“Ask for the evidence behind any claim you encounter!” – Sophien Kamoun, The Sainsbury Lab

October 31, 2011


‘Ask for Evidence’ Campaign By Sense about Science

[This very timely material is particularly welcome.  As misery borne of increasing poverty which is a direct result of the looting that goes on in government deepens in Nigeria, fake prophets/pastors/men of God are increasing - and prospering.   Watered by age-old beliefs that seem more entrenched now than even the distant past, many of our people are "taking their chances" rather than going the tested route of science-based medical treatments. 

It is unbelievable that there are millions, including educated people that are caught in the recent scare that taking certain phone calls would lead to death.  I just witnessed an incident - and heard of such for the very first time, in fact - when a phone call came in to somebody and he screamed, "ikan ninu awon number to npa enia yen ni'yi, o!" (this is one of those killer numbers).  As the five people present converged around him, I asked what the problem was and took the phone.  It had three or four digits but it was a mere advertorial! 

Everybody present was either a "devout" Christian or Moslem and none was uneducated.  I told them a simple thing I learnt from my father at childhood: ko s'eni t'o le pe e pa - nobody has the power to take your life by simply calling your name from a remote location!  It's simple common sense.  I asked if any of them actually had witnessed somebody who died as a result of answering such calls; none had but everybody seemed to know somebody who knew somebody ...

The advice of scientists below should be heeded:  before drinking potions, etcetera that you do not know the ingredients, ask for evidence but better still, just travel tested medical route rather than put your trust in unproven treatments or your life in the hands of miracle pastors.

Thanks to Dr. Ajetunmobi, a regular reader who sent this. TOLA ADENLE]



The UK science education charity, ‘Sense About Science,’ recently launched an “Ask for Evidence” campaign to encourage people to weigh up claims about cures and treatments by demanding evidence. The charity is supported by over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to network of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students.

Nowhere is this charity’s campaign more important than in Africa, particularly in Nigeria where there is a pestilence of faith-healers, spiritualists, astrologers, soothsayers, traditional priests and other charlatans, infesting radio and television, claiming to possess the spiritual powers to restore vision to the blind and limb function to the lame, banish misery, and fend off pain and even death. One of science’s duties is to provide solid evidence to challenge folklore, mumbo-jumboism and untested therapy. We need to put a stop to such misleading claims by demanding evidence. Giving people false hope through faith-healing and untested therapies can be misleading at best, and at worst very fatal.

For instance, in a newly published book titled, Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson, the official biographer of late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, said that Jobs told him that he regretted the decision to try treatments such as macrobiotic diets and seeing a spiritualist before agreeing to have an operation for the cancer which he suffered and later died from. According to Isaacson, Jobs’ sister, wife and friends pleaded with him to quit untested therapy. Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech, the biotech company that makes revolutionary anti-cancer drugs, also begged him to quit mumbo-jumbo therapy and get properly treated. But Jobs waited ten months to have surgery; perhaps, if he had opted for an early and potentially life-saving surgery things would have been different. Anyway, here is a selection of the quotes from various supporters of Sense About Science charity, as listed on its campaign website:

  • Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ – Professor Richard Dawkins, University of Oxford and Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
  • Every day we make decisions – about how we eat, take care of our health and spend our money. Good decisions need good evidence – Professor Colin Blakemore, University of Oxford
  • Evidence scares away the charlatans, and protects the unsuspecting: basically, evidence kills fairy tales – Dara Ó Briain, performer
  • The more we question and rely on evidence, the more we will know, the better informed we will be and the better our decisions are likely to be – Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society
  • It is important to ask questions and to make informed decisions based on the body of evidence …, rather than on speculative claims – Janis Hickey, Director, British Thyroid Foundation
  • Ask for evidence so you know the difference between anecdote and scientific fact – Professor Jim Al-Khalili, University of Surrey
  • It is tempting for people who have serious diseases like cancer or HIV/AIDS to try treatments or ‘medicines’ that have not been properly evaluated. Don’t clutch at straws but ask for evidence, and seek advice on how reliable that evidence really is – Professor Robin Weiss, UCL (University College London)
  • There are no excuses for allowing false claims to go unchallenged – Dr Vicki Porter, Head of Discovery and Engagement, The Wellcome Trust
  • We should not take any claim at face value these days. If you see it said that something will make you look younger, live longer or cure cancer, ask for the evidence – Dr Chris Kirk, CEO, The Biochemical Society
  • Everybody should say ‘Prove it!’ and not take no for an answer – Nigel Hawkes, Director, Straight Statistics
  • Always keep a critical mind and ask for the evidence behind any claim you encounter! – Sophien Kamoun, Senior Scientist and Head, The Sainsbury Lab
  • Medicine should be based on evidence whenever it exists. The alternative to evidence-based medicine is myth-based medicine – Professor David Colquhoun, UCL
  • People with illnesses can be lured by the prospect of a miracle cure, but it’s crucial they ask for evidence before taking their chances – Ruth Francis, Head of Press, Nature Publishing Group

Dr. A. Ajetunmobi, U.K.



Nigerian newspapers and online news sources
  • 234 Next News site
  • Bella Naija Magazine
  • Business Day Newspaper
  • Daily Champion Newspaper
  • Daily Independent Newspaper
  • Daily Trust Newspaper
  • Elendu Reports News site
  • Emotan Blog
  • Huhu online News site
  • jhova blog Blog
  • Leadership News site
  • Linda Ikeji Blog
  • National Daily Newspaper
  • Nigeria Plus News site
  • Nigeria Village Square News site
  • Nigerian Observer News site
  • Osun Defender News site
  • PM News Newspaper
  • Punch Newspaper
  • Sahara Reporters News site
  • Sun Newspaper
  • The Guardian Newspaper
  • This Day Newspaper
  • Tribune Newspaper
  • Vanguard Newspaper

    Emotan 77
    Former publisher of the women's bi-monthly, Emotan (1977-1984) and op-ed ... now publishes her writing here

    Bridging Loans. Get a decision today
    We have access to unlimited funding, assuring competitive levels of capital per deal.

    Abuja food delivery, call +234 803 369 4078, +234 809 833 944
    Afang, edikan ikon, egusi, oha, okro, white soup, jollof rice, yam porriage, moin-moin, white rice & stew ...

    Home interiors inspired by Heritage African fabrics
    Handmade cushions, bedding, apparel and more

    Hand crafted cards by Christiangraffiti
    Inspirational notecards and greetings that touch the spirit and pierce the soul