[BPSDB]Ben Goldacre has done a review of 2008 so I thought I’d take a leaf out of his book (or should that be a byte out of his blog? Whatever. You know what I mean.) and produce my own review of my first full year of serious blogging.
Homeopathy featured prominently and I began the year by examining a couple of papers that are trumpeted as proof that homeopathy works. They aren’t and it doesn’t. This post was discovered several months later by homeopathic Drs P.K. Sethi and Nancy Malik. It will surprise nobody to learn that they provided no evidence that homeopathy works.
Dana Ullman proved to be quicker off the mark, leaving his first comment on this blog on All Fool’s Day. In fact (occasionally) rapid response seems to have been a theme for the year. This post drew a near-instantaneous response from the purveyors of the quack scenar bioresonance device. Somebody presenting themselves as the managing director of the company later followed. Both offered a heap of pseudo-scientific claptrap in support of the device.
Mr. Roger Coghill also put in an appearance. I had initially fisked a story from the front page of the Sunday Express which claimed that there was a link between phone masts and the Bridgend suicides. The story was complete rubbish, credited Mr. Coghill with an academic title he does not possess, falsely claimed he is a Government adviser on radiation (oo! RADIATION!!! SCARY!!!!!) and appeared to have been pretty much cribbed from a press release. I am quite chuffed by the fact that I beat Ben Goldacre into cyberspace with this one by several days. It has to be said, though, that he did a better job – including uncovering the story of the Incredible Disappearing Data.
The follow up post was continuing one of the themes from the fisking post: getting Mr. Coghill to explain how he had calculated the average distance from a phone mast. The answer turned out to be a combination of invalid assumptions and mathematical error.
JABS and the measles epidemic for which they must bear some responsibility for was a recurring theme of 2008. I began by noting the wholesale suppression of dissent on the JABS forum. In March I pointed out the causal link between the activities of the anti-vaccination brigade and the measles epidemic that is sweeping the nation. The public health situation has worsened since I published that post but on the plus side the BBC has stopped linking to JABS whenever they put a vaccination article on the ‘net.
I also commented on the JABS attempts to dissuade people from reading Bad Science to get another view on vaccines. They went as far as spreading false claims that the bad science site was infected with a virus. One reader got spam email as a result opf registering on JABS. I am not suggesting that anybody on JABS did this but it shows that the site security is woeful. If any site is going to be infected with viruses it will be them. After all, anti-virus software must be against their philosophy. Just a conspiracy by Big Interweb.
The other major theme of the year was my attempts to uncover the decision making process that had initiated the Great Durham Fish Oil Saga here, here, here, and here. The answer would appear to be that the decision was made on an ad hoc unattributable basis and elected Members were not troubled by having to think about it.
Paul Thompson aka MacCruiskeen commented on these threads, adding his own experience. He has since begun a blog detailing his discussions with Durham on this issue.
One of the officers involved in the saga, Madeleine Portwood featured in her very own blogpost about her claims that children are not developing as fast as they used to. Frankly, these claims do not stand up.
May also covered the televised back-tracking by Professor-at-a-burned-out-Nepalese-University Jayney Goddard.
I also thought local. I covered the decision to rebuild Forest Hill School for Boys without a carpark. We are told that this was to reduce the school’s carbon footprint but the Law of Unintended Consequences has come into play: The area now has major problems with street parking and traffic congestion has certainly not improved. Lewisham Council’s answer to this is more yellow lines so that residents will have nowhere to park. Thank you DofE. Thank you London Borough of Lewisham. You’re all idiots.
Sometimes I think the woos have won and we’re fighting a guerilla war in enemy held territory.