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back to article Official: PhD in 'Essential Oils' or 'Natural Toiletries' = 'a Scientist'

The Advertising Standards Authority - in these benighted short-attention-span days, perhaps one of the most important guardians of the English language - has described the fields of "Natural Preservatives in toiletries" and "Essential Oils" as being "traditional scientific disciplines" and ruled that people qualified in these …

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Pint

Wow

So... when I was down the pub on Saturday I was being a Beer Scientist? Actually with over 20 years research I'd be overqualified in the Essential Oils sector.

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Black Helicopters

Fact check please

"Terrifyingly, it is indeed a fact that British universities will nowadays issue a "Bachelor of Science" degree in herbal and homeopathic medicine."

Where?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Fact check please

Here you go. You can get BSc Acupuncture too

http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/shsc/_courses/undergraduate_list.asp

http://www.uel.ac.uk/programmes/hab/undergraduate/summary/herbalmedicine-bsc.htm

Google usually works better than demanding fact checks in comments, though

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Here's a short list

"Herbal Medicine" (at least herbs can have active ingredients)*

---University of East London,

---Middlesex University,

---University of Central Lancashire,

---University of Westminster,

---University of Lincoln,

---Napier University.

"Homoeopathy" Hos BSc [or similar] (a good cure for dehydration)

---Middlesex University,

---University of Central Lancashire,

---University of Westminster,

---University of Salford.

Do some searching, you'll find more. It's bloody depressing. We are turning into a nation or hairdressers, tax-avoiding-fat-cats/footballers (who pay crica 2-6% tax) and certified idiots. Now if you don't mind, I think a need a Camomile tea to soothe my nerves....

*And yes, I am perfectly aware we still get lots of drugs from herbs. These drugs are created by scientists, not blasted herbalists.

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I like the way Tim Minchin tells it

If you haven't heard the song "Storm" by Tim Minchin seek it out. It features the line ( possibly misquoted but sentiments apply ) "There is a word for Alternative Medicines that actually work- it's 'Medicines.'"

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Dead Vulture

@Lewis Page

"Google usually works better than demanding fact checks in comments, though"

But putting it in the article (come on, you *know* someone was going to ask and if the OP hadn't, I certainly would have) would have been even better.

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Happy

Tim Minchin - storm

It's on his website

or

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1yxDWxUIM0

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Elmer, you rock.

Tim Minchin is flippin' brilliant...

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Did they ask a scientist ...

what it takes to be a scientist? ie: someone who follows a scientific methodology, try Karl Popper for a start as to what that means. I suspect not, the ruling was probably made by some arts muppet who thinks that wearing a white coat makes someone a scientist -- style over substance.

This is more than just a matter of word definition, it will open the door to sham products legitimised by a white coated wally waving their hands. The public will then be reassured and if they are lucky only suffer financial loss - maybe suffer health problems as a result.

This is exactly the sort of thing that the ASA is supposed to protect us from.

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pardon

you mean like bulshite 'dentists' in white coates telling us how their jollop will stop our modern healthy diet making all out teethe disolve....

inages of horses, stable doors and bolt come to mind...

the ASA is a joke

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Anonymous Coward

Re: White coats

If a scientist is defined as someone who wears a white coat, is a mad scientist someone who wears a white coat with their arms tied behind their back?

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@alain williams

"Did they ask a scientist what it takes to be a scientist? ... try Karl Popper for a start".

Difficult, as Karl Popper died in 1994. But I expect there are "universities" where you can "study" for a PhD in Spiritualism, so it may be possible.

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Coat

I have a white coat :)

<gets his>

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Coat

Reminds me...

...of those ads in the 80s:

Bloke dressed up like a dentist, in a dental clinic, holding one of those dentist's mirrors-on-a-stick opens his presentation with "I'm not a dentist, but..."

<-- There he is, hanging the coat back up again...

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Oh dear

This all contributes to the reasons quacks, frauds and religion are able to thrive.

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Muppets

The ASA seem to be trying to muscle in on the traditional role of the OED. First was the inversion of the meaning of unlimited such that it now means limited by any constraints an advertiser may so desire (wheter explicit or implicit). Now any quack can call themselves a scientist.

I have long thought about how I could complain to the ASA about their use of the word "Standards" in a misleading fashion. Any suggestions as to how such a complaint could be worded/made?

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Anonymous Coward

Definitions

Just write "smurf" 1000 times, since it can mean anything. Sorry, I meant "scientist."

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WTF?

Well in that case...

