Andrew Wakefield: Misleading and Irresponsible

January 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm (Anti-Vaccination) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The GMC have today found that the man who began what became known to some as the media’s MMR hoax was “misleading and irresponsible in the way he described research later published in The Lancet.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Curry can cure cancer, say scientists

October 28, 2009 at 7:45 pm (Media) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well, according to the headline in today’s Metro article they do. The Sun went for “Curry is a ‘cure for cancer’“, while the BBC were slightly more restrained – settling for “Curry spice ‘kills cancer cells’” – as were the Daily Mirror (with “Curry ‘kills cancer cells’ and other health benefits of the nation’s favourite dish“). Did scientists claim that “curry can cure cancer” as the Metro claims? Is curry a cure for cancer, as the Sun tell us? Read the rest of this entry »

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BBC Still Linking to JABS

September 22, 2009 at 11:05 am (Anti-Vaccination) (, , )

Having previously complained to the BBC about their linking to JABS and read with interest the opinions of the author of Lay Science Martin Robbins, I was disappointed to note that the BBC are still linking to the site even now. So I sent in another complaint. This time, I have read the guidelines on impartiality in an attempt to pre-empt any defence of “balance”. Here’s my complaint: Read the rest of this entry »

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The Promotion of Counterknowledge

March 24, 2009 at 6:09 pm (Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Bloggers, Briffa, Conspiracy, Dangerously Wrong, government, Media, Nutritionism, Patrick Holford, Religion, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

[BPSDB] Those promoting Counterknowledge are winning. Possibly because the public actually don’t really care that much*. (Damien Thompson’s book Counterknowledge is available from local libraries in my area, yet I am the first person in the 14 months since it has been in the library catalogue to borrow it.) It is also possible that Counterknowledge is spreading at least partly because people with a measure of influence in society are among those who promote it. Members of the British royal family, politicians, the mainstream media, celebrities, Alternative Medicine practitioners posing as authority figures, members of churches, and even universities have helped to promote Counterknowledge. Not to mention maverick scientists such as Andrew Wakefield. Those with less authority are playing an important part too, though. For example, full-time conspiracy theorists such as the owner of the website are disseminating bullshit that is reproduced on forums such as What Doctors Don’t Tell You, or JABS. Read the rest of this entry »

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Acupuncture Works. According to the BBC’s Headline.

January 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Placebo) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

The BBC has reported on an acupuncture study. Here, the headline is “Acupuncture ‘works for headaches'”. Oh dear. Smart Bombs has written a cracking post on the reporting of this study in the mainstream media and linked to the Guardian and the BBC reports. Read the rest of this entry »

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Competing Interests in the Mainstream Media

December 5, 2008 at 9:02 pm (Media) (, , , , , , , , )

Here, it was suggested that

Articles in medical journals more and more routinely carry ‘declaration of interest’ type information. Perhaps we should be thinking about similar for writers of articles on health matters in mainstream media?

Now I think that’s an excellent idea, but let us for a moment go even further and imagine a world where articles on all matters in the mainstream media carried declarations of competing interests. Because it will give me a chance to have a go at the Daily Mail. Read the rest of this entry »

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More Brain Pills – are you a user?

October 16, 2008 at 2:11 pm (Bad Science, Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , )

Here is a story that rang a couple of bells with me. Back in May, I wrote about claims by the Academy of Medical Sciences that people were using Alzheimer’s, and other, medications as “exam-boosting drugs” (quoted text is from the BBC headline rather than the AMS). I contrasted fears of academic cheating via brain boosting pills with the enthusiasm for “brain boosting” fish oil pills in Durham. Now, a questionnaire of 1400 people seems a little thin for BBC claims that “up to a fifth of adults, including college students and shift workers, may be using cognitive enhancers”. I can believe that up to a fifth of college students might use cognitive boosters, but the shift workers would be slightly more surprising and one fifth of all adults taking cognitive enhancers would shock me, to be honest. Unless they just mean “are coffee drinkers”. I don’t have any info about this survey, but I thought it might be fun to do my own. Test this new WordPress poll feature if nothing else. If I can find out more (and I have emailed the BBC to this end), I will update this post with some interesting shit about the Nature survey.

