Wednesday 31 August 2011

The Detox 2000 (Patent Pending)

In Professor Edzard Ernst’s article in today’s Guardian regarding the alternative-medicine version of detox, he states that:
"Unless someone is very severely ill, the elimination of toxins is most efficiently being taken care of by various organs – for instance, the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs and the gut. In a healthy person, the function of these systems is already optimal. No improvements are needed or can be achieved by detox therapies."
This is of course simply because the currently available alternative medicine detox techniques such as diet supplements, goji berries, and even the old hosepipe up the jacksie routine are simply not sufficiently potent enough to have any effect beyond the body’s natural detoxifying processes.

As there is clearly a market for a more effective form of alternative detox, our team of crack scientists at Science, Reason and Critical Thinking has worked through his lunch break to develop the Detox 2000 (Patent Pending).

Ernst states that currently available colon cleansing techniques have been unable to show good clinical evidence to prove that they lower toxin levels in the body. As previously stated this is probably just because the gentle nature of the currently available colonic irrigation systems are simply not aggressive enough to remove the more stubborn clingons from the colon wall. This will not be a problem for the Detox 2000 (patent pending).

The Detox 2000 (Patent Pending) uses a heavy duty industrial standard high pressure blaster to thrust a specially prepared cocktail of bleach, ground chillies and fun snaps at a pressure of 800 bar (1,670,834 Pounds / Square Foot) into the patient’s lower colonic access portal.  

The Detox 2000 (Patent Pending) is the ideal detox remedy for today’s self-indulgent consumers, allowing them to eat whatever the hell they like, whenever they like, safe in the knowledge that they can always ram their Detox 2000 (Patent Pending) up their arseholes as soon as they get home.

BTW has anyone got an email address for Duncan Bannatyne or Deborah Meaden? I’m looking for an investment of £87.70 (for a days tool hire in order to conduct a clinical trial on the dog), in exchange for 20% equity in the Detox 2000 (Patent Pending).

Tuesday 30 August 2011

Scientifically Accurate Labelling of the Acupuncture Meridians and Acupoints

Acupuncturists claim to be able to treat a whole range of ailments by strategically inserting needles into various acupoints along the body’s meridian lines in order to control the flow of an invisible life energy known as ch’i or qi, and thus balance the body’s mystical yin and yang.

Following an in-depth and investigation into alternative therapies, in the bestseller Trick or Treatment, science writer Dr. Simon Singh and, Britain’s first Professor of Complementary Medicine, Prof. Edzard Ernst, summarize this basic principle of acupuncture thus:

“The traditional principles of acupuncture are deeply flawed, as there is no evidence at all to demonstrate the existence of Ch’I or meridians.”

But just because a therapy is scientifically implausible if it nonetheless produces unequivocal positive results then we must still consider it a valuable therapy. However, Singh and Ernst’s go on to conclude:

“By focusing on the increasing number of high-quality research papers, reliable conclusions from systematic reviews make it clear that acupuncture does not work for a whole range of conditions, except as a placebo. Hence, if you see acupuncture being advertised by a clinic, then you can assume that it does not really work, except possibly in the treatment of some types of pain and nausea.”

The above quote is taken from a more detailed conclusion that I would recommend reading in full. But it certainly seems from their investigation into the evidence that jabbing the patient outside of the recognised meridians or acupoints or indeed pretending to jab them with either telescopic sham needles, or simply not inserting the needles far enough, has pretty much the same effect as “proper” acupuncture for all treatments other than possibly certain types of pain and nausea.

Nevertheless, if the theatrical nature of acupuncture induces a measurable placebo effect then some may argue that there is still a benefit to its usage. However, as more and more healthcare practitioners recognise the importance of honesty with their patients we should perhaps consider more ethical methods of conveying acupuncture.

Most acupuncture patients are familiar with the standard acupuncture maps showing the body’s meridians and their various acupoints along those meridians that supposedly have distinct influences on different ailments. Rather than tall stories of ancient pre-scientific notions of an invisible and undetectable life energy why not simply state the most plausible explanations for any perceived benefit. All we actually need to do to achieve this is to simply re-label the meridian lines to describe how they are most likely to work and re-label the acupoints to describe the current unequivocally scientifically proven effect of that particular acupoint.

I’ve even done it for you …

Oh, OK I admit it, it was all just a convoluted way of strategically placing the label "Sweet Fanny Adams" on the anatomical acupuncture chart, but I can never resist a good fanny gag.

Saturday 20 August 2011

An Optimist’s Tour of the Future: One Curious Man Sets Out to Answer “What’s Next?”

Anyone who knows me or has been following my blog for a while will know that I self-identify with the label “Skeptic”.

