Evidence Matters

because science reporting and decision-making should be evidence-based

The Telegraph runs uncritical articles discussing homoeopathy and unconventional theories about climate change

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The Telegraph runs a lot of excellent articles. However, it is unfortunate that today they ran two that fell below their usual standards.

An article by Frances Glover on Annabel Croft’s use of homoeopathy makes significant errors. The article describes homoeopathy as

a form of complementary treatment based on the premise that tiny quantities of certain substances can stimulate the body’s natural forces of recovery

However, homoeopathic remedies are usually diluted to the extent where they contain no molecules of the ‘active’ substance. They therefore do not contain any of the ‘active’ substance.

The article goes on to quote Croft speaking positively about how the homoeopath she consulted about her ovarian cyst

didn’t perform a physical examination. Instead, she asked me about my background, my personality, my emotions, what made me stressed – even my parents’ health. She constructed a picture of me and gave me a remedy made up exactly to treat my left ovary.

This is worrying. As the Telegraph article makes clear, such cysts can occasionally be serious. Although they are common, overian cysts should be assessed for correct diagnosis and monitored appropriately (there is a very
small risk that a cyst may be or may become cancerous). We would emphasise that it is important to get any such conditions assessed – and, where appropriate, treated – by a competent medical professional.

Oddly, the article emphasises an extremely un-holistic, pill-focussed approach. For example, homoeopathic remedies for severe food poisoning and for overdoing the sun are discussed. There is, however, no mention of other useful approaches in these conditions: for example, the importance of drinking plenty of fluids and, where appropriate in the case of food poisoning, replacing lost salts and sugar with oral rehydration treatments.

The Telegraph also include Chris Irvine’s unfortunate article on a forthcoming book by Stanley Feldman and Vincent Marks. The article attributes a number of surprising claims to Feldman and Marks, and uncritically discusses them. The article reports the claims that, for example:

The Sun is behind Global Warming…The Gulf Stream is not under threat…Global warming might be good for us.

We do not know how effectively these claims are justified in the forthcoming book (or even if they are accurately reported in the Telegraph): the book is not yet out. However, these are clearly minority positions in the scientific community, and it is a shame that Irvine’s article did not make this clear.

Holfordwatch has previously written about problematic material in the Telegraph. If we cannot trust the Telegraph’s science and health coverage to maintain a good standard, can we assume that its articles on other areas are more reliable?

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Written by jonhw

June 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm

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