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BBC Guidelines – Worthless

June 13, 2008 at 4:07 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Media) (, , , , , )

OK, it’s just a brief post today instead of my usual Friday verbosity – because I’m watching the Holland game tonight.

I’ve been trying to find out more about why the BBC links to JABS and how they can justify doing so. Between my complaints to the ECU and my FOI requests, I’ve managed to get an initial opinion of a BBC employee that their linking to JABS would be “well within what is permissable in [their] guidelines”. I am grateful to my correspondent for passing this on, but I am appalled that the BBC have issued guidelines on external linking that allow them to link to a site such as JABS that contains dangerously wrong information. If they can link to the views of HIV-denialist Doctors and laypersons who advise parents of infants to discontinue medical treatment and switch off baby monitors, then the BBC can link to anyone and, this being the case, there is no point having guidelines on external links in the first place. As a tenacious obsessive, I’m inclined not to let this go. I am still awaiting the outcome of my complaint to the ECU, but I don’t expect to get the result I was hoping for. So what’s next? Do I join the green ink brigade and start a letter-writing campaign in the style of John Stone or do I go for the sit-down protest outside Broadcasting House? You decide.

My BBC Complaint

Why does the BBC link to JABS?

JABS and Whale

An open letter to JABS

EDIT 7.45pm: I’ve noticed a perceptive comment on the Bad Science forum from DeeTee: “they [JABS] are a single issue action group, and not a support group. Why cannot the BBC realise this?” – which is something I should probably stress to the BBC next time I contact them.

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My BBC Complaint

June 11, 2008 at 12:08 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Media) (, , , , )

Below is a reproduction of a complaint I have submitted to the BBC:

On 12th May, I followed up an email I had sent complaining about the BBC linking to JABS. I have yet to receive a response, so have copied and pasted my email below:

I am still concerned by the assumption that linking to JABS somehow provides ‘balance’. I was interested to note that you stated the BBC must link to JABS for balance – implying that you are somehow impelled to link to that site in order to make articles on vaccines fair and balanced.
Can I please ask the following questions:
Whose decision was it to link to JABS for balance?
How was that decision made?
Are there any sites other than JABS that the BBC could link to for ‘balance’?
Does the BBC link to alternative sites (a) for every story specifically in the health section of the BBC’s website and (b) for every story on the BBC’s website?
Would the BBC ever link to an alternative site other than JABS that gave reckless health advice?
Would the BBC consider a site propagating holocaust-denial appropriate to link to for articles about WWII?
Would the BBC consider a site propagating 9/11 conspiracy theories appropriate to link to for articles about 9/11?

In addition to providing you with the text of my email, I would like to draw your attention to examples of the nature of the site that the BBC is linking to. This post on JABS gives an indication of the quality of advice – – note the recommendations of the first respondent. First this poster advises someone to take their child off antibiotics that have been prescribed by a medical professional, they then advise Cod Liver Oil, Probiotics and Homeopathy as alternative treatments and, finally, they finish by advising that wireless devices – including baby monitors – be switched off or removed. Other posters: deny that HIV causes AIDS, advise homeopathy and quantum touch healing instead of conventional medicine and link to the website – which includes a whole page on HIV/AIDS denialism. Proof of JABS regulars linking to on HIV/AIDS denialism and a copy of the page itself are available.

Regardless of the disclaimer displayed on its website, I feel that the BBC should not be able to abrogate all responsibility for the content of external sites linked to from said BBC website. The BBC links to JABS, the BBC has been made aware of the nature of JABS by several people and the BBC has made the decision to continue to link to HIV-denialists who give dangerous medical information to vulnerable parents. It is time the BBC took some responsibility for their decision to link to this site – and it’s time they stopped providing links to JABS.

I’ve submitted some more information to the BBC to show what kind of site they are linking to. I’ve basically just posted a link to these HIV denialism posts: here and here. The first thread begins here: page 1.

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Why does the BBC link to JABS?

May 20, 2008 at 4:39 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Media) (, , , , )

I’ve been corresponding with the BBC with regard to their linking to the anti-vaccination pressure group JABS. This was my original complaint: Read the rest of this entry »

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