Category Archives: Lynne McTaggart’s blog

From Lynne McTaggart’s blog and other writings

Can we go back and change the past?

Can we go back and change the past? asks Lynne McTaggart in her latest blog post. And there we have a perfect example of Betteridge’s law of headlines. The answer is, of course: no.

One of the most basic assumptions about intention is that it operates according to a generally accepted sense of cause and effect: if A causes B, then A must have happened first.

No, that’s just the post hoc fallacy. Oh, wait: intention, as McTaggart defines it, is the post hoc fallacy.

This assumption reflects one of our deepest beliefs, that time is a one-way, forward-moving arrow. What we do today cannot affect what happened yesterday.

It’s more than an assumption, it is a fundamental law of physics. It is inherent in the structure of space-time, tied to the speed of light as the “cosmic speed limit”. There is some speculation as to the possibility of closed time-like curves, but this still would not permit us to influence past events – the “grandfather paradox“.

As an author of a book supposedly on quantum physics, you’d think Lynne would know this – but of course her book is actually quantum flapdoodleW.

There are, however, some cranks who think otherwise. I wonder if that’s who Lynne has been referring to? (Rhetorical).

However, a sizeable body of the scientific evidence about intention violates these basic assumptions about causation.

I see where Lynne went wrong there. There is no scientific evidence of intention. There’s a good deal of scientific evidence refuting it, and some pseudoscientific pseudo-evidence supporting it.

Since Lynne is a source and proponent of pseudoscientific pseudo-evidence in favour of intention, she naturally thinks it is scientific and evidence.

She is this: wrong.

The evidence is clear: just like homeopathy, the apparent effect of wishful thinking intention reduces as methodological rigour increases. It only “works” if you allow the subjectivity and bias of belief to skew the result.

Research has demonstrated clear instances of time-reversed effects, where effect precedes cause.

No, it has not. Retrocausality remains hypothetical.

Indeed, some of the largest effects occur when intention is sent out of strict time sequence.

Your logical fallacy is: begging the question. Lynne may believe that this is so, but the standard of evidence required to establish this as fact would be very high indeed, and since none of it has even been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal it’s safe to say that we are very much not there yet.

These studies offer up the most challenging idea of all: that thoughts can affect other things no matter when the thought is made. In fact, they may work better when they are not subject to a conventional time sequence of causation.

No they do not offer it up, they simply demonstrate that you are so caught up in belief that you have suspended your critical faculties. If your “tests” of wishful thinking intention show that it works backwards in time as well as forwards, that is clear evidence that your methodology is hopelessly wrong. Only a fool would conclude that this instead shows that they have the ability to violate causation. It is hubris of an extraordinary kind.

Princeton University’s former dean of engineering Robert Jahn and psychologist Brenda Dunne discovered this phenomenon when they investigated time displacement in their random event generator trials. In some 87,000 of these experiments, volunteers were asked to attempt to mentally influence the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ random output of random event generator (REG) machines in a specific direction anywhere from three days to two weeks after the machines had run.
As a whole, the ‘time-displaced’ experiments achieved even greater effects than the standard experiments.

Jahn is notorious. He was the founder of Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) and was (indeed still is) a believer in parapsychology. There are many skeptical reviews that challenge the validity of their claims (e.g. this in Skeptical Inquirer).

The important thing to remember is that science by definition generally cannot prove a negative; however, the effects proposed by PEAR always fit the following criteria:

  1. The effect size is very small. Only a very tiny amount of bias need creep in to produce this effect.
  2. The effect size is greater when subjectivity is involved in judging outcomes.
  3. The apparatus is generally not calibrated by running the trial with and without the purported input, sequentially.
  4. The effects are generally not replicable by independent groups.

This is not a sound basis on which to make any confident claim. There is too much risk of subtle and not-so-subtle bias.

This is well explained by Caroline Watt in this interview for the European Skeptics Conference podcast. A multi-centre study with pre-planned analyses and a pre-planned meta analysis showed no effect.

The very idea that intention could work equally well whether ‘backward’, ‘forward’ or in sequence made Jahn realize that all of our conventional notions of time need to be discarded. The fact that effects were even larger during the time-displaced studies suggested that thoughts have even greater power when their transmission transcends ordinary time and space.

Whereas it should in fact have caused him to go back and question  his assumptions and try more rigorous tests.

Future shock

Dean Radin, chief scientist for the Institute of Noetic Science, also tested the possibility that, under certain conditions, a future event can influence an earlier nervous-system response. He made ingenious use of a strange psychological phenomenon called the ‘Stroop effect’, named after its discoverer, psychologist John Ridley Stroop, originator of a landmark test in cognitive psychology.

Dean Radin does not “test” anything. He sets out to provide evidence to support a hypothesis: the very definition of pseudoscience. Bob Park, Richard Wiseman and Chris French have all analysed his and Jahn’s work and pointed out glaring flaws, on the border of outright fraud in places. Wiseman and Julie Milton have written an excellent book on how to exclude these biases.

The Stroop effect of which McTaggart speaks is the one in which people are required to read out the names of colours; when these names are printed on cards in the wrong colour, the speed and accuracy of reading reduces. This is actually relevant, but not in the way McTaggart thinks: it is a form of cognitive dissonanceW, which helps to explain why believers in some phenomenon find it hard to accept disconfirming results.

It is abundantly clear that the work of Jahn and Radin cannot be replicated by others in properly controlled conditions. They have a variety of excuses for this, all of which amount to special pleadingW.

Swedish psychologist Holger Klintman devised a variation on the Stroop test. Volunteers were asked first to identify the colour of a rectangle as quickly as they could, then asked whether a colour name matched the colour patch they had just been shown. A large variation occurred in the time it took his volunteers to identify the colour of the rectangle. Klintman discovered that the identification of the rectangle colour was faster when it matched the colour name shown subsequently. The time it took for people to identify the colour of the rectangle seemed to depend on the second task of determining whether the word matched the rectangle colour. Klintman called his effect ‘time-reversed interference’.
In other words, the later effect influenced the brain’s reaction to the first stimulus.

Woo alert.

The two papers by Klintman are:

  • Klintman, H. (1983). Is there a paranormal (precognitive) influence in certain types of perceptual sequences? Part I. European Journal of Parapsychology, 5, 19-49.
  • Klintman, H. (1984). Is there a paranormal (precognitive) influence in certain types of perceptual sequences? Part II. European Journal of Parapsychology, 5, 125-140.

Research published in parapsychology journals has to be treated with immense caution, due to the influence of True Believers.

And in fact in 1987 Camfferman tried to replicate the experiment (Time reversed interference: A replication study. European Journal of Parapsychology, 7, 13-31), and failed, following which interest in Klintman’s findings fizzled out.

It’s just one more in a long line of false positives caused by adding two and two and getting 5i.

Radin created a modern version of Klintman’s study. […] In four studies of more than 5000 trials, all four showed a retro-causal effect. Somehow, the time it took to carry out the second task was affecting the time it took to carry out the first one.

I’m pretty sure that this paper was published in Radin’s own journal, and has had no effective peer-review.

The implications are enormous. Our thoughts about something can affect our past reaction times.

They would be, if they were robustly established and independently repeatable. Which they aren’t.

So what on earth is going on?

Self-delusion, for the most part. Systematic, sustained and by now pretty much willful. Radin believes in precognition and is uncritical towards claims that support his belief.

Radin discovered more evidence that our mental influence is operating ‘backwards’ in an ingenious study examining the probable underlying mechanism of intention on the random bits of an REG machine.

No, he set out to produce more “evidence”, but he failed to follow an appropriately rigorous methodology so the result was what is technically known as wrong.

Radin first ran five REG studies involving thousands of trials, then analyzed two of his most successful experiments through a process called a “Markov chain”, which mathematically plots how the REG machine’s output got from A to B.

[…] Radin’s analysis of the data had one inescapable conclusion: this was not a process running forward, in an attempt to hit a particular target, so much as an “information” flow that had traveled back in time.

