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Praise of Halloween Science

Martin Walker has made the following comments in his book Dirty Medicine: The Handbook (London: Slingshot Publications, 2011):


Not long after Ernst and Singh's propaganda book Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial came out in 2008, William Alderson, a founding trustee of H:MC21, a homeopathy defence group, took five months to write a careful appraisal of the shoddy science and sparse reasoning in the book. The resultant text, Halloween Science, is exceptional and brilliantly titled. It can be downloaded free; it turns up nineteen major faults in the Ernst and Singh book, and concludes that Trick or Treatment? has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine.


"Ernst and Singh have failed to provide a secure theoretical or evidential base for their argument, and have used analytical tools inadequate (in this context) for achieving objective and reliable conclusions. The result of these weaknesses is that their argument relies heavily on preconceptions, variable definitions and opinion, a problem exacerbated by a tendency to confirmation bias on the authors’ part. As a result, Trick or Treatment? has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine."


I have only one slight criticism of Alderson's book – to my mind, he takes Ernst and Singh a little too seriously. After all, neither of them knows diddly-squat about homeopathy, or much else for that matter, they're just a couple of corporate clowns.


This is undoubtedly how writing should be used, as a weapon, and we should prepare ourselves to write quick rebuttals of such books as Singh and Ernst's. I have tried to concentrate in my writing about corporate propaganda on conflict of interests. As Alderson clearly believes we shouldn't let propaganda slip into the public domain without careful rebuttal ...


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