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back to article Telly psychics fail to foresee £12k fine for peddling nonsense

Psychic TV has been fined £12,500 for failing to remind viewers that it’s all nonsense, while interactive quiz channel The Big Deal got stung with a 10 grand fine for advertising the service - something neither of them saw coming. The broadcast breached Ofcom's latest guidance for flimflam artists: that they must regularly …

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Anonymous Coward

How about homeopathic 'remedies' next?

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Boffin

Cure

I have placed a little bit of the internet between the two arrows below. Because it is such a small bit, diluted by all the rest it will have a powerful effect to cure the internet of all ills.

==> <==

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Devil

How about anything unsupported by material evidence? Let's see the various $deity hoards kick up a fuss about that, they're always good for a chuckle.

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Anonymous Coward

Hey that's not true, I have evidence that a friend of mine was cured of cancer thanks to homoeopathic remedies. Yeah, I know the sceptics amongst you will think it was the course of chemotherapy but I think that without the remedy his days would of been numbered. It was definitely the water, and the angels!

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Big Brother

After all that, how about something similar for BBC Parliament?

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Paris Hilton

Does this mean that they're going to start fining christian TV / islam TV / <insert religion> TV?

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arent chiropractors classed as homeopaths? The chiropractor my insurance company let me use did wonders for my knackered rib cage after my motorbike accident. I dont go with all the stones and remote healing shite but crunching bones back into place worked for me.

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> arent chiropractors classed as homeopaths?

No.

Massage, even if not practised by a chiropractor, is demonstrably good for you.

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Stop

It's the Simon Singh case you're thinking of...

'Briefly, Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association over an article in the Guardian in which he criticised chiropractors for claiming they can treat children's colic, sleeping and feeding problems, ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, by manipulation of the spine. He said these interventions were "bogus", with "not a jot of evidence".'

( from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/17/bad-science-chiropractors )

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Re: How about homeopathic 'remedies' next?

That stuff is dangerous!

Well... it has an LD50 anyway.

Water Intoxication

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Re: How about homeopathic 'remedies' next?

Yeah, it would have been funnier if you went with:

"The main ingredient of homeopathic medicine is 'activated' dihydrogen monoxide! OMG,Think of the childern!"

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Re: Cure

Argh... that hyperpowerful Javascript is using up all my processor cycles!

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You're right: there is no clinical benefit from homeopathy.

However, people become more healthy from taking it. It's the placebo effect - replicated in numerous double-blind, peer-reviewed trials.

I agree people need to be told the truth, but surely the whole truth.

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Re: j1mb0b

Sure, it's the placebo effect.

So why dress it up as anything else?

Allow me to answer my own question: Because there's good money to be made deceiving people.

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Happy

Re: j1mb0b

Not defending homeopathic gobbledygook, but if you tell people something is a placebo it won't work... The placebo effect only works if the subject believes what's printed on the tin.

There's a strong argument that the placebo effect is actually caused by people making lifestyle changes which are responsible for the improvement. However, those changes are either not noticed or unconsciously ignored by the subject and/or near impossible to document.

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Re: j1mb0b

Further: Expensive placebos work better than cheap placebos.

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Re: j1mb0b

See also "regression to mean" which is that people take <treatment> at their lowest point, and get better. They would have done anyway, but correlate the "treatment" with health improvement.

There is an ethical issue with placebo prescription. As in, you can't knowingly prescribe something that has no discernible clinical effect.

My biggest gripes are that my taxes fund the NHS to waste cash on this nonsense, and that the snake oil purveyors exploit desperate and vulnerable people who will try "anything" to help them with their suffering.

Oh, a good article on acupuncture here - http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/acupuncture-doesnt-work/ in short, it's pretty much rubbish too.

As for psychics, if they could really tell the future, why not just invest in the stock market, or live off gambling winnings rather than exploiting the gullible on TV?

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Re: Cure

But there is actually a character there!

Homoeopathy doesn't even require a trace to be present!

==><==

The logarithmic fail:

1 part dilutant to 100 parts water = 1C dilution

Repeat x2 = 2C dilution 1:10000

Repeat x3 = 3C dilution 1:1000000

...

12C dilution = Pinch of salt in the North & South Atlantic Oceans

...

