Sunday, 31 January 2010

Overdose on homeopathic "remedies"?

The stunt has been done many times before by various skeptics, but it never gets old.

The BBC reports on the "mass overdose" conducted by members of 10.23.

I do take issue in some of the statements in the article though from various people, like the following:

The society's chief executive, Paula Ross, said: "This is an ill advised publicity stunt in very poor taste, which does nothing to advance the scientific debate about how homeopathy actually works."

Paula Ross is the Chief Executive of the Society of Homeopaths.

Science wise there is no debate. Study after study and meta-analysis after meta-analysis has found consistent results. Homeopathy does not work, at best it's as good as a placebo.

So essentially figuring out how homeopathy works is, in a nutshell, "look at all the work done on placebos".

But Paula Ross will never admit that, because she has a vested interest in keeping homeopathy on the shelves no matter how potentially dangerous the "treatments" are (I suggest you read this article by Simon Singh).

The other statement was this one:

"Boots UK is committed to providing our customers with a wide range of healthcare products to suit their individual needs, we know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want
I have a cough, does that mean if I went to Boots UK and asked for heroin would they give it to me?
"We would support the call for scientific research and evidence gathering on the efficacy of homeopathic medicines. This would help our patients and customers make informed choices about using homeopathic medicines."

There is plenty of research, and you don't need to look very hard to find it. A search for "efficacy homeopathy" gave 16100 results.

I did another search for meta-analyses and found many articles, some of which I will share with you.

From 1998, an article titled Efficacy of Homeopathic Arnica -A Systematic Review of Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials by Ernst and Pittler concluded "The claim that homeopathic arnica is efficacious beyond a placebo effect is not supported by rigorous clinical trials."

Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy by Cucherat et al. in 2000 found that homeopathic treatments were slightly better then placebo, but also that there were too many studies with crap methodologies, while the ones with good methodologies found that homeopathy wasn't better then a placebo.

A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy by Ernst in 2002 found that homeopathy wasn't any better then a placebo.

I could go on, but I won't.

I don't know what happens in the UK regarding homeopathic treatments, but I'm sure if they had to go through the same testing as proper drugs then we wouldn't see people say rubbish like this.

In my opinion the Boots UK people are being wilfully ignorant. There is easy money to be made selling distilled water or sugar pills. The BBC article says that £12 million was spent on homeopathic "remedies" by the NHS. It's quite possible that the actual market is far higher. I don't think Boots want to give up that cash cow with trifling things like efficacy.

The evidence is there, but in my opinion it seems that Boots and the homeopaths don't want to look at it.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The Young Turks, Racist KFC ads, and Ignorance

An ad by KFC was pulled because it was "racist". To Americans. The thing was that the ad was designed for the Australian market, which is a different society and we have different stereotypes and the like for groups of people.

However the ad was leaked online and has caused a stir among Americans because it's considered racist to them.

The Young Turks Video

The Young Turks produced a video talking about Australian responses to their earlier mention of the ad. Although some good points are raised it does miss the mark in some cases. I suggest that you watch the video to follow what I'm saying.

I'm sure that the Australians who responded to begin with actually understood the stereotype of fried chicken exists in the US. But it's removed from us. We look on that stereotype from afar and find it silly. I'm sure that there are Americans who look on certain stereotypes that we hold from afar and find them silly as well. We can see how it's offensive to Americans, but to Australians there isn't anything wrong with black people eating chicken. Australians see it from the US perspective and think that the Yanks are being silly.

However, even though he says it in a mocking voice Cenk Uygur is right. Americans don't understand because it is cricket. However Australians are racist in some ways, it's just different to the US.

Yet it doesn't matter if KFC is an American corporation, they were making an ad for the Australian market. What needs to be understood is that right now it's cricket season, and KFC are one of the sponsors for the game. And the image that they were trying to present was nothing to do with colonialism or racism but to present the image that KFC is cricket food.

The fact that they are an American company doesn't enter into it. If they were to make an ad showing say, American Football, it wouldn't have a good effect because Australians don't really understand anything about it beyond "it's rugby for pansy's".

This ties in to what Ana Kasparian says later that the reason they didn't want Americans to see it was "because you know it's offensive". Yes and no. I would say a bigger reason that Americans weren't supposed to see it was that as a marketing campaign it would be useless. Cricket means nothing to the US so much of the ad doesn't make sense. That's how it's being construed as racist.

They admit that the Aussie bloke is in the "wrong" stand (by which team they're supporting), but in my opinion when they keep going on about "perspective" they still haven't understood our perspective, which appears to be quite a bit of the issue.

Spreading a stereotype and perspective

Were we seeing people spread a stereotype and what stereotype were we seeing? The Young Turks video talks about that as well. Of course they are saying that the ad spreads the "black people eat fried chicken".

Why is it that and not "you can find a common ground with chicken"? Or "everyone likes chicken"? Are we to essentially assume the worst when we have ads which feature people with different skin colours?

But this isn't the problem with what is being said. The fear that was brought up on the video is misplaced, because it ignores a rather important point. The stereotype of "black people eat fried chicken" does not mean all black people. In the US context they usually mean "African-Americans eat fried chicken".

From my perspective the Americans are actually trying to spread the stereotype. They're pushing a stereotype on other people based on their skin colour and nothing else. And in this case it seems to be because it's an ad from an American company.

Ultimately Ignorant?

Part of what we are seeing is Americans pushing their cultural values and stereotypes on others. It's not just Australia in this case but also the West Indies. They are implying that when it comes to stereotypes involving fried chicken Afro-Caribbeans = African Americans and that they should be treated as such.

But in doing so we are ignoring that the West Indians are different to the African Americans and more likely to not see the ad as racist either. But the complaints from the Americans seem to ignore this and it comes across as ignorant and closed-minded and also as a bit hypersensitive.

There is the saying "when in Rome do as the Romans do". But in this case what we are seeing is the visitor to Rome telling the Romans how to act. It comes across as rude, and is also intolerant.

It also creates a storm in a fried chicken bucket.