Thursday, February 25, 2010

Whammo – Dumbo goes from Fatso to Slimmo!

This is where are for the next few days.

When I was about 5 years old I was told that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. This was no surprise. I’d had my suspicions about this because even at that age I was inquisitive and some of the stuff I saw just didn’t make any sense to me.

Not that I was terribly bright. But I just didn’t believe a lot of stuff. This was my first lesson in not believing everything you are told.

It was my first step into the world of duplicity. The entry to the dark world of deceit, dishonesty and corruption where the dark forces of evil fester and thrive. (This may be an overreaction).

Some things (like religion) took me longer to work out than others but I reached the stage some years ago where I no longer believed most of what I read or heard or saw in the newspapers, or on TV, or on the radio - unless I was sure of the source and could cross-check it. And I stopped believing what many people told me – unless I really trusted them.

This did not stop me from doing some really, really stupid things and I have been caught many times – and sometimes very expensively. My most notable piece of monumental stupidity and misplaced trust cost me in excess of $1 million.

But - I do not have under my bed a “Whammo Cross-Trainer guaranteed to make me lose 50 kilos in a month working out for 5 minutes each day” or indeed anything similar.

I used to worry a lot about this type of stuff.

On TV here every morning, evening and night there are promotions for these magical electronic belts. Fat people strap them on to their blubber and plug them in and ten minutes later they have bodies to die for. It must be true – they show before and after pictures (just bodies – no heads). No exercise – just a few cents worth of power.

Whammo – Dumbo goes from Fatso to Slimmo!

There is simply so much of this stuff designed specifically to gull the punters. And I used to think that – really – someone (I am not sure who?) should do something about this and put a stop to it.

But then a couple of years ago I realised that this has been going on since the dawn of time when crooks in the bazaars first invented the pea and thimble trick – and will go on forever.

As someone said (Wikipedia is not sure who) ‘There is a sucker born every minute’ Except that these days it is more like 1,000 suckers per minute.

There is simply nothing that can be done to prevent people from being conned - and throwing their money away. Some people are simply dumb. Some people may be smart (or not completely dumb) but have been trained by the system to be dumb.

That is – it doesn’t matter how smart you are – if you are brought up in the bible belt and told by your parents and your teachers and everyone else you know that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago – that is what you will believe.

And it will probably be impossible to convince you otherwise because you will also have been taught that anyone who tries to tell you a different story is Satan in disguise and is lying to you. And if anyone tries to tell you there is no Satan – they are Satan in disguise and are lying to you. Satan is everywhere – and infests Pennsylvania Avenue.

As you are never going to go to college and will only ever going to watch Fox, MTV and the ‘Hour of Glory (god wants you to give generously – and will reward you in heaven) you will never know anything different.

I have probably mentioned previously that in Queensland the regulatory authorities did an investigation of all payments made to Nigeria over a 12 month period. They found that something like 90% of the payments were for scams – and the payments were made by Accountants, Doctors, Lawyers and punters in general. Some people had sent hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The people conducting the investigation contacted all the people involved and told them that they were being scammed. Following this an astonishing number (I think more than 30%) continued to send money. WTF? This is dumbness stretched to the max. This is dumbness breaking the bonds of earth and moving into the stratosphere.

In Australia we have had an immense number of crashes of ‘property investment funds’ – most of which were little more than scams. People invested money – sometimes their life savings – on the promise of 3% per annum more than the going rate. Does not anyone ever ask themselves why someone will offer them so much more for their money than the going rate?

Bernie Madoff said after his conviction something along the lines that the greed of his investors always astonished him. Already extremely wealthy people would throw millions at him on the promise of an extra few percent per annum.

The answer? There is nothing you can do to stop people from wasting their money.

Which brings me to something I saw yesterday.

A Parliamentary panel in the UK has determined that Homoeopathy doesn’t work and that Britain should end its state funding for homeopathic treatments.

It’s not a surprise that homeopathy doesn’t work. There have been many studies over many years that have demonstrated that it could not possibly work – and does not work.

A cursory analysis of the system by any intelligent person would lead them to believe that the odds of homeopathy doing anything beneficial at all would be very remote. Take a substance – dilute 50 billion times – bang it on the table and Whammo – cured!

As Harriet Hall MD explains

“…homeopathy is about as silly as it gets. Silly wouldn’t matter if it worked, but it doesn’t. People think it works because they get placebo effects and the homeopath keeps them entertained while they get better on their own.”

I belong to an organisation called Skeptics and there is an excellent article about the great homeopathy scam by Dr Hall.


And someone who should be read on this – and on many other nonsensical beliefs is Ben Goldacre. His book ‘Bad Science’ is a gem. His website is.

