Fitzpatrick on WDDTY

novwddtyDr Michael Fitzpatrick, a trustee of Sense About Science, has written an article, in online magazine Spiked, criticising the detractors of magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

In the article, Even Quacks Must Have Free Speech, Fitzpatrick says Simon Singh and blogger Matthew Lam are wrong to call for the ‘consoring’ or restriction of the distribution of this “fundamentally silly magazine”.

The argument appears to be one of simple free speech: that no matter how much we dislike the contents of the magazine, the authors still have a right to publish it and we should not get in their way. He says,

No matter how stupid or irresponsible WDDTY’s articles are, it is an important matter of principle that we uphold its right to publish and distribute them. We in turn insist on our right to challenge and to expose what we consider are its stupid and irresponsible articles. Let the public decide.

Fitpatrick sees the attempts to have High Street retailers stop selling the magazine as patronising to the public and not the way scientific disputes should be debated.

From Lam’s condescending perspective, the general public and readers of supermarket magazines are mere passive dupes of propaganda who need the protection of an enlightened elite. But this ‘not in front of the children’ approach is no way to deal with scientific controversy.

Now, Michael Fitzpatrick is no friend of Lynne McTaggart. Indeed, he has been at the forefront over the past decade or more at dispelling the insidious myths about MMR and vaccination and exposing how Andrew Wakefield was wrong. He supports Sense About Science, which must be horribly confusing to WDDTY, and I enjoy a glass of wine with him once a year at SaS events. So, we must take his arguments seriously. Indeed, I doubt there is anyone engaged with exposing WDDTY who has not thought through this issue.

Some years ago, a hiker’s magazine ran an article on tips for climbing Ben Nevis. Unfortunately, the issue contained an error about what bearing to take from the summit if the fog came down. If hikers had followed that bearing it would have quickly imperiled them and put their lives at risk. I understand there were attempts by distributors and stockists to withdraw the magazine and a correction was printed in the next month’s edition. That is the responsible approach for all involved.

Now, WDDTY habitually and systematically prints information that is misleading, error strewn and could put lives at risk if followed. In fact, the only thing in the magazine I actually trust are the date and price on the front cover – but even then I check. Why should the editors, distributors and retailers not be taking steps to stop such dangerously misleading information reaching consumers? What it inherently different between a climbing magazine and this pseudo-medical magazine?  Does being systematically and consistently misleading cause less of a problem than being rarely in serious error?

Fitzpatrick claims that “this sort of nonsense should be treated with derision – not as the occasion to send in the science cops.” Perhaps it should just be treated wit mockery. Perhaps it is so obviously nonsensical that we should not expect people to take it seriously.

If the shops were stocking What Hikers Don’t Tell You perhaps it would be easy to deride. If the magazine continuously nitpicked at tiny errors in Ordnance Survey maps and instead uncritically espoused the use of divining pendulums for navigation on moors, we might laugh. If it railed against the evils of Karimor and Berghaus and instead recommended carrying lucky crystals to keep bad weather away when you were on Dartmoor, then perhaps we would deride. But this parodic advice is no more bonkers than WDDTY devoting this month’s issue to telling its readers that cancer can be cured with magic water.

As Lam points out in his response to Spiked, the problem is that WDDTY is not presented as some sort of crystal dangling,  patchouli and purple wearing hippy magazine, but as a serious addition to scientific debate about treatments that the public may not be hearing about,

I can assume that Fitzpatrick has not recently followed the WDDTY press releases where they repeatedly claim that (1) they report on scientific evidence and (2) they have researchers that check for accuracy and validity of their claims.  If this is the case then they would be more scientific then journalists and editors from other media outlets and thus, believe that they have scientific credibility to back up their articles.  It has been shown on many occasions that this is not the case.  It is commonplace for WDDTY to use references that don’t back up what they are claiming and misinterpret or misuse statistics.  I have also shown how they have just made up quotes from researchers without their knowledge.  This makes WDDTY more dangerous than a sensationalist health piece in a newspaper because they are attempting to appear scientific and be a trusted source on what they report.

Like Michael Fitzpatrick, I trust the public to make good decisions – most of us are capable of that. But all of us are capable of making very bad decisions if we have been systematical deceived by sources of information we thought we could trust. It is the context that WDDTY makes its claims that makes it so insidious. That context is its insistence on being based on well researched science and then sold through mainstream retailers.  If it was perched on a shelf in a health food shop in Hebden Bridge or Totnes, surrounded by food that tastes like cardboard and fading adverts for the local sacred circle shamanic warrior and goddess workshops, then I suspect that none of us would worry that the magazine’s content was going to distort someone’s decision making capability too far from where it already is. Plonked in an aisle in Tesco, 50 feet from a pharmacist, and it gains an expectation of authority that it does not deserve. And in that context, may well do harm.

So, it needs to be said once again. No one is trying to silence Lynne McTaggart. No one is trying to ban the magazine. We are asking retailers to make a balanced choice: between the fairness to all publishers to provide a platform for their writing and a moral consideration that in doing so you are not harming people.

