Monday, January 31, 2011

xkcd: Sickness

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aimee Martin Responds

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entry, "New Year, More Stupid".  I had copied (word for word) an ad that was placed on a local classifieds site (  The advertisement was for Aimee's business that included a number of services.  I inserted links to sites that explained what some of those services claim to be and to explain what they are not.

Just this morning I noticed that there was a comment awaiting moderation (the blog automatically sends comments into moderation for old posts) from Aimee.  I have approved it on that entry but have copied it below.

Aimee Martin said...

Ok... first of all, I am one of the Registered Myomassologists that you have blatantly criticized without any personal knowledge what-so-ever. So before you make comments that you cant substantiate, please do take me up on an offer for a treatment, then blog about it! At least have some knowledge before you open your mouth. I am registered by the largest massage therapy body in Canada... the Natural Health Care Practioners of Canda...and we recieve the same "D" designation as all the other community colleges, medix, etc... I have all my training in Swedish Massage, just like any other therapist you would see. Most insurance companies do recognize us, and the United States employs Myomassologists throughout their health care system. Myomassology originated from the US Association of Massage Therapists in 1972. Our massage is very hands on, and not spiritual or based on energy- although many find merit in those treatments as well. And No, we are not into making a quick buck, and again, get your minds out of the gutter because we do not perform that type of massage! In fact, why not ask one of the several nurses and other health professionals that have become clients because they were thrilled with the massage they recieved from us. So before you pass judgement, I welcome you to come in and have a massage...heck I will give it you for free...but you might be covered for your additional treatments by your insurance might want to check into that! :)
First of all, I don't think I made any mention about "myomassology" at all - the only links related to the advertisement for "myomassology" related to the use of the word "holistic" and when there was mention of correcting leg length.  Since we're talking about substantiating claims, let me remind you that I made NO claims about massage therapy being bunk and it was you (Aimee) who made the claims about bunk (see below).  The ball is in your court to substantiate the claims (you won't because you can't - the evidence is counter to your claims).

With that said about "myomassology", it seems that it is massage therapy on woo-woo.  The link suggests that the concept behind "myomassology" was to take massage therapy from basic legitimacy and into complete stupidity.  You (Aimee) seem to be trying to take "myomassology" back to massage therapy and, if that's the case, I applaud you for that (you have a lot of baggage to ditch, however, first).

I'm all for massages (though my wife will attest that I don't care for them myself) as long as they are being advertised honestly (see Massage Therapy) - to relax a person and relieve pain.
Also, to criticize claims, I don't need "personal knowledge" - I am familiar with the claims being made and where they are bunk, I called them bunk.  I included the ad in my blog because of the references to mismatched leg lengths, Reflexology, Cranio Sacral Therapy and Fire Cupping - all of which are bunk.  I've talked about named techniques (like Contraction Release Therapy, etc.) in the past - most of which are bunk too. Since the claim isn't distinct, I didn't get into it.  The only information about it that I could find included "correcting leg length" and bullshit regarding "correcting muscle imbalances".  If you have any specific information on it, I'd be happy to review it.
So Aimee, if you ditch the woo-woo, the massage therapy is valid. 
Thanks for the response and I apologize if you mistook the point I was trying to make.  I hope this makes it a little clearer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homeopaths and other idiots tout the "great" blog on bioclinicnaturals? Really?

Before I go into the whole entry - I will summarize the only response that needs to be made about these arguments and Homeopathy in general.

If something does not work, it doesn't matter that science (supposedly) can't explain how it is supposed to work.

On to the response - this was posted at and someone linked to it in the comments on a recent blog entry. I'm finding that I have to address the same claims over and over and it needs to be a direct response or people can't figure out that their argument is a failed one.  Here we go...

The following is a list of arguments sighted by "Marketplace" in their exposé on homeopathy with the premise of the argument clearly stated and my personal rebuttal to the premise.

Argument #1: We tested the remedies and we could find no active ingredient and no difference between two reportedly different remedies.

Premise #1: We can’t find the active ingredient so it doesn’t exist.
Stupid. That is not how science works. The 'theory' that is put forward to explain the super-dilution is question begging - how does it forget the soap, dust, etc. that the water has in it? We don't need to figure out how something is supposed to work if it doesn't work.
Rebuttal #1: The lack of precision of our tools or the flaws in our methodology does not preclude the existence of something beyond our perception. When I went to school we learned that electrons were the smallest particle. Now we have discovered several smaller sub-atomic particles and, in fact, we are no longer sure that an electron is a particle at all! Furthermore, we know that sunlight is needed to synthesise vitamin D in our skin. One might say vitamin D comes from sunlight; though no matter how we measure or analyse sunlight we are unlikely to detect any molecule of vitamin D in it. This is a simple illustration of how different mechanisms than the traditional substance-receptor model, on which pharmacology is based, might be at play with homeopathy to produce an effect.
Really? I'm beginning to think the greatest concern with homeopathy is that its adherents have never heard of Google - search 'vitamin d in sunlight' . And not understanding pharmacology presents a real problem when you're trying to argue against it. Homeopathy doesn't work. We don't care how it might work if it did because it doesn't.

I'm also amazed that people use the evolving precision of science as an argument against it.  Predictions/descriptions were made about the atom before it could be seen, etc.  Science makes valid predictions and testable and falsifiable claims - Homeopathy does not.
Argument #2: People can take on an overdose of homeopathic pills and it doesn’t harm them so obviously homeopathic pills are inert and useless.

