Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Coghill Challenge

Since a piece by Ben Goldacre (also picked up by PZ Myers) got me onto Roger Coghill, I've been sniffing around a bit. I found his web store, and fired off a query about the 'research' they refer to in the case of the impressively named 'Coghill Supermagnet'.

Then I figured to see what else there was on the tubes about the Supermagnet, and soon found the website of The Medcross Group. On that site you can find the "Coghill Challenge". More on this anon.

For readers who're unfamiliar with Coghill, he's big on magnets, and electromagnetic radiation. According to him they're very bad (which is how he got to be called on by the UK Daily Mail when they wanted someone to say that cell phone towers made people suicidal) and also very good (at least when he's selling them for therapy).

So what's the challenge? You can read the official description with all it's clunky expression here. The bottom line is this (quoted with odd line breaks, etc., as in the original):

Place any human infant of less than three months age to sleep each night for at least eight hours in an ELF electric field of 100 Volts per metre for thirty days. My studies predict that child will die, or become so seriously ill that the test will have to be called off
. The NRPB and the power utilities' investigation levels by contrast predict there will be no adverse effect.

I will personally bet any NRPB member of staff or any any electric power utility worker around the world £2000 (or US$3000) willing to do this experiment, that my prediction will prove correct.

Pause. Breathe.

Yes, that's right. This guy is really confident that something would kill or harm a human infant, and his idea of a good way of making the point is to bet with real money that you can't prove him wrong. According to what he says he knows, he's bribing you to kill babies.

So, no trials with ... er ... mice (for example), then?

I'm sort of stunned. Not only do these pseudoscience bozos know very little about science epistemically speaking, it seems as though their idea of research ethics is at best about 5 decades out of date. I've emailed Coghill to ask wassup with this, and will follow up here in due course.


Michael Meadon said...

The smiting of stupidity makes my heart glow...

Anonymous said...

It's PZ "Myers". You misspelled it in your previous article too.

Doctor Spurt said...

Thanks, anonymous. Fixed now. (That was a thinko rather than a typo or false belief. Got a good friend who's 'Meyer'...)