August 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Amendments to Mr. Tredinnick’s bonkers EDMs

Some more follow-up to the Early Day Motions (EDMs) tabled in the House of Commons by David Tredinnick MP, that I blogged on last week.

Recap: David Tredinnick MP, staunch advocate of homeopathy and sundry “alternative” therapies, tabled four EDMs in parliament earlier this week. One was a motion condemning the British Medical Association’s stance that homeopathy should no longer be funded on the NHS. The other three were motions welcoming scientific “peer-reviewed” papers which at first glance appear to support homeopathy in the treatment of moderate to severe depression, insomnia, and (most worryingly) breast cancer. On closer examination, they do no such thing. Tredinnick was also on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 attempting to justify his position and was soundly torn apart by Simon Singh. Tredinnick made so many nonsensical statements that Singh did well to focus his argument on the few main points (given that the debate, such that it is, was being conducted in the public rather than scientific arena). The remainder of the points are dealt with here.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

David Tredinnick on Radio 4’s Today Programme (+ buzzer)

Following on from yesterday’s analysis of one of the three papers for which David Tredinnick tabled an Early Day Motion yesterday, there’s been some follow-up. The University of Texas paper on breast cancer had already been comprehensively scrutinised (see here and here), and now the Durban University of Technology paper has also received blogging scrutiny.

Additionally, David Tredinnick has been on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, attempting to defend his views in a debate with Simon Singh. As usual, this “debate” was presented as though both sides had equal scientific merit, where in fact they do not. Singh did very well in the lottery this time round, but still Tredinnick made so many nonsensical and irrelevant statements that it was inevitable that some of them went unchallenged. Cue the return of The Buzzer to clear up the loose ends.

David Tredinnick Simon Singh debate 24 June 2010 plus buzzer by kooshster

Share

A quick lesson on type-II errors (false negatives)

David Tredinnick, MP for Bosworth and staunch advocate of alternative therapies (such as homeopathy) in the House of Commons, is at it again. He has tabled three Early Day Motions proposing that the House welcome the findings of three separate trials of homeopathy that report “positive” results. One of them (a particularly nasty one since it relates to breast cancer, a very serious and life-threatening disease) has already received a proper fisking. One of them is so laughably easy to debunk right from the abstract that I’m going to do so here. (I haven’t read the third yet, but I would be surprised if it’s not similarly nonsensical).

The glaring howler in the paper, Homeopathic Individualized Q-potencies versus Fluoxetine for Moderate to Severe Depression: Double-blind, Randomized Non-inferiority Trial, by U.C. Adler and colleagues at the Faculdade de Medicina de Jundiaí, Homeopathy Graduation Programme, Department of Psychobiology [what’s that when it’s at home?], Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, is statistical, and leaps out at the reader right from the abstract. Read the rest of this entry

Share

OK so this is what we were banging on about when we said the Digital Economy Act was idiotic and damaging

Today’s entry in the Linux Mint blog contains the news that due to legislation demanded by Hollywood lobbyists, a major distribution channel for Linux Mint’s (legitimate) software has been forcibly closed down. We’ll have a look at the Linux Mint blog post (quoted in full) first. I’m aware that many people may not be aware of the exact implications of this news, or why it’s such a bad thing, so a non-techie explanation follows.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

Happy St. George’s Day. Now bloody well get out and vote next fortnight.

Happy St. George’s Day, everyone. A day where we can tell fun stories about a dragon, and maybe have a little rousing sing-song of Land of Hope and Glory round the piano. And, potentially, a day during a time where we can become proud of English and British democracy.

Having said that, though, it’s probably too early to count our chickens until after the election. But some startling revelations have begun to come to light as a result of the rapid rise in social media usage as a means of communicating information. In this post, I will be giving a brief review of how the internet has developed since the last election, and then some brief comments about the up-coming election, in particularly looking at whether the system is as broken as is claimed—and its implications, particularly for Liberal Democrat voters during a time when they appear to be receiving unprecedented support.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

Election fever (= people too ill to vote?)

