Ultimate Sports Nutrition and the harms of quackery

There are at least three clear ways in which pseudoscience or bad science can harm consumers. The first, and most troubling, is that you might come to harm through consuming something that causes effects other than those promised or expected. This harm can be direct, as when herbal preparations result in allergic reactions (for example tea tree oil), or with unexpected drug interactions (thanks to “natural” remedies being regarded as different and non-interacting with conventional medicine).

Or, the harm can be indirect, as is the case with vaccine denialism, which not only exposes the denialist to avoidable risks of serious disease, but also impacts on “herd immunity”, thus threatening his or her entire community. Another form of indirect harm results from not seeking effective treatment, thanks to the false belief that you’ve already found a treatment. Penelope Dingle died of a potentially treatable cancer, after years of being “treated” by a homeopath allowed the cancer to spread beyond real medical science’s capacity to treat it.

The second way in which consumers can be harmed is for many of us fairly trivial, and amounts to our simply wasting money on products that can’t deliver on their promises. This is of course not trivial for the poor, or for people who spend significant amounts of money they can’t afford to on quackery – but if you like to pop an occasional homeopathic sleeping aid, it’s not going to cost you anything other than the price of a latte and perhaps some friendly mockery around the dinner table.

The third set of harms is a broad category, including harm to public understanding of the scientific method, where claims need to be held accountable to evidence; and violations of consumer trust, where you expect manufacturers to not only support but also deliver on the claims made regarding their products.

It is because of the risk of these and other harms that the Medicines Control Council (MCC) have introduced a requirement that complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) need to carry a label stating that the product has not been evaluated by the MCC, and that it is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. The CAM industry has been slow to respond – understandably so, because who would want their product to carry a label telling you it’s mere placebo?

Another sort of reaction to this risk, and one we as consumers should be grateful for, is the large community of scientific skeptics all over the world who take the time to document pseudoscientific or misleading claims, and then follow up with complaints to advertising regulators and other relevant bodies when they encounter such claims being made. In South Africa, one such individual is Dr Harris Steinman, a medical doctor who runs the site CamCheck, devoted to exposing misleading and unverifiable claims made on behalf of CAMs.

Manufacturers or promoters of CAM – and, as we shall see, nutritional supplements also – don’t appreciate it when they are criticised for selling something on the basis of unverifiable (or, verifiably false) claims. There are numerous examples of bullying via lawsuit, or threats of lawsuit, both locally and internationally in cases of this nature. To briefly return to the Dingle example mentioned above, bloggers who exposed the homeopath were served with cease and desist letters. Locally, Kevin Charleston was sued for R 350 000 by Solal Technologies, who sell and promote “untested remedies for a range of serious illnesses”.

More recently, Dr Steinman and CamCheck were the subject of a takedown notice from Ultimate Sports Nutrition and their founder Albe Geldenhuys, who alleged that “unlawful comments were posted” and that defamatory “remarks and/or comments” were made by Dr Steinman. CamCheck was subsequently moved offshore.

sun-set-psp-usn-004The claims made in the takedown notice are weakly supported or completely unsupported. In South African law, claims of defamation fail (or, should fail) if the purportedly defamatory comments are true, and in the public interest. CamCheck’s claims are certainly in the public interest, as I outline above with reference to the harms that can accrue as a consequence of pseudoscience or bad science.

Furthermore, as Dr Steinman exhaustively documents in response to the takedown notice, USN have a track record of adverse findings at Advertising Standards Authority hearings (locally, as well as in the UK) related to making unsubstantiated claims with regard to their products, as well as for simply changing the names of, and then re-introducing to the market, products that have been the subject of such hearings.

If you do a Google search for “usn rapid fat loss” – as a consumer of their products might plausibly do – the third link (for me, but it will be a prominent link for anyone) leads you to their “12 Week Rapid Fat Loss Plan” (pdf), which promotes “Carb Block” – a product the ASA ruled against in 2014. If you sell a product which doesn’t do what it says, are you a “scam artist”, as Steinman alleges? On balance of probabilities, it certainly seems a defensible claim, at the very least, and a claim that Steinman could reasonably believe to be true.

USN don’t want their customers to know when products are untested, or contain ingredients that aren’t capable of doing what USN claim they do. As unfortunate as that might be, the takedown notice was only the start of their efforts to make sure their customers don’t get to hear these things.

USN and Geldenhuys have now launched a defamation suit against Dr Steinman, claiming R 1 Million in damages for each of Geldenhuys and USN itself.

