A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Archive for the ‘Logical Fallacies’ Category

Easy to fall into. Fascinating stuff.

Editing reality

Posted by apgaylard on August 28, 2010

I really hope that this is the last post I write about the homeoprophylaxis campaign against Leptospirosis in Cuba during 2007 – 2008 (Bracho et al, 2010).  Deep down I know that this uncontrolled, un-randomised poorly-reported trial published in a terrible pseudojournal, dealing with a highly variable disease which is amenable to personal protective measures, a real vaccine and antibiotic treatment is going to get thrown at me again and again.

Homeopathic propagandists will not worry that real medicines were also used in the treatment region, a media campaign raised awareness of the disease and the homeopaths intervened at the peak of a multi-year problem.  Neither will it bother them that the net outcome was a return to the same infection rate as the rest of Cuba or the Intervention Region in 2004, or that the paper was rejected by proper journals.

However, before I move on I think that the accompanying guest editorial by Roniger and Jacobs (2010) deserves some additional scrutiny. It’s entitled, “Prophylaxis against Leptospirosis using a nosode: Can this large cohort study serve as a model for future replications?” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in homeopathy, Leptospirosis, Logical Fallacies | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Dengue: betting on homeopathy?

Posted by apgaylard on May 8, 2009

bigstockphoto_Doubt_In_The_Casino_4852680By any rational measure, betting on the effectiveness of homeopathy is not a good bet.  However, many thousands of people take this chance: homeopaths stake their livelihood on it; patients bet their money, hopes and sometimes health.  Medical professionals and researchers have effectively staked their careers and reputations on homeopathy working, or at least looking like it does. 

Of course, confirmation bias, the self-limiting nature of many commonly treated ailments and the placebo effect all help improve the odds.  Add to that a general lack of awareness of scientific methods and principles among public and policy-makers alike and betting on homeopathy is starting to look less risky.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in homeopathy, Logical Fallacies | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Mail menopause myths

Posted by apgaylard on March 26, 2009

bigstockphoto_hand_outstretched_with_a_pile__1993865It is no great surprise when the Daily Mail gets it wrong on health (or other scientific) issues.  They have a long and inglorious record in this regard.  A recent article on the menopause continues this fine tradition. 

Neither is it unusual to find therapies of no, and even disproven, worth promoted for the treatment of the symptoms of the menopause.   This topic seems to provide rich pickings for people promoting treatments ranging from the sensible but speculative through to downright outrageous quackery.  The confluence of a condition which potentially affects more than half of the world’s population, self limiting symptoms and the difficulties associated with weighing the risks of HRT make for a potent mix.  The market is large, the media are generally credulous, efficacy is difficult to establish and there are fears to play on.  In many ways an ideal target for so-called CAM. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Logical Fallacies, Pseudoscience, Supplements | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Blind Anger

Posted by apgaylard on July 13, 2008



In the second part of my journey through the arid valley of the recent ‘Scientific Research in Homeopathy’ conference under the guidance of the philosophically myopic Lionel Milgrom we’ll see that the philosophical element of his apologia (powerpoint file) is empty, inconsistent, contradictory, inept and misleading.

The other bits are no better either.  (Milgrom’s lecture has been skillfully deconstructed on the quackometer by Andy Lewis)

Milgrom claims that it’s time for homeopaths and other CAM advocates to get angry: it seems his anger has blinded him to the weakness of his arguments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in homeopathy, Logical Fallacies, Philosophy, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

The Memory of Water: Replies and Answers

Posted by apgaylard on January 17, 2008

While all answers are replies, not all replies are answers.”

Ta’Lon, Babylon 5: Point of No Return, script by J. Michael Straczynski.

The Memory of Water issue of the journal Homeopathy has provoked a number of critical responses, which the journal has now published.  Those authors whose work has been criticised have, quite rightly, responded.  So far, this is healthy: this is how science works.

However, most of the responses could be described by the observation: “not all replies are answers.”  Let’s take the replies to my two letters, for example.

The first is from Lionel Milgrom, the second is by Vybíral and Voráček.

The dangerous swan song of the straw man

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Logical Fallacies, Philosophy, The Memory of Water | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Energy by Motion

Posted by apgaylard on January 5, 2008

 I’ve just come across the concept of “Energy By Motion“.  A Hungarian company (Gamma Manager) is claiming that an electromagnetic motor they have designed produces more electricity than is required to run it.

