Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Cure

Did you hear the return last week of the legendary I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (Radio 4 again)? Broadcast for the first time without the legendary Chairman Humph, the fabulous Mr Stephen Fry is now in the chair. He seemed surprisingly ill-at-ease in last week’s edition, clearly wishing neither to adopt his benevolently rude brain-the-size-of-a-planet persona QI persona, nor impersonate the late Mr Lyttelton. By last night, however, he’d found his voice. After the topical rude joke about Mr Gladstone but before CSI Macclesfield and Victoria Wood with a Kalashnikov, Stephen made me laugh with a swipe at homeopathy:
“Famous institutions here in Westminster include the old Royal London Hospital, which was recently the subject of restoration work. However, disaster struck when the Homeopathic Wing collapsed – because they used scaffold poles which were just one-millionth the strength of proper scaffolding that actually worked.”
You can hear the second show again at noon on Sunday, or of course on the iPlayer’s Listen Again service, but entertaining as the rest of it was, there was something particularly satisfying when Mr Fry urbanely stilettoed those hope-cheating, money-grabbing, health-endangering quacks to whom too many others give a free ride. Looking at previous posts where I’ve touched on them – though I’d recommend Bad Science if you want to read a rigorous, regular and scientifically applied series of repeatable kickings – it seems that Radio 4 is a recurring theme across each of them, too, though I’m usually provoked by the Today Programme (a surprise, I know, dear reader) rather than cheering on such a serious and well-thought-out programme as I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. I have in the past conflated them with David Cameron by suggesting that a “Liberal Conservative” was of a piece with being a Christian Satanist, a carnivorous vegetarian or a scientific alternative medical practitioner, but my favourite piece was after the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency gobsmackingly decided to let homeopathic “remedies” label themselves like proper medicines, but without any of the actual tested evidence that any functional medicine requires:
“I think I have the solution. I’m perfectly happy for homeopathic ‘remedies’ to carry writing in which they boast of their effect. The text should just be strictly set at one-millionth the size of that on proper medicines. If the theory of homeopathy is true, that should make the advertising far more effective, and everyone will be happy.”

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Hope you don't mind advertising it, but I addressed the subject of complementary medicine in my own local tabloid way.

Old friends are stuck on their traditional sides of the debate...
I don't mind at all. Thank you! How extraordinary for the Greens to endorse any old quackery and diss science ;-)
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