Isn't sciene really about understanding the unknown or attempting to? Surely, someone working towards a scientific objective should be called a scientist, regardless of how trivial the objective maybe, if there is a science element, then they are scientists. Where is it written that you have to have a particular qualification level to be called a scientist. The early scientists of a hundred years ago didn't have qualifications.

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"The early scientists of a hundred years ago didn't have qualifications"?

you mean like Einstein? yep, limited qualifications there....

Although some of the older ones may have had the odd-degree or two, there was this Newton guy a few years back who quite liked university, but he's a lot further than 100 years ago so probably doesn't fit into your categorisation..

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Anonymous Coward

no, there is more to it than that

as a previous post said; start by reading Popper if you want to know what counts as scientific method. It is not just finding things out, it is first predicting what you expect to find out, and admitting your understanding is wrong when those predictions fail.

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Hmm

Einstein - PhD

Rutherford - DSc

Bose - MSc

3 geniuses, two doctorates and a Masters, hardly unqualified. Underqualified by modern standards, certainly.

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They are scientists....

...if they follow a scientific method. Hypothesis, replicable experimentation, data collection, peer review, publication, critical analysis etc.

If they do not, then they are nothing more than quacks, charlatans and deluded fools.

Herbs do contain active chemicals, but it takes an actual scientist to work out what they are, how they work and how they can be improved/attenuated as required.

The ASA should not be in the position of determining what a "scientist" is, they should defer to an actual bone fide scientific authority. The ASA is wrong - can one appeal against this?

And do not start me on the abuse of the word "engineer". I have a degree in engineering, but I am not an engineer (I do not work in that field nor am I a member of the relevant recognised body). Your heating "engineer" is not a chuffin' "engineer". They are a technician. In the same way a nurse is not a medical doctor. There is nothing wrong with being a technician or a nurse, they both perform vital jobs; but they are NOT engineers or medical doctors.

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If they work on that definition

it's bye bye to all "climate scientists" isn't it.

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Re : The Big Yin

"They are scientist... ...if they follow a scientific method. Hypothesis, replicable experimentation, data collection, peer review, publication, critical analysis etc."

And that seems to blow the CRU out of the scientific area then.

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@beerandbiscuits

No.

Hyperbole does not a fact make.

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@ Loyal Commenter

Strangely enough, that's exactly my point.

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Stop

Downvote me all you like

Climate scientists are scientists like any others and have to uphold a high level of professionalism. Climate science deniers and heavily funded interest groups do not, neither to reactionary newspaper sellers. Just because it is fashionable to claim that there is some sort of corruption going on in the peer-review process surrounding climate science does not lead to it being true. I would suggest that rahter than persecuting the hard-working people who are trying to establish the scientific facts of the matter, time would be better spent pursuing those who sppear to have a strongly vested interest in spreading doubt about the process. I would suggest you begin by actually reading the scientific literature concerned, along with the detailed results of the various reviews into 'climategate' and then take a look at the people who essentially attacked the scientists involved by sending large numbers of spurious FOI requests all at once in order to stop their work. Take a look at who these people have links with; in some cases, these are 'institutes' who have also been very active in promoting such things as creationism and spreading FUD about the links between smoking and cancer for the big tobacco companies. Do you seriously believe that large oil companies are not beyond using this sort of tactic in the pursuit of profits?

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@Loyal Commenter...

Cllimate Change is indeed potentially science. And indeed its extraordinarly hard science, made even more difficult because there's no real way of testing a hypothesis. Which is why the simplistic bollocks coming out of these organisations is so very very irritating.

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Boffin

re : Loyal Commenter

So if the CRU practices sound scientific principles, they would freely allow access to their base data and algorithms, they would happily allow any peer review, knowing that bad reviews would be rubbished by the scientific community at large. They would also explain all of the assumptions that they made, knowing that these assumptions, if wrong, could destroy their argument.

All of this is called sound scientific principle.

And all of it has, at one time or another (or more than one time) been ignored or avoided by the CRU.

The people who published the CRU emails weren't the ones who wrote them. The CRU bosses ordered the destruction of data so that it couldn't be released under an FOI request. Does this type of activity lead us to respect the integrity and honesty of the 'scientists' involved? I would suggest that their only real activity in a lab should be sweeping it.

So let's have the CRU's full data and algorithms for everything. For all of their publicly funded work. for everything that they've done from the 'hockey stick' graph to the latest weather models. Let the scientific community evaluate these data without fear of being called 'deniers'.

Most of us aren't trying to claim corruption at the CRU or any CC establishment. We want to see proper RIGOROUS examination of the data first. While this is being denied, we won't trust them.

