Monday, November 29, 2010

Open season on Pope jokes!

A Scottish referee was sacked for making a Pope joke, specifically, this picture:

To quote Richard's post:

Hugh Dallas, head of referee development for the Scottish Football Association has been sacked because he passed on, by eMail, a joke about the pope. His dismissal was called for by a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. This nasty little weasel is called Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office. His details, in case you feel like sending him a message, are as follows:

Peter Kearney, Director, Scottish Catholic Media Office, St George's Buildings, 5 St Vincent Place, Glasgow G1 2DH

Similarly, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association, responsible for this craven giving-in to Catholic censorship is Stewart Regan. The address of this coward is Scottish Football Association, Hampden Park, Glasgow G42 9AY

It would seem, from the YouTube video posted here, that the joke concerned is the one that heads this page, warning children of the approach of the pope. The caption was censored, but it isn't difficult to find the original. It is at

My suggestion is that we should do our best to make this joke go viral, beginning by sending hundreds of copies of it to these two addresses:

But there are probably funnier jokes along the same lines, and I would encourage you to send as many as you can find.


The Pope deserves no respect, and even if you do respect him, he is not above humour.

Vaccinate your kids

Found this at Acid Fairy (thanks!)

Homeopathy overdose update: Homeopathic Educational Services can't read

In my previous post I showed that instead of taking my overdose seriously (which you would expect, given I'm playing about with my sleep here. Am I going to be safe to drive, or operate heavy machinery?), the British Homeopathic Society chose to label me as mentally ill. (I emailed Lisa for any comment, she replied "Dear David, I have no comments to make about your blog. You will see in my signature my role in the BHA/Faculty and I have no opinions on the matter. Lisa Peacock, Education & Web Administration Officer").

The Homeopathic Educational Service demonstrated their inability to read and follow links:


Anyone who engages in a "homeopathic proving" (an experiment in which a HEALTHY subject is given continual doses of a potentized homeopathic medicine with the intent to discover what symptoms it will cause) must not have any health issues at present and must NOT know what medicine they are taking. It is intriguing that Martin Robbins, who has previously demonstrated an unscientific attitude, does not follow these basic scientific guidelines. I am also guessing that the "insomnia" remedy he plans to take is a homeopathic combination remedy (a remedy with multiple ingredients)...THAT is another no-no, further evidence of the straw man Martin is famous for creating...and it is probably a lower potency than 30C.

One should take a 30C of a remedy once or twice daily until symptoms emerge (up to 30 days).

Please note that homeopaths do not find that every subject will experience symptoms of a proving, though the majority of people experience symptoms of the medicine ingested as determined by Kent's REPERTORY, a list of symptoms that each medicine has previously been known to cause and/or cure.

I give you this advice without any encouragement from me for you to engage in a homeopathic proving. It is your experience and your risk.

Dana Ullman

Notice how Dana thinks it is Martin who is overdosing, and not myself.

I linked to the product I am taking, Boots insomnia tablets. They are indeed a combination remedy, as you can see (active ingredients Kali brom, Coffea, Passiflora, Avena sativa, Alfalfa and Valeriana). No guessing needed.

So, this leads to some questions:
If combination remedies do not work, why can I find no evidence of homeopathic organisations complaining that they are selling useless remedies? Indeed, I have found support for Boots and their homeopathic range.

It's also interesting that homeopathy doesn't work in combination. Caffeine for example isn't a pain killer, but when added to aspirin, can make it more effective. One wonders why combinations of homeopathic remedies don't work.

UPDATE: Dana pointed out, correctly, that he wasn't saying they didn't work, but that combinations shouldn't be used in a proving (which makes sense - unless you want to test known remedies in combination, to see if they can have compound effects like aspirin and caffeine). It does appear, however, that he doesn't quite grasp that I'm here to overdose on homeopathy, and not to undertake a "proving"

My tablets are 6C (though this info is on the box, and I couldn't find it on the web link, to be fair), which we are told, is not potent enough. So where is the evidence that 6C isn't as good as 30C or above? Isn't this also important information to have, and very relevant, to working out what safe and unsafe doses of homeopathy are? Also, if 6C isn't potent enough, again, where are the homeopaths bemoaning the poor products from Boots?