So, starting from the premise of precognition, he produced evidence of precognition. Voila! Homeopaths are very adept at this too.

There is a long history of PEAR and its fellow-travellers combining large numbers of failures to provide claimed success.

To pretend that his findings are compelling, even unarguable, as McTaggart seems to believe, is to overstate the case massively. The same problems noted above, apply: the effect size is tiny and independent replication is absent.

Seed moments

So if we’re not reaching back in time, but our future is affecting the present as it unfolds, just how much of the past can we change in the sticks-and-stones world of real life?

We can’t. These experiments, even if they did demonstrate limited precognition, would not allow wholesale violation of causation. And actually they are almost certainly bollocks.

And actually when one looks at the supposedly “robust” basis for Radin’s claims one finds:

Radin is aware of the file-drawer effect, in which only positive results tend to get reported and negative ones are left in the filing cabinet. This obviously can greatly bias any analysis of combined results and Radin cannot ignore this as blithely as he ignores other possible, non-paranormal explanations of the data. Even the most fervent parapsychologists recognize this problem. Meta-analysis incorporates a procedure for taking the file-drawer effect into account. Radin says it shows that more than 3,300 unpublished, unsuccessful reports would be needed for each published report in order to “nullify” the statistical significance of psi. In his review of Radin’s book for the journal Nature, statistics professor I.J. Good disputes this calculation, calling it “a gross overestimate.” He estimates that the number of unpublished, unsuccessful reports needed to account for the results by the file drawer effect should be reduced to fifteen or less. How could two meta-analyses result in such a wide discrepancy? Somebody is doing something wrong, and in this case it is clearly Radin. He has not performed the file-drawer analysis correctly. – Meta-analysis and the file-drawer effect, Stenger (emphasis added).

All scientific findings carry the caveat: this might be wrong, but…

Radin, like most parapsychology believers, is insufficiently self-critical, excuses away prosaic explanations, and seeks to support not refute his beliefs. Nothing Radin writes shows any hint that he considers that he might be anything other than correct, and this applies vastly more strongly to McTaggart, who doesn’t have any of the scientific background that would be helpful in understanding the risks of self-delusion in experiments with subjective or debatable outcomes.

For McTaggart, these are religious truths that she wants to be scientific, so she seeks science that supports her beliefs.

This is, of course, exactly how creation “science” works.

Psychologist William Braud has pondered this issue at length. He once observed that those moments in the past most open to change might be ‘seed’ moments when nature has not made up its mind – perhaps the earliest stages of events before they blossomed and grew into something static and unchangeable: the brain of a child, which is far more open to influence and learning than an adult’s; or even a virus, which is far easier to overcome in its infancy. Random events, decisions with equally likely choices, or illness – all probabilistic moments are those most open to change.

Always keep an open mind, just not so open that your brains fall out. Lynne McTaggart has a closed mind. Her mind is not open to the scientific consensus view on homeopathy, vaccines or anything else where she has made up her mind.

That’s presumably why her “intention experiments” are not considered worthwhile enough for publication in any reputable journal.

Although our understanding of the mechanism is still primitive, the experimental evidence of time reversal is fairly robust. This research portrays life as one giant, smeared-out here and now, and much of it – past, present and future – open to our influence at any moment.

No, the evidence is not robust, and our understanding is that the observed effects are consistent with bias. Prosaic, but science tends to be that way.

You generally can’t tell from McTaggart’s writing which studies she is referring to, but there are a large number of studies by Radin that have been systematically demolished. His “Global Consciousness Project” is actually a global nonsense project. Noetic “science” is just new-age claptrap and Dean Radin is a crank.

And even if all that were not true, the effect is so tiny (fractions of a percentage point different over large numbers of repetitions and very short periods) that it would be ignorable for all practical purposes.

But that hints at the most unsettling idea of all. Once constructed, a thought is lit forever.

Pure chopralalia. That sentence has no objective meaning whatsoever.

Under attack? Try smearing someone who had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The best defence, they say, is a strong offence. Lynne McTaggart’s clearly taken this to heart, as she’s decided to hit back at the people who defaced her webshite by attacking someone who not only didn’t do it, but expressed disapproval of the vandalism.

I’m sure there’s some sort of logic behind that, but I’m glad I don’t understand it.

Was Changed to
How do you solve a problem like a cyber lynch-mob? How do you solve a problem like Maria?
 What better way to take the moral high ground when accusing others of pursuing a personal vendetta, than to personalise your own vendetta against the reality-based community? Awesome.
I was fascinated to see that among those offering support that the perpetrators get caught was Maria MacLachlan. Maria and her husband Alan Henness are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science in order to spend a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority. I was fascinated to see that among those offering support that the perpetrators get caught was Maria MacLachlan. Maria and her husband Alan Henness are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science in order to spend a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority. And many of the ads they’ve tried to stop are the ones that appear in the pages of our magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.
 Yes, many of the adverts we, the skeptic community, have stopped (successfully, most of them are no longer published in their prior form) are indeed in WDDTY. And many aren’t. The campaign against fraudulent advertising by quacks pre-dates the campaign to get WDDTY to stop being dishonest. What Lynne has never understood, is that we challenge false advertising wherever we see it. I’ve challenged false claims in ads for finance companies, insurance companies, lobby groups and quacks. I have had two complaints upheld against adverts by groups with which I was involved. We changed the copy in one, and successfully challenged the adjudication in the other. It is not personal. It only seems that way because virtually every word in WDDTY, and much of the advertising, promotes fraudulent products and practices. When everything you do is promoting fraudulent nonsense then challenging the fraudulent is the same as challenging everything you promote. The obvious solution is to stop promoting fraudulent nonsense.
 What knowledge this is is not apparent as the couple appear to have no background in evaluating or studying medicine or alternative medicine (Henness reports his former employment as R&D manager for Honeywell Security and Customer Electronics).  What knowledge this is is not immediately apparent as the couple appear to have no background in evaluating or studying medicine or alternative medicine (Henness reports his former employment as R&D manager for Honeywell Security and Customer Electronics).
Ah, right, so identifying the expertise requires you to actually check your facts a tiny bit. I can see why that would present an almost unsurmountable problem for you.
From now on, I’m going to call this kind of ‘do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do’ activity ‘the Maria Problem.’Simon Singh has also got a Maria Problem. He has styled himself as the champion of free speech in science, but has been busy for nearly three years encouraging ‘book burning’ in the form of pressurizing and campaigning for stores and distributors to stop stocking What Doctors Don’t Tell You.
 This never gets any truer, however often it’s repeated. Simon has not “styled himself” as a champion of free speech, he is a champion of free speech. Unlike WDDTY, who supported Wakefield’s suppressive lawsuits, also supported Chris Woolams in using legal thuggery to suppress dissent and said nothing about Peter Wilmshurst, Simon has not only fought off a suppressive libel suit, he has actually helped to change the law – even the kind of shit WDDTY and Lynne McTaggart print about people is now marginally less likely to end up with the tawdry rag bankrupted. Commercial speech is not protected. Your right to say something does not confer any obligation on others to sell it for you. And all you have to do, in order to stop the critical backlash, is to stop printing lies and promoting health fraud.
This has nothing to do with free speech. They are free not to like my magazine and to publicly say so. But that is a far cry from encouraging people to interfere with our free trade or sending cyber attack dogs to abuse me online. This has nothing to do with free speech. They are free not to like my magazine and to publicly say so. But that is a far cry from encouraging people to interfere with our free trade or sending cyber attack dogs to abuse me online. That kind of activity is a threat to freedom and to a free, multi-cultural society.
 Wait, are you accusing Simon of racism here? Simon Singh? The well-known British Asian scientist and author? Who has collaborated with Edzard Ernst, the well-known German-born naturalised British scientist?The sound you can hear may sound like the incoherent screeching of a deranged harridan, but apparently it’s actually Lynne’s fingernails frantically scraping the bottom of the barrel in the hope of finding something underneath the barrel itself, to allow her to go still lower.
There have been ‘Master Lists’ kept by husband and wife combo Michael and Laura Thomason, writing as ‘Josephine Jones’ (he a database developer, she a coffee shop supervisor) and passed around from skeptic to skeptic as though we are engaged in behavior that must be monitored, blow by blow.  There have been ‘Master Lists’ kept by husband and wife combo Michael and Laura Thomason, writing as blogger ‘Josephine Jones’ (he a database developer, she a coffee shop supervisor) and passed around from skeptic to skeptic as though we are engaged in behavior that must be monitored, blow by blow.
 You are engaged in behaviour that must be monitored blow-by-blow. You relentlessly promote health fraud and attack critics. If you want to escape constant scrutiny, stop doing these things.Oh, and you could also stop telling belittling lies about people, especially after the facts have clearly come to your attention. It does rather undermine your umbrage about the original incident…
Encouraging the kinds of targeted bullying that have been directed against me and WDDTY is exactly how things do escalate and finally get out of hand. The only way to stop a lynch mob is to stop creating targets of hate. Which goes back to the Golden Rule. And that, Maria, is how you solve a problem like a cyber lynch mob. Encouraging the kinds of targeted bullying that have been directed against me and WDDTY is exactly how things do escalate and finally get out of hand. It’s how ordinary, law-abiding Germans were finally incited to go on a rampage, smashing windows and looting the property of Jewish shopkeepers during Kristallnacht.The only way to stop a lynch mob is to stop creating targets of hate. Which goes back to the Golden Rule, being tolerant of people whose beliefs are different from yours.And that is how you solve this cyber-bullying problem, Maria.
 Oh yes, because refusing to sell a magazine that promotes health fraud and risks public health by spouting anti-vaccine bullshit is exactly like the Endlösung. Remind me again, did they set fire to your offices? Drive you from your home? Beat you? Steal your property? No.