Premise #2: All medicines that have the ability to heal have must cause harm when taken in large amounts.
This is hardly just a premise, it happens to be true.  More evidence that Homeopathy doesn't work.
Rebuttal #2: We know that all medicines have a therapeutic window where benefit out ways harm. Some drugs like warfarin and digitalis need to be precisely dosed whereas water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B12 can be taken in hundreds to thousands of times the required daily amounts without any signs of toxicity. If you take the argument to extremes anything can cause harm - even water. Maybe the “overdosers” didn’t take their experiment far enough. I’m sure if you gave enough homeopathic remedies for long enough you would see first lactose intolerance in some, then obesity and diabetes in most.
The toxin is in the dose - everything can be toxic - even vitamins - ask Gary Null.  So you think that (because eating too much sugar is the end result of taking too many pillules) somehow you have an argument in favor of homeopathy? You are just admitting that there is nothing in it. Stupid.
Argument #3: There is no scientific proof from placebo controlled human trials that homeopathy is effective therefore homeopathic remedies are nothing but a placebo.
No, the scientific evidence shows that homeopathy is nothing more than placebo which, again, is nothing when it comes to actually treating/curing things.
Premise #3: Homeopathic medicines are placebos and placebos are an unacceptable, deceptive and ineffective form of treatment.

Rebuttal #3: Placebos are by far the best studied medicines. Their benefits have been evaluated and proven in every placebo controlled study ever conducted. Placebos definitely have an effect; in fact they have become the standard by which all pharmaceutical are compared. While the objective of a drug is to perform better than a placebo, there are many instances when the placebo performs as well or even better than the active treatment! Placebos also have the ability to cause harm which supports argument #2 that they have the potential for benefit.
Drugs that don't perform better than placebo shouldn't be permitted to be sold/offered as treatments - that's why homeopathy is stupid. Placebos are nothing - you keep forgetting that and, at the same time, are countering your own arguments. Lying to a patient (homeopathy) is unethical and, more importantly, not necessary because 'conventional treatments' also elicit the placebo effect. - the complete (not quote-mined) conclusion of the study is: Placebo effects in RCTs on classical homeopathy did not appear to be larger than placebo effects in conventional medicine. Best of all, that was published in the Homeopathy Journal - one that is generally apologetic for homeopathy.
Argument #4: The use of homeopathy causes harm because people are convinced to use it in place of real treatments like vaccines and chemotherapy.

Premise #4: Persuading people to use treatments that aren't proven prevents them from using more proven treatments.
More than a premise - and here, here and here.
Rebuttal #4: The irony of this argument is that the examples used as standards of care are the same ones that have come under the most fire recently for their cost benefit ratio. Many cancer patients are opting out of chemotherapy for secondary cancers because of their experience with side effects and lack of results. Parents around the world are taking a hard look at whether vaccines are as safe and effective as they have been convinced to believe. Ultimately whether people chose to use homeopathy as an adjunct to conventional care, as an alternative to conventional care, or choose no care at all, the choice is theirs.
It is true that people make stupid decisions based on misinformation - want an example? People use homeopathy. Sorry. Arguing from anecdote and popularity is dumb - don't do it if you expect us to take you serious. Parents avoiding vaccines are doing so because people are lying to them. Consider....

We are not against choice - we are for informed consent and honesty and ethics in medicine - that means using the best available science and evidence and the avoidance of tooth-fairy science and wishful thinking.
The Underlying argument: Homeopathy doesn’t fit with what we know about medicine. Despite the reports from users that it helps them, we can’t understand how it could possibly work. Since we haven’t experienced benefit directly, and we can't imagine how it might work, it is best to conclude that homeopathy is untrue because it is incongruent with our paradigm.
This is as bad as an argument from anecdote - maybe even worse.  What is being suggested is "don't knock it until you've tried it".  Human fallibility is what is the problem - that is why we do controlled trials to see if the effect is greater than placebo and the potential benefit outweighs the potential harm.  If someone tries homeopathy and thinks it works for them it is still just them (falsely) thinking it worked for them.  Most illnesses to be treated with Homeopathy are self-limiting so we, wrongly, assume a causal effect simply because symptoms improved without considering the natural history the disease normally takes without an intervention.  (ie. Whether or not you treat a cold with an OTC cold medication, it is going to last about a week - the OTC cold medication does not alter the course of the illness.)
The Underlying Premise: If something seems to contradict the current truth then it is untrue.
Strawman. That was never claimed, stated or implied.
Rebuttal of the Underlying Premise: This premise is the opposite of science. Everything we believe to be truth is but a working theory. The purpose of science is to observe phenomena and attempt to explain them. Not to exclude phenomena from our present orthodoxy to maintain a sense of omniscience.
Orthodoxy? Homeopathy is a cult - science isn't.
It is true that we cannot say for certain how homeopathic remedies work. For certain they may not work for everyone - at least in the ways we might expect. And so, one might conclude that we should only use treatments if we know how they work. But ask yourself this: Do you know how any medicine works? You personally, not the pharmacologist who designed it, the consumer. I would suggest that most people don’t know how aspirin relieves their pain but they believe it does. In fact, unlike many of the modern designer drugs, aspirin and its predecessor white willow bark have been used with great satisfaction and efficacy long before anything was know about its mechanisms of action.
They don't work so we can't find out the mechanism. Medicines that work we use and ones that don't, we don't. If they work, we'll want to learn how they work because it might help with developing other treatments and it might enable us to refine it or enhance the effect.  If homeopathy worked (it doesn't) you would have a point - there would then be reason to research its mechanism.  However, since it doesn't work, no point.
Patients and practitioners alike can only know so much. We gather information from various sources and we have to determine how much we trust these sources. Ultimately, we all have to make decisions based on what we believe. I think the reason more and more people are seeking alternatives like homeopathy is because they have lost faith and trust in the conventional system. Evidence based critics often sneer with contempt at the patient who trusts anecdotes from a family member over a clinical trial. However, this choice is becoming more a reflection of the loss of credibility in the establishment of medicine in the eyes patients than an example of pure ignorance. To the patient they have a relationship with their family member –they trust them, they believe them. "Marketplace" aired a story that reflects the message they want to convey. I think their message is clear. What do you believe?
Science-based medicine enabled us to move from using ineffective treatments (that appeared to work) and dangerous treatments (that were based on what seemed to be logical hypotheses) to what is now saving millions of lives every year.  Science isn't perfect but it is self-correcting.  It continues to advance and change as new evidence is presented.  The scientific method provides a valid testing methodology for Homeopathy - randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial - and, in well done studies, Homeopathy has failed to meet the basic requirements for efficacy.  The effects that it presents are nothing greater than (and explained by) the placebo effect.  With that knowledge, we are wasting our time arguing over how it might work, what quantum mechanics, physics and biology have to say about its mechanism.  There isn't a mechanism to be studied.