Also, given their lack of rigour in reading just one blog post, I am left with a lack of confidence in their ability to assess peer reviewed journals.

They finish with "It is your experience and your risk." Which does really back up Martin's original post that started this all off. There is, as they say, a risk to homeopathic overdose. So why does no one explain what one is, and what one should do if you overdose by accident, or on purpose?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Homeopathy Overdose update: British Homeopathic Association call me mentally ill

I asked three homeopathic organisations this:
Hi, I am embarking on a homeopathic overdose. I wondered if you had any comments to make on this, in terms of the potential risks to my health, what I might expect, and your thoughts on if what I am doing is reckless etc I look forward to hearing from you, David

All three replied! Two of the responses, I feel, merit posts of their own. The third I'll combine in a post with some further thoughts on homeopathy. I've a busy weekend ahead, but thought I'd get this post out now, and the other two on Monday.

Lisa Peacock of the British Homeopathic Association wrote:

Dear David

As an organisation that works with fully trained doctors we would be concerned that anyone is considering overdosing on any type of medication. I would suggest you contact a mental health professional, a doctor or The Samaritans immediately as it maybe that you are suffering from some kind of mental problem.

Kind regards

Lisa Peacock
Education & Web Administration Officer
British Homeopathic Association
Hahnemann House
29 Park Street West
Luton LU1 3BE

Email: lpeacock€
Direct line: 01582 408676

This doesn't deal with my issues at all. What I am attempting to do is highlight the issue that homeopathy doesn't seem to offer any explanation for safe and unsafe dosing. Given that in "proving" (where homeopathic treatments are tested) healthy individuals are given the treatment, to find out what symptoms result, and thus what symptoms can be treated in an unwell individual (as in homeopathy like treats like). If in proving people experience symptoms, this is potentially quite serious because then, surely, we should be expecting there to be an unsafe level at which these treatments shouldn't be taken. If not, why not?

As Martin Robbins says:

Of course this may be because they don't really know. In that case homeopaths should be working as hard as possible to reach a collective, evidence-based consensus on what, if anything, is actually 'an overdose', and what the public should do if they take one. That would be the ethical, responsible thing for the industry to do.

What the BHA have done is not only trivialise this issue, but also mental health, by suggesting that by choosing to potentially disrupt my sleep in a personal investigation of how homeopathy affects me, that I am mentally ill.

Mental illness is a real issue for many people, and for reasons I won't go into, is another cause that is close to my heart.

You would have hoped that they would have read what I sent them, and realised that I was being sincere with my request for advice, as I finished the post saying:

Of course, so far, there is no consensus on what an overdose constitutes. I am potentially putting my health at risk. I really value my health and well being. Such is my believe that with homeopathy, there is nothing in it.

I do hope I am not proved wrong.

Given the direct challenge from Martin, and the fact that they are presented with someone who is actually going to be overdosing, every day, for four months, brushing me off with a trivialisation of this, and mental health, leaves me with a very poor impression of the organisation indeed.

As for the overdose: I followed my dosing instructions (but with 4 pills each time, not two). Last night I slept as well as I normally do, went to bed a wee bit later than normal as went to see London Boulevard (good film, but it's gritty and quite violent, so may not float everyone's boat). Felt good this morning. Have the usual tiredness one would expect with a Friday. Feeling good though - it's been a great week at work!

Also, I did say that I'd be looking at the active ingredients to find out what I could be expecting to experience. I will do this at the end of the experiment, granted this is hardly the most controlled of experiments, but if I am unaware of exactly what symptoms I will get (as there is no insomnia to treat), then it's about as blind as I can keep this.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Homeopathy overdose

So, as I mentioned on Wednesday, prompted by Martin Robbins challenge to homeopaths, I am going to start overdosing on homeopathy for a prolonged period.

