Florence on Government-Approved Pseudoscience In ME and the ‘Nudge Unit’

Yesterday I blogged on Mike’s article, criticising a highly dubious report by the Torygraph that scientists at Oxford had concluded that ME, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, was all in one’s mind and could be cured through a mixture of exercise and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I took the view that this was basically pseudoscience. I got two highly interesting comments from Florence confirming this and providing further information. She writes

Reports in the literature from the USA on ME / CFS, The NIH for example, cite fMRI, PET scan (imaging of brain) evidence for CFS/ MEe, along with immunologic and inflammatory pathologies, ie it is a physical disease, with measurable physical changes in the patient. There are ample published critiques of the Oxford authors’ results, analysis and conclusions, poor experimental design and methods, and fatal flaws in the execution of the studies. Not least some medical researchers have raised ethical concerns regarding the Oxford Authors earlier PACE study, which is the basis for CBT/GET therapy in the UK. Indeed the IOM proposed a new name for the disease – Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, embedding the key concept of post-exercise malaise (mental or physical). So much for GET IN fact many of the committees and editorial boards of post-conference publications have expressly bewilderment and concern with the “UK model” of psychological illness. The prominence of this report in the national press demonstrates that these are the preferred Establishment scientists, and they are being rewarded for their work in providing (quasi) scientific support for a political view of this illness. Worrying.

In a nutshell, science has proven that ME is a real disease, and this tripe peddled in Oxford is purely politically motivated pseudoscience.

She adds

It dovetails nicely with the fake, and ethically-damned nudge unit foray into forced psychological “testing” of JSA claimants which was revealed a couple of years ago, plus the new forced CBT for JSA and ESA claimants in the Job Centres, illustrating the govt ideology that worklessness, like disability, is a psychological deficit in every individual. Many years ago I was asked to read & deliver my opinions on a number of publications by those working under Stalin (it was hard going). I took away a couple of things that remain relevant today. The Corporatist control of research, especially since Thatcher, has been quasi-Stalinist, and has been damaging to scientific research generally, but medical research in particular. Second, the current govt is following a descent into Stalinist state use of psychiatry and psychology against those it wants to control.

In other words, it’s just part of a general pseudoscientific model of illness that claims that somehow it’s all imaginary because this fits with Tory and Blairite attitudes to unemployment and those off sick through disability, in the same way that Stalinist policies corrupted science in the Soviet Union.

There are a number of very good books on pseudoscience, and the promotion of spurious, fake, and in the case of eugenics, murderous doctrines in the history of science. The one I mentioned yesterday was Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science.

Another book worth reading is Walter Gratzer’s The Undergrowth of Science: Delusion, Self-deception and Human Frailty (Oxford: OUP 2000).

Undergrowth Science Cover

This has chapters on the following fake science:

1. Blondlot and the N-Rays

2. Paradigms Enow: Some Mirages of Biology
Gurvich and his mitogenic radiation
The curse of the death-ray
Abderhalden and the protective enzymes
The case of the amorous toad
Memory transfer, or eat your mathematics.

3. Aberrations of Physics: Irving Langmuir Investigates
Capturing electrons
Allison’s magneto-optical effect.
Langmuir’s rules.

4. Nor any Drop to Drink: The Tale of Polywater

5. The Wider shores of Credulity
-This includes a number of weird ideas, including the controversy over Uri Geller and his supposed mental powers.

6. Energy Unlimited
– This is about Cold Fusion.

7. What the Doctor Ordered.
This includes a number of examples of extremely bad medicine, such as
-Ptosis, the doctrine that disease was caused by sagging organs, and which resulted in a fad of entirely
useless operation on perfectly healthy people, including their kidneys.
– Intestinal lavage, or colonic irrigation
– Surgical removal of parts of the colon to prevent aging.
– Monkey glands, or the surgical implantation of part of monkey testicles in order to rejuvenate people.
– Homeopathy.
– Drinking radium for your health.
– Lobotomy.

8. Science, Chauvinism and Bigotry.
This is about the growth of the nationalist belief of different countries in their own superiority as
scientists.

9. The Climate of Fear:
The tragedy of Soviet genetics
The spread of the contagion
Soviet physics: idealism, pragmatism and the bomb
Is there a Marxist chemistry?

10. Science in the Third Reich: Bigotry, Racism and Extinction
The Roots of Fascist biology
The Ahnenerbe: Himmler the Intellectual
Die Deutsche Physik (German Physics): Its friends and enemies
A deutsche Chemie (German chemistry)
Anti-Semitism and mathematics
The consequences of the Nazi incursion into science.

