Archive for the ‘Homeopathy’ Category

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Nazi Medicine: Malaria & Homeopathy

July 25, 2010

I don’t know anything about homeopath John Benneth, except that he’s got a video on YouTube, the title of which I will use as a springboard for this (rather convoluted) post. But I’ll reveal that title later, because I want to first explain why I am not going to bother checking out the claims he makes in the video.*

Benneth claims that certain studies prove the effectiveness of homeopathy so conclusively that it “nukes” certain opposing arguments presented by Dr Steve Novella (who writes the excellent blog, Neurologica).

Then why are lobby groups in Brussels lobbying the EU to exempt homeopathy from proper testing?

So, Benneth, how about trying to get other homeopaths to believe you first, before bothering Dr Novella?

But now, on to the actual topic of this post, which I will introduce by quoting the title of John Benneth’s anti-Novella video rant, HOMEOPATHY: Jew of Nazi Medicine.

Benneth has hit on the unique idea of re-casting the supposed suppression of homeopathy in terms of Jews and Nazis: a dazzling rhetorical move of pure genius…

However, there is indeed a historical connection here, although Benneth has inverted it. It’s a revealing topic which deserves to be more widely known.

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Lobbying the EU: Homeopaths want exemption from reality

July 22, 2010

With homeopathy being increasingly exposed before the public as quackery, homeopaths are becoming more aggressive in defending their $2 billion a year scam.

According to the current print edition of Spiegel magazine (12.7.2010 Germany), homeopaths have been aggressively lobbying the EU to water down the standards for defining and testing medical treatments and secure its access to the medical profession.

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Homeopathy: Is it Really as Stupid as it Seems? (Critique of Dana Ullman)

April 21, 2010

After reading plenty of criticism of homeopathy, and finding it well researched, fairly written, and completely convincing, I thought it would be fair to closely examine a positive piece in favour of homeopathy and check out exactly how well they make their case.

Pretty much at random I chose an article by Dana Ullman,  who is (according to the Huffington Post at least) “America’s leading spokesperson for homeopathy”. I’d never heard of him before, which, in retrospect, was a necessary precondition for deciding to read an entire article by him.

Ullman claims that more than 150 placebo controlled studies show positive results for homeopathy. Well that sounds like the sort of evidence that would change my mind….

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German Homeopathy: deadly, stupid, and supported by me

April 12, 2010

Medical insurance here in Germany is compulsory, which is probably not such a bad idea. It costs 15% of your income, unless you happen to be poor or have an irregular income, in which case it can cost more than 100% of your income, which can itself lead to health problems. But piteous whining is not the purpose of this post, as I have already done that in an earlier post on this topic.

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