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Suzanne O’Sullivan on BBC The Life Scientific

Discussion in 'PsychoSocial ME/CFS News' started by Robert 1973, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. Robert 1973

    Robert 1973 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan, author of It’s All In Your Head, is to appear on BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific on 6 November: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000112j
    According to MEpedia, Dr O’Sullivan “published her book, It's All In Your Head, in 2015. It is a book about medically unexplained symptoms and psychosomatic illness and includes a chapter on ME/CFS despite widespread agreement that it is not a psychosomatic illness.”

    Jim Al-Khalili previously interviewed Sir Simon Wessely on the same programme:
    https://www.s4me.info/threads/prof-...-life-scientific-bbc-radio-4-14-feb-2017.991/

    Very disappointing that an otherwise great science programme is promoting such unscientific views, which have been so harmful to so many people with ME for so long.

    I suppose one should not prejudge, but I’m bracing myself for yet another kick in the groin from the UK science/medical establishment.
     
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  2. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    edit: This comes across as a needlessly moody post! Sorry @Robert 1973 - thanks for posting about this upcoming annoying thing.

    Really?! You think that this is an otherwise great programme?

    I guess I've only listened to the shows with people doing harmful stuff and ignoring problems in the research literature, but I've found every one pretty nauseating. It's clear that the presenter never knows what he's talking about and is just there to enable the self-mythologising of whoever his guest is. If we had a show that treated politicians like this it would not be a sign of a healthy society.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
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  3. chrisb

    chrisb Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Does she have another book out for Christmas?
     
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  4. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    I used to enjoy the program more as a glimpse into the minds and lives of scientists rather than expecting to learn any science. That's until Simon Wessely was on and Jim Al Kalili (the presenter, who is a physicist I think) swallowed whole all of SW's nauseating hype about himself and even egged him on to talk about what a brave man he was standing up to vicious threats etc etc.
    Think I'll give this one a miss. There is only so much nauseating ignorance my stomach can take.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
  5. Tia

    Tia Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I usually like this program but having heard the trailer clip I've marked it out as one to definitely avoid as I know it'd make me feel frustrated and rubbish. I wonder if he questioned her on the ME/CFS part of her book at all. Would be interesting if he did but I don't have high hopes.
     
  6. pteropus

    pteropus Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    i wonder if this is part of an SMC / BPS strategy, to divert attention from the withdrawn Cochrane paper, and spread more misinformation and stigma ?
    or does it take a lot longer to organise appearances such as this ?


    [edited to add: her book & her credibility will be obsolete soon :) ]
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018
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  7. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Nothing moody about that @Esther12. Spot on. This is the life pseudoscientific or ersatz scientific. Kalili has no clue - especially about fundamental physics. It is all tosh.
     
  8. Adrian

    Adrian Administrator Staff Member

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    I wonder if its worth a complaint to the BBC about bias because its promoting one discredited view without question. I guess the program has to go out first.
     
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  9. Robert 1973

    Robert 1973 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Thanks, but no need to apologise. I think we’re all entitled to feel pretty pissed off.

    Maybe great was an exaggeration, but I generally enjoyed listening to it before the Wessely interview.

    Yes. It’s more Michael Parkinson than Jerry Paxman, and, as such, they really shouldn’t be interviewing controversial figures who need to be challenged about their views.

    I think that’s a bit harsh, Jo. It may be easy listening but I like the idea of popularising science and giving people like me an insight into the lives and personalities of scientists. It’s just a big mistake to invite controversial figures and muddled thinkers to be indulged with this type of cosy, non-confrontational format, in my view.

    Unfortunately, broadcasting standards for this type of programme are different from news programmes. In response to a complaint about the Wessely interview, Ofcom stated that there were no requirements in their code for this type of programme to be either accurate or impartial.

    In reference to Sir Simon’s claim that “nobody liked them [people with ME/CFS]” an executive from the BBC complaints departments wrote:

    "I do not believe expressing a broad dislike for a group of unnamed individuals can be regarded as going beyond what might be regarded as generally acceptable. I certainly wouldn’t consider such wording as the kind of intemperate, inflammatory or graphic language which would be likely to cause widespread offence to a particular group of people or which would require a challenge from the presenter."