As with the extended, but ultimately futile, attempts by the British Chiropractic Association to silence Dr Simon Singh’s criticisms, this is little more than an attempt at legal bullying – more obviously so in light of the ludicrous quantum of damages sought.

Some readers might be familiar with the “Streisand Effect”, named after Barbra Streisand’s 2003 efforts to suppress photographs of her Malibu home ended up simply drawing additional attention to those photographs, thanks to Internet sharing. USN want to keep fair criticism underground, but thanks to this lawsuit, perhaps that criticism will end up more Streisand than silent.

First published by GroundUp. Also read this Groundup piece for further context on the USN lawsuit.

Science Skepticism

You can science too – it’s easy!

This entry is part of 30 in the series Noakes

mouse-801843_1280If you’ve always wanted a career in science, but never got around to studying biology, physics or whatever it is that you’re interested in, don’t fear – being (treated as) an authority is easier than you might think.

First, find a conclusion you like. Let’s say, for example, the claim that sugar is addictive. Then, find a study that supports that conclusion, and publicise it:

In this study, conducted on rats, we are told that sugar is addictive – a line that Prof. Tim Noakes repeats with some regularity. It’s of course more complicated than that, but let’s not be negative – this is a post about how easy science is, after all.

Next, what you need is a way to discredit studies that say things that don’t support your conclusions. Don’t worry about being consistent at this point – it’s fine if you apply one standard to research that supports your conclusion, and another standard to research that doesn’t.

A mouse model shows that eating high-fat diets during pregnancy might ‘program’ your baby to be fat? Rubbish – mice are not women!

There’s a mouse study that shows high-carb diets lead to as long and healthy a life as any other diet? Rubbish – mice are not men!

(Some of you might, upon reading confounding studies, be tempted to think that science is complicated, and rarely – if ever – suitable for justifying dogmatism. Eliminate that negativity – there’s no place for it in sciencing!)

Now, what do you do when someone praises you as a lifesaver, but in doing so, also endorses avoiding conventional doctors, seeking out naturopaths, regarding “almost all” drugs as “toxic” and vaccines as “highly dangerous”?


Well, you retweet them, of course (while perhaps reciting your mantra that science is not religion). And if someone calls you out for endorsing vaccine quackery, do not fear – dismiss their question with an insult and an appeal to authority:

Like Ms. Child, I’m also not an expert on immunology. And no, I haven’t read the book, which apparently “needs to be read by everyone with an opinion on vaccination debate”.

But why would one read this book when a cursory Google search results in extensive, well-referenced accounts of (at least) 11 flat-out misrepresentations of data in that book?

Or, when you discover that the only places the author is taken seriously is sites like quack-central Mercola? If you’re still not convinced that you’d be wasting your time reading it, what if you learned that the author is sympathetic to homeopathy?

You’d think of her as a quack herself, I’d wager, and you’d certainly not endorse her as an authority. Unless, of course, you have a conspiracy story to tell about big pharma and the medical establishment colluding to sell you drugs, while hiding “the truth” from you.

But let’s imagine you ignore all that instead. Now, you know that the public are rather upset to hear anti-vaccine messages – after all, didn’t around 170 people get measles just this year (so far) in the USA, mostly thanks to being unvaccinated?

Also, you’ve been in trouble for appearing to endorse anti-vaxx messages before, when tweeting a link to a video featuring Andrew Wakefield on how the CDC arranged a cover-up of evidence relating to vaccines and autism.

(Maybe, you also think of that pesky HPCSA hearing coming up later this year, and how it might complicate things for you to appear to be supporting a viewpoint that is widely believed to indirectly kill people, especially babies.)

So, let’s just deny that the book is anti-vaccination, instead calling it something more grand, like a “unique historical analysis”.

Except, how do you square that with the publisher’s own description of the book, which tells us that the book argues that vaccines are not “responsible for the increase in lifespan and the decline in mortality from infectious diseases”, or accounts of her work like this one, from Dr. David Gorski?

I suppose you just hope that people take your word for it. While, perhaps, reciting your mantra that science is not religion, and calling anyone who disagrees with you a “troll”.

If you are happier and healthier on LCHF, great, I’m happy for you. But you can, and should, expect more from those who you take as your authorities on diet and more importantly, the scientific method.

As I’ve said before, I think the jury is out on the diet questions. It’s not out on vaccinations, and hasn’t been for quite some time now.

It’s shamefully irresponsible to suggest otherwise, and disingenuous to pretend that this isn’t what you’re doing in recommending books like those of Humphries.