The problem with your suggestion is that anecdotes do appeal to us.  Who doesn't love a good or feel good story? A lack of understanding of science, logic and biases is what leads people to accept stupid propositions. People choosing alternative medicine doesn't mean it works.

I do agree that we have to determine what we trust - the reality is that people have a screwed up perception of what is trustworthy. 

Marketplace did a valid investigative piece - the reality is that homeopathy is silly. There is no such thing as 'balance' when it comes to a ridiculous proposition.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I must confess...

I can't believe how much time I've wasted responding to the same comments/points made by followers of Homeopathy.  As with most "alternative medicine", the "evidence" presented is almost never evidence - it typically is a mix-up of logical fallacies.

I'll restate a few points and then get on to the point of this entry.  (I've limited the number of links since I recently dealt with the "evidence" claims and linked to information on the other frequently used fallacies in recent blog entries.)

Just because something is popular does not make it true/right/safe/good.  (Examples: Islam is popular.  Lying is popular.  Smoking is popular.  Glee is popular.)

Just because someone well known and/or well respected said it doesn't make it factual. (Example: Linus Pauling claimed that Vitamin C could cure cancer.)

Words matter.  Trying to poison the well using words like "chemicals", "toxins", "unnatural" does not help your case.  Everything is made of chemicals.  The toxin is in the dose (everything is toxic at the right concentration - water, vitamins, etc. too).  Natural does not mean safe - "natural" includes anthrax, influenza, lead, mercury, venom, etc.

Personal stories (anecdotes) hold little weight in science when it comes to evidence.  Anecdotes might give reason to suggest that a study might be warranted but they don't change the results of properly designed and controlled studies.  Since humans are subject to personal bias and often conflate correlation with causation (Post hoc ergo propter hoc), science admits the fallibility of humans and does its best to remove such biases from studies.

I must confess...

There are not many subjects/topics in skepticism where the evidence is so clear.  Not many topics can be so easily dismissed as Homeopathy.  I'm beating a horse that is not only dead, it fails to exist. 

Understanding and responding to the claims of Homeopathy is possibly the easiest place to break your teeth in skepticism.  The proposition is so silly that anyone willing to understand logical fallacies and proper study design can deconstruct the whole argument in favour of Homeopathy.

Though some would argue that at least Homeopathy involves someone taking a "treatment" (ingesting a substance) and that, in itself, makes it harder to just dismiss when compared to Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Prayer and the like.  (For those that don't know Therapeutic Touch does not involve touching - mind you it isn't therapeutic either.)  That the Homeopathic "treatment" has no measurable active ingredient and has been shown in studies to have the same effect whether the person receives the "real" "treatment" or placebo makes the rest of the arguments pointless.  But, for jollies, skeptics will often dismantle them anyway.

What I mean is: Since Homeopathy has been shown to have no benefit beyond placebo (if even that), placebo is elicited by 'conventional medicine' and that placebo is really nothing - Homeopathy offers no net value.  It also relies on lying to people for it to elicit the effect - something that I don't think should be generally accepted.

Or, to get to the main part of the argument, (and why we needn't even address most of the claims of Homeopaths) we needn't concern ourselves with how something might possibly work (or the "theories" behind it) if it simply doesn't work.

Having said that, let's consider what they claim.  Homeopathy is based on some "laws" or "theories" (none actually meet the established criteria required to consider them laws or theories - those words are actually being redefined in the context of Homeopathy) that were made up, completely, out of whole cloth. 

The "law of similars" suggests that "like cures like" - nothing in science supports that wild idea.  (Vaccines don't "cure" illnesses, they trick your body into building antibodies so that if you actually encounter the pathogen, your body is prepared to fend it off.  Vaccines also produce measurable antibodies that Homeopathic "treatments" do not.) 

