Homeopathic “Where’s Wally” (Part 1)April 10, 2012
Homeopath Louise McLean has written an article called 50 Facts About Homeopathy. This is a fact. So that counts as my first fact today. Thank you, thank you. Once I got about half way through that sentence I realized it might turn out to be a fact, and it was!
And Louise McLean can do it too!
…..Okay, I’ll just come out with it……This post will probably get a bit dull in places. But I am going to go through with it anyway, because the best way to observe the behavior of homeopaths is to watch how they try to hide amongst their own camouflage. To make things a bit easier, I’ll point out that she will be following standard homeopathic rhetorical procedure:
She’ll claim that homeopathy has already been proven by clinically controlled tests, and that it can’t be tested.
Yes, you read that right. But she can’t say it as clearly as I just did because people would notice it’s crazy. So she’ll bury it among dozens and dozens of other statements. These other statements in fact turn out to be just as absurd, but will at least serve as a distraction.
See if you can stay awake long enough to catch her doing it! It’s a bit like playing Where’s Wally (or Where’s Waldo for US readers), but with Wally hidden amongst thousands of other Wallys. See how many times you can find that particular Wally!
(You might also notice that one of the “facts” is missing. That extra one is dealt with in the next post, here. There’s a reason for this.)
McLean’s article is quoted in bold. The plain text in between is my commentary.
50 Facts About Homeopathy
by Louise McLean
In the last few years there have been many articles in the newspapers attacking homeopathy, claiming it contains nothing more than water, ignoring all the positive studies and saying it works through the placebo effect. So I decided to compile a list of facts to counter this criticism and present the salient points as clearly as possible. So far I have come up with 50.
Why does she need 50 facts to make just two points? Like I said….
How Homeopathy Works
No homeopath has ever bothered to establish whether or not homeopathy works, but that’s no reason not to march straight into considering how!
Fact 1 – Hippocrates ‘The Father of Medicine’ of Ancient Greece said there were two Laws of Healing: The Law of Opposites and the Law of Similars…
That was his description of medical practice in ancient times. I don’t know if it made much sense back then to divide it up like that, but that division has long been rendered irrelevant as medical practices became more complex and varied, in accordance with knowledge about physiology.
Note too that Hippocrates didn’t distinguish between treatments that work and treatments don’t. Funny how that approach is so appealing to homeopaths 2500 years later.
…Homeopathy treats the patient with medicines using the Law of Similars…
Homeopaths like this too. Just like the that of the Greeks, their Law of Similars is also not grounded in physiology. It works like this: ingesting a particular substance causes particular symptoms; therefore those same symptoms in a sick person can be cured by ingesting that particular substance. Checking which substance causes which symptoms is called a proving.
So curing an illness is a simple matter of matching up symptoms in a sick person with the results of the provings that homeopaths have written down in a big book.
For some reason they also insist that by diluting such a substance in water, you make it stronger. It turns out that they dilute it so much that there is none of the original substance left. And that’s the secret of homeopathy. They say like cures like, but it would be more accurate to say nothing cures nothing.
Skeptics usually use James Randi’s famous example of caffeine being used as a sleeping pill, but instead I’ll use this one. Homeopathic dog shit. Yes, if you are suffering from the kind of symptoms that consumption of dog shit leads to (apparently, drowsiness and depression), then consumption of dog shit will remove those symptoms. Because… well…. it just does, alright?
[Buy your Excrementum caninum supplies here]
…orthodox medicine uses the Law of Opposites, e.g. antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics.
This is wrong. Orthodox medicine is not derived from Hippocrates, but from things like biochemistry, and masses and masses of carefully controlled experimentation and research. But it would be much easier to criticize if it was based on the same kind of ideological bluster that homeopathy is based on, so that’s the target McLean has drawn on it.
Fact 2 - Homeopathic theories are based on fixed principles of the Laws of Nature which do not change…
Note the capital letters. That’s to indicate, I guess, that these are the special homeopathic Laws of Nature which are not to be confused with the normal laws of nature. Excluded from these homeopathic Laws of Nature is human physiology, biochemistry, chemistry and physics. (See the James Randi lecture if you don’t know what I’m referring to!) The only thing the homeopathic Laws of Nature have with the laws of nature is that they very obviously don’t change! That’s why Ms McLean is still pushing Hippocratic philosophy and medieval chemistry.
…unlike medical theories which are constantly changing!
Well almost a factual statement. Improving is the word she avoids. As if medical science has only been randomly switching back and forth over the last 200 hundred years.
Fact 3 - Homeopathy is an evidence-based, empirical medicine.
