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Showing posts from June, 2011

The lie that the Tories are marketizing the NHS to "reduce costs" and make it "more efficient"

Tory plans to marketize the NHS are supposedly justified by data. E.g. data showing that when doctors are made independent financial agents free to buy services from whoever they like on behalf of patients, costs are driven down. But the truth is this is just another "private good, public bad" myth. In particular, the evidence actually suggests that this kind of marketization is not a money saver. In fact the evidence strongly suggests that it's inefficient . As this research by McKinsey confirms. Go here for report in the Huffington post. Of course Lansley must know all this. He's seen the evidence. Ben Goldacre has previously pointed it out how Lansley twists those facts and evidence to make his case. Last week we saw that the government had overstated the failings of the NHS by using dodgy figures (to be precise, they used misleading static figures instead of time trends). We saw that the health secretary Andrew Lansley's repeated claim that his reforms a

Edzard Ernst retires. Depressing story....

THE article on Edzard Ernst. Research Intelligence - Alternative outcomes By Paul Jump As the first professor of complementary medicine retires, he recalls a rough ride. Paul Jump reports Edzard Ernst admits he is pleased to be retiring as professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter - although his departure will be welcomed even more avidly by the numerous enemies he has made during his 18 years of subjecting complementary and alternative medicine (Cam) to scientific scrutiny. The 63-year-old officially retired at the end of last month after producing well over 1,000 papers assessing the evidence for the efficacy of alternative treatments. But although his outspoken conclusion is that only about 5 per cent of such treatments are "solidly based on positive evidence", he admitted in an interview with Times Higher Education that he had started out as a "friend" of Cam. His first job after graduating from medical school was in Germany's o

The faith healers who claim they can cure cancer

by Anna Adams and Meirion Jones BBC Newsnight website A group of faith healers who claim they have miracle cures for cancer and HIV have been condemned as "irresponsible, even criminal" by a professor of complementary medicine, following a BBC Newsnight investigation. The group of healers, collectively known as ThetaHealing, claim that their technique - which focuses on thought and prayer - can teach people to use their natural intuition and "brain wave cycle" to "create instantaneous physical and emotional healing." ThetaHealing have about 600 practitioners in the UK who charge up to £100 per session. But the healers' claims have been called "criminal" and "not supported by any kind of evidence" by Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, whose unit not only carry out their own studies but also assess those done by other researchers. Continues here .

Field Guide to Bullshit

From New Scientist - interview by Alison George with me on my new book Believing Bullshit. How do people defend their beliefs in bizarre conspiracy theories or the power of crystals? Philosopher Stephen Law has tips for spotting their strategies You describe your new book, Believing Bullshit, as a guide to avoid getting sucked into "intellectual black holes". What are they? Intellectual black holes are belief systems that draw people in and hold them captive so they become willing slaves of claptrap. Belief in homeopathy, psychic powers, alien abductions - these are examples of intellectual black holes. As you approach them, you need to be on your guard because if you get sucked in, it can be extremely difficult to think your way clear again. But isn't one person's claptrap another's truth? There's a belief system about water to which we all sign up: it freezes at 0 °C and boils at 100 °C. We are powerfully wedded to this but that doesn't make it

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: only 2 of 51 Miss America contestants support evolution taught in schools

Go here for article: Miss USA Pageant Winner One of Two Contestants to Back Evolution . By Philip Yam I admit, the only time I even notice beauty pageants is when one of the contestants flubs a response and video of the embarrassing moment makes the YouTube rounds. This time, though, I'm taking notice because of a cogent answer, one that could be seen as a victory for science. Tanya Somanader of Think Progress recounts in her excellent blog post an answer given by 21-year-old Alyssa Campanella, a self-described science geek who won the Miss USA competition last night. Responding to the question of whether evolution should be taught in schools, Campanella affirmed her position on evolution and its rightful place in the classroom. She and Miss Massachusetts, Alida D’Angona, were the only two of the 51 contestants to back Darwin. Continues, with video clips, here .

Drumming tonight, Burcot

Playing drums with the jazz funk outfit The Heavy Dexters tonight from 9pm at Chequers pub, Burcot (nr. Oxford and Abingdon). Postcode OX14 3DP.

Pseudo-profundity - from "Believing Bullshit"

Here's a sample chpt from my new book. I have posted previous drafts here before of course.   PSEUDO-PROFUNDITY Some marketing, religious, and lifestyle gurus have genuinely profound insights to offer. Others spout little more than pseudo-profundity. Pseudo-profundity is the art of sounding profound while talking tosh. Unlike the art of actually being profound, the art of sounding profound is not particularly difficult to master. As we’ll see, there are certain basic recipes that can produce fairly convincing results – good enough to convince others, and perhaps even yourself, that you have gained some sort of profound insight into the human condition. If you want to achieve the status of a guru it helps to have some natural charisma and presentational skills. Sincerity, empathy, or at least the ability to fake them, can be useful. Props also help. Try wearing a loincloth, a fez, or, in a business setting, a particularly brash waistcoat. But even without the aid of such natural tal

New Scientist interview

Interview in this week's New Scientist on Believing Bullshit here . This interview enraged one homeopath so much they immediately fired off a one star amazon review and posted here too (as "treejag" on June 13th). PS books purchased on should be with you pretty quickly as their stock arrives about today.

Gig next week

Gigs I am doing in Oxford. Including one Friday next...

Debate videos

One of a series of videos in which I debate Andreas Hamza Tzortzis over an hour or two on "Islam or Atheism" at De Montford University. They were a very good-natured and friendly crowd and made me feel very welcome, even though (obviously) not many were atheists. You need to turn it up to hear their questions. Click through for other installments.

Nightwaves programme tomorrow

I will talking about my new book, Believing Bullshit, tomorrow night (Wednesday) on Nightwaves programme, BBC Radio 3, from 10pm. With Nick Cohen. POSTSCRIPT 11.33pm on bus home. That didn't go too well. Nick kept calling me Matthew and I got flummoxed by left field Rumsfeld question.