Having completed a second full year of blogging, I thought I’d do as I did in 2008 and post an overview of the year. It’s a bit late as I’ve just returned from South Africa and most of the time was a fair distance from an internet connection. Enough excuses.
Talking of Africa leads neatly to the beginning of the year when I (along with many other bloggers, particularly Gimpy) covered the activities of Jeremy Sherr in Tanzania. Sherr not only claimed that homeopathy can cure AIDS but also talked of conducting human trials in Tanzania. This would be in breach of the Society of Homeopaths’ Code of Conduct but that bothered neither him nor them. He did delete his dodgier claims from his blog and claimed his critics were being libellous. However, on the internet nothing ever dies and the posts he thought deleted have been cached. Thanks to Rob Hinkley for that.
Whether or not he learned that those posts were still around to haunt him or not, I cannot say, but his blustering came to nothing. It may be just as well for him that he did; the vitamin salesman Matthias Rath sued Ben Goldacre and the Guardian for criticism Ben made of his activities – and lost. As a result a chapter that had not appeared in Ben’s book because of the ongoing court action appeared in the second edition. Ben and his publishers also allowed it to be distributed free. I posted it here.
Sherr urged fans of homeopathy to counter Gimpy’s criticisms and while vast numbers of comments appeared on his blog, none of them addressed the substantive of the criticisms, leading me to observe here that:
Perhaps their homeopathic philosophy suggests to them that any arguments are made more potent if they are greatly diluted with tens of thousands of meaningless words
This was dubbed “JQH’s Law” by the Perky Skeptic but it does not appear to have caught on.
At the end of January, I covered the Daily Mail’s attempt to revive the MMR hoax here. A few month’s later, I noted that Paul Dacre is now in denial about his paper’s anti-MMR stance. Perhaps tiring of MMR, the Daily Mail decided a new scare was in order and set about trying to convince people that the HPV vaccine would kill or cripple their daughters – or possibly turn them into sluts. Fisked here. This story prompted me to make a complaint to the PCC but it was rejected.
Someone who had evidently not tired of the MMR hoax was LBC broadcaster Jeni Barnett whose forty five minute rant and shout down of critics was posted by Ben Goldacre on his blog. This was removed due to legal chill but the Streisand Effect cut in to ensure its wide distribution. My own contribution here.
In a number of posts I fisked Ofquack’s guidelines for alternative health practitioners. The one on reilki was trolled by scenar salesman Philip Porter who constantly tried to change the subject to vitamin B17 being a cancer cure and the wonderfulness of scenar. At one point he argued that it must work as he had spent £9,000 on equipment and courses. Proof by Financial Outlay is a logical fallacy I’d not previously encountered. I looked at some of his “evidence” here and concluded that it was crap.
He was not the only viral marketeer to infest the comments. This post seemed to upset the xocai chocolate marketting department. One troll claimed that this product had been approved by Health Canada. Another commenter called him on this. I checked for myself and discovered that the claim of approval is a lie.
While perusing Natural News I discovered Louise Mclean’s “Facts About Homeopathy” article and thought it worth fisking. There were so many errors in this short article it took eight posts to cover them all:
The year ended as it began, with posts on dodgy health claims. I discovered that the University of Westminster’s School of Life Sciences is offering a course in qigong tuina. The website made claims about students learning to use qi to diagnose and heal. This being a university life-science department, I emailed both the couse tutor and the Head of Department to ask for the evidence which backed up these claims but received no reply so I submitted a Freedom of Information request for this information. The university was due to reply on 13 of this month but have yet to do so.
As well as the al.med crowd, for family reasons I investigated the money-grubbing activities of the mystery-mongerers who call themselves the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – and did I stir up a hornet’s nest by so doing. Judging by the comments that these posts drew, these people do not want their racket exposed. Well tough. Analysis of their financial returns to the Charity Commission is on my “To Do” list.