I have selected "Boots insomnia tablets", for a couple of reasons:

1) It is very rare for me to have any problems sleeping at all. Consequently, as homeopathy operates under "like treats like", and I don't have any problems with insomnia, one would expect me to start having problems with sleep. This is something I really don't want to do, as I am very busy, all the time, and sleep is important!

2) Boots have a 3 for 2 offer on. I'm not on a massive wage, and this is out of my pocket, so I can stock up on the cheap! On top of that, I don't like to give my money to stuff like this, so will "offset" my homeopathy support by fundraising an equal amount to Sense About Science. Feel free to help me out on this front!

How to overdose? A number of suggestions were given to Martin, but the majority seemed to imply taking the dose over a longer time frame than was recommended. The instructions for the pills state:

Two tablets four hours before bed and two tablets immediately before bed. A further two tablets may be taken during the night if required. Tablets to be sucked or chewed and to be taken between meals.

This gives a max dose of six tablets in a day. I would like to go crazy and take a packet a day, but in this age of austerity, I will take 4 tablets at a sitting, giving me a total of 8 in a day. I will continue with this for four months.

I will have pen and paper next to my bed, in which I will record my bed time, and how I feel in the morning.

I do voluntary work on a night shift, about once a week, which results in a bed time of 02:45ish, contrary to 23:30 when I normally go to bed. I get up for work at 07:30, I usually hit snooze once though. I usually don't feel so refreshed on a morning after the night shift, but haven't found it affecting my work. My sleeping patterns at weekends aren't as defined, but I'll make a note of time to bed, and time up.

If the Boots is out of stock I can't help that, but I intend to start this experiment later today.

I've not had a chance to fully investigate what the active ingredients that have been diluted do, but will do so, and in my next post on this. This will allow me to detail what symptoms should appear. This means that if I get ill with something unrelated, we can see whether any of the symptoms of that match what we would expect, and also, if my arms drop off, we can discount that as an effect of the homeopathy, and more on my failure as a chainsaw juggler (you get the idea).

As Martin says:

...homeopaths should be working as hard as possible to reach a collective, evidence-based consensus on what, if anything, is actually 'an overdose', and what the public should do if they take one. That would be the ethical, responsible thing for the industry to do.

Obviously I am a subject of one, this gives me no degrees of freedom, so any results will only serve as an anecdote, and won't help in this challenge. However, we know from such an approach as Martin has challenged the homeopaths to produce, if any one did this with paracetamol, they could kiss their liver, and then their life (that order) good bye.

Of course, so far, there is no consensus on what an overdose constitutes. I am potentially putting my health at risk. I really value my health and well being. Such is my believe that with homeopathy, there is nothing in it.

I do hope I am not proved wrong.

Buring the Koran shouldn't be a crime

So, a child's been arrested for inciting religious hatred by burning the Koran.

A video was posted on Facebook, which got reported, and here we are. (It's not the first this has happen either). That the actual burning of the Koran was two weeks ago, no one at the time seemed to have minded. The video went on Facebook - I'd like to know if it was clearly labelled. If so, no one has to watch it.

The BBC quotes:
Catherine Heseltine, chief executive officer of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, said burning the Koran was one of the most offensive acts to Muslims that she could imagine.

She said: "The Koran is the most sacred thing to over a billion Muslims worldwide."

"You can see that in the way Muslims treat the Koran, washing before touching it and in many Muslim homes you will find it on the top shelf above all other books and we will never destroy the Koranic texts."

"We believe it is the word of God. God's guidance for us in this life," she added.

So what I say? Why is that relevant?

We have Muslims in this country who would prescribe execution as the penalty for gay sex, but with differing viewpoints as to whether death should be by stoning, immolation by fire or throwing offenders off a cliff.

That's very offensive to me, and no doubt even more so to anyone who's bi or homosexual.

People are entitled to their opinions and beliefs. If people want to burn their own property (safely) then that is their right. Likewise, people can be racist, homophobic, bigoted. We don't have to like this, their opinions will offend us, but they are allowed to express them.

So long as no one is coming to any harm, what is the issue?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Total self indulgence

So, I've neglected this blog (and reading everyone else's) of late, as work was really busy. I'm the Digital Media Officer for the Meningitis Trust, and we've *just* launched a new website, which is here:

So please feel free to check it out and give us your feedback!

