Archive for March, 2011

Skeptics with a K: Episode #042

Dr Seuss and al-Qaeda, homeopathy on the Wirral, the Zion First National Bank and Wilfred Owen. Plus: God, Japan, Potential Rhymes, 200lbs of bricks, empathy and evolution. Staying indoors and covering up, it’s Skeptics with a K.



Skeptics with a K: Special #008

Marsh visits BBC Radio Merseyside to debate with the North West Friends of Homeopathy’s John Cook.



Homeopathy Plus, Radiation Poisoning and Japan (Yes, You Guessed Correctly)

Having written about and campaigned against homeopathy extensively in the past, I’ve seen a number of counter-arguments and issues raised by people who either disagree with the 10:23 Campaign (primarily homeopaths, admittedly). The one which crops up most regularly and seem to have, at least on the surface, the most sway is: if homeopathy IS just a placebo, is that so bad? Placebos, after all, can be shown to have an effect, and if judicially used could form a perfectly legitimate part of mainstream healthcare.

Persuasive as this sounds, the answer is actually pretty simple – leaving aside the implications for doctor-patient trust (handing out pills known to be ineffective and claiming they’re medicine definitely doesn’t gel with the important notion of informed consent), incorporating homeopathy into proven medicine lends the modality legitimacy, which can lead to things like this (screencapped from an email):

Homeopathy Plus

Even after all this time, homeopathy still leaves me speechless sometimes.

Following the link from that alert takes you to the Homeopathy Plus website, with their advice on how to deal with the side effects of Chemotherapy – advice they believe to be equally applicable to radiation poisoning. Just to make it absolutely clear, as if I even needed to, there is a HUGE difference between the side-effects experienced after having a well-controlled, targeted and managed dose of chemotherapy to fight cancer, and being randomly exposed to an uncontrolled amount radiation following a damaged nuclear power plant. It goes without saying that this is irresponsible and dangerous advice, and by all means it should be ignored. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #041

Fred Phelps vs Anonymous, Richard Wiseman vs Robert McLuhan, Attila the Hun vs gravity and Ernest Vincent Wright vs the letter ‘E’. Plus James Delingpole, Sultan Mustafa III, blankets from Russia and 582 baby boys.


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NHS Wirral and The North West Friends Of Homeopathy: A Typical Wednesday Evening Out

I’ve had a rather interesting evening. Last week, MSS member and local councillor Darren Dodds alerted me to the fact that Wirral NHS were holding an open meeting to discuss whether to continue funding homeopathy in the region, with the recommendation being very much ‘No, we absolutely shouldn’t’. Needless to say, I agree with this recommendation, and wanted to go along to let them know that I – and by extension the hundred or more local MSS members – applaud their step in the right direction. Interested parties should read the report they came up with, it’s really pretty good. Some highlights:

The paper concludes that the lack of evidence on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic therapies means that it should not be a high priority for the PCT at this time. It is recommended that NHS Wirral does not commission homeopathictherapies.

The key risk is that NHS Wirral fails to maintain its reputation as an evidence-based commissioning PCT.

Excellent stuff. Still, it seems we weren’t the only ones made aware of the open meeting – also invited were patients currently or formerly using homeopathy, and the ‘North West Friends of Homeopathy‘. This latter group are most interesting, and I’ll come back to them a little later in more detail, but first it’s worth pointing out that I appeared on local radio with a member of the group on Monday morning, in an exchange that might amuse, and will certainly give a far better impression of who John Cook is than I could ever do justice with words. UK-based readers can listen here, it starts around the 2hour 13minute mark and lasts about 10 minutes. I’ll wait.

For those not able, willing or interested in listening, what we have from John is a charming ability to hog a conversation, and the maniacal insistence that the date of the meeting was aired. Clearly, John wanted his supporters to arrive mob-handed. Fair enough, he probably feels he has a strong case. As it was, when I arrived with a couple of other MSS members there were maybe 40 or so people present, a number which I presume to be in excess of the general norm for these meetings.

John, having lobbied for inclusion, was amongst the speakers, joined by Dr. Hugh Neilsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (it’s worth pointing out that his name is actually Hugh Nielsen, and the NWFoH’s own website, while painstaking in it’s detail of Hugh’s many qualifications, mispells the name of their own president), and the panel was completed by two local GPs who were involved in making the recommendation, and who spent the evening ranging between bemused, compassionate and at times startled. Startled, not least, by the quite spectacular opening by John, the homeopath’s friend (which I imagine is rather like a Fisherman’s Friend, but lacking in clout), in which he directed a quite flattering string of insults at me directly, and at the Merseyside Skeptics Society. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics in the Pub: Bob Churchill

You’re Probably Not A Jedi: The Census Campaign And Why It Matters


Bob Churchill, British Humanist Association

by Bob Churchill
When: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

Bob Churchill will discuss the BHA’s Census Campaign, what the problem with the religion question on the Census is, why it matters in the long-run, and why you’re probably not a Jedi. Bob will also divulge the surprising reasons as to why the Office of National Statistics declined to make the question more accurate even though they knew how to do it – and it’s probably not what you think.

About Bob Churchill

Bob is Head of Membership and Promotion of the British Humanist Association. He studied Philosophy at the University of Warwick and Queens University, Canada. Subsequently he worked in communications for a social housing organisation and then in marketing and information systems development for an industrial technology company.

Bob joined the BHA in January 2008. He has responsibility for managing the membership scheme and communications, promoting Humanism via their events and publications and liaising with Local Humanist Groups.

NOTE: Due to our regular third-Thursday slot clashing, somewhat ironically, with St Patrick’s Day, this lecture will be taking place on Wednesday 16th March, at the Head of Steam, Liverpool.

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