An A-Z of Alternative Medicine

January 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm (Alternative Medicine) (, , , , , , , )

An incomplete list of alternative therapies, and comment on some of the benefits and risks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Principle Healthcare and the ASA

September 28, 2011 at 1:01 am (Activism, Principle Healthcare, Supplements) (, , , , , )

Principle Healthcare, who removed claims from their website shortly after I contacted the MHRA in 2009, also made some claims on their website for products that did not come under the jurisdiction of the MHRA. So, with their remit extended to cover marketer’s own websites, I thought I’d try the ASA… Read the rest of this entry »

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Excess Woo – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

July 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm (Alternative Medicine, Miscellaneous, Trivial, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , )

Far too much energy is being expended on producing and consuming the bullshit of the counterknowledge industry: nutritionism, homeopathy, and the various forms of energy medicine that rely on vitalism being prime examples of this industry. Worthless remedies are produced, and worthless books and pamphlets are published.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Are Lies Worse Than Bullshit?

January 2, 2009 at 10:52 pm (Miscellaneous) (, , , , , )

Harry G Frankfurt notes in On Bullshit that we seem to view lying as worse than bullshitting. Frankfurt does not offer an explanation of this phenomena, preferring to leave this as an exercise for the reader, but does make the case later in the book that “bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.” This is because, while the liar intends to deceive you as to the truth and must therefore know what is true in order to lie, the bullshitter need pay no attention to what is true – his aim is not to deceive you as to the truth, it is simply to get away with saying what he does (to “misrepresent what he is up to”). Excessive indulgence in bullshitting undermines the ability of the bullshitter to tell the truth (“a person’s normal habit of attending to the way things are may become attenuated or lost” in the words of Harry G Frankfurt), whereas a liar is still able to distinguish between what is true and what is false (which he must be able to do in order to be able to lie in the first place).

So why, if we accept that bullshit is a greater danger to the truth, do we treat lying as the greater offence? I can only guess that it may be that we sometimes (perhaps even usually) assume that a person’s intentions are more important than their actions. To mean well is apparently as important, if not more so, than to do well*. This could make lying seem to be a greater crime than bullshitting – the liar intends to deceive you as to the truth, while the bullshitter doesn’t care if he deceives you in this manner or not. Perhaps people can see that the bullshitter is not trying to deceive them as to the truth but cannot see the deliberate deception inherent in bullshitting – the intent to obscure from you the actions and motives of the bullshitter.

That bullshit can be a greater enemy of the truth than lies and that this is recognised all too rarely could, in part, explain why blogs such as the following are written:,, Homeopathy, Nutritionism, Quantum Energy Healing, the Mainstream Media all involve bullshitting to such an extent that people seem to be able to stand it no longer. “More bullshit? I must start a blog”.

*And if you don’t believe me then try committing a few criminal acts (actually, on second thoughts, don’t). You should soon find out about the guilty act and the guilty mind. There are several crimes which require not just the criminal act to take place, but for the perpetrator to have a “guilty mind”. For example, theft is defined as being proven “when a person dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it”. Devon & Cornwall Police.

Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit

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The Media Red Wine Obsession

December 23, 2008 at 9:31 pm (Media, Nutritionism) (, , , , )

The media seems to be very keen indeed to tell us all about the wonderful properties of red wine. Here is their latest effort. A Doctor who owns a vineyard is apparently producing red wine high in antioxidants Read the rest of this entry »

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Woo on Woo – layers of nonsense

October 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, NLP, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , )

I’ve written before about woos trying out different ‘healing modalities’ seemingly as the mood takes them. I think that the last time I wrote on this topic, it was a homeopath disseminating dietary advice that had caught my attention: Dr O. I received an email yesterday that included a link to this page: Sulis. The advice is Holford’s, but why an NLP practitioner would feel the need to reproduce woo-ish dietary advice on their website is beyond me. I can understand someone believing in the value of NLP, but why assume other woo is true? Seems to be quite common to me. Instead of speculating wildly about the thinking of people who are into multiple forms of woo (which is what I’d normally do at this point), I’m going to have a quick laugh at the advice.*

Eat three pieces of fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, melon or citrus fruit […] Avoid any form of sugar, also white, refined or processed food with chemical additives, and minimise your intake of alcohol, coffee and tea.

It works best with these two pieces of advice if you show them together in the same quote. According to the Sulis site, Patrick Holford is advising you to avoid all forms of sugar while, at the same time, advising you to eat fruit such as banana. Hmmm… I wonder if bananas contain sugar in any form? Why, yes – yes they do. According to the USDA database, bananas are about 12% sugar and this comes in the form of glucose, sucrose and fructose.

Supplement your diet with a high strength multivitamin and mineral preparation and 1000mg of vitaminC a day.

Well, the rest of his advice seems to fit in with the ideal of eating a balanced and varied diet – including advice to eat plenty of fruit and veg – so why would anyone following this advice need a high strength multivitamin and a 1,000mg vitamin C tablet? They almost certainly wouldn’t. Which is what makes Patrick’s advice so laughable – he advises people to eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C and then tells them to add a supplement. Why? To make expensive piss? I can’t think of any other reason.

Drink six glasses of water, diluted juices, herb or fruit teas.

Ah, water woo. will give you more info on that topic.

Eat whole, organic, raw food as often as you can.

Why? Is there any evidence that organic, raw food is better for you? Should we eat all foods raw or is it better to cook, say eggs to prevent Biotin deficiency [the avidin in raw eggs is a bastard for binding to Biotin, apparently] – or tomatoes to increase the bioavailability of Lycopene? Is organic food healthier than non-organically grown produce?

*I will say this: it’s bad enough that experts believe themselves to be more expert than they actually are [*cough* experts-versus-equations], but surely it’s worse when amateurs believe themselves to be competent in various domains when they haven’t, actually, demonstrated their competence in any or all of these domains?

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Briffa on Statins and CoenzymeQ10

September 29, 2008 at 8:33 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Briffa, Nutritionism, Supplements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Old news, I know – but it is one of Briffa’s hobby horses (not to mention Cybertiger, for those JABS aficionados reading this) and I happened upon an internet forum discussion that was linking to Briffa’s blog. His blog post contained this gem: Read the rest of this entry »

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Silence is not golden: more on Rath and the $50bn nutrition industry

September 25, 2008 at 3:49 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Yeah, I know – I’m boring you with this stuff now. I’m sorry, but I can’t let it lie. I really can’t understand why not one member of the $50bn Nutritional Therapy industry has come out and said what so clearly needs saying: “Matthias Rath’s actions in South Africa were unacceptable and his use of legal means to stifle debate inappropriate”. Read the rest of this entry »

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BANT – no opinion on Rath [updated]

September 18, 2008 at 10:22 am (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , , , )

I’ve received a response from the British Association of Nutritional Therapists to the email I sent regarding the actions of Matthias Rath in South Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

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Critical Self-Appraisal In Alternative Medicine

September 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Chiropractic, Homeopathy, Nutritionism) (, , , , , , , , )

Leaving this post completely blank would probably have been my funniest punchline yet.

I reckon all these branches of Alternative Medicine would probably benefit from a bit of critical self-appraisal: Homeopathy, Nutritionism, Reflexology, Reiki, Herbalism, Acupuncture, Chiropractic… but I have decided to focus quite narrowly on Read the rest of this entry »

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