I’ve written before about some of the unfortunate conations of the term skeptic, especially when people misuse the term to express their personal disbelief in a pre-designated concept, often as a result of indoctrination into a belief rather than as the result of following a rigours methodology.

I view scepticism rather like the scientific method itself, as a tool. I try not to simply sort ideas into either bollocks or bona fide and then seek validation for my arbitrary taxonomy. I like to think I use the critical and fair methods of scepticism to logically determine whether or not I should throw yet another belief into the bollocks bucket or not. Although to be fair, I do seem to have ended up with a rather bumper bucket of bollocks brimming with bullshit.

Another unfortunate connotation of the term skeptic is some of the words it is associated with. Here’s a screen grab from for the word “Skeptic”.

I’d be proud for most of these synonyms to be emblazoned on my T Shirts. I particularly like “Freethinker”, “Heathen”, “Profaner” and “Rationalist”. But there are two words in this list that I do not identify with:

Cynic and Pessimist

The Notes on the screen grab give a half reasonable differentiation between cynics and skeptics, although I would have preferred some usage of the word “evidence” to be included in close proximity to the word “skeptic.”

As for the term “Pessimist”, that really isn’t me at all. I am the complete opposite of a pessimist. When posed with the perennial glass half empty/full chestnut, I don’t merely see the glass as half full, I invariably suspect there’s actually probably a little bit more than half left in it and anyway I was just going to the bar so I’ll get another one if I really need to.

In short, I’m an optimist who likes to critically evaluate ideas.

How fortuitous then that a few months ago, despite no pending book orders, the book shaped package that appeared on my doorstep contained a copy of Mark Stevenson’s splendid book: An Optimists Tour of the Future.

Mark actually contacted me on Facebook just over two years ago now and sent me some very kind comments about my blog. He mentioned his devotion to critical thinking and the scientific method and he told me he was going to write a book. I told Mark how envious I was of his opportunity and wished him all the best.

I didn’t hear from Mark for a long time, presumably he was off somewhere on his exciting adventure, researching his book or whatever it is that authors do with their advances.

I have of course now read Mark’s book, and I’ve found out exactly what he’d been up to, but I’d never once imagined what a fascinating, inspirational, enlightening and heartening adventure he had been having.

In a bravely ambitious quest to find credible scientific answers to the burning question of what the future holds, Mark compiled a remarkable visiting list of pioneering scientists, entrepreneurs, world leaders and environmentalists. All of which are capable of thinking so far outside of the box you are left wondering why you ever considered the box a viable method of packaging in the first place.

Mark deftly circumnavigates the very sharpest cutting edges of science without suffering a single prick.

The first port of call regards the limitations of the human body, after all I guess it's good to know how far the future will personally concern us before we set off on our journey.

Marks delves into the bold claims of the transhumanists and emerges with a just credible vision of human longevity before exploring the advances in gene sequencing that provide clear and unarguable predictions of a revolution in a more personalised healthcare system that really does just seem to be around the corner.

Moving from man to machine Mark probes the current advances in robotics and artificial intelligence with some fascinating visits that would translate beautifully into a more visual media if Mark gets the opportunity. Mark’s impressive visiting schedule in this part of the journey includes interviews with noted pioneers Vint Cerf and Ray Kurzweil.

However perhaps the most important area where a bit of optimism is required is around the pressing concerns of climate change, environmental issues and renewable energy. Of course this is where blind optimism would in fact be more of a hindrance than a help with mere wishful thinking providing false hope and curbing more credible research into some of the planets current key issues. But surely if there were well-founded and scientifically feasible suggestions that could have a serious impact on some of these questions we would have heard about them by now? Well if you haven’t, that is exactly why you simply must read this book.

But finally, many thanks to Mark for so eloquently pointing out that my beloved scepticism does not go hand in hand with pessimism.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Nadine Dorries: We Should Shut Me Down During an Outbreak of Public Stupidity

Nadine Dorries is MP for Mid Narnia and a member of the council of Aslan

The question on Radio Unicorn this morning was – Should we or shouldn’t we shut me down during an outbreak of public stupidity?

I think we should.

During the first battle of Beruna in Narnia I was instantly closed down. As it happens I was stood next to the Aslan at the time explaining to him about the importance of female only lion cub abstinence. I remember it well. The precedent for silencing fuckwits like me to prevent influencing public stupidity has already been set, even though it has possibly not yet been acknowledged by the Daily Mail.

Admittedly deluded MP’s like me can be used for as source of amusement as well as stupidity.

But we must also remember that me and David Tredinnick are used to spread misinformation, to disrupt evidence based policy and to direct the deluded and dim-witted towards irrational, unscientific and illiberal policies.

In this disturbing new world, is it not time to inject a little common sense and shut me down before I say something else stupid?

Keep your knickers on.

Mad Nad

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