A Fall From Grace

December 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm (Anti-Vaccination, Miscellaneous, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I find it odd, and on occasion a little unsettling, to see instances of people or ideas being subject to criticism for what appear to me to be the wrong reasons. I think some of the criticism of Andrew Wakefield and Gillian McKeith falls into this bracket. Read the rest of this entry »

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Silencing Critics: Legal Chill

November 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm (Legal Chill) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

A company called Rodial have threatened a doctor with a lawsuit after she raised doubts about a “boob job cream”. While Rodial’s lawyers letter states that Rodial would have provided information on “clinical assessment and product ingredients” on request, they failed to do so when contacted by Ben Goldacre. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Fall of the Lifestyle Nutritionists?

August 15, 2010 at 2:20 pm (Nutritionism) (, )

Back in 2008, Ben Goldacre made a two part radio series called The Rise of the Lifestyle Nutritionists. It seems that the show may have been made at the peak of the modern lifestyle nutritionists’ popularity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unsung Heroes

January 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm (Good Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In science and pseudoscience, some figures are much better known than others – but fame is not necessarily closely related to merit. I think the balance needs to be redressed somewhat. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alternative Medicine: Weapons of Influence

July 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm (Alternative Medicine) (, , , , )

In 2001, the fourth edition of a book titled Influence: Science and Practice written by Robert Cialdini was published. The book explained several mental shortcuts that we use – and how they can be used to persuade or to influence people. 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 whale.to 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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AltMed Responses To Criticism – from Holford to Barnett

February 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Here, I have some examples of the, fairly limited, debate between sceptics and proponents of Alternative Medicine – and a couple of examples of how scientists generally respond to criticism. The most recent example of a supporter of Alternative Medicine (anti-vaccinationism, with a smidge of homeopathy) responding to criticism is Jeni Barnett. She referred on her blog to incandescently stupid comments she made about MMR during a radio broadcast on LBC, and the fuss that followed the broadcast. The comments section soon included critics explaining why Jeni was so dangerously wrong. Jeni’s response to the criticism? To remove the blog post and the comments. Thankfully, it’s been preserved and is available at The Quackometer website. Further discussion at Holford Watch. LBC’s response to the original criticisms? Legal chill tactics – a pretty disgusting way to tackle legitimate criticism. Other examples of legal chill (and other threats) come from nutritionists, chiropractors, homeopaths, herbalists, and an American Christian organisation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mmm… Mung Beans

August 13, 2008 at 8:12 pm (Good Science, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , )

Some time ago I wrote about a letter in J Biol Chem and referred, off-hand, to a paper on the Nutritive Properties of the Mung Bean. I am now returning to the Mung Bean [PDF]. Mung beans are not just for hippies and Gillian McKeith. Read the rest of this entry »

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Legal Chill and Other Threats

June 6, 2008 at 8:37 pm (Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Bloggers, Briffa, Homeopathy, Legal Chill, Nutritionism, Patrick Holford) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’ve recently witnessed some examples of slightly threatening behaviour on the internets and I was reminded of a few of the previous spats I’ve seen covered on the various blogs I read. There have been lawyer’s letters, accusations both of libel and of copyright breach, and comments posted or letters sent by angry nutritionists (in the main – there has been the odd homeopath too). Read the rest of this entry »

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Nutritionistas

April 25, 2008 at 8:23 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Bloggers, Patrick Holford, Remedies, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Possibly the highest-profile nutritionista in the UK is Patrick Holford. Patrick has featured on many sites, including the Quackometer blog. The Bad Science blog has often featured Holford and he also appears on Damian Thompson’s Counterknowledge blog. Holford has written several books on nutrition – most notably the Optimum Nutrition Bible and Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, but also titles such as Natural Highs, Natural Energy Highs and Natural Chill Highs. You can see more information on Patrick Holford’s career [PDF] by clicking on this link to an annotated CV. Holford’s books are packed with scientific language and references to academic papers. Unfortunately, Professor Holford seems to suffer from a condition called referenciness. While looking through the various blogs that mention Patrick Holford, I found that I wasn’t the first first to refer to him as a nutritionista – not by a long shot. There’s more here. One of the links from that Google search is to Dr Aust’s Spleen, who has several posts referring to Professor Holford, including one titled Patrick Holford’s mentors and inspirations – but who are they exactly?. If you want an alphabetical listing of Holford Howlers, then click this link to Holford Watch’s page. If you want a pithy description of The Professor, click here. He’s been covered so comprehensively there seems little point me adding much, but it was worth writing this just to link to all the Bad Science Bloggers who have done so.

Dr John Briffa seems to have received less coverage on skeptical blogs than The Professor, but I noticed a post by Coracle recently that featured Dr Briffa and also linked to a couple of posts by Dr Aust, including this one on Dr Briffa’s views on water. I covered Dr Briffa in one post on this blog, notable mainly for the excellent logo supplied by PV. Dr Briffa used to write a column for The Observer (which is nothing to boast about really – so did Neil Spencer, the astrologer) and was very keen on ideas like these and not so keen on the Food Standards Agency’s Chief Scientist blogging about the dubious detox regimes and supplements available. Neither was Dr Robert Verkerk who seemingly left a comment criticising Wadge’s blog post, without mentioning that he worked as Ultralife’s Scientific Director. You will note that one of the items on the page I just linked to is a Detox Product – £17.95 for 30 servings,  only £3 more than their Fruit & Veg powder. Fruit &Veg powder? Er, thanks all the same but I think I’ll buy some actual fruit & veg.

Now how about a bit of Gillian McKeith? As well as Howard’s page on la McKeith there’s a whole category at Bad Science. Gillian also featured in a piece in the BMJ written by Ben Goldacre and republished at http://www.badscience.net/?p=361. The BMJ piece prompted a few rabid responses – including those from Jerome Burne (co-author of at least one book with Patrick Holford) and Dr John Briffa, as well as from Patrick Holford himself. There were also some follow-up comments relating to the rabid responses by dietitian Catherine Collins, Jon Mendel, Ray Girvan and Professor David Colquhoun. For more on McKeith, try some of the links on Howard’s page or Google tapl +mckeith. Whatever you do, don’t click on this page. [Warning – Not Safe For Work. Or home – it’s Gillian McKeith in a catsuit.]

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