The announcement of the forthcoming UK General Election is, of course, a springboard for all sorts of statistics to be bandied about by political parties, newspapers,  TV pundits, columnists, political bloggers and so on, and I’m delighted that the BBCs “stats for non-statisticians” show More or Less, presented by Tim Harford, is joining in on the Today programme every morning to delve behind the numbers. I’m also delighted that they are collating all their bulletins into a weekly podcast, which found its way onto my laptop via Google Reader this morning. It’s well worth fifteen minutes of your time to give it a listen.

There’s an aspect of UK elections that has been bugging me for some time, and that is the seemingly endless bemoaning of the low and declining turnout, with seemingly no attempt made by the media to address the root causes of this. A lot of emotional argument exists on this issue, but very little of empirical value—not that I can see in day-to-day media anyway. The Lib Dems oft-repeated argument for electoral reform, in my view, while on some levels it is probably valid, under the current system only really serves to shoot themselves in the foot given that for the time being at least, they must play by the current rules: a Lib Dem supporter would vote Lib Dem, buys the argument about the first-past-the-post system being flawed, thinks “pah! I’m not bothering with this, there’s no point”, and hence adds their unused vote to the generalised pile labelled “abstainers”.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

Guest post: Science ladies—make noise!

An unusual post today. Instead of me being my usual pedantic self on some strange use of statistics, I’m posting a tribute to Ada Lovelace and women in science, penned by my friend, science enthusiast and accordion player extraoirdinaire, Laura Howes. In addition to the folks that Laura mentions, I’d like to add my own dedication: to my mother, computer programmer and physicist at Cambridge from the days when programs were written on punched tape, and bugs had to be cut out and bug-fixes respliced back in using scissors and glue. And also because I missed Mother’s Day earlier this month (oops).

Anyway, Laura, it’s over to you.

———————————————

It’s Ada Lovelace day, and the blogosphere is going nuts for female scientists. Everyone’s picking their favourite, and there are some great suggestions getting pledged. Ada Lovelace is a great example of a woman making great contributions for science before women were really accepted in that sphere. Maybe it’s sad that we’re still struggling with that hangover today.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

Facebook, Twitter, Mashable, purchasing decisions and some dreadful statistics

Social media news website Mashable announced yesterday that Facebook and Twitter [are] making a major impact on purchasing decisions. A blog for Econsultancy, a social media marketing website, were even more specific: People who follow brands in social media are much more likely to shop with them in the real world (this was toned down somewhat from the original “twice as likely”). And what’s more, they had some lovely statistics to prove it. These came from a study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies. Or rather, they came straight out of the press release. Quite how these data actually support the grandiose headline statements is beyond me.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

Homeopathy: Ben Goldacre, Hans Schrauder and… The Buzzer

The recent damning conclusions from the House of Commons Evidence Check on homeopathy, calling for NHS funding for the prescribing of homeopathic remedies to be stopped, has thrown homeopathy into the news again. And, of course, the media spotlight carries with it the utterly idiotic approach of bringing “both sides” of the argument as though, in every argument, the two sides have equal intellectual weight supporting them.

Read the rest of this entry

Share

Is atheism a prerequisite for skepticism?

Over at JDC’s blog, a post entitled The Trouble with Skeptics detailing a list of ten pitfalls for the good skeptic to avoid has sparked a mini-debate about whether skeptics need to be atheists, or whether “religious skeptic” is a valid term. This is something that I’ve been wanting to write about since starting this blog, but haven’t found the appropriate time or emotional fortitude to do so. But since there seems to be a bit of a discussion of the topic floating around at the moment, and since it is coming up to a particularly important festival on the Christian calendar (as well as being an important time on the calendars of other religions), now seems as good an opportunity as any.

Read the rest of this entry

Share