Standard sort of day


in Daily updates, Oxford

Holywell Street

This has been a fairly good day. There was some good news, and some promising silence. I got some thesis reading done, saw some rarely seen friends in Wadham, and attended an interesting lecture. Tomorrow, I shall try to focus on the first of those.

PS. People with phony degrees may well be charlatans, misleading the public, but it seems more than a bit over-dramatic to call one a ‘menace to science‘ on the front page of The Guardian.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn February 13, 2007 at 4:33 am

What a tease…

Milan February 13, 2007 at 6:29 am

Today’s photo may look dark and/or brooding, but it is simply evidence of my subterranean existence – the sort where I am annoyed by the twittering birds at *checks watch* 6:28am.

Brett February 13, 2007 at 9:40 am

I wouldnt say a menace to science but I would say a possible menace to society. If people are taking her medical/nutritional advice based on an understanding that she is a qualified and knowlegable physician that is very dangerous. There are enough real doctors out there abusing their authoratative positions.

actually... February 13, 2007 at 10:45 am

McKeith doesn’t have a single peer-reviewed paper in publication yet passes herself off as a medical and nutritional authority, giving advice that is quite often chemically nonsensical. Not only does she misinform the general public she does a great disservice to research as a whole.

If that doesn’t constitute a menace to science I don’t know what does.

Milan February 13, 2007 at 12:07 pm

What we are arguing about is not science in any pure form, but alterations in the interface between science and society. The argument is that people are incapable of distinguishing real from phony credentials, and thus unable to determine what is credible and what is not.

This may be fair enough, in the area of nutrition. Aside from the basics, it doesn’t seem to me like there is any consensus on what kind of diet is actually healthy. I don’t know if that is an accurate reflection of the beliefs among nutritionists, but it does seem to be a common perception of the field within the general public.

Of course, quacks aren’t the only ones who distort people’s ideas about what to eat. Canada’s food guide is notoriously heavily influenced by major food producers.

Milan February 13, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Also, being an actual scientist-doctor-etc is not necessary to give good advice to normal people about what scientists-doctors-whatevers have discovered. There, the issue is the defensibility of your statements, not of whatever bits of paper you do or do not have stuck to your wall.

actually... February 13, 2007 at 2:57 pm

“Also, being an actual scientist-doctor-etc is not necessary to give good advice to normal people about what scientists-doctors-whatevers have discovered. ”

I didn’t suggest that it was. My concern was that, as outlined in the Guardian article, bad science, in fact, totally incorrect science, is being presented as hard fact.

“What we are arguing about is not science in any pure form”
You should be. It’s just as important as the argument about credentials. Propagation of scientific misinformation does everybody a bad service.

Anonymous February 13, 2007 at 4:08 pm

I question whether anyone is actually still foolish enough to believe television personalities when they talk about what is healthy to eat.

Of course, Leo is the exception. Everyone go vegetarian, and stop buying diamonds.

Milan February 13, 2007 at 4:22 pm


What I mean is that McKeith has no effect on real science. She may affect what the general public believes, but she isn’t a menace to the institution itself except insofar as confusion might diminish public faith in scientific findings.

I’m not saying that McKeith is not spreading falsehoods, I am saying that The Guardian has over-stated and miscategorized her effect.


While skepticism is probably justified, people do seem to have faith in these things. I personally know people who tried the Atkins diet, and it is largely on account of media coverage that I choose to take Omega-3 supplements.

Anonymous February 18, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Gillian McKeith banned from calling herself ‘Dr’. Gillian McKeith, a “nutritionist” who has had several UK TV series, endless adverts for health supplements and sex pills, has for years used her title of Doctor to persuade people that she actually knows what she’s talking about. Except now, thanks to the Advertising Standards Authority, she’s no longer allowed to call herself a Doctor. I guess non-accredited correspondence-course PhDs and the membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, something that a dead cat can be a member of for the princely sum of $60, doesn’t actually mean much after all.

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