Noakes is asking “have you read the book?” to anyone challenging him on this on Twitter. You don’t need to read the book – there are many interviews with this author available online, including an outline of the arguments in the book on sites like Mercola’s.

Asking if you’ve read the book is mostly serving Noakes as a way to refuse to contemplate the dereliction of common-sense that is anti-vaccination endorsement on this scale. But even if he refuses to contemplate that, you nevertheless can.

Here’s something else that might interest you, on the author in question, linking to various other strange views she holds.

Science Skepticism

Flu vaccines might be ineffective, so try… water (otherwise known as Oscillococcinum)?

A friend forwarded a press release issued by “LeBron Health” to me, and the quackery it contains is too delightful to keep to myself. But because the press release also trades on fear-mongering of a rather pathetic sort, it’s also an reminder of how uninformed or unethical some medical “professionals” are, and of how quackery can harm in scaring people away from effective treatment.

The press release discusses the upcoming flu season in South Africa, and in particular, how to cope with the H3N2 strain of influenza. The H3N2 strain of influenza is indeed deadly, having reportedly killed dozens of children during the most recent US winter. That’s not good, of course – we’d like the number of deaths to either be 0, or much closer to 0 than that.

However, the number of deaths and hospitalisations this winter have not been significantly out of the normal range – the flu is not killing more people than it typically does. Furthermore, it’s also quite routine for the CDC to “issue a health warning to doctors”, as they are reported by the press release to have done. A “health warning” is not an advisory broadcast regarding an impending apocalypse, but (typically) simply information that the CDC thinks practitioners might find useful.

The health warning itself also reports something quite mundane on an aggregate level (though of course not mundane at all if you’re someone who has had flu-related illness or death in the family). It simply says that the current vaccine can’t compete effectively against H3N2, and that everyone should be prepared for a bad flu season.

This is also routine – vaccine developers select flu strains in January to May (for the US), based on which strains they predict will be most prevalent, and vaccination then begins in October. Things can change between those two phases – they are 5 months or more apart, after all – and one of the things that can change is the seriousness with which you could have (with perfect hindsight) regarded the threat of a particular influenza strain.

But you can’t know, 6 months in advance, and so you make the most informed predictions you can. Some years, the vaccine works very well, because you picked the right strains, and other years it works far less well.

And here’s the frustrating thing: in December last year (when the flu season hit the USA), the same scaremongering was prevalent. We read that the CDC had “admitted” that the vaccine doesn’t work, just as in this local press release’s headline, which claims that “flu vaccines may not work”.

Well, the CDC admitted nothing of the sort, and the flu vaccine “works” just fine, within the parameters of how it normally works, where the reasonable standard is never “perfectly”.

Even though this might be a particularly bad year for the vaccine’s efficacy, it’s still going to be better at helping you to avoid influenza than certain other “remedies” would be. It will help more than prayer, it will help more than avoiding cellphone towers, and it will certainly help more than homeopathy (with the caveat that hydration is good, so homeopathy in extreme quantities might help a little bit, because water).

Homeopaths disagree, as you might expect them to. One of those homeopaths is Dr Erika Coertzen, who suggests that we take a “reputable medicine such as Oscillococcinum, the most popular homeopathic product for flu symptoms in France”.

This box contains as much medicine as a microscopic box of Oscillococcinum does.

That quote tells us that Dr Coertzen and my understanding of what the word “reputable” means is as orthogonal as our understanding of the word “medicine”. We can also note that a “medicine’s” popularity is only relevant to sales, profit, and analysis of marketing and gullibility – it tells us nothing about efficacy.

As with all homeopathic “remedies”, there is no good clinical data to support the claims made in favour of Oscillococcinum as treatment for influenza. It’s not going to help you to “rebalance and heal”, and even if it is true (no citation is given for this claim) that a “majority of patients who take Oscillococcinum at the onset of flu-like symptoms show improvement or resolution of symptoms after reduced time”, if this is in comparison to patients who take nothing, then the placebo effect is a perfectly good explanation for this observation.

But I suspect that the data is more… what’s the technical term?… made up than that, or that it at the least involves some fairly extravagant inferences being made from a poor data set. Dr Coertzen says that patients “symptoms show improvement or resolution of symptoms after reduced time” – if this is true, the data should support this claim. Unfortunately, they don’t.