    If expressing a broad dislike for a group of people on the basis of their illness/disability is not in breach of the Broadcasting Standards Code it is hard to imagine that Dr O’Sullivan will say anything that would result in a complaint being upheld.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2018
  10. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Phew.
     
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  11. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Hmm. I forget who has been on this but the programmes I dipped into were awful. Kalili does not have the mind of a scientist - he is a pretend scientist. And I suspect many of his guests are the pals of you know who's or daughters of whatsanames who become the darlings of the media despite contributing little. But I'm a bit of a crusty old stick.
     
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  12. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

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    I think the thing to remember is it's a program about people talking about their lives and work in an uncritical conversation. It's not about science. I like the fact that it alternates male and female scientists from all different fields. I like it because I find people interesting. I listen to similar programs where people talk about their lives in the arts too. I have no idea whether they are good or crap at art or acting or whatever, but their lives and the way they represent themselves are interesting.

    The place where this particular program comes unstuck is when Jim AK praises their work uncritically or lets them puff themselves up as doing more significant science than is warranted. As with Wessely. Even there it was kind of horribly fascinating to hear just what a puffed up self important fool he is.
     
  13. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I like the arts programmes too. Profiles on people like Carlos Acosta or Alfred Brendell have been great. I also like Private Passions on Radio 3.

    But I think the Life Scientific really is about selling what being taste is supposed to be like. The problem for me is that Kalili focuses on trendy questions that are actually symptoms of lack of depth of understanding of the topic. Brian Cox and Marcus de Sotoy do the same. If the next generation of potential scientists take this as a role model shop window we are sunk. There is a strange malaise in science just now - voiced by a colleague in neuroscience, Michael Hausser, just recently in Nature. We seem to have got the point where everyone is going round in circles trying to answer the wrong questions because they do not really know what they are doing. A large number of scientific disciplines effectively stopped making major progress around 1985. Technology has allowed the Higgs boson to be found (maybe) and neurons to be studied with optogenetics but there is little progress in hypothesis building.
     
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  14. chrisb

    chrisb Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I think we got a little taster of what the programme might deal with. A trail for the series included an unidentified voice on an unidentified programme saying that psychosomatic symptoms are real.
     
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  15. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    But are they really psychosomatic?
     
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  16. chrisb

    chrisb Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I wonder when the word psychosomatic became acceptable again. I have recollections, albeit vague ones, as with most of my recollections, that, about twenty years ago, use of the word was discouraged in favour of others. Perhaps we have just seen through all the alternatives, and people have just reverted to what they think they know.
     
  17. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I agree. To my mind, some time around 1990-2000 medicine had got to a fairly advanced state intellectually, in terms of the scientific community having become educated in the more subtle aspects of causation. That education drew on insights published over the 1960-1995 period. Since that time things have gradually reverted to a sort of Daily Mail level. People no longer seem to have any awareness of what was painstakingly learned in the older literature. Everything is gossip. James Le Fanu puts the zenith earlier, around 1985, I think, in the Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine.
     
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  18. Barry

    Barry Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    I think The Life Scientific is more of a showcase for the scientist guest in question. I don't think it is in any way an investigative programme, or that JAK is necessarily an investigative journalist/scientist, more of a presenter really. So you "pay your money and take your chance" - you either like what you hear or you don't, depending on who the guest is. But it's not a programme to unearth truths I don't think.
     
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  19. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    When programmes are presenting the public with a profile of important and influential people, but is not committed to unearthing difficult truths, that's a real problem imo.

    I realise that I'm not well suited to the BBC!
     
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  20. Jonathan Edwards

    Jonathan Edwards Senior Member (Voting Rights)

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    Agreed, but surely its is builds showing us what scientific life is like. I get the impression that it is a bit like people being shown what life is like in the abbey with the abbott and monks all having a jolly time exchanging the same myths and singing by the same hymn sheet. Heretics burning at the stake are conveniently left out, despite the fact that it is the true heretics who build science.

    After all what do Wessely and O'Sullivan have to do with the real life scientific?

    My problem is that it is a sell out to the younger generation.
     
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