Sunday 15 June 2008

'Homeopathy works!' - Mail Online

Homeopathy really does work and doctors should recognise its healing effects, say researchers.
This is from the Mail Online website. I don't know if it's also in the printed version (I try to avoid the Mail if at all possible). But the title above, including the quotation marks, is the title used on the site. So maybe this is a sceptical report after all - who can tell? Is this an example of the Mail just presenting the facts, with no imposed spin?
A study found that allergy sufferers who were given homeopathic treatment were ten times more likely to be cured than those given a dummy pill instead.
What kind of study?
The study was carried out by doctors in Glasgow, led by Dr David Reilly of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, one of five specialist hospitals in Britain. He said the difference in results from the two treatments was statistically significant.
Ah. Well he would say that, wouldn't he, being "of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital"?

Or perhaps I'm being unfair. Perhaps this was a double-blinded, randomised clinical trial. The phrase "clinical trials" is actually attributed to Dr Reilly later in the report, so I posted a comment* on the article, suggesting that we might like to see references to his study, so that it can be checked out, and perhaps reveal homeopathy to be the wonderfully efficacious evidence-based medicine it has hitherto failed to be considered as.

Or not.

*UPDATE 2008-07-01:
Well, I tried to post a comment. It didn't appear, and I can't believe I was the only one who tried. Despite the invitation to share your thoughts, it seems the Mail doesn't want any feedback on this article**.

**UPDATE 2008-08-01:

It has come to my attention that this is an old article from 2003. Unfortunately Mail Online gives no indication of this on its website, but it presumably explains why comments are not being accepted.

Friday 13 June 2008

The Atheist Thirteen

Taking up Nullifidian's challenge:

(If you’d like to take part, copy these questions, and answer them in your own words on your own blog.)

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Atheism is not believing in god(s). Strictly speaking, a-theism is not believing in a theistic god, so one could perhaps be an atheist and a deist at the same time. Whatever, atheism is not a religion. Nor is it, strictly, the active denial of the existence of gods.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

Anglican. C of E. I went to a Methodist Sunday School.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavour really excites you?

Computer technology. This is science that has direct and immediate impact on a huge number of people, in so many different ways.

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

If only atheists could agree with each other, some momentum for social change could be built up. But that's a forlorn hope - atheists tend to be independent and freethinking. They arrive at their views by their own considered thinking process, so it's hardly surprising there's no agreed script. The religious have dogma, so they don't need to think about these things....

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

Surprise. Because, for a start, I don't have any children.

Q7. What’s your favourite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

The teleological argument: that without God, the universe has no meaning or purpose. Guess what? The universe has no meaning or purpose.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

That religious moderates aren't really religious? I don't understand how anyone can be considered truly religious without being devoutly religious. And it's a short step from devout to fundamentalist - that's why I think religion should be stamped out.

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Horses (horsemen) for courses: Dawkins for his careful consideration and precise expression; Dennett for his gentle, rational deconstruction of religion; Hitchens for his rapier intellect in a scrap; and Harris for his sublime mastery of language.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

Pope Benny. There are lots of cranky religions out there, but the Roman Catholics have global reach, and their loony superstitions bear down with an alarming weight of numbers.

Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

1. Pharyngula
2. onegoodmove
3. Julia Sweeney

Hurry up now - there's not much of Friday the Thirteenth left!

Sunday 1 June 2008

The rational atheist - August Berkshire on KKMS Live! with Jeff & Lee

August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists, was recently (23 May 2008) a guest on KKMS Live! with Jeff & Lee, during a segment entitled Understanding and Responding to Atheists' Beliefs. It was a generally civilised discussion, with people calling in with questions or comments. The audio is available as an mp3 file here:

In his quiet, rational and persistently patient manner August dealt swiftly with every point raised. Anyone who consistently accuses atheists of being militant should listen to this 40-minute programme.