The skeptic movement is gathering pace around the world. The UK represents its epicentre. Skepticism is anti-science, for without an open mind, you can never be a good scientist. In fact, as a skeptic, you can’t really be a scientist, except in name. Core beliefs again play a central role. We all have them, we must all recognise them and we must all find ways of minimising their impact on any objective quest for further knowledge. But to believe that homeopathy can’t work because “there is not a single molecule of active ingredient”, or that all CAM modalities are ineffective, because you’ve selectively absorbed Ernst’s Trick or Treatment or Goldacre’s Bad Science, puts you in a vulnerable place scientifically.

Detox is central to most holistic, natural therapies—and for good reason. It is the dysfunction of our self-cleansing apparatus, or, if you like, our Phase 1 and 2 detoxification pathways, that is responsible for many diseases, disorders and sub-optimal health states. Loading ourselves with new-to-nature, patented, pharmacologically active molecules rarely corrects these dysfunctions. It is also no wonder that particular foods and food constituents, with which we have co-evolved over millennia, combined with particular types of physical activity and stress reduction, can have such profound effects. The ‘flat-earth’ skeptics may keep claiming there is no evidence for any enhancement of detoxification by any natural substance over that offered by our unassisted renal and hepatic systems, but the evidence in the literature—and even more so in the clinic—says otherwise.

Putting ‘detox myth’ into the search bar of our website brings up in top place a feature we did on this subject back in 2009. We were responding to Sense About Science’s campaign to set in the public’s mind that detox was a myth and that detox products would lead, at best, to expensive urine or, at worst, significant health risks. The skeptics rallied together young medical students under the banner of Voice of Young Scientists and got them to hand out a leaflet entitled ‘Debunking Detox’ to people exiting pharmacies and health stores. The leaflet contained the most extraordinarily erroneous or misleading scientific ‘facts’, which we dismantle in our feature. One choice, authoritative ‘fact’ reads as follows: “you don’t have to do anything to support your eliminatory organs, namely your kidneys, liver and digestive system, unless you have consumed a dangerous dose of a substance and have been poisoned and require a stomach pump, dialysis or the like.”

With the rapid growth of the skeptic movement, together with its firm base in parts of the establishment medical and scientific communities, I think it’s time to question the scientific worth of any predetermined position. Skepticism is a form of bias, except that, unlike experimental bias that can be controlled for, or statistically counteracted, it is immoveable. Skepticism is therefore intrinsically anti-science. It’s time that our young students of medicine and science got to see the flip side of the myopic ethos that defines the new skeptic movement, given they are one of its key recruitment targets.