The "law of infinitesimals" claims that the less active ingredient contained in the solution ("treatment"), the more potent it becomes.  Most Homeopathic "treatments" do not contain a single molecule of the original active ingredient and, therefore, any action would be counter to our clear understanding of "dose-response" relationship as established in pharmacology.  What they appear to be claiming is: the most potent Homeopathic treatment would be to not take anything.

The other claim that they make is that "water has memory".  Simply, it does not.  Imagine, however, that it did (and this is a snarky response because that's probably all it deserves), how does it remember that active ingredient after serial dilution but forget all the crap that it has had in it. 


Though it is a silly proposition, hundreds of thousands of people push Homeopathy and there are people being bamboozled into accepting it - so the non-existent dead horse, apparently, demands further beatings.

And... (In case you can't scroll down or search my blog...)
Toronto School of Homeopathic 'Medicine' responds

Amanda Brown Responds with what is in Homeopathic 'Treatments': Nothing

Amanda Brown and the Power of Nothing

Homeopathic Medical Council of Canada Website: Just like Homeopathy

It doesn't work but I can tell you how it does!

Fitting Video - Dara O'Brien on Homeopathy & Nutritionists (Dara O'Briain)

Homeopathy is just plain silly Homeopathy - The Poster

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toronto School of Homeopathic 'Medicine' responds

In response to the CBC Marketplace story "Cure or Con" that investigated Homeopathy, the Toronto School of Homeopathic 'Medicine' posted a blog entry yesterday.  (I don't have time to respond to it right now but I wanted to capture it for a number of reasons - not the least of which the scary promotion of Homeopathy instead of vaccines.)  Following the video (the actual show they are responding to) is their response.

Their response:
CBC Marketplace Cons The Public
We were expecting a biased program on Homeopathy by CBC Marketplace, but the final product was not only the worst example I have ever seen of so-called “investigative journalism”, it became obvious quite early on that there was a set agenda from the beginning.

I was disappointed that CBC Marketplace did not make any attempt to investigate the fundamental principle of homeopathy- the Law of Similars of ‘like cures like’. Of course, people will not feel any symptoms when taking large doses of Homeopathic remedies of Arsenicum Album or Belladonna if they do not have characteristic symptoms that match to either of those remedies.

Are these skeptic groups qualified or trained enough to be consulted for an unbiased and educated examination of Homeopathic medicine? I would say no as their knowledge about the science of Homeopathy was almost non-existent. These skeptics are really “pseudo-skeptics”. The original definition of "skeptic" was a person who questions ALL beliefs, facts, and points-of-view, including their own, in light of OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE. This is obvious not the case. Media skeptics frequently and fraudulently make claims that there are “no studies” that support Homeopathy and therefore no evidence to support its efficacy. This is a lie. In addition to 200 years and roughly 25,000 volumes of clinical literature, there are almost 200 random controlled trials that indicate a positive outcome for Homeopathy.

A standard tactic that Marketplace uses when investigating natural medicines is to take it to get tested at some special laboratory. As a viewer, there is no room to question the scientific methodology, the parameters of the study or if that lab had the necessary equipment to properly measure Homeopathic remedies. Any first year student will know that it will be difficult to find material substances left in a homeopathic remedy of 30C since it is above Avogardo’s number with chemical testing. Secondly, the studies of several well-known scientists, such as Dr. Rustom Roy and Dr. Iris Bell, were not consulted.

Finally, Marketplace suggested that homeopathic prophylaxis is dangerous to the point of implying that those who chose to get them were ignorant. Again, this goes against the facts. Look at the recent results of the largest homeopathy study ever done in Cuba on Leptospirosis in 2008. Bracho, Gustavo et al. Large-scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control. Homeopathy, 2010; 99: 156-166.

There were so many lies presented about Homeopathy that it is likely that CBC Marketplace purposefully and willfully had an agenda to denounce Homeopathic medicine. I would have loved to see a balanced investigation into Homeopathy exploring both sides of the issues, or consulting patients who have experienced positive results for conditions that Western Medicine was unable to treat. Why weren’t some of our leading Homeopaths, such as Dr. Joseph Kellerstein and Dr. Andre Saine, consulted?

The CBC should be ashamed for presenting such a farce as journalism. Check out the website Extraordinary Medicine which gives excellent information about Homeopathy, the scientific evidence and what is really happening with the pseudo-skeptics.

My response, on their blog was (if it has been removed - which it appears they're doing):
You, my friends, will have blood on your hands when someone dies as a result of the misinformation you are providing. Using homeopathy instead of a proven vaccine is possibly the craziest idea ever from the homeopathy camp (and that says a lot given your made-up, completely, 'law' of similars, your claims that dilution increases strength and claiming water has a memory yet forgets all the crap it has had in it).
Amadeo, I'm sure, would also prefer you spell his name correctly - at least then when you (and others) search for it, you'll understand what it means. Avogadro's number - do look it up. Homeopathy - there's nothing in it.
200 studies that suggest what? That homeopathy is better than nothing? Homeopathy does not and has not cured anything but thick wallet syndrome. How many studies have been done that shows homeopathy has no effect? Add to those the studies that have shown it to be equivocal to placebo and then compare that number to the 200 paltry studies you suggest exist. We'll ignore the quality of your 'positive' studies and the controls just to be kind to you and you have overwhelming evidence to suggest that the benefit of homeopathy (placebo) is not worth what it takes to achieve it (lying to the patient).  
A "Joan" responded with:
I placed a call to the CBC and spoke in person to a customer relations representative. I respectfully challenged their declaration that the program was investigative journalism when the agenda from the outset was so obviously biased against the topic. I spoke of the many well educated scientists, teachers, and medical professionals with great knowledge of quantum physics who could have shed some light on the mechanisms of energy medicines. Instead the program focused on skeptics and scientists with virtually no knowledge or understanding of the depth or scope of any form of energy medicine but with lots of biased opinions based in ignorance.
The CBC should be ashamed of such a prejudiced presentation.
 This was the focus of my phone call not the pros and cons of homeopathy as I felt the CBC needed to be called to task on this disgraceful approach to supposedly educating the public.

