Archive for the ‘Homeopathy’ Category

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What if Homeopathy Really Worked?

September 22, 2014

Here is a thought experiment about what might happen if homeopathy suddenly started returning positive results in research studies.

Of course, homeopaths claim that such results already exist, but, as the only thing homeopaths have ever tested positive for is rigging or misinterpreting studies, I will ignore them. (I have already looked into Dana Ullman’s “150 positive studies”, and found it was more like zero. And in Europe, homeopaths are lobbying the EU to exempt them from normal medical testing standards yet still grant them full medical status. Anyone who wants to claim that homeopathy is indeed proven can start by convincing these lobbyists that it’s safe to stop.)

Maybe the fairest starting point for our thought experiment would be to base it on a claim made by a well recognized homeopathic organization. How about the American National Center for Homeopathy….

In regular medicine, if you, let’s say, stop taking your high blood pressure medication, at a certain point you can be sure your blood pressure is going to go up, because there’s not actually any real healing that has happened. With homeopathy you can expect your body to actually heal.

So here’s our hypothetical scenario — taken directly from the NCH:

A study on blood high pressure returns positive results for homeopathic treatment.

Let’s go through this step by step. How was our study conducted and what is the homeopathic remedy for high blood pressure?

A quick check of a few websites reveals at least one thing that is surprisingly sensible, namely that many homeopaths also recommend dietary measures, regular exercise and stress management. (At least they have learned something from the “allopathic” medicine they so despise!) So these can also be included in the study:

homeopathy + related health measures for one group, and a (non-homeopathic) placebo + related health measures for the control group.

But before we go further, there’s another complication that must be considered. Homeopathy, it is often claimed, must be individually diagnosed, case by case. Merely testing a single remedy the same way as one might test aspirin will result in a false negative for homeopathy because it “doesn’t work like that”. This is often used as an excuse for negative results, or to claim that homeopathy “can’t be tested”. But in fact this can easily be built in to the study. It just means that we need to add a step wherein patients are diagnosed and a suitable treatment prescribed. Read the rest of this entry ?

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A lesson in criticism for an unskilled homeopath

June 30, 2013

I haven’t written anything on homeopathy for a while, because, well, it’s a dull subject. It’s difficult to keep the reader’s attention with it because anyone who has read one good debunking already knows it’s absurd, and anyone who is in denial has already slammed down the steel doors of non-perception. But as someone recently responded to an article on the topic, I will feature the comment here, in a post all of its own.

The commenter clearly doesn’t understand what criticism is or how it works, and therefore doesn’t know how to do it effectively, so I will offer a few tips.

But first, the comment:

elainelewis June 30, 2013

Why is the author so monumentally obsessed with homeopathy? Everything you accuse homeopathy of is actually the case with the people you support–orthodox medicine–which is VERY dangerous, and don’t take my word for it, just listen to their ads! “This medicine can cause serious infections which may lead to death….” UNBELIEVABLE!!! If this isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is! You “skeptics” ought to just lie low and hope no one notices how truly dangerous “scientific” medicine really is!

The first thing to be noted here of course is that this is not a defense of homeopathy. Many readers no doubt will already suspect that the comment didn’t address any of the points raised in the original post either.

The original post was about the US National Center for Homeopathy producing a promotional video that in fact failed to support homeopathy, and preferred instead to attack mainstream medicine. This commenter has simply repeated the same tactic in the comments, rather than deal with the criticism.

Judging by repeated experience, this is because —

homeopaths don’t understand how criticism works.

They don’t know how to respond to it, and they don’t know how to do it either. They can imitate such behavior, but the how and the why is clearly shrouded in mystery for them. It’s almost as if their entire critical faculties have been switched off. (Ha ha.)

So let me spell out some of the elements of successful criticism for @elainelewis and all the others…..

Criticism is essential for growth. It is a positive thing which involves improvement. When it is not done properly, there is no way of telling whether one thing is better than another. I notice that you, Ms Elaine Lewis, couldn’t really manage to argue that homeopathy is better than mainstream medicine. You only got as far as implying that it may be equally dangerous, and had no idea how to go about making a case that homeopathy is better. You were limited by your multifaceted ignorance to simply shouting the conclusions you desired.

