Archive for June, 2009

The music industry uses made-up numbers?

Slightly late to the game with this one, but a nice number-demolishing piece from our Sainted Ben Goldacre. See, I’ve worked in the music business and am of the opinion that music should be free, musicians should get paid. And many do, just not at the obscene levels they were used to and are having to find other outlets for their work.

Maybe the problem is that the music “industry” has stood in the way of making music reasonably priced so we don’t feel ripped off. Many established artists are able to circumvent the old ways with innovative models. Maybe they’re just hanging onto their doomed jobs?

Still, enjoy Ben’s Piece.


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Top 5 questionable therapies

I think we can think of many better candidates but this set of youtube videos are worth a chuckle.

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Oprah’s vajayjay

We haven’t had a poke at Oprah for a while but a couple of nuggets popped up last week,

First up, she responded to the thorough kicking in Newsweek with a slightly lame “I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.” Someone needs to remember the maxim “never underestimate the stupidity of the general public.

On a lighter note. Oprah’s vajayjay. Just watch it dammit. You will smile.


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Chiropractics in more retreat

In a very slick move, a chiropractic association are entreating their members to withdraw most of the claims about chiropractic from their literature and web sites. In other good news there appear to be over 500 complaints under the advertising standards or trading standards codes. Go for it.

Quackometer notes that the altered sited have been archived. Go internets!

Oh, and chiropractic’s research numbers don’t stack up.

Looks like chiropractors can’t even cover their own backs. Heh.

On a personal note, what’s been interesting about this is that a friend, a perfectly right-on, rational ex-Googler, has managed to convert an anecdote, his personal journey from debilitating, morphine-sucking, lower back pain into the data that chiro in general works. I’d like to see physios and masseurs setting up as a control group of quacks and then we’d see what fell out of the study.

The comments on PZ’s blog also show a non-trivial level of anecdotage.

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Tony Blair in religious nutter shock

I don’t think this one is going to get much more traction in the press, but it’s an interesting thesis: Tony Blair went to war in Iraq, blatantly ignoring the will of the people who marched en masse, “because God told him to”. His unshakable faith ran beneath every decision he made, a black and white world of good vs. evil.

‘Tony Blair complained in 2007 that he had been unable to talk about his faith while in office as he would have been perceived as “a nutter”.’

I wish he had.

In other news, his faith initiative in schools has been criticised by the NSS as being more likely to do harm than good. what with dividing largely uncaring children by their parents religion.

Can we start by noting that brainwashing minors in the details of sky fairies is tantamount to child abuse?

Update: the current Jesus and Mo nails it.


Chiropractors start panicking

This is lovely. Their association is telling chiropractors to take down any information that might land them in trouble. That would be pretty much most of it, right? 500 complaints are already in hand with trading standards and the ASC.

This is what happens when you piss off the internets.

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Anti-vaxxers are freeriders

Lovely article by an actual professor on how vaccine refuseniks (does that make them sound any more sinister?) are freeloading on the back of the people who do the right thing.

Good comments too.

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NASA says climate changes might be down to nuclear fireball in the sky

I’m gonna get into a lot of trouble for this. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a climate change skeptic. This means I don’t buy into the CO2 global warming dogma that’s being forced onto us or the vested interests that are either trying to scam money out of us or return us to some version of the dark ages. Oh and correlation isn’t causation. The world has been hotter than it is now and it’s been colder. Climate change is a constant. Always has been. CO2 levels have been on occasion much higher than they are now.

All that said, I’m all for reducing our various footprints and conserving what resources we have. Just show me the science not some theories.

Anyhow, Deceiver reports that NASA reckons that the sun might just have something to do with climate change. Cue crowing all round.

I saw Fred Singer at the Skeptics in the pub last year and he made a gently compelling case for that lump of nuclear fusion up there maybe having a tad to do with what’s going on.

Over to you lot.

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Go Australia! Homeopaths guilty of manslaughter.

DC Science reports that the Australian homeopaths are guilty of manslaughter in the death of their child.


It shouldn’t have been necessary if people didn’t believe their delusions.

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Chiropractic is stupid

Let’s get this very clear. Chiropractic is stupid. It was made up by some guy with some fairly weird ideas and in the years since its invention has not stood up to any evidence-based scrutiny whatsoever.

However, the British Chiropractic Association have started throwing their weight around like some lumbering, uncoordinated playground bully with a pea-sized brain rattling round its skull. They sued Simon Singh for libel for some perceived insult. And won. Well, the first stage. The rational community is outraged and is now fighting back. Singh will appeal.

So here is a bucketload of links for your reading pleasure:

Sense about science has a petition. Sign it.

DC’s Improbable science has more links and a nice quote:

“A crank on magnetism has a crazy notion hat he can cure the sick and crippled with his magnetic hands. His victims are the weak-minded, ignorant and superstitious, those foolish people who have been sick for years and have become tired of the regular physician and want health by the short-cut method he has certainly profited by the ignorance of his victim. His increase in business shows what can be done in Davenport, even by a quack.” [quoted in Rose
Shapiro's book, Suckers

PZ Meyers has something to say. Singh is principled and brave apparently.

Derren Brown comments on the situation.

The quackometer has yet more excellent commentary and a quote from Stephen Fry amongst others:

“It may seem like a small thing to some when claims are made without evidence, but there are those of us who take this kind of thing very seriously because we believe that repeatable evidence-based science is the very foundation of our civilisation. Freedom in politics, in thought and in speech followed the rise of empirical science which refused to take anything on trust, on faith, on hope or even on reason. The simplicity and purity of evidence is all that stands between us and the wildest kinds of tyranny, superstition and fraudulent nonsense. When a powerful organisation tries to silence a man of Simon Singh’s reputation then anyone who believes in science, fairness and the truth should rise in indignation. All we ask for is proof. Reasoned proof according to the established protocols of medicine and science everywhere. It is not science that is arrogant: science can be defined as ‘humility before the facts’ — it is those who refuse to submit to testing and make unsubstantiated claims that are arrogant. Arrogant and unjust.”

Slightly out of date but still informative is Nick Cohen in the Guardian.

Less of a media darling than the rest but still lucid and informative, our own Dave Cross is, well, cross.

The New Scientists also has a bash defending the right of scientists to examine evidence critically and speak out when it is found wanting.

OK, that’s a lot of links. By now you should be getting a feeling for the level of contempt felt by rational folks against these charlatans. In case you’re in any doubt, read these informative pages that have been around since before this blew up:

The New Scientist on what you should know about Chiropractic.

Where’s The Harm catalogs deaths and injuries from chiropractic. This destroys any argument about it even being a placebo. Placebos don’t kill people.

DC has a lovely overview of alternative medicine in general in his Patients Guide to Magic Medicine.

And finally, Skepdic has a history of the practice of chiropractic with a veritable cockbucket of links and references for the keeners amongst you at the end.

I now trust that when someone tells you that they’ve been helped by such fantasy you will at least look at them with a slightly more cynical eye, and with courage, attempt to put them straight.

I got quite angry writing this. Let’s hope the reverse in the courts will wake people up to what’s going on.