I felt it necessary to speak my opinion in this way even though it is probably filed in "nowhere land".
To which, I responded:
Joan: You know nothing about quantum physics. That is clear because you suggest that quantum physics explains homeopathy.

To accept Homeopathy, we'd have to throw out everything we know about biology, chemistry and physics. There is no such thing as energy medicine; you're just making crap up.

If a treatment doesn't work, we don't care how it is supposed to. The evidence is clear - if Homeopathy is ANYTHING, it is PLACEBO. And, to be sure, placebo isn't anything either. No binary outcomes are altered by placebo. Subjective and self-reported metrics might change but it doesn't matter if you simply feel better if you're not actually better. "Well, it feels like my cancer is gone" is not the same as "My cancer is gone".

Appeals to authority don't mean anything, popularity does not mean anything, anecdotes don't mean anything - the evidence matters and the evidence suggests that if it is okay to lie to people to elicit placebo then, and only then, is it okay to use homeopathy and only for diseases that are self-limiting and conditions that are simply subjective.

Homeopathy works (and only for non-binary outcomes) if you think they work. If you receive a treatment but are told it is placebo, the result is not the same as if you receive a placebo and are told that it is a treatment. Compare that to medicine - antibiotics, of example, work whether you believe in them or not.

The CBC program was an investigative piece - sure it didn't cover everything, it only had 23 minutes to do so and, guess what, the conclusion would have been the same. Homeopathy is bunk - it is a con and they called it as they saw it. There is no such thing as "balance" when it comes to a ridiculous proposition.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Homeopaths have rallied the troops (Homeopathy gets smackdown on Marketplace - Friday @ 8PM)

While my wife and I were watching television last night, a commercial came on about CBC Marketplace (Cure or Con) and I almost fell out of my chair - it is going to be an investigation into pure stupid Homeopathy.

I did a quick search to find out more information about the show - I entered "Marketplace Homeopathy" into the google search and the first 5 or 6 links (for me) were for Homeopaths and those sympathetic to pure stupid Homeopathy. (Note: a blog follower asked why I capitalize the first letter in Homeopathy since it is so dumb when I often will not capitalize the "g" in "god".  There is only one pure stupid Homeopathy - there are over 2500 gods.) 

The Homeopaths have really rallied the troops - they are calling on people to contact the CBC and demand that it not be aired, demanding that the reporters lose their jobs, claiming that it is all lies, etc.  On the CBC Marketplace site for this episode (, the vast majority of comments are from people who support pure stupid Homeopathy - which tells me we have a lot of work to do.  (The work isn't in making sure people know that Homeopathy is pure stupid, but in helping people understand science, the scientific process and what constitutes evidence in the realm of science.)

I have tried to comment on the Marketplace site but, as of a few minutes ago, the comments are still waiting for moderation. 

Let your family and friends know to watch CBC Marketplace this Friday at 8:00PM - especially if they think that pure stupid Homeopathy works.  (Yes, "think" and "Homeopathy" seldom belongs in the same sentence.)

Some links about Homeopathy:

The following updates may be considered rude, offensive and childish.  And, if they are, I nailed it!  Homeopathy is stupid.

It is often said that you fight fire with fire but, in response to the comments on this blog (and on Cure or Con), I'm going to fight stupid with stupid.

Homeopathy benefits patients, at best, by means of the placebo effect.  You can argue it any way you wish but in a double-blind clinical trial with Homeopathy, placebo and a control, Homeopathy does no better than placebo.  Period.

The first comment suggests that there are no new complaints against Homeopathy and, though incorrect, does not make Homeopathy work.  It was stupid 200 years ago and it is stupid today.  Medicine has progressed (in leaps and bounds) in the past 200 years and Homeopathy hasn't changed a bit (okay maybe it did become more of a religion like Chiropractic). 

We know that patients (though they may not like to hear it) should be treated based on statistics - some will do better and some will do worse but treating the patient based on what they self-report as their problems fails the basic tests of science.  Science requires data to not have been f#$ked with - a self-report is weak and easily manipulated.  All that Homeopathy does, in claiming to make a specific treatment for the "whole person" is spend time with the patient - one of the key components for eliciting the placebo response. 

Homeopathy doesn't work if you don't believe in it.  Period.  Antibiotics? They work whether or not you believe in them.  Someone receiving a specially formulated treatment (for them) from a Homeopath but told that it is a placebo - do not see the same benefits as people who receive a placebo but are told it is a specific Homeopathic nostrum formulated specifically for them.  This screams placebo.  That's all it is, that is all it can ever be.  An expensive and dangerous one at that.  (People skip real medical treatments/diagnoses because of the bullshit that is peddled by these snakeoil sales people.)