11. Nature Nurtured: The Rise and Fall of Eugenics
The birth of eugenics
Eugenics and politics in Europe and America
Eugenics in the Third Reich
Eugenic nemesis in the Soviet Union
The rise and fall of eugenics: a pathological science.

Ever science Sir Francis Bacon and Descartes in the 17th century, science has been one of the most powerful forces in human society for extending human knowledge, and improving health, living conditions and industrial, technological and economic progress. But it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s made by humans, sometimes fallible human, who can make mistakes, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Some of this is caused when science is moulded by ideological, particular political forces, such as in the Third Reich and Stalin’s Russia. While these cases are notorious, the topic is still highly relevant today, when it seems that nearly every day the papers carry stories claiming that scientists have found the cure for this, or that a particular disease is in reality caused by such-and-such. In many cases scepticism is most certainly warranted. And in the cases of the model of disease now promoted by the DWP, these should be taken with a whole mountain of salt. It’s clear to me that Ian Duncan Smith’s and John Lo Cascio’s ideas on the origins of the disease in the unemployed should also be consigned to the dustbin of dodgy, politically motivated pseudoscience, to be included in future editions of book’s like Glatzer’s.

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4 Responses to “Florence on Government-Approved Pseudoscience In ME and the ‘Nudge Unit’”

  1. neurasthenia milkshake Says:

    Thank you for covering this. There is one issue I want to raise–Ben Goldacre, who to my knowledge has never said much about PACE, or ME/CFS for that matter. However, there has been speculation that he studied, apprenticed, or otherwise worked with, in some capacity, Simon Wessely, who in recent years has accumulated numerous honors. Obviously one can not damn Goldacre on that basis; but that there may well be a connection there is worth taking into consideration. Wessely has authored papers with members of the PACE team, has published extensively on CFS, especially CBT as a treatment modality, and praised PACE for its scientific rigor. Although Goldacre pretty much severed ties to the forum that was attached to his Bad Science website, that forum hosted vigorous debates on CFS and PACE. It almost seems odd that Goldacre would not have ever commented on PACE, but to my knowledge, again, he has not. He is not viewed with admiration amongst many ME patients due to the purported (though not necessarily substantiated) connection with Wessely, who is viewed by quite a few as a villainous figure.

    Here are links to an extremely detailed deconstruction of PACE:

    Installment 1: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/21/trial-by-error-i/

    Installment 2: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/22/trial-by-error-ii/

    Installment 3: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/23/trial-by-error-iii/

    Coverage in Science: http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/10/criticism-mounts-long-controversial-chronic-fatigue-study

    James Coyne weighs in: http://blogs.plos.org/mindthebrain/2015/10/29/uninterpretable-fatal-flaws-in-pace-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-follow-up-study/

    PACE Trial authors respond to David Tuller: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/30/pace-trial-investigators-respond-to-david-tuller/

    David Tuller responds to PACE Trial authors: http://www.virology.ws/2015/10/30/david-tuller-responds-to-the-pace-investigators/

  2. Government-Approved Pseudoscience In ME and the ‘Nudge Unit’ | Beastrabban’s Weblog | Vox Political Says:

    […] Source: Florence on Government-Approved Pseudoscience In ME and the ‘Nudge Unit’ | Beastrabban’s … […]

  3. steve21aa Says:

    OXFORD,AS BECOME AN -EXTENSION,OF -CORPORATE–OWNED–ZIONIST–“NAZI”–TORY–PARTY,-FULL OF UNEDUCATED,–RIGHT WING EXTREMIST,–ZIONIST,–“NAZI”–WORKER,-PEOPLE–SICK-UNEMPLOYED,–HATING,–TERRORISTS,–MAKE NO -MISTAKES ABOUT THIS,–THEY LIKE THE CORPORATE–OWNED–ZIONIST–“NAZI”–TORY–PARTY,,.-ARE –POLITICAL–“TERRORISTS,–“FACT”–THAT IS THE WORSE FORM OF TERRORISM,ON PLANET EARTH,–WORSE THAN THESE LUNATICS,-PLANTING RANDOM BOMBS,–OR CRACKPOT SUICIDE BOMERS,WHO SLAUGHTER HUNDREDS,OF INNOCENT PEOPLE,—POLITICAL–“TERRORISTS,-KILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS,EVEN MILLIONS,AND THIS IS REAL,–EDUCATED -“FACT”-PUT THERE BEST PERSON,UP AGAINST ME ON ECONOMICS,–I WILL EAT THEM FOR BREAKFAST,–UNEDUCATED,STUPID,-ZIONIST,–“NAZI”–TERRORIST,-FILTH,.

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