Quackbusting the Quackbusters

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Part 1 of possibly many!

The (not so) Amazing Randi

Well for my first blog post I thought I’d kick off with something that ‘gets me ranting’ and hopefully controversial, and that is alternative health and the various sceptics and ‘quack busters’.

So who are the quack busters? Well they are a group of supposedly conscientious doctors and scientists who have our best health interests at heart, who demonstrate this by stamping on any form of non-conventional medicine and labeling it as dangerous, and anyone involved in it as unscrupulous; while at the same time ignoring all the dangers, bad science and fraud within their own industry.

Now before I have a bash, I should make my position clear – modern medicine is great in very many ways, and I am very grateful for the thousands and thousands of researchers, GP’s and surgeons who are dedicated to improving the human condition and saving lives.

The people I have a problem with are those not really involved in health, badmouthing safe methods of health care and proclaiming they are using science and critical thinking. One of the top sceptics is the Amazing Randi, and another is our very own Mr Stephen Fry. Both are very intelligent, great entertainers, I would love to meet them both, and would certainly listen to them as authorities on many subjects, but both have some kind of bee in their respective bonnets about ‘alternative health’, are often outspoken on the subject, yet I would wager a packet of Mr Fry’s ‘weasel coffee’ that neither of them have spent much time studying the complexities of the immune system, the nervous system, emotions, biochemistry, biology, electromagnetism and their interactions.

They might have, but I very much doubt it.

So why do I frown upon their behaviour? Well they claim to be scientific but
1) neither have any evidence of healthcare qualifications
2) Having witnessed them on TV and ignoring evidence put right in front of them of something ‘strange’, and dismiss the subject as poppycock, despite the evidence, I have a low opinion of their truly objective scientific thinking.

I put my case before you.

All incidents happened on an Amazing Randi TV show here in the UK some years ago. None of them involve health, but draw attention to ignoring things they don’t want to see.
1) This involved a demonstration designed to show how inaccurate astrology is. Now I myself am not a big believer, but I do find it interesting, and I was fully expecting something along the lines of ½ the audience identifying with the horoscope that was prepared and read out by an astrologist. Now at first most people had their hands up, but as the reading went on more put their hands down. Sitting in the audience were Stephen Fry, and his comedy partner Hugh Laurie (now of massive House fame). Basically the horoscope sounded to me like everything us commoners know about Stephen Fry, and indeed he was one of the last few. Then at one particular point he put his hand down at a comment that most of us would say was true about him. In the end only 2 or 3 people had their hands up, one was Hugh Laurie. So even though to the listener it sounded exactly like Stephen Fry, and even though his hand was still up towards the end, just because he put his hand down Fry and Randi used it as conclusive proof Astrology is nonsense.

Now whatever your views on astrology, it was hardly a big win for the Randi camp. Personally I feel that if the moon and planets have an effect on the tides of the planet, and we are 70% water, it must scientifically have an effect, I just don’t think we know what it is yet!
2) Now this for me is the real clincher of the (not so) Amazing Randi’s powers of delusion. He set out to disprove pendulum dowsing. Again, I really think I’m a true sceptic, but when I see proof of something weird, I want to learn more about it, not fob it off just because I can’t explain it. The experiment was quite simple, a map was laid out on a table top, but with all labels, roads, name places and other identifiers removed. What the dowser had to do was locate the site of an ancient monument. Within a couple of minutes the dowser had located 2, and let Randi know. Randi said that on the map there was only one, so the dowser replied that one of them was probably undiscovered yet, and pointed to the one that he thought was on the map.

Well can you guess what happened? The dowser actually went and got it right! Amazing, I couldn’t believe it. What did Randi do? – swiftly move on to something else and probably never tried to investigate further.
So as you can see Randi is hardly objective, so when he comes to write about chiropractic and its effects on the flu he tries to disprove it by waffling on about some trial that showed chiropractic created a 400% increase in immune function, but said that it was a poor study and he couldn’t find any details on it. And that was that. All he had to do though was a) ring the college that did the study b) Google “chiropractic flu” and he would have got this –

So I put it to you Randi found these sites too, but ignored them like any good brainwashed man would.
OK, I think I’ve had enough now. Please leave your comments, or ask questions on my clinic’s discussion forum http://www.drchrisonfacebook.com

Written by Dr Chris Pickard

Posted In: the rules of health

Published on 4 Oct 2009


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