"It can't be placebo because it works on babies and animals" is f#$king stupid.  Anyone making that claim should not be allowed to breed.  The placebo response does not solely rely on the patient expecting an outcome - that is not what we've ever claimed and it is not what actually happens.  Expectations can and do affect the outcomes but they are not necessary.  The placebo response can be triggered by simply increased attention (the Homeopath gives a patient a shoulder to "cry" on and listens to their problems - the benefit derived from that is a placebo) - babies recognize additional attention.  More cuddling, the parent taking care to keep the baby comfortable, feeding the baby comfort foods, staying home from work to be with the baby (instead of putting them into day care), etc.  Conditioned responses are seen in animals and babies all the time.  Stop using that lame response to a claim that something is placebo.  It is old, it is tired and it is stupid (just like Homeopathy).

Other comments include:
Comment: Homeopathy is natural and doesn't contain all the chemicals/toxins that "Big Pharma" puts into medicine.
Me: Stupid.  Everything is made of chemicals.  The toxin is in the dose (water is toxic and so are most vitamins).  Natural does not mean safe.  Shit is natural - so is mercury, lead, anthrax, mushrooms, cocaine, asbestos, carbon monoxide, etc.

Comment: It works for me, you can't tell me this stuff doesn't work.
Me: It doesn't work and it didn't work for you.  There is not a single binary outcome that is changed by Homeopathy.  Consider the natural history of the disease, regression to the mean, etc.  Take a cold medication and your cold goes away in 7 days.  Don't take one and it is gone in a week.  Amazing!

Comment: Allopathic.
Me: Scratch anything that anyone says if they use the term "allopathic".  They're sheep and they've been screwed by their shepherd (sounds like something that happens at churches).

Comment: As a result of Homeopathy my energy levels have increased. 
Me: No, no.  That's because of your Power Balance bracelet.  Don't confuse them.  I bet you'd have more energy if you didn't have to waste your time going to the store to buy the pure stupid.

Comment: Homeopathy is a science that has been around 200 years.
Me: Homeopathy is not a science.  To accept Homeopathy, we'd have to throw out physics, biology, chemistry and theology (just kidding - but can we just throw out the last one anyway?).  You know what else has been around for 200 years?  Slavery.  Oppression of women.  Mumps.  Measles.  Rubella.  Pertussis.  Anything that hasn't been revised or updated in 200 years is out of date or obsolete.  When Samuel Hahahahman (something like that?) invented pure stupid out of whole cloth, people often didn't live to reproductive age, the average live span was less than 50 years.  Science, however, has increased that to well over 75 years.  If we weren't wasting billions of dollars on sCAMs like Homeopathy, imagine where we'd be!

Comment: Unbalanced reporting.  Biased reporting. (Re: Cure or Con)  (Actual quote: "I would ask you to ensure the people you are interviewing for this segment are from both sides of this debate - it is unreasonable to assume that interviewing someone who potentially has a vested interest in a subject will give you an unbiased and fair interview.")
Me: Stupid doesn't deserve a platform to spew stupid.  In a debate, the truth does not necessarily sit somewhere in the middle of the two viewpoints.  One side can be completely wrong (Homeopathy in this case).  Who doesn't have a vested interest in something that would speak about it?  Homeopaths have a vested interest, people seeking the truth have a vested interest.  People who use Homeopathy (have invested money in stupid) have a vested interest - whether they think it worked for them or not.  What people are trying to argue is "big pharma is paying scientists to lie about Homeopathy so they can't be trusted" but "trust a Homeopath, why would they lie?". 

Comment: "Big pharma"
Me: Big placebo.  And by that, I mean, if following the money makes one suspicious, I suggest that we can't trust big placebo (I think this is a horrible argument either way.).  They're in it for the money as well.  Oh, and much of the market for sCAMs (Homeopathy, "natural shit", etc.) are dominated by big business (including the same pharmaceutical companies you're arguing against). 

Comment: (Actual quote) "Wow. A lot of support for Homeopathy in the comments. I didn't realise that many Canadians were total ret@rds. There is no scientific merit to Homeopathy and no evidence that it works. It's water ffs. Homeopaths are dangerous as they encourage people to abandon real medicine (especially preventative, specious reasoning and all that) for diseases such as malaria and cancer. They're a dangerous plague and if this support is representative of the Canadian population then I'm afraid I'm going to have to scratch the entire country of my Atlas of Relevant Non-Idiot Countries (U.S. and a number of others gone already). I was hoping I could keep SOME of North America but I guess that's just not to be... :("
Me: I can't believe that got through the moderators.

Comment: (Actual quote) "numerous clinical trials and double blind tests have been conducted in

Europe that were set up to disprove the efficacy of homeopathic remedies by the allopathic community, only to prove that they DO work. "
Me: F#%k me sideways! Then aren't the Europeans stupid? They get positive studies (you suggest) and, from that, decide that it's time to stop funding Homeopathy in Britain?  And Germany?

Comment: (Actual quote) "Question: Why did the CBC not consult with leading Homeopathic doctors for conclusive evidence on the efficacy of Homeopathy? It seems your research is lacking thoroughness."
Me: Two words: Coutier's Reply. You want a few more?  You don't need to know what they claim about Homeopathy and how it is supposed to work if it simply does not work (and it doesn't).

