From the Chairman

David Bloomberg

I’d like to use most of my space today to update a "REALLity Check" special report about acupuncture we had in last month’s newsletter. First, however, let me give you some other info about our next meeting:

On Tuesday, January 6, I will be speaking and expanding on the subject of three book reviews I’ve recently done. The Dilbert Future, which I reviewed here and which has been criticized by Scott Adams himself in this issue, will be covered in more detail; for example, I will discuss his claims about affirmations and some of his criticisms of my review in more detail. I reviewed Hystories, a book about mass hysteria, for Skeptic magazine (not printed yet), and I reviewed The Bible Code for the State Journal-Register. I’ll go into more detail about both of these as well. I’ve decided to stick with the title I mentioned last issue: "Dilbert Hysterical Over Bible Code." Hopefully, when people see that title on a sign at the library, it’ll make them say, "Huh?" and read the rest of the information.

Before I move on to the pins and needles, I’d like to wish everybody a Happy New Year! Hopefully, I’ll see you on the 6th.

Acupuncture Additions

I’ll cover this in more detail next month, in what should be an expanded "REALLity Check" column, but I wanted to get this info out ASAP.

Shortly after we went to press, U.S. News & World Report (12/1) provided additional information about the acupuncture claims that most media outlets (including that same magazine) missed when the news first hit. Here are some specific quotes:

"Critics charge that NIH’s 12-member consensus panel was disproportionately weighted with proponents or practitioners of alternative medicine -- including a holistic health-care provider, an editorial adviser to a journal on complementary medicine, and an expert in ‘Qi/Chi energy.’ And even panel chairman David Ramsay, who described himself as a skeptic until he saw the studies, is not completely free of potential conflict. Ramsay is president of the University of Maryland-Baltimore, which houses the Center for Complementary Medicine that has received more than $1 million in funding from NIH’s Office of Alternative Medicine. A planning committee, former acting director of the OAM and an ex-director at large of the Medical Acupuncture Research Foundation, selected nominees for the panel."

The article goes on to say, "the planning committee -- which was dominated by acupuncture proponents and included the director of the OAM -- did not provide any balance by inviting respected researchers with an opposing view, nor critics of the practice." Also, "less than half of the 25 speakers who did present research are MDs, and most practice or teach acupuncture. A full third of the presenters also served on the planning committee." (Emphasis added) I think that last statement is the worst of all. How unbiased can this be if the presenters are also on the planning committee?

As I said, I’ll have even more info (including how such respected journals as Science and Nature reported this story) in the next issue.

See you in 1998!

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