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expert reaction to Noel Edmonds’ statements about negative energy and cancer

Tweets from television presenter Noel Edmonds endorsing the use of an electromagnetic pulse machine to treat cancer and asserting that ill health is caused by ‘negative energy’ have been met with widespread criticism from the general public.

 

Prof. Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor at the University Of Exeter and Co-author of TRICK OR TREATMENT? Alternative medicine on trial, said:

“The reason why most of us put ‘negative energy’ in inverted commas is simple: it is a pure figment of the imagination of fantasists. That would not be so bad except that, as we see, some VIPs seem to take this nonsense seriously. The result might be that some desperate patients believe them, and choose the nonsense over the best that real medicine has to offer. And that could hasten deaths.”

 

Prof. John Gribben FMedSci, Chair of Medical Oncology at Queen Mary University of London, said:

“This is complete gibberish and undermines all the good work everyone does with evidence-based medicine and targeted approaches!  There is no justification whatsoever for these types of claims.”

 

Dr Simon Singh, Co-author of TRICK OR TREATMENT? Alternative medicine on trial, said:

“When people are seriously ill, the last thing they need is ill-informed celebrities promoting the latest miracle gadget. Sadly, Noel Edmonds and his particular favourite device are just the tip of the iceberg – some celebrities do act responsibly when talking about health, but many others make pseudoscientific claims and put patients at risk.”

 

Dr David Grimes, Research Associate at the University of Oxford, said:

“The suggestion that disease is caused by negative energy has no scientific basis whatsoever. It’s so arbitrary as to be entirely meaningless. And in respect to cancer, it’s a complete fiction. There are many things which can cause or contribute to cancer, but it is still largely a matter of bad luck. The implicit insinuation here is that cancer victims could have avoided their cancer by being positive, which is not only wrong and patronising but in my opinion reeks of victim-blaming.

“The idea of negative energy hinges on a pretty flimsy definition of both terms. Being a pedant, one might argue that atomic binding energy is negative energy but this would be something of a misunderstanding and it is ultimately irrelevant to the topic at hand. I suspect Edmonds is using the colloquial definition of energy rather than the scientific, and conflating the twain haphazardly, where he means attitude. In any case, the scientific evidence for his assertion is utterly lacking.

“It is dangerous when celebrities say this stuff. There is a wealth of evidence to show that celebrity endorsement matters, and that coverage of celebrity troubles has a tangible impact. For example, pap smear requests went up hugely with coverage of Jade Goody’s illness and death from cervical cancer. When Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer, requests for mammograms in Australia shot up. But it is irresponsible to promote unproven treatments for cancer.

“The electromagnetic frequencies we encounter in most situations from radio to wifi to visible light have little impact on us at a cellular level. It is true that you can get highly ionizing radiation, which we use for cancer treatment and this can kill or damage cells. However I think it’s safe to presume the EMP Pad isn’t a portable x-ray source or there would be serious questions raised!”

 

Prof. Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, said:

“Britain leads the world in many areas of health and medical research and is making remarkable advances in understanding and tackling the horrors of cancer, so when a celebrity comes out with such nonsense it’s laughable, sad and dangerous in equal measure. I’d understand it if we were living in the 12th century rather than the 21st, but there really is no excuse for such claptrap in the modern world. What is really sad is that the scientific community have to confront such ludicrous claims and explain why they are nonsense rather than simply ignoring them.”

 

Prof. Frank Close, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, said:

“The Catch-22 is that science cannot prove a negative. With that caveat out of the way: the claim is bunk. It is an example of the modern cult of celebrity: if anyone else made such baseless remarks they would be rightly ignored. ‘Negative energy’ means whatever you want it to mean; it certainly has no scientific basis in the context that Mr Edmonds appears to be using it. The company that makes the machine, to its credit, does not appear to align itself with his remarks.”

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