Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Richard Dawkins - MacBook Pro User

I don't watch much TV but having watched "Enemies of Reason" last night, it would be easy to say that Dawkins must be correct because of his excellent choice of laptop. However, the programme worried me for a number of reasons.

I do not share Dawkin's belief that anybody who believes in a divine being is a deluded fool however the sheer inanity of some of the belief systems being demonstrated yesterday, and the cloaking of it in pseudo-scientific drivel was breath-taking. The particular bit where the woman was explaining, to one of the world's most prominent geneticists and the "Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science" at Oxford University, not just that some DNA was not composed of a double helix, but that she was going to covert his DNA into this Atlantean variant by waving her hands a bit nearly had me in tears. Mrs S-E refused to watch any further.

The use of tax payer £ to fund unproven treatments (homoeopathy) is bad, on the grounds that any unnecessary state activity is less efficient than the same being provided privately (and anything pointless is almost, by definition) unnecessary but taking money from the seriously sick and despairing I find morally vile, even if it hurts me less. It isn't as if the Great Clunking Fist (or his Darling) are going to give me my 50-odd p back if the grants to the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital were withdrawn.

As a final point - I think Dawkins either was not comfortable with, or did not have the time to explore, the difference between the placebo and Hawthorne effects. To briefly summarise - with the placebo effect, you are given a null-impact medication and get better because you believe it will do you good. With the Hawthorne effect, you would get better because being given time, listened to and treated with (for want of a better word) respect, not always possible in the modern conveyor-belt NHS, you actually feel involved with your treatment and more positive about it (even if it doesn't actually do anything). I think that much of the improvements in complementary / alternative / sodding-crazy medicine are down to the latter as much as the former.

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