40C dilution = 1 Molecule in the observable universe.

...

200C = Homoeopathic cure for flu

Not understanding maths, chemistry, or medicine is a prerequisite for believing in homoeopathy (not to be confused with herbal remedies)

The good news is that I've been treating all homoeopaths to a regular 12C* potentisation of my piss for the last 30 odd years. (*based on all the water in the world)

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@ j1mb0b

No, homeopathy doesn't make you healthier. You might convince yourself that you feel better, but it does bloody zip for the actual disease.

That's a homeopathic beer, diluted 1:100000 to cure your hangover.

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Happy

Re: j1mb0b

"The placebo effect only works if the subject believes what's printed on the tin."

Nope. Placebo (and nocebo) effects still work even when you are told that you are taking something that has no effect. It's considered about the only acceptable way to give people placebo's on the NHS (since Maggie changed the rules on lying to patients for their own good).

You may be confusing it with double blind trials, where placebo and active medicines are mixed, but the patient and doctor don't know as to avoid biasing the results.

Regression to the mean also covers a lot of what happens in healing. In fact a great deal of doctoring is either fixing what is causing the balance in homeostasis (such as an infection, parasite etc) or assessing that no intervention is needed as the bodies system will restore themselves. Hence why most of the time you can be "cured" by resting, drinking lots of water and eating some veggies. To simplify a little, if you're sick, you either will get better anyway (regression to mean), or will die. The second case requires an intervention, the first gets rest and palliative care.

Quite a lot of "medicine" from the GP is not really anything of the sort. Since a lot of what is being medically treated really needs some rest, a lot of prescriptions or advice are just about treating symptoms or comfort. It appears unfashionable for a doctor to admit that there isn't a magic pill, just the same old "eat right, exercise, get more sleep" that gets ignored until it's dressed up as a diet and lifestyle choice that can be sold to suckers.

Coming from a medical family it's very interesting to see how others treat doctors advice like it was from a priest. No arguing, no questioning, no explanations of how a particular medicine is supposed to affect you. Oh, and the idea that "western" doctors are even consistent with their treatments is a laugh. Doctors are human, it is impossible for a single person to keep up to date with the current best practices for all treatments. Hell, even specialists can't keep up with just their own area. So it's good to know when a doc has actual evidence for your diagnosis, or is just trying to push you out the door.

It should also be noted that the doctors I'm related to are highly resistant to having any surgery done on them (unless it's directly life saving), resistant to "unnecessary" treatments (both have cancerous prostates, both are not treating them) and avoid taking any medication unless forced to. The pharmacologist argues with her GP whenever she gets prescriptions, since she actually knows what effects a drug will have, and so wants a treatment, not a symptom depressant. Heh, and her GP tried to get her to change her eczema cream to a non steroid one, which got firmly rebuffed. As she did her masters on eczema treatments.

Anyway, went on a bit long here.

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Joke

They already fined them...

but they divided the fine by a thousand billion to make it more effective.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: j1mb0b

"The placebo effect only works if the subject believes what's printed on the tin"

Wouldn't that make it the Ronseal effect?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ronseal Effect

No... the Ronseal Effect would, of course, be when it actually does exactly what it says on the tin.

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@Don Jefe Re: j1mb0b

> if you tell people something is a placebo it won't work

Actually the placebo effect still works even if you know it's a placebo. So, no need to wrap it up in homeopathic profiteering.

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However, people become more healthy from taking it. It's the placebo effect - replicated in numerous double-blind, peer-reviewed trials.

Not to defend the nonsense, but wouldn't that more or less validate the claims of certain types of homeopathic providers that their methods are fueled by belief?

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Boffin

@J1mb0b

Whilst there is no doubt that Placebo can have a positive effect with certain ailments (pshycological ills). There is NO doubt that placebo does NOT treat Aids/HIV or Prevent Maleria. Yet homoeopathy is currently being used to treat Aids Patents in Kenya, in lieu of proper antiretroviral medication and for others, to prevent Maleria. This is why Homoeopathy is akin to the work of Satan. It is preventing a cure that science already has.. Homoeopathy is one of the vilest deceptions that still exist in our society. Pure Snake Oil.

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WTF?