(It wasn't just me that built it, my collegaues (and, also rather nicely, friends) Richard and Julie make up the wonderful trio that is the Trust's digital team).

I'm well chuffed with it!

Whilst I'm plugging that, I might as well mention the iPhone app we've made too.

Oh, and I'm running the London Marathon for the Trust too.

Normal blogging soon (which will include the beginning of a long term overdose of homeopathy, after the Lay Scientist's post)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Allah misses a trick

Hajj would have been a perfect opportunity for Allah to give us some evidence for his existence. Every Muslim, if they can afford to and are well enough, should journey to Mecca for Hajj, a pilgrimage during the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar. (Pilgrims can go at other times in the year, called Umrah, but it is Hajj that forms one of Islam's Five Pillars).

Millions of pilgrims attend, and, as one would expect with so many people in so small an area, the risk of infection rises massively, hence frequent calls to remind pilgrims that they must have the available meningitis vaccines for example.

Of course, this seems a little sadistic if Allah does exists. He has essentially brought a lot of people together and not bothered with a wee miracle to keep the dieseaes (he created) at bay (which, given the fact he made the universe and all, you'd think wouldn't be that hard).

People die on Hajj.

What a waste.

Cheltenham SITP - Tues 30th

Cheltenham SITP is properly up and running! Big thanks to @Jin_Shei for sorting it all out.

The Strand in Cheltenham on the last Tuesday of the month.

For the full Cheltenham SITP experience, check out: the website, twitter, Facebook and you can email

The first talk will be "Breaking the crop circle" by Trystan Swale of Righteous Indignation podcast fame:
Plasma vortices, extra-terrestrial communication or manmade works of art - the annual summer crop circle season continues to inspire, encourage debate and amuse. Having been fascinated with the whole phenomenon since a child, Trystan Swale analyses the various claims as to their origins and explains why the myth is one that will continue despite the wealth of evidence for a man-made solution.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Improving on Mother Teresa

Famous Mother Teresa Prayer- The Final Analysis Prayer

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

I saw this prayer today, and if it could end here, it would be quite a nice little set of aspirations. The last line spoils is:

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Do good for goodness' sake. It seems to me far better to just do good things for no reward other than it's the right thing to do. Doing good just because you're hoping for a reward at the end is hardly the most noble of intentions.

Also, what we do is about "us and them". I really dislike this notion that what we have here, right now, isn't really that importnat, it's the afterlife that really matters. It seems like such a wasteful world view. What we do here matters, and our actions do impact on each other.

So, instead, I'd much rather have this as the last line:

In the final analysis, this is the only life you have, so you'd best be excellent to each other. And don't let the bastards grind you down.

Questions for Rodial

So, I've been through all of Rodial's products.

Below I have copied their claims of "clinically" proven, or where they've said x% increase in that. In addition, I've higlhighted some other claims which lead me to questions, which I ask afterwards. Please note that these are genuine questions, for which Rodial may offer me answers.

I'll be calling at lunch time later today to see if they will provide me with any more evidence for these, or answer the questions asked below. As Ben Goldacre and Rhys Morgan have been turned down, I don't hold out much hope, but will be chuffed if I'm being needlessly pessimistic.

UPDATE: I called Rodial, and I was told that they couldn't answer any of my questions at all. I asked why, and the receptionis said "I'm not sure". Alas, the internet at work was down, so I now have to catch up this afternoon. This evening I'll email trading standards, as claims are made for which no evidence is given so I am unsure if these claims are accurate, and other claims are made (for example, how "Boob job" works) that seem contrary to what I have learnt.

If I'm not given any evidence, then I shall write to Trading Standards, and this blog post will be the main body of my concerns.

They are currently suing Dalia Nield, so I won't comment on the efficacy of these products, but will let you draw your own conclusions about products from a company that claim to be scientific yet sue when challenged, instead of giving evidence; and also (so far) fail to provide evidence to any one that asks for it.

