Jul 222014
 

SociopathicDana

“A theoretical physicist describes why homeopathy makes sense”

Thus ran the bold claim of a tweet by Dana “Dullman” Ullman, tireless homeopathy shill and proponent of counterfactual confabulations. Now we all know that Dana loves nothing more than the appeal to authority, so obviously it’s important to establish the actual credentials of the “theoretical physicist” in question, Matti Pitkänen.

According to his biography, Matti Pitkänen is an “independent research scientist” – red flag. This list of publications includes, as far as I can tell, precisely no peer-reviewed publications, though Pitkänen does seem to have earned a proper PhD and done some teaching work.

Pitkänen’s claim to fame is “topological geometrodynamics, a field on which it seems he is pretty much the sole writer. His contributions to the non-peer-reviewed “New Energy” literature and other activities suggest that this is not a practising theoretical physicist, but someone who is theoretically a physicist, but crossed the Woobicon long ago.

Of course, Dullman is desperate for the memory of water to be real physics – his uncritical repetition of the work of Jacques Benveniste and Luc Montagnier make this plain. Sadly for him, wishing does not make it so.

So, what does Pitkänen say?

The following gives an attempt to build a brief sketch of TGD based model of water memory and homeopathy as it is after the input from Pollack’s findings and heff=hgr=hem hypothesis.

So at least Pitkänen is honest enough to admit that this is pure speculation.

Summary of the basic facts and overall view

A concice summary of the basic qualitative facts about homeopathy (see 666666;" href="http://tgdtheory.fi/public_html/hologram/hologram.html#homeoc">this) could be following.

1. The manufacture of the homeopathic remedies consists of repeated dilution and agitation of water sample containing the molecules causing the effect which the remedy is intended to heal. This paradoxical looking healing method is based on “Alike likes alike” rule. This rules brings in mind vaccination causing immune system to develop resistance. The procedure seems to somehow store information about the presence of the molecules and this information induces immune response. Usually it is the organisms or molecules causing the disease which induce immune response.

No, that is not a fact. It is a doctrine of the cult of homeopathy. In fact, there is no evidence at all that like cures like as a general or even widespread rule, there is no evidence of the storage of information (there is no objective process by which remedies att he normal dilution can be distinguished, so no evidence of any specific information content), there is no mechanism by which these molecules could actually cause the disease to which they are linked by the conjecture of homeopaths, and there is no evidence that it is ever the organisms or molecules, none of which actually remain, that prompts any response at all; no objectively measurable specific immune response has ever been credibly demonstrated.

As usual, then, the homeopathist begins by stating doctrine as fact, and building on the assumption that a false doctrine is instead a law of nature. So much for science.

2. The ultra-naive and simplistic objection of skeptic is that the repeated dilution involved with the preparation of homeopathic remedy implies that the density of molecules is so small that the molecules can have absolutely no effect. Despite the fact that we live in information society, this is still the standard reaction of a typical skeptic.

The reaction of the skeptic is more nuanced than this.

  1. There is no reason to suppose homeopathy should work. Like does not cure like, dilution does not increase potency, there is no evidence that a substance that causes a symptom will alleviate the disease that causes it, and for most homeopathic materials there is actually no evidence that the material causes the symptom in the first place.
  2. There is no way it can work. No remotely plausible mechanism has been suggested.
  3. There is no proof ti does work. Every finding from any homeopathy study is fully consistent with the null hypothesis.

This is neither simplistic nor naive.

3. A lot of research is done by starting from the natural idea that the electro-magnetic fields associated with the invader molecules (or more complex objects) represent the needed information and that water somehow gets imprinted by these fields. This could for instance mean that water clusters learn to reproduce radiation at frequencies characterizing the invader molecule. Benveniste is one of the most outstanding pioneers in the field. Benveniste et al (see 666666;" href="http://www.digibio-.com/">this) even managed to record the VLF frequency finger print of some bio-active molecules and record them in binary form allowing to to yield the same effect as the real bio-active molecule induced. Benveniste was labelled as a fraud. The procedure used by the journal Nature to decide whether Benveniste is swindler or not brings in mind the times of inquisition. It tells a lot about attitudes of skeptics that magician Randi was one member of the jury!

Benveniste’s work was shown to be invalid, the conclusion relied on a research assistant knowing what result was desired. Once the assistant was blinded to the identity of the samples, the result vanished. Homeopaths refuse to accept this, but no reputable scientist would ever base work on a refuted paper like Benveniste’s, at the very least they would cite independent reproductions by other experimenters published in reputable peer-reviewed journals. If they existed… but they don’t. There are a few claimed reproductions, e.g. by Ennis, but these, too, have evaporated in the cold light of skeptical inquiry.

Homeopaths are fixated on Randi. Quite apart from the invalid nature of the argumentum ad hominam, they do not appear to understand why Randi is the right person to investigate pseudoscience. Scientists, in the main, are very bad at spotting fraud and misdirection. Russell Targ, Brian Josephson, Luc Montagnier and many others ahve been suckered by charlatans or their own beliefs. They are conditioned to trust people and trust their own observations. Randi, by contrast, is a stage conjurer, his stock in trade is fooling people, and his special expertise is spotting when others are fooling people. He rumbled Peter Popoff, Uri Geller and many other charlatans. His craft is the things onlookers do not notice, who better to spot the confounders that onlookers had not noticed in Benveniste’s experiments?

4. Benveniste’s work has been continued and recently HIV Nobelist Montagnier produced what might be regarded as remote replication of DNA using method very similar to that used in manufacturing homeopathic remedy (see 666666;" href="http://www.springerlink.com/content/0557v31188m3766x/">this and 666666;" href="http://www.inpharm.cz/files/ext/EMS-a-HIV%20AIDS.pdf">this).

And Montagnier says that his work cannot be extrapolated to the products used in homeopathy. This tendency of homeopaths to assert as immortal truth any statement they like while ignoring any contradictory statement is a core part of the dishonesty that characterises the entire field.

The general conclusion is that the em frequencies possibly providing a representation of the molecules are rather low – in VLF region – so that frequencies assignable to molecular transitions are not in question. Cyclotron frequencies assignable to the molecules are the most natural candidates concerning physical interpretation. The corresponding photon energies are extremely low if calculated from E=hf formula of standard quantum mechanics so that quantal effects in the framework of standard quantum theory do not seem to be possible.

No, the general conclusion is that homeopathy is an 18th Century delusion that is refuted by multiple well established fields of scientific inquiry including molecular chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology and of course nuclear physics.

Cyclotron frequencies are not the most natural candidates. The most natural candidate is the null hypothesis.

My personal interest on water memory was sparked by the work of Cyril Smith about which learned in CASYS 2001 conference years ago. What I learned was what might be called scaling law of homeopathy (see 666666;" href="http://tgdtheory.fi/public_html/hologram/hologram.html#homeoc">this). Somehow low frequency radiation seems to be transformed to high frequency radiation and the ratio fh/fl≈ 2× 1011 seems to be favored frequency ratio.

In context, frequency is energy (E=hν, where E is energy, h is Planck's constant and ν is the frequency). Pitkänen seems to be suggesting that the process of dilution and twerking causes a significant and profound change in the energy states of the materials. If this were true, it would scarcely have passed the notice of the physics and chemistry communities. You’d also expect some kind of formalised statement of how much energy must be input, and a proof that the energy is required, whereas homeopathy research has no objective standard for the number or force of strikes, and indeed there is no unanimity on whether the strikes themselves are necessary.

