Weekend sendoff: skeptical yummies

There were a few things this week that made me a happy skeptic. What say we check them out?

On Monday, the U.K.’s Science and Technology Select Committee delivered a death blow to homeopathy by releasing a report that concludes the National Health Service should not fund it, nor should the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) continue to license homeopathic products. I don’t normally get this type of news outside of the skeptical community, but this time I had all kinds of people sending me links to the story. (Thanks, everyone!) I like this summation by Martin Robbins, who is part of the 10:23 campaign. I look forward to potential ripple effects as other governments and medical agencies reconsider the role of homeopathy in healthcare. Which is to say, it hasn’t got one.

I was also very gratified to see a Science-Based Medicine column by Dr. Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, about the CFS-XMRV situation. I had written to her asking whether she might look into it, and I appreciate her take on it. Naturally it doesn’t come without controversy — for example, she defends Dr. Wallace Sampson in the comments, whose column about CFS leaves a great deal to be desired — but I love seeing caution urged on this matter in a reasonable way by a respected scientist. At this point I no longer have any hope that the CFIDS Association of America is going to provide this for us; they seem to have no interest in reminding patients how science works. These are patients who, for example, believe that getting tested for XMRV is going to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge about it. And as a response, the CAA provides yet more articles, webinars, and interviews about XMRV. Not helpful.

Lastly, registration for The Amazing Meeting 8 in Las Vegas opened today. This is, as others have said, the “Woodstock for skeptics” and I am over-the-moon excited that Paul and I will be attending this year. It takes place pretty close to the first anniversary of this blog, and I can think of no better way to celebrate. I can’t wait to meet everyone — if you’re going, be sure to say hi to the gal with the rainbow cane!

I send you off with something maybe not as fun as a musical number, but more thematically appropriate: an excerpt of Dr. Hall at last year’s TAM 7, speaking about vaccines.

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2 Responses to Weekend sendoff: skeptical yummies

  1. The CFIDS seem reasonably critical of the WPI for not providing enough information to others. I don’t think they’ve been bad. They clearly don’t want people to be too dismissive of a possible link with XMRV at this point, but they’re certainly not telling patients to run off and get tested.

    One of the CFIDS roles is to represent CFS patients, so they’ve got to be a bit responsive to their preferences.

  2. Hi krakow, and thanks for your comment.

    I’m not sure I agree that they have to be responsive to patients’ preferences. I’ve heard that argument elsewhere and I’m not saying it’s invalid, but I don’t personally buy it. Yes, they provide quotes about how getting XMRV testing isn’t recommended. However, they’re tucked inside a document about how to get tested! That’s a pretty mixed signal for patients who aren’t necessarily at their best when it comes to rational thought, and can’t necessarily separate “information provided by the CAA” from “information supported by the CAA.” I’ve seen suggestions that individuals getting privately tested will contribute to the scientific consensus. Why isn’t the CAA addressing these misconceptions?

    (Note I’m not making any kind of reference here to patients’ intelligence or even capacity for critical thinking, but solely the problems many of us, certainly myself included, face with cognitive dysfunction.)

    I think what I want to see at this point would be the association splitting into two bodies, one of which focuses solely on patient advocacy and another that focuses solely on research and fundraising. Because both of these issues are crucial, but I feel at this point they are in conflict. And I also realize this isn’t feasible at all, but oh well.