One might argue that the same shelves are choc full of errors, misleading claims and anti-science. And perhaps they are. Again context and intent are important. The hikers magazine corrected itself. Newspapers may print nonsense – but they also print very sound articles: their readers are genuinely exposed to views and evidence that aid debate and choices. Not to say that it is perfect, far from it. But WDDTY appears to people like me to be irredeemable, not interested in accuracy, but only is misguided agenda. It has not incentive to correct itself if an error appears. Indeed, such a thing would undermine its very reason for existence – to provide that facts that other are hiding or getting wrong. It cannot flirt with fallibility.

It is indeed an important matter of principle that we uphold the magazine’s right to publish, but it is also an important matter of principle that we do not mislead people into making dangerous decisions. That is the balance that needs to be struck.

This month’s edition on homeopathy and cancer can only increase the number of very bad health choices being made by people. It will do harm and may kill. I do not think that free speech would be harmed if retailers were to say that they were going to have no part in that dangerous publishing venture.

60 comments for “Fitzpatrick on WDDTY

  1. November 20, 2013 at 8:44 am

    It’s worth noting that Fitzpatrick is an associate of the ‘LM network’ of former Living Marxism entryists closely associated with Spiked. It’s impossible to understand his position without situating him within their extreme libertarian project.

  2. November 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

    The freedom to say something, especially something dangerously deceptive, does not confer any right to have others bring your message to market.

    Asking shops to withdraw this arsewipe is not banning it, it’s sending a message to the editors to stop printing dangerous nonsense and institute some proper fact checking.

    In the last couple of weeks I have read dozens of articles in WDDTY. Every single one falls into one of the following categories:

    1. Early results that resonate with WDDTY’s agenda hyped to the rooftops as clinching proof that quacks are right;
    2. Perfectly mainstream advice that doctors do tell you (a minority);
    3. Ideologically driven nonsense;
    4. Cherry-picked apologia for ineffective therapies.

    The editorials are a rambling mish-mash of conspiracist nonsense, and are becoming more unhinged over time.

    No follower of science will be unaware that early results are usually overstated or wrong. WDDTY always believes early results if they like the sound of them, and the inevitable follow-up experiments that show the early results to be wrong thus become part of the narrative of suppression. Which, of course, is exactly how SCAM works: pick a result you like and run with it, ignoring any inconvenient facts that might crop up. This is why so many quacks have such similar stories of science finding a miracle cure that’s then suppressed by evil Big Pharma.

    Science is self-critical and self-correcting, SCAM is neither. If WDDTY actually did the job they claim to do then they could perhaps make a difference to that, but they are merely a propaganda engine and have no interest at all in trying to keep quacks honest.

  3. Diana McGuire
    November 20, 2013 at 9:17 am

    I cannot comment on WDDTY, I have not seen it.
    But the implications of this article are that we should trust the establishment medical system. Despite the good will of most medics in the field, financial profit for the corrupt pharmaceutical industry comes before the health of the public. History and a bit of research shows this to be the case. We see time and time again how, so called, science is twisted to fit the profit agenda and how unprofitable medical advancement is suppressed to support the established system.
    My advice to those with a medical problem would be to do your own thorough research especially on the drugs you may be prescribed.

    • Andy Lewis
      November 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

      Diana, perhaps if you cannot comment on something it might be best not to comment on something.

    • Max Stirling
      December 30, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Excellent point well stated, thank you Diana!

  4. jon
    November 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

    danger !
    do not call this a scientific dispute. it is not.
    what is going on is more in the line of social regulations, comparable to child care, police preventive work, preventive measures within sociology and medicine.
    there IS i need for open defence of the public AND for political leadership to guard and protect. compare tobacco, asbesto, violence in the home. the list is long.
    i repeat: this is not science !
    hopefully actions in this sphere roots in solid knowledge, evidence if not proof.

  5. November 20, 2013 at 9:30 am

    I disagree with him in the strongest possible terms. They are spreading dangerous information that may kill people who choose to follow it. We’re not talking about giving echinacea to kids to stop them getting colds (a harmless condition), but replacing conventional cancer treatments with homeopathy.

    • December 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      I am sure that it would be very rare for any homeopathy practitioner to call for replacement of conventional treatment, CAM is complementary treatment. And what’s all this crap about WDDTY trying to kill people?? Like they try to explain, given the chance, they are just putting the information out there to help people make informed decisions about their own health. The only people who read WDDTY are those who choose to read WDDTY. You have the option to ignore it. Great eh!

      • Andy Lewis
        December 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

        You are wrong. Homeopaths routinely prescribe their sugar pills as a strict alternative to real medicine. Their philosophy is one of the superiority of their approach to medicine and that conventional medicine is harmful and ineffective.

      • WMcCreery
        December 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

        They have even sold homeopathic vaccines for real diseases!

  6. Peter Robinson
    November 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

    If we take the Fitzpatrick argument just one small step further then anyone should be allowed to sell anything, irrespective of whether it worked or not, and let the principle of caveat emptor rule supreme. It is a perfectly reasonable argument if all markets were subject to the disciplines of perfect knowledge i.e. that everyone makes rational and informed decisions over what they buy. Sadly we are far from such a position, and we have necessary regulation and law to protect consumers from those who would happily rip them off given half a chance (not that the protections in place are perfect).