As assessed by the Cochrane Collaboration, where trials do show favourable results for Oscillococcinum, “the overall standard of research reporting was poor, and thus many aspects of the trials’ methods and results were at unclear risk of bias. We therefore judged the evidence overall as low quality, preventing clear conclusions from being made about Oscillococcinum® in the prevention or treatment of flu and flu‐like illness.”

Amusingly, the website – of course not a neutral scientific arbiter – claims that “unlike other flu medicines, Oscillococcinum does not cause drowsiness or interact with other medications”. Given that Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic “remedy”, therefore containing nothing that might cause drowsiness or negative interactions, this claim only gains traction if you’re able to persuade people that homeopathy is at all respectable or efficacious – surely nothing that any “reputable” healthcare practitioner would do?

In her defence, Dr Coertzen isn’t ever quoted as directly suggesting that you not take real medicine also, which might be the only thing that prevents the Health Professions Council (HPCSA) Medicines Control Council (MCC) from chastising her for this batshittery.

However, if she is the “medical expert” quoted in the headline, telling the public that vaccines might not work and that they should consider alternatives does seem to be a direct encouragement to forsake medicine in favour of homeopathy, and I do hope that a complaint is laid so that the MCC HPCSA can then rule against this idiocy.

Briefly, on Oscillococcinum itself, you’d be amused to read up on it, as the story of its origins and composition is quite the catalogue of pseudoscience in action. While there might be nothing that trumps Scientology for batshittery, Oscillococcinum gives it a damn good try…



Flu vaccines may not work, consider alternatives — medical expert

Global health authorities have cautioned that current flu vaccines may not prevent a severe new strain of influenza, highlighting the need to seek alternative ways to protect against falling ill this winter.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health warning to doctors during the northern hemisphere winter about the severity of the 2015 flu season. It said the current flu vaccination protects against three or four strains but is not a match for the dangerous H3N2 strain which has mutated and has contributed to more deaths and hospitalisations of children and the elderly. (See:

Nearly 30 children died in one of the worst flu outbreaks in the US over their winter. In SA, a new modified vaccine is now available to match two of three new strains, including H3N2. However flu can still be contracted if other strains are not covered by the vaccine (See:

SA doctor and homeopath, Dr Erika Coertzen, suggests boosting the immune system naturally by following a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet, getting enough sleep, regular exercise and taking preventative natural or homeopathic medicines to counter the onset of flu symptoms.

“A reputable medicine such as Oscillococcinum, the most popular homeopathic product for flu symptoms in France, has shown to help alleviate flu symptoms such as body aches, pains, chills and fever without drowsiness or the worry of negative interaction with other medication. Oscillococcinum works with the body to help rebalance and heal, and is suitable for all ages. Oscillococcinum’s efficacy in reducing the severity and duration of flu-like symptoms is well-known. A majority of patients who take Oscillococcinum at the onset of flu-like symptoms show improvement or resolution of symptoms after reduced time” she said.

For product info visit, or call 021-403-6390.


Don’t contaminate your water with water

imagesAs is so often the case, seriously-intentioned pieces of writing – if written by quacks – can be rather funny. And so it is with a report on a recent homeopathy conference in Barcelona, which I was alerted to by Andy Lewis (who is responsible for the excellent Quackometer website). If you read the report, you’ll discover that homeopathy is even more powerful than you might currently believe. For example:

physical contact with a remedy may not be required to feel its affects. So presumably, individuals in a placebo or control group could still be affected by the action of a remedy.

Translation: homeopathy is unfalsifiable, and we don’t care. In fact, it’s a virtue.

Dr. Gustavo Bracho, an immunologist from Cuba, … discovered completely by accident,that if he stored water (for his control / placebo group) next to a homeopathic dilution of the extract, the water would take on the same properties as the remedy.

Translation: one sample of water, with no detectable traces of the homeopathic “remedy”, tested as having the same properties as another sample of water with no detectable traces of the homeopathic “remedy”.

But on his reasoning,

if a remedy is already imprinted, it cannot be affected by another. So word of warning to homeopaths, and homeopathic aficionados out there – make sure you keep your blank pellets and water far away from your remedies.

Because imagine the panic that might set in if you’re racing against the clock to cure someone’s dread disease, and all of the water you thought was “blank” had brushed against the glass containing water intended to banish faeries (or something. I’m not quite sure how this is supposed to work.)

