Friday, 18 October 2013

Lynne McTaggart deserves an apology - no, really

Please read to the end.

As some of you may know, my father is terminally ill with a suite of cancers.  He was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1991, prostate cancer in 1997, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2006 and adenocarcinoma in 2013. The most recent one is also the most aggressive, beginning in the lungs and having spread before it was even noticed to the liver and the bones.  It may well be that the brain tumours that he was diagnosed with in 2009 were the result of that adenocarcinoma because, apparently, the non-Hodgkin's doesn't usually migrate north of the diaphragm, or something like that.

Don't blame me for my lack of oncology knowledge.  I have plenty of oncology books but I just don't understand all the long words in them.  Besides, most of my understanding of cancer comes from watching Dr James Wilson on House.  But then again, I don't seem to be the only one who struggles with the long words.  Self-proclaimed science journalist of forty or more years, Lynne McTaggart, struggles with them too, if the evidence is to be believed.

McTaggart is head wotsit at the woo journal de nos jours, What Doctors Don't Tell You.  You can buy this glossy magazine at Tesco, W H Smith and other outlets but no longer at Waitrose (unless the local manager is stupid enough not to tell you to go down the road to Smith's) and you can read within it what can only be described as unreliable advice and reporting of matters medical and scientific. 

But don't believe me.  Believe these two true skeptics:


The thing is, as soon as you pretend you are evidence based, someone will check the evidence.  In this day and age, that's not so difficult.  And the difference, as I have said before, between a true skeptic and a fake one is the willingness to chase references and find out where they take the story.  What does the primary evidence say?  And, it would appear, that the story the primary research has to say is not particularly good for WDDTY.  So many references are misinterpreted, so many conclusions reported wrongly, based on samples in the links above and some I have done myself, that you do wonder.

So when The Times broke the story that WDDTY was, let's say, not respected amongst the scientific and medical community, McTaggart got grumpy.  And, bastion of free speech that she is, her response to criticism and crucial questions is to delete them.  That puts her in my list of people who act as if they are hypocrites, up there with Anthony Watts of WUWT. 

My dad is 83.  With the best will in the world, he is unlikely to make 84.  He's unlikely to make Christmas and it will be a great delight for us all if he does.  But his quality of life is declining as the effects of all those tumours takes its toll.  He had the usual treatments but there is an entire sweetshop of alternatives he could have tried.  Except, of course, he would have been pouring his money down the drain more precisely than a coffee enema is administered. 

Some interesting back issues:

Deconstruction of McTaggart's facebook rant about The Times article:

Old interview:

A take down of her pseudoscience book The Field:

Jospehine Jones's compilation of blog posts on WDDTY:

Then there's this:

Rubbishing McTaggart's pseudoscientific books:

I think you get the picture.

She doesn't deserve an apology at all.


  1. Beautifully written and moving blog post. Thank you.

    1. No, thank you. I wanted to spread what you had done, and others too, to let a few more people know what this woman's ideas are dangerous. From what I can tell, she has seriously whacky ideas about physics too.

      The sad thing about McTaggart, as proven by Ben Goldacre, is that there is a market for a proper book/magazine that properly criticises medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. But the alt-med route isn't the way to do it.