Glamoxy Snake Serum (no, srsly, they sell snake serum!)
"This revolutionary oxygenated, viper-inspired serum contains syn-ake; a neuro peptide that mimics the effects of the Temple Viper's potent venom to instantly lift the face, freeze muscles and plump fine lines and wrinkles." Do you really want to mimic this?
"Fiflow BTX (oxygen carrier) - encourages cell respiration to fill and plump the skin, whilst adding instant radiance." How does this increase cell respiration, and, why/how do cells that respire more plump the skin?

Glamtox serum "glamtox serum is the product to erase sun spots and hyper-pigmentation, repairing damaged skin from the harmful rays of the sun." Possibly dangerous if it gives people the idea that they can repair their skin from sun damage. Skin cancer is a serious issue, it's best to use sun block, and cover up, or stay in the shade. Post care can't repair the effects of ionising radiation on your DNA.

Glamtox eyelight pen I have nothing to say about this product.

Glamtox night "glamtox night is clinically proven to reduce the appearence of crows feet and deep set wrinkles, whilst norishing the surface of the skin. glamtox night is your 'must have' night treatment!"

Glamtox sticks "Rich in collagen peptipeptides (natural bioactive protein) that trigger the synthesis of new collagen fibres, and are clinically proven to improve the skin’s moisture level, smoothness and suppleness, hence preventing skin ageing." Pentapeptides - five amino acids strung together. Surely any good quality protein will sort you out, say, a glass of milk? Vitamin C isn't mentioned, but is vital for collagen synthesis.

Glamtox SPF 18 I have nothing to say about this product.

Glamtox cleanser "Increases collagen production resulting in plumper hydrated skin" Is there evidence for this claim?

Glamtox Peel "...and Argirline which works to reduce stress in the skin and to relax contracted muscles..." Muscle relaxant sounds like an active ingrediant - shouldn't that be classed as medicine?

Glamtox eye light SPF15 "This ground-breaking product will not only reduce puffiness, but is clinically proven to help shift those stubborn dark circles." Also says "Restructures and repairs the delicate eye area" What does restructuring of the eye area mean?

Glam Balm
"30% reduction of fine lines and wrinkles;40% increase in lip volume;
Increases collagen production resulting in plumper, fuller skin" Evidence of increased collagen production? By how much, given fine lines, wrinkles and lip volume have been measured?

Glam Balm wipes "Opthalmologically tested, suitable for even the most delicate skin types."

Glam night pack "The glam night pack contains 10 1ml sachets of the NEW glamtox night which has been re-formulated into a amazing lightwight gel to strip 10 years off the face overnight." 10 years!? Really?

Glamtox cleanser pack I have nothing to say about this product.

Tummy tuck sticks "Green Clay- this clay is rich in silica and minerals which help reduce bloating." How?
"Fennel Seeds- eliminate waste and gases, making the tummy appear flatter." How?
"Pineapple and Papaya- contain enzymes which help split proteins and help the body break down food quicker." Unsure what they're getting at. Do they mena that the contents of your stomach will pass into your intestine faster? Do the enzymes in the fruit get digested themselves, or do they indeed help the body's own digestive enzymes?

Tummy tuck "A REVOLUTIONARY stomach flattening formula with stomach flattening micro fibers helps slim and visibly tighten the abdominal area" How do the micro fibres help?
"clinically proven to reduce the abdominal area by up to 2 centimetres in 8 weeks"
"fig extract and neuropeptides break down fatty cells and boost cell metabolism" Do they actually break down fat cells, or do they mean reduce the fat within a fat cell?

Boob job
"Boob job works with your natural fat cells. As the fat cells move around the body after eating, boob job "blocks" the fat into the area where the product has been applied, so the bust and décolleté areas."
This is contrary to what I learnt about lipoprotein metabolism at uni (where my Animal Science degree specialised in nutritional biochemistry). I recall it was something like this, and that adipocytes (that's fat cells) stayed put.
"The key ingredient Sarsasapogenin is extracted from plants and as it is a phytosterol there is NO hormonal activity" So it's not acting like a hormone, yet a physiological effect (larger breasts) results, so what type of activity is happening, why is Sarsasapogenin important?
"Myrrh Resin increases the number of fat cells and enhances fat storage in the hypodermis bust area, resulting in an increase in cup size." How much increase in fat cells?