Climate change is far too important not to be treated correctly. If the CC lobby are wrong they will go down in history as the greatest liars the world has ever known. If they are correct, they may be known as the saviors of the world.

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Re: Loyal Commenter

I'm not listening to the loud-mouthed critics when judging the CRU, merely forming my own hypothesis based on the evidence, which in this case is the hostile and defensive behaviour of the so-called scientists at that particular lab at least.

For me the jury's still out although it is inexscusably naive to flat-out deny it either.

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Re: Wommit

Nice post, although one point few people discuss, CC advocates mostly, is the massive potential damamge caused if indeed they were found to be lying or otherwise lacking objective integrity.

If Phil Downs and Co. were proven to be indisputably wrong, both the CC deniers and the undecided public would use it as an excuse to entirely dismiss the mere theory of climate change, let alone any hard evidence that exists to prove it. That whole school of science would fold, forever discredited and derided, damage done by it's own proponents...think babies and bath water.

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But...

.. Science is based on a process. You come up with a theory and test to see if it's true or not. So what's wrong with this process that it doesn't work on herbal products?

That's what vexes me with your attitude. Science isn't the only way of looking at the world. It's not always the best way either. The closed mind of a scientific fundamentalist is just as bad as the closed mind of a religious fundamentalist. The hilarious "sky fairy" rhetoric that I read frequently on this site is a clear example of a narrow minded, unscientific attitude...

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FAIL

These people are not scientists

They are designers and technicians.

They mix up recipes of scented water based lotion for sale to the public.

They do not study what effects these lotions have other than to ensure they don't cause chemical burns.

This isn't science.

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Boffin

Re: But...

"Science isn't the only way of looking at the world. It's not always the best way either."

Please post details of a better way that actually helps people to understand the world, rather than claiming that stuff happens because some mysterious and surprisingly anthropomorphic entity has "decided" it should.

"The closed mind of a scientific fundamentalist is just as bad as the closed mind of a religious fundamentalist. The hilarious "sky fairy" rhetoric that I read frequently on this site is a clear example of a narrow minded, unscientific attitude..."

In what way? That people are not willing to merely accept that the "sky fairy" exists and dare to demand some kind of proof or, at the very least, some evidence? Science doesn't mean "I'm really straining hard thinking about this - or at least concentrating on the idea - because I really want to think about this, really hard", you know.

You actually have to be challenged by observations from reality and perform mental processes in order to form a testable understanding of the facts which, if flawed, will send you back over and over again until you get it as right as it needs to be for practical intents and purposes. If you can't stand that kind of rigour, by all means start dancing around with crystals and oils, but it won't be science.

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Anonymous Coward

It does work on herbal products

The scientific method does work on herbal products.

However the vast majority of scientific evidence shows very little evidence to support the theory behind homoeopathy and many (not all) other herbal treatments, yet nearly all teachers/students on homoeopathy courses and the like are biased towards it.

Lot's of the time results are quoted only with comparison to other herbal methods/remedies or compared to people who receive no treatment - these results are virtually useless in reality due to a poor investigative method - I presume they don't compare their results properly because to do so would reveal actually how insignificant the result they received was.

One 5 sigma detection that a drop of beer cures heart-disease means practically nothing if we already have millions showing that is has no effect. You either need a crazily significant result or you'd have to do millions of them for it to mean much. Neither of which most studies achieve.

So you can be a scientist that studies herbal products. Just most of the people that do are *NOT* scientists, because they claim (and think) that their results support their case more than they do.

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@sabroni

"The closed mind of a scientific fundamentalist"

It is not possible to be a scientist and be closed-minded (well, not possible to be a good one). Now I suggest you go away and think again, you clearly have no idea about which you speak.

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Headmaster

yes

'Scientific fundamentalist' is an oxymoron.

You either follow the scientific process or you are not a scientist.

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in what way?

in what way is scientific fundamentalism as bad as religious fundamentalism? In the way it refuses to engage with other people and the way it looks down on other people.

in what way is "sky fairy" rhetoric an example of narrow-mindedness? It's designed to belittle people's belief and to make something sound more ridiculous.

You talk about the scientific process and rigour but the reality of the scientific establishment often falls far short of this ideal. Try researching whether prayer is effective in helping ill people. Yes, you'll find a lot of investigations that show it's ineffectual but there's a similar number indicating significant effects. More here, with references to where the research was done: http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/medicalbag/4897/prayer_power.html

I don't dance round crystals. But good way to demonstrate the kind of closed-mindedness I'm talking about.

And man up and get an id you anonymous pussy...

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I didn't say you were any good at it

but this "it's impossible to be a scientific fundamentalist" is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. "I can't possibly be wrong, I have my process!"