Um, what was all that about the unchanging Law of Similars? Now it’s suddenly evidence based and empirical, as well as being unchanging?
That’s right! There’s our first Wally!
Fact 4 - Homeopathy is both an art and a science.
I’ll happily grant 50% for this “fact”. But only on the most liberal definition of “art”.
Fact 5 - The Homeopathic provings of medicines are a more scientific method of testing than the orthodox model.
This makes no sense. Homeopathy doesn’t do provings of medicines, but of substances. And it simply asserts that it must be an efficacious treatment because the Law of Similars dictates it must be – it doesn’t even test it. What is she talking about?
Fact 6 - Homeopathic medicine awakens and stimulates the body’s own curative powers. The potentized remedy acts as a catalyst to set healing into motion.
How? I invoke Hitchens’ Law: That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Next!
Fact 7 - Homeopathic medicines work by communicating a current/pattern/frequency of energy via the whole human body to jump-start the body’s own inherent healing mechanisms.
There is no need to assert this. This could be easily observed, measured, recorded although “energy frequencies and patterns” can’t be, as those are things that only homeopaths can see. But the supposed effects are straight up materialistic processes. So where are these measurements?
Fact 8 - Homeopathy assists the body to heal itself, to overcome an illness which brings the patient to a higher level of health. Orthodox medicine suppresses the illness, bringing the patient to a lower level of health.
Again, an unsupported assertion instead of studies.
Fact 9 - The homeopathic practitioner endeavours to search for and treat the cause of the disease in order to heal the effect.
100% correct! Of course, it’s also a fact that I could endeavour to flap my arms and fly to the moon.
Fact 10 - Outcomes of homeopathic treatment are measured by the long-term curative effects of prescribing and complete eradication of the disease state.
Again, claims of success way above the recorded failure to better placebo controls. If it were true it would show up clearly in properly designed studies.
Fact 11 - The homeopathic practitioner treats the whole person, believing all symptoms are interrelated and seeks to select a medicine which most closely covers them all.
All symptoms are interrelated??? So if I have malaria and cancer, they are both interrelated. This is what happens when you ignore physiology. All illnesses get lumped arbitrarily together. But hey, they consider “the whole person”, excluding their physiological aspects of course.
Wrong. It’s not medicine.
Fact 12 - Homeopathic remedies are cheap.
Well they’re certainly cheap to produce.
Fact 13 - Pharmaceutical medicines are expensive.
A meaningless statement without reckoning in costs and benefits.
Fact 14 - There are more than 4,000 homeopathic medicines.
100% right! Probably a great many “more than”, too — Homeopathic remedies can be made from anything: Tyranosaurus Rex (buy here), Wolf’s milk, (see here), Berlin Wall (see here), snot, Brillo Pads, Hoover dust, human dandruff, shipwrecks, (see here)…… Yes folks, it’s all medicine, and it’s all been tested, and you don’t even need to test it because it all works on the Law of Similars.
Fact 15 – Homeopathic medicines have no toxic side-effects.
100% right! They’re so diluted that they don’t have any effects at all. Ms McLean is on safe ground with this kind of thing!
Fact 16 - Homeopathic medicines are non-addictive.
100% right! Yay, keep ‘em coming!
Fact 17 - Every true homeopathic medicine is made using one substance — whether plant, mineral, metal, etc. The exact substance is known….
Well if you define a T-Rex or a Brillo Pad as a “substance”, I guess that must be true.
…unlike most modern drugs where we are rarely informed of the ingredients.
Wrong. I don’t think I need to say any more about that.
Fact 18 - Any remedy up to a 12c or a 24x potency still contains the original molecules of the substance and this is known as Avogadro’s number.
Wrong. Up to 24x potency it is likely to contain at least as much as one molecule of the original substance, according to the laws of probability. But molecules are really really tiny things and taking one won’t change anything at all.
And just where did they get that T-Rex molecule from?
Fact 19 - Every Patient is Unique so homeopathic medicines are individualized.
I think she means random and arbitrary rather than individualized.
Fact 21 - Epidemics such as cholera and typhoid were treated successfully using homeopathy in the 19th century with very high success rates, compared to orthodox medicine (http://www.whale.to/v/winston.html) .
Wrong. People who were treated homeopathically recovered more frequently than those treated with the orthodox medicine OF THAT TIME, which was terrible. Of course, this does not show that homeopathy worked.
Fact 22 - There are thousands of homeopathic books, available at specialist outlets, not sold in the high street.
100% right! Congratulations!
