In England as It Is in America

I’ve noted before that the House Science Committee is run by a bunch of Republicans who are indisputably anti-science. It turns out that England has the same problem. A member of parliament running to be the chair of the Health Select Committee, David Tredinnick, has all sorts of bizarre and anti-science beliefs.

He told the Commons in 2009:

“In 2001 I raised in the House the influence of the moon, on the basis of the evidence then that at certain phases of the moon there are more accidents. Surgeons will not operate because blood clotting is not effective and the police have to put more people on the street. I am arguing for more research.”

During the expenses scandal, Tredinnick was done for charging the taxpayer over £755 on special astrology software about linking astrology to therapies.

During the Foot and Mouth epidemic, Tredinnick asked Defra to consider “homeopathic remedies, including borax, in relation to the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease”. Among other things, Borax solution is an ingredient in Silly Putty.

And he actually said this in a speech to parliament in 2008:

‘Aside from the predominant treatment for HIV, TB and malaria, [homeopathic] treatment is being given for many other common ailments such as urinary infections, diarrhoea, skin eruptions, diabetes, epilepsy, eye infections, intestinal parasites, treatment from pregnancy to childbirth, to more serious but locally common ailments like cancer, gangrene, toxaemia…and general injuries…In other words the list is endless.’

The letter states that the homeopathic treatments have achieved success rates of close to 100 per cent.

‘As a result many lives have been saved, and pain and misery alleviated, in a community which can simply not afford orthodox treatment even if it were available.’

That is a very important issue for developing countries. Homeopathy is so inexpensive that it is available to everyone. When homeopathic services are introduced, they tend to increase in size very quickly… I hope that the Minister can reassure me on guidelines for primary care trusts so that we have more effective commissioning. I hope that he will refute those statements made in the name of his Department and that he will commission NICE to look at the cost-effectiveness of homeopathy in line with the request of the Smallwood report.

Maybe we can work out a trade, David Tredinnick for Louis Gohmert and a wingnut to be named later.

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  • brucemartin

    This is excellent. We now have an almost 100% successful cure rate for an almost endless lists of diseases. It is odd, though, that nobody noticed how empty all the hospitals are.

    By the way, borax can be converted to boric acid, which makes an excellent ant poison. It should not be consumed unless infinitely diluted.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … homeopathic treatments have achieved success rates of close to 100 per cent.

    In fact, just 1 away. You only have to drop that first digit to reach the exact percentage.

  • raven

    So does Canada.

    The head of one of their science committees was a chiropracter and a creationist.

  • colnago80

    Re raven @ #3

    I am informed by Larry Moran, who I used to zing mercilessly when he criticized the US relative to science, that Gary Goodyear is no longer the chairman of that committee in the Canadian Parliament.

  • eric

    Homeopathy policy will only be effective if it is, itself, homeopathic in nature. So, we should dilute funding for it down to 1 part in each 1E33 dollars, and then the policy will be super hugely effective.

  • sh3baproject

    because apparently sticking more of the virus should get rid of said virus in person. the fuck?

  • raven

    FWIW, science is the basis of our modern civilization and responsible for the US economic position in the world.

    1. US GDP per capita has increased 7 fold in the last century. Lifespans have increased by 30 years.

    2. It’s estimated that up to 85% of the huge growth is due to advances in science and technology.

    (Source, Science 342, p 817 Nov 15, 2013 What’s so special about science, last time I looked it wasn’t behind a paywall.)

    3. Science R&D spending is highly correlated and causal with economic growth. All the heavy spenders are at the top for per capita income. All the nonspenders are…at the bottom.

    Attacking science is equivalent to attacking your liver and pancreas. Or more like morons attacking your liver and pancreas.

    The guiding principle of the GOP and its equivalents out country remains the same. As always, We want the worst for you!!!

  • unity

    I wouldn’t say we have quite the same problem as pretty much everyone knows Tredinnick is an idiot and he got 9 votes out of 434 cast.

    The MP that was finally elected to chair the committee is Dr. Sarah Wollaston, and the Dr. there is a proper MD.

