies of the homeopathic kind [41-50]

Posted in Altie Meds, homeopathy, Skepdude by Skepdude on November 11, 2008

Welcome to the 5th and final part of my reply to the article titled “Presenting 50 Facts About Homeopathy. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.So without further ado, let us get into it, because this lady has come up with more stuff to review and I would like to take a stab at that as well, in due time.

* Fact 41 – Most homeopaths treat patients who have been referred to them by word of mouth. Most patients seek out homeopathy because conventional treatment has not benefited them or because it poses too great a risk of side-effects.

Non Sequitur – There is nothing good to be inferred by these facts. Just because people may be unhappy, or incurable, with conventional medicine and just because the deluded are referring gullible or desperate friends to the homeopaths, that does not have anything to say if homeopathy works or not. In the country where I grew up millions of people fell victims of pyramid schemes. They were also referred to the con artists by word of mouth and they were unhappy with the economic situation the country was in. Should we deduct that pyramid schemes are thus good? Nonsense!

* Fact 42 – The homeopathic community has thousands, even millions, of written case notes that demonstrate the positive benefits of their treatment. Some homeopaths have video proof of their patients before and after treatment.

Anecdotal Evidence – is not data. Anything that tries to brand itself as scientific should know that the plural of anecdotes does not equal data! The part about the video proof is remarkably ridiculous. Having video, or photos, before and after is quite useless unless we know exactly what happened in between. I can produce video of before and after that can show anything. Hell I can make the claim that drinking a glass of orange juice has the same effect on your outward appearance as shaving and taking a nice shower. No really, I have video proof of the appearance before and after drinking the juice.

* Fact 43 – Homeopaths charge patients an average of £50 an hour. Specialist Doctors can charge up to £200 or more.

Non Sequitur – I never quite get these sort of statements. I guess the point is that we should go to the homeopaths instead of the doctors because they are cheaper, but does cheapness justify the purchase? This is like saying that  a Kia is cheaper than a Lexus, therefore the Kia is better, or therefore you should by a Kia.

* Fact 44 – The popularity of homeopathy has grown in the past 30 years, its revival entirely through word of mouth and estimated to be growing at more than 20% a year the world over.

Appeal to popularity – why should we care how popular it is or it isn’t? The question here is does it work, not are people being deceived.  A succesful lie is still a lie. Success alone does not guarantee quality!

* Fact 45 – Hundreds of famous people throughout the past 200 years have enjoyed the benefits of homeopathic medicine ( .

Appeal to authority – so what? Since when are “famous people” experts in medicine? Famous people in general are known to embrace all kinds of stupid things! Tom Cruise anyone???

Appeal to popularity – Hundreeds? Ha, out of thousands/millions of famous people? A failed attempt I would say at an appeal to popularity. Still, even if all the famous people swore by homeopathy, that would still make no difference whatsoever.

* Fact 46 – The aristocratic patronage of homeopathy in the U.K. extended well into the 1940s and beyond can be easily demonstrated. In the Homeopathic Medical Directories there are lists of patrons of the dispensaries and hospitals. They read like an extract from Burke’s or Debrett’s.

Appeal to authority – Oh yea and aristocrats in 19th/20th century U.K. are medical authorities too, just like the famous people in the previous fact. This is getting more and more ridiculous. I think she started of with the number 50 in her head, and is saying anythig she can think of to reach that number.

* Fact 47 – The Royal Families of Europe use homeopathic medicine and Queen Elizabeth II of England never travels anywhere without her homeopathic vials of medicine.

Non sequitur – Why should the Queen’s beliefs be given more importance than the homeless man’s beliefs? Is she trained in medicine? Has she conducted studies to support her belief? Or is her belief blind? Something tells me its the latter one.

* Fact 48 – Homeopathy is practised nowadays in countries all over the world. In India there are 100 homeopathic medical schools and around 250,000 homeopathic doctors.

* Fact 49 – In a recent Global TGI survey where people were asked whether they trust homeopathy the following percentages of people living in urban areas said YES: 62% in India, 58% Brazil, 53% Saudi Arabia, Chile 49%, United Arab Emirates 49%, France 40%, South Africa 35%, Russia 28%, Germany 27%, Argentina 25%, Hungary 25%, USA 18%, UK 15% (…)

Appeal to popularity– Facts 48 and 49 are cut from the same lame attempt at an appeal to popularity. We’ve already gone over this fallacy a hundred times in this series so I won’t waste your time. I can’t help but notice though that the higher rates of acceptance of hemopathy come from Thirld World countries, or developing, poor countries, in other words countries where real medicine is harder to come by. Compare the acceptance rates in India and Brazil with those in the U.K. and USA! Hmmm…. I wonder what that means?

* Fact 50 – The media as a whole has been unwilling to air a defence of the efficacy of homeopathy and the validity of this 250 year old profession.

Appeal to Antiquity – This is also a favorite fallacy among (S)CAM-ers. It’s been around for thousands of years they say, even though homeopathy doesn’t have thousands of years to boast about. But hey, I guess 250 is impressive. Nevertheless, blodletting, withcraft and countless other stupid theories have been around for as long too. I guess we must accept their efficacy as well.

Conspiracy Theory – The big bad media is not on our side. Bad media! Forget that media only cares about ratings and they’re always credulously reporting anything. Hello foot detoxing specials on your morning/evening news anyone?