Bum lift "Cellulite is reduced by a whopping 32% and thigh/buttock girth can be reduced by up to 3.8cm. The skin firmness is improved by 60% and stretch mark appearance is dramatically altered."

Body sculpture "clinically proven to reduce the hip and thigh area by up to one centimetre; breaks down fatty deposits reducing celullite and “orange peel”

Stretch mark eraser
"Boosts collagen production" By how much?

Body deodorant I have nothing to say about this product.

Skinny beach sticks
"Active ingredients, including betacarotene and lycopene, help to build up the tanning pigments in the skin, which provides a powerful layer of antioxidants to protect skin from free radical attacks. What’s more they help to build your natural UV protection levels. Green tea extracts are teamed with meadowsweet which will encourage fat combustion and limit the absorption of lipids." Can they back this up, and do they still encourage standard safety with the sun?

Skinny beach SPF 15 (clear)
"It also contains peptides that will help to boost your natural tanning ability, leaving you with a darker, richer tan, but in less exposure time, furthermore your tan will last longer. Meanwhile caffeine, carnitine complex and saccharide salt work together to rid the body of cellulite presence, reduce swelling and water retention and to improve the overall firmness of the skin." Again, I might be wrong, but shouldn't these kind of things sit with a pharmacist? (Also comes tinted - same claims)

Brazilian tan airbrush
Nothing to say, execpt this is found in "Suncare". Does it actually offer any protection from the sun?

Brazilian tan dark "the darkest self-tan in the market today" Claim based on?... Also, as above, in suncare, but does it offer protection from the sun?

Brazilian tan light I have nothing to say about this product, except, it's in suncare, but does it offer protection from the sun?

Brazilian tan daily Likewise with the above, I have nothing to say about this product, except, it's in suncare, but does it offer protection from the sun?

So there we go, that's every Rodial product I could find.

I will, of course, update with any evidence given to me etc

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Libel reform, it's very, very important

Yesterday I took part in the Mass Libel Reform Blog, but today two stories have really drummed home just how important the campaign is.

Firstly: As regular readers will know, conservation is important to me. I got around to joining the RSPB yesterday, and so was dismayed to see Simon Singh tweet this:

Twitchers should twitter about RSPB being sued Bird-lovers pls back #LibelReform & sign

Essentially, two researchers' (Gordon and Christine Bowker) methods were questioned by RSPB, as to whether they helped with the black grouse's decline (which the researcher's were hoping to combat).
Someone who really cared about both bird conservation and proper science, would re-evaluate and improve their methods, and move on, or, would give evidence that their methods were, in fact, sound. Science is built on constructive criticism. Finding out you've made a massive mistake isn't easy (especially if it's gone and helped the very thing you were hoping to fight). However, the researchers are suing instead, because of our daft libel laws. This wastes the RSPB's time, which is better spent with what they do best: conservation. It also highlights how they are more concerned with how they appear than by doing any good.

Secondly: Rodial produce a number "beauty"* products, whose efficacy I won't comment on, as if I do, I may end up in the same boat as Dalia Nield, who Rodial are suing. In the Daily Mail she questioned whether their Boob Job cream works.

Dalia Nield, a consultant plastic surgeon at the London Clinic, said it was ‘highly unlikely’ the cream would increase a woman’s bust size and questioned the amount of information provided by Rodial.

It's understandable why she said this. Rodial say:
Boob job works with your natural fat cells. As the fat cells move around the body after eating, boob job "blocks" the fat into the area where the product has been applied, so the bust and décolleté areas.

This is contrary to what I learnt about lipoprotein metabolism at uni (where my Animal Science degree specialised in nutritional biochemistry). I recall it was something like this, and that adipocytes (that's fat cells) stayed put.

Rodial may sound "sciencey", and their tag line may be "Nature. Science. Skin care", but their actions in suing show them to be the very anti-thesis of scientific debate.

