Archive for November 17th, 2007

At the risk of repeating myself: more on AltMed journals

November 17, 2007

The day after I put up the rambling post on AltMed journals, Badscience Guru Ben Goldacre’s definitive five-star demolition of homeopathy ran over several pages of The Guardian and on the Badscience blog.

The resulting comments thread at spawned the occasional defender of homeopathy, but what caught my eye was the one, calling him/herself Budicius, who wrote as follows:

“I get bored to tears with the same old rigmarole from sceptics. To say that Homoeopathy is nothing but placebo is an uneducated and ludicrous comment… …Look at at the article – “Efficacy of the potentized Drug, Carcinosin 200 fed Alone and in combination with another drug – Chelidonium 200, in Amelioration of p-Dimethylaminoazobenzene- induced Hepatocarcinogenisis in Mice”. These Homoeopathic drugs have been diluted two hundred fold and are successful in the treatment of and inhibition of Hepatic carcinogens.”

– The abstract of the paper, which appeared in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (henceforth “JACM”) is on Pubmed here.

And a little later:

“I found another one with favourable results. “Amelioration of Carcinogenesis Induced Toxicity in Mice by Administration of a potentized Homoeopathic drug, Natrum Sulphuricum 200″ This one is at”

– this study, which is from the same authors as the other one s/he cites, is in Evidence-based Alternative and Complementary Medicine and can be found, with link to the free full-text version, here.

*Sigh*. Just in case anyone found the last post on AltMed journals too verbose, let me re-state it in simple language. In my experience, studies published in such journals of “Alternative Medicine” (or complementary, or integrative, or whatever other studiedly neutral term they are camouflaging themselves with this year) usually turn out to be so flawed as to be scientifically valueless. IMHO this is because the standards of “expert peer review” at AltMed journals like OUP’s eCAM, and Liebert’s JACM, are, to put it very mildly, debatable. Or more trenchantly, a joke.

The Modus Operandi in these journals, as I was trying to convey with my analysis of the Mellow Rats in Pyramids paper, seems typically to be as follows:

(i) Carry out poorly-controlled experiment into “alternative modality”;

(ii) Resolutely ignore all negative findings (always assuming your publication bias means that you bother reporting them in the first place);

(iii) Resolutely ignore any and all possible confounding factors that could affect the results- instead:

(iv) Attribute any “positive” results to mystic effect of homeopathic remedy / pyramid / Reiki energy field;

(v) Publish in AltMed journal where “expert peer reviewers” ignore lack of controls in (i), repeat one-eyed (ii) and (iii) and unquestioningly accept daft interpretation in (iv), because they share your belief in mystic nonsense.

Pure Cargo Cult Science
. It clothes itself in the appearance of science, but utterly lacks the critical ingredient of necessary scepticism. What you get instead is a collective act of suspension of critical thinking, and indeed of implicit belief in magic.

Clearly I am generalising, but every time I read a paper in one of the AltMed journals that claims to provide “scientific evidence for homeopathy” (or similar), this is what I see.

BTW, the editor in chief of the JACM is Professor Kim Jobst (brief bio here). Kim Jobst is a medical homeopath, was a founding Council Member of the Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health, and was for several years (see post below from David Colquhoun) a Visiting Professor of “Healthcare and Integrated Medicine” (that I-word again) at Oxford Brookes University. Apart from editing the JACM, he is best known in the Badscience world for his endorsement of the laughable qLink “anti-EMF” pendant, a medical marvel (not) thoroughly debunked by Ben Goldacre here.

To re-iterate the point. Here is a journal whose Editor-in-Chief seems to believe a device containing no active electrical components can nonetheless have health effects by producing a mysterious “Sympathetic Resonance” effect hitherto unknown to biology.

Given this, how is one to believe the said journal and its “expert reviewers”use any meaningful scientific standards in deciding what to publish?

PS In case Shpalman or any other proper physicist is reading, and would like to engage with the qLink and how it claims to work, the manufacturer offers an explanation here