Academia and teaching Science

Cansa indulges the quacks (and students indulge the homeopaths)

So, as mentioned in a Daily Maverick column, I was recently asked to grant a student an extension on an assignment deadline. Her request was accompanied by the “medical certificate” below:


Yes, that is from a naturopath, who also advertises skills related to iridology (your eyes, the iris in particular, being a reliable source of information about your health), herbal tinctures, and homeopathy. And in what you’d hope is a joke, but isn’t, the course in question is explicitly about evidence-based decision-making. Worse still – during the week this particular assignment was due, the lecture topic was pseudoscience, with explicit reference to homeopathy.

A reader encouraged me to submit a complaint to the Registrar of the Allied Health Professions Council, which I’ve done as per the text below:

I would like to formally bring a matter to your attention, as Registrar of the Allied Health Professions Council. The attached note, bearing the letterhead of Renata Zijp (Reg A9803; Prac 0805564) was submitted in support of a student’s application to be granted an extension on an assignment in my course at the University of Cape Town.

While I realise that it’s not within your purview to completely eliminate pseudoscientific professions such as homeopathy, I would hope that legislation and common sense both argue against practitioners in these fields issuing certificates such as the one attached.

The certificate makes no mention of the ailment that was diagnosed, nor does it offer any information as to when the student would be fit to return to her studies. In other words, as a piece of testimony as to the medical condition of the student, it is useless for two reasons: the fact that Zijp is a practitioner of professions of dubious value; and even within those professions, has offered testimony that is useless and even misleading.

It is misleading because, in using the imprimatur of science, a less attentive or more gullible member of the academic community might accept such a certificate as a legitimate reason to grant the student an extension. It is not, and presenting certificates such as these is an insult to those who suffer from genuine ailments, and to the professionals who treat them.

Finally, even though the AHPC must of course concern itself with matters directly related to the professions in question, we arguably all have a responsibility to hold other citizens to account for the contributions played in promoting reason and rationality, or the converse of those. Students (ironically, in this case students in a course teaching evidence-based decision-making) should not be given the impression that these sorts of certificates have any merit, and practitioners should be dissuaded – if not barred – from issuing them.

If you encounter any similar instances, you can get in touch with the Registrar of the Allied Health Professions Council, Dr Louis Mullinder, at [email protected] to officially lodge a complaint.

Incidentally, my complaint might bear some fruit, seeing as I’m reliably informed that the practitioner in question “is registered as a naturopath, but not as a homoeopath. It is a breach of the Regulations to the Act to give the impression that she is registered as a homoeopath. I expect that the Registrar will deal with it harshly – quite apart from the highly problematic wording of the actual certificate.”

While on the subject of quackery: CANSA, the country’s main cancer advocacy organisation, is promoting and marketing an untested supplement. Prof. Roy Jobson of Rhodes University pharmacology dept criticised them, and they responded with a lawyer’s letter threatening to sue.


Doing Reiki in your sleep

newvoiceOne of the many benefits of believing utter bulls**t is that your claims need to be limited by nothing other than your imagination. I was alerted to a goldmine of quackery today via an Andy Lewis tweet about Siri for homeopaths. Not simply the sort of Siri that can answer questions like “where can I buy 10 000 sugar pills” – a Siri that can actually make “medicine” for you.

It’s true (at least, the fact that someone makes this claim is true). The picture at top-left is is a “voice-programmed remedy maker“, which is a marvel of efficiency and simplicity.

In use, the device is held close to the mouth, a button on the side of the Remedy Maker is pressed in, and you speak the name of a Remedy you want immediately followed by the Potency (if any). The button is then released and a “beep” sound is heard confirming that a remedy has been recorded and stored. Then the device is placed on a table or flat surface and a small bottle of tablets, or even just one or two tablets can be placed in the small 30.3mm ( 1. 3/16″ ) diameter Stainless Steel Well that is fitted in the device. A switch next to the Well is operated and held down for about 3 seconds, and then released, and the device again beeps to confirm that your remedy has been made.

What’s that? You’ve run out of tablets? That’s no problem at all – simply place your finger in that metal well, operate the switch, and marvel as the device transfers “the vibrations directly into the body. This makes the device ideal to use as an emergancy first aid device, for example it could be used to make Apis Mellifica, which is a powerful Bee Sting Treatment, or one could give a dose of Malaria Officinalis, which is considered by many to be useful in Malaria prevention.”

At a bargain price of 395USD, this is Profitus Maximus (seeing as we’re talking sciencey).

The makers have thought of everything. It matters not if you have a thick accent or speak in a strange dialect, because “Words are used to represent a thing or situation. Many different words (even different in language) can be used to represent the same thing.” The device understands abbreviations. If you’re speaking in a loud, crowded environment, no matter – it only listens to your voice.

