Ben Goldacre at badscience.net, always a good read, has a particularly thought-provoking piece about superstition and medicine.

Last year 2.8 million people died of Aids, and 40 million are HIV positive. This is an illness that laughs at our superstitions, it laughs at our politics, it dwarfs our wars, it laughs at our quackery, our love of money, and it shows up our morality as nothing more than vanity.

Reading that, and a previous article about the treatment meted out to South African activist Zackie Achmat , you start to wonder at what point the common sense area of the brain gets switched off in some people. For most people in this country – healthy, well-fed, living in a mostly-healthy population – a certain amount of low-level quackery, while misguided and painful on the wallet, isn’t going to do much harm. When it comes to dealing with serious diseases, with the vulnerable, with a very real public health problem, actively promoting quackery or a dubious morality that places a particular moral code above saving lives cannot be excused.