The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Science in an Age of Endarkenment

Last night I went to a lecture by Dr. David Colquhoun at the University of Toronto. The talk was on "alternative" medicine and its ineffectiveness and why it seems to be so accepted even at the university and hospital levels, plus the effect that this acceptance has on the general public viewing of these topics.

For a Friday night, there was a darn fine turnout - I'd estimate about 150 or 160 people (although I'm sure some statistics major will correct me on that). Justin Trottier opened with a comment from the Centre for Inquiry, Toronto and then it was into the lecture proper.

Colquhoun had great quality to his talk, but his presentation left a little to be desired, in my opinion. He's not the most engaging speaker in the world and has a bit of a habit of talking under his breath for the last half of paragraphs, almost mumbling to himself. That said, the section on homeopathy was quite entertaining, particularly the bit where he said that in order to get one molecule of active ingredient in a 30c homeopathic pill, you'd have to ingest a spherical pill with a diameter of 150,000,000 kilometers (roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun).

He mentioned the term "quackademics", which I hadn't heard before and though hilarious. I shall steal this and use it often. Throughout the talk he plugged some books that he thought interesting like How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen and Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All, by Rose Shapiro.

It was at this point and for the rest of the time I found my attention wandering. Even during the questions I struggled to pay attention, with one notable exception of a young looking doctor who attempted to take the audience to task for a "fundamentalist" attitude and for not being more critical of Colquhoun. He was quite adamant that the practitioners of "alternative" medicine raised good questions and then, quite to his detriment, brought up how allopathic medicine "missed" the horrible effects of thalidomide. Colquhoun took him to task over this, correcting his misunderstandings and ignorance. The questioner then started to get heckled a bit and that was that.

Overall it was a good night but I think I'd rather hear Dr. Colquhoun in a radio interview instead of a lecture - which, thankfully, you can! Today, on CBC. Check it out!
(edited to correct my measurement retardedness - tip o' the horn to my fact-checker/proofreader, βper: I think you should be drawing a salary from me!)

2 Barbaric Yawps:

At 27/1/08 8:23 am, Anonymous βPer said...

Psst, Mike, the Sun is 93 million miles away (if I recall my school lessons correctly). That's roughly 150 million kilometres.

That's still a big pill, though.

βPer, the incorrigible pedant.

At 27/1/08 9:27 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Kilometers. Right. I'll be ok.


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