    The worthy but flawed idea that everyone is capable of, and should be free to make their own minds up requires a level playing field of information. Unfortunately good science receives poor coverage across the media in general, hence we are left with what are really media stunts such as calling for a ban on WDDTY or the like, in order to try to get the message out there. The approach gained some coverage, if not nearly enough.

    Fitzpatrick apparently calls for ridiculing of WDDTY. While I am all in favour of such an approach if such ridicule were widespread and well reported, and the general populace were able to understand the arguments, we know that this is not the case on either count. Further, ridicule is a blunt instrument, useful at times and in the right place, but certainly not very effective when addressing believers.

    It is deeply regrettable that “most” people are not capable of making good decisions while we fail to educate children in critical thinking, and with the predominance of rubbish media. Look at our politicians, for example. If it were true then we would not get lumbered with the likes of Tredinnick. Or ask yourself why the Sun is still the best selling ‘news’paper. Why is it that it is aimed at a low reading age? Because they know that sells to a poorly educated, large number of the people.

    This may come across as elitist, but that would only be a fair accusation if one wanted to maintain the status quo. While we are saddled with that status quo we are left with little option but to take an extremist position of calling for a ban, because the argument would not be heard otherwise, and it is morally wrong to wait until the market is genuinely wise enough to eliminate WDDTY.

    • jon
      November 20, 2013 at 9:57 am

      wise reply ! happy to read it.

    • Matt
      November 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

      I think you’re right.

      Its worth imagining Fitzpatrick’s argument applied to a financial equivalent of WDDTY, directing readers to time-share frauds and lionizing Freemen on the Land loonies.

    • November 25, 2013 at 1:14 am

      We ridicule it to the retailers, they take it off their shelves.

      Freedom of expression doesn’t include a right that others support you in that expression.

  7. Matt
    November 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Skeptics value free speech as a means to expose ideas, experiments and data to scrutiny enabling their refinement. Incompetent or dishonest speech confuses rather than contributes to this effort. It is tempting to treat speech that opposes one’s own ideas as incompetent or dishonest (see deletion of WDDTY facebook comments), so it is sensible in general to tolerate the confusion rather than risk shutting down debate.

    The false references used by WDDTY however is an objective failure of scholarship which, incidentally, usurps the free speech of cited authors. This miss citation is so systematic it must surely be calculated rather than the result of incompetence or error. As such WDDTY is demonstrably a hoax rather than honest free speech; the correct comparisons are the photos of the Loch Ness Monster and Cottingley Fairies. Opposing its circulation on this basis does not conflict with Scepticisms support for free speech. The fact that the hoax promotes dangerous health advice and directs sales to fraudulent health produces makes opposing it more urgent than more prosaic monster or fairy hoaxes.

    There remains the question of whether calling for control of circulation or challenging articles is the best way of exposing the hoax. In practical terms it’s probably easier to galvanise action from Skeptics around a campaign to limit circulation, which inevitably focusses attention on the articles rather than challenge each article and issue in isolation.

    • Andy Lewis
      November 20, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      It is an important point. I am not sure anyone who has called for Tesco and so on to stop stocking WDDTY though that this would be an easy win. Indeed, I do not expect a blanket removal, but I think the fight is good in itself. Interestingly, Sense About Science are very careful which battles they fight – they do not lose when they do. And so they have no actually waded into this debate. Whilst some people involved with SaS have supported the WDDTY campaign, others most obviously have not, like Mike here. it just adds further mockery to the claim from WDDTY that somehow SaS are some shadowy group out to close them down. Not true at all. All the calls for action are coming from individual bloggers, doctors and scientists.

      • Matt
        November 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm

        Thanks for the insight into the thinking and division at SaS. This issues does matter, it’s important that it carefully considered and debated.

        I had another think about the free speech issue. Are we actually making a category error? WDDTY isn’t really speech as in free speech at all; it is advice as in legal, financial or medical advice. It’s the difference between arguing the moon is made of cheese, and charging people for advice to invest in the Moon-Stilton Mining Corporation.

        We have well established methods of regulating advice in settings outside glossy magazines. We require professional qualifications, work audited for quality by peers and regulators with investigatory powers etc. WDDTY would evaporate under such scrutiny, but extending such scrutiny to magazines offering advice would not in itself diminish free speech.

  8. November 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Hmmm not sure I agree with Dr Fitzpatrick’s assertion that

    “One of the few positive developments from the MMR wars was the recognition that members of the public were quite capable of distinguishing between the pseudoscience of the anti-MMR campaign and the serious science supporting the childhood immunisation programme – once this was properly presented to parents by doctors and nurses”

    One of the big problems with the MMR scare was precisely that information from doctors and nurses was not getting through to parents because newspapers were uncritically presenting pseudoscience and creating fear and controversy where there was none.

    And this, in essence is the major issue I have with WDDTY.

    It is demonstrably biased, and its very format and distribution – as a colourful consumer magazine to be put in the trolley along with the weekly shop in supermarkets – is designed very specifically to bypass any sensible debate about the content, and to present the misinformation directly to people who will in all probability act upon the advice within it.

    After all, who will thumb through a copy while in Tesco and then go to Matthew Lams blog on their mobile for balance?