As you can see everything is under threat: from charities' conservation efforts right through to your consumer rights to not be sold dodgy stuff that doesn't work, but claims to.

Please, at the very least, sign the libel reform petition. It is *vital* that we reform the laws in this country.

If you fancy donating, that would be even better, their JustGiving page is here, or you could get the Geek Calendar, whose profits help the campaign, and whose pages showcase the UK's geek heroes in ways you will have never seen before.

What ever you do though, please get involved.

It matters.

*read this to understand the quotation marks. Before following that link though, please sign the petition.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Mass Libel Reform Blog – Fight for Free Speech!

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at

Why are you still reading? Go!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vote Ann Widdecombe!

I've blogged about the Bad Faith Awards, but @simonmhickson, of Trev and Simon fame (who are national treasures), re-tweeted this from @sunny_hundal:

Blogged: : Ann Widdecombe is not a National Treasure, she's a very nasty person
Read the post, but here's the rap sheet:

  • She is anti-abortion and seems to have problems with embryonic stem cell researchwhilst not fully understanding the science behind it.  Scientists didn’t want to create a human/animal hybrid Ann.

  • She is anti-Sex Education.

  • She supports Homophobia as long it’s by religious people (It’s free speech you know.)

  • She supports tougher drug laws.

  • She seems to think that the Church of England apologising for the Crusades and slavery “makes them look silly”.

  • She believes in censorship.

  • She is one of the idiot MP’s who wanted Terrorism suspects detained for 42 daysdespite no evidence that it would help investigations in any way.

  • She is against political parties trying to help get more women into Parliament.

  • She seems to agree with PETA on some things (they even gave her an award).

  • She insisted that Tories “throughout the Thatcher period” had always cared about the poor.

  • She writes for the Daily Express.

  • She was opposed to the repeal of Section 28.

  • She is a climate change denier.

  • She left the Church of England because they started ordinating woman.

  • In 1996 she defended the Governments policy of shackling pregnant women with handcuffs and chains when in hospital

  • So, please, let’s vote for her in the Bad Faith awards. It’s a good opportunity to voice your contempt for this horrible, odious and thoroughly unpleasant person.

    UPDATE: I'll leave the original article intact, but following comments below, I just want to highlight that the above rap sheet comes from a post on Pickled Politics, and was written Martyn Norris. Credit should be given where credit is due, and I don't really deserve much for this post, as it's barely anything original from me.

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    I hearby defame Nadine Dorries

    Nadine Dorries MP and her blog first came to my attention when Jack of Kent David Allen Green (new legal correspondant for New Statesman - well done!) re-tweeted this blog post from @Gaijinsan21:
    Nadine Dorries is a Liar and Unfit to Hold Public Office

    David Allen Green further explained in this blog post how Nadine Dorries is using her blog to mislead her constituents, citing the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards report as evidence.

    He also said:
    For example, she recently resorted to a blog post to raise implicit allegations of impropriety against a constituent who had been engaging with her on Twitter; and then, only last week, she made direct allegations of criminal activity against a critical blogger.

    Today, Nadine Dorries has replied. Without linking to the New Statesman piece, she says:
    For example, David Allen Green wrote a blog in last week’s New Statesman which was verbally aggressive and accused me personally of attacking a constituent via my own blog. He failed to mention that in an email from Kerry McCarthy MP, to Glen Owen, at the Mail on Sunday, said constituent was described as 'the local Labour party organiser' by Kerry and that on the local Labour party web site, she was also described as having been selected as a candidate. On the same web site (which the local Labour party have now removed, but we have the screen shot) she described herself as the web organiser for the Labour party in Bedfordshire.
    Not quite the same thing as attacking a constituent is it?

    Two things come to mind:

    1) Firslty, she says nothing about the deceit in her blog. But then she can't, as she has admitted to it herself:
    My blog is 70 per cent fiction and 30 per cent fact. It is written as a tool to enable my constituents to know me better and to reassure them of my commitment to Mid Bedfordshire. I rely heavily on poetic licence and frequently replace one place name/event/fact with another.
    (Paragraph 81 of the report).