  • dingojack

    “Among other things, Borax solution is an ingredient in Silly Putty.”

    Borax is, among other things, an ingredient in:



    Enamel Glazes

    Fire retardants

    An anti-fungal agent in fibreglass

    Flux in solders

    A neutron-capture materials in nuclear reactors

    A texturing agent in food production and cooking

    And a buffering agent in chemical reactions.

    And so?

    How ineffective is borax against Foot and Mouth bacteria, exactly?

    Is this really the best argument you can muster Ed?


  • DaveL

    I’d like to see this homeopathic remedy that’s nearly 100% effective against gangrene. I imagine it goes something like this:

    1) Surgically remove the gangrenous tissue.

    2) Soak the removed tissue in 1L of water.

    3) Dilute 10ml the resulting fluid in another liter of water. Repeat 100 times.

    4) Place a drop of the final dilution on a sugar pill and administer to the patient.

  • richenry

    It’s certainly not as pronounced in the UK as the US, but it happens. A little while ago (haven’t been keeping up on politics too much recently) the health minister supported homeopathy and the minister for women opposed abortion rights. But that’s Tories for you. They’re like republicans but their shit is polished better.

    (ps. it’s the UK or Great Britain, depending on what you’re talking about. Calling the whole country England would be like taking the whole of the USA and calling it Texas)

  • The insidiousness of it is in the fact that they deny science with a much prettier accent than we do

  • DaveL “1) Surgically remove the gangrenous tissue.

    2) Soak the removed tissue in 1L of water.

    3) Dilute 10ml the resulting fluid in another liter of water. Repeat 100 times.

    4) Place a drop of the final dilution on a sugar pill and administer to the patient.”

    Well, duh. It’s obvious that will never work. You forgot to shake it in step 3.

  • Al Dente

    dingojack @9

    You need to complain to the New Statesman, not to Ed. The comment about borax and silly putty is in the article lined in the OP.

  • krambc

    Calling the whole country England would be like taking the whole of the USA and calling it Texas

    Calling the whole country ‘America’ would be like taking ‘West Midlands’ and calling it ‘Europe’.

    Here are my proposals for better naming of US citizens and residents : US-ers or UStat-ians or US-ans

  • Synfandel

    @3 and @4: Gary Goodyear, Doctor of Chiropractic, served the government of Stephen Harper as Minister of State for Science and Technology* from 2008 to 2013. Only a born-again-Christian Conservative prime minister from Alberta** would hold science in such low regard.


    *In the Canadian federal government, a ‘minister of state’ is a junior cabinet minister who usually looks after a specific part of the purview of a senior minister. In this case, I believe Science and Technology is under the broader umbrella of the Ministry of Industry (which also tells you something about this government’s values).

    **Alberta = Texas North

  • dingojack, another problem (besides your mistaken attribution of a clearly marked quote) is that Tredinnick is calling for studying the use of “homeopathic remedies, including borax”. Maybe borax might be useful — I haven’t even done an internet search for an answer to that — but even without such a search that statement shows me that Tredinnick is an idiot. Homeopathic remedies do not include any substance other than water, so they cannot be useful for anything that pure water alone is not useful for. Whether or not borax is useful means nothing in terms of whether a homeopathic “remedy” is useful as anything other than an expensive placebo.

    The phrase “homeopathic remedies, including borax” is an oxymoron, and the utterer of that phrase marks himself as, well, just take off the “oxy” and you’ve got it.

  • richenry


    I love the thought of referring to all US citizens as users. I can appreciate your comment though. On holiday in Canada I called the natives Americans (’cause they are!), they seemed to take offense to this.

    In your scenario though, referring to the US as ‘America’ would be like calling the whole of the UK ‘Europe’ (the West Midlands being much smaller as a region, or collection of counties). The USA gets away with being called America because it is an abbreviation of the original. England on the other hand is not a sovereign state and has no parliament (technically the crown isn’t even English or Scottish but British). It isn’t uncommon for Americans to say England when they mean the UK or Britain. I just like to spread the awareness of the difference.

