Archive for July, 2010

Question of The Week: What Woo Do You Follow For Rational Reasons?

No-one is immune to woo, as we are fond of pointing out here at the MSS. We’re all susceptible to the irrational, and anyone can find themselves believing weird things, or taking part in something that they probably should know better than to get involved with. But that’s common ignorance for you – if you knew it was woo you obviously wouldn’t follow it. Or would you?

What if you had very good reasons for going along with a particular piece of ‘woo’? What if, apart from being irrational, you actually had very rational reasons for acting as you do? Most of us don’t walk under ladders. Not because we’re superstitious, but simply because we don’t want a tin of paint to land on our heads.

Here is this week’s question: What Woo Do You Follow For Rational Reasons?

Maybe you take homeopathy because you really like eating sugar pills? Maybe you don’t cross a black cat’s path because you have an authentic phobia of black cats? Maybe you were kidnapped by a cult and if you take off your copper bracelet the leader will burn you at the stake (ok, that one’s a bit of a push…)?

Whatever it is, let us know. We’re hungry for your stories. Feed us!



Skeptics with a K: Episode #026

Malaria condoms, Michael Jackson, Dastardly & Mutley and the Million Ghost March. Plus, psychics seeking privacy, the accidental serial killer and Rick Moranis. Ruining the case for the defence, it’s Skeptics with a K.


, , , , ,

1 Comment

Germany To Say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ To Homeopathy?

Homöopathie: Es gibt nichts in ihm

Homöopathie: Es gibt nichts in ihm

It’s admittedly and regretfully rather rare that we at the Merseyside Skeptics Society cover stories of a non-English language nature. That’s entirely mea culpa, malheureusement my non-English language abilities are limited at ‘meilleur’. Still, it would be ridiculous of us not to mention the Wünderbar developments coming out of Germany, where top magazine Der Spiegel ran with the cover story:

Homoöpathie: Die groβe Illusion (‘Homeopathy: The grand illusion’) – Source: Der Spiegel

This, of course, is HUGE. Not least because Germany is oft-cited as a prime example of a healthcare system in which homeopathy is given the ‘respect’ it deserves (I’d argue 10:23 actually gave the respect homeopathy REALLY deserves), but also because Germany is the home of homoeopathy and Hahnemann – all of which making the prospect of the magic water getting ‘Das Boot’ from the German equivalent of the NHS an incredibly sweet pill to swallow.

Far be it from me to wallow in all of the delicious, delicious developments too much, but here’s a glimpse at the online version of the Der Spiegel article, for any of our Deutsch companions out there. What’s that at the bottom? Why, that would be the 10:23 Campaign, cited as an influence! Needless to say (although I will anyway), our collective bosoms swell with pride here at 10:23 HQ. My aforementioned linguistic limitations prevent me from doing it justice in the original German, and the Google translate is admirable if patchy (“Many patients believe the cash to pay only that which helps also detectable. Ennoble why the health insurance with their approach to homeopathy.” – I swear Google hires Master Yoda to do their translating…). With that in mind, allow me to quote from the English version of Deutsche World:

The 200-year-old dubious medical treatment may soon be dropped from German medical insurance providers as a cost-saving measure. The the United Kingdom may also do the same.

Too right we might.

In recent days, the over-two-centuries-old practice of homeopathy has come under fire in Germany.

Dr. Karl Lauterbach, the chair of the parliamentary health committee, recently called for public health insurers to stop funding the practice, which typically involves solutions of small amounts of herbs or other medicines heavily diluted with water and then shaken or stirred to “add energy” to the solution.

According to its proponents, homeopathy can heal patients as well – if not better – than conventional medicine, while its detractors, including nearly all medical doctors and scientists, say that it is no more powerful than a placebo.

What’s more:

“If everybody pays for his beer, then he can pay for his homeopathy,” said Dr. Kay Brune, a professor in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuernberg, in southern Germany.

