Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fortune tellers are criminals - Botswana Guardian

There are times when I love the law. Not the boring bits, I mean the bits that actually outlaw something that deserves to be outlawed. I also particularly love the fact that our laws are generally so well written. They are clear, simple and easy to understand. Let me give you an example.

Section 313 of the Penal Code is entitled "Pretending to tell fortunes". It says this:
"Any person who for gain or reward undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill or knowledge in any occult science to discover where or in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of an offence."
Isn't that simple? Fortune tellers are criminals. The charlatans who offer to "bring back stolen goods" (that was from an advertisement last week) are crooks. It's not me saying it, it's the law. One part of that section that appealed to me is the wording it uses. Look back to where it says "undertakes to tell fortunes" and "pretends". The law is smart enough to realise that it's all hogwash. Pretending to offer any of these things is illegal because they're all make-believe. The law sees it as lying, not "occult science" or "witchcraft".

Then there are the charlatans that say they can help with things such as "fertility", "madness" and (my favourite from last week) "don't let your lover to run away coz of manhood problems". They're crooks as well. Again it's not me saying that, it's that wonderful Penal Code again. Sections 396-399 outlaw what they call "prohibited advertisements". These are advertisements that offer medicines for a range of ailments, including:
"the cure of any habit associated with sexual indulgence, or of any ailment associated with those habits or for the promotion of sexual virility, desire or fertility or for the restoration or stimulation of the mental faculties"
The same sections prohibit advertisements for treatments for cancer, TB, epilepsy, heart disease, even hernia. Pharmacists should watch out as well, it doesn't distinguish between the charlatans and the real thing.

You might think that it’s all harmless, people don’t really believe this rubbish but think again. In the last couple of years I’ve come across two cases of people who died because of the concoctions they were given by these thugs.

My new resolution, even though it’s not the traditional time for making them, is to report every one of these criminal advertisements I see to the Police. So far I know of one that has been escorted to the border and kicked over it and hasn’t been allowed back again. Who’s next?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“How to read articles about health” – by Dr Alicia White

From the ever excellent Dr Ben Goldacre's Bad Science site. How to read articles about health and healthcare

Homeopathy and science - Dara O'Brien

Warning. Not safe for work unless you work for a particularly enlightened company. Lots of rude words but an excellent attack on pseudoscientific nonsense, homeopathy in particular.