  • BTW, as a reminder of what Tredinnick is talking about, the borax 30C homeopathic “remedy” he and others are pushing for foot and mouth disease is the equivalent (assuming that these largely unregulated “remedies” are being properly manufactured) of 1 ml of a borax solution dissolved in a ball of water 131.1 light years in diameter.

    And further BTW, the websites I saw also — hilariously, really — suggest further diluting this solution when giving it to livestock.

  • gertzedek

    Hey, don’t knock borax. It’s great for cleaning shave brushes.

  • eric

    The USA gets away with being called America because it is an abbreviation of the original.

    Also because, y’know, words often take on additional meanings which can be either more or less specific than the original meanings. Pass me a kleenex, and then go xerox this message. And don’t bitch about Americans being called Americans unless you are prepared to equally bitch about the English language being called English.

    The people born and residing on the two “western” continents are Americans, and in a different sense, the citizens of the USA are Americans. The word can have two meanings, denote two different groups. Get over it.

  • Calling the whole country ‘America’ would be like taking ‘West Midlands’ and calling it ‘Europe’.”

    Oh, how inane. America is part of the official name of the country recognized internationally as such in conversation. In fact, I know of no other word for citizens of the United States, other than American. That I know of, the word America is not part of the name of any other nation, so there isn’t any confusion when speaking of nations or citizens of the United States of America.

    And if you have a problem with this, you should have a problem with “United States” because the official name of Mexico is Etados Unidos Mexico. Uh, oh, another United States in addition to all the other Americas. I guess we Americans have no name for ourselves or the country we live in because the names belong to other nations and to continents.

  • grumpyoldfart

    I’m sure some of his constituents take his advice and use homeopathic remedies.

    I wonder how many people have died while following his advice.

  • Oh, and how dare those people south of the United States of America’s border call themselves Mexicans? You know, there are other Mexicans, the New Mexicans. And what about Californians in the United States of America’s State of California? Don’t they know about Baja California in the Estados Unidos Mexico.

  • “Hey, don’t knock borax. It’s great for cleaning shave brushes.”

    And it will also “stiffen your wick” (source:

  • frankb

    I like the Aussies name for us. “Yanks” Of course southern Yanks might not like it, and minority Yanks and native Yanks and Polish Yanks and Asian Yanks.

  • Nick Gotts

    Here are my proposals for better naming of US citizens and residents : US-ers or UStat-ians or US-ans – krambc@15

    I used to tease Americans in this way, but it was pointed out to me that their country is the only one (AFAIK) that actually has the word “America” in its official name, so “Americans” does have a reasonable justification. Since the official name of my national granfalloon is such a mouthful (“The United Kingdom of Great* Britain and Northern Ireland**”), some short form is inevitable. “The UK” is accurate, and the idiot in question is a member of the UK Parliament, but “Britain” at least includes a lot more of it than “England”, and has the advantage that “Brit”*** can refer to inhabitants of any gender. Still, Ed, if your aim in life is to piss off the Scots and the Welsh, carry on!

    If Scotland votes for independence in September (still unlikely, but the polls are tightening), the situation gets even more complicated. In online discussions, the hypothetical parts of the dismantled UK usually get referred to as iScotland and rUK (or occasionally “Formerly United Kingdom” – FUK), but the best suggestion I’ve seen for the non-Scottish part is EWNI, which would give you Ewnians.

    *The “Great”, contrary to what many idiot patriots think, refers simply to physical size (which should give Americans a chuckle): the contrast is with Brittany, which was settled by British immigrants in the 5th century, and was sometimes known as “Less Britain”.

    **Northern Ireland Unionists regard themselves as British, while Irish Nationalists from Northern Ireland regard the division between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic as a temporary and illegitimate mutilation of their country, so you don’t lose much by not explicitly including that part of the UK in your designation.

    ***I tried using “Ukanian” for a while, but that got confused with “Ukranian”.

  • matty1

    I have a vague memory of a Simpson’s episode, one of the ones where they do stories from history in which groundskeeper Willie played an English leader against Joan of Arc. I always wondered how many of the original US audience actually got that one.