In other words this is pure wishful thinking on Pitkänen’s part.

These two basic findings suggest what looks now a rather obvious approach to homeopathy in TGD framework.

It might be obvious in the “TGD framework”, but Professor Google suggests that TGD (Topological Geometrodynamics) seems to have an active research community comprising exactly one researcher: Matti Pitkänen.

The basic physical objects are the magnetic bodies of the invader molecule and water molecule cluster or whatever it is what mimics the invader molecule. The information about magnetic body is represented by dark cyclotron radiation generated by the invader with frequency fI. This dark radiation is transformed to to ordinary photons with frequency fh and energy hefffl=hfh, which is above thermal energy, most naturally in the range of bio-photon energies so that the radiation can directly induce transitions of bio-molecules. The analogs for the EZs discovered by Pollack are obvious candidates for “water molecule clusters”.

Water clusters, eh? Those have been shown to have a life measured in femtoseconds. Reaching, much?

Of course, if any of this speculative nonsense were true, it would be trivially easy to prove by capturing and measuring the photons. Which makes you wonder why Pitkänen restricts himself to words on paper and doesn’t actually test his theory, especially since it would be a groundbreaking piece of work that would make his name in the international physics community.

The following summarizes this overall picture in more detail.

Well, we can skip the rest because while the water memory nonsense is based on published but refuted work, the balance of the argument is based on Pitkänen’s own unpublished bonkers theory of TGD, which he describes as a “noble attempt to construct a theory of everything, not forgetting consciousness”; theories of everything are rather out of fashion in physics at the moment, though string theory is regarded as a possible contender if we ever understand it well enough.

While water memory is a self-serving construct of homeopathists, this article is instead a self-serving attempt to use refuted science as a crutch to prop up something that is not even refuted, since nobody takes it seriously enough to refute it. A speculative theory of life, the universe and everything, dreamed up by an “independent researcher” with a negligible publication record.

Possible mechanism of water memory and homeopathy

The general vision about prebiotic evolution described above suggests that the mechanisms of water memory and homeopathy are basically the same as those underlying the workings of the immune system

This is, of course, the woo-woo version of the immune system, the one that’s boosted by adjusting the flow of qi or manipulating spinal subluxations to allow the flow of innate. It has nothing to do with immune responses based on lymphocytes and barrier cells. Obviously.

1. Exclusion zones could define primordial life forms with genetic code. They are able to detect the presence of invader molecule from its cyclotron frequency spectrum.

How? There’s no evidence that this frequency is delivered to the body in any quantity, or that it has any actual connection to the disease.

2. Dark proteins can form concrete memory representations of the invade.

I can find no evidence that there is any such thing as a “dark protein”.

3. molecules in terms of dark proton sequences defining dark proteins. The folding of these dark proteins mimics the behavior of the magnetic bodies of the invaders. These dark proteins can attach to the magnetic body of the invader molecule to make it non-dangerous. Even symbolic representations in terms of dark DNA allowing transcription and translation to concrete dark protein representation could be involved. The procedure involved in the manufacture of homeopathic remedy could be seen as a series of “environmental catastrophes” driving the evolution of dark primordial life by feeding in metabolic energy and generating new EZs, which mimic the invader molecules and existing EZs mimicking them.

Dark protons don’t seem to exist either. In fact, Pitkänen seems to use “dark” the way Deepak Chopra uses “quantum”; it is a substitute for “speculative, unmeasurable, undetectable, unverifiable, and completely unknown to physical science”.

4. In organism the dark DNA representing the invader molecule would generate ordinary genes coding for ordinary proteins attaching to the invader molecules by the attachment of ordinary DNA nucleotides to them. The attachment would involve heff reducing phase transition reducing the length of connecting flux tube.

No evidence for this at all, and irrelevant anyway as (a) there’s no evidence the frequencies are related to the disease and (b) there’s no evidence the energies are delivered to the body in any measurable or relevant quantity.

5. Later dark genetic code transformed to chemical genetic code as dark DNA strands were formed around dark double strands and large number of other biological functions emerged besides immune response.

Either that or it’s something to do with flux capacitors. Perhaps the experiment should be repeated with dilithium crystals. Oh, wait, there is no experiment, just arm-waving.

6. The mechanical agitation in the manufacturing of homeopathic remedy generates exclusion zones and new primitive life forms by providing the needed energy. These in turn recognize and memorize invader molecules and their already existing representations as EZs.

Really? Prove it. And in doing so, document the number of strikes required and the force needed – bonus points if you can finally settle the dispute over whether the Korsakovian dilution is valid.

I think I can suggest a better title for Dana’s Tweet:

A physicist (theoretically, anyway) spouts nonsense about homeopathy in service of an even more batshit insane idea with even less scientific support.

Jul 142014
 

The ever-entertaining Sandra Herman-Courtney has posted another spittle-flecked rant at her “farting for homeopathy” blog. I almost feel sorry for homeopaths if this kind of lunacy is considered necessary to defend them form the relentless march of reality.

Almost: but then I notice that the Banerjis are still claiming to cure cancer with magic water.

This blog post is far from finished, but this is at least a beginning of some things that I want homeopathy supporters to know. NOW. The homeopathy skeptics are working over-time.

Are we? I suppose so, since it’s all done in our spare time, which would count as overtime if we were doing paid work.

First their venom was directed towards the WDDTY magazine, now they are trying to ruin the reputation of Dr. Nancy Malik, a homeopath in India that has a very informative blog.

Let us be very clear here: only one person is “ruining” the reputation of “Dr.” Nancy Malik, a homeoquack with a website rife with disinformation and outright lies, as any follower will know. That person is “Dr.” Malik herself.

She applied for a Health On Net HONcode, failing to mention that her site is full of anti-medicine propaganda, homeoquackery , antivax lies and so on. Some people complained. The certificate was withdrawn. And now she has a faked version of the certificate on her website. Which is fraudulent, just like everything else about homeopathy.

Footgun fired, direct hit, nobody’s fault but her own.

I hope that both the magazine and Dr. Malik take appropriate legal action. I will do what I can to help, both on this blog and financially. Stay tuned for more about that….

Oh so do I. I would love to see Nancy defend her fraudulent use of a faked HONcode, or WDDTY defend their harassment of critics who have merely pointed out that their publication is full of bullshit and lies.

But of course this is QuackWorld™ where all misfortunes are someone  else’s fault and the only truly unforgivable crime is shining the cold hard light of fact on a fraudulent health claim.

This is such a long story, but for now, let me provide a bit of background about the tactics used by the skeptics, which I have addressed in an earlier blog post HERE against the sale of the What Doctors Don’t Tell You magazine published in the UK by Lynne McTaggart.

The story is well known. Simon Singh publicised the fact that Tesco and a few other shops were stocking McTaggart’s rag full of antivaccine propaganda and other excreta, the spotlight was turned on the advertisers and editorial, and overall the situation developed not necessarily to WDDTY’s advantage.

WDDTY’s response was entirely predictable: personal attacks against critics and howling “free speech” - neglecting the fact that not only does the UK not have legal protection for free speech as her native US does, but also her native US does not protect commercial speech, which this is (much of WDDTY is thinly disguised advertorial).

And then, in a moment of delicious irony, she decided to censor all dissenting views from any online forum she controls, because free speech. Which of course led to further mockery, escalated by McTaggart and co in ways I’m not about to discuss here; suffice it to say that they are following the inglorious footsteps of Errol of the Denton Family.

