A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

No room for the evidence

Posted by apgaylard on June 19, 2009

bigstockphoto_Rejected_1909608Last week I tried to get a modestly sized letter published in the New Scientist, to highlight just one of the very poor pieces of argumentation displayed by BCA vice-president Richard Brown in an opinion piece.  Unfortunately, I failed.  Space is very limited and I guess that they just had to make room for another error-strewn contribution from the indefatigable George Lewith*.

So, I’ve published it here to make at least some use of it.

Letters to the Editor

New Scientist

84 Theobald’s Road



There is good evidence that Richard Brown’s assessment of the proportion of UK Chiropractors who subscribe to DD Palmer’s ninteenth century mumbo-jumbo is a substantial under-estimate (New Scientist, 13 June, pp.22-23).  A survey reported in 2007 by Pollentier and Langworthy  (Clinical Chiropractic, doi:10.1016/j.clch.2007.02.001) found that “Traditional chiropractic beliefs (chiropractic philosophy) were deemed important by 76% of the respondents and 63% considered subluxation to be central to chiropractic intervention.”  This is far from the “tiny minority” he suggests.

It’s interesting that Lewith’s letter makes the same mistake of insisting that chiropractors no longer hold with the traditional mumbo-jumbo when it’s clear that, at least in the UK, they still do.


*Edzard Ernst has submitted an on-line comment about Lewith’s letter, which is a critical comment on an earlier article by Ernst.  It appears that Lewith is attacking a straw man built via cherry-picking: quelle surprise!


None yet!


5 Responses to “No room for the evidence”

  1. alanhenness said

    Lewith’s letter in this week’s New Scientist is utterly disgraceful.

  2. jdc325 said

    This is infuriating. The New Scientist, having given Brown room to make a dubious assertion (without citing any evidence in favour of this assertion), have now failed to publish a rebuttal of this assertion despite the rebuttal being based on a survey published in Clinical Chiropractic and have also allowed another commentator to make the same unevidenced assertion as Brown*.

    The really sad thing is that many non-scientists will assume that the NS is a reliable source of information.

    *Given their recent definitions, perhaps I should question the BCA’s numeracy and literacy. If a “plethora” of studies means 29 (or did that get narrowed down to 16), and 76% is a “tiny minority”…

    • apgaylard said

      “The really sad thing is that many non-scientists will assume that the NS is a reliable source of information.”

      Couldn’t agree more. It’s usually possible to make an online comment on an article or letter, but the print version of NS is important for the reason you give. Sensible online comments can get lost in the inane babble that inevitably seems to develop.

      To be fair, I wasn’t surprised that my letter didn’t get in. The pressure for space must be high. I’m a bit concerned that no critical comments were published (could mine have been the only one?) and that so much space was given to someone rehersing some of the same flawed arguments and adding in a few more for good measure.

      Thanks for the insightful comment.

  3. […] canna change the laws of physics blog presents a short unpublished rebuttal to some of the arguments made in New Scientist by BCA vice president Richard Brown and a more […]

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