Terra Sigillata

The loss of a great thinker

I just learned from Orac and Bora that the father of blogger Lindsay Beyerstein (Majikthise) has passed away. Dr Barry L Beyerstein was a member of the executive council of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and a biopsychologist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. He was only 60 years old.

Unaware of the connection to Lindsay, I have been using an essay by Dr Beyerstein in my alternative medicine lectures for almost 10 years. Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem To Work was posted at Quackwatch.com a couple of years ago and is well worth reading as it covers seven major reasons why people often put their faith in what turn out to be ineffective therapies.

From the closing paragraph:

The job of distinguishing real from spurious causal relationships requires well designed studies and logical abstractions from large bodies of data. Many sources of error can mislead people who rely on intuition or informal reasoning to analyze complex events. Before agreeing to any kind of treatment, you should feel confident that it makes sense and has been scientifically validated through studies that control for placebo responses, compliance effects, and judgmental errors. You should be very wary if the “evidence” consists merely of testimonials, self-published pamphlets or books, or items from the popular media.

What a great loss of a clear-thinking scholar, professor, and father. Deepest condolences and warm wishes to Lindsay and her family.