Godfrey Bloom MEP: Anti-Immigration, Anti-Climate Change and Pro-Homeopathy


Godfrey Bloom MEP - pro-homeopathy, anti-immigration, anti-climate change, anti-science, and rude to boot

Godfrey Bloom MEP - pro-homeopathy, anti-immigration, anti-climate change, anti-science, and rude to boot

One of our main aims with the 10:23 campaign was to get people involved. For a long time, people have railed against the sheer nonsense of homeopathy, but have done so in their own homes, the pub, their workplaces, the pub again, and then bed. Instead, we tried to get people to take that energy and passion and turn it to more productive action… which is why I was delighted to hear from an old friend (and long time MSS supporter) who, inspired by our campaign, has emailed MEPs in order to get their thoughts on EU Homeopathy Day – the entirely-self-elected-and-utterly-unofficial-Europe-wide-quackery-awareness-day. Marc (for that is his name, and you’ll see him comment on this blog from time to time) forwarded me his email, and I was happy to read it over and see some of the fruits of our campaigning.

I’d love to tell you our MEPs he contacted were scientifically-literate and met Marc’s concerns and appeals with a rational response. I’d even be OK with telling you that they were reluctant to get too involved, but were polite and diplomatic in their answers. However, as the below response from Godfrey Bloom of UKIP (I know, I know) will show, I can’t. FYI, Godfrey Bloom also has a blog outlining his opinions on climate change, as well as some very misogynistic views towards women:

“No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age”.

That’s not poisoning the well by the way – that’s context. Anyway, Marc’s email read:

From: Marc Callinan
Sent: 23 March 2010 10:46

Dear Edward McMillan-Scott, Linda McAvan, Godfrey Bloom, Timothy Kirkhope, Andrew Brons and Diana Wallis,

I am writing to you all as my MEP’s with regards to the 3rd EU Homoeopathy Day. I sincerely hope that you all will reject its call for “politicians and decision makers in Brussels to take action in favour of homeopathy for the benefit of European patients and citizens, as part of a more integrated and holistic approach to health care in Europe.” (Quote taken from the website: http://www.euhomeopathyday.eu/more)

Homoeopathy has been proven through research to work on the placebo effect. One of the key beliefs of homoeopathy is that water can remember a substance that has been diluted out of it. After 12C there is statistically not one single molecule of the original substance left in the dilution and homoeopathy happily sells solutions of 30C and even 200C. Funding and support should not be given to a treatment that has no benefit beyond a placebo, after all the placebo effect can be obtained much more cheaply by using sugar pills that have not been exposed to water that many dilutions ago was exposed to something that may or may not have any healing properties to begin with. The recent 1023 campaign did a wonderful job of raising awareness of what homoeopathy is and isn’t and showing that there literally is nothing in it.

Again I ask of you do not be taken in by misrepresented studies and cherry picked low quality trials as was presented to the commons select comity when it conducted the evidence check of homoeopathy. The evidence check was able to cut through the smoke and mirrors to see that homoeopathy should not be funded by the NHS in the UK let alone supported and given false credibility on a European scale.

Many thanks for your time

Yours sincerely,
Marc Callinan

As I’m sure you’ll agree, Marc was polite, to the point, and most of all accurate. So, imagine his surprise when the following response dropped through his metaphorical inbox door:

From: Godfrey Bloom <gbloom@ukip.org

Sent: Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 10:55 AM

Dear Mr Callinan

Thank you for your letter concerning homeopathy.

Unfortunately for your case, homeopathy works. You apply tests appropriate to pharmaceutical drugs in order to ‘prove’ that homeopathic remedies are no better than placebos. I feel sure that you would not wish to test pharmaceutical products on the reverse principal.

There are many good reasons for using homeopathy as the first resort, but the main one is that homeopathy can do no harm – one of the first aims of Hippocrates – as opposed to the long printed list of dangerous side effects accompanying most pharmaceutical products, and we believe that people should have a choice.