Brune added that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that homeopathy actually causes any meaningful and healing bio-chemical reactions in patients, but that doesn’t stop people from believing in a practice that has been so deeply ingrained into the German psyche.

“Homeopathy has a very long tradition in Germany,” he added in an interview with Deutsche Welle. “The founder, Hahnemann was a brilliant physician. But at that time doing nothing was helpful to the patient. In 200 years, the pseudo-science has not taken any steps forward.”

Now, of course, we aren’t arrogant enough for one second to think that we had a huge part to play in this – but if the actions of the 10:23 Campaign and our amazing support (not least the hundreds of national and international ‘overdoses’ who joined in back in January) had even a small effect on this development, I safely speak for everyone at 10:23 and the MSS in saying how immensely proud we are to have been involved.

What’s been staggering over the last 6 months, and in fact back to October when we started letting the 10:23 cat a little out of the bag, is the phenomenal response we’ve had from ordinary people – not just doctors and working scientists. We’ve been blown away by the level of involvement support, coverage and interest 10:23 has had so far, and as we’re starting to see the homeopathic dominoes tumbling here in the UK – and in Germany too, now – the level of interest continues to amaze me. On our side we have the science, we have the support, and we have the momentum.

Homeopathy: There’s nothing in it / Es gibt nichts in ihm

, , ,


The Many Faces Of Jesus Christ

Definitely JC

Definitely JC

Here’s a classic staple skeptical game for you – ‘Where’s Jesus this week?‘ People with relatively good memories for this type of inane nonsense – and I assume at least 80% of you readers could well be in that category – may be aware of the fact that the Messiah has been popping up in some pretty unusual places of late. We all remember the classic cheese toastie, but who remembers where he was in 2006? Besides, you know, in the innocent laughter of every child, obviously.

That’s right – a terrier’s arse. The terrier, Angus, played host the the pareidolia-tastic depiction of the deity on his rump 4 years ago, but, it seems, being at the arse-end of a mutt wasn’t all it cracked up to be for our Lord and Saviour, and he’s recently been doing a tour of the kind of locations the Pope can expect to appear at if the UK government decide to withdraw the £100million his visit is purported to cost us. That’s £100million, or 10 years of state-funded homeopathy, if you like to think of it that way. (In other news, the government just cut a scheme which would help pay for the refurbishment of rundown schools in deprived areas. Just sayin’).

So, having put his days as a terrier’s anus well and truly, well, behind him, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear he’s moving up in the world – having been spotted adorning the drainpipe of Coventry couple Alex and Nick Cotton. No, not THE Nick Cotton, aka Nasty Nick Cotton from Eastenders. Although Jesus did like to hang around the worst of us, and from what I remember Nasty Nick was among the worst actors I’ve ever seen. But no, this Nick Cotton lives in Coventry, which might go some way towards explaining why he was in need of a visit from the Son of God. I hear Coventry’s pretty boring, the last thing of note to happen there being a bombing raid from the Lufftewaffe. Read the rest of this entry »

, , ,


What Is It? #17

In the last edition of What Is It? we asked you to tell us where this picture came from:

It is page 92 of Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s ‘Scouting For Boys: A Handbook For Instruction in Good Citizenship’, originally published in 1908. This scan comes from the 1963 edition.

Only two days in and Weol got in there first with the correct answer, followed swiftly by Nemo. Other suggestions we recieved were an illustration from the ‘The Giant Book of Fantastic Facts’, or drawings of Mike, Marsh and myself (who’s who, I wonder?), presumably as part of a bizarre promo for Skeptics With a K!

So, you’re here, you’re reading, let’s have a look at the next picture. What/who are we looking at in the picture below?



Skeptics with a K: Special #005

From the archives! Back in February, Marsh visited Radio 5 Live to talk about homeopathy shortly before the publication of Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy; and during the aftermath of our own 10:23 Campaign.


, ,