Criticism also involves asking questions about the subject being criticized, and trying to answer them. You should have first asked yourself the question “How dangerous is mainstream medicine?” and then tried to find an answer. Instead you simply invented the answer you wanted without checking it out, and vaguely asserted it. This makes your criticism weak, and worse (for you) it demonstrates your ignorance. Had you looked, you would have discovered that there is an answer — a multitude of highly specific answers in fact — to that question. By not asking yourself that question first, you were in no position to make a critical statement about it. But you failed to recognize that too, and wound up exposing yourself to the embarrassment of having your position publicly demolished. 

You probably don’t feel embarrassed right now though, and probably never feel embarrassed when this happens to you, because you don’t even realize what has happened — because you don’t know how criticism works. Your thorough-going and carefully maintained ignorance has anesthetized you to it.

But I will try to explain it briefly. It’s really not that hard, but it does require reading to the end, and breathing calmly but regularly.

Modern medicine is in great measure about balancing the risks with the likely benefits of various forms of treatment. Massive data collection, detailed research into physiology and the biochemistry involved in various treatments is part of this. You can, by definition, choose any approved medicine and find detailed information about which risks are involved, for which patients and which circumstances it is contra-indicated. 

Your comment shows absolutely no awareness of these facts, because you failed to ask yourself the relevant question, before bothering other people with your ignorant, self-invented and self-serving answer. To make your ignorance even clearer, you think you have a good knock down point to end with:

You “skeptics” ought to just lie low and hope no one notices how truly dangerous “scientific” medicine really is!

So, sleepy-head, given that we already know in tremendous detail how dangerous mainstream medicine is, do you know how dangerous homeopathy is?

Uhuh, haven’t thought about that either.

Well, do homeopaths consider it dangerous? The dangers of vaccination, for example are published by government medical authorities. The method by which data are collected is both rigorous and transparent. Contra-indications for particular vaccines are listed, and the risk assessments are stated loud and clear. How does homeopathy compare? Here in Germany, for example, the National Association of Homeopaths doesn’t have any information on risks of homeopathic vaccine substitutes at all. Instead all they talk about is “freedom of choice”. That’s because they don’t know how to make an informed decision, and therefore can’t help anyone else make one.

Another example, Thomas Sam, a homeopath in Australia who was convicted of manslaughter after his infant daughter died due to his insistence on treating her with homeopathy. What did he do wrong? He followed the protocol perfectly. Theoretically the treatment should have worked. Why didn’t it? The Homeopathy Foundation of Australia’s response was simply to remove his profile page from their website.

Why didn’t homeopaths try to find out what went wrong? Is it because they don’t know how?

Criticism isn’t just about insisting your side is right. It’s about working out what the truth is to the best of your ability before you invest your emotions in a particular side, and before you open your mouth. It’s embarrassing to be asked a question, after having taken a stand, which you haven’t already asked yourself. If you don’t know the answer it means you’re wasting everybody’s time and embarrassing yourself.

You decided to comment on that post, but you didn’t deal with a single one of the straight forward and (I say without need for modesty) utterly devastating arguments I leveled at the National Center for Homeopathy. About two dozen points of argument, on a quick count — and you responded to none of them. Obviously, because you didn’t know how. Every other homeopath who has ever commented here has also avoided answering any criticism. Yet they still find something to comment about. And you call ME obsessed! 

I will repeat one of the main points of that post here to close with, because — not understanding how criticism works — you clearly need some guidance on how to start. Well start here. Answer this question for yourself. Honestly. But don’t post another evasion. Okay?

So, to repeat: The NCH used a hypothetical example in their video to explain how homeopathy works. High blood pressure, they said, can be treated with normal medicine, but that just “suppresses the symptoms”. If you stop taking the pills the high blood pressure will come back. But a homeopathic treatment however, won’t merely suppress the symptoms, but will “heal the cause” and “cure the person permanently”.

Now that’s a very strong claim. Why don’t they have the studies to back it up? Don’t say that it “can’t be tested” — because it can. And why is the NCH using a hypothetical example — why not a real which has already been studied? Could it be that after 200 years it still doesn’t have any real studies? Any good ones, I mean — not those “150 supporting studies” which add up to more like zero.

Or maybe it’s because they don’t know what a good study would even look like?

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Posted by Yakaru

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Homeopathic “Where’s Wally” Part 2 — The Missing “Fact”

April 19, 2012

In an earlier post I looked at homeopath Louise McLean’s rather long and tedious list of “50 Facts About Homeopathy”. With the help of Wally (of Where’s Wally fame) we identified the occasions where McLean flipped between claiming that:

a) homeopathy has been proven in clinical tests, and 

b) homeopathy can’t be tested.