So: Lynne responds to critical commentary by doubling down, cranking the paranoia up to eleven and attacking someone who not only wasn’t responsible, but actually condemned those who were.

Think about that for a moment. The first thing Lynne thinks about when her webshite is defaced, is: how can I make this about restoring my profits, and, how can I turn it into an attack on the people I hate, even though they are plainly not responsible?

How do you solve a problem like a cyber Lynne mob?

Loon “Lynne” McTaggart has the whole martyr complex thing off to a T: it’s all about her, and her exaggerated sense of entitlement. After all, who could possibly have any valid objection to her pimping black salveW, a bogus cancer cure that just happens to eat away your skin? Surely the excruciating pain, weight loss, anaemia and cost experienced by her reader are vastly better than a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic.

Thank you all for those lovely statements of support after I wrote that our Intention Experiment website – a website devoted to healing the world’s ills through group prayer – got hacked into and threats on me, my family, my business, even my car were put in its place.

Really? McTaggart’s definition of “threats” is open to question, so I would not take it on her say-so. Still and all, threats are nasty, as those of us who have experienced them will testify. I have never seen any skeptic threaten anything other than Lynne’s profits, I am happy to say.

Happily, I can save you a lot of time and effort. The effect of prayer has been tested, it doesn’t work.  We’re happy to have saved you wasting any further time and effort repeating this failed experiment; I suggest you devote your time instead to studying concepts such as the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy, which show why any effect from prayer would require us to throw away pretty much all of human knowledge. Continue reading How do you solve a problem like a cyber Lynne mob?

What McTaggart really “thinks” about cancer

Incredibly, what goes into WDDTY appears actually to be a watered down version of the confused mess that lives inside Lynne McTaggart’s head.

This blog post on lynnemctaggart.com shines a light on the tortuous and bizarre reasoning she uses in daily life.  Read on, and be very afraid: people like this are actually believed and trusted by a not insignificant proportion of the population.

Susan Sontag memorably coined the term ‘Illness is metaphor,’ which always had a ring of truth to me. We get the diseases that are a metaphoric representation of some struggle in our lives. But it’s also true that there is such a thing as ‘treatment is metaphor,’ and nowhere more so than with the treatment of cancer.

None of that makes any sense at all. Cancer is not a metaphoric representation of anything, it’s a bastard killer disease. It’s not karmic destiny, it’s a combination of bad luck and bad behaviour, the proportion being highly dependent on the individual. Smokers very often get lung cancer and non-smokers don’t, but something like a brain tumour is largely down to the great cosmic crapshoot.

And treatment is not a metaphor in any meaningful sense. Well, real treatment isn’t, anyway, it’s hard to speak for the fake treatments McTaggart advocates, because so many of them are simply insane.

The reason we’re losing the War on Cancer (and we are indeed losing it, despite the bluster of governments, the media and the American Cancer Society) has to do with the metaphors we use to describe both the disease and the cure.

There is no “war on cancerW” any more than there is a “war on terrorW”. You can’t send in the Marines and expect to eliminate the inevitable consequence of random mutation, the evolutionary mechanism that gives rise to life in the first place.

The “war on cancer” is a political term coined in the white heat of the technological revolution by that most trusted of historical figures, Richard Millhouse Nixon. It was an admittedly striking phrase used to justify the earmarking of Federal funds towards cancer research.

In the real world (admittedly terra incognitaW to WDDTY) cancer is not a single disease. Some cancers are in rapid retreat – childhood Hodgkin’s lymphoma is now curable in the great majority of cases – others (indolent prostate cancer being the best known example) are contained to the point where most patients will die of something else. And some are still almost as deadly today as they were a thousand years ago.

Recently a batch of researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that different metaphors change the way in which people view the disease and choose to treat it.

This we know. Quacks persuade people to view cancer as something other than what it is. Robert O. YoungW, for example, portrayed cancer as a response to an acidified body, and persuaded Oprah that he could cure it. The index patient, Kim Tinkham, died, of course.

There has been extensive research on the effect of mindfulness and positive thinking on cancer outcomes. The short summary is that it makes no difference.

Since 1971, when Richard Nixon famously declared ‘War on Cancer’ in 1971 our current metaphor for cancer – a war to be fought, an impossible enemy to vanquish – has skewed the way we see the disease and how we choose to treat it.

That may be true in the bubble world of “alternative” believers, but it is absolutely not a reflection of current medical thinking. Surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski discusses this quite often.

The ‘war’ and battle imagery sets in the public and medical mind the notion that this is an impossibly wily enemy. Full-on attacks by alien invaders require desperate measures – the most lethal chemical combo that medicine has to offer – which is largely why doctors have a difficult time believing that something gentle and simple like changing your diet or taking a a herb or two could overcome an enemy this ferocious.

Really? The tabloids routinely portray cancer as a “battle”, but that’s not how oncologists view it. You might want to read the views of doctor (and terminal cancer patient) Kate Granger on the subject.

Quacks certainly tend to a simplistic view of cancer, hence their fixation on chemotherapy, but that is not how it’s viewed by real doctors and medical scientists.

This week, I edited two stories we’ll be running in the next issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You, which address the fallacy of this metaphor and why it has fuelled a (in the US) $100 billion failure known as Cancer Inc.

When you say “known as”, you actually mean “described by profiteering quacks as”. Nobody actually calls it “cancer, inc.” unless they are flogging worthless alternatives. That is straight-up conspiracist claptrap.

Now, the American medical system is pretty badly broken. It’s fine if you’re in work, rich and not terminally or chronically ill, but if you fall outside that box you can be in deep trouble. Medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US. But that’s the fault of politics, not medicine: American medical research is some of the best in the world, and American medical treatment is also superb – if you can afford it.

Here in the UK, we have care that’s nearly as good and it costs about a third as much, as a share of national income. And it’s free at the point of delivery.

As to being a “failure”, you might want to take that up with the people who are on the winning side of the equation. 5 year survival for cancer has doubled since the 1970s, and now stands at greater than 50%. You might choose to call that a failure, but many people don’t.

Several years ago, the great and the good among oncologists and cancer researcher met behind closed doors in Switzerland to answer the hard problem of how we were doing in this particular battle.

Their concensus (sic) was published in a 5000 words report in the Lancet last year (Lancet, 2014; 383: 558–63). Are we winning, they asked. Answer, unqualified no.

Sure. Cancer is a bastard. Nobody denies it (except quacks selling simplistic magic bullet fake cures).

‘Despite the introduction of hundreds of new anti-cancer drugs, including advanced therapies (so-called magic bullets) aimed at particular weapons in the enemy’s armamentarium, the consensus was that, for most forms of cancer, enduring disease-free responses are rare, and cures even rarer,’ they wrote.

Indeed. Now ask people if they would rather survive 5 years, 10 years or whatever, or simply die of the disease there and then.

Cancer is a bastard. Keeping the tiger in the cage for a few years is a worthwhile outcome.

You’d never know any of this if you talked to the average oncologist. Most would talk of the great strides made in chemotherapy, the new drugs, the new combinations of treatments. But the measure of how much this constitutes the treatment of desperation is in the language used – “rescue” therapies, “salvage” operations – and also the types of treatments being resorted to, such as last-ditch attempts to restore blood formation in patients who have undergone murderously high chemotherapy.

I don’t think Lynne McTaggart has ever talked to an oncologist. The fixation on chemotherapy aside, most of the great strides in chemo have been in reducing the side effects and in qualifying where it might not be needed at all.

Do you really think that language like “murderous” is helpful?

Here’s what happens to cancer patients who don’t undergo medical treatment: they die. Some die sooner and some die later, but they die. Cancer is a bastard.

We also know, because it’s been studied, that people who believe in the sort of alternative claptrap promoted by WDDTY die sooner. They believe they will live longer, they believe they are better off, but they present later, with more advanced disease, because quacks don’t diagnose properly and even if they do they try quackery first – and even after that is taken into account, they still die sooner.

The evidence is clear: a reality-based oncologist is a better bet than a quack.

Cancer specialists who continue to believe that they are only just a protocol away from finding the cure often forget the patient in their zeal to blast out every last cancer cell. Not long ago one doctor returned from an autopsy with the proud announcement that his patient, who’d had widespread, disseminated cancer, had died “cancer free.” What he neglected to admit was that the patient didn’t die of cancer. It was the lung disease induced by chemotherapy that killed him.

That’s a straw man. I know of nobody who believes that we are “one protocol away” from a cure. There may well be people who behave as McTaggart asserts, but it’s certainly not representative.

Cancer patients are usually desperate to live. That’s why they need especial protection from quacks. Oncologists will very often tell them that there is only a small chance that heroic treatment will save them, but they will try it anyway. A few will indeed die from the side effects of chemotherapy, and cranks and charlatans will portray this as their having been killed by the doctors, forgetting that the alternative was certain death.

That’s why we have laws mandating informed consent, and why the toxic mix of quackery and disinformation from the likes of WDDTY is so very dangerous, because it leads to people making wrong choices.

And that’s the problem. New evidence has emerged (and we’ll be reporting on all the chapter and verse) that the weapons we’re using, like chemo and radiotherapy, are weapons of mass destruction, breeding cancer stem cells, and causing it to spread.

cellsI’ll hazard a guess here that this is cells in a petri dish.

Remember: 5-year survival has doubled since the 1970s. McTaggart promotes the Nirvana fallacyW, the idea that anything less than 100% cure is the same as 100% failure, but the evidence unambiguously shows that medicine is doing something right.

In some cancers. For some patients. The difficult bit is always knowing which, especially in advance.

It’s not necessary to view cancer as a battle to be won. Consider the case of Morty Lefkoe. Morty is 77 years old, and last year was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was going to have it surgically removed, but a last scan the morning of his surgery revealed that the cancer had spread to his liver. It was too late to operate. The only recourse to him, said his doctor, was 18 courses of strong chemo, but his survival chances were just 6 per cent.

Whoop! Whoop! Anecdote Alert! Whoop! Whoop!

Morty rejected the entire war metaphor. For him, it was not a life and death battle. And by rejecting the metaphor, he got on with the business of changing his diet and lifestyle. He became cancer-free in 99 days.

{{citation needed}}

If it really was that simple, do you think people would have been dying of cancer for millennia? Seriously?

I think Lynne may be guilty of believing the hype.

There are rare cases of spontaneous remission. There are much less rare cases of people who claim to be cancer-free, but are simply deluding themselves (or, much worse, being deluded by quacks).

The medical spin doctors have been particularly slick, instilling in the collective public mind a sense that we are winning the war.

Except that it is not a war and they are brutally honest about survival rates, the success rates of different treatments and the balance of risk and benefit – something that cannot be said of the quacks who prey on the narrative spun by the likes of WDDTY.

It’s time to admit their deception: in the main, the battle mentality, no matter how many drugs or how high the dosage, doesn’t really work. And once we all admit that, we can go forward.

What McTaggart actually means here is that we should abandon the treatments towards which she bears an almost visceral ideological hatred and march steadfastly back into the 19th Century when a cancer diagnosis meant certain painful death.

The battle mentality is primarily the rhetoric of non-doctors. If you have questions about cancer, ask a reputable physician, not a quack or a charlatan. If you want people to stop portraying cancer as a battle, start by writing to the Daily Mail.

Bigots: the new Charlie.

Much as she might howl and pontificate about it, Lynne McTaggart is deeply and profoundly ignorant of the meaning of freedom generally and free speech in particular.

Health freedom is the freedom to make a fully informed choice. Every skeptic supports that. We do not support health fooldom, the right to pull the wool over people’s eyes in order to sell them snake oil. We’re completely clear on the difference. Lynne isn’t.

But it gets better. Take this latest diatribe from her blog:

Last weekend I read an extraordinary article in the Sunday times about free speech which ran under the headline ‘Silenced: third of Britons feel they are denied free speech’

The article said that a full third of people in Britain now believe they can’t speak freely on controversial subjects such as immigration and religion because of the fear they that may be criticized, lose their job or be prosecuted.

I bet you can see where this is going. It’ll be the whole right-wing meme of “cultural Marxism”, the evil left-wing plot to stop people applying pejorative epithets to ethnic minorities and so on. To some people, common decency has always been “political correctness gone mad”.

The study had been carried out by the New Culture Forum, a Westminster think tank, and the gist of it was a warning that Britain has developed a “culture of silence” where people feel they must censor themselves, particularly in the workplace.

Imagine that: a right-wing think tank that believes political correctness is evil. Who predicted that?

The story also covered a YouGov poll showing that a third (36 per cent) of those polled believe they cannot speak freely on immigration. Some 31 per cent felt they couldn’t speak about religion – their own or anyone else’s – 27 per cent felt constrained to speak about any ethical issues and 20 per cent feel they cannot express their political views without censure.

Some people think that people feeling inhibited about expressing bigotry is a good thing.

But who are these who are unable to speak freely on religion? Well, probably atheists. Atheists have been strongly resisted in the Radio 4 Thought For The Day slot, and are very often reluctant to speak out. Certainly Christians are not silenced: they have the sanction of being an officially established church, with guaranteed seats in the upper house and a place at pretty much every state occasion.

So the silent majority is becoming the silenced majority.

Lynne? 36% is not a majority. I know maths is not WDDTY’s strong suit.

However, the story went on to say that the public held free speech in higher regard than any other freedom we enjoy in the West.

Indeed. And thanks to Simon Singh, you now have much more of it. Of course, that means Chris Woollams could not have silenced legitimate criticism from David Colquhoun, an act of which WDDTY approved, and Wakefield would not have been able to even consider his vexatious action against the BMJ and Fiona Godlee in the UK – a suppressive act which ultimately failed when he took his case to the US. Once again WDDTY applauded his litigation, because WDDTY does not care about free speech, it cares only about the ability to make bogus claims without challenge.

I don’t know much about New Culture Forum, and I suspect I wouldn’t agree with all of its values, but one thing I do agree with is the fact that this group is sick of being dictated to by the media about what can or cannot be thought or expressed.

New Culture Forum is a libertarian think tank. I am sure you’d get on like a house on fire: they, too, are unfettered by the real world and its copious evidence of the failure of the policies they advocate.

In my view nowhere is this more evident than with information about science and medicine.

That is arguably true: science barely gets a look-in among the relentless bullshit in the Daily Mail and elsewhere.

Here in the UK the BBC and most of the papers of record, such as The Times, have been taken over by a group of journalists supposedly devoted to science, but in fact dedicated to ‘scientism,’ the blind confirmation of prevailing belief.

{{citation needed}}

What Lynne actually means is that pretty much every scientist who looks at the claims she holds dear, finds them wrong, and the science journalists at respected media outlets choose not to assert the opposite, because that would make them pseudoscience journalists instead.

The term “scientism” is a pejorative used by believers in refuted bullshit, most especially creationists, to try to portray the scientific method and the acceptance of empirically validated fact, as a religious and dogmatic position.  They have no counter to the  fact that science routinely develops or discards ideas as the evidence builds. They don’t really care: all they want to do is pretend that their bullshit is as good as the scientists’ facts.

This mindset pooh-poohs any view or evidence that counters that world view, regardless of the evidence, and it particularly rails against anyone brave enough to profess to a spiritual belief. Worse, they refuse to allow even a discussion of dissent.

No, it simply rejects claims that are not backed by sound evidence. That is what science does. That’s why science is the defining factor in the modern era: superstition and folk myth are blown away by empirical tests and testable theories. There is a reason why astrologers have not got a man to the moon.

This is the mindset behind Sense About Science, behind militant atheism, behind the dictum from TED talks that ban anything with even a whiff of information about the paranormal or consciousness research. It’s behind the trolling of Wikipedia and of course behind the attacks on What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

Three separate claims, and together they identify the source.

TED got in trouble for allowing people like Rupert Sheldrake to spout woo. TED is a respected brand, but a commercial entity. They decided to clamp down on their TEDx franchisees allowing uncritical presentation of bullshit because it was undermining their core brand. That’s a commercial decision, a bit like WH Smith not stocking the anti-vaccine arsewipe that McTaggart edits.

The “trolling” of Wikipedia is in reality the policing of Wikipedia’s policies on reality-based content. We don’t allow the claims of lunatic charlatans to go unchallenged. This is a feature, not a bug, and if you don’t like it you have exactly two enforceable rights: the right to leave, and the right to “fork” (copy the content and build your own). So, if you don’t like Wikipedia’s article on homeopathyW – and no believer in magic sugar does – then feel free to fork off.

The “attacks” on WDDTY are based on its dangerously misleading content. Remove the claptrap and we’d leave you alone. The choice is very much yours.

It’s the mindset behind anything that wishes to explore the new, and for all its extolling of science, it is the enemy of true scientific exploration.

No, it really is not, for reasons succinctly explained by Edzard Ernst in his excellent new book a scientist in wonderland.

The role of science is not to promote anything, it is to test whether it is true. The SCAM fraternity are horrified by the idea that somebody might actually test their claims objectively, as far as they are concerned, they are self-evidently true because they believe them, and they believe them because they are self-evidently true, an infinitely reinforcing cycle of circular reasoning.

Where health and patient welfare are concerned, it is not only legitimate to test claims, it is the only ethically defensible thing to do. But then, WDDTY has never given a toss about being ethically defensible.

However, there are signs that silent majority are beginning to finally speak up. One of the first signs is a new American website called Skeptical About Skeptics. http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org, which has outed all the skeptics who have held sway for so long.

Do take a look. You’ll see Rupert Sheldrake letting off steam about how the nasty reality-based community reject his conjecture of morphic resonance on the flimsy grounds that he has produced absolutely no remotely credible evidence to support it (which is a shame: the creationists would love it, as it would refute Darwin, albeit replacing it with Lysenkoism).

Check it out and for once feel free to have your say.

Yes, do: that blog is hilarious. It uses “skeptical” in the same way climate “skeptics”, vaccine “skeptics”, holocaust “skeptics” and moon landing “skeptics” do.

In the end, though, it’s no different from the essence of every word Lynne McTaggart writes: “help, I’m being oppressed by nasty reality, make it go away”.

What is free speech?

“What is free speech?” asks Lynne McTaggart in her latest blog post. You may not be able to read this post: if you have commented on her blog in recent days, you may, like me, have had your IP address added to a block list to stop you finding out.

mctagnut-blog

 

Needless to say this is trivially easy to evade (perhaps we should rename McTaggart’s blog What TOR Does Tell You?). And what do we find?

First, all comments by skeptics have been censored from the previous post, “je suis gagged“. Comments by me, Alan Henness, Les Rose and others – all gone. I didn’t capture them, but here is one of mine that I preserved against this eventuality:

mctagnut blog Continue reading What is free speech?

Robin Willliams – Connecting In The Field?

It’s hard to know where to begin with this one, other than with the timeless advice that when the answer to the rhetorical question you pose in your headline is “no”, don’t write the article.

The Blessed McTaggart loves to present herself as a groundbreaking scientist and some kind of medical savant. Her book The Field is categorised in the quantum physics section of the catalogues (presumably Deepak Chopra’s books get the same;  they are identically ignorant about the concept).

So you’d have thought that by now McTaggart would have mastered one of the simplest and most fundamental elements of science: coincidence.

Nope.

It seems we must add McTaggart to the small but illustrious group, including Rupert SheldrakeW, comprising people who do not understand coincidence.

This week I got an interesting letter from Aaron Sanders, a reader of mine, about some precognitive ‘messages’ about the sad death of Robin Williams. It all centers around Robin Williams’s encounter with the famous gorilla Koko, who as you no doubt know, understands and uses American sign language. If you haven’t seen this video on YouTube, have a look at their magical connection:

It’s not magic, it’s language. I know that McTaggart is an orthinologist, but the two are sufficiently different and sufficiently well understood that confusion is indicative of a lack of care.

According to her handlers, this was the first time Koko laughed in six months following the death of her close companion, a fellow ape named Michael.

Funny man makes gorilla laugh shock. FSM knows what she’ll do if she ever finds out about Gerald.

Aaron is a full-time investor and day-trader, so it’s his job to constantly follow the news feeds on Twitter.

And that means we trust his every word, does it? A day trader doesn’t have a job, as a rule – it’s a hobby that can be very lucrative, but if your job is doing this you’re called a trader not a full time investor and day trader and you work for a bank, and you don’t spend your day watching Twitter for videos of gorillas. Well, maybe you do. So this is some guy trading on his own behalf, and no more credible than any other random guy from the internet. In fact much less so, as we shall see.

‘Two of the guys I follow – completely unrelated: one, a trader from London, and one, an author from Missouri – both of them made tweets (only minutes apart) about a Gorilla named Koko who I had NEVER heard-of before in my life,’ wrote Aaron.

Two people tweet a viral video on rapid succession even though they have never met before. Imagine that. The possibilities include:

  • Morphic resonance
  • Massive spiritual interconnectedness of all things
  • A coincidence

One of these is the odd one out because it is known to actually exist.

‘The trader from London had a picture of Koko being upset due to the Bitcoin price falling, and the author from Missouri made a [joke about Koko].

Reminds me: if I need any advice on bitcoin, I’ll be sure to ask an ape. I bet Cornelius has a view.

‘Just to repeat my point, these two guys are completely unrelated, and each of them made their Koko comments within minutes of each other, hours before Robin’s death).

See how the two parts of that sentence don’t fit together? A coincidence happened. And then a news event happened that had something in common with the coincidence, so you remembered it.

You know how you’ll be thinking about someone and the phone rings and it’s them? It’s like that. You probably thought of 300 people in the half hour before the phone rang – either that or you only have on friend and thought of them. You get the drift.

The thing is, this is such a basic bit of human psychology that there are literally thousands of web pages explaining it. Every psychology student learns about this. Only an idiot would inflate it to some mystical event implying unverifiable precognitive forces.

‘At the time, I thought it was very interesting that these two completely unrelated guys each made tweets involving Koko, and I have NEVER heard of this interesting gorilla in my life.

Why would it be interesting? If there’s a viral video doing the rounds, you’ll likely encounter it from more than one contact. This happens so often that it’s barely conceivable that anybody would fail to understand it.

Five hours later, Aaron began noticing the first tweets of the news Williams had just killed himself. One hour after these news feeds, Aaron then received a retweet of the viral video of Koko and Williams tickling each other. ‘And then the odd Koko tweets I received six hours earlier made perfect sense as a case of mass precognition of the powerful tragic event with Robin Williams.’

WOW! WHO CAN EXPLAIN THIS AWESOME THING?

Me.

  1. Viral video does the rounds. Aaron sees it from two people in quick succession. He hasn’t seen it before (or can’t remember it anyway).
  2. One of the people in the video dies, fixing the viral video in is memory.
  3. Many more people circulate the viral video with the guy who just died, because he just died.

It’s either that or the illuminati planting ideas via mind control.

And now the papers were filled with stories of Koko being close to tears when her handlers told her of Williams’ death, signing her words for ‘cry woman’ when she returned.

After the event. When they already knew Williams was dead.

This story isn’t simply a story of human precognition ‘in the Field’.

The word “simply” was redundant in that sentence. Only an imbecile with no understanding of human psychology and the propagation of memes would consider this to be anything other than totally predictable.

Ah, wait, I see the issue…

It also revives the entire debate about what exactly animals feel. To the scientific community, an animal is still perceived as nothing much more than a robot with an array of chemical processes, without the ability to register much more than the crudest pain or fear—certainly none of the more complicated human feelings such as excitement, boredom, annoyance, anger or suspicion.

Not really, no. It’s a bit of anthropomorphism and a bit of primate bonding. Nobody perceives an animal as “nothing much more than a robot with an array of chemical processes”, and if they ever did, Gorillas In The Mist cured them of it decades ago.

However, these attitudes are now being challenged with the advent of sophisticated brain-imaging technology that can reveal brain function in specific areas of the brain in people with emotional disorders.

We’re a long way from being able to make anything much of those patterns, but I bet you a pound that when we do, it has nothing to do with “The Field”. The Field is a figment of McTaggart’s overactive imagination, after all.

A number of scientists, in studying the brains of both animals and humans, have discovered remarkable similarities in emotional biology between species. Increasingly, scientists are coming to believe that animals have sentience—the ability to have a conscious experience, to compare and understand experience, to have an internal representation of what is going on in their lives—in effect, to know that they know.

This might have been news in 1980 I suppose, but it’s not now. This is pretty mainstream stuff. Anyway, some wibble showing exactly that and then:

As noted animal scientist Temple Grandin says, the difference between animal and human emotions is a matter of degree, rather than of kind. That is why Koko is so extraordinary – her language affords a tiny window into an animal’s soul.

Really? And how much does this soul weigh? This is pure projection. McTaggart believes that humans have a soul, and projects it onto animals. Perhaps she thinks animals need to acquire religion.

Unconditional love comes naturally to a dog or cat; animals aren’t ambivalent or repressed about their emotions. As Grandin says, there is no such thing as a love–hate relationship in the animal kingdom. “If an animal loves you, he loves you no matter what. He doesn’t care what you look like or how much money you make,” she says. Or, in Koko’s case, how famous you are.

Again, pure anthropomorphism. Dogs don’t love their humans so much as treating them as the alpha male. What love there is, is in no small part down to conditioned response and cupboard love, as Pavlov showed. And cats? Lynne, you have the whole pet / owner thing the wrong way round with cats. Hamsters will willingly come forward to be petted, many rabbits and guinea pigs won’t. Figure that one out.

This blog post from McTaggart offers a window into her soul – at least, the soul from which she says “Ah!”. The “Ah!” soul, as it were.

The campaign against WDDTY continues, apparently

(The post originally appeared on Stuff that occurs to me. Please go there to comment)

Lynne McTaggart has published a post suggesting that skeptics (we’re in ‘quotes’ for some reason) have managed to convince Tesco that customers have been complaining about the magazine ​What Doctors Don’t Tell You​ . I don’t think this is quite right – any complaints I’ve sent to Tesco either by email or Twitter haven’t focused on my customer status, only why I think the medical information in the magazine isn’t up to scratch.

Ms McTaggart also suggests that we’ve “harassed dozens of [WDDTY’s] advertisers by reporting them to the ASA” – well I’d say the advertisers have made misleading advertising claims and the expected response to that would be to report it to the ASA. From what I can tell the ASA agreed that the ads were misleading and adjudicated against quite a few of them for breaching the advertising guidelines that all marketer are meant to follow.

Then things get a bit odder – she says that various skeptic organisations “sent their foot soldiers to hide our magazines on the shelves of stores and attempted to destroy our Google ranking.” True enough several people hid magazines, but framing this as ‘foot soldiers’ is a bit daft. A couple of people tweeted about doing it on the #wddty hashtag, it amused some others and they did it too. Not really a command from on high.

Regarding the Google ranking – this seems to relate to a persistent misunderstanding of how ‘Do Not Link’ works. When a website links to another website, it is effectively implying to Google’s webcrawlers that it values that website. By using tools like Do Not Link we’re telling Google to ignore this implication – but we’re not worsening the Google ranking; we’re just not increasing it.

The sentence “One of our websites was even mysteriously hacked into” seems to suggest that “skeptics did it” but websites are hacked all the time and I suspect it’s more likely a coincidence. Of course it is possible that there are rogue skeptics doing this but I doubt it.

“Simon Singh is busy these days tweeting his supporters to write Tesco to thank them for not stocking us.” – yep, I followed this suggestion as it seemed a good one. I was quick enough to write to them when they were selling it, no bad idea to thank them for (eventually) listening to my concerns.

Meet the people who would dictate your health care

It’s time for the double-barrelled WDDTY-McTaggart spam shoot again. Seriously, what idiot imagined that sending subscribers to one list exactly the same emails from a second list they never signed up for was a smart marketing move? Oh, right, McTaggart. Who else?

McTaggart’s clearly getting jittery, and it’s everybody’s fault but hers that her precious monthly bundle of lies is under  attack. This is just in:

Meet the people who would dictate your health care

Dictate health care? Isn’t that a bit over the top? I haven’t seen anybody in Parliament sponsoring a Bill to prevent people refusing treatment, even for serious conditions, and opting for dumbfuckery.

As you know, we have been the target of a concerted campaign to get the store chains to stop stocking us. The architects of this campaign are the same people who spend a good deal of time attacking and harassing alternative practitioners of every variety.

Nope, they’re not being targeted qua fringe therapists. They’re being targeted qua blatant liars in their marketing blurb. And being asked for evidence. I know Sandra Hermann-Courtney thinks being asked for evidence is hate speech (no, gentle reader, this is not exaggeration on my part). Am I to conclude that you have the same paranoid mentality, Lynne?

And now, from the Dept. of Hasn’t A Fucking Clue:

Their numbers aren’t large (there’re only about 80 of them in total), and they aren’t well followed (Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration, for instance, has just 462 followers on Twitter; Simon Singh, just 44 actively following him), but they are well organized and fuelled by a good deal of self-righteous passion about their mission, which is to stamp out what they view as quackery (ie, natural medicine of every variety, particularly the likes of homeopathy).

Learn to read, woman. Alan Henness follows 462 accounts; quite a lot more follow him. Simon Singh follows 44 people, with all of 54k following him. That’s a lot more than are following our Lynne, who clocks in at around 17K followers. I see we’ve also gone from the previous rant’s “handful” to “about 80”. Ye gods, those skeptics must breed like rabbits!

By the way, quackery is only “natural medicine” if you consider that doing nothing (at best), and charging large amounts of money for it, is natural medicine.

So we thought we should shine a light on the qualifications of the most vocal proponents of a group who believe they have the right to determine what you can or can’t read about your health or indeed the kinds of medical treatments you should be allowed to have access to.

What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doctors Don’t Tell You

Of those who can be found on the GMC List of Registered Medical Practitioners, one has been issued with a warning, one has relinquished his registration, and all of them advocate dubious interventions, some of which have been shown to do more harm than good.

By all means. First though, let’s shine a light on WDDTY’s qualifications. To start with, we have McTaggart and Hubbard, who have no medical expertise or qualifications whatsoever. Remember this; it’s important.  They also don’t even hack it as journalists, given the quality of their copy. I keep running out of breath trying to read the sentences, so bereft of punctuation are they. Each has their own-brand whackjobbery: McTaggart’s “Intention” is just Reiki in an expensive wrapping; while Hubbard has a “Time-Light” plan that he claims cures chronic depression.

Now the so-called doctors on the editorial panel. I invite you to peruse this useful and well-researched post by Josephine Jones, whose only fault is that it classes Harald Gaier as a doctor. McTaggart doesn’t like Josephine Jones. We will come to this later.

Simon Singh. Singh is not a medical doctor; he has a Ph.D in particle physics.

Yes, this is common knowledge. He doesn’t hide it.

As he often signs his letters ‘Dr Singh’ when writing to Tesco or our distributors, most stores and media naturally assume that he has medical qualifications.

Please produce these letters where he does this, and explain how you obtained them. Of course, since Simon Singh is quite famous (u jelly, Lynne?), especially in the UK, I think it unlikely that his use of the title “Dr.” – which he has every right to – would mislead anybody. No more than, say, Dr. Brian May or Dr. Rowan Williams. I’ll leave the next paragraph as-is, since the venomous stupidity of someone who has no history of studying or writing about conventional medicine, other than as an exercise in writing fiction, is most entertaining.

He does not, nor does he have a history of studying or writing about conventional medicine. He’s written books about mathematical problems and patterns, codes and code-breaking and even cosmology, but nothing to date about conventional medicine – only one co-authored book (Trick or Treatment?- the clue to the slant is in the title) largely trashing alternative medicine. Singh is the public face of Sense About Science, a charity set up by a holding company in India, whose trustees include Simon Singh and his older brother, Tom, who founded the high street chain New Look. Sense about Science reports that it is supported by donations from a variety of sources, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and many pharmaceutically backed charities, such as Cancer UK.

Yes, yes, the “charity set up by a holding company in India” is pure spiteful misrepresentation. Either she hasn’t a clue about how charities work, or she couldn’t care less as long as it sounds bad. Tom Singh is not on the Board of Trustees, so I’m going for the second option. Now we come to the implied call for harassment, which already went out on Facebook this weekend. I’m removing the employers’ names, because we know what fanatics like to do, don’t we?

‘Josephine Jones’. ‘She’ is the pseudonym for two people: Michael and Laura Thomason, who live in Warrington. Mike works as a database developer at [redacted] Pharma Solutions; there is a Laura Thomason on Linkedin who works as a supervisor at a [redacted] Coffee Shop, but we can’t verify if they are one and the same. If so, there can’t be many people popping in and ordering cappuccinos because she and her husband seem to have the time to catalogue WDDTY‘s every move, which they circulate on Josephine Jones’ blog as a constantly updated ‘Master List’. Presently, they are carrying out a survey of stores we’re in, presumably in hopes they might be able to pick us off, one store at a time. Neither professes to any medical qualifications.

I don’t know who Mike Thomason is, but he has nothing to do with Josephine Jones. One of the reasons Laura hesitated to come out from behind the pseudonym was precisely due to bullies like McTaggart trying to sic their followers on her and her family. Female bloggers always get rougher treatment than male bloggers, because sexist brutality. Well done, Lynne, for proving her right. That is what I call balls-out übercuntery.

Guy Chapman, who created a website called ‘What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doesn’t Tell You’, and writes a good deal of bile-filled statements about alternative practitioners, is a software developer for Dell Computers. He’s also a member of a choir.

Like me, you may be wondering what all this has to do with the price of fish. Is she jealous of people who seem to lead fuller lives than she does? I do hope she’s not mistaking my prose for Guy’s, although we are by no means the only contributors to this blog. And talking of bile-filled, Lynne, can we have some evidence for that claim? There’s plenty of bile in the missives you’ve been spitting out over the past year, if by “bile” you mean defamatory statements and hate speech.

Jo Brody works two days a week as a public engagement coordinator for a research project which runs across four sites, including UCL, Queen Mary, City University and Swansea University), studying how to make medical devices safer. Jo’s job is to update the website and expand the project’s online presence. For the rest of the week she works as an information officer at Diabetes UK. Previously she worked as a secretary for Professor Stephen Wharton. As she freely admits: ‘I am not medically trained.’

Nor are you, Lynne. In fact, your qualifications are far worse than Jo’s. Incidentally, are you sure you’ve got the right person?  Next name on the list is Alan Henness. Usual distortion of facts and petty-minded sniping applies.

Alan Henness. He and his wife Maria MacLachlan, who live in Harrow, are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science, but that spends a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to The Advertising Standards Authority. Despite the name, the ASA is not a government body; it’s an advertising-industry-sponsored organization with no teeth. The best it can do is place advertisers it deems out of line on the naughty step, listing them on as a ‘non-compliant advertiser’ on its own website. Evaluations of the advertisements of alternative medicine or practitioners through the ASA are a stacked deck; they are evaluated, as our ads were, by known skeptics like Dr. Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh’s co-author of Trick or Treatment?

Now, if the ASA is toothless, why is reporting illicit advertising claims to them bullying and harassment? Make your mind up, doughball. As for the stacked deck, well, that’s just the usual quack special pleading. All the ASA asks for is evidence. If you can’t back up your claims, tough shit. I’m going to snip a bit, because McTaggart has delusions of being a great investigative journalist and, frankly, all she’s doing is demonstrating that the people she hates are more rational and thoughtful than she is. Here’s a wee cracker, though:

 Maria (Maclachlan ) wrote, in a short précis of what it means to be a humanist: ‘Humanists embrace the moral principle known as the Golden Rule. This means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.’

I wonder if this ‘Golden Rule’ also includes harassing groups, practitioners or organizations who advocate or advertise alternative medicine?

No, sweetie popkins, it does not mean standing by while the naïve and vulnerable get conned out of their health and wealth by unscrupulous hucksters and charismatic fruitcakes. Lastly, she gets very upset over Andy Lewis, aka @lecanardnoir, because he’s made it difficult for her to use ad hominem.

Andy Lewis. Set up the ‘Quackometer’ site, which he claims to be an experiment in ‘critical thinking’. Doesn’t reveal what his credentials, education or employment history are – says they ‘don’t matter’ nor does an honest debate of the issues because the wording on websites will, through his own use of critical thinking, offer prima facie evidence of ‘quackery’.

It must be really frustrating to be unable to create a diversion by attacking the writer instead of the words. I can only conclude that McTaggart and her cronies are livid that they can’t answer criticism on the Quackometer. Not, I hasten to add, because they’re not allowed to post. It isn’t the WDDTY Facebook page. It’s because they have no evidence for their often totally unrealistic and long-debunked claims.

That’s who they are. WDDTY, on the other hand, has seven medical doctors on its editorial panel, plus several PhDs and highly qualified practitioners of a number of alternative disciplines.

I refer you again to the Josephine Jones post exposing this august assembly as a bunch of quacks, frauds and profiteering dingbats, irrespective of the letters they have after their names.

Thousands of doctors and health practitioners of every persuasion regularly read WDDTY and comment enthusiastically.

The Facebook page doesn’t seem that busy. Or are the enthusiastic comments mostly negative, and therefore deleted? I think you need a large FPI™ order to wash that assertion down.

The two editors of our magazine have been medical science writers for 25 years, and every word in our pages is checked by a science editor with an extensive history of writing and editing medical studies for the pharmaceutical industry.

Bad news, McTaggart and Hubbard: WDDTY, Intention and Time-Light do not qualify as writing about medical science. I see you fail to name your science editor. It seems uncharacteristic  that you should use someone in the pharmaceutical industry. After all, you constantly spit on Big Pharma and once issued the challenge to find a drug, other than antibiotics, that had ever cured anything.

