As was amply demonstrated during the debate on the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the Conservative Party has more than its fair share of mouth-breathing morons festering away on its backbenches but for sheer unadulterated fucknuttery even Nadine Dorries struggles to live down to the standards of David Tredinnick, the Eton-educated Member of Parliament for Bosworth.
Thus far is his parliamentary career of 22 years, Tredinnick cuts a noteworthy figure only for having been suspended from the House of Commons for 20 days for accepting a payment of £1,000 in return for asking a question in the House of Commons about an entirely fictitious drug – (no, not Cake, unfortunately – losing his position as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (unpaid bag carrier) in the process; and, more recently, for having spent a little over £500 of taxpayers money on a piece of Astrology software, and associated training, which he claimed was to help with a parliamentary speech on alternative medicines.
Given that the only previous occasion on which Tredinnick waxed lyrical on the subject of astrology was in 2001, I must assume that the speech in question was the one he gave on Wednesday in the course of an adjournment debate, in which case, and speaking as a taxpayer, I’d very much like my fucking money back.
The Quackometer has already started to pick over some of Tredinnick’s more delusional, and wholly untruthful remarks, although for sheer entertainment value it would be remiss of me not to highlight one particularly spectacular piece of outright lunacy:
I could have referred to radionics, for example, for which a double-blind trial is almost impossible, yet it is very popular because people believe that it gives them the ability to get remote healing. We need to think out of the box here. As with healers who can do remote healing, it is no good people saying that just because we cannot prove something, it does not work. The anecdotal evidence that it does is enormous. I know that the Minister is a forward thinker, and I believe that the Department needs to be very open to the idea of energy transfers and the people who work in that sphere. Will she comment further on that?
Like many, if not most, advocates of woo, the idea that the plural of anecdote isn’t data, let alone evidence, is one that utterly fails to register with Tredinnick, as does the simple proposition that there is absolutely no plausible scientific mechanism within either biology or physics that could account for ‘radionics’ for the simple reason that what he’s actually talking about here is magic – plain old-fashioned pig ignorant witch-doctoring ju-ju.
That said, his speech is worth a look simply for it containing perhaps the most spectacularly misconceived and idiotic attempt at playing the race card that I think I’ve ever seen in my life – and believe me I’ve seen a few:
In 2001 I raised in the House the influence of the moon, on the basis of the evidence then that at certain phases of the moon there are more accidents. Surgeons will not operate because blood clotting is not effective and the police have to put more people on the street. I am arguing for more research. I have been criticised for raising the subject, but the criticism is generally based on a misunderstanding. It is based on the idea that I am talking about the stuff that we see in the newspapers about star sign astrology, but I am not. I am talking about a long-standing discipline—an art and a science—that has been with us since ancient Egyptian, Roman, Babylonian and Assyrian times. It is part of the Chinese, Muslim and Hindu cultures. Criticism is deeply offensive to those cultures, and I have a Muslim college in my constituency. The opposition is based on what I call the SIP formula—superstition, ignorance and prejudice. It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony. They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced too, which is troubling.
The lunar cycle thing crops up all over the place with stupefying regularity and, on closer examination, invariably proves to be a load of bollocks. The Indy ran just such a piece back in January, in its science news section (FFS), which included the claim that:
A study in Florida of murders and aggravated assaults showed clusters of attacks around the full moon.
That particular study (Lieber and Sherin, 1972) was debunked years ago after other research found that the study has used dubious statistical methods. When the data from the study was re-evaluated using proper statistical methods the pattern claimed by Lieber and Sherin disappeared. That same article also drags up another hoary old lunar chestnut:
…a four-year study into car accidents found that the lowest number happened during the full-moon day, while the highest number was two days before the full moon. Accidents were more frequent during the waxing than the waning phase.
Stop me if you’ve heard that one before:
Car accidents occur 14 percent more often on average during a full moon than a new moon, according to a study of 3 million car policies by the U.K.’s Churchill Insurance Group Plc.
That’s Bloomberg reporting a classic piece of PR Reviewed ‘research’ in 2003, and that same ‘study’ was reported elsewhere as showing a 50% increase in accidents during a full moon. Ohhhh yes! However, my own personal favorite has to be a 1982 study by Templer, Veleber, and Brooner, which claimed to have found evidence that showed a unusual number of car accidents occurred during the evening around both new and full moons, but when that was checked by a far less credulous group of researchers they discovered that during the period covered by the study, an unusually high number of full and new moons had fallen on weekends, when car accidents increase anyway due, in part, to the number of people who’re dumb enough to try driving home after a night on the piss.
Conversely, meta-analyses of 37 separate studies by Rotten and Kelly (1985) and almost 50 studies by Ivan Kelly (2002) found that the phase of the moon had no significant effect on human behaviour. Rotten and Kelly’s study focussed particularly on studies of suicides, psychiatric admissions and crime, all old favourites amongst the ‘Lunar Effect’ fucknuts, and found that correlations with the moon’s phase ‘accounted’ for no more that 0.03% of the monthly variation.