Bad Science

I am trying to think if there is anyone I have not yet offended with this Blog. Let me see……I know…. the Amish…I have never said anything bad about the Amish. Rest assured I am never going to. I saw ‘Witness’ and have nothing but good thoughts about them. And that Kelly McGillis – what a corker!

And let’s face it. They are no wackier than most other people – including half-crazed lunatics sitting in garrets in Vienna writing Blogs.


  1. Astonishing Badger, only this week I have myself read Ben Goldacre's book! Part of the problem is there is no accreditation for nutritionalists in Britain. Anyone can set up just by saying they are one.
    Maalie (Consultant in Nutrition).

  2. You know there are a lot of silly religions out there but you have to admit that it's difficult to find anything ridiculous about Scientology. Take a couple of tin cans and a wire, add some poorly written and tedious science fiction and mix it with naval organizational structure. What's not to like?

    Punter. That's a good word.

  3. A shame you won't pick on the Amish. They would NEVER know...

  4. So you want me to send the money where?

  5. A few weeks ago, Badger mentioned his arthritis problem [display original post]:

    I tried a few remedies which were mildly successful - but appear to have largely solved my arthritis problem with Schuessler Salts. [...] I am a firm believer that that natural vitamins and minerals can’t be bad for you. And so it has proved to be in this particular instance.

    Badger gave us a link to a description of this mystery product. We read:

    What are Schuessler Tissue Cell Salts ? Tissue Cell Salts are homoeopathic prepared, and you may purchase them as potent homoeopathic medicines from pharmacies.

    After reading today's remarks concerning homeopathy, I'm confused.

  6. I believe in homeopathy.
    It's more than taking pills.
    Just like Chinese doctors don't stick needles anywhere they please.

  7. Several years ago, in France, an apparently respectable scientist created a sensational affair when he claimed that molecules of ordinary water are capable of retaining a "memory" of the past. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be very bad science indeed, but many people in France recall this amazing news story (I'm not sure why, because it was based upon highbrow but spurious physics). And it's often the first thing we think of whenever we hear of the notorious "dilutions" of homeopathic quackery. Of course, people throughout the world have the right to continue to believe in God, astrology, homeopathy, etc. Even in Freud and Marx, if they so desire. But, ever since my initial awareness of Badger's eclectic blog, I've been pleased to see that we would appear to be on the same wavelength in embracing the ideas of individuals such as Richard Dawkins, P Z Myers, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer, etc. Badger points us to an excellent eSkeptic article on homeopathy by Harriet Hall, which is particularly damning. Now, I'm not saying that there's anything "wrong" with the idea that Badger might suggest that Schuessler's Salts can cure arthritis... but I merely point out that this belief is inconsistent with eSkeptic attitudes towards homeopathy. It's up to Badger (after all, it's his blog) to decide whether or not this apparent inconsistency merits any kind of explanation. As for my own blog, I mentioned homeopathy briefly in an ironical article of 18 January 2010 entitled Snake oil [display]... but it's not a question that has ever concerned me personally (medically) in any way whatsoever. I must add, however, that this question of belief in homeopathy is not as innocent as it might appear, since many allegedly evolved nations persist in spending large chunks of taxpayers' money on this rubbish.

  8. Life is full of ambiguity, even science does not have the answers to everything yet, in my humble opinion. Not that I know a thing, I love science, I believe in science, but I refuse to let present-day scientific knowledge set parameters or boundaries. If a homeopathic pill cures my sinus infection just as well (and if only because of the placebo effect) as antibiotics, I stick with those little innocuous white pills. After all, we know where the believe in antibiotics as the cure-all is taking us.

    Money down the drain for quack or rubbish is surely bested by the damage caused by prescription drugs administered by school medicine:

    The " Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that 106,000 deaths per year are from “non-error, adverse” effects of prescription meds, making this the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. This dwarfs yearly automobile accidents and, in fact, accounts for more deaths than all other accidents combined.

    Only heart disease, cancer and strokes kill more Americans than prescription drugs. This shocking figure does not include drugs administered erroneously, nor does it include purposeful overdoses in suicide attempts.

    If medication errors were included in this statistic, the death toll would probably be as high as 140,000 deaths per year. To make matters worse, Dr. David Kessler, Chief of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, believes that “only 1 percent of all serious drug reactions are reported."

  9. My comment was too long apparently.
    Please click on the quoted text for the complete article in the Ventura County Reporter.

  10. It's refreshing to hear from fellow skeptics! I write articles for our staff magazine addressing some of these issues as my skin crawls with all of the mainstream philosophies. That's why I love the American Council on Science and Health and the Skeptics guide to the Universe. And while many denounce the pharma industry, let's think what the world would be like without vaccinations, antibiotics, anti-virals, pain medication, anesthetics, to name only a few.