Alan Henness co-founder of The Nightingale Collaboration and some of his followers started a campaign in October 2013 bombarding with tweets and emails to public relations people of the different shops in the UK & Scotland asking them not to not stock this magazine claiming that the magazine’s content (alternative medicine, natural therapies, etc) was irresponsible.

We didn’t just claim it, we provided evidence. Enormous volumes of it. Dozens of upheld ASA adjudications, documentation of antivaccine propaganda, cancer quackery, promotion of fraudulent devices and much more.

WDDTY likes to pretend it’s a health journal, but we proved beyond reasonable doubt that it’s a trade advocacy magazine for quacks. And that’s why Tesco dropped it (that and poor sales, because in the end you can read all their bullshit at sites like whale.to and Natural News free of charge).

It seems that what angered the skeptics the most – prompting their email & Twitter campaign sent to the different shops was the fact that there was going to be an article in the November 2013 issue of the magazine that covered the positive work and results using homeopathy with cancer patients at the Banerji Homeopathic clinic in India. I have screen shots, but that can wait.

Promoting magic water as a cancer cure was indeed a low point, but only one of many. See http://wwddtydty.com for much, much more.

Since November 2013, the skeptics have not stopped their campaign to censor this magazine and keep it off the shelves in the UK.

True, but only because we cannot stop a campaign that never started. We never set out to censor WDDTY, only to stop retailers inadvertently promoting dangerous bullshit in the guise of a medical magazine. If it had been clearly marked “fiction” and placed with the astrology papers we’d have had no problem with it, and we have never even considered stopping McTaggart from writing or selling her drivel.

Not stocking your magazine does not amount to censorship. Consider always the possibility that such meretricious claptrap is not commercially attractive to a major retailer.

Just below are some screen shots of more recent activity; notably S.L. Singh (54K followers on Twitter and not a physician, homeopath or scientist),

Oh if only it were trivially possible to check this. On, say, an online encyclopaedia. Wait! Simon Singh has a Wikipedia article which notes his credentials as a nuclear physicist (precisely the kind of scientist best able to find the gaping flaws in homeopathy). As for not being a homeopath, his co-author Edzard Ernst is the best trained and most qualified writer on the subject in the UK, trained as both a doctor and a homeopath, So between them their book Trick Or Treatment brings all three of the elements the loon Courtney says are missing: scientist, doctor, homeopath.

the person that provided the original “seed” money for the Nightingale Collaboration.

No idea if it’s true, but not relevant anyway. Unlike the homeopaths who funded a “journalist” to trash Edzard Ernst, this is not in any way a conflict of interest or an underhand act.

This organization scours the internet looking for homeopathy websites and articles looking for information they can report as “misleading content”.

No, we watch for homeoquacks promoting misleading content, especially misleading advers (e.g. Steve Scrutton, see http://is.gd/ASAscrotum and http://is.gd/ASAscrotum2).

To my knowledge, none of these people who report homeopaths to the ASA_UK are physicians, homeopaths or scientists.

Well, we’ve already proved that the best of your knowledge is piss poor, haven’t we? Several are scientists, some are doctors. In fact it’s doctors and scientists who are most outraged by mendacious homeopathy shills, I reckon.

The ASA_UK panel (no homeopath on the panel) then makes a determination (mostly against the homeopath) and then proceeds to embarrass the homeopath on their site. The ASA_UK is a private organization that has not been recognized by the government of the U.K.

The ASA is recognised by the government, it is the industry regulator for advertising and it is private only because the advertisers did not want it to be statutory. They have no homeopaths, no bankers, no croupiers and no barmen on their panel, that does not stop them working out whether adverts by quacks, banks, online casinos and drinks companies meet the standards. they can call on expert advice, and in most cases the claims are very obviously bogus (e.g. every word ever written in promotion of homeopathy).

I myself would warmly welcome statutory regulation, with prosecution rather than shaming of false advertising.

I bet the homeopaths would cry even harder into their infinitely diluted beer.

Sandra, when statutory regulators get involved, you end up with cases like Errol Denton and Stephen Ferguson. That is, convictions and substantial fines. Do you really prefer that alternative? And no, this is not a false dichotomy, or at least not until the homeopathy industry cleans up its act.

Jul 072014
 

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Report on antimocrobial resistance, was published this week.

The evidence-gathering process included the usual smattering of bullshit, presumably encouraged by the presence of David Tredinnick (Holland & Barrett, Con) on the Committee.

George Lewith provided testimony and a written response that shames my alma mater, but despite his name being mentioned in the report, it remains reassuringly reality-based.

I have no doubt that Tredinnick will still strive to shoehorn bullshit in: he has form when it comes to misrepresenting what constitutes evidence for SCAM (see EDMs 2007-2008 #1548, 1549, 1550, 1551; 2009-2010 #908, 1164, 1165; 2010-2012 #284, 285, 286, 287, 342, 387 (and amendment), 1820, 1868, 1957 - in fact, apart from occasional pleas for members’ privileges, shilling for Big Sugar appears to be his sole interest, as measured by EDMs), and it’s extremely unlikely that he will understand terms like “evidence-based” as explicitly excluding homeopathy, but he will be in a tiny minority on that.

47. Dr Goodwin, Society of Biology, highlighted how better infection control, which was “virtually absent in animal husbandry”,[131] could reduce infection rates and stated that much more needed to be done to “tighten up” in this area.[132] However, other witnesses stressed the importance of antibiotics to veterinary medicine. Catherine McLaughlin, National Farmers Union, told us that the “UK poultry industry voluntarily banned the use of some critically important antibiotics at about this time last year” and consequently, had to raise their hygiene standards to be “better than hospitals”, to reduce the increased mortality rate in young chicks.[133] She pointed out that, although a high standard of hygiene could be achieved in a “closed environment, that type of hygiene would not be possible in the more extensive outdoor-type systems”.[134] Furthermore, she said that if a ban were introduced on adding antibiotics to feed and water, then “it would make pig production in the UK pretty much impossible”.[135] George Eustice MP, Under-Secretary of State for farming, food and marine environment, indicated that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate “funds a number of projects looking at antimicrobial resistance”, two of which have an “element” looking at “alternative treatments”.[136] He added that sometimes though these treatments are “anecdotally” reported to have “some impact”, they tend to “fall” at the “final hurdle” of clinical trials.[137]

Quite.

So the measures highlighted in the report include vaccination, phages and other reality-based therapies, but no mention is made of homeopathy despite several written submissions promoting it and even citing one of the authors of one of these submissions.

The sugar shill is not earning his Big Herba dollars, obviously.

Jul 052014
 

The health freedom lobby (or, as I like to call them, the health fooldom lobby) is an unholy alliance of believers in mutually contradictory quackery, who all agree that the one thing they really can’t stand is objective evidence.

It’s pretty much unique to healthcare. Sellers of Ponzi and pyramid schemes have not branded themselves the “finance freedom lobby”. It’s only medicine - a matter of life an death in the end – where people who want to play doctor seem to think they should be allowed to make any old claim they like without the tiresome business of actually learning medicine or carrying the burden of evidence.

One of the more prominent kooks in this particular group is one Steve Scrutton, the notorious homeoquack and non-compliant advertiser (see is.gd/ASAscrotum and is.gd/ASAscrotum2).

Predictably, he’s picked up on McTaggart’s rambling, erroneous and fallacy-filled diatribe. And McTaggart is no doubt delighted, because she doesn’t recognise the legitimacy of the Code of Advertising Practice any more than Scrotum does, especially since the skeptical focus on adverts in WDDTY has probably scared off a good few potential advertisers. No charlatan wants their name in lights on the ASA website, after all.

