Respectful Insolence

So busy was I last week blogging about other things, somehow I missed an amazingly, jaw-droppingly idiotic defense of homeopathy Jeanette Winterson published in The Guardian earlier this week. As you might imagine, it was just begging for a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence™. I mean, it was the dumbest article I’ve seen in a very long time. Unfortunately, other topics kept me from finding my way to it in a timely fashion. Fortunately, two excellent skeptical bloggers have torn the article to shreds, so much so that there is nothing left but a smear on the sidewalk where once stupidity stood proudly. So, be sure to check out:

  1. In Defense of Homeopathy (denialism blog)
  2. Sloppy Thinking about Homeopathy from The Guardian (NeuroLogica Blog)

Meanwhile, Ben Goldacre demolishes the very concept of homeopathy.

There, now I can rest for a while, the better to charge up my batteries for another week of blogging.

Comments

  1. #1 RNB
    November 18, 2007

    That article must have been a joke. I write daily about serious attempts to attack the principles of evidence-based treatments, but that article was such pathetic blathering it must have been a spoof – surely no-one can be so ignorant?

  2. #2 cerebralmum
    November 18, 2007

    Jaw-dropping is the right word. If she’s donating the proceeds of that article to Maun homeopathy project, remind me never to pay for one of her books.

  3. #3 raindogzilla
    November 18, 2007

    Orac, have you heard that a judge in Prince George’s County, Maryland, threatened parents with fines and jail time if they didn’t get their kids immunized?

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/17/maryland.vaccines/index.html

    They either had to provide documentation or they could get the shots on the spot. Thoughts?

  4. #4 madder
    November 18, 2007

    Okay, we all know that homeopaths invoke the “memory of water” gambit to explain how hyperdiluted substances can have any effect. This is obvious garbage, but at least they have a response to that criticism.

    But…

    If “like cures like,” why is it that the water molecules already in my body, that have of course been exposed to whatever is making me sick, do not retain sufficient memory of it to cure me?

    Or for that matter, any water that I may choose to drink, given the dilutions possible?

    Surely others have made this challenge to homeopathy. How do they respond?

  5. #5 Bob O'H
    November 19, 2007

    There’s better news from down under (via Ben Goldacre’s del.icio.us feed).

    Ben has also been recognised by some even more famous than Orac.

  6. #6 Porlock Junior
    November 19, 2007

    I think I have an answer to madder’s question. Mind you, I am not an expert in homeopathy [speaker pauses, unable to suppress a tragic sigh], but I seem to have noticed something significant.

    You see, it’s not enough to dilute the substance 93.568 zillion times more than necessary to eliminate every atom of it. Apparently, during the dilution, at each serial step, you must shake the vessel or knock it against the table or the like. This is called something-cussion, not per- or con-, but something else, which I won’t deign to look up. But I think it’s suck-. I am not making that up. But for brevity it’s spelled without the K: succussion.

    (OK, I did look it up. Did you know that if you carry a homeo medicine too far on horseback, it may become too potent from all the shaking?)

    So sure, any water contains homeopathic amounts of everything, which is to say none, BUT — the universe forgot the succussion step, so it’s not a remedy.

    Further: Suppose now, just hypothetically, a homeopathic preparation should fail to work. In order for the preparation to be effective, you have to have succussed it properly. Is anyone here so cynical as to suppose how the failure might be explained, thereby deleting it as a falsification of the homeopathic idea? Don’t all speak at once, please.

  7. #7 madder
    November 19, 2007

    Thanks, Porlock Junior. I had heard of the suck-cussion thing, but in a fit of unreasonable generosity had supposed that the homeopaths must have something beyond their magic shaking. That’ll teach me.

    Someone wiser than I once used the term breathtaking inanity. I’ll have to ponder on the depths to which that refers. Perhaps I should have a spotter on hand to ensure that my breath isn’t taken permanently.

  8. #8 Sastra
    November 19, 2007

    I had heard of the suck-cussion thing, but in a fit of unreasonable generosity had supposed that the homeopaths must have something beyond their magic shaking.

    Oh, but they do. I’ve read homeopathic literature which explained that successions were needed in order to do something like “impart the power of intention” to the water as it is diluted.

    Surprise, surprise. It seems that the hidden mechanism involved in how water knows what to remember involves invisible Mind Forces. If you learn the secret techniques, your thoughts have the ability to change reality! Really!

    It’s all about consciousness, dude.

  9. #9 sharon
    November 22, 2007

    Ben Goldacre is ignorant and bigoted. Apparently. You are going to love this baby, Orac:

    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/denis_maceoin/2007/11/your_ignorance_is_showing.html

  10. #10 Orac
    November 22, 2007

    Ooh, boy. It’s a real case of TSIB (“the stupid, it burns”).

  11. #11 HCN
    November 22, 2007

    Before I go make pie, I should point out this thread at Badscience:
    http://badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=60817#60817

    While Ben Goldacre, despite looking like he is 12 years old, is a real medical doctor, while “Dr Denis MacEoin is a former lecturer in Islamic Studies, and has written extensively in the field.”

    Other points made in the thread by Scooby (and I could not find where it was posted in the CiF thread) are:

    a) His wife is a homeopath
    b) He has written articles for the Society of Homeopaths’ journal
    c) He was vice chair of an organisation called Friends of Homeopathy
    d) He was involved with a charity called the Natural Medicine Society (apparently it went bust in 2003)

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