WE WERE skeptical. We demanded you respond to our clarion call for pithy pieces — but only a few of you pithed on us. For this we are grateful and we have sent suitable telepathic gifts to all of you, for which you should be grateful. But seriously, a couple of readers have queried our policy on the format of submissions which they’ve interpreted as meaning we don’t accept handwritten copy. Wrong. Our eyesight is sometimes challenged by the individualistic handwriting styles we sometimes see, so we prefer typed or disc-supplied copy because we can then guarantee accuracy. But above all, we encourage you enthusiastically to send interesting forum pieces in whatever format you have available. The only criteria we use in selecting pieces for the forum is their value and interest to readers. The writer of the best piece published in the next issue will receive the definitive volume on proven homeopathic remedies.

The perils of over-eating

I write in response to your written insistence, in the Winter 1997 issue, that readers prove you to be right about certain matters.

I have been carrying out some research into the causes of heart failure. Statistical analysis reveals that in over 95% of cases of people suffering heart attacks, the persons involved had had some food intake during the previous 24 hours.

I wouldn’t eat if I were you.

Norman Lewis

Timaru — What’s happening?

I would like to broach the matter of the proposed School of Education in Timaru in the odd non-scientific subject of naturopathy. From the media, I have noted that they intend to employ persons to “teach” subjects such as iridology, osteopathy, and homeopathy.

I feel very strongly about this matter, and I believe that we have not been vocal enough about how a skeptic should feel about the proposed issuing of degrees in such a non-scientific or pseudo-scientific subject as iridology. As a matter of interest I heard an advertisement over the local easy-listening music station 95.4 FM pushing “trained Ukrainian specialists in iridology at a naturopath school and pharmacy.” I wrote them off my own bat and under my own name and received a very sympathetic reply from the manager of the radio station whom I’ve known for many many years as I know most people in the media of any significance, or a least they know me.

The bottom line is, what is our committee going to do about putting the members down on that proposed school, as the very thought of people wandering about with degrees in iridology turns my stomach. Could you please move our joint forces and bring pressure to bear on the NZQA and also release to the media our thoughts on such an idiotic project.

Jack Urlwin

When we awarded NZQA the Bent Spoon in 1996 we said that:

“By dithering [for two years in deciding whether to grant the degree status] not only has NZQA shown itself incapable of distinguishing between science and psuedo-science, but it has also severely disadvantaged those students who took up what they thought was going to be a degree course.”

We pointed out to Paul Holmes, when he took up the plight of the students, that the Skeptics were the first group to note the shabby treatment of the students, and added that the Polytechnic was negligent in not recognising the potential problem with the application and seeking a more suitable status for the course.

The degree status was declined earlier this year; the sorry affair has done nothing for the educational reputation of polytechnics.

Doman Defended

Although I have never referred patients to the Institutes or been otherwise involved, I was interested enough to read Doman’s books, attend a lecture course, and sit in on clinical sessions. I consider myself to have been an informed observer and I give Doman credit for insight, dedication, and pioneering work in the rehabilitation of brain-injured children.

It doesn’t make sense to say that the method was “subjected to controlled trials and found to be of no value,” and on the next page, “most of the studies had significant flaws and (although) some were fairly well designed none were perfect.”

Who “found it to be of no value”? Which “medical community” arrived at consensus? Does this community, whose members, Novella says, “are, at their heart, practical individuals”, and which employs “many mainstream interventions that lack a fully understood theoretical basis”, have a whip hand over “scientific consensus”? It can equally be argued that Doman shook the medical world out of a state of clinical apathy, and for that reason had to be put down.

Patterning is at once passive, the child is moved — and active, a frame of interaction between physicians, parents and patient. Growth, healing and rehabilitation come only from within, but if it gives the child an opportunity to experience, and seize upon any occasion or avenue for advancement, that is enough. Novella himself says, “Some of the studies did show improvement in motor skills or visuo-spatial skills over controls”, though he captions the statement “Blind Alley” and qualifies the improvement as modest. In other words, there is fire there but he pours cold water on it.

The article gives a good bibliography and presents a case to answer, but I wish it wouldn’t try to coast home on pontifical statements and reference to “scientific consensus” which has no more convinced stability than the weather.

Stephen W Taylor MbChB

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