Here’s Scrotum’s take from his hilariously mistitled “Homeopathy Safe Medicine” blog:

People who hate Health Freedom

Bzzzt! Wrong. We’re people who hate health fraud. We are all for allowing freedom of informed choice, but implacably opposed to selling unproven and disproven treatments with a side-order of disinformation. If you were honest and said that homeopathy can’t do anything but the fireside chat might make people feel better, we’d have no problem with you. But you won’t say that, because you are a dangerously deluded man who apparently sincerely believes that an 18th Century German had a profound insight into health that remains true despite the demolition of every single part of the speculation and misunderstanding on which it was based.

Freedom to make informed choices: Good.

Freedom to make unsupportable claims and sell unproven and disproven remedies: Bad.

See? It’s not so hard.

These are pen-pictures of the people who hate Health Freedom, who want to deny you Patient Choice, who want you to continue taking conventional pharmaceutical drugs, without asking questions, people who don’t want you to know their dangers, sometimes the lethal dangers.

Bullshit from beginning to end. We love informed choice, we are all supporters of All Trials and fans of Ben Goldacre, probably the single most effective critic of the pharmaceutical industry currently living (and vastly more so than the quacks, because unlike the quacks he is not trying to undermine the industry in order to make money by playing doctor, he actually is a doctor and wants to improve the industry to make it better).

We want patients to be able to make choices.

We want those choices to be informed by good science.

We want to stamp out misinformation about medical treatments, whether mainstream or quack.

We have no vested interest. Our only interest is accuracy.

These are the people who head up, or belong to, Big Pharma funded and/or supported groups. They attack alternative medical therapies, like Homeopathy, and seek to perpetuate the failing, dangerous conventional, drug-based health system that so dominates our National Health Service (NHS).

And that is defamation, plain and simple. I am not, to the best of my knowledge, a member of any group supported by “big pharma”. The closest I’ve come is a couple of gigs singing Christmas carols at Pfizer to make money for choir funds. We do not attack alternative medical therapies, we attack alternatives that pretend to be medical therapies but aren’t. We do not seek to “perpetuate” anything, we seek to improve medicine by advocating good quality science, from everyone, whoever they are.

Obviously the pharmaceutical industry has less to do here than most quacks: at least its products usually work, and can be objectively shown to work. They are based on actual known biochemical pathways, the facts of human physiology and so on, rather than on long-discredited dogmas such as humoural theory and sympathetic magic. But we don’t claim the industry to be perfect, and we celebrate advances such as the discovery of h.pylori as a cause of ulcers.

They are people who don’t want an NHS dominated by Big Pharma drugs. They want an NHS in which Big Pharma drugs have a complete monopoly.

Bullshit. The mainstream includes a vast range of interventions from counselling and physiotherapy to surgery to gene therapies, much of which has little or no dependence on the pharmaceutical industry for its existence or development.

Only in the insane world of SCAM is medicine made up only of selling drugs. That’s just a crackpot conspiracy theory.

These pen pictures were first published by the magazine, “What Doctors Don’t Tell You” (WDTTY). They are trying to stop its publication because it seeks to tell us the truth about conventional medicine. They are trying to stop its sale in major retail outlets.

Bullshit. We are not trying to stop its publication, we are urging retailers not to stock it. They can continue to sell it by subscription if they want.

And the reason we’re urging retailers not to stock it is because it’s irresponsible nonsense. It is riddled with anti-vaccine propaganda. It has published AIDS-denialist articles, articles promoting non-existent diseases with medically useless but expensive diagnostics and outright dangerous “cures”. Its content is often advertisements masquerading as information, and although it has “referenciness”, despite using a non-standard citation style one can track down the source articles and very often they do not say what WDDTY pretends they say.

As one author put it:

Our study has been misquoted and misinterpreted—I believe on purpose

Quite.

This is not a hall of fame, it is a hall of infamy. These are people who believe that their drug-based medicine will only prevail if you and I don’t get to know what it is doing to us!

What do you mean “our”, paleface?

I have no financial interest in the pharmaceutical industry, that I know of (though I presume some of my pension scheme is invested in the sector, I’ve never really looked). Unlike Scrotum and his ilk, I have no dog in the fight. My only vested interest is as a patient, as a consumer of healthcare: I want the choices I am offered to be backed by solid evidence and not skewed by commercial interests. The pharmaceutical industry absolutely tries to skew the evidence, and so does the SCAM industry.

The difference is that once you removed the skewing, the pharmaceutical industry mainly has valid products based on actual science, whereas SCAM has nothing but delusions.

  • that it is making us ill
  • that it is causing epidemic levels of chronic disease
  • that it is bankrupting the NHS.

Conspiracist claptrap.

I have coeliac disease. The NHS did not cause this, neither did the pharmaceutical industry. The NHS did, however, detect it, and medical science has a treatment that is 100% effective.

I have asthma. The NHS did not cause this, neither did the pharmaceutical industry. The NHS did, however, diagnose it, and the pharmaceutical industry has a product that prevents attacks and another that relieves the symptoms if an attack does occur. If these products did not exist, I would almost certainly be dead by now, as I have had occasions when I have been put on a nebuliser due to acute attacks brought on by bronchitis.

I’m sure Scrotum wishes that medical science had not saved me, but I’m quite glad it did.

The crucial fact that Scrotum is apparently unable to understand is that attacking bullshit alternatives is not the same as uncritically supporting every word that medical science utters. The mistake is easy to understand: Scrotum and his ilk judge everything according to ideological consonance.

The health fooldom cranks love Andy Wakefield because he was done down by The Man; the fact that he was a doctor lining his pockets while conducting unethical experiments on children comes a distant second, if it’s counted at all. Skeptics, by contrast, judge an idea by how well it is supported by evidence.

There has never been a good reason to think MMR vaccination caused autism, but science, being science, has continued to test and explore this, tot he point that now there are studies based on over ten million subjects showing no relation, and there is a steady, if diminishing, trickle of papers testing the hypothesis, albeit they consistently find it false.

As Sagan said:

“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

He could have added: or in quackery.

I have never once come across a quack who has tested one of their beliefs, found it false, and dropped it.

I know of no remedy in all the history of homeopathy that has been discarded because it was found not to work.

Think about that. Homeopaths, whose ideas are refuted by atomic physics, chemistry, biochemistry and physiology, most of whom have no medical or scientific training, are apparently never ever wrong.

Whereas doctors and scientists are apparently never anything but.

This is what the Metapedia calls the “megalomaniacal point of view“. And that’s the most striking thing about the “health freedom “lobby: not their ignorance, or the depth and persistence of their delusions, but the absolutely breathtaking level of hubris they display.

If you would like to know the ‘quality’ of their argument, and the abuse they aim at people who seek to find out the truth about conventional medicine, read these blogs. Some of the people described below are regular abusers of this blog!

Yes, Steve, we are abusers of non-compliant advertisers like you. You could fix that by not making evidentially unsupportable claims and showing some signs that you understand the limits of your abilities.

But you won’t.

Jul 022014
 

They do say that one should always walk a mile in the other man’s shoes, but this is best not done when the other man is Error “Errol” Denton. WDDTY have, however, chosen to follow the convicted cancer quack down the road of declaring that any scrutiny of thier bogus claims is a personal vendetta, and to retaliate in kind. They don’t seem terribly happy that their rather obvious straw man was summarily demolished yesterday, and their response has been spectacularly vitriolic, not to say batshit insane.

