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


Robbie Thomas said...

Ouch, "Glee is popular" does not make it true/right/safe/good.

I didn't think you were homophobic now.

sarniaskeptic said...

Oddly, I began to doubt the existence of "God" when I witnessed the abuse of homosexuals by the churched.

The "Glee" reference was to line up with the "good". The point is that popularity only supports that something is popular...

Anonymous said...

This is scary!
Homeopathic Vaccines

Thank you for all your hard work.

Anonymous said...

Shaun said...

Anonymous - great link. Thank you for proving that you didn't read this blog. Each of his arguments were addressed already - you are either stupid or prefer to look like an idiot.

Congratulations either way. You are now qualified to prescribe sugar pills. If anyone can be a homeopath, what does it say about the standards for the profession?

I guess it isn't possible to reason with stupid!