Fact 23 - There are 5 homeopathic hospitals in the U.K. — in London, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. They cost the NHS under £10 million a year compared to the £100 billion for the total annual NHS budget for 2008!
100% right. Congratulations.
Fact 24 - At one of the earliest debates on the NHS Act of 1948 the Government pledged that homeopathy would continue to be available on the NHS, as long as there were “patients wishing to receive it and doctors willing to provide it”.
100% right! Congratulations.
Fact 25 - There is a campaign by certain U.K. Professors to oust homeopathy completely from the NHS after they wrote on NHS headed paper to all Primary Care Trusts in 2006 telling managers not to refer patients to the homeopathic hospitals.
100% right! Wanna say why they did all that? Didn’t think so.
Fact 26 - The Homeopathic Hospitals are clean, with friendly, well-informed staff. The patients are generally pleased with their treatment unlike many orthodox National Health Service hospitals.
Fact 27 - The chances of contracting MRSA or C. Difficile at a Homeopathic Hospital are extremely rare.
But the chances of paying for a useless treatment are exactly 100%.
Fact 28 - Unlike orthodox medicine where two-thirds of all conventional hospital admissions are due to the side-effects of pharmaceutical medicines, the bill for negligence claims soaring into billions….
A source for that absurd figure?
….one U.K. leading insurance company reported only ‘a couple’ of claims against homeopaths in a ten year period!
This vague reporting displays exactly how homeopaths keep statistics. How many people died during homeopathic treatment? They don’t keep stats like that. They don’t care. But they’ll always quote the stats from proper medical institutions.
Orthodox Medicine Opposing Homeopathy
To be more accurate, orthodox medicine took the Hippocratic oath, which by today’s standards makes them morally obliged to oppose all forms of dangerous and deceitful practices.
Fact 29 - In the United States in the early 1900s there were 22 homeopathic medical schools and over 100 homeopathic hospitals, 60 orphanages and old people’s homes and 1,000+ homeopathic pharmacies.
Fact 30 - Members of the American Medical Association had great animosity towards homeopathy after its formation in 1847 and it was decided to purge all local medical societies of physicians who were homeopaths.
Of course the grounds for doing such a thing were not anywhere near as clear as they are today. But were already clear enough.
Fact 31 - Big Pharma does not want the Public to find out how well homeopathy works!
Wrong. Homeopaths don’t want the public to know how well it works. That’s why they don’t keep records, and only publish fudged studies, and when they do talk about it they just waffle on endlessly like this.
Fact 32 - In 2005 the World Health Organisation brought out a draft report which showed homeopathy was beneficial causing Big Pharma to panic and The Lancet to bring out an editorial entitled ‘The End of Homeopathy’.
Well that’s not quite how The Lancet saw it, but for now I’ll save my breath.
Fact 33 – In 2005 The Lancet tried to destroy homeopathy but were only looking at 8 inconclusive trials out of 110 of which 102 were positive. This was a fraudulent analysis. “The meta-analysis at the centre of the controversy is based on 110 placebo-controlled clinical trials of homeopathy and 110 clinical trials of allopathy (conventional medicine), which are said to be matched. These were reduced to 21 trials of homeopathy and 9 of conventional medicine of ‘higher quality’ and further reduced to 8 and 6 trials, respectively, which were ‘larger, higher quality’. The final analysis which concluded that ‘the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects’ was based on just the eight ‘larger, higher quality’ clinical trials of homeopathy. The Lancet’s press release did not mention this, instead giving the impression that the conclusions were based on all 110 trials.” (http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1375230)
Again I’ll save my breath.
Fact 34 - There have been many clinical trials that prove homeopathy works. In the past 24 years there have been more than 180 controlled, and 118 randomized, trials into homeopathy, which were analysed by four separate meta-analyses. In each case, the researchers concluded that the benefits of homeopathy went far beyond that which could be explained purely by the placebo effect.
Sounds great, but don’t tell me, tell Europe’s It works for me campaign which are currently lobbying to get homeopathy exempted from standard testing. And tell the German government they can repeal the laws exempting homeopathy from proper testing too.
Go on, tell them! Why haven’t they heard the good news yet? They’re still trying to convince medical authorities that homeopathy “can’t be tested normally” because it’s too individual and all that stuff. Go On! Tell them to pack up and go home! It’s been proved! Hooray!
That’s right! There’s Wally again!
Fact 35 - The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital carried out a study published in November 2005 of 6500 patients receiving homeopathic treatment. There was an overall improvement in health of 70% of them (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/bristol/4454856.stm) .