MEET THE PEOPLE WHO WOULD DICTATE YOUR HEALTH CARE

Bzzzzt! Wrong. Our agenda is simple and straightforward: health information must be honest and factual. That means not disguising advertisements as editorial, not promoting long refuted nonsense, not engaging in anti-vaccine propaganda and not placing your ideological and financial interests over scientific evidence and the health of those misguided enough to believe you. No skeptic has ever presumed to dictate what choices anybody makes. We have presumed to challenge bogus claims made on the basis of fallacious reasoning, fraudulent fake science, blind belief, prejudice and conspiracist thinking. All WDDTY have to do in order to completely stop the tide of critical coverage, is to stop making such bogus claims.

As you know, we have been the target of a  concerted campaign to get the store chains to stop stocking us. The architects of this campaign are the same people who spend a good deal of time attacking and harassing alternative practitioners of every variety.

That’s fighting talk. Harassment is a criminal offence and a civil tort. Errol Denton claimed harassment, but in the end it was he who was told to back off by police. Skeptics do very occasionally attack alternative practitioners. Ones like Matthias Rath, who tried to use the old, broken libel law to stifle dissent. Isn’t it odd how the commitment to free speech is a one way street with cranks and quacks? What we do consistently do, and always will, is to challenge bogus health claims. Of course if you’re a quack this is a distinction without a difference, hence their tendency to personalise in return. But the difference is readily appreciated by anyone with a modicum of critical thinking ability.

Their numbers aren’t large (there’re only about 80 of them in total), and they aren’t well followed (Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration, for instance, has just 462 followers on Twitter; Simon Singh, just 44 actively following him), but they are well organized and fueled by a good deal of self-righteous passion about their mission, which is to stamp out what they view as quackery (ie, natural medicine of every variety, particularly the likes of homeopathy).

Good grief, McTaggart apparently thinks that homeopathy is “natural medicine”! It is, of course, neither natural nor medicine – it’s as artifical as they come, and the manufacturers include some industrial scale faux-pharmaceutical companies.

But then, fact checking is not really their thing. Simon Singh has 44 active followers?

slsingh

 

54,000 followers, Lynne, not 44.

But yes, we’d like to stamp out quackery. That does not include “natural medicine of every variety” – quackery is about the claims you make not the products you sell. Vitamins are natural, we don’t want to stamp them out, though we do want to stop the bogus claims of “orthomolecular” quacks. See the difference? No, of course you don’t.

 

So we thought we should shine a light on the qualifications of the most vocal proponents of a group who believe they have the right to determine what you can or can’t read about your health or indeed the kinds of medical treatments you should be allowed to have access to.

Good idea. The alternative would be focusing on your qualifications, such as your honorary PhD, the awarding institution for which you are remarkably coy about.

But the straw man has not gone unnoticed. We do not believe we have the right to determine anything. We leave that to people who are actually experts – doctors, NICE, the MHRA and so on. Nor do we have any desire to control what people read, only where you promote the dangerous and malicious nonsense you publish. We have no problem at all with people subscribing and receiving your magazine, we just don’t think it should be on sale in shops alongside more factual publications such as the National Enquirer.

Your complaint is functionally identical to a pyramid scammer complaining that people who report his adverts, are trying to be the arbiters of what kinds of investments people can buy.

Simon Singh. Singh is not a medical doctor; he has a Ph.D in particle physics. As he often signs his letters ‘Dr Singh’ when writing to Tesco or our distributors, most stores and media naturally assume that he has medical qualifications. He does not, nor does he have a history of studying or writing about conventional medicine.

You’re wrong about that. See http://www.alltrials.net/

But why would it matter? Obviously as a particle physicist he’s a lot smarter than you and he has published books which, unlike The Field, actually inform people about physics, but why should he write about real medicine? There’s no law that says you have to write about legitimate medicine in order to be able to critique fraudulent alternatives.

Besides, Lynne, you write about conventional medicine, and everything you write about it is distorted and misrepresented, in large part because you have no fucking clue about the subject, so as far as adverts for the non-medical writing about medicine, you’re a great example of why he shouldn’t.

No, Simon’s doing what any responsible science writer would do: critiquing pseudoscience. It just happens to be a form of pseudoscience from which you make a living. Sucks to be you, I guess.

He’s written books about mathematical problems and patterns, codes and code-breaking and even cosmology, but nothing to date about conventional medicine – only one co-authored book (Trick or Treatment?- the clue to the slant is in the title) largely trashing alternative medicine.

You say that as if it’s a bad thing.

Most of the books on Bernie Madoff are similarly uncomplimentary.

The problem with alternative medicine is not so much that it hasn’t been shown to work – which is true by definition – but that its advocates pretend that it does, that it works better than real medicine, and that their failure to supply evidence is all the fault of evil big pharma suppressing them.

Singh is the public face of Sense About Science, a charity set up by a holding company in India, whose trustees include Simon Singh and his older brother, Tom, who founded the high street chain New Look. Sense about Science reports that it is supported by donations from a variety of sources, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and many pharmaceutically backed charities, such as Cancer UK.

Oh yes, being paid for by big pharma, that will ensure that Sense About Science doesn’t say a dickie bird about abuse of the clinical trials process, or the misleading claims of the massive supplement arm of the pharmaceutical industry.

Oh, wait…

‘Josephine Jones’. ‘She’ is the pseudonym for two people: Michael and Laura Thomason, who live in Warrington. Mike works as a database developer at Catalent Pharma Solutions. There is a Laura Thomason on Linkedin who works as a supervisor at an Esquire’s Coffee Shop, but we can’t verify if they are one and the same. If so, there can’t be many people popping in and ordering cappuccinos because she and her husband seem to have the time to catalog WDDTY’s every move, which they circulate on Josephine Jones’ blog as a constantly updated ‘Master List’. Presently, they are carrying out a survey of stores we’re in, presumably in hopes they might be able to pick us off, one store at a time. Neither professes to any medical qualifications.

‘Josephine Jones’ was a pseudonym used by Laura precisely because of the sort of deranged personal attacks you’re engaging in here, but she decided to go public when she started with the Good Thinking Society. I don’t believe Mike ever write under the pseudonym.

Still, at least you’ve finally worked out that she and I are not the same. So that’s progress of a sort.

Laura does have a relevant professional qualification, and relevant experience. Unlike you.

Guy Chapman, who created a website called ‘What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doesn’t Tell You’, and writes a good deal of bile-filled statements about alternative practitioners, is a software developer for Dell Computers. He’s also a member of a choir.

Yes, I work for Dell. No, I am not a software developer. I make it very clear that this is my hobby, not my work, and nothing I say is said on behalf of Dell. I am proud to work for them, they are a great company with a fantastic ethos, but they don’t own me and they don’t own the computers I use to write about WDDTY or the servers on which I publish my websites.

And yes, I am a member of not one but several choirs.  am proud of that, too. I have two other hobbies: railway modelling and cycling. All four of my hobbies have one thing in common: they cost me money, and I am not paid to do any of them.

Jo Brody works two days a week as a public engagement coordinator for a research project which runs across four sites, including UCL, Queen Mary, City University and Swansea University), studying how to make medical devices safer. Jo’s job is to update the website and expand the project’s online presence. For the rest of the week she works as an information officer at Diabetes UK. Previously she worked as a secretary for Professor Stephen Wharton. As she freely admits: ‘I am not medically trained.’

You can’t even spell her name correctly. And as with me, Jo makes it very clear that her blogs are her own words and nothing to do with her employers. Why would anyone drag in the employers of their critics, I wonder? A bit creepy, isn’t it? A bit like, you know, harassment.

