Sunday, 31 January 2010

My ten23 overdose

Yesterday at 10.23 a.m, on what was a bitterly cold but beautiful winter's morning, hundreds of skeptics joined up to take a huge overdose of homoeopathic pills as part of the ten23 campaign - this blogger joined in with the London group, and here's a brief account of the morning's goings on - complete with pictures and everything!

With help from Westminster Skeptics in the Pub, we gathered at London's Red Lion Square, armed with various bottles of 30C strength - which according to the website Quackwatch
would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.

So quite dilute then - and, according to the tenets of homoeopathy, really quite strong a remedy. I went along with Mrs. Teekblog and younger brother Teekblog, and between us we had 30C Arsenic, 30C Sepia and 30C something else - given that all we were really taking was sugar we didn't pay the supposed pseudo-ingredients too much attention... The three of us were joined by a host of skeptics, nerds, geeks, call us what you will - and by many high-profile overdosers such as:

Simon Singh, author of the book Trick or Treatment which looks at the evidence (such that there is) for the efficacy of alternative medicine;

Evan Harris MP, who got many a giggle for sharing with us his encounter with a leading practitioner of this fine art at the recent Parliamentary Select Committee hearings on homoeopathy;

and comedian Dave Gorman, who lead the countdown to the mass gulping of sugar pills:

So it was that at precisely 10.23 a.m. (at least according to press office Martin Robbins' watch, and considering he'd gathered what looked like the entire UK press corps who were we to argue...?), we all necked our sugar pills en masse:

In doing so, and - as expected - suffering no effects whatsoever, side or otherwise, what did we demonstrate? Well, firstly that the pills on sale at Boots - on offer at 3-for-2 by the way - really are harmless placebo containing nothing but lactose and sucrose (this post on the excellent Jack of Kent blog goes into more detail about the astute labelling on the pills themselves...). We also demonstrated that with excellent online organisation (props to Carmen D'Cruz amongst others!), and some well-engineered press coverage, pseudoscience can be exposed for what it really is - elaborate placebo interventions with no basis in reality.

As the tagline for the ten23 campaign says - Homoeopathy - there's nothing in it. Too right, and this fun event went some way to spreading that message to the wider world.

1 comment:

Younger Brother teekblog said...

As one fellow myth-dispeller/rationalist said at the event...
You can't say the pills have no effect - they completely cured my skepticism.