I’ve included all that just to emphasise the point that Tredinnick is talking complete and utter bollocks when he suggests, in that speech, that the Department of Health should seriously entertain the idea of opening taxpayer-funded branches of Hogwarts in NHS hospitals, before getting to the real meat, which is the utterly idiotic suggestion that scientists react badly to so-called alternative therapies out of superstition, ignorance and prejudice – and not just any old kind of prejudice but racial prejudice.
The suggestion that skeptics are at all superstitious is complete and utter rubbish, of course, but there may be some truth to the proposition that some of us react ’emotionally’ to proponents of woo – after all there are only so many occasions on which you can stand being regaled with the same old crap before you start contemplating whether or not it might be much easier to simply have an explanation of the scientific method embossed on decent length of 2×4 so you can try beating into the twat’s head in the vain hope that something might stick – maybe a nail or two if you lucky and have prepared properly in advance.
That’s not superstition, that’s just frustration at the utter gullibility of idiots like Tredinnick.
As for ignorance, well hey, I’m not the one who has to spend £300 on a training course in order to use a piece of fucking astrology software. If the need arise I can do all the calculations by hand using a standard astronomical ephemeris and find everything else in one of the standard astrological ‘text books’ that’s sitting on the bookshelf in the corner of the room. All told, I’ve probably got something of the order of 70-80 books that cover the kind of crap that Tredinick’s banging on about, ranging from hilariously credulous ‘new age’ stuff to serious anthropological works such as JG Frazier’s ‘The Golden Bough’ and Robert Graves’ ‘White Goddess’.
So who’s ignorant here, the guy who thinks its offensive to criticise acupuncture or the one who can explain that the development of acupuncture’s ‘theory’ of meridians is a byproduct of traditional Chinese funereal practices and, in particular, in a deep-seated cultural aversion towards the practice of dissecting corpses and tell you the story of the 19th century Western doctor who, while practising medicine in China, was told that he couldn’t obtain cadavers for dissection but could freely take his pick of any of the live prisoner in the local lock-up and dissect them instead.
But hey, telling stories like that is offensive, right? In fact its downright racist, even if the incident in question is very well documented in the doctor’s own first hand account of that rather unusual offer.
Mainstream ‘Western’ medicine, as practised all over the world by large numbers of *gasp* non-European doctors, has a detailed understanding of the anatomy and workings of the human body founded on observation, experimentation and the collection and analysis of evidence. Traditional Chinese ‘medicine’ has an understanding of the anatomy and workings of the human body founded largely on guesswork and speculation. That why we have viagra and they have powdered tiger cock, although the latter at least has the virtue of keeping traditional Chinese fluffers in gainful employment.
That said, I am wiling to admit that on certain matters I am prejudiced, and deeply so. Nothing is more certain to bring out my own, deeply rational, prejudices than stories of children dying because their parents would rather rely on sugar pills and magic potions, or propitiating their preferred sky fairy, rather than take them to a real fucking doctor when the become ill. Some might be inclined to defend such practices as being ‘traditional’ or part of someone’s culture; not me – there’s nothing traditional or cultural that I can see in the practice of negligent homicide.
And while its questionable as to whether Boris really will kill babies, their little doubt that twats like Tredinnick are culpable in just such a practice through their support of a practice, homeopathy, that routinely peddles sugar pills and ‘magic’ water to Africans as ‘treatments’ for HIV/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and infant diarrhoea,a bout which He had to say in the House:
Attacks have also been made on the efficacy of homeopathy. A letter was sent to the World Health Organisation warning against the use of homeopathy, but it ignored the very clear randomised, double-blind trials that proved that it is effective in the particular area of childhood diarrhoea on which it was criticised. Will the Government therefore be robust in their support for homeopathy and consider what can be done so that it is used more effectively in the health service?
No mention, then, of the fact that the letter from Voice of Young Science also criticised the promotion of homeopathy as a treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and Influenza, in addition to infant diarrhoea or that what an evidence review in NICE’s full guidance on the treatment of diarrhoea and vomiting in children under five actually said was:
Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis of three RCTs suggested that individualised homeopathy treatment reduced the duration and stool frequency of diarrhoea compared with placebo in young children. [EL = 1+] However, as overall the treatment groups were not similar for age, weight and height at baseline, these findings should be treated cautiously as they may overestimate the true treatment effect size. Evidence from an RCT examining the effects of a combined homeopathy tablet compared with placebo found that there were no differences in effect on duration of diarrhoea, mean rate of unformed stool passage per day during follow-up or total number of unformed stools during follow-up in young children. [EL = 1+]
So, yes, I’ll freely cop to a charge of prejudice on this one because when I go and see a doctor I expect them to make diagnosis based on evidence of symptoms and clinical treatment, where relevant, and prescribe treatment based on the best available evidence, not cast a fucking horoscope.
Is that really such an unreasonable thing to ask?
And when are people going to wake up to the fact that the pro-woo, anti-science crowd aren’t just a bunch of harmless eccentrics or a bit of a minor irritation, but rather a positive fucking menace whose delusional peddling of unscientific beliefs and worthless quackery makes a positive contribution to thousands of unnecessary deaths around the world every year.