‘Homeopathic’ malaria pills no good

Holidaymakers planning trips to the tropics have been warned to avoid homeopathic remedies that are claimed to prevent malaria after several UK travellers contracted the potentially fatal disease (NZ Herald, 14 July).

An investigation by the charity Sense about Science found ten homeopathic clinics selected at random on the internet offered a researcher unproven homeopathic products which were claimed to prevent malaria and other tropical diseases including typhoid, dengue fever and yellow fever.

In all ten consultations the researcher was advised to use the products rather than being referred to a GP or travel medicine clinic where orthodox anti-malarial drugs are available. Tropical medicine specialists have condemned the practice.

The UK Health Protection Agency warned last year that travellers from Britain had fallen ill with malaria after taking homeopathic pills claimed to prevent it.

Oxford University Professor Nicholas White said this was very dangerous nonsense and needed to be stopped. “The prescribing of homeopathic remedies to prevent malaria is a reprehensible example of potentially lethal duplicity.”

Although conventional anti-malarial drugs had some side effects, they provided excellent protection.

“These decisions require discussion with a knowledgeable person who can assess the risks and benefits,” according to Professor Brian Greenwood, president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine. “The use of homeopathy creates a more dangerous situation than taking no precautions if the traveller assumes that they are protected and does not seek help quickly for any illness that might be malaria.”

The Faculty of Homoeopathy said it did not recommend homeopathic remedies for the prevention of malaria.

Peter Fisher, clinical director of the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital said “Malaria is a life threatening disease and there is no published evidence to support the use of homeopathy in the prevention of malaria.”

Timothy Leary was right

Mystical experiences induced by hallucinogenic drugs are in essence no different from the ‘genuine’ article, say scientists at Johns Hopkins University (NZ Herald, 12 July). They argue that the potential of such drugs, ignored for decades because of their links to illicit activities, must be explored to develop new treatments for depression, drug addiction and the treatment of intolerable pain. They are not, however, interested in the “Does God exist?” debate. “This work can’t and won’t go there,” they say.

In the study, 30 middle-aged volunteers who had religious or spiritual interests attended two eight-hour sessions two months apart, receiving psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) in one session and a non-hallucinogenic stimulant-Ritalin-in the other. They were not told which was which. One third described the experience with psilocybin as the most spiritually significant of their lifetime and two-thirds rated it among their five most meaningful experiences. In more than 60 percent the experience rated as a “full mystical experience” based on established psychological scales. A third of the volunteers became frightened during the drug sessions with some reporting feelings of paranoia.

Huston Smith, America’s leading authority on comparative religion, writes that mystical experience “is as old as humankind” and attempts to induce it using psychoactive plants were made in many cultures. “But this is the first scientific demonstration in 40 years, and the most rigorous ever, that profound mystical states can be produced safely in the laboratory. The potential is great.”

Creation Museum Coming Soon

Journalist Alec Russell was treated to a personal guided tour of Ken Ham’s under-construction Creation Museum in Kentucky by Ham himself, but did not seem persuaded by his arguments (Dominion Post, 30 June).

The NZ$42.7 million museum, which has been paid for mostly from donations, is scheduled to open early next year. It features animatronic garden of Eden scenes of children and young tyrannosaurs playing happily together, vegetarians all in a world without death. Since Genesis says Adam didn’t ‘know’ Eve until after they were driven from Eden, children in a pre-Fall world would seem to be at odds with scripture. But never mind, the ‘Wow’ factor is the important thing, says Ham. There’s also a 1/48th-scale Noah’s Ark with stegosaurs being loaded along with the giraffes, and multimedia presentations on the wonders of creation.

A few hours later, Russell had dinner with three scientists who were campaigning against the museum. They were thinking of marching up and down outside waving placards, and running ‘alternative’ tours of the exhibits, much in the style of evangelical protesters against the scientific establishment.

After having endured two hours of his “machinegun delivery”, Russell didn’t think the scientists stood much chance in any confrontation with the “gruff Australian”. When he put the gist of their arguments to Ham later, Ham turned to him “with an air of triumph mixed with pity” and delivered his trump card: “When it comes to the past, you weren’t there.”

This is Ham’s catchphrase. It’s like saying a detective can’t solve a crime if he wasn’t there to witness it. Russell should have pointed out that Ham wasn’t there either. Nor was he there when Genesis was written, so he can’t be sure it was the work of God. The Statement of Faith of Ken Ham’s own ministry, Answers in Genesis, declares that all humans are fallible; he needs to be aware this applies to himself. When he says Genesis is the divinely inspired word of God, he could be wrong about that.

Psychic helps in Manawatu mystery

Personal items belonging to a missing Alzheimer’s sufferer were found near the Manawatu River after police were directed to the site by a local psychic (Dominion Post, 3 July). James Alexander, 73, had wandered from his rest home a week previously and had been sighted only once. Sergeant Bill Nicholson said a local woman contacted them and described a location which was familiar to police, though she said she had never been there. A search began late on Friday and the items were found on the riverbank soon after 11am on Saturday. Requests from the NZ Skeptics for details of what the psychic actually disclosed have met with no response, but it seems clear the police still had to do quite a bit of searching before finding the items, which were on the riverbank close to the rest home. Mr Alexander’s body was eventually found at Pukerua Bay on 17 August, after apparently being washed down the river.

Rita leaves ‘psychic imprint’

A Massey University artist-in-residence living in Rita Angus’s two-bedroom Wellington cottage has hired a clairvoyant to contact the former resident’s ghost (Dominion Post, 18 August).

Dane Mitchell said he hired the clairvoyant because it was a way of exploring a different kind of knowledge. A recording of the reading would be displayed alongside pencil rubbings-including one of Angus’s paint-splattered studio floor-at his exhibition, ‘Thresholds’.

The clairvoyant determined that although “the entity that was Rita Angus” had long moved on, she had left a huge psychic imprint on the house, especially on an old armchair and chest of drawers used to store artwork.

“I’m feeling a huge vortex of emotions, which started as I came up the path,” the psychic, identified only as Penny, said on the tape. Angus, regarded as a pioneer of New Zealand modern art, loved the house and felt safe in it, but used it to isolate herself from the world, she said. Googling the artist might have been more informative.

Why are we not surprised?

This just in from Blenheim’s Marlborough Express (known colloquially as the Marlborough Excuse, we are informed), 7 October:

“The visit to Blenheim of clairvoyant Jeanette Wilson has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances”!

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