And Lynne? Jo has the same medical qualifications as you. But she doesn’t pretend to be a health expert.

Alan Henness. He and his wife Maria MacLachlan, who live in Harrow, are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science, but that spends a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to The Advertising Standards Authority.

You “forgot” to mention that virtually every complaint Alan submits is either upheld or the advertiser undertakes to withdraw the advert.

You also “forgot” to mention that WDDTY has had more upheld complaints for a single issue than any other publication I can find, and that many of your columnists have had complaints upheld against them.

Despite the name, the ASA is not a government body; it’s an advertising-industry-sponsored organization with no teeth. The best it can do is place advertisers it deems out of line on the naughty step, listing them on as a ‘non-compliant advertiser’ on its own website. Evaluations of the advertisements of alternative medicine or practitioners through the ASA are a stacked deck; they are evaluated, as our ads were, by known skeptics like Dr. Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh’s co-author of Trick or Treatment?

It’s not “advertising industry sponsored”, it’s funded by a compulsory levy on advertising and it regulates all sectors. It regularly adjudicates against the largest advertising sectors – gambling, drinks, finance, pharmaceuticals and cars – and the only people who seem to have a problem with it are those whose business fundamentally depends on making unsupportable claims.

Front and centre in that group are the homeopaths.

They do use independent expert advice. I’m not aware they have consulted Prof. Ernst, but if they have then you should have no problem with it: he is a fully qualified medical doctor and a credentialled professor of alternative medicine, so if anybody in the UK is qualified to write about the subject, then it’s him.

Henness does not report any other employment, at least on his Linkedin page; previously he was R&D manager for Honeywell Security and Customer Electronics. Although he appears to have no background in evaluating or studying medicine or alternative medicine, as he writes, ‘The Nightingale Collaboration was set up to enable my wife, Maria MacLachlan, and I to share our knowledge and experience in challenging misleading claims in healthcare advertising and to encourage anyone who is concerned at protecting the public from misinformation in healthcare promotion to join us in challenging it.’

You say that as if it’s a bad thing.

Oh, and Lynne? It really isn’t hard to critique alternatives to medicine. You just check the evidence, check the claims against the statements permitted by law and so on. The regulations are all public, and it’s not our fault if your authors and advertisers choose to flout them.

Maria Maclachlan herself is the Community Services Officer of the British Humanist Society, which campaigns ‘for an open society and a secular state with no religious privilege or discrimination based on religion or belief,’ according to its website. (Alan was former Convenor for the Humanist Society.)

Would you have more or less of a problem if they were Pastafarians, Buddhists or Muslims?

On the website Think Humanism (http://www.thinkhumanism.com/humanism2.html), Maria wrote, in a short précis of what it means to be a humanist: ‘Humanists embrace the moral principle known as the Golden Rule. This means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.’

I wonder if this ‘Golden Rule’ also includes harassing groups, practitioners or organizations who advocate or advertise alternative medicine?

It allows the critique of all fraudulent claims, be they by quacks or by financial charlatans. In fact, it’s a moral duty to stop these rapacious frauds form preying on the sick and vulnerable.

Thanks for asking…

Andy Lewis. Set up the ‘Quackometer’ site, which he claims to be an experiment in ‘critical thinking’. Doesn’t reveal what his credentials, education or employment history are – says they ‘don’t matter’ nor does an honest debate of the issues because the wording on websites will, through his own use of critical thinking, offer prima facie evidence of ‘quackery’.

Quackometer is a blog, and a widely read and trusted one. Its advice has exactly the same status as that of WDDTY, with one important distinction: it’s accurate.

That’s who they are. WDDTY, on the other hand, has seven medical doctors on its editorial panel, plus several PhDs and highly qualified practitioners of a number of alternative disciplines. Thousands of doctors and health practitioners of every persuasion regularly read WDDTY and comment enthusiastically. The two editors of our magazine have been medical science writers for 25 years, and every word in our pages is checked by a science editor with a an extensive history of writing and editing medical studies for the pharmaceutical industry.

In which case, one has to wonder why WDDTY routinely misrepresents the evidence it claims to cite, why authors of papers have criticised it for misrepresenting the contents and conclusions of articles, why it publishes a relentless torrent of anti-vaccine propaganda, something that no ethical doctor would ever permit, why so many of its authors and advertisers have been adjudicated as publishing misleading adverts, why the most egregious bullshit is by people who are medically unqualified, but the medically qualified apparently let them get away with it, and so on.

Also I wonder  if you’re including only those whoa re registered and in good standing with the GMC or equivalent. Some definitely are not.

Do you want these eight people to be the ones to determine what you can read about your own health care?

No, and neither do the eight people make any claim to want to do this. What we do want, is for ordinary shops not to stock your tawdry mish-mash of misleading and misrepresented arguments, anti-medicine and pro-quackery propaganda, misleading advertisements, and conspiracist twaddle. That in no way infringes your right to write the garbage you do, or to sell it to consenting adults.

Your right to say something does not confer any obligation on others to listen or to facilitate your saying it.

Speaking for myself, I will reassess WDDTY when you start printing accurate information about vaccines. Every single story you have published on the subject, as far as I can tell,  is negative, and the majority repeat claims refuted a thousand times.

If not, write to Tesco today and ask them to re-stock What Doctors Don’t Tell You. And tell them a bit more about the people who fire off ‘complaints’ – that they are neither true customers nor people with either the training or experience to evaluate the information in our pages: [email protected]

We are both customers of Tesco, and perfectly well qualified to judge the information in your pages.

We do it rather well. That’s why you hate us.

And now for a closing thought.

If WDDTY is a legitimate health magazine, why are they bothering to make personal attacks and engage in actual harassment of those who merely critique the contents?

Any legitimate journal welcomes the identification of issues with its contents. If an article is inaccurate, any responsible journal will publish the corrections.

WDDTY did once publish a correction: they got a figure wrong in a recipe. They have never once apologised for publishing misrepresentations, half-truths and distortions, even when the errors have been pointed out in great detail.

WDDTY could make itself useful by changing from glossy to newsprint. Then at least it would be good for lining the cages of small animals.

Jun 202014
 

Here’s a weird thing about quacks. They all seem to agree that anything produced by “big pharma” is evil, and that anything “natural” and “holistic” is good, yet the validity of many forms of quackery is strongly dependent on ideologies that are mutually contradictory.

A homeopath believes that all illness is the result of disturbances of the vital force by miasms, and that health can only be restored by giving minute doses of substances that cause the same totality of symptoms in a healthy individual. How can they fight shoulder to shoulder with a chiropractor, who believes that all illness is the result of disturbances in the flow of innate in the spine and health can only be restored by manipulation of spinal subluxations, or an acupuncturist who believes that all illness is caused by disharmony of the six essences, and health is restored by manipulating the flow of qi in meridians by inserting needle at acupoints?

Part of the explanation lies in the word believes. These are, fundamentally, belief systems. Christians, Muslims and Jews have little to say to each other but all agree that each others’ beliefs should be respected, and all will defend the others against intrusion by rationalism.

Another part is the fact that, as with Christians in the modern-day Church of England, what practitioners actually believe has little to do with the literal word of the sacred texts and traditions. Medical homeopaths see no problem in advocating medical treatment when the patient is seriously ill, and using magic sugar only as an adjunct or for minor self-limiting ailments - rather like the concept of non-overlapping magisteria.