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@sabroni mark 2

"in what way is scientific fundamentalism as bad as religious fundamentalism?"

I shall repeat - it is not possible to be a fundamentalist scientist. When presented with evidence (i,e. repeatable experiments and testable hypotheses etc) that show the current thinking is lacking/wrong, a [good] scientist *MUST* change their mind and follow the new hypothesis. This continues until some other scientist shows that the new theory is also flawed in some way and comes up with a better one.

"It's designed to belittle people's belief and to make something sound more ridiculous."

Yes, exactly. "Belief". It is not a testable hypothesis, it is not science, it is not valid. That's it. End of discussion. There is no more. It is actually that simple.

"Try researching whether prayer is effective in helping ill people. Yes, you'll find a lot of investigations that show it's ineffectual but there's a similar number indicating significant effects."

To the best of my knowledge, the number of trials showing "significant effect" were not proper double-blinds, and small in number. If you have 10,000 instances of something telling you "X=1", one instance saying "X=2" does not make "X=2"! It's a statistical aberration and it is something scientists have to be careful about. Prayer might make people feel better (which may have beneficial effects, look-up "placebo") but that's it. Oh, by the way, the Fortean Times is not exactly a reputable journal.

"And man up and get an id you anonymous pussy..."

Oh, so "sabroni" is you real name is it? or at least your Open ID? Thought not. And cease with the ad hominems. If the argument is solid, then the argument is solid; no matter who or what comes up with it.

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Anonymous Coward

@ But..

".. Science is based on a process. You come up with a theory and test to see if it's true or not. So what's wrong with this process that it doesn't work on herbal products?"

It does work on herbal products. The problem is that homeopaths have decided that this method can be abandoned sometimes when it suits them, where 'when it suits them' = 'when it's homeopathy'. This is because all clinical trials of homeopathy have show it to be a load of old snake-oil and they are scared they will lose their jobs / reputations / livelihoods.

"That's what vexes me with your attitude. Science isn't the only way of looking at the world. It's not always the best way either."

It's the best way when you're talking about the interactions of chemicals.

"The closed mind of a scientific fundamentalist is just as bad as the closed mind of a religious fundamentalist."

Firstly the term 'scientific fundamentalist' doesn't mean anything because the term 'fundamentalist' refers to strict adherence to specific set of /theological/ doctrines. The work of scientists is testing scientific theory, not theological asssertion. I suppose you could try and appropriate the term by analogy, but the thing is that good scientists don't maintain strict adherence to a set of doctrines, so much as strict adherence to a set of testable (and tested) hypotheses.

While I agree that a closed mind can be a bad thing I'm not entirely sure why you think a closed mind is always a bad thing. I, for example, have a closed mind to jumping off cliffs without adequate protective gear. This particular closed-minded attitude has preserved my life so far.

"The hilarious "sky fairy" rhetoric that I read frequently on this site is a clear example of a narrow minded, unscientific attitude..."

Tell me one way to scientifically test whether or not there is a God that doesn't involve appeal to a holy book or a tradition of people saying "There is a God" and I'll go test it.

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refuses to engage?

>>refuses to engage with other people

Sometimes you just have to give up on lost causes.

>>belittle people's belief and to make something sound more ridiculous.

MORE rediculous? I don't really see how.

>>prayer is effective in helping ill people.

So is sea air or a trip to the mountains. Personally I prefer single malt.

I have heard windex also works.

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@sabroni mark 3

"I can't possibly be wrong, I have my process!""

Ah ha! Now we get to the crux of your lack of understanding. It *is* possible to be wrong. That is the whole bloody point of the scientific process! The idea is to prove current ideas wrong so we can get new and better ones. And that goodness for that!

Did you know Charles Darwin was wrong? Newton was wrong? Galileo was wrong? And so on. All wrong. And by "wrong" I mean that some bright spark found an area where their ideas did not quite match the experimental/empirical evidence and came up with a better one (Neo-Darwinism, Relativity and so forth).

The current thinking requires all previous though to (in some way) be wrong. And our current thinking is also wrong (we just haven't quite figured out where yet). Wrong is good.

And if a scientist wants to hold on to ideas that are known to be wrong, what do we call them? Unemployed.

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prayer is effective at healing people

only in that it keeps the numpties away from the patient while they get better on their own.

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Re: in what way?

"in what way is scientific fundamentalism as bad as religious fundamentalism? In the way it refuses to engage with other people and the way it looks down on other people."