Vitally entertaining as that was, I decided to deal with only 49 of McLean’s 50 “facts”. In this post, I want to highlight the remaining “fact” (it was Fact 20), which demonstrates an important point that is often obscured by the absurdity of all the other claims that homeopaths make.

And the point is this….

Everyone assumes that when homeopaths talk about how a particular clinical trial was “successful”, they mean that the particular remedy that was tested has been vindicated. But that’s not the case. They never say it at the time, but homeopaths take each supposed “positive” result as a vindication for the entire Law of Similars*(see footnote) — and therefore as a vindication of all their other remedies as well.

The Lancet might think it’s publishing a study on homeopathic cough remedies, but homeopaths are thinking rather more grandly. No wonder they get so excited about the faintest whiff of a percent above the placebo effect, and will quibble about it for decades to come.

Clearly, if homeopaths stuck to using only those remedies that have been properly studied, they would have to limit themselves to dispensing (ineffective) cold medicines or headache tablets and the like.

Instead, after a few dubious (no, entirely spurious) “positive results” for minor studies, homeopaths like Louise McLean inform their customers that their “empirically based, clinically proven” method can treat serious illnesses: 

Fact 20 – Homeopaths treat genetic illness, tracing its origins to 6 main genetic causes: Tuberculosis, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Psora (scabies), Cancer, Leprosy.

[Links to remedies added by me, not in the original.]

And this is where their fanaticism turns deadly. Anyone still wondering why there is such vehement opposition to nice caring homeopaths now has their answer.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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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.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Classical Stupidity from the National Center for Homeopathy

January 19, 2011

In the wake of the latest devastating exposé on homeopathy (on Canadian television, {Part 1,} {Part 2}), I thought I’d take a bit of time to respond to the pathetic propaganda campaign homeopaths are waging.

One might expect homeopaths to at least be reigning in the most dangerous and stupid of their dangerous and stupid claims; and making at least some semblance of an attempt at relating their various claims to specific studies; and acknowledging that there is good reason to be skeptical, given the lack of evidence and plausibility for their claims.

But they’re not doing that.

Instead, they are increasing their slanderous attacks on the medical profession in general, claiming skeptics are funded by Big Pharma, and trying to incite the public to defend them.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Homeopathy: PR & Politicking vs. Science & Education

December 13, 2010

The multi-billion dollar homeopathy industry has recognised it is facing a crisis, partly brought about by the improved communication and accessibility of information, made possible by the internet.

Of course, had they been more honest about their product in the past, they would not be facing their current difficulties. In fact they wouldn’t be facing any difficulties at all, because their disgraceful scam of an industry wouldn’t exist. Homeopaths would have long since quit and either got a proper job or found a safer scam.

As I’ve highlighted before here, they regularly claim homeopathy has been validated by scientific studies, while simultaneously lobbying national governments and the EU for exemption from normal scientific testing because they fail every properly conducted test.

Such stunning hypocrisy demonstrates the ruthless and deceitful nature of their scam and should in itself be enough to end any discussion of its efficacy or worth. Unfortunately homeopathy has sunk its claws deeply enough into society for it to benefit from the default credibility that goes along with that.

Nevertheless, thanks largely to the internet, they are more frequently being confronted with reality and called to account for the deaths, suffering, deliberate endangering of lives and health, false advertising, fake studies, deceitful claims and general stupidity that their industry is based upon.

Now they are hitting back. Rather than engaging in any self-reflection or reality checks, they have devised a PR plan for the next few years.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Another baby killed by homeopathy

August 10, 2010

Last year a baby in Australia died a painful death because its parents preferred homeopathy to medicine. They are both in jail.

Now homeopathy has claimed another infant victim, this time in Japan. The baby died of intra-cranial bleeding, thanks to the midwife’s decision to give the baby a homeopathic substitute for the vitamin K2 syrup stipulated by the Health Ministry.  Vitamin K2 works in reducing the risk of hemorrhage in infants. Homeopathy, of course, doesn’t work for anything except lining the pockets of all those folks happily participating in this international scam.

Homeopathy is highly popular among midwives in Japan, but they may decide to rethink that if they start to be held accountable for this idiotic practise. The mother is suing the midwife.

This incident will not be reported or discussed by any homeopaths. (Apart from the ones in Japan who are scrambling into damage control mode, of course.)

More on other cases see: Whats the Harm

(Hat-tip to German skeptical blog Esowatch)

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