Skeptic Fails and Wins this Week

Phew. Yesterday I was involved with the Vancouver SkeptiCamp event, and boy did it live up to Kennedy’s label of “awesome”. But, I haven’t forgotten my Fails & Wins this week, so here they are.

Jim found this fail in St. Catherines’ The Standard featuring “green guru” Sam Graci who espouses the idea that an alkaline pH can give you good health and good hair days. Our editor, Steve, had tackled this new trend in quackery in an earlier article. The piece in The Standard offers nothing new, just the same old drivel without a fact, study, or skeptical word in sight. But they did of course provide links where you can find out more, which read just like an advertisement. I thought newspapers were in the business of selling advertising, not giving it away for free. It seems that the health section of every local newspaper is turning into a classified section for snake oil salesmen to peddle their wares. While we all should be following Graci’s advise of eating more vegetables, our pH is nothing to worry about. Unless of course you’re bathing in acid or something. In which case you should probably stop that.

Rich from Vancouver found this fail in the Vancouver Sun. The story discusses the trend of “integrated care”. That is, medical doctors working with CAM practitioners to provide treatment to patients.

What’s a dietitian?

The article mentions that McMaster University now has its medical students learn about CAM treatment as part of the core curriculum. I could see some benefit to this. Since CAM is so popular, it would be important for physicians to understand what their patients are talking about when they mention alternative treatments that they use. The article mentions that 73% of Canadians have used alternative medicine at some point in their life. If doctors are ignorant of the CAM treatments out there, they would not know how to educate their patients on the risks. However, this does not seem to be the purpose of this education, which is aimed at integrating CAM with evidence-based treatment. The article itself is merely stating the facts and offers no criticism of this new trend, so I give McMaster University and this article a big ‘ol fail. On a more encouraging note, I give a big ‘ol win to several of the commenters on the article. It’s encouraging to see so many skeptical voices there.

Karin spotted this Maclean‘s piece that takes on a fail that I previously linked to in the Globe & Mail about a naturopath/homeopath who brought his snake oil to Haiti after the earthquake. The author, Colby Cosh, derides the Globe piece, homeopathy, and the so-called humanitarian that tried to push his “medicine” to people who needed real help. He really hits the nail on the head with this statement:

“Advocates of various styles of quackery always emphasize the great antiquity of their ideas, usually just as they’re about to complain that those same ideas have never been given a fair hearing by the Establishment.”

This one is an epic win in my books, and Mr. Cosh is a writer to keep an eye on.

That’s all I’ve got this week, but I hope that you will keep me in business by spotting and sending me more fails and wins to skepticnorthlinks [at] gmail [dot] com.

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  • Melany Hamill

    Melany proudly uses the titles of both geek and nerd. As a science-enthusiast and fan of debate, Melany likes to get her facts straight. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then her career path has meandered to its current spot as a project manager at a video game studio. Melany lives near beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She is not seeking treatment for her caffeine addiction.