Incidentally, the Royal Family seem to survive pretty well on homeopathy.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely
Godfrey Bloom

*sigh*

For those of you counting fallacies, I make that 1 special pleading, 1 strawman, 2 appeals to authority, 1 Big Pharma/Western Medicine/Teh Pharmaceuticalz paranoia, 1 false dichotomy involving patient choice, and 2 outright factual untruth. It’s a fallacial buffet.

What’s more, the response is curt, smug and with an underlying sneer – note the casual ‘unfortunately for your case’ and the ‘incidental’ appeal to authority (were I Marc, I’d point out that it’s likely quite easy to survive pretty well when you’re born into one of the richest and most privileged families on the planet, not to mention the fact that the Royals also use real medicine – the very best, in fact). The whole email from Bloom strikes me as having the air of self-importance we often see of the science-illiterate when championing their ‘your science doesn’t know everything’ nonsense. For the record, taking his ‘points’ in order:

  • Unfortunately for his smug sense of superiority, homeopathy doesn’t work
  • A test is a test – there is no special science set aside by which homeopathy works. Tests are appropriate to pharmaceuticals because they’re appropriate to reality. Many pharmaceutical drugs fail these tests – presumably Bloom’s happy for those to be sold too, based on the idea that the tests weren’t appropriate to them?
  • I’m not quite sure what reverse principal he wants drugs to be tested on, that makes them fail when compared to homeopathy. I’m not quite sure he’d be sure either, but I’d be delighted to have him write out a test criteria and we could go over it together.
  • There are no good reasons to use homeopathy as a first resort – it doesn’t work. It’s not a first resort. It’s not even a resort.
  • Homeopathy can do harm – see? See? OK, so the harm isn’t direct (there’s nothing in it!), but in the omission of a real first resort people can get very sick very quickly. Or, if they’re lucky, they’re just throwing their money away.
  • Pharmaceutical products do often have side effects, and some of these can be dangerous (not most, as Bloom believes). And it was Science that discovered that, not magic, and not homeopathy. So he’s happy to go with science when it supports his quackery, but to lambast it the rest of the time. What’s more, we know about those side effects, and we can therefore judge accordingly – consumers are rarely given this depth of information on homeopathy, because if they did they wouldn’t buy it.
  • People should have a choice, but an uninformed choice is not a real choice. Homeopathy has been proven not to work – to deny this fact is to really deny people the right to choose.
  • The Royal Family are not doctors, they’re not scientists and they’re not experts. They are, however, in a position of rare privilege whereby they can afford to dabble with quackery, safe in the knowledge that the very best help is at hand when conditions start to get more serious. Most people don’t have the wealth and the privilege to afford this luxury, and even if they did – it’s their choice to make, based on real information.

Phew. OK, rant over. Still, I’m not alone in my annoyance with Bloom’s attitude and response, and in fact Marc has followed up with a second email:

From: Marc Callinan
Sent: 30 March 2010 11:39

Dear Mr Bloom

Many thanks for taking the time to reply to my email regarding Homoeopathy, I appreciate the effort you took in doing this.

I certainly would not wish to test pharmaceutical drugs in the same way that homoeopathy is tested, relying on anecdotal ‘evidence’ has been shown to be a terrible method of testing treatments.That however does not mean that homoeopathic pills should not be required to prove their efficacy with high quality trials. DBRCT’s are more than capable of testing the efficacy of homoeopathy and unfortunately they show it to work as a placebo.

You say that homoeopathy can do no harm, while for direct harm it is true that homoeopathy being an inactive substance will cause no ill effects, this is because an inactive substance causes no effects. However I believe that in the recent evidence check a claim was made that homoeopathy could not be a placebo because it can cause side effects, clearly this is something that homoeopaths disagree on. There is also the indirect harm that can be caused by homoeopathy, are you familiar with what happened to Baby Gloria Thomas? Her father is a homoeopath that mistakenly believed that homoeopathy could cure her eczema, this sadly was not the case and at the age of 9 months she lost her life to a disease that can be treated very easily by medicine. Had homoeopathy been required to meet the same standards of proving efficacy before being allowed to be sold as a treatment then this little girl would still be alive today.