Comment: (Actual quote) "My family and I have been using homeopathic remedies for the last 9 years, with great success. I used homeopathic teething tablets when my daughters were babies; the results are nearly instantaneous for stopping crying, reducing swelling and red cheeks."
Me: Jesus Christ on Crutches!  Does death cause a baby to stop crying, have reduced swelling and stop their cheeks from being red?

Skeptics in Sarnia/Lambton

In response to a comment that was posted on a recent blog entry (and an email to me from the commenter), I think it might be time to revisit the idea of a "group".

"TartanTim" asked if there was a "skeptics group" in Lambton County.  First of all, I'm not aware of any skeptical groups in the area (do you know of any? email me at and I have, in the past, blogged about the interest in creating one.

I'm not looking to organize a group but I'd be willing to get involved/assist in one if someone is looking to get one together.  There are a significant number of people who get together on a(n) (ir)regular basis to just "shoot the shit". (I've defined "significant number" as any number greater than 2 for this item.)

If you are skeptically minded and would be interested in being notified about skeptical meet-ups/events in the Sarnia/Lambton County area, email me at  Even better, if you are interested in helping organize one, send me two emails! 

Some suggestions for "the group" included co-ordinating/organizing "letters to the editor" in response to stupidity (errr.. irrational beliefs, lack of critical thought and misrepresentation of facts), working on fundraisers/public awareness campaigns, providing representation at community planning events/roundtables and getting involved in local events (ie. Paranormal Conventions *wink* *wink* Robbie Thomas (who is not psychic, by the way)).

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year, More Stupid

Thanks to "Eric" for sending me this.  The following ad was posted in a local classifieds site ( and "Eric" thought the reference to "Reflexology" was funny (it is, but that's not the only funny part).

And by "funny", I don't want to neglect the FACT that there are real harms involved (check out - this bullshit can create unnecessary suffering and, at times, cost lives).

Here's the text of the ad:  (I re-bolded the headings and italicized it but removed pretty much all formatting - the links are all added by me and are for additional reading)

Simply Serenity Centre for Natural Therapies- NOW OPEN and Accepting New Clients

New Client Trial Offer: 30 min. treatment session for $10. 3 DAYS ONLY from Jan.18-Jan. 20. Call to book your appointment today!

What is Myomassology?
Myomassology is the ‘holistic’ version of Massage Therapy and includes many other bodywork techniques.

Holistic? What does that mean?
It means we assess your ‘whole’ body when designing a treatment plan. If you come in with neck and shoulder pain, we check to see if your spine, pelvis and legs are lined up properly. If you have one leg shorter than the other (for example) it will cause your pelvis to tilt down on one side and your spine to tilt down on that side too. Your body compensates for this by tightening muscles in your neck and shoulder area. This returns your spine to the vertical plane again but the cost to the human body of this correction is non-stop pain in your neck and shoulders. This is called the ‘Body’s Compensation Effect’. It causes tightness in your neck and shoulder muscles. This is an internal force you cannot fight because it is a survival technique. In this very common scenario, Myomassologists use techniques to release tight neck and shoulder muscles then restore correct leg length again to the short leg by releasing tension in muscles in the hips and low back area. Myomassologists treat the ‘whole’ body this way- that’s why they call us ‘holistic’. We view the whole body as totally inter-connected. It makes a lot of sense really.

Are you a Massage Therapist?
Yes and No.

What do you mean?
Yes we receive full ‘Massage Therapy’ training in school and, yes, we are fully accredited in ‘Massage Therapy’ by the largest professional massage association in Canada and, yes, we provide full ‘Massage Therapy’ services for our clients but we do not use these terms to describe ourselves because the words ‘Massage Therapy’ were trademarked by the Massage Therapy Association of Ontario for the exclusive use of their own members. We choose to call ourselves Myomassologists- to prevent confusing the public.

Do you do Swedish Massage?
Yes. In addition we perform Contraction Release Therapy and Leg & Hip Balancing when we want to get therapeutic results for our clients. These techniques are unique to Myomassology. We also offer Tui Na Massage (known as Chinese Medical Massage), Traditional Chinese Fire Cupping (an ancient form of Deep Tissue Massage, thousands of years old), Pregnancy Massage, Cranio Sacral Therapy, Reflexology and much more. Make an appointment with a Myomassologist today- feel the difference a Myomassology treatment makes!

Contact: .......... for more information.

Available Monday-Saturday By Appointment .

Additional Points

The leg length disparity test is dumb.  It is no different than what is done with Power Balance bands and is clearly a manipulation by the person doing the test.

With regards to "an ancient form of " and "thousands of years old" - remember, thousands of years ago, we lived half as long as we do now.  In about 100 years, we've increased the average lifespan by 50%!  If that crap worked, why didn't it correlate to a longer life?  (Many of these "treatments" that they claim are thousands of years old aren't even hundreds of years old.  Perpetuation of myths is not beyond quack practitioners, I guess.)

Reflexology when sold as anything other than a foot, hand or ear massage is an indication that someone (at least the person receiving the "treatment") doesn't understand biology or physiology.  It can't possibly do what they claim it does.

At least with Reflexology you are getting something (a limited massage) - Homeopathy gives you nothing and Healing Touch gives you neither healing or touch!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The past couple of days...

A few laughs
If you have a couple minutes and want a laugh, you need to check out what our good friend Robbie Thomas is up these days.