  9. Sarah
    November 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    That was quite a painful read (Fitzpatrick, not you!). He seems to be quite confused: at one point he says that “WDDTY is not a scientific journal – it is a popular magazine that promotes cynicism about conventional medicine and credulity towards alternatives” then later complains that “this ‘not in front of the children’ approach is no way to deal with scientific controversy”. If it’s not claiming to be scientific it’s not a scientific controversy, is it? The science isn’t being debated, even Fitzpatrick admits the science isn’t the issue, so why is he concerned about people being able to have this nonsense ‘debate’? It’s a consumer protection issue, pure and simple.

  10. November 20, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Yet another person confusing “Right to Free Speech” with “Right to have Other People Give You a Platform to Spread your Ideas”

    If I say something, I have no right to have a newspaper publish it for me. If I print a magazine, I have no right to get it into my local supermarket.

    Unless, apparently,. I’m promoting woo. Then I do.

  11. November 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm
    • Matt
      November 20, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      Yes, that’s good. Throw in emotive articles by people who have done badly from “conventional” investments and your done.

  12. November 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Oh. That last comment was supposed to be in response to Matt’s comment about “a financial equivalent to WDDTY”, but seems to have been afflicted by a little comment-threading mishap.

  13. Robin Banks
    November 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Never thought I’d agree with someone from “Sense About Science” but I think Dr. Fitzpatrick is right to have a go at the tactics being employed. By all means highlight the numerous inaccuracies in WDDTY to retailers who can then make their own judgements but then give WDDTY the opportunity to respond.

    The Orwellian approach clearly isn’t working because of the free publicity given to WDDTY has been priceless to them.

    • Matt
      November 20, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Hardly Orwellian. At worst its a Mary Whitehouseian.

  14. Dr Paul
    November 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Fundamentalist libertarianism almost always finds itself in the position of making itself look silly when it defends its principles to the point where they could actually have dangerous consequences. It’s interesting that two by-products of the same now-defunct political group now find themselves at loggerheads when one of them finds that its day-to-day work clashes with the fundamentalist viewpoint of the other in this very respect.

    Should someone have an automatic right to state something that is scientifically very dubious and liable to cause injury or lead to actual death, particularly if that person is able to obtain a high-profile sales platform, such as the glossy magazine in this instance? We are here not playing with abstract principles that might provoke at most a minor frisson in a university lecture hall, but with the health and indeed lives of people, some of whom, faced with what could be terminal illnesses, are in a delicate emotional condition.

    When a fundamentalist libertarian is confronted by the broadcasting of something with which he disagrees, he will say that the danger posed by the banning or restriction of such views is more dangerous than the consequences of those views. Once an opinion is censored, he will argue, then the grounds will be set for the banning of other opinions, and free speech will be in danger. Much as I dislike censorship and much as I want a free exchange of information, I feel that WtDDTY should only be sold if accompanied by a health warning, as it were, stating that the opinions expressed within are unscientific and could be harmful and even deadly if they are acted upon.

  15. WMcCreery
    November 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Isnt this magazine a kin to yelling fire in a crowded theatre?

  16. Michael Fitzpatrick
    November 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments on this issue. A few points in response.
    1. ‘Product recall’ – along the lines of the hiking magazine would not work in this case. The errors in WDDTY are not accidental, but systematic, and purposeful in relation to the aims of disparaging mainstream science and medicine and promoting diverse forms of mysticism and irrationality. The question is – how best to deal with these errors?
    2. Removing WDDTY from the shelves is a form of censorship. Like the imposition of ‘stamp duty’ on newspapers – or proposals that WDDTY should be sold in special wrappers with health warnings – these measures are designed to restrict circulation and reduce public access. They are authoritarian and repressive in relation to the magazine and elitist and patronising in relation to its readers.
    3. The facts that WDDTY contains bad science and offers bad advice does not justify suppressing it – or the vast number of other publications, including much public health propaganda, mainstream newspapers and academic journals, which also often promote dodgy science and medicine (with, undoubtedly, much greater impact than WDDTY). On the contrary, the best way to combat bad science is with good science, bad advice with good advice. Fortunately, there are plenty of forums – including The Quackometer – through which this can be done.
    4. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but it is true, as one of your responders has graciously pointed out, that I have some experience of challenging orthodoxy – and indeed of censorship. In 1987 moral crusaders attempted to have my book The Truth About The Aids Panic removed from bookshops. Fortunately, they had little success and some of the campaigners later accepted that events had vindicated my argument. It is a pity that my friend Simon Singh has not drawn the lesson from his experience of the use of the libel laws to curtail his criticism of chiropractice that the principle of freedom of speech should also be extended to others, even to chiropracters – and to WDDTY.

    Michael Fitzpatrick 21 November 2013

    • November 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Michael, if WDDTY were advising investment in pyramid schemes, as Matt pointed out above, in what way would your argument change?

    • November 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Free speech does NOT extend to providing a promotional platform for that speech. There are a limited number of magazines sold in any store. They stock what pleases the customers. If we, as customers, make it clear that we do not want those magazines being sold there, there is no censorship, there is just free market.

  17. Matt
    November 22, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Hi Michael

    This is an important issue and you make your case well. I wonder if the WDDTY campaign exposes a division in the skeptic movement between those who care most about the bad science, and those who care most about the harm of CAM.

