December 21st 2007, 10:23
As it's a celebration of God made incarnate, Christmas is a better time than most to think about the miraculous. The philosopher David Hume famously pointed out that a miracle is a violation of nature, and therefore impossible. And if it were to happen all the time, it would cease to be a miracle and would become a part of nature.
Today, rationalists use a different language. Nature has been replaced by science, and miracles by quackery. And quackery ceases to be quackery if it is finally proven by science in the same way that a miracle ceases to be one when it can be explained by science.
To explore the argument, let's take the controversial subject of homeopathy, the therapy that makes scientists and doctors apoplectic, simply because, for them, it can't possibly be anything other than placebo.
December 14th 2007, 11:13
Are drug companies hiding some terrible secret from us about their dementia drugs? The signs aren't good. So far they've sponsored seven expensive trials on the drugs, and yet they've decided to publish just two of them.
Of the five that remain unpublished, two are so under wraps that nobody is revealing any information about the findings. Even researchers from King's College in London and the National Institute of Health in Rome were turned away when they requested the data.
The real worry is that the drugs may be killing the patient, but there's no way of knowing for sure. The researchers say that fatalities recorded in the studies they were allowed to see were so badly reported that it was impossible to tell.
December 7th 2007, 11:36
Advocates of childhood immunisation consistently argue that there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines are dangerous. Claims that the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine in particular causes autism has never been established. In fact, they say, every study has shown conclusvely there is no causal link.
Most of the studies 'proving' the safety of vaccines have tended to be small - often involving hundreds of children - and over quite short time frames.