Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial

1. Trick or Treatment?
2. Woodstock for Skeptics
3. Science Museum Signing & Lectures
4. Free Polish editions of Big Bang
5. Competition Winner
6. Puzzle Competition

1. Trick or Treatment

After two years of work, “Treatment or Treatment?” was published this week and already it has caused a bit of fuss. You may have noticed that my co-author and I wrote a letter to The Times newspaper criticising Prince Charles for publishing a misleadingly rose-tinted pamphlet on alternative medicine. This sparked a rather heated response from homeopaths and other alternative therapists. Here are links to our original letter and the accompanying news article:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article3760311.ece
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/alternative_medicine/article3760857.ece

In fact, we actually dedicated the book to Prince Charles, because he is the world’s most outspoken advocate of alternative medicine and he has previously asked for the evidence relating to these therapies. My co-author and I have been through the evidence, just as His Royal Highness requested, but unfortunately the results are not very flattering for practitioners of alternative medicine.

Before I get another batch of angry emails from alternative therapists, I should point out two things. First, my co-author, Edzard Ernst, is the world’s first professor of alternative medicine, so we really have taken a proper look at all the available scientific evidence. There have been literally thousands of scientific investigations into alternative medicine and our conclusions are based on the results from these studies. Second, we are not entirely negative about alternative medicine. When we encountered a therapy that has something to offer patients then said this clearly in the book, but unfortunately such therapies were in the minority.

Edzard and I have simply tried to help the public navigate the world of alternative medicine by explaining which therapies work, which ones do not, and which ones are downright dangerous. I will discuss some of the evidence regarding alternative medicine in a future newsletter, but for the time being you might like to read something that I wrote for the Guardian newspaper to tie in with Chiropractic Awareness Week: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/19/health

2. Woodstock for Skeptics

Last week, the world’s most famous skeptic, James Randi, visited London. I was delighted to be invited to speak as part of a series of lectures in his honour. There is a charming account of the evening at: http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=1326

I recorded my own favourite recollection of the evening in a column for The Times newspaper. “On Saturday night, perhaps for the first time in history, there was a round of applause at the announcement of a hospital closure. I was speaking at a seminar organised by Skeptics in the Pub, and I had just explained that the Tunbridge Wells Homoeopathic Hospital is due to close next year because of a huge drop in the number of referrals. Nobody in the audience was belittling the suffering of those patients who would be deprived of homoeopathic treatment, but instead they were endorsing the fact that the money saved would be spent on more effective treatments.”

You can read the whole article at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article3798760.ece

3. Science Museum Signing & Lectures

It is very short notice, but if you are in London today then I will be signing books at Waterstones bookshop at the Science Museum (020-7942 4481, London SW7) from 3.30pm until 4pm. Please come along and say hello if you are in the neighbourhood. And, of course, the museum has free admission, so you can check out the Making of the Modern World gallery or explore the revamped Launch Pad, which is full of interactive exhibits.

In particular, if you are an alternative therapist who has been annoyed by Trick or Treatment or any of my recent articles, then please come along for a chat and we can talk about the evidence for and against alternative medicine.

I will provide more information soon, but I will be speaking at the Hay Book Festival on May 24, the Bristol Festival of Ideas on May 21 and at the Edinburgh Book Festival on August 10. In the first two lectures, I will be speaking with my co-author Professor Ernst.

4. Free Polish editions of Big Bang

Big Bang, my history of cosmology, is being translated into various languages and I have just received the Polish editions. If you live in the UK and if you read Polish or know someone who reads Polish, then just send an email to simoncontact@hotmail.com and tell me your address. I will despatch copies to the first six emails that I receive, so if you don’t receive a copy of Wielki Wybuch then it means that you were not quite quick enough. (Unfortunately I cannot extend this offer outside the UK because of the high cost of postage.)

5. Competition Winner

In the last newsletter, I asked: “Which children’s book touches on mathematics and has Milo as its central character?” I thought that the only answer was The Phantom Toll Booth, but it turns out that there is another book that fits the bill, namely The Mathematical Parrot. Hence, there are two winners. Nik Whitehead in Iceland wins a copy of The Great Escape by Natalie Haynes and Anna Johnston in Devon wins a copy of Marcus Chown’s new children’s book, Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil.

6. Puzzle Competition

Which famous medical TV series had an episode call “Trick or Treatment”?

Send your answer to competition@simonsingh.net – put your answer in the subject header and your address in the body of the email. The closing date for entries is April 30. One of the correct entries will win a copy of the new children’s book Felicity Frobisher and the Three-Headed Aldebaran Dust Devil by the renowned science writer Marcus Chown.

I would like to finish with a big thank you to everyone who emailed me after my last newsletter and welcomed me back from my long silence. I am sorry that I am unable to answer all your emails, but they are much appreciated. Many, many thanks.

Cheerio,

Simon.

Ps. If you need to email me, then please do not reply to this address, as your email will not reach me. Please go via the website https://www.simonsingh.net and click the contact button. It takes me ages to answer emails, as I am struggling to keep up with my correspondence, so please be patient.

PPs. To unsubscribe, please send a blank email to newsletter-unsubscribe@simonsingh.net. For further help with subscribing and unsubscribing, please visit https://www.simonsingh.net/Sign-up.html