Do you want these eight people to be the ones to determine what you can read about your own health care?

I thought there were 80 of us?

If not, write to Tesco today and ask them to re-stock What Doctors Don’t Tell You….

Etc. etc. whine, whine. It ends with the now habitual plea to ask Tesco to stock WDDTY again. Being chucked out of Tesco has really hurt, it would seem. Could it be that WDDTY doesn’t attract enough subscribers, in spite of the hard sell (every month I see a SPECIAL SUBSCRIPTION OFFER email befouling my inbox), and they desperately need to prey on the innocent who might see it presented in their local supermarket as a genuine health magazine? I suspect so.

All the more reason to encourage all supermarkets and newsagents to drop WDDTY like a mouldy, worm-infested potato. If people are stupid enough to subscribe, fine. But they shouldn’t be gulled into buying this crap because it’s on the same shelf as publications that don’t tell you as if it were solid fact that cancer can be treated with intravenous vitamin C, that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, that vaccines are pure poison, that homeopathy reverses cancer, that electric power lines cause Alzheimer’s, that pollution causes diabetes…. and so on.

Responses from those personnally targeted:

Jo Brody’s Stuff that occurs to me: It seems the magazine ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ doesn’t like me

Guy Chapman’s Blahg: WDDTY goes “the full Errol”

Maria Maclachlan: Comment on Think Humanism forum

The campaign against What Doctors Don’t Tell You Continues

This post appears in a slightly longer format on Plague of Mice)

Pause, if you will, and drop a piteous tear for poor Lynne McTaggart, Saint and Martyr. She feels Put Upon. She considers she is being Bullied. Her Great Life’s Work is under attack from what sounds like a small group of anti-homeopathy terrorists who will stop at nothing to destroy her. There is a Campaign against WDDTY. For the Blessed McTaggart alone knows the Truth and fears not to speak it. This is why the baying hordes of reason…

She’s not fooling anyone, is she? Anyway, this is the rant she just posted on her blog.


A concerted letter-writing campaign by a handful of very vociferous self-styled ‘skeptics’ has managed to convince Tesco that customers are complaining about What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and the store chain has just agreed to withdraw the magazine from the shelves.

These were not legitimate complaints. They were the result of several calls to action by a few sceptical websites to a small band of very devoted and fairly fanatical followers.

This, as you know, is part of an 20-month concerted campaign by Simon Singh, Sense About Science and a variety of rag-tag organizations like the Nightingale Collaboration to ban or crush WDDTY. Singh and co have called Comag, our distributors, multiple times, orchestrated letter writing campaigns to all the store chains that carry the magazine, harassed dozens of our advertisers by reporting them the ASA, sent their foot soldiers to hide our magazines on the shelves of stores and attempted to destroy our Google ranking. One of our websites was even mysteriously hacked into.They don’t engage in open or legitimate dialogue, only innuendo and bully-boy tactics on our social network sites.

Simon Singh is busy these days tweeting his supporters to write Tesco to thank them for not stocking us.

And all this because they don’t want you to have a choice about the information you have about your health care.

They believe that you should only have access to one sort of health information – the information that ridicules alternative medicine of all persuasions and embraces conventional medicine as currently practiced. They believe that they have the right to dictate to you the forms of health care you have access to. They claim to be in favour of free speech in science, but only the information they deem acceptable for you to read.

The skeptics have a loyal following, but there are tens of thousands more who support WDDTY and our work. Tesco will reconsider if they hear from customers who want to buy WDDTY in their stores.

If you buy WDDTY at Tesco, you believe in free speech, and freedom of choice in health care, or you believe that Tesco should continue to stock WDDTY, please write to customer service and tell them exactly why: [email protected]

Well, wasn’t that informative? Let us admire the loaded vocabulary, rife with venomous innuendo, bile dripping from every syllable. Is perchance The Great McTaggart’s revenue stream endangered? My first question is: how did this alleged handful of skeptics manifest in the form of so many people and organisations? Over a year ago, Josephine Jones already had a pretty impressive Master list.

“These were not legitimate complaints” – On the contrary, Lynne, the complaint was that your rag promotes dangerous quackery, while maintaining a resolutely hostile attitude to doctors, vaccines, medical treatment of any kind (including lifesaving treatments for cancer), and this you have proved time and again with every fucking issue. Open one at random, and you’ll find fuckwittery that can kill or cripple. Read any post on this blog, and you’ll see holes poked in your assertions until they look like moth-eaten lace doilies. In any case, it’s not for you to judge whether the complaints were legitimate or not.

“One of our websites was even mysteriously hacked into”‘ – Mysteriously, my arse. The Internet is full of spotty virgins and crooks trying to break into any website they can. So of course McTaggart blames skeptics for her own negligence in not securing her site properly. Simple stuff, I suspect, like not having the login “admin” for the administrator’s account. There are plenty of good security plugins for all the major CMS software, woman. Sodding well use them. We do.

“harassed dozens of our advertisers by reporting them the ASA” – Reporting illegal, indecent, dishonest or untruthful advertising copy isn’t harassment, Lynne. It’s civic duty. If you don’t like your advertisers getting called out for lying, get a better class of advertiser. Although I can see how that would be a problem for you, given the calibre of your rag.

“They don’t engage in open or legitimate dialogue” – The fucking cheek of this duplicitous dipshit! She systematically deletes comments from skeptics, be they on her blog, Facebook or anywhere else she has moderator privileges. It’s so bad that her own followers have actually complained that, since only their side of the dialogue remained, it made them look complete idiots because the exchange no longer made the slightest sense.

“Simon Singh is busy these days tweeting his supporters” – No, he isn’t. In fact, he only mentions WDDTY when you take one of your puerile swipes at him. Amusingly, the last one was to remind you of the existence of AllTrials.net, which you yourself were all for until you realised that skeptics were involved.

“they don’t want you to have a choice about the information you have about your health care” – No, it’s not a matter of choice when a decision is based on false information, manipulation and outright dishonesty. Stop pushing quackery for profit and, er, profit, and start doing some real investigative health journalism, if you want respect and acceptance. Unfortunately, I suspect that neither your medical knowledge nor your journalistic skills are up to the job.

“They claim to be in favour of free speech in science, but only the information they deem acceptable for you to read” – Apart from this being a barefaced lie, McTaggart has delusions of adequacy if she thinks what she spouts in her blog, her rag, her books, etc are anything even remotely related to science.

“there are tens of thousands more who support WDDTY” – ORLY? I see only 14K ‘Likes’ on Facebook, the WDDTY Twitter account has a pathetic 703 followers, while McTaggart’s own account has all of 17.7K. This sounds like the police estimates vs organiser estimates for protest marches, doesn’t it? Even so, it stinks of wide exaggeration on your part.

Now here’s the absolute biscuit, the coup de grâce in hypocritical bullshittery: “If you buy WDDTY at Tesco, you believe in free speech…”.

Remember, McTaggart herself doesn’t believe in free speech, as she mercilessly extirpates the slightest criticism of her monthly bowel-dump of rancid WTF wherever she can, going as far as to threaten legal action in an attempt to scare Simon Singh into silence (the BCA must have been piddling themselves with laughter). Secondly, Lynne, the concept of free speech is not as you would have us believe: that you are allowed to say whatever you like, to whomever you like, without fear of contradiction, and hang the consequences.

No, Ms McTaggart, freedom of speech means freedom of opinion, with the necessary corollary that others have the right to criticise that opinion. But you don’t have that protection, and rightly so, because WDDTY isn’t being sold as opinion, it’s being sold as solidly-researched advice. Your poisonous little rag doesn’t benefit from freedom of speech because of the many and monstrous errors of fact that it contains. Of course, you could always claim “SCIENCE!”, but I strongly advise you not to. You see, an important part of science is the critical analysis and testing of other scientists’ claims, so you’re back to square one.

You have no case, Ms. McTaggart. None at all. You’re a hypocrite and liar, and that is my considered opinion based on the evidence before me.

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