By Keir Liddle
David Tredinnick recently gave an interview to Research Fortnight Today in which he sets out his support for alternative and complementary medicine and his intent to lobby for them on the Science and Technology committee at Westminster. He also suggested that the attacks he receives for supporting nonsense are not because he is supporting nonsense but because scientists with “vested interests” are afraid of what he has to say.
David Tredinnick claims he joined the committee because he was interested in “pushing the boundaries” of science and not simply maintaining the status quo and see’s his election as a wake up call to those in the scientific community who don’t support “alternatives”. Lets think about that for a second: Does anyone in or out of the science community know a scientist who isn’t interested in “pushing the boundaries”? Science is all about pushing the boundaries, it’s specifically designed to do so and to think otherwise is to display a dangerous ignorance and misapprehension of what science is. It’s nothing short of a straw man.
Why does Tredinnick think this? Put plainly because he supports unscientific, unproven or disproved methods and modalities of alternative health from Homeopathy to acupunture to Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. Worse he believes these treatments have been proved to work or at least he “thinks” they have been proven to work:
“I think there are some good, double-blind placebo-controlled trials that have been conducted by the Integrated Healthcare Hospital, formerly the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.”
Perhaps as homework David could go away and actually read some research on the efficacy on homeopathy. It shouldn’t take him too long to read all of the robust and replicable research that supports homeopathy. Indeed it should take him exactly no time at all. As it doesn’t exist. Here is a link to a blog by Edzard Ernst detailing the latest double blind RCT to reveal homeopathys worthlessness to get him started.
But then again rather than find out whether homeopathy works or doesn’t (SPOILER DAVID: It doesn’t) Tredinnick believes research funding and researchers time would be better spent on discovering just why homeopathy is so darned popular?
In the past, the committee has published quite negative views of, for example, homeopathic medicine. Its report did not look at the treatments around the world. It was completely out of line with what’s happening in Europe. For example, in France homeopathic medicine is used by 80 per cent of pregnant women and it’s widely used in India and across the world. I think it would be more helpful if the scientific community tried to work out why homeopathy is so popular.
Ah yes gentle reader Tredinnick did just use the Argumentum Ad Populum: lots of people use it therefore it must work. I’d rather scientists were funded to look into why Coldplays – Clocks was the most popular song on six music if I’m honest.
Tredinnick also wonders in the interview why Traditional Chinese Medicine isn’t used more often in the NHS. To which the answer is again satisfyingly short: IT’S BECAUSE IT DOESN’T WORK DAVID. Not only that but one wonders what Tredinnicks views on the threat TCM poses to all number of plant and animal species around the world? Would it be ethical to use it more widely in the NHS if it meant we would be sentencing a number of endangered plant and animal species to death?
The answer to this is poser is again simple. No it would not be ethical because we know the vast majority of TCM does not work.
To see such nonsense spouted by one of the few MPs interested enough to get themselves elected to the Science and Technology select committee should simply be embarrassing for Britain. But it is truly an affront to our scientists, doctors and researchers who have just been shown how seriously the Government takes science and research.
It is an affront to those who believe that science should be about facts and evidence as opposed to hearsay and wishful thinking. It is an affront to anyone who wants to ensure patients receive the best quality evidence based care they can from our health service. It is an affront to anyone who wants sense about science.
Tredinnick can feel free to dismiss this criticism as “fear” of his position and in a sense he is right.
I fear a world in which patients can be subjected to any old nonsense on the say so of Gurus and frauds rather than evidence and data.
I fear a world in which science is treated as a matter of opinion and not fact.
I fear what would happen to British science and medicine if Tredinnicks opinions held sway and worry about the untold harms that could be done to NHS patients in the name of CAM.
But I don’t fear David. I just think he is a very, very silly man.
If you doubt that you can find more info on Tredinnick on the Skeptical Voter Wiki and I will leave you with a titbit from them:
David Tredinnick MP is perhaps the worst example of scientific illiteracy in government. His questions in parliament have promoted homeopathy, radionics (healing via a kind of psychic remote control) and astrology. He has been involved in campaigns to promote herbalism. He has been described by some MPs as the “Right Hon. Member for Holland and Barrett”.