In fact PESWiki reports that the company “…allegedly has a working 10 MW (continuous, self-sustaining, usable) prototype that is ready to go commercial…”.

They apparantly claim that 10MW of input will get you 15MW of electrical output.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Impossibe Machines, Logical Fallacies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s Evidence Jim, But Not As We Know It!

Posted by apgaylard on November 8, 2007

A Commentary On In Pursuit Of Evidence By Kate Chatfield RSHom

I’ve wanted to critique Kate Chatfield‘s philosophical diatribe for some time.  It can be found on the Society of Homeopath’s (SoH) website.

The main reasons for my interest were that when I first came across this piece I was immediately  struck by it’s misrepresentation of clinical evidence and the philosophy of science.

I claim no special skill in philosophy, but a second-year undergraduate course sparked an interest which has stayed with me.  I may not be an expert, but I’ve read Popper and Lakatos.  I also have a passing acquaintance with the works of Kuhn.  So I think I know when someone is not telling it how it is.

Having engaged my attention, the commentary on this piece has ended up being rather long, so I’ve provided an index.

Cherry Picking
Philosophical Straw Men
Allopathic Medicine is Mean
Good Quality Evidence is Bad
You Mean We Have To Be Accountable?
Oh No, We Don’t Have Any Real Evidence
The ‘Whole Person’ Gambit
The Cherry Picking Gambit
It’s Evidence Jim, But Not As We Know It!
A Lamentable Lack of Lakatos
Clutching at Kuhn
Feyerabend’s Cranks
We’re Not Wrong We’re Underdetermined
You Can’t Prove Anything, So We Are Right
Perverting Popper
The High-Dilution Problem Ignored
8 Out of 10 Cats Prefer it
So Let’s Have Customer Satisfaction Surveys Instead
We’re Not Wrong, We’re Incommensurable
We’re Taking Our Ball But Not Going Home
Concluding Thoughts

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in homeopathy, Logical Fallacies, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Light on Evidence

Posted by apgaylard on November 3, 2007

 I recently wrote about the BBC’s rash promotional video news item about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Lightwave Stimulation (LWS) therapy.  It is clear from what the advocates of this approach have put into the public domain that this is a speculative, pseudoscientific, treatment.

I’ve decided to dig a little deeper into the evidence base for LWS.  This post is just a quick progress report.

First, money: the Sound Learning Centre (irony levels rising!) charge £ 400 for a child (20 sessions) and £ 500 for an adult (25 sessions).  Not massively expensive, but at £60 per hour a significant cost.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Colour Therapy, Lightwave Stimulation, Logical Fallacies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Light on Evidence

Questionable Dowsing – Setting The Record Straight

Posted by apgaylard on October 15, 2007

Well, I complained about the outrageous presentation of myth as fact that was the BBC Radio 4Questions, Questions” piece on dowsing.  Yesterday I had a very polite reply.

“… Thank you for your e-mail regarding ‘Questions, Questions’. I note your concerns over the feature on dowsing; specifically, that you considered that there was an absence of factual evidence. I further note your criticisms of contributors and contributions made.

Audience response such as yours is welcomed by the BBC because it regularly informs the review and improvement of the programming and services that we offer. Please be assured that I have included your comments in the daily audience log. This internal document is made available to production teams and senior management.

Thank you for taking the time to contact BBC Information … “

Now I don’t think it is acceptable to only note in private an error broadcast to the public.  It is particularly unacceptable when the programme was billed as “factual”.

Unfortunately the e-mail did not contain a valid return address, so I cannot debate the point any further without escalating the complaint to the next level.  So that is what I have done.  It may be fighting a small and pedantic fight, but I believe it’s a worthwhile one.

I have reproduced my letter below and will write about what happens next.

 cectic.com.  All contents are copyright © 2007, Rudis Muiznieks.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.

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Posted in dowsing, Logical Fallacies, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Homeopathy and the memory of water: going round in circles

Posted by apgaylard on October 12, 2007

 Next in my series on the “Memory of Water” a paper that contains the silliest piece of “reasoning” I have ever seen published (more later).  Basically it’s a fine example of Begging The Question.

This has not been submitted to Homeopathy; I thought that I’d already pushed my luck with sending in two contributions. 

Weingärtner, O. “The nature of the active ingredient in ultramolecular dilutions” Homeopathy, Volume 96, Issue 3, July 2007, Pages 220-226.

An Exercise In Circular Reasoning

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Posted in homeopathy, Logical Fallacies, Pseudoscience, The Memory of Water | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »