Sceptical suicide attempt, nationwide: Updated


Michael Marshall
Michael Marshall is the project director of the Good Thinking Society and president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He is the co-host of the long-running Skeptics with a K podcast, interviews proponents of pseudoscience on the Be Reasonable podcast, has given skeptical talks all around the world, and has lectured at several universities on the role of PR in the media. He has been the Editor of The Skeptic since August 2020.

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At 10:23am on Saturday 30th January, over 300 individuals from branches of Skeptics in the Pub will simultaneously consume an overdose of commercially available homeopathic medicines. The nationwide protest, organised by the 10:23 campaign from Merseyside Skeptics, will either unfold as one of the largest mass suicides since Jonestown, or will yet again confirm that science, evidence and rational thought actually do work.

The confirmed locations of the overdoses are as follows:


Birmingham: High Street

Edinburgh: Secret Location

Glasgow: Tie Rack in Central Station

Liverpool: St George’s Hall

London: Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn

Leeds: Leeds Mainline Rail Station, main entrance at 9.30-10 am

Sydney: Queen Victoria Building, York and Druitt Street
Portland, Orgeon

Immediately after the protest, Dr Simon Singh, Prof. John Garrow and Andy Lewis will take to the stage of London’s Conway Hall for Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial, the first event in 2010 from CFI UK.

The protest, comes after a Boots representative, Paul Bennett, attracted ridicule from the national press after admitting to a parliamentary select committee last month that Boots knowingly sells homeopathic remedies to the public for which it has no evidence of effectiveness. The Science and Technology Select Committee are due to release their report on homeopathy around the time of the protest, at the end of January.

While dispensing sugar pills may seem harmless, in reality the endorsement of homeopathic potions by leading health providers can have grave consequences. As well as potentially undermining trust in medicine and medical advice, customers may be misled into believing that they are treating their illness – for example a Panorama investigation famously revealed that homeopaths were advising customers to take ineffective pills in place of Malaria prophylactics on holiday. In extreme cases, such as the ‘healing therapist’ Russell Jenkins, deaths may occur.

The 10:23 Campaign, so named in recognition of
Avogadro’s Constant (the limit of dilution which is exceeded by homeopathic preparations) aims to raise awareness of homeopathy and its basis within long-discredited 18th century pseudoscience, selling remedies to the public which have no scientific basis and no credible evidence for its efficacy beyond the placebo effect.

As ever, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate JREF’s Law (namely “there is no topic of parapsychological discussion upon which James Randi has failed to comment”) by directing attention to Randi’s lecture at Princeton in 2001, which contained the following segment on homeopathy. Randi’s commentary in 2002 for the BBC is worth reading also.

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