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A “plethora” of evidence for chiropractice

Posted in Journey Through a Burning Mind by Skepdude on June 23, 2009

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h yes. The British Chiropractic Association has finally released the “plethora” of evidence that support their non-bogus treatments, and that put Simon Singh in his place. Indeed, BCA has produced an immense list of… 29 references*.

This vast amount of conclusive trials prove the efficacy of chiropractice for the conditions mentioned in Simon’s article beyond any doubt. One can understand why it took the BCA more than a year (after they chose to file a lawsuit instead of resolving a scientific and public health debate using -gasp!- science) to present their evidence: it was purely a matter of logistics! Someone (oh the hero) had to dig out and collect this abysmal number of references. I can imagine the endless hours spent in trying to order and arrange the list -presumably in order of importance (?)

Which makes the very first reference the most important piece of evidence that chiropractice is effective and safe. The Ace of Spades for the BCA; the mother of all evidences; the Optimus Prime of research pieces that completely thrashes Simon Singh’s unfounded claim. This masterpiece is none other than the General Chiropractic Council’s… code of practice!

[/sarcasm]

Not much to discuss here really. This is a truly pathetic evidence base, as Prof. Colquhoun notes, that if anything, totally proves Simon’s point: there is no solid evidence to back up a practise that claims to treat potentially serious conditions… in babies! If you cannot realize the seriousness of this issues I suggest you have your head checked by a homeopath and your spine manipulated by a chiropractor…

The Lay Scientist has a great post up, destroying the BCA’s “plethora” of evidence and providing a plethora of references to other bloggers that were quick to dissect BCA’s document. It’s funny though to go through BCA’s list through the eyes of the Lay Scientist, to try and understand what they think constitutes good evidence in the arena of public health. So let’s do that, shall we?

We start with 29 references:

Of the 29 references, 1 is just the GCC’s code of practice; 6 is an irrelevent paper about medical ethics; 8, 9, 10 and 17 are about osteopathy; 26 is a description of evidence-based medicine; 27, 28 and 29 are about NSAIDs. That’s 10 down straight away, but what’s interesting about these is that 6 of them are just attacks on conventional medicine. In other words, this is not a particularly comprehensive or focused review of the literature.

We are down to 19 already.

A further three papers, (12, 13 and 14) cover the safety of chiropractic, which has come under considerable criticism. Curiously, this brief selection ignores the numerous studies showing an increased risk from chiropractic. 14 isn’t a study at all, 12 is considerably less bullish than the BCA suggest it is pointing to a significant number of side-effects “with a possible neurologic involvement”, and 13 provided stronger support (”We found no evidence of excess risk of VBA stroke associated chiropractic care compared to primary care.”), but should be taken in the context of the wider range of studies finding the opposite.

Down to 16 possibly relevant.

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Homeopaths: fallacies, lies, and dangerous advice

Posted in Journey Through a Burning Mind by Skepdude on April 13, 2009

Since this is the World Homeopathy Awareness Week, I might be spending more time on this particular well of credulity. I will also re-post my piece from last year’s WHAW. But today, I’ll be talking about Melanie Grimes, a homeopath who writes for HealthNews as a health “expert”. The irony though is painful -you will soon see that if “expert” was to be used in the same sentence as Melanie, then that would be: “Melanie Grimes is the exact opposite of a health expert“. So let’s start the fun, shall we?

I had a look at 3-4 of her articles*, and I can assure you they are filled with fallacious arguments of the worst kind; a very bad understanding of modern scientific research; misrepresentation or outright ignorance of the relevant scientific literature; and propagation of very dangerous homeopathic beliefs as to what their pet therapy can treat (from cancer to diabetes, it’s all there).

Starting with her piece on this year’s WHAW (starting slowly with some common stuff):

Homeopathy provides an effective and gently way to treat allergies. Using potentized medicines, homeopaths prescribe minute doses to treat both the acute reaction to allergens, as well as the cause.

I hope you have spotted that subtle piece of misinformation: “minute doses”. It’s not minute doses actually. It’s non-existent doses usually. The most common potencies of homeopathic remedies are 12C and above -a dilution so high that no molecule from the original substance remains in the remedy!

But the most interesting claim is that homeopathy is effective for allergies. In fact, this is a very common claim of homeopaths but is there any evidence to back it up? Readers of this blog already know the answer: no.

A quick search in PubMed brings up some relevant reviews [1][2][3], none of them recommending homeopathy (or CAM in general) for diagnosing or treating allergies. Quoting from “Systematic review of complementary and alternative medicine for rhinitis and asthma”[1]:

Some positive results were described with homeopathy in good-quality trials in rhinitis, but a number of negative studies were also found. Therefore it is not possible to provide evidence-based recommendations for homeopathy in the treatment of allergic rhinitis, and further trials are needed. A limited number of studies of herbal remedies showed some efficacy in rhinitis and asthma, but the studies were too few to make recommendations. There are also unresolved safety concerns. Therapeutic efficacy of complementary-alternative treatments for rhinitis and asthma is not supported by currently available evidence. [emphasis mine]

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Egnorance and stupidity…

Posted in Journey Through a Burning Mind by Skepdude on March 6, 2009

Mike Egnor is a neurosurgeon, famous for his notoriously fallacious arguments and bad logic when trying to support the fairy tale that is intelligent design. He contributes to a ridiculous blog in which he often comments on news around evolution -a well of fallacies, misunderstandings of even basic evolutionary concepts, and just plain silliness. Actually, it is not even a blog: Egnor doesn’t allow comments on his posts, probably in fear of armies of people ridiculing him for his outrageously stupid way of “thinking”. Steven Novella has exposed Egnor a number of times already but he just doesn’t seem to notice… Everyone else though, has already acknowledged the vacuity in his argumentation… The term “Egnorance” was promptly and rightfully coined and is in wide use today.

Egnor’s latest rant is about the scientists’ response to the Academic Freedom bill that was recently passed in Louisiana. On paper, this law simply allows teachers to bring material and discuss controversies and weaknesses of scientific theories in the classroom without the fear of being “punished” somehow for this. In reality, this bill is of course a weasel’s way of introducing intelligent design and creationism into science classrooms.

To their honour, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) has actively opposed this ridiculous bill, and now that the bill was passed, they (along with many other science societies) have decided to boycott the State of Louisiana and organize their conferences in other states, more open to science and proper education.

Egnor however, thinks the SICB is just promoting censorship in the classrooms (what an irony from a guy that doesn’t allow comments in his blog!). You see, Egnor thinks that academic freedom is about discussing a scientific theory in a science classroom. He believes that science is done in the highschool classrooms:

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