Yesterday I was in the London Borough of Waltham Forest where, for the third year running, I was a judge at a science debate competition. Teams of youngsters from secondary schools across the borough pitted their oratory, rhetoric and critical thinking skills against one another on a scientific issue of the day. In previous years we’ve covered nuclear power and climate change. Yesterday the house debated the pros and cons of stem-cell therapy. It’s a great day out for all concerned, and I am always heartened by the work that the students put in, notwithstanding inasmuch as which as this is very much the Inner City, and the pupils come from a plethora of backgrounds, and some do not have English as a first language.
It’s also very heartening that schools are beginning to recognize that formal public speaking is not just for the toffs at Eton, but can be a valuable part of anyone’s day-to-day skill set. So, hooray to the organizers for bucking the trend one sees so much elsewhere, that pupils fail less from innate unintelligence than by poverty of expectation.
I was also pleased to see that the members of the winning team each get, as a prize, a copy of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, a book which, I’m ashamed to say, I’d not yet read. So I snarfled a spare copy and took it home with me on the train. Even though I am not yet halfway through, I can safely say that it’s a revelation, and leaps straight to the top of my personal all-time-great science book chart, eclipsing even Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, Climbing Mount Improbable by He Who Must Not Be Named, and even The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate by Toby Appel (seriously, a wildly unappreciated classic that someone should make into a film).
If Bad Science doesn’t do everything from curing the national debt, fostering world peace, filling all the potholes in the byways of Norfolk, and leading everyone to a more fulfilled life full of love, appreciation, copious sex and as many Jaffa cakes as one could eat, then Freddie Starr can eat my hamster anytime. And, if Mr Goldacre is reading this, he is welcome to quote me.
I was struck in particular by this footnote on the bottom of page 161, which I shall quote in extenso, and moreover, in full:
‘Nutritionist’, ‘nutrition therapist’, ‘nutritional therapy consultant’ and the many variations on this theme are not protected terms, unlike ‘nurse’, ‘dietitian’ or ‘physiotherapist’, so anyone can use them. Just to be clear, I’ll say it again: anyone can declare themselves to be a nutritionist. After reading this book, you will know more about the appraisal of evidence than most, so in the manner of Spartacus I suggest you call yourself one too; and academics working in the field of nutrition will have to move on, because the word doesn’t belong to them any more.
No sooner said than done, sir. If you look at the little autobiographical box at the top right of this page, you’ll see that I now style myself as not just a Nutritionist (because anyone can call themselves that), but as a Celebrity Nutritionist, because I’ve been called a celebrity by none other than that most august body, the Natural History Museum. Well, Karen James, but she was working there at the time, and it was on one of her blogs, but I can’t find the post right now (It’s here – Ed.) But, hey, citation of non-existent references seems to be par for the nutritionist course, so why should I be any different? I do, at least, have a PhD., from a proper University, unlike some nutritionists I shan’t name, but Mr Goldacre does. Who cares if it’s in zoology and concerns the precise identification of fossilized bison bones? It’s a PhD, so I can call myself ‘Doctor’, though I tend not to do this outside academic company because it sounds daft; old ladies might come up to me and bore me about their arthritis; and it can lead to complications.
For example, I was on a plane just about to leave Mexico City for London, and I was in the worst possible seat – in the middle of a bank of five, my knees pressed firmly on the bulkhead in front. On one side was a couple with a small and agitated child on their laps. This, I thought, is going to be a long eleven hours. Just then a stewardess rushed into the cabin. “Dr Gee! Dr Gee!” she cried. Oh brother, I thought, the co-pilot is having a coronary and they’ll want me to help. My life is complete. But then she said “Would you like to sit in this spare seat over here, so this couple can have an extra seat for their child?” I thanked the stewardess gratefully, and took up the proffered window seat, which had lots of legroom, and enjoyed a pleasant flight home talking with a very nice young lady guitarist from Germany who’d been on a concert tour in Mexico.
But I digress.
As Mr Goldacre so convincingly shows, you can’t be a Celebrity Nutritionist unless you have some nostrum to peddle to the credulous public, the crapulous media and the Daily Nimbyist Bungaloid Curtain-Twitcher. Happily, I have just the thing – a nutritional supplement that’ll soon be in all good health food stores, marketed under my Alimentations Des Girrafes range (catchy, eh? And it’s in French, too, because you’re worth it).
It’s all about dietary fibre. You need fibre in your diet, because Science Has Proved that it speeds up transport time in your gut, so food doesn’t have so much time to hang around and fester, Engender Harmful Toxins and Cause Cancer. Fibre means perkier stools (I note that any
celebrity nutritionist Celebrity Nutritionist worth their salt bank balance has to be obsessed with feces). And because fibre isn’t digested, if you eat a lot of it, it makes you feel full, which means that you lose weight. Fibre is a food that makes you thinner. So, all you saddo obese proles living on burgers ladies, the message is clear – Eat Yourself Thin with Fibre! No need for all those tedious workouts. But isn’t eating dietary fibre boring, I hear you cry? Won’t I have to eat loads of crispbreads that taste of cardboard, and really yucky vegetables?
No – that’s the trick, just two daily doses of my
Rampant Wild Rabbit (TM) pills, developed from a concentrated source of natural fibre by Laboratoires Des Girrafes, will give you the recommended daily dose of natural fibre. No more tedious chewing through mountains of spinach and carrots. The solution is here.
Now, listen up, here comes the science part.
Millions of years of evolution have produced a creature that generates natural fibre already processed for our use – the rabbit. The free-range rabbits in the Jardin Des Girrafes crop grass using
teeth microstructured ceramic-composite self-sharpening blades honed to perfection by generations of natural selection. The food is processed in their gut, and comes out, in convenient, odor-free pelletized form, as virtually 100% pure fibre. What’s more, this fibre is entirely natural. No nasty chemicals are involved.
But wait – there’s more.
Rabbits actually enrich this fibre by eating their poos and re-digesting them, filtering out any Harmful Toxins and concentrating this Natural Goodness still further – making an even more concentrated and effective dose of fibre, which is why just a couple of Wild Rabbit (TM) pills gives you as much fibre as a plateful of raw kale or two pounds of raw potatoes. And without all that peeling and cooking! And it’s a Detox, too!
And that’s not all. Those rabbits know a thing or two. After extensive, unpublished, uncontrolled research on very small sample sizes at Laboratoires Des Girrafes, we know that rabbits living free-range in the garden have longer, healthier, more fulfilling lives than those confined to hutches, eating unnatural foods and having no exercise (well, that’s what our vet told us, so it must be right). What’s more, if recent observations are any judge, they enjoy frequent and uninhibited sex. Why should teh bunnies have all the fun? With Wild Rabbit (TM) dietary supplements, not only will you lose weight and have a natural daily detox, you’ll live a longer, happier and more carefree life, with lashings of great sex.
All we at Laboratoires Des Girrafes have done is take these little pill-sized gems that Mother Nature has given us; dried them in naturally enriching sunshine (which neutralizes any Harmful Toxins the rabbit might have missed); added some natural food colouring to make the pills look pretty; boxed them up in some snazzy packaging; and made this miracle of nature available to you for only £10.99 for a pack of twenty.
Now – I wonder if anyone will fall for this guff?