I can't believe they have the front to make claims about the Milly Dowler case.

Just for that they should have to display a banner stating 'What we are saying is nonsense' at all times at the top of the screen.

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Millie case

Absolutely standard stuff, sadly. Literally by the book.

http://www.thecoldreadingbook.com

Ian Rowland wrote pretty much the authoritative text on cold reading and pseudo psychics, he's not at all a fan of the psychics industry so this book is largely to help magicians to perform psychic shows/debunking.

Psychics attaching themselves to investigations is extremely common, police departments get dozens or hundreds of time wasting psychics mailing in each time, getting messages with no real value but using the same chutzpah the psychics will claim a 'hit' no matter what. At the very least they can claim to have been helping the police (who really neither need nor want their help imposing on them)

Charlatans. Can't bear them and their greasy insincerity.

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Mushroom

Re: "Just for that they should have to display a banner..."

Sorry, but I disagree.

For that, they should be thrown in jail. One year for each mention.

And if they start doing it again when they get out, then back into the slammer they go. This time, with Bubba. Maybe then they'll learn that you don't hijack someone's death to falsely make you look good.

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Would it have been better for the mail...

... to question her grasp on reality?

Because that seems the alternative to fraud here.

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

They should field a stage magician who knows how to use the same techniques of reading the audience. Could be highly entertaining to see the tables turned!

Re the advertising verdict, I take it this particular Psychic TV is nothing to do with Genesis P Orridge. I once saw them blown off the stage by Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. Now that WAS magick!

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

Houdini used to takje great delight in exposing "psychics"

Of course the fun part is that should someone prove that the psychic in question has been using offstage help she'll have to go to court again and won't be such a happy bunny. Needless to say her stageshows will be getting extra special attention for the forseeable future.

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

So does Derren Brown, although these days he's become a bit too well known to do it "properly" (suffering from Ali G syndrome).

And then of course there's also longer-standing seekers of the real truth, like James Randi. Also a former magician, sits quite nicely between Brown and Houdini.

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

Yes I saw one of his 'spiritualist' things on the telly a few years back. He read up on cold reading and applied to it to awesome effect, to do exactly what the psychics were doing and he did it very well.

Unfortunately I've seen people take away from that that he is a liar and he was only able to do the amazing cold reading because he has huge psychic powers that he's not telling us about.

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

Only as I understand it, Randi has been caught out as a fraudster himself so he's hardly a 'long standing seeker of truth'. Just another huckster parading as one.

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

"Only as I understand it, Randi has been caught out as a fraudster himself so he's hardly a 'long standing seeker of truth'."

Got a reference for that? Would be interested to read it.

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Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

Do you mean he's not really got magic powers?

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Anonymous Coward

@Anton

Proof please or shut the *uck up.

Uselessly calling someone a huckster is just muck spreading without a reference, and just shows you up as a moron.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

I like Derren Brown's act a lot. Also Penn and Teller. The stage personas can be a little grating, but they deliver on "proper" magic tricks, in that you know what's going on and they still manage to trick and delight you. Brown even shows you stuff you can do. It's all about tone and getting people to play along a bit. Hand people a water bottle and ask for their wallet/phone/watch and they'll give it to you lol.

If Penn and Teller are normally not your cup of tea I urge you to check out them doing the cup and balls trick. They do it with clear cups, and show you where all the extra balls start off, and it's still amazing :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Would it have been better for the mail...

... to question her grasp on reality?

Naaahh.......

Dangerous ground for the Mail.

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Meh

They are not alone in promoting nonsense

"Psychic TV has been fined £12,500 for failing to remind viewers that it’s all nonsense"

I can think of several organisations that spout just as much nonsense if not more, many of them are registered as charities. They have big buildings with pointy tops in most if not all towns and cities throughout the UK.

Accepting that many of them actually do good work for the community, they should still be bound by law not to promote their own brand of superstition as fact.

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Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

"Accepting that many of them actually do good work for the community, they should still be bound by law not to promote their own brand of superstition as fact."

The pointy-hat wearers in the Lords would veto any such law. You'd have to separate Church & State first (as they should be)

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Happy

Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

You must also include those with domed buildings and any other place of talking 'nonsense'. Afterall you can't say one is 'fake' if the others are not also' fake', when all say pretty much the same thing.

