Maloney makes it worse

I’ve told Christopher Maloney (do I still need to provide background links on who he is at this point?) that he cannot make his destroyed web presence any better; he can only not make it worse. But as some readers may recall, he put an absurd amount of effort into creating a site about his ‘debate’ with Dr. Steven Novella. Since he failed to link back to Novella, I took the liberty of forwarding the link. The fortunate result is a new post where Novella demolishes Maloney.

Made clear by this exchange is the difference between the science-based approach and Maloney’s approach, which is typical of naturopaths. I look at all the evidence for plausibility, safety, and the reasonable potential for benefit. If I am convinced that I can offer my patients the probability of benefit in excess of harm, I will use a treatment (no matter how it is labeled) with proper informed consent. But I will then closely follow the evidence and will stop using a treatment if good clinical evidence is negative. Or I will start using a treatment when new evidence shows that it is safe and effective.

Maloney, on the other hand, appears to trade in wild speculation. In my opinion he has demonstrated sloppy, black and white thinking, an inability to understand the implications of published research, a bias against science-based medicine, and a willingness to prescribe treatments based upon the flimsiest of scientific justifications. He then accuses me of being “dismissive” and has the stones to declare victory in our exchange because I eventually tired of his evasiveness and crank tactics.

Further, Maloney, if anything, has demonstrated that the naturopathic/alternative approach has nothing to offer. The science is the science, and properly using scientific research as a basis for practice is the ideal of mainstream medicine. The optimal standard of this is what I have termed science-based medicine. Maloney, however, is laboring under the false dichotomy of “alternative” medicine. As evidence of how ultimately worthless this false category is, he pulls from the scientific literature to find alleged alternatives to science-based practice. He claims that supplements are alternative and “suspects” that I would ignore them because of this, when they have received research attention in accordance with the basic-science evidence without discriminating based upon their “supplement” status.


I like to think I recognize the limits of what I have to offer. For instance, one reader asked me a very specific (and very interesting) question about what method to use in a phylogeographic study. Instead of offering an answer which would be dubious at best, I simply fired off an email to one of the original researchers (and a former and hopefully future professor of mine) for the paper on which I based my post. He gave a succinct answer with a complete understanding. It would have been a display of hubris for me to take on the question alone.

But then I’m not a naturopath. I recognize the need for evidence or the awareness of evidence in order to start spouting off. Maloney, on the other hand, likes to throw out a bunch of Gish Gallop nonsense and then whine that no one is taking him seriously when they don’t spend hundreds of hours responding to his unevidenced garbage. Everyone just recognizes his complete lack of credibility since he has no evidence for any of his positions.

Of course, Maloney has already seen Dr. Novella’s post. (Frankly, I’m honestly impressed with his speed.)

I wonder if a certain unbalanced local well known to the police tipped you off about my poor little website?

Without revealing more than I should/can, the Augusta police don’t really take Maloney or his Official Police Complaint that I’m just a downright meanie very seriously.

If you encourage him enough, perhaps he will again play the midnight stalker and place hate mail on my neighbors’ porches. The encouragement of hate is a dangerous business, Dr. Novella. I suspect our mutual “friend” is trying to get the attention of his own father, a medical man like yourself. It’s called transference, and -tag- you’re it.

1) Maloney has also claimed that I intentionally went to his neighborhood to distribute my publication (“hate mail” as he calls it) at a time when I somehow magically knew he wasn’t home. So even though I knew he wouldn’t be home, I was still stalking him. Oh, and he has lied in the past about me leaving anything at his house. I specifically avoided his doorstep (and a house I couldn’t be sure wasn’t his) in order to honor his request that I do not directly contact him.

2) Given the fact my own father’s profession is not related to science in any way, I believe he means PZ when he references my father.

Dr. Novella pointed out (as did I) that Maloney did not link back to the blog post he quotes over and over. Maloney responded:

I cited your blog specifically, following all known copyright laws. I did not provide links because, my grandstanding fellow, you are very easy to find online. My own fame only arises from your attack upon me. You continue to libel me in the false headline that you and the unwashed rabble that follow you broadcast across the internet.