If you are referring to people wanting to pursue only scientific approaches as a means to understanding the natural world as "scientific fundamentalism", then the only way it "refuses to engage with" and "looks down on" people is not to be drawn into "you just have to believe" nonsense which does nothing to further understanding of anything.

"in what way is "sky fairy" rhetoric an example of narrow-mindedness? It's designed to belittle people's belief and to make something sound more ridiculous."

I personally wouldn't use the term myself, but many practitioners of all major religions will admit that some parts of their religion's set of beliefs are ridiculous anyway, mostly because some bloke will have written them down a few hundred to a few thousand years ago.

"Try researching whether prayer is effective in helping ill people. Yes, you'll find a lot of investigations that show it's ineffectual but there's a similar number indicating significant effects."

And which ones do you believe? It's like the lottery winner getting all the attention in the press and the reader thinking that playing the lottery is a "dead cert" because he's never heard about anyone losing the lottery.

"I don't dance round crystals. But good way to demonstrate the kind of closed-mindedness I'm talking about."

Hey, all I'm saying is that if you think that practices based on nothing more than a belief in their effectiveness without any observable basis for that supposed effectiveness give results, by all means indulge in them, but they aren't science.

"And man up and get an id you anonymous pussy..."

I have "an id" but don't see why I have to use it so that you can respond out of instinct to my every message with more facile protests about how science isn't everything and how scientists are somehow the bad guys for not parking a dollop of religious dogma alongside their hard-won knowledge of how the universe actually functions.

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Stop

so no one followed my link

to the scientific research into the efficacy of prayer? here it is again:

http://www.forteantimes.com/strangedays/medicalbag/4897/prayer_power.html

read it. It's about scientific research. I don't have a problem with science. I'm aware of the wonderful stuff that science enables.

But intolerance is intolerance. You're not better than me because you have a method. You're not better than me because you follow the one true way of science. Read that prayer article, maybe follow it up and check out the papers it mentions, have a think. Scientists are supposed to be good at that.

And if you have believe in what you're typing, put your name to it!

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@I didn't say you were any good at it

> but this "it's impossible to be a scientific fundamentalist" is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. "I can't possibly be wrong, I have my process!"

Pointing out that "scientific fundamentalist" is a tautology is not the same thing as claiming infallibility.

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@ AC 13:47

"if flawed, will send you back over and over again until you get it as right as it needs to be for practical intents and purposes"

You'd have had a fairly good argument until that statement, that's not science either it's just psychology or any other trick science...my theory is correct because you can't prove me wrong.

That in fact is the same specious reasoning I could use to defend the existence of any diety of duboius existential being.

Shame the loudest critics fall widest of the mark eh

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@sabroni mark 4

"You're not better than me because you have a method."

As a person? No. A scientist is just as fallible as any other primate. But the hypotheses that fall out of applying the scientific method rigorously *are* better than those achieve by other means (e.g. appeal to authority/faith).

---

As to your link. Well, where shall we begin? How about there (original paper)

Here's the original paper: http://journals.lww.com/smajournalonline/Fulltext/2010/09000/Study_of_the_Therapeutic_Effects_of_Proximal.5.aspx

There was NO CONTROL group! Why is that important? Well it would allow people to see if there was some other, unknown factor at play. Maybe the farm up river stopped dumping crap into the drinking water - who knows? Certainly not the study as they have no control group.

It was NOT A DOUBLE-BLIND. This is also vital. Go read about the "placebo effect", it is more powerful than you realise. Also read up on "selection bias".

There were also only 24 subjects and they were self-selected. My gast is now so flabbered I hardly know what to do. Maybe these 24 were getting better already? This is why selection needs to be random (and with controls, and double-blinded).

I need go no further. It fails the scientific process big-time, it is not science IMHO (the Southern Medial Journal has a...err...certain reputation). I do not agree with the conclusions. I will agree that "something happened" but there is no way to determine from this report what that "something" was. "Noodley appendages" come to mind.

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"But intolerance is intolerance."

Why is intolerance bad?

Should I tolerate a fool? Should I tolerate crime? Should I tolerate violence against my person? Should tolerate the undermining of our education system and ability to think critically? The answer is "No", I should not."

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"And if you have believe in what you're typing, put your name to it!"

I do not require belief, I have the evidence of proof.

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@sabroni

"so no one followed my link"

Contributors to the Fortean Times.

Nigel Watson (Chairman of the Scunthorpe UFO Research Society 'SUFORS')

Mary Caine who wrote about the The Glastonbury Zodiac: A map of the stars on a gigantic scale, formed by features in the landscape.

I think that any article in the Fortean Times has to be taken as seriously as the above.

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