Cancer quackery at the snooker update
I wrote yesterday about my disappointment that former world snooker champion Peter Ebdon was advertising Gerson Therapy at the current world snooker championships. Since then, there have been developments.
I saw a lot of activity on Twitter when Ebdon's choice of sponsor first emerged, most of it critical. Some of this was directed at the BBC, who televise the event, and some at World Snooker, who organise it. It appears that this criticism had an effect, because World Snooker acted quickly to make Ebdon remove his logo. I applaud World Snooker for this swift and sensible decision. This seems to be a fantastic example of grassroots skeptical activism at work.
However, I do want to say a few more words about Ebdon himself, who I suspect is very much the victim here. He lost his father to cancer last year. It's always horrible to lose anyone to cancer, but to lose such a close relative to this devastating disease must be one of the most distressing things that can happen to any of us. From one media report, it sounds as if Ebdon genuinely believes that Gerson Therapy can help cancer patients, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.
He may be sincere in his belief, but of course he's still wrong. Gerson Therapy is has no evidence of efficacy and may be harmful. But what does this tell us about the power of those peddling quack cancer remedies to dupe people into believing their nonsense? Ebdon is clearly not stupid. You don't get to be a world snooker champion if you're stupid. I suspect snooker requires more mental agility than any other sport. That Ebdon has excelled so well in this sport clearly shows that he is a very high calibre individual.
I think what this tells us is that when your life has recently been touched by cancer, and someone with good marketing comes along and tells you that they can cure cancer (cf Burzynski), then the temptation to believe it must be very strong. Clearly it was too strong for Ebdon, who I'm sure is sincere in his belief, but has essentially been duped.
My contempt for people who take advantage of those in a vulnerable situation to peddle their quackery knows no bounds.