Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Skeptics’ Bent Spoon to SBS “Medicine or Myth?”

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The Australian Skeptics' notorious Bent Spoon award has gone to SBS-TV’s “Medicine or Myth”, a program where science takes second place to entertainment.

The Bent Spoon is given to "the proponent of the most preposterous piece of pseudoscientific or paranormal piffle of the year". Past winners include Pete ‘Paleo’ Evans, the CSIRO’s former head Larry Marshall, the ABC, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the University of Wollongong, and a psychic dentist.

What was particularly concerning about the 2019 ‘winner’ was that the reviews by the program’s three judges of pseudoscientific alternative medical treatments were more “television than science”, as one commentator has described it.

One episode included a segment on ‘emotional freedom techniques’, a process of tapping with two fingers on putative points along one’s ‘meridians’ to relieve stress. It is referred to as ‘psychological acupuncture’. In trials of this technique, no effect beyond placebo were found. However, the judging panel was convinced enough to extol the tapping procedure’s effectiveness by a momentary trial targeting a back pain in one of the presenters, and then an uncontrolled trial among a tiny number of subjects who reported their subjective impressions of success.

This may have been good television, but it was abysmal science, and highly irresponsible when people with real...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.