For some reason I don't think they meant it to be funny

Power Balance can't help itself from toppling
There is now a Power Balance bracelet class action lawsuit.  Power Balance bracelets are pure stupid - if you still think they work, you shouldn't be entitled to a refund.  They lied to you in the first place but now that they've admitted they were lying, continuing to believe in them should mean that what you paid is a stupid tax.
Autism, vaccines and the person that could have killed one of your family members
While on the topic of FRAUD - Andrew Wakefield (the assface who claimed that MMR Vaccine was a cause of Autism), in the past year, lost his license to practice medicine, had his paper retracted by the Lancet and, just yesterday, was exposed as having perpetrated an "elaborate fraud".  I think this means that (since a number of people have died from vaccine preventable illnesses as a result) Andrew Wakefield has blood on his hands. 
Unfortunately much of the damage has been done - rebuilding trust in science will be a difficult task.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm not taking away false hope - you're (wrongly) allowing it to be created

This topic comes as a touchy/sensitive one for me.  My wife and I have a close friend who suffers from MS so it is disheartening to accept that a cure doesn't exist.  The condition also brings with it a myriad of "miracle cures" and scamsters who prey (though, at times, unwittingly) on helpless and, seemingly, hopeless people.

Our friend would love to be cured - it is, like many other illnesses, horrible.  It steals the life from countless vibrant, loving and caring people and none of us want to see people suffer. 

In the past number of years I've researched a great number of things and I've had discussions with people on a number of "touchy" topics.  Not long ago the local newspapers were filled references to a topic that I have since done substantial reading on and that relates to MS - liberation therapy.  (Much of the claims of liberation therapy have been taken up by other research groups and scientists and the results give great reason to be skeptical of it - though countless people were initially skeptical just from the sketchy descriptions that Dr. Zamboni had offered.) 

I mention this therapy not because I think it is bunk (though I have every reason to accept that it is) - it is the reaction that people had to those who were skeptical of the surgery prior to the more recent research.  MDs (real medical doctors), scientists and others were concerned with the claims that Dr. Zamboni was making about the "cause" of MS and what he claims he was discovering and the resulting comments on the news stories and blogs included (paraphrased.. some people took paragraphs to make their points):
"If you had MS, you would want the money to have this lifesaving surgery."
"You're just a shill for big pharma. Big pharma has never cured anything."
"Follow the money.  You make your money by treating people not curing them."
"Leave well enough alone. You're destroying hope for thousands of MS sufferers."

When it comes to sCAM treatments, these are pretty standard arguments people use when someone questions their value or efficacy.  We've discussed many of these subjects before so I will only briefly discuss most of them.

"If you had this condition..." Yes, if I had MS, I would hope that our health care system would pay for a lifesaving surgery (liberation isn't a lifesaving surgery and it has little/no plausible method of curing MS - whatever causes MS it isn't reduced blood flow to the BBB).  I would expect that the surgery a.) be plausible, b.) have potential for benefit greater than the risks and, c.) have scientific support.  Nobody questioning liberation therapy was asking for the government to blindly dismiss costly treatments.  Money is a limited resource - (at the very least, potential) efficacy should be a requirement for funding any treatment.

"Big Pharma Shill" is a tired and old argument.  Steven Novella has discussed it at length.  As for "Big Pharma" never curing anything - Polio? Mumps? Measles? Rubella? Pertussis? Malaria?  Tuberculosis? Pneumonia? Gonorrhea?  What about (from a surgery standpoint) appendicitis?  Re-attachment of severed appendages? Or how about increasing the average lifespan from below 50 years to over 75 years in about a century?

"Follow The Money" is often a stronger argument against the treatment that people are trying to defend.  In this case, "liberation" is a money maker for Dr. Zamboni and his companies - he gets paid to train people, he has an agreement with a manufacturer of a particular piece of equipment and he guards his "secrets" closely.  His "science" is done via press release, he has created his own foundation and stands to make untold millions of dollars from his claims.  (This argument also fails for people like Mike Adams and Joseph Mercola - they argue that Big Pharma isn't concerned about you and I, they're just in it for the $$ - so you should avoid Big Pharma and buy stuff from them.  Odd.  Arguing against an indirect (if even that) profit motive while having solely a profit motive is, well, ironic.) 

"Destroying hope"
This is the primary reason for this blog entry.  Just as when I tackle the undue respect that religion gets, people who question quackery are confronted with the claim that we're simply taking away hope (and sometimes admittedly false hope).

I've struggled with this because I've often said "I'm not trying to take away people's hope" but I think I've been wrong all along in leaving it at that.  The argument should be "no, you shouldn't be accepting the creation of false hope".  Doing so opens the door for abuse - we need to speak out against this idea and we need to do it sooner than later.

Allowing people to create and perpetuate false hope is the problem - not "us" taking it away.  If a treatment can't affect the outcomes of a particular illness, we need to be questioning it.  The sooner that we dispel the myth, the fewer people that get taken by it (and the fewer people that needlessly die from it).  We're doing people a disservice if we simply let them be abused.  The price of false hope is too great - not only when it comes to money (wasted on sCAMs, being diverted from real research) but when it comes to science acceptance. 

Our level of science literacy needs to change - higher levels of understanding of science will mean greater skepticism towards outlandish claims (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence) and that isn't going to happen by allowing claims to be made simply because we "shouldn't be taking away (false) hope". 

I feel that the hope is misplaced - hope can be found in the ever evolving world of scientific discovery.  (And that isn't best achieved by undermining the scientific method.)