Monday, January 11, 2010

The persistance of delusion

The second meeting of Sheffield Skeptics in the Pub tonight and the drive through slushy back streets was well worth it to hear Andy Lewis from Quackometer talk about topics as diverse as cures for 'bad' electromagnetic energy, Perkins tractors and John Wesley's rather unusual treatment for consumption (which may have been a typographical error).

The theme of the talk was why belief in ineffectual treatments continues to persist in the face of all evidence to the contrary. We had a whistle stop tour from the spa treatments of Bath where the original Roman gods thought to be responsible for the cures have been supplanted by lots of fancy sounding therapies with the word holistic in them somewhere. He also pointed out that a lot of alternative therapies that claim to have long histories have actually been invented comparatively recently, with Reiki being a prime example, and Hopi candles turn out to be a product of a 1970s German company and nothing to do with Native Americans at all.

As with all these things it all boils down to money, and if somebody can get away with selling a few wires and a bit of copper tube from a central heating system for £50 as a protection against wifi and mobile phone signals, then it really is a case of caveat emptor.

Simon Singh next month!