Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Bitter Pill

Needless Treatment of Pets

By Tanya Stephens

The emergence of complementary and alternative medicine in veterinary clinics is a serious threat to animal welfare and the reputation of veterinarians.

The postmodern mindset has had serious implications for the standing of science in general, and veterinary science has not been immune. At its extreme, postmodernism views science as simply one among a variety of subjective explanations for the way we perceive the physical world. Science is downgraded to mere opinion, and scientists’ professional voices are diminished.

Homeopathy Fails the Test – Again

By Loretta Marron

The National Health and Medical Research Council has found that homeopathy is no better than a placebo. It is one of many such findings around the world, but will it change anything?

Homeopathy doesn’t work. Haven’t we heard that before? Yes! Three years and $140,000 after its first report, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has reconfirmed that “evidence from research in humans does not show that homeopathy is effective”. Australia’s peak medical research body now states officially that homeopathy works no better than a placebo.

Balance Returning to Vaccination Information

By Rachael Dunlop

The Australian Vaccination Network’s status as a charitable organisation has been stripped and its web of half-truths and outright lies damned by authorities.

One of Australia’s most pernicious anti-vaccine groups has had its charity licence confiscated and been forced to change its name. The NSW government instructed the name change from The Australian Vaccination Network to The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network following a directive to find a name that better reflects its anti-vaccination views. The Network surrendered its licence after reportedly being issued with a “show cause” notice requiring it to respond in writing about why its authority to fundraise should not be revoked.

Seeking the Evidence for Chinese Medicine

By Dave Hawkes

By looking for active ingredients in traditional Chinese medicines, ethnopharmacologists are finding evidence for their efficacy.

Evidence-based medicine is exactly that – treatments based on solid knowledge of both their safety and efficacy. But a number of popular treatments, such as different forms of traditional or herbal medicine, don’t fit within this evidence-based framework. The most well-known of these is traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which enjoys worldwide sales in the billions of dollars.

Getting to the Bottom of Colon Cleansing

By Joanne Benhamu

Colonic cleansing has persisted as an alternative therapy for centuries despite a lack of evidence.

Sir Arthur Hurst, Founder of the British Society of Gastro­enterology, said in 1935: “No organ in the body is so mis­understood, so slandered and maltreated as the colon”.

A Catalyst for Better Science Journalism

By Rob Morrison

In the wake of the controversial Catalyst reports on cholesterol and statins, Rob Morrison provides a checklist for good science journalism.

Journalists are urged to tackle more science in their stories, but every complex scientific issue, from climate change and the Murray River to dietary advice and bogus health treatments, seems to produce a stalemate of conflicting information, politicisation and a confused public.

How Charles Darwin Was Cured by Water

By John Hayman

The “water cure” relieved Charles Darwin of periods of nausea, but why didn’t it work at home?

Charles Darwin’s long illness has been the subject of great speculation. Many of his treatments would be regarded today as “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), but the relief he obtained from the “water cure”, while not understood then, can now be explained by a modern understanding of physiology.

Darwin’s Diagnoses

By John Hayman

The father of modern biology suffered much at the hands of alternative medical practitioners.

Charles Darwin had recurrent illness for most of his adult life, with many different and some bizarre symptoms. More than 40 diagnoses have been proposed for these, including some by proponents of alternative medicine. These include practitioners of “orthomolecular medicine” who treat complaints, including psychiatric complaints, with large, sometimes toxic, doses of vitamins (megavitamin therapy) in the belief that these will correct individual biochemical malfunctions.

The Natural Logic of Health Care

By Wendy Daniels

It’s time to debunk the “natural is healthy and good and non-natural is unhealthy and bad” myth.

Call Out the Quacks

By Tory Shepherd

Scientists often complain about the way the media treat their message, but journalists have reason to complain as well, since many scientists don’t help to get that message straight.

Have you heard of Scala’s magic fat-busting undies? If you don’t know them specifically, you know the drill.

  1. Target customers’ unfulfilled desires – in this case a smooth, cellulite-free derrière and no more jelly-belly.
  2. Fill their heads with sciencey-sounding words. This “BioPromise shapewear” uses Active BioCrystals to emit Far Infrared Rays.
  3. Put up some before-and-after shots and a few choice quotes from a doctor and you’re on a winner.

Tory Shepherd is the Political Editor of The Advertiser and a columnist at The Punch. She regularly writes columns exposing alternative medicine bunkum and bogus health claims.