Just what is “magical thinking”?

  I’ve been hearing the phrase “magical thinking” for a few years now, ever since I began to take an interest in what skeptics were saying about alternative medicine.   It’s generally a derogatory term, the ‘magical’ bit seeming to be the antithesis of sensible science, which uses “critical” thinking.(1)  And then just recently, I…

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Edzard Ernst, scourge of CAM therapists: He recommends St John’s Wort for depression, and other things you didn’t know

Serendipitously, just after I had joined Twitter and was considering writing about osteopathy, a tweet appeared that Edzard Ernst would be giving a talk in Eastbourne to a local sceptics’ society.  Now Ernst was the first ever Professor of Complementary Medicine, at Exeter University.  He is pretty down on osteopathy, and I remember the day…

What not to say to skeptics

I am highly intellectually attracted to skeptics and their writing. Their books are intelligent and entertaining, and they write about subject matters which I find fascinating.  If I drew a Venn diagram with skeptics on the one side and alternative therapists on the other, I would be in that segment in the middle.  I used…

“Cranial osteopathy”: Can we get a few things clear

Time and time again I read something about “cranial osteopathy”, which seems to describe something which is nothing like what I do.  It is often assumed  that we sit there  “head-holding”.  I saw a description this week that we claim to”magnetize the blood”.  I’m not surprised that there is such confusion, even amongst osteopaths.  I…

Book Review: Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

  Ben Goldacre is a physicist and science writer.  Along with Richard Dawkins and Simon Singh, he is a high profile advocate of rigorous scientific method, and is furiously exasperated at the dumbing down of science. This book is his attempt to educate the reader to look critically at science. He begins by conducting some…

Why are Skeptics so Angry?

I didn’t do A levels.  I was lucky enough to go to a school where we were given the option to do the more colourful and varied International Baccalaureate Diploma.  Part of this delightful programme was a course in “Theory of Knowledge”.  I still don’t know what that means, but in practice it consisted of…

Things I wish I’d said to Simon Singh

As someone who couldn’t even work Facebook nine months ago, it came as something of a shock to find I was involved in a Twitter spat with Simon Singh, one of osteopathy’s fiercest critics.  What next?  A public fracas with Richard Dawkins?  However several emails and a long phone call later, feathers were unruffled, a…

Homeopathy: Does it work?

One of my patients used to run a health food shop which sold various herbal, homeopathic and assorted alternative remedies.  One of the most annoying questions people asked her was “Does it work?”  She likened it to a pharmacist being asked if paracetamol works.  ‘Well, it does work for some people and some conditions, but it…