But I think the fundamental truth is that they agree on things they care deeply about, and they don’t care half so deeply about the things on which they disagree. They all reject, at a visceral level, the idea that scientific medicine is uniquely valid, and in doing so they unite in the claim that it is not valid at all. They rail against “big pharma”, conveniently ignoring the fact that many quack products are also produced by industrialised companies, many of which are subsidiaries of big pharma.

Ultimately, they unite because they see the common enemy as more of a threat to their beliefs and livelihoods, than competing beliefs.

And they are right.

As “Freedom4health” clearly recognise, albeit without openly stating it, if the public perception of a treatment ever becomes dominated by the scientific consensus as to its validity, they are all doomed. Who would go to a chiropractor if they honestly told you that there’s no credible evidence it’s better than any other form of manipulation therapy, no credible evidence that “maintenance adjustments” have any effect at all, and by the way, our signature treatment might just cause a stroke?

Who would visit an acupuncturist if the patient consent document told you that there’s no evidence for the existence of qi or meridians, no good evidence that the positioning of needles makes any difference, no real proof that it even makes a difference whether the needle  is inserted at all, and a possibility of nerve damage, pneumothorax or infection?

Who would go to a homeopath if they admitted that there is no reason to think homeopathy should work, no way it can work, and no good evidence it does work?

When your enemy is reality, you’ll make friends wherever you find them.

Jun 202014
 

Courtesy of my Sinister Agents, I have received the latest Freedom4health newsletter. It is, predictably, batshit insane and loaded with fallacies, delusions and falsehoods.

It’s worth remembering that the Health Fooldom lobby is basically the astroturf marketing arm of Big Herba, an exercise in special pleading to give commercial advantages to those who know their claims and implications considerably exceed their evidence. This has, especially in the US, been remarkably successful and has made the Health Fooldom lobby a major player in the New Age of Endarkenment.

1. Can you treat or diagnose as a natural health practitioner?

This is also another myth that we want to expose. The ASA have for some time taken it upon themselves to tell natural health practitioners that they are not allowed to say they can treat or diagnose various diseases. They have a list of more than 200 conditions (many quite generalised and so these cover just about everything) which they say natural health practitioners cannot claim to treat.

This is misleading. ASA actually say you should not claim to diagnose or treat serious conditions which should be referred to a competent medical practitioner. The idea that quacks should not claim to diagnose or treat things outside of their competence is scarcely controversial, the problem is not that the ASA are oppressing them, but that the quacks do not recognise their own limitations.

The only people who should diagnose serious diseases, are registered medical practitioners. In what world is this even remotely controversial?

If you are a homeopath, naturopath, live blood analyst, reiki master or whatever, and if you have the faintest inkling of your limitations, then you would not dream of diagnosing any health condition at all, least of all a serious one that would attract the obviously unwelcome attention of the ASA and other members of the reality-based community. And frankly, if you do think you should be diagnosing health conditions then you should probably be in jail, not merely trivially inconvenienced in publishing your misleading advertisements. Quacks have no significant training in valid diagnostic techniques. The techniques they do use – iridology and applied kinesiology, for example – are entirely without merit.

Whilst the ASA present themselves as an authority, you should know that this list is not based on any law (there is one exception which is the 1939 Cancer Act).

Misleading. The ASA is the body charged with regulating advertising, and the quacks are pretty much the only people who have a problem with this.

In many cases practitioners have been diagnosing and treating for hundreds if not thousands of years and they have done so effectively.

Your logical fallacies are: appeal to tradition, begging the question. As Roger Fisken pithily put it, we don’t predict the outcome of battles by studying the entrails of chickens, or choose the best route for a new railway line by asking a witch doctor to go into a trance, so why should we behave this way when it comes to healthcare? Sure, people who cast the runes sincerely believe that they are tapping into some great mystical force, but we know they are deluded - and the same applies to the vast majority of quacks who believe they are “effectively” treating disease. It’s not a coincidence that medicine has changed out of all recognition in the last 100 years, during which time human life expectancy has roughly doubled but quacks have not changed their practices at all (other than to adopt new ways of excusing their failures). 

The scientific method, with its pitiless discarding of cherished beliefs that don’t hold up to scrutiny, is the great differentiator between quackery and medicine. It is the engine by which an imperfect enterprise, improves by self-examination. And it is wholly absent from the fields of quackery promoted by the Health Fooldom lobby.

Therefore the ASA’s attempts to shut down the natural health field are nothing more than discriminatory and are serving some other purpose than the well-being of the general population.

Your logical fallacies are: begging the question, appeal to conspiracy. There is no evidence at all that the ASA wants to “shut down the natural health field”, the ASA’s remit and their stated aim is simply to ensure that advertising is “legal, decent, honest and truthful”.

Of course, if quacks are restricted to honest claims and prevented from making dishonest ones, this will affect their bottom line: the reason they are “alternative” is, per Minchin’s Law, that their treatments are either unproven or disproven, but this is not the ASA’s problem, it’s the quacks’ problem. Put simply, if your business cannot survive without making false claims, then your business model is at fault, not the advertising regulator.

We fully agree that advertising should be “legal, decent, honest and truthful” – the ASA’s byword – and we believe that practitioners must have adequate experience and be able to evidence any claims that they make. However, we do not consider that the arbitrary standards established by the ASA are in themselves “legal, decent, honest and truthful” and so they are effectively violating their own code. For more information on this please read our website.

Well, here we have a fundamental conflict between reality and what the quacks believe. There have been numerous analyses of the adequacy of quack training (some commentary here), the general result seems to be that the entire clinical exposure of an ND degree – one of the more time-consuming quack qualifications – is equivalent to no more than a few weeks of medical residency. It takes five years of hard study and years more of supervised practice to become a qualified doctor. Like it or not, quacks are playing doctor based on the flimsiest of education, much of which is in reality mere rote learning of utter nonsense.

The standard established by ASA is not “arbitrary”, other than that ASA seems happy to let quacks claim to treat minor ailments, when the evidence for this is no better than for serious ones. In other words, the only arbitrary standard is to let the quacks off the hook for the small stuff.

N.B. There is European legislation which is enforceable through UK law and which regulates medicines. Medicines have nothing to do with a practitioner’s diagnosis. Whilst we also consider that the way this legislation is written is in itself discriminatory, it does need to be taken into account if you are advertising medicines to treat a condition. But if you are not advertising medicines then this would not apply. Natural health practitioners employ a range of therapies and treatments to help an individual.

Oh please. What’s “discriminatory” about the legislation is that it does not include special pleading to allow quacks to sell rubbish with unsupportable medical indications. The playing field is completely level: you want to make a claim, you have to provide a certain class and quality of evidence, whoever you are.

2. Complaint with Ofcom against ASA

Freedom4Health has recently filed an opposition to ASA’s continued cooperation with Ofcom covering 9 different points all focused on grounds that amount to it being biased against promoting natural health solutions. Ofcom regulates the broadcasting media.

This should be fun to watch.  “Dear OfCOM: the heartless ASA won’t let us advertise quackery as if it’s legitimate, please let us have our own self-regulation that is situated within the bubble world of our delusional beliefs. Love, the quacks”. “Dear quacks, No. Yours sincerely, OfCOM”.

Ofcom transferred some of their responsibilities for the Television Advertising Standards Code to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), though Ofcom is still ultimately responsibility.

That agreement is currently under review.

Our concerns have been filed with Ofcom and cover points such as:

1. The ASA does not base its decisions on “the available scientific knowledge” and is adopting the radical view that only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are ‘objective’ and have validity. This position is not only unscientific but is extremely hazardous to the health of patients. (There are many kinds of valid proof besides RCTs.)

