Witchcraft and magic cures

Being critical of daft ideas matters … it really does. Every now and then somebody who is stupid enough to believe gets into a position of power where they then proceed to do real harm on an almost industrial scale. I have an example for you, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh truly believes that witchcraft is real, as reported in the UK’s Guardian today …

In 2009, Mr Jammeh allegedly rounded up more than 1,000 suspected “witches” and force-fed them hallucinogenic potions after suspecting them of using sorcery to kill his aunt. Worse still, though, he believes in magic as a power for good as well as bad. In 2007, he outraged world scientific opinion by announcing he’d found his own spiritual and medical cure for HIV, a spot of homeopathic quackery that not even Prince Charles would probably endorse.

Hundreds of Gambians have since undergone the programme – which requires them to give up normal retrovirals – although Mr Jammeh has been somewhat cagey on the results. This despite various medical experts pointing out that if he only shared his secret “recipe”, he could make both Gambia and himself very rich indeed.

“Oh”, you might think to yourself, “That’s Gambia, here in the UK we would never use public funds to promote such quackery” …. right? Actually, we do exactly the same, it is simply dressed up to give it an air of respectability, so we don’t use words such as magic, instead we call it “Integrated” medicine.

  • We have NHS (National Health Service) hospitals dispensing homoeopathic remedies, which are essentially “magic” water that does nothing at all … the exact same stuff being used in Gambia to cure HIV.

In our case, we don’t use the word “magic”, that would be too much of a red flag, so why is this integrated quackery socially acceptable? Perhaps because most assume it to be some form of herbalism, but it’s not. Preparation of a homoeopathic remedy involves repeatedly diluting a chosen substance in alcohol or distilled water, followed by forceful striking on an elastic body, called succussion. What you end up with is often lacking even a single molecule of the diluted substance.

  • Lets be 100% clear … this is not medicine, it is fraud and that is not an opinion, it’s a fact.

So whether it is Gambia, or in fact the UK, the deployment of things that don’t actually work and have been proven not to work, matters, because if we don’t challenge such nonsense, then people who need medicine (the stuff that has been tested and proven to work), don’t get it, and real harm results.

As one medical commentator once observed on what is now termed “Integrated” medicine, “Integrating bullshit with Apple Pie really does not help improve the flavour of apple pie“.

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