    In response to your points.

    1. Agreed
    2. Agreed; restricting access to means of distribution is certainly suppression of speech, even if mail order and internet remain available. Establishing that suppression via retailers is potentially more sinister than via the state since the process is not transparent, there is no appeal process and there is no accountability.
    3. I agree that bad science is no reason to suppress, and that the better response is good science communication. I disagree about bad advice. Advice is a paid for exposition of the likely outcomes of a client’s possible causes of action, which the client relies upon in deciding which course of action to take. As an example of the distinction between speech and advice I would say making the case that homeopathy cures cancer is speech, but suggesting a punter seek homeopathy as treatment for their cancer is advice. Advice is a product, it should meet basic quality standards. It is possible to set open, objective and flexible quality standards for advice that do not threaten free speech. Finally retailers have the right, and perhaps the responsibility, to control dissemination of advice through their outlets since the publication implicitly draws on the trust placed in the retailers brand to make the sale.
    4. Your book sounds interesting, I’ll read it if I get the chance. It doesn’t sound like it would count as advice, and it was a contribution to a live debate, so I don’t think the skeptic case against WDDTY would have worked against your book.

    I’d be interested in your response to chapmancentral’s question, I think it opens up the heart of the argument.

  18. Michael Fitzpatrick
    November 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I care about bad science and the harm caused by CAM – this is why I have campaigned against both in relation to the MMR scare and quack treatments for autism. But I care even more about freedom of speech, because if we do not uphold this vital principle it would be impossible for me or others to challenge pseudoscience and quackery. (As it happens, the boundary between science and pseudoscience is porous, shifting and often difficult to establish. It can only be clarified through a process of open and continuing discussion and debate – not imposed through the dogmatic enforcement of orthodoxy and consensus.)

    The importance of the principle of free expression is not diminished by the degree of error, offensiveness or potential harmfulness of written words. Indeed, as numerous commentators, from Mill to Orwell to Mick Hume, have insisted, tolerance only really matters in relation to views we find obnoxious. Hence, if WDDTY were to publish articles promoting pyramid schemes it should be free to do so – and others should be free to publish contrary views. Here is the key point: people must be free to read both sides of the argument, make up their own minds and make their own decisions accordingly.

    • Andy Lewis
      November 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      Firstly, I would argue that the question as to whether homeopathy can cure cancer is not sitting on some shifting boundary between science and pseudoscience. it is dangerous quackery pure and simple. What WDDTY is doing is not engaging in some sort of debate, but promoting a dangerous agenda regardless of the warning and concerns of the medical profession, scientists and others. Homeopathy is wrong not because orthodoxy has imposed that position on it but because it is silly bollocks. WDDTY and their ilk will always have a platform. Tesco does not further some sort of debate by providing its own platform.

      Which brings me on to my second point, Quite clearly and obviously Tesco do make very clear decisions as to what they stock and who they allow a platform for their ‘free speech’. Their range of periodicals and publications is actually quite restricted. But the only criteria they use to decide whether to stock or not is one of commercial viability. Is that the only allowable criteria that anyone can make in the free speech decision? Is Tesco denying Ferret Fanciers their free speech because their Trade Magazine is not stocked? I would hope that Tesco might have more criteria other than simple profitability. Their customers wellbeing ought to be one of those criteria too,

      • November 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm

        That’s just it – it’s not just profitability, it’s profitability mixed witht he opinions of their consumers. That’s why boycotts work.

    • Matt
      November 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      I also care about free speech and I have a great deal of sympathy for your argument.

      Professionals such as solicitors, financial advisors, doctors etc who offer advice are usually governed by regulators, are registered as practitioners who may be struck off, are required to participate in continuing professional development etc. These requirements constrain their free speech. Is there a reason in principle why a magazine offering similar types of advice should not be constrained in a similar way, or would you prefer professionals to be set free from such constraints and allow an open critical discourse to weed out the bad ideas and incompetent practitioners?

    • November 22, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      But that’s not what you’re arguing for: You’re arguing people should be free to read them, *AND* that they have a right to be sold in supermarkets, AND that people who express their opinions of the magazine to supermarkets should be censored.

      Freedom of expression doesn’t extend to other people doing your marketing for you.

    • November 25, 2013 at 1:44 am

      “Hence, if WDDTY were to publish articles promoting pyramid schemes it should be free to do so”

      For clarity if they were to do this, they would be in breach of the law. I know how to recognize obvious examples of pyramid fraud, but the government clearly believes that banning their promotion reduces the damage to more gullible folk.

      So Michael what is the justification for free expression that causes harm? John Stuart Mills didn’t see it.

      We aren’t actually talking here about a legal ban, just skeptics exercising free expression to reduce harm, but I think a legal ban on a lot of SCAM is long overdue.

  19. Sarah
    November 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Michael, if WDDTY formed another magazine called “What Electricians Don’t Tell You” and said that you should remove all the fuses from your electrical devices because this would improve their efficiency and save money, would you be ok with this being sold in supermarkets?

  20. duckster
    November 24, 2013 at 6:14 am

    An easy way to get around the issue of “censorship” could be by ensuring that magazines such as this one are forced to print retractions where they have been caught out for having made evidence free claims – in the same way that claims by alternative healthcare providers are also monitored.