This is the precise opposite of the truth. The entire problem for the quacks is that ASA do take into account the entirety of the scientific evidence, they do not simply accept the sciencey-looking bullshit fielded by true believers. Homeopathy is a perfect example. True believers think that based on counting the number of positive studies they should be allowed to make health claims. ASA look at that, and also factor in the absence of any plausibility, the findings of independent reviews and meta-analyses and other evidence, which underlies the scientific consensus view that homeopathy is bunk.

2. The ASA is refusing to permit publication of evidence of effectiveness in clinical practice.

No, they are preventing you form claiming that something works based on cherry-picked “evidence”. If you present a balanced picture, reflecting the scientific consensus view, they have no problem with it. Of course if you do that your business is toast. This isn’t ASA’s problem, it’s yours.

3. The ASA does not have the competence to assess evidence relating to holistic, natural or integrative medical practice.

That’s why they call in experts.

4. When the ASA does employ the services of ‘experts’, their qualifications are inadequate for a professional adjudication.

Absolutely untrue, and a gross calumny on the professionalism and qualifications of those involved. They certainly do have the qualifications to understand your claims – and that is exactly your problem. This complaint is functionally equivalent to the Catholic church complaining that a gynaecologist is not qualified to give evidence about the virgin birth, because the gynaecologist is not a Catholic and so does not believe in virgin birth.

Put simply, if your claims are only accepted by true believers, then they can be safely presumed to be false.

5. The ASA has redrafted arguments, ignored the evidence, or even redrafted the complaint in order to retain the same conclusion. One complaint was radically redrafted after seven months of correspondence, despite the fact that the ASA requires that “Complaints must be made within three months of the marketing communication’s appearance”.

False. They redraft complaints in order to match them to the CAP code headings, and show what is quoted and what is not. They also investigate the claims being made, and may expand or revise their complaint accordingly. Whay the quacks are arguing for here is the ability to magic the ASA away by redrafting the false claims they make in the middle of an investigation but without changing the underlying false message. ASA, unsurprisingly, does not think much of that idea.

6. The ASA makes claims without producing any evidence to support them, and then bases its conclusions on such unsupported claims.

O RLY? Colour me skeptical. The quacks’ judgment on what constitutes an “unsupported” claim is not something I’d care to trust.

7. The ASA uses slanted language.

Nope. They use objective language. Your problem is simply that they do not slant language as you’d like – so, for example, they don’t subscribe tot he fallacious notion that woo-meisters are “holistic” or that “natural” is a valid criterion for judging efficacy.

8. The ASA is judge, jury and executioner on any investigation with has complete control over the presentation of the ‘defence’ case. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to justice, especially in the context of the other issues outlined above.

It’s not a legal process, and the advertiser is given every opportunity to respond. The function of the ASA is analogous to that of the examining magistrate, a perfectly legitimate approach in cases where there is no civil or criminal liability at stake. Where criminal activity may be argued, ASA does not prosecute – the case is handed off to Trading Standards.

While this complaint is entirely without merit, it does reveal the root of the problem. Quacks view the ability to make their false claims as a fundamental legal right. ASA sees them as just another advertiser, one more sector which has a class of known false statements used in advertising, just like payday lenders or broadband suppliers.

It’s an inequality of motive. The ASA does not give a damn whether quacks can carry on business without making fraudulent claims, they only care that fraudulent claims are not made. To quacks, however, it is a matter of commercial life or death. They cannot do business without making fraudulent claims, so they regard any restriction on the ability to make fraudulent claims as a restraint of trade.

9. The ASA intimidates advertisers, who are mainly self-employed therapists, with language that makes the ASA sound like a government agency, when in fact they are a private limited company created by the advertising industry.

If the quacks are scared by ASA they should try not filling in their tax returns some time: they’d find out what a really scary letter looks like.

Freedom4Health is therefore concerned that the ASA be given an extended license to adjudicate and suggest that their procedures are thoroughly reviewed.

In other words, the quacks want a special set of rules that allows them, uniquely, to make fraudulent claims.

3. Exciting news on alternative to ASA

The General Regulatory Council for Complementary Therapies (GRCCT) is one of two regulatory bodies in the UK for natural health therapies. The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) is the other. Whilst CNHC has made adhering to ASA rulings a condition of membership, GRCCT has taken a completely different perspective and is now setting up a website validation service. This service will assess websites in line with what is legal and in accordance with established principles of evidence and efficacy for any particular natural health discipline. It will be adjudicated by lawyers and experts in the particular field that is being assessed.

This is more than a little disingenuous. The GRCCT (OfCrank? OfLoon? OfUberquack?) seems on the face of it to eb a body set up by the lunatic fringe of the quack world; numeorus Government websites and pages refer to CNHC (aka OfQuack), none refer to GRCCT. I cannot find any trace of any official recognition – it is basically a trade body for those who refuse to accept that ASA’s views on what is a supportable advertising claim.

It will therefore provide a “legal, decent, honest and truthful” assessment of any site. Costs will be minimal for members but more expensive for non-members.

In other words, quacks reviewing quack claims in a quack-friendly manner, as long as you join.

The service is going to become live within the next few weeks.

Live yes, significant? Valid? Not so much.

4. The Petition

Don’t forget to sign the petition to have the ASA debated in Parliament. This has been put together by a practitioner affected by ASA Ltd. See her story and sign the petition herehttp://asa-the-truth.org.uk/

Yes, do write to your MP to ask them to express support for the sterling work ASA does in protecting consumers form false and fraudulent advertisers.

We will be visiting a number of colleges around the UK to talk with practitioners and students about the ASA in the coming month. If you would like help in talking to your regulatory bodies or associations please let us know and we will contact them to discuss the progress we are making and issues that are currently topical for natural health practitioners in regards to the ASA.

Translation: we’ll be conducting a sales roadshow for our OfUberquack.

For further information please contact Angela or Martin at [email protected] or visit our website at www.freedom4health.com

Oh do, please, and tweet the responses, it should make great comedy!

Jun 072014
 

The Malik-bot is either an artificial intelligence or a genuine stupidity, whose sole function is to spam comment threads with credulous bollocks about homeopathy. Blessed with a BHMS – Bachelor of Homeopathic “Medicine” and Surgery, and $DEITY help us if she practices the latter – the Malik-bot uses copy-paste statements like “real is scientific homeopathy” and links back to her blog.

Previous egregious idiocies include the defence of “super-Avogadro dilutions“, a concept unknown to science.

In a willful attempt to boost the reputation of her blog, she applied for a HONcode, from Health On Net. A code was initially granted, then reviewed in response to complaints. The review caused the HONcode logo to show a red warning, and a link to the re-examination page. But, as @XtalDave recently spotted, Malik has mendaciously redirected the link to an archive service that shows the original page.

After all, nothing says trustworthy health information quite like falsifying your registration with a health resource website, does it?

Read xtaldave’s excellent takedown for more.

Jun 062014
 

Spammers and scammers hate this one weird old trick!

If you want to avoid scammers, spammers, address harvesters and sundry other bottom feeders, all you need to do is avoid the clickbait.

OK, we all know this. I want to know who it is that keeps clicking on the “people are getting iPads for $5″, “new skinny pill”, “cosmetic surgeons hate this woman” and other bullshit adverts. Is there just one firm cranking this crap out, or is it a techique one scum sucking bastard dreamed up and everyone else is copying?

Site last updated July 22, 2014 @ 10:10 pm