Well done! Still more proof! And published in the prestigious peer-reviewed BBC Journal of….. No wait on, published in the newspaper. Oh well….
Fact 36 - Homeopathy can never be properly tested through double-blind randomized trials because each prescription is individualised as every patient is unique. Therefore 10 people with arthritis, for example, may all need a different homeopathic medicine.
Yes! And again!
We’re finding lots of them now….
Despite all those “positive” tests, homeopathy suddenly can’t be tested anymore. And right after I could have wasted my breath arguing that those WHO studies weren’t properly conducted.
Fact 37 - Homeopathic medicines are not tested on animals.
100% true! It’s tested on anything else either.
Fact 38 - Homeopathic medicines work even better on animals and babies than on adults, proving this cannot be placebo.
Back to being proven, suddenly. Where are those studies on babies, by the way, and which medical Ethics Review Board granted the license?
Fact 39 – Scientists agree that if and when homeopathy is accepted by the scientific community it will turn established science on its head.
Wrong. It would turn science on its head, not will. And there he is again…
….How can this happen if “homeopathy can’t be properly tested?
Fact 40 - Homeopathic Practitioners train for 4 years in Anatomy and Physiology, as well as Pathology and Disease, Materia Medica, Homeopathic Philosophy and study of the Homeopathic Repertory.
Extraordinary. Do they get their money back when they realize they’ve been scammed?
Fact 41 - Most homeopaths treat patients who have been referred to them by word of mouth. Most patients seek out homeopathy because conventional treatment has not benefited them or because it poses too great a risk of side-effects.
Fact 42 - The homeopathic community has thousands, even millions, of written case notes that demonstrate the positive benefits of their treatment. Some homeopaths have video proof of their patients before and after treatment.
Well that’s interesting, after homeopath Thomas Sam was sent to jail for manslaughter the Homeopathic Society of Australia simply removed him from their list of practitioners. They didn’t document his baby’s death, nor inquire why standard treatment didn’t work. If the death of a baby isn’t worth documenting and doesn’t cause any introspection, what would?
Fact 43 – Homeopaths charge patients an average of £50 an hour. Specialist Doctors can charge up to £200 or more.
People get a glass of water and a chat with me for free. And I promise not to kill their children.
Popularity of Homeopathy
Fact 44 - The popularity of homeopathy has grown in the past 30 years, its revival entirely through word of mouth and estimated to be growing at more than 20% a year the world over.
So? Nigerian email scams have grown too.
Fact 45 – Hundreds of famous people throughout the past 200 years have enjoyed the benefits of homeopathic medicine (www.homeopathicrevolution.com) .
Why are you resorting to pathetic arguments like that if you’ve all these great studies? You not even convinced by them yourself are you.
Fact 46 – The aristocratic patronage of homeopathy in the U.K. extended well into the 1940s and beyond can be easily demonstrated. In the Homeopathic Medical Directories there are lists of patrons of the dispensaries and hospitals. They read like an extract from Burke’s or Debrett’s.
Fact 47 - The Royal Families of Europe use homeopathic medicine and Queen Elizabeth II of England never travels anywhere without her homeopathic vials of medicine.
She also takes a properly trained doctor with her too, just in case she gets sick.
Fact 48 - Homeopathy is practised nowadays in countries all over the world. In India there are 100 homeopathic medical schools and around 250,000 homeopathic doctors.
And no one counts the dead.
Fact 49 – In a recent Global TGI survey where people were asked whether they trust homeopathy the following percentages of people living in urban areas said YES: 62% in India, 58% Brazil, 53% Saudi Arabia, Chile 49%, United Arab Emirates 49%, France 40%, South Africa 35%, Russia 28%, Germany 27%, Argentina 25%, Hungary 25%, USA 18%, UK 15% (http://www.tgisurveys.com/documents/TGIbarometerhomeopathy_Jan08.pdf)
Wow, another link! Again a totally useless one. Do you really think anyone is going to say “Hey I bet that’s only 21.5% of Hungarians”?
Fact 50 - The media as a whole has been unwilling to air a defence of the efficacy of homeopathy and the validity of this 250 year old profession.
Really! How unsporting!
Let me sum up Louise McLean’s case for them so the press can start promoting homeopathy right away:
Homeopathy has been proven to work in over 180 clinically controlled randomized tests which could not properly test homeopathy because its treatments are individualized.
But it has no side effects, unless if you take it when your sick, in which case it can kill you. But it’s cheaper than medicine, although it’s more expensive than nothing, which is what it’s just as effective as.
Where we look at the missing fact which was too bizarre and disgraceful to deal with here!