I have no issue with people choosing to use homoeopathy if they wish, however I do not believe that it should be funded with public money until it proves its efficacy. Placebos can be a great treatment for self limiting illnesses such as headaches or colds etc. however they need to be regulated so they are not supplied in place of malaria tablets or other essential medical interventions.

The Royal family may be supporters of homoeopathy but this is still no proof of its efficacy. If Public money is to be used on a treatment of any sort do you not feel that there should be strong evidence for its efficacy? this is the case with conventional treatments why should it be any different for homoeopathy?

Again many thanks for taking the time to reply to my correspondence

Regards
Marc Callinan

I eagerly await the response he receives from Bloom, and from the other MEPs he contacted. Great work, Marc.

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  1. #1 by Marc on March 30, 2010 - 13:54

    Woohoo I’m famous 🙂

    Nice write up Marsh mate, I will let you know if any of my other MEP’s do me the honour of responding to the initial email or if Mr Bloom bothers to respond again.

  2. #2 by Mathew Partridge on March 30, 2010 - 14:04

    “You apply tests appropriate to pharmaceutical drugs in order to ‘prove’ that homeopathic remedies are no better than placebos. I feel sure that you would not wish to test pharmaceutical products on the reverse principal.”

    I still can’t quite get what he is alluding to. No worse than placebos? Well I for one want to know exactly how well my treatments work established or new. No shooting blind for me. Dumb ass.

    Side note*

    “…the long printed list of dangerous side effects accompanying most pharmaceutical products…”

    How many medicines list side effects as headache, nausea, rash etc? I often wonder how much is due to the nocebo effect and people the little leaflet in packs.

  3. #3 by Mathew Partridge on March 30, 2010 - 14:06

    Damn it-

    correction

    How many medicines list side effects as headache, nausea, rash etc? I often wonder how much is due to the nocebo effect and people reading the little leaflet in packs.

    P.S. nice work Marc

  4. #4 by Paul Smout on March 30, 2010 - 14:32

    “the Royal Family seem to survive pretty well on homeopathy”

    … and the fact that they have their own doctor available on instant 24hr call-out.

  5. #5 by Tony on March 30, 2010 - 15:17

    I think that we can sometimes forget just how prevalent and strongly held views such as this are, and it can come as a bit of a slap in the face to see them being seriously used in response to a polite letter.

    Internet trolls on the subject can just be laughed at, as infecting skeptical websites with woo does little harm, and it’s sobering to be reminded that people of genuine influence can spout the same shit too.

  6. #6 by Jon d on March 30, 2010 - 15:41

    I suppose it’s theoretically good that pharma are being honest and open with everyone about side effects but… The first time I tried giving up smoking with the nicotine patches when they were new to the market I noticed I had more bad dreams than usual. Nothing about it in the leaflets and if I told people about it they thought I was kidding. Currently the leaflets with the patches list bad dreams (and a load of other trivial stuff) as a possible side effect and if affected suggests removing the patch, washing the skin it was touching and discontinuing the use of patches. Now afaik continuing smoking is much more harmful than having bad dreams so imo there’s something going a bit wrong in the relative risk department.

    sorry if that’s a bit of a sidetrack.

  7. #7 by Jon d on March 30, 2010 - 15:50

    Oh the problem is that long lists of side effects give the homeos something to point at as well as putting the fear into ordinary people who don’t think about risk in the same way as drug company statisticians or doctors…
    But it was nice to have my observation about bad dreams validated.

  8. #8 by Gittins on March 30, 2010 - 15:54

    Mr Bloom’s climate change denial blog is pretty funny, well, funny and scary at the same time.

    One thing I’ve always wondered about is why the climate debate seems to split down the left and right divide of politics. Surely scientific literacy should not be exclusive to one side?

  9. #9 by Rob on March 30, 2010 - 22:32

    Support for homeopathy, including NHS funding for it, is part of UKIP health policy. Really.