1) His fame arises from being in cahoots with Andreas Moritz to get my blog shut down for six days. PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh, and half the Internet then helped restore my ability to promote science and fight quackery.

2) No one seems to understand what libel is, especially quacks. Perhaps Maloney should go talk to the British Chiropractic Association. They once had his same problem.

If you are sincere about your wishes to continue our discussion (which you have now suddenly done so after months of silence) I would be glad to do so, but I have no interest in playing for your motley crew of ignorant “science wanna-bes”.

1) This isn’t a discussion. It’s a beat down.

2) Maloney created his crappy summary site out of the blue. Shortly after I discovered it, I realized Dr. Novella would probably never see it if I didn’t send him the link. I sent it to him five days ago.

3) By continuing to address this six month old bitch slapping with all his new sites, Maloney is doing nothing but playing for everyone’s entertainment.

P.S. You are officially denied permission to reprint this letter on your hate blog. Feel free to link here, though.

Good thing he only denied Dr. Novella, right?

Oh, and quoting, citing, and addressing published work cannot somehow be denied, not “officially”, not magically, and not otherwise.

The end of homeopathy?

Probably not, but one can hope.

British homeopaths are celebrating Homeopathy Awareness Week, yet it seems to me there is very little for them to celebrate.

Earlier this year, a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that the principles of homeopathy are implausible and that the evidence fails to show that it works better than placebo. The MPs also criticised homeopaths for trying to mislead the public by providing inaccurate information. Their recommendation to government was to stop funding homeopathy on the NHS.

Then the Prince of Wales’s Foundation for Integrated Health, a staunch supporter of homeopathy in the NHS, folded in the midst of a police investigation for fraud and money laundering.

Last month, the British Medical Association described homeopathy as “witchcraft” and called for an end to all funding on the NHS.

A streak of bad luck? Not really. Homeopathy’s fortunes have been crumbling for quite some time. The evidence to suggest that it has effects beyond those of a placebo has become less and less convincing. In 2005, The Lancet even pronounced “the end of homeopathy”.

I suspect there will come a time when homeopathy becomes far less significant in society, but I believe that day to be very far off. People are just too willing to believe the snake oil salesmen out there – and the snake oil salesmen are all too happy to oblige that will to believe.

But there is some immediate good news. (In fact, so immediate, it’s in the past.)

As a result, one of the five NHS-funded homeopathic hospitals had to close. After assessing the science, its NHS trust found that the evidence did not justify any further funding.

Of course, even the homeopaths knew their junk had no evidence. They aren’t interested in any real science. And just to prove that point, they became bold and made their lying all the more public.

Faced with increasing criticism, UK homeopaths become more and more desperate. My team has found that the Society of Homeopaths even appears to have been in breach of its own code of ethics in attempting to promote homeopathy. On the society’s website, numerous statements about efficacy were made that were not backed by science and so were not allowed under its own regulations.

The society’s chief executive commented at the time, in November 2009, that she was grateful to me for highlighting these issues and that the society would investigate and make amendments where appropriate. The website has since changed but many, perhaps even most, members of that organisation continue to make claims that violate their society’s ethical standards.

I don’t for a moment expect the ethical standards of a fundamentally dishonest organization do anything significant with all these violation. Even if they do manage to clean up some of their act, their basis is still magical thinking that has no roots in science. The only way they could ever be called ethical sans a smirk is if shut down their whole operation.

Congratulations to Simon Singh

Simon Singh no longer has to worry about that pesky, quacking lawsuit against him.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has admitted defeat in its defamation battle with science writer Simon Singh.

The BCA yesterday served notice of discontinuance of its action against Dr Singh.

But wait! There’s more! (And it’s even better.)

Solicitor Robert Dougans, of law firm Bryan Cave, which represented Dr Singh, said: “To have won this case for Simon is the proudest moment of my career, but if we had the libel laws we ought to have I would never have met Simon at all.

“Until we have a proper public interest defence scientists and writers are going to have to carry on making the unenviable choice of either shying away from hard-hitting debate, or paying through the nose for the privilege of defending it.

He said the only issue which remained to be settled was the amount of his costs Dr Singh would be able to recover from the BCA, and how much he would have to pay himself.

It is believed that Dr Singh’s costs amount to some £200,000.