  21. Andy
    November 26, 2013 at 1:40 am

    Mmmmm as a long time lurker I feel the need to join in. The right for WDDTY to be published is a freedom issue (i.e. any idiocy can be published). The right to be sold in Tesco is a commercial decision by desco that can be informed by debate and criticism. If the campaign were to follow the anti lads mags example http://www.losetheladsmags.org.uk/take-action/dayofaction/ then commercial would follow science. The only real difference I can see is if the supermarkets lose sails on lads mags they will cancel and the mags will go bust. If they do it to WDDTY they will just move 60% of their sales into CAM shops but continue. Works for me

  22. Max Stirling
    December 30, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    What nobody here seems to apprehend is that there is not a level playing field for natural and alternative medicine. Substantive randomised clinical trials cost millions of pounds to undertake, and as natural products cannot be patented such an undertaking cannot be contemplated, as there is simply no-way to recoup the massive investment needed.

    I became a convert to natural medicine for one reason, and one reason alone – because it works – profoundly, remarkably, and completely.

    With every health condition I’ve experienced, I have indulged my doctor and his prescription remedies with little or no effect. On every occasion, I’ve gone on to research and identify a natural remedy that has completely cured and reversed my condition, while modern medicine has entirely failed me.

    Let me give you just one quick example of what I mean. Science has yet to conclude a substantive study which proves outright the benefits of the Echinacea herb. Yet after suffering severe bronchitis every year for 10 years I stepped out on a limb and gave it a try. As a result, I’ve completely eliminated bronchitis for the last 9 years running. No more Christmas’s ruined by the misery of painful coughing and wheezing due to a terrible infection. Result – one very happy camper!

    If you want to wait until the benefits of Echinacea have been completely substantiated, go right ahead. For me, I prefer to make my own mind-up and live healthily and happily now, thank you very much. I’ve now cured and reversed every condition from IBS to heart disease. I literally owe my life to natural medicine – and have often been led toward the cure by articles such as those you are so ready to criticise and condemn. Call me crazy – but I believe articles like these are doing more good for the health and wellbeing of our nation than the medical establishment combined. And I will continue to invest my money and my faith in natural remedies – because they work – full stop. A fact which is a far cry from the barrage of synthetic chemicals produced by corrupt drug companies which are deliberately designed to do nothing more than mask and ameliorate the symptoms of disease. If you care for your health and that of your loved ones, I sincerely hope you leave your bias under you seat long enough to discover this happy truth for yourself.

    And the good news is that as high quality natural supplements pose no risk to your health, you can experiment and try them out for size until you find one that gives you the results you’re looking for. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of pharmaceutical drugs. Death due to adverse drug effects is now estimated to be the fourth leading cause of death in the world.

    Unfortunately, due to the dynamics of modern medicine, natural medicine will be forced to remain the poor brother to the pharmaceutical industry – and those of us who have experienced the life-changing benefits of natural medicine will have to continue to rely on tradition and small scale studies to uncover the truths of nature’s miraculous remedies.

    • WMcCreery
      December 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm

      I used it for 2 years without results, my bronchitis was only brought under control by my doctor. Natural supplements dont harm you because they are ineffective at best, if you are unluicky and use something that has been tampered with you could lose everything! In the US they are unregulated by the government and could have anything in it!

      • Max Stirling
        January 1, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        Natural supplements are ineffective at best? I wonder if you’ve ever studied human physiology and biochemistry? If so, it’s very clear that there are a broad spectrum of micro and macro nutrients, including ‘healthy’ fats (omega 3, etc.), antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that body systems absolutely require in order to maintain optimum health. When these essential elements are missing from our diet, the body attempts to substitute them for inferior forms, or rob them from other body systems (bones, intestines, etc.).

        For example, human cell walls are composed primarily of Omega 3 oils – which is the optimum organic structure. Where Omega 3 is deficient in the diet, the body will substitute other fats/oils to build cell walls during the process of cell renewal/replication – but this will not offer the same level of strength and protection. Since the cell contains the DNA nucleus and other vital components, it is essential to protect it from damage and deterioration. Indeed, building strong cell walls might be considered our first line of defence against degenerative disease. So if you’re not sure you’re getting enough Omega 3 in your diet, it’s reasonable, rational and scientific to supplement with this nutrient to ensure the body’s quota for Omega 3 is being met. The same is true for every other vital element I could mention. For the majority of us, there’s no way we can meet the body’s continuous demands for these nutrients from diet alone – so it makes perfect scientific sense to ‘supplement’ our diet with optimal amounts of these vital elements on a daily basis – and I personally have experienced profound benefits from doing so.

        In saying that, I completely agree with you that the quality of supplements is extremely important. After conducting a fair amount of research in this area, I now import my vitamins/antioxidants/minerals, etc. from a U.S. firm called [redacted] Health Sciences. [redacted] is the only supplement manufacturer I’m aware of that has acquired Drug Establishment Registration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means they produce supplements to strict FDA pharmaceutical standards, and are subject to the same rigorous scrutiny and certification regime as that of other pharmaceutical manufacturers. Product potency is guaranteed.

