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 http://bioclinicnaturals.com/us/en/articles/6/student-voices/20/professional-themes/show/74/homeopathy-and-cbcs-marketplace-expos-or-propaganda 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' http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind/ . 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. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20129180 - 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 - http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Homeopathy-Parents-Charged-Over-Baby-Daughter-Glorias-Death-In-Australia/Article/200905115276109 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.... http://www.gatesfoundation.org/foundationnotes/Pages/christopher-elias-110114-ending-the-silence.aspx

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/17/AR2011011703882.html

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.

15 comments:

Stu said...

Maybe the blog should just have been the first comment that you made;

Homeopathy does not work and any argument that science is closed minded and falls short on explaining how it works is a failed one right out of the gate.

Anonymous said...

your just another paid lackie of BIG PHARMA and have to do this anonymousy to hide that

you prolly work for merk fizer or j&j

you have exposed youself by what and who you write

homeopathics work so fuck off

sarniaskeptic said...

Oh crap, I forgot to cover one argument, apparently.

I don't work for Merck, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson or ANY drug company. (This is a dumb argument too - because many of the food supplement/homeopathic treatment companies are owned by "big pharma".)

If we want to "follow the money", one could say that I blog anonymously because a much bigger portion of my salary comes from nonsense pushers, religious followers and the like than comes from anything pro-science related.

"Big Pharma" wants you to get vaccinated, use their medicine so that you can live long enough to get the diseases that make them their real profit (heart disease and cancer). Once they "beat" heart disease, cancer, alzheimers, they'll have new issues to address - again, hoping that they can get you to live long enough to encounter those as well. In other words, they have the same goal as you - you both want YOU to live as long as possible.

(Why did I read "Homeopathics" as "Homeopathetics"?)

Anonymous said...

Excellent point!!!

I hope you are not bothered that I borrow it for future discussions.

You and Big Pharma have the same goals - to get YOU to live as long as possible so you can buy their drugs.

Anonymous said...

Did noone pick up on all the spelling and grammar mistakes in the BioClinic's post?

That guy is a couple brain cells short of a few.

Anonymous said...

I hope you vaccine your kids and the get autism you selfish bastard
grow up

Anonymous said...

Short of work in Sarnia are we?
Blogging is so 2005 dude. Get outside and find something that actually matters to talk about.
Why do you care so much about what other people choose to do with their health care?
Nobody's forcing this down your throat so do all of us a favour and stfu.

Also, your arguments are conveniently lacking in any evidence. And by evidence I mean, not calling an argument stupid.

I'm curious about your level of education? Lambton college doesn't count.

Stu said...

And commenting and reading blogs is so 2011 it seems?

Did you even read past the headlines? The evidence was presented in earlier entries.

Where is the evidence to support homeopathy? And I got into this discussion as a defender of homeopathy. People like this blogger brought me to realize that stories are just stories.

Pretty adult of us to wish autism on someone too.

Anonymous said...

Ha. This blog is written by an arrogant nobody who wishes he was somebody and hides behind the security of the internet. Perhaps he got bored of his usual activites such as waiting in line for the pogey and jerking off to really bad porn.

I pity his wife.

Get a life.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: That must make homeopathy true?

W.J.R. said...

I can now understand why you say homeopathy is stupid. The users of it are showing to be that too.

I have much to learn about homeopathy to argue against it but the people in favour of it sure don't make a convincing argument for it.

Will
Hamilton

Ryan Hulshof said...

I love the people talking about someone hiding behind the internet, and using an anonymous sig. If you really felt that not posting one's identity was some kind of faux pas, you would post your own.

The comments though are very enlightening. When someone has evidence for what they believe they don't resort to name calling and frothing at the mouth, they calmly show the evidence they feel is valid and engage in discussion.

The comments here, obviously are not really up to that standard. Childish, poorly formatted, and devoid of content, they are truly the empty rattling of people with a lot of opinion, but a lack of facts.

sarniaskeptic said...

I do admit that this entry is pretty much a dismissal of homeopathy but I have clearly addressed all of the claims, studies, etc. of homeopathy in recent blog entries. Given that I had addressed everything Adrian presented to defend homeopathy, I didn't want to repeat myself. It gets old asking for evidence and I'm not interested in pretending that homeopathy deserves any respect - it is possibly the most absurd of the alternative medicine modalities.

It is one thing to suggest that I have not provided evidence to support my insistence that homeopathy is, at best, placebo (though I have linked to a number of studies and meta-analyses) - you must remember that the people making the claim that homeopathy works are actually the ones that have to provide the evidence.

Have evidence? Present it - until you do, falsely claiming something works is deserving of ridicule.

And, for the record, my kids are vaccinated, I don't wish a disease on anyone (which is why I'm active in this movement - reducing needless suffering and preventing abuse of trust) and education means nothing if you don't have a valid argument.

Mark said...

Tolerance for idiocy is something I don't possess much of. I congratulate you on your ability and willingness to tackle the repetition but in all honesty I'm happy to see this entry among your others.

Homeopathy relies on keeping its followers uninformed and confuses them with science sounding ideas. The continued abuse and misuse of science by the homeopathic community needs to be met with derision and ridicule. For much longer than it should have been, homeopathy has been given the yellow light of withholding firm condescension in hopes of them presenting evidence. It has to end. Our knowledge of physics, biology, chemistry and other sciences have grown in the last 200 years and the more we know, the more we can be firm when we say homeopathy can't work. We have always had the evidence to say it doesn't work.

Until evidence suggests that it might work we are lying to the public by just shrugging our shoulders when someone says 'it works for me'. We know that it doesn't work and we can't be afraid to tell people that. The jury isn't out. This is not a new claim and it has been repeatedly tested and homeopathy fails.

Thank you for putting the efforts forward. I may disagree with you on some other topics but that is what skepticism is all about. I do not come here to read a blog and say 'Amen'. I'm here to learn and I hope you appreciate the feedback I provide. I never try to be mean or condescending because we are all in this together.

sarniaskeptic said...

Mark,
Thanks for your comments. I definitely don't expect people to agree with me on everything I say. It is quite possible that I am not as well informed about a subject as I could be and have made statements/accepted claims based on too little information. (I speak with certainty that this is not the case as it relates to Homeopathy.) I have acknowledged in the past when I have made mistakes and have posted corrections.

Admitting you are wrong and making the correction shouldn't be looked on as a failure of character or reflect negatively on someone's intelligence - we should be applauding such honesty.

I also don't want people to simply accept what I say - be skeptical, apply critical thinking and withhold acceptance of a claim until you have enough information or until it is unreasonable not to accept it.

I should have figured I'd get comments like I did in this blog - I did use a bit more ridicule than many of my other blogs. I didn't expect that people would wish autism on my kids, though :)

Suggestions that I'm not educated, that I am unemployed or that I do nothing but look at porn may be accurate (they aren't) but they would not change whether the argument I presented is any less (or more) valid.

For Homeopathy to work the way they claim it does would require us to throw out much of what we know in the physical sciences. It doesn't work so their explanations for its method of action are pointless.