Cover Image: While kayaking in Alaska recently, Jann Bellamy was happy to discover some ice is still there.
Jann Bellamy is a Florida attorney who writes for the popular Science-Based Medicine site. She is a founder and board member of the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SfSBM). She will be speaking at CSICon on Friday, October 18, at noon. Her talk is titled “Legislative Alchemy: Pseudoscience in the Law.
Susan Gerbic: Hello, Jann, so nice to meet you. I have read your work many times, and our Wikipedia project (GSoW) has used your writings many times as citations on various Wikipedia pages.
Jann Bellamy: Nice to meet you too! I appreciate the hard work you and your team do keeping pseudoscience out of Wikipedia. I’m always proud to see Science-Based Medicine cited as a source.
Gerbic: You first got involved in the skeptical movement in 2005 when a chiropractic school was about to be established within Florida State University by the state government. That sounds like a pretty awesome story. Can you give us some of the background and what the results were?
Bellamy: After reading about the Legislature’s plan to impose an unwanted chiropractic school on FSU, I wrote an op-ed piece lambasting the idea. That seemed to fire up the opposition. The FSU faculty (especially the science faculty) and the then-new College of Medicine were appalled but had been silenced by the university’s administration, which didn’t want to anger the Legislature or turn down the money. Alumni, the local medical community, and others joined in. Fortunately, the plan was ultimately defeated by the board that oversees the state university system. It was my introduction to netherworld of pseudoscientific health care practices and the credulous legislators and policy makers who support them.
Gerbic: You will be speaking about pseudoscience in the law at your lecture at CSICon. How are you going to narrow down the subject for a thirty-minute talk?
Bellamy: That’s a great question, one I’m asking myself right now. I hope to give the audience a sense of the vast scope of the problem, the forces behind it, and some suggestions on how to combat it. Here’s a tip: Elect more scientists to the state legislatures and Congress!
Gerbic: For sure! More scientists in politics! Being involved in this movement for as long as we have been, it is really easy to get discouraged. I’m sure you see pseudoscience everywhere you turn. How do you stay motivated? And do you think we are starting to turn the corner on getting complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) out of our system?
Bellamy: When I get discouraged, I think of the poor person who is being scammed by some chiropractor into thinking her baby needs spinal “adjustments” or by some naturopath who’s selling her supplements for fictional “food sensitivities.” To me, preying on someone’s health concerns is just as despicable as a financial scam; unfortunately, the former has been legalized. That’s what keeps me motivated. I do believe there is a greater awareness that CAM is not all sweetness and light, the way CAM proponents like to portray it. Science-Based Medicine, CSI, and other skeptical organizations have been sounding the alarm for a long time; I think it is only recently that the media and the public have started to “get it.”
Gerbic: CSICon is quickly approaching. I’m looking forward to your talk. We have an amazing lineup this year. What lectures are you looking forward to hearing?
Bellamy: I’m a huge science fan, so I’ll be there for as many as I can. I have been communicating with Britt Hermes since she began her courageous effort to expose naturopathy for what it is but have never met her in person, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Gerbic: Thank you so much for a few minutes of your time. Don’t forget that Saturday night at CSICon we are having a 1950s themed Halloween Party. Don’t forget your poodle skirt.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.