January 2, 2009
Simon Singh is an author focusing on science and mathematics for the general public. His books include Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem, The Code Book, and Big Bang. He has produced a number of documentaries for television on science topics, and is a trustee of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, and the National Museum of Science and Industry, both in the United Kingdom. He is currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association for comments he wrote in a column in The Guardian. His newest book, co-authored with Dr. Edzard Ernst, is Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Simon Singh talks about being an open-minded skeptic regarding complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). He discusses the efficacy of various CAM treatments, such as detox programs, homeopathy, and acupuncture. He examines the origins and claims of chiropractic, whether it works, and how it may be dangerous. He talks about the limits of scientific inquiry, and when a CAM claim might justifiably be dismissed. He discusses the funding of research into CAM versus the funding of its marketing. He explores the reasons why people continue using such treatments despite the lack of scientific data showing that it works. He explains the placebo effect and its legitimate therapeutic uses, and details the harm that some CAM treatments can cause even if they do work. He shares his opinions about why passions among skeptics and believers regarding CAM are so heated, giving advice to both the CAM and scientific communities. And he gives reasons for speaking out regarding CAM despite the possible negative repercussions from various quarters of the CAM community.