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Skeptics in the Pub: Andy Lewis “The Persistence of Delusion”

Posted on : Jan-07-2011 | By : maggie | In : Event, Skeptics in the Pub

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Join us Monday, Jan. 10th at our usual location and time: 7PM at Tommy Doyle’s in Harvard Square for Andy Lewis, “The Persistence of Delusion: How themes around alt med persists across the centuries”. (Facebook Event Link)

Andy Lewis continues in our long tradition of funny brits talking about serious stuff. You may know Andy as the creator of the Quakometer and he’s also runs the Oxford Skeptics in the Pub. You may have also heard him mentioned if you attended one of the two “lost episodes” of Boston Skeptics in the Pub featuring Simon Perry.

A great description shamelessly stolen from the Swansea skeptics’ site (sorry, mates).

The late eighteenth century was a very creative time for inventing new forms of quackery and many became quite wealthy on the back of their invention. Of these creations, it is perhaps only homeopathy that has survived virtually unchanged into the 21st century. The majority of alternative medicines available today have been invented and developed within living memory, despite claims of their origins in antiquity.

What makes an alternative medicine successful? Why should homeopathy survive when the very popular tractors of Perkins have long since been forgotten? Could you have predicted this in 1800? Today, we have a new industry of quack devices protecting us from mobile phones. Should you invest in such enterprises?

In this talk, Andy will look at the factors that make pseudo-medicines thrive and why consumers and practitioners latch onto them. Importantly, we shall explore the implications of these views for regulation and protecting the public from delusional or fraudulent claims.

Don’t miss it!


* – The lost episodes: Two events which could not be filmed as we ended up in the lower bar instead of our usual upstairs setting for Simon Perry’s and Kemball Atwood’s talk.

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Comments (2)

A bunch of us were sitting around afterwards trying to invent an alt-med scam and get rich (I think buying yachts was mentioned…) A number of ideas, maybe something based on ancient Mayan wisdom to prevent people from dying next year, etc.

Nothing really struck me as cutting edge enough, though. I was just listening on the bus home to an old SGU podcast about a Swiss guy who is pushing flying saucers for which the evidence is photos of a saucer clearly hanging from a tree by a string, and it hit me.

Has there ever been an alt-med based on string theory? Much better than quantum energy fields, you can prove anything with string theory, and no one can say you’re wrong!

Yeah, I’m kind of surprised there’s not more string theory hokum out there. I wonder if it’s the opaqueness of the subject or just that ‘quantum [anything]’ is just a better attention catching go-to phrase for duping people.

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