And you don’t even need to know which “medicine” you need! “The special beauty of this device is that within seconds you can be making vibrational remedies from literally anything you can think of, … even the illness itself. “My Throat problem”, for example, or “The pain in my leg” etc.”

If you feel like some light entertainment, spend a few minutes browsing the site. If you ever wished you could do Reiki while sleeping, or talking on the phone, go find out about the White Mountain Energy Copier, which makes this possible. Worried about the end of the world? There’s info on that, as well as a handy (for Muslims) description of why and how the Kabbah needs fixing.

For skeptics, Randi “and other closed-minded behaviour”, there’s a message for you too, which concludes with:

We don’t feel we need to prove or justify anything, our products work and we have thousands of satisfied customers, many of which are busy using our devices to save lives right now, or using these devices to improve their own wellbeing.

If you are one of the skeptics, all I can say is I am very sorry for you, and I hope one day that you will choose to open your eyes. In the meantime don’t bother to email me with your abusive and childish comments as your emails will not be opened and read.

Then there’s a link to a website called Coping with Disbelief – but the URL currently redirects to a website advertising a “Fiber One” breakfast bars and cereals. Handy, for those who are full of s**t. (This might be intended as a joke on the part of White Mountain, which would certainly offer reassurance that they’re not completely crazy).

By the way, if you don’t know Andy’s site The Quackometer – dedicated to debunking quack medicine, be sure to check it out, especially his detailed work on Steiner-Waldorf racism, mysticism and other reasons for parents to run a mile.

Daily Maverick Science

Patrick Holford’s feel-good quackery

As submitted to The Daily Maverick.

At times it appears alarmingly easy to be considered an expert in any given field. This is sometimes the case even when objective criteria for expertise are available, and you manifestly fail to meet them. Granted, there are some fields of knowledge where consensus is difficult to reach, and where equally qualified people can have opposing viewpoints. But this is rare, and (thankfully) becoming steadily more rare.

Morality Science

Patrick Holford supports Malema!

No, not really. I was just trying the TimesLive and Sunday Times strategy for getting hits, whereby you headline a piece with something very misleading, perhaps even false. But it is at least partly true that Holford supports Malema, because Holford cares about all of us – especially our health, which he believes he can improve via dietary advice, and of course via your purchasing of his various branded products.

Unfortunately for some of us – particularly the ones with HIV, Holford also endorses the notion that “AZT is potentially harmful and proving less effective than vitamin C” – a notion which comes from Dr Raxit Jariwalla, who works for the Matthias Rath Foundation. I’ll write more about this next week for The Daily Maverick, but in the meanwhile, here are the places to avoid if you don’t want to hear Holford giving bad advice, or run into any his cultish supporters. Or, the places to flock to, if you intend to heckle.

Though, if you do intend to heckle, you should know that you’d be disagreeing with at least some experts in dismissing Holford’s credentials. On his website, in the section on “What the experts say”, there’s this:

Patrick Holford is one of the world’s leading authorities on new approach to health and nutrition.

The expert in question? The Daily Mail.

Thanks to Twitter user ORapscallion for alerting me to the visit of this quackmeister, and of course to Radio702 / CapeTalk567, who I hope are spending this ad revenue on AIDS-related charities. I mean, surely they must be, being behind the #LeadSA campaign and all.

Daily Maverick Morality Science

I got the power!

As submitted to The Daily Maverick.

At some point in the early or mid-80’s, our hosts at a dinner party complained about the escalating price of meat. I remember being struck by how curious this lament was, seeing as the hosts in question were undeniably rather wealthy – they had cars for every conceivable purpose (the shopping car, the beach holiday car, the high-tea-at-the-Nellie car), and lived in what seemed to my youngsters’ eye to be a house in which they might regularly get lost, such were the number of rooms, nooks and crannies.

But as the years have limped on, I’ve heard this sort of complaint regularly, and it has become clear that just about everybody wishes that their lives were better, no matter what their current social or financial status. And this is perhaps good, in that having aspirations is what drives us to better our lives. In many cases, bettering our own lives can contribute to the welfare of others also, and that’s certainly no bad thing.

There is however a difference between being aspirational and being delusional. The former could involve wishing you could afford any meat at all, and the latter perhaps that you could persuade Floyd Shivambu to express himself using coherent and complete sentences. And it is of course possible to make significant distinctions in the realm of what we aspire to, in that it’s somewhat offensive to complain about your lot when you already have more than most could dream of having.