        I have also looked at the quality of individual raw ingredients used in [redacted] products. Take Chromium for example. Chromium has a number of essential physiological functions. It acts to reduce the amount of harmful forms of cholesterol in the blood, thus protecting against cardiovascular disease. It regulates the level of glucose in the blood, helping to protect against diabetes and insulin resistance. It also acts on the pituitary to stimulate the production of human growth hormone for lean muscle gain. The standard form of Chromium Picolinate used in most nutritional supplements sells for only £36 a kilo. [redacted] uses an organic form of Chromium Picolinate which has over 25 times the rate of absorption compared to other forms, and costs a staggering £5,500 a kilo. The same is true of every other raw ingredient they use. They have an internationally recognised microbiologist/immunologist at the head, who pioneered the development of human cell culture technology and infectious disease diagnoses. The company have a clear commitment to quality and R&D, and are a prime example of what can be achieved when medical science and nutritional supplementation meet.

        That said, if you’re going to put your faith in science, I believe it’s essential to do so with a clear understanding of its limitations. Scientific knowledge is barely scratching the surface of our understanding of the natural world. What we currently know probably amounts to less than 1% of all that is yet to be learned and discovered. We don’t yet know and understand what other essential elements exist in nature that are critical to maintaining optimum health.

        Take Echinacea for example. We know the flower naturally contains several beneficial compounds, including polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils and flavonoids. The most well-studied of its actions is Echinacea’s ability to stimulate phagocytosis, which is the process by which certain immune cells engulf and destroy foreign infectious organisms. We know that Echinacea also has mild antibacterial properties. But the herb also contain dozens of (as yet) unidentified constituents that are believed to behave synergistically, and contribute to its beneficial effect. We still don’t fully know which of these many chemical components are responsible for its effects, despite over 350 studies so far (Biochem Pharmacol, 2000; 60: 155-8).

        With so much still to learn and discover, I personally believe that it’s errant to delay taking advantage of the rich resources nature has provided, while we wait the many eons it could take for science to catch-up with nature. What’s more, it’s my assertion that discouraging people from trying and testing natural remedies is anti-progressive and anti-scientific, and is already costing hundreds of thousands of lives a year, not to mention the good health that people might otherwise be enjoying – and the financial and intellectual contribution to society they could be making.

        Given the safety of high quality natural supplements, the incredible results they offer, and the growing knowledge base that already exists (although still in its infancy, admittedly) – I am perfectly happy to undertake my own experimentation and research in order to discover and benefit from this vast reservoir of healing resources here and now – and to advocate that others should do likewise. What should be clear to any rational person from the body of scientific evidence that already exists, is that pharmaceutical drugs are a much riskier option. The dangers they pose to the human organism are well understood and clearly documented in the literature. That’s why I have reached the rational, scientific conclusion that I will stick to natural remedies wherever humanly possible.

        And yes, at times, WDWTY articles often stimulate new paths of enquiry and new sources of research for me – so I value it, despite its flaws. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the magazine wasn’t subscribed to by a raft of scientists and health professionals such as myself. I believe that those who exaggerate the dangers of the publication treat the readership with complete contempt – like gullible consumers without a mind of their own. That’s why I’m diametrically opposed to these paternalistic attempts to suppress it. Please show some respect. Believe it or not, yours is not the only outlook and opinion in this vast, wonderful and diverse universe.

        • Andy Lewis
          January 1, 2014 at 2:23 pm

          Max – you have swallowed the Big Pharma vitamin bullshit hook line and sinker. They are selling you expensive pills – the contents of which you probably just piss out. Vitamin pills are the most artificial and expensive way of gaining nutirents – and the most profitable for the pharma companies that make them. No profit in carrots and oranges for pharma. And you are also a co-opted sales person for them. Well done.

          It really is simple: the best way to get appropriate nutritional intake is by eating a varied diet, not too much, mostly plants. Unfortunately, that simple advice does not make the mega-corporations mega-bucks, so they bamboozle the gullible with nonsense.

          • January 1, 2014 at 4:46 pm

            Andy, you seem a bit confused about who is pushing Vitamin pills and you are choosing to focus your argument on artificial ‘pharma’ vitamins and ignoring natural food supplements! Big Pharma do produce some artificial varieties but they are also behind a big push to outlaw natural supplements. There is a world of difference between their artificially produced ‘vitamins’ and natural supplements. How about foods such as Spirulina and Chlorella among others. Do you accept they might have some benefit? These are potent, natural foodstuffs that contain a myriad of essential micronutrients and are not an artificial product. I supplement my diet with natural food and don’t personally touch vitamin pills, except for C occasionally. The point is, if the pharmaceutical companies are pushing vitamins it is because they have found a nice little earner….. but the bottom line is their product is probably crap and worthless. So, they are pushing their product but it is not the real McCoy.

            Of course, some of the supplement intake is pissed out, that’s well understood, but the same can be said about all foods we ingest. If we take too much of anything it will be ejected, hopefully, although it is true that an over intake of some vitamins etc can be positively dangerous. I haven’t noticed a whole lot of people keeling over dead from an over intake of vitamins though! Honestly, the kind of person who makes the effort to supplement are normally sensible enough to research the risks and benefits anyway. The people who are most sick generally are the ones who buy into the artificial, nutritionally dead products produced by our modern food industry. Sadly, it is extremely difficult to supply our bodies with enough quality nutrients from diet alone. Is your diet nutritionally optimal Andy? If not, what nutrients might you be lacking? If you knew the answer to this question would you not consider supplementing! Your biological functions might be compromised in some way and you wouldn’t know about it until you get sick.