    2) Does it really matter if someone is in a different political party? That's not grounds to make false allegations against someone, and, on top of this, I was under the impression the MP was there to represent their entire constituency, even those that voted against them.

    She then finishes with a massive helping of irony:

    And so to Katherine's blog, I would like to add another uniting, unique attribute on the left. They lie.

    David Allen Green won a blogging award last year. For deliberately making such misleading statements on his blog, maybe he should consider handing it back?

    To which, I have to echo David Allen Green's sentiments:
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    Nadine Dorries - you are a liar, and unfit to hold public office. You're also comedy gold.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    In defense of Stephen Fry

    Not that it's needed of course, he has an excellent post where, as usual, he does a phenomenal job.

    However, following the misreporting of what he said, I just wanted to highlight the following from Steven Pinker's "How the mind works" (Chapter 7: Family Values, Page 470, Penguin books, ISBN-13: 978-0-140-24491-5)

    "The psychologists R. D. Clark and Elaine Hatfield hired attractive men and women to approach strangers of the opposite sex on a college campus and say to them, "I have been noticing you around campus. I find you very attractive," and then ask one of three questions: (a) "Would you go out with me tonight?" (b) "Would you come over to my apartment tonight?" (c) "Would you go to bed with me tonight?" Half the women consented to a date. Half the men consented to a date. Six percent of the women consented to go to the stooge's apartment. Sixty-nine percent of the men consented to go to the stooge's apartment. None of the women consented to sex. Seventy-five percent of the men consented to sex. Of the remaining twenty-five percent, many were apologetic, asking for a rain check or explaining that they couldn't because their fiancée was in town. The results have been replicated in several states. When the studies were conducted, contraception was widely available and safe-sex practices were heavily publicized, so the results cannot be dismissed simply because women might be more cautious about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."

    Men and women really are actually different, and whilst it's obvious we both enjoy sex, we do both approach it differently.

    Bad Faith Awards

    The New Humanist's Bad Faith Awards are amongst us again, and you have until 26th November to get your vote in. We're spoilt for choice:

    Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi and it nearly convinced me, but I'm going to have to vote for Ann Widdecombe. I think it's because of the fact that she's a crazy that's a lot closer to home. See her in action.

    Even more Amaz!ng

    I posted last month about the Million Dollar Challenge, and the assets being there, ready for any one that can prove their paranormal claim.

    Two further things on this:

    Firstly, Jerry Coyne highlighted a paper which supposedly shows people being influenced in their choices by stimuli after  they've chosen (only just catching up on Why Evolution Is True, it's from Oct 31). James Randi has, of course, highlighted that if this trial can be replicated, then the Million Dollar Challenge would have a winner.

    Secondly, despite having a very speedy response to my query about Bank Statements, I was pleasantly surprised to have a letter from James Randi himself, with copies of the statements in. Given that the amount of time it takes to read the JREF website's info, and, if further proof was wanted, to send an email, it quite clear that if any one tells you the money is not there, they have clearly not spent the 5 minutes needed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that JREF sit on the assets.

    James Randi wrote:

    "Enclosed is a copy of the March Prize Account statement. This is separate from the regular JREF operating accounts. I do not have available a more recent one at the moment, since all these documents are presently at another JREF office in Virginia. The current (October) statement is similar to this one, but the assets figure is now considerably higher.

    The actual amount of the awardable prize is one million dollars, not the total amount shown. We occasionally draw on the interest for special purposes, when necessary.

    I trust this documentation serves your needs, and I thank you for your request"

    Yes, it certainly does serve my needs, thank you very much!

    Needless to say, but I have made a donation to cover the postage costs.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Homeopathy & Nutritionists vs Real Science!

    Mega bust at the mo', so barely had time to read other's blogs, let alone do anything here.

    However "@londonnutrition" popped up in my "Who to follow" on Twitter. Groups like that set me off, so the above video helps calm me down.

    What with some other recent nutritionist encounters, I think I've a massive pseudo-science rant brweing.
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