I do have to say that kudos to the 'Reg for not in any way sitting on the fence with this article.

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Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

"The pointy-hat wearers in the Lords would veto any such law. You'd have to separate Church & State first (as they should be)"

I agree with you, but look how well that separation has gone down in America! It's far worse than here!

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Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

They have seperation in law, but not in practice. We have seperation (mostly) in practice, but not in law.

Really it comes down to democracy. When the population is intensely religious then politicians pandering to them, promising to protect the religion and spouting off about their faith will get elected - regardless of what the law has to say on the matter. While if the population is less religious, and regards what religion they have as a purely private affair (as most of the UK does), politicians attempting the same stunt will be laughed out of office. A democracy reflects the views of the constituents. That's the idea. Even if those views are in conflict with the law - though that situation, if persisting long enough, will self-correct as the law is revised.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

"A democracy reflects the views of the constituents. That's the idea. Even if those views are in conflict with the law - though that situation, if persisting long enough, will self-correct as the law is revised."

Unfortunately that only works if the voting system gives equal weight to everyone's vote at all stages.

The English "first past the post" system means someone can be elected as an MP with a minority of all votes cast locally. A party can have a working majority in Parliament with a minor percentage of total votes cast. The Government Executive, or even the Prime Minister alone, can ride roughshod over their Party's MPs by use of patronage and forced election/re-selection threats. Media, Unions, and Big Business, Organised Religions, and other lobby groups - all have non-democratic disproportionate influence on policies.

Elections hinge on swings in the marginal seats - where you just have to convince enough swing voters that you will pursue the policies of their self-interest. If you are in a "safe" seat - or your favoured party doesn't field a candidate - then you don't really have a vote.

The people who get selected to represent the major parties locally can all be green monsters from Mars - and that is the only choice the electors get. The parties' candidates' selection processes often have a list imposed on them by Party powers at some level of the hierarchy.

It annoys me intensely that my local MP votes on many issues according to the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy.

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FAIL

Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

Accepting that many of them actually do good work for the community, they should still be bound by law not to promote their own brand of superstition as fact.

Who's uncritical enough to not see this as breaking freedom of speech? Does it also apply to Dawkins?

Getting pretty bored of the 95% of unthinking atheist comments that dogmatically repeat the same tired old mantras on forums. There are good atheist arguments. When you say stuff like that, it pretty much guarantees you weren't persuaded by them, but instead just read some book that straw-manned all religions together, and made you feel superior for being atheist.

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Re: Robert Grant - They are not alone in promoting nonsense

Being forced to go to Sunday school, being told that if I didn't capitulate to the rules of a religious system that fed me stories similar to those of the brothers Grimm. And the promise of eternal damnation if I didn't acquiesce was almost enough to sway me from my indoctrination. Even as a child I could see there was something wrong with this. Discovering that almost every religion on the planet prays to a different god convinced me that god is indeed a product of human imagination.

I don't need to read any book to see the obvious, just a critical mind that only accepts reasonable and verifiable explanations.

There are thousands of gods all requiring different behaviours from their followers.

There is only one truth, it is called reality.

Would the words of an advertiser selling product by providing unverifiable information about that product and threatening the end user with eternal damnation if they didn't buy it be considered free speech?

Why should religion be any different?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They are not alone in promoting nonsense

@AC 22:14 From one AC to another - I've been arguing this very same point for donkey's years. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

But despite the persuasive logic of the observation (imo), the status quo remains. I thought that perhaps fraudulent MPs, rogue bankers and a screwed economy may have tipped the balance, but alas not.

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Re: Robert Grant - They are not alone in promoting nonsense

What if religion and the god(s) are actually separate and that the religions that grew up around them are completely man made constructs designed to proliferate ideas that will ensure the survival of the people that follow that religion in the setting that the religion was born in. The reason that the god(s)/spirits are involved in that religion is because it's very hard to change the way that people are behaving even if it is long term destructive when they don't have the education to understand what you're trying to tell them, and you can't even tell them causes.

At that point there are thousands of religions all using God as the man with the club that require different behaviours from their followers. It also explains the inconsistencies in the god(s) as the religion evolves over time.

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