          • Andy Lewis
            January 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm

            Cairndog94. You are another person filled with the silly marketing myths from those wishing to take lots of money off you for their little pills.

            Their goal is the medicalisation of food. And with you they have succeeded.

            The idea that you ‘supplement my diet with natural food’ is the most ludicrous thing you have said. What you mean by this is that you eat every day food and then add very expensive, manufactured, individual food nutrients based on the erroneous belief that a reductionist approach to nutrition gives you benefits. It is what they want you to believe not what is true. Well done.

            One of those myths is that there is a difference between ‘artificial’ and ‘natural’ nutrients. Well done for swallowing that one. This is just marketing nonsense designed to make you buy expensive food supplements instead of cheap commodity ones. And you have fallen for it.

            You have made the simple step of realising the cheap vitamin pills are ‘crap and worthless’. You just need to make one little step further and realise the haveliy marketed and expensive ones are also crap and worthless.

            Make that your New Year’s resolutions to get to that stage.

          • January 1, 2014 at 9:49 pm

            ‘The idea that you ‘supplement my diet with natural food’ is the most ludicrous thing you have said’

            Natural supplements, my mistake. I was differentiating between the crap, synthetic vitamins produced by the pharmaceutical corporations and natural ‘food’ supplements such as spirulina and Chlorella etc.

  23. JimR.
    December 30, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    I think bronchitis simply stops for some people. I had bronchitis from adolescence through college. I started smoking at 15 and was at 2 packs a day when I quit at 22 and my bronchitis went away too. So based on that smoking for several years will cure bronchitis. I don’t believe that, nor should anyone.

    I just ran across the Forer effect ( http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html ) which explains much of the gullibility associated with WDDTY articles. A sham advert in the mag with enough woo to choke an alt-med practitioner might make one serious money. All it takes is a psychopathic personality to prey on the gullible.

    • Max Stirling
      January 1, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Nice try Jim! ;-)

      And I suppose my other health concerns (IBS, heart disease, etc) magically disappeared when I started using natural medicine too! What a happy coincidence!! :-)

      • Andy Lewis
        January 1, 2014 at 11:48 am

        Symptoms come and go for most conditions for most people. Believers in quackery are those who think their magic beans were the cause of those variations.

        • Max Stirling
          January 1, 2014 at 5:16 pm

          Can I give you one example of my scientific approach to natural remedies Andy?

          Owing perhaps to lifestyle, stress and misdemeanours in my younger days, I received a diagnosis of severe atherosclerosis two years ago. Rejecting traditional medicine, my enquiries led me to the Nobel prize winning research by Ignarro and colleagues on the role of Nitric Oxide as a vasodilator. The body’s own Nitric Oxide production diminishes with age. The amino acid L-Arginine is converted to Nitric Oxide in the body, and the amino acid L-Citrulline enhances this effect. Research shows that a combination of Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Resveratrol, Pomegranate extract, Vitamin K2, Vitamin D3, Ribose and Vitamin C support this process, and contribute to overall cardiovascular health.

          Over the past 18 months I have been following this regime, while having frequent tests to measure the level of atherosclerosis. When I was first tested, the level of atherosclerosis was equivalent to the average arterial plaque build-up found in a 94-97 year old (from population samples). This level has been consistently reversed since starting the regime, and the last test (2 weeks ago) revealed that the level atherosclerosis had fallen to the average found in a 42 year old. I have the full medical data (including all parameters) from each test in my possession.

          My doctors and I can assure you I that I did not get these results by chance. They can also confirm that they have not seen results on this scale with any pharmaceutical intervention.

          • Andy Lewis
            January 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

            Well if your treatment is so revolutionary I can look forward to it being published in the peer reviewed literature

            I am not holding my breath.

    • Max Stirling
      January 1, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      [deleted as this is again full of duplicated cut and paste spam. Max – this is your final warning. Please do not do this. Keep comments concise and on topic please.]

      • maxsterling99
        January 7, 2014 at 9:06 pm

        Ooops, my mistake – sorry!

    • Max Stirling
      January 1, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Andy, if you care to look-up Nitric Oxide and L-Arginine you’ll find over 100,000 peer-reviewed references. I’m sure that’s enough to keep you going without having to wait for a summary of my personal application of this body of knowledge.

      • Andy Lewis
        January 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm

        I am sure there are lots of references. Can you provide though a single link to a peer-reviewed summary of the health benefits of supplementation?

  24. JimR.
    January 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I just read a short piece on processed foods that pointed out most of the associated chemicals in the natural plant are stripped out in making supplements. Utterly without the spectrum of associated chemicals that contribute to the effectiveness of food based vitamins and minerals. Worse yet was the starting point for making some vitamins. Petroleum is one starting point.

    You have to think of a number of these items as the marker of a host of chemicals that provide the benefit. Love food, avoid isolated chemicals.

Leave a Reply