Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz


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Fish in a barrel

This is a guest post from Ian (@teachingofsci), which I think is a calm demonstration of why so many who try to engage with proponents of alt med end up seriously lacking a feeling of calm.

I have had similar situations in which I’ve tried to converse with otherwise intelligent, rational, friendly people, who have shouted that they will not read anything I ask them to read before we can continue the conversation with a bit more information behind us. If people are unwilling even to look at evidence that might not support their view, what’s the point, really?

Different people have different ways of going about skeptical activism, and advocating rational thinking – often with an ultimate goal of protecting gullible and vulnerable people from those who would profit from their ignorance, and perhaps simultaneously endanger their health. I don’t believe there’s a right way, but sometimes this kind of tactic can prove useful. Enjoy!

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ALL the trials!

Be aware of this new and incredibly important campaign: alltrials.

It’s time all clinical trial results are reported. Patients, researchers, doctors and regulators everywhere in the world will benefit from publication of clinical trial results.

Please sign the petition

Please do. Doctors cannot prescribe the most suitable treatments, if they don’t know what the most suitable treatments are due to lacking information. Patients therefore suffer. Academics cannot plan their research effectively without knowing previous results. The government cannot make appropriate funding decisions without this information, either.

So, help to make ALL clinical trial data available to everyone who needs it – all of us.

Edit 05/02/13: GSK have just signed up! Amazing! Ben has written a quick post on it and here’s the alltrials news.

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Libel Reform update: 3 years on

Background

A couple of years back I attended a Skeptics in the Pub meeting in Holborn at which Dave Gorman and Prof Brian Cox came to support Simon Singh. He had been served a libel threat by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for criticising claims from chiropractors about curing colic in babies and so on. A dangerous claim to make, and, as Simon put it, a “bogus” one.

Fortunately, Simon won his case. Others haven’t been so lucky, and more threats are being issued.

There are many problems with the UK libel laws – lots of background information can be found here at libelreform.org and I’ve written some posts over the years (really rather a lot of posts actually), if you’re interested in past events.

Essentially libel laws are often used to silence fair, necessary and important criticism. People without the money to fight these hideously expensive cases tend to just give up. Individuals are bullied by large corporations, medical debates are stifled, unethical behaviour is hidden.

The libel reform campaign has been set up and run by the three charities, Sense About Science, English Pen and Index on Censorship. Two years ago there was the Big Libel Gig, to fundraise for victims of libel threats.

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Burzynski

I think it’s time for me to say something on this subject. It is after all very closely related to my current… vocation (if one can call it that, being a PhD student still!) and impacting directly on some of my friends.

One of those friends is my co-host of our long-neglected podcast, Super Duper Woo-Fighting Duo (With Capes)! – Rhys Morgan.

Edit: even BoingBoing is on it this evening!

Background

Feel free to scroll down to ‘The Threats‘ and ‘Some Interesting Correspondence‘ sections if you know all this…

The subject is one Stanislaw Burzynski, based in Houston, Texas. He offers an experimental treatment (though to call it that is probably a bit generous) to cancer patients called “Antineoplaston Therapy”. These antineoplastons are claimed to be peptides (bits of protein – though they’re generally not, technically – see comment 11 for more) found in urine. When a difference between cancer patients’ and healthy individuals’ urine peptide profile was found, an assumption was made that cancer sufferers were lacking these protein chunks and therefore replacing them should be an effective cure. A list of his patents and publications can be found here. This NYT article is extensive and demonstrates the shocking wealth accumulated:

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One Year On: Libel Reform Update

December 2nd 2010 at the Free Word Centre: an update on the progress of the Libel Reform

all-important refreshments

campaign.

Hosted by Jonathan Haewood of English Pen, John Kampfner of Index on Censorship and Tracey Brown of Sense About Science.

English pen have their photos from the evening on Flickr; I managed to avoid being in any of them this time!

From the literature distributed at the event:

The One Year On event follows weeks of further revelations of the impacts of the libel laws:

- Plastic surgeon Dr Dalia Nield was threatened with libel action by the manufacturer of a ‘Boob Job’ cream for saying she was concerned the product was potentially dangerous*

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Protesting the Pope

A fantastic day! Read the official campaign’s page for links to speeches etc.

from @toxicpath

The sun shone, the peace was kept and we all had a good sing & shout. Getting people to sing along to ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ whilst we played our kazoos and wotnot was, so to speak, divine.

For a feel, have a look at this video diary, listen to some interesting PodDelusion audio (also the iPadio snippets at the end) and here’s my Flickr set.

What an amazing bunch of people – seriously, I don’t gush about the wonderful nature of human beings very often but having been surrounded by ~12,000 (according to the Met) lovely individuals, today I feel I have to.

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#Bleachgate: The Plot Thickens

Rhys is becoming a skeptical celebrity! His Twitter following is increasing exponentially and he’s off doing interviews for the likes of Pod Delusion [Edit: do have a listen, great episode!] and Skepchick. He’s written up the events himself on his blog. Joely has put her thoughts down, on why people are sucked in by ‘miracle cures’.

Rhys has assembled a small taskforce to document all the people selling  MMS, contacted the FDA regarding Mr D Bergy, has spoken to BBC Wales and is generally making excellent use of his holiday time. Kudos. Edit: now in line to take part in a Crohn’s/MMS documentary with a Yorkshire production company!

But now, something I couldn’t leave until tomorrow.

A Horror Movie

I just had to write about this video I’ve been watching; an interview with Jim Humble (reckon that’s his real name??) on the discovery, mechanism and results of MMS. Basically he seems to think he’s a miracle healer and that this stuff cures everything – and I mean everything.

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