  • Yanks, Americans, MurKKKans, USians (rhymes with “Hessians”),–it’s all the same to me.

    I have a strong suspicion that “assholes” is one of the more frequent descriptors used for U.S. folk by those who have been victims of our largesse.

  • Somebody, put him in charge of GCHQ, quick.

  • dingojack

    Firstly, OK I take exception to the New Statesman‘s statement about silly putty. If Salicylic Acid, Diamorhpine and Paracetamol were all ingredients in silly putty does that mean they’re necessarily useless as analgesics?

    Secondly, anthrosciguy, you have presented no actual evidence that borax in ineffective against Foot and Mouth, but it couldn’t possibly be so because this guy is an idiot. Congrats, a near perfect ad hom. The best one can say is ‘we don’t know the effectiveness of borax in treating Foot and Mouth Disease’.

    “Homeopathic remedies do not include any substance other than water” – uh no. Homeopathic solutions are extremely dilute, the chance that they contain a single molecule is remote, but not zero*. If you’re going to make an argument, at least be vaguely accurate.

    “The phrase “homeopathic remedies, including borax” is an oxymoron…”

    Uh is it? How so, exactly?



    * BTW I’d prefer saying the solution has, probabilistically, about one borax molecule in a sphere of water some 1.1061359702 A.U in radius**. But that’s just me. 🙂

    ** Note in could have more, or it could have less. [This is assuming the initial solution is 1 mL of a fully saturated solution of decaborate dissolved into pure water at 25 degrees Celsius (approx. 0.0874M solution), diluted by another greater quantity of pure water (all at STP)].

  • “How is it treated?

    Hand-foot-and-mouth disease usually doesn’t need treatment. You can use home care to help relieve your child’s symptoms.

    Offer your child plenty of cool fluids to help with sore throat. Cold foods such as flavored ice pops and ice cream also may help.

    Don’t give your child acidic or spicy foods and drinks, such as salsa or orange juice. These foods can make mouth sores more painful.

    For pain and fever, give your child acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil). Do not give your child aspirin. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.”


    Here’s some information on ingesting borax.

  • dingojack

    Demo – you raise cattle and sheep as children?!?

    How is it treated? For non-humans, like this. 🙁

    (I seem to be having trouble with your second link).


  • alexmcdonald

    @dingojack #31

    “…you have presented no actual evidence that borax in ineffective against Foot and Mouth, but it couldn’t possibly be so because this guy is an idiot.”

    We do have evidence that he is an idiot. Borax 30C contains, with a probability of 100%, no borax at all for all but at most one of the doses. Hence that anyone claiming that Borax 30C is a cure for FMD beyond the one cow fortunate enough to receive the molecule can be described, to the same degree of absolute certainty, to be an idiot.

  • krubozumo

    You have to wonder whether there is some overlap between people who ‘believe’ in homeopathy and the people who claim that the solution to pollution is dilution. I guess they can excuse the contradiction on the one

    hand by claiming that homeopathy is not “just’ dilution or something. All that shaking makes all the difference?

    Or by their reasoning, diluting pollutants only makes them stronger, I can’t figure out which is the ‘logical’ conclusion. Perhaps it is both, depending on which special case you are pleading for.

    I suppose there is a small percentage of all subscribers to one thought or another who fall together. Having

    people of that description making wide ranging decisions that affect us all is a bit concerning.

    Perhaps we should just take the long view. Science is a relatively new thing in human experience and it is

    heavily opposed by a long history of superstition and magical thinkng. It has certainly proven its efficacy in

    many areas but that in no sense implies that the heavily indoctrinated will abandon their faith life line and

    become realists any time soon. After all, one of their primary fears is making the wrong choice in what creed to follow. Since science is really no creed at all, that choice is a no-brainer for the faithful.


  • @33:

    Foot & Mouth in humans is, according to several sources, I looked at not the same as Hoof & Mouth in ruminants. The treatment for human foot and mouth disease is not generally as drastic as shooting and burning the victims.

    The non-working link was to a set of questions and answers about borax toxicity.