  10. #10 by Jonathan B on March 30, 2010 - 23:23

    When I read the description of this bloke’s response I had assumed that, at the very least, he’d sent you a reply littered with obscenities; frankly if you consider an email like this (ending with ‘kind regards’) to be ‘rude’, I think you may be being just a mite over-sensitive.

    As an aside, if he had replied with a robust condemnation of homeopathy, what would you have said about his views on climate change, immigration, women’s rights et cetera? Would you have suggested that his adherence to scientific principle was compromised? Or that his support for your position proved that his other views deserved respect?

    I’ve commented on the link you post to the ‘What’s the harm in homeopathy?’ website before, but at the risk of repeating myself, the evidence on it is extraordinarily weak: an awful lot of it consists of ‘X had a serious llness; X took homeopathic remedies; X died’ or ‘Y was treated with homeopathic products; nothing much happened’. I thought ‘proper science’ set great store by attributing effect to cause?

    Surely someone should point out that although several of their players have used homeopathic treatments in recent seasons (probably), Tranmere Rovers have consistently failed to qualify for the Champions’ League? Or that despite his apparent treatment by a homeopathic dentist, David Beckham will be unfit for the World Cup this Summer. These seem to me to be powerful arguments in support of the 10.23 position.

    There are some (very sad) stories of parents who fail to secure the right treatment for their children and use alternative remedies instead; this is cited as evidence that these treatments are harmful. But thousands of parents chose not to have their kids inoculated with the MMR vaccine because of a scare story that emerged from conventional scientific medicine which exposed them to serious risk; does that mean that evidence-based medicine is invalidated? Of course not: it simply shows that if not applied wisely, it can be dangerous. And the same is true of alternative treatments.
    Cheers
    J

  11. #11 by Antonio Lorusso on March 31, 2010 - 05:52

    Homoeopathy and AGW are both controversial, yet UKIP and Bloom support the popular controversy and publicly oppose the unpopular one.

    Pathetic.

  12. #12 by Sel on March 31, 2010 - 07:51

    Matthew, you’re absolutely right – though there maybe 2 or 3 common side effects with a medication the data sheet has to list every one recorded, most of which will be extremely rare. We get people coming in who will underline a dozen of the rare side effects on the medication leaflet. Theoretically possible, but highly implausible.

    Marc, this was an excellent idea to e-mail MEP’s. It is very revealing (and alarming) to discover what our representatives truly believe.

  13. #13 by Jon d on April 1, 2010 - 08:01

    That’s a bit of a redherring about the supposed Mmr/autism link. the link suggested by wakefield was not well supported by data but the press ran and ran and ran with it anyway and sacred the crap out of parents for no reason. Just cos wakefield is or was a respected member of the scientific community doesn’t make him scientifically infallible.
    Otoh there’s adequate evidence to say homeo is a dud.

  14. #14 by Phred on April 5, 2010 - 00:41

    If you’re followers of Godfrey Bloom, you’re notions are just as foolhardy as his are.

    His beliefs belong to the Flat Earth Society – none stand up to scrutiny.

    Before you make a fool of yourselves, question and examine his so-called ‘evidence’.

    Ask yourself from where has it originated and then examine the source.

    He preaches to the already converted and it appears that he is careful not confront a challenge face on.

  15. #15 by Michael on April 5, 2010 - 17:29

    Yeah. He is obviously a TWAT!

  16. #16 by woofbark on April 20, 2010 - 19:30

    Yeah fellers, really don’t waste your time with this man, he’s not interested in homeopathy at all.
    His real passion is obvious from that crazy blog he keeps, and its policy regarding comments. Big shout going out to Paul Harris!
    He pretends to be an old lovable eccentric and uses that British tradition as a smokescreen to be as offensive as he can to as many people as he can.
    He’s only in politics to indulge his sociopathy.
    Best ignored.

  17. #17 by NHS Dentist on November 12, 2010 - 22:59

    @Martin – I very much see eye to eye with what you are saying here even though one has to take into account all aspects of the argument. We can all be a bit responsible of adopting a somewhat narrow-minded view to these issues and for the most part, stepping back and observing the ‘bigger picture’ can almost always deliver positive results.

(will not be published)