Like many skeptics, March 1st 2011 had been a date marked in my diary as I was looking forward to doing my bit for the Nightingale Collaboration’s ‘Focus of the Month’.
I had selected my target website well in advance and had prepared a screen grab of the claims for the homeopathic treatment that I was looking forward to reporting. I’d even, rather charitably, sent a warning email to tell the homeopathic practitioner about the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority’s impending remit change, in case they wanted to remove the offending claims in advance. So when I checked back prior to sending off my complaint to the ASA, I discovered that the website had been taken down:
Damn it; I had been foiled! Maybe I’d even scored an own goal with the warning email.
Or had I?
This situation must be a familiar to many other skeptics around the country who had been similarly prepared to take action. A brief Google search reveals a whole number of homeopathy websites that are being updated, are under repair or have recently had their “What homeopathy can treat” pages removed.
The on-line debate seems to suggest that some are disappointed that they will not be able to use the ASA to deliver a slap on the wrist to their chosen homeopath due to websites being taken down. As skeptics, however, I feel that we have to ask ourselves, ‘What constitutes a victory?’
My ambition had been to restrict homeopaths, limiting them only to those claims, if indeed there are any, that are demonstrably provable as efficacious. So, I may have to wait until the new website is published to see if any bullshit claims persist, but until then I am more than happy that this forum for false advertising has been taken away.
The skeptical community can, and I’m sure will, continue to monitor these websites. Perhaps the practitioners of homeopathy are simply ‘waiting the situation out’ in the hope that we will go away? But we won’t! Removal of websites, or their inappropriate content, is a victory whether it is brought about by ASA rulings or simply through pre-emptive moves from homeopaths. Skeptics should not be disappointed. These are victories.
Kudos to the Nightingale Collaboration! Kudos to skepticism!
So, do you think skeptics should stop whinging because a win is a win, right? Or is an ASA wrist-slap needed to let the alt-med peddler know that they are in the wrong?