Respectful Insolence

Oh, no, not again.

Respectful Insolence™ has been invaded over the last few days by a particularly idiotic and clueless homeopath named Sunil Sharma, who’s infested the comments of a post about how U.K. homeopaths are complaining about all of us mean skeptics who have the temerity to point out the mind-numbingly obvious about homeopathy, namely that it is based on magical thinking, goes against huge swaths of well-understood science and thus would require some very compelling evidence indeed to be worth being taken seriously by scientists (evidence that homeopaths have been thus far unable to produce). It also relies on phenomena (the “memory of water,” for instance) that do not have any basis in reality. I haven’t really engaged Sharma much, mainly because (1) you, my readers are doing an excellent job dealing with his whining, refusal to provide any actual evidence, special pleading that homeopathy can’t be tested by “allopathic” science, and broadsides against “conventional medicine” and (2) I’m too busy using my allotted blogging time to create new content to be bothered with such trivialities.

Sharma does, however, remind me of another homeopath, a particularly clueless one, who once similarly infested the comments of this blog several months ago (albeit with a better command of English), someone who was most displeased when I did a facetious post in which I explicitly likened homeopathy to magic and humorously (I hope) invoked the fictional comic book Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange using a “homeopathic” enchantment. I’m referring, of course, to Dana Ullman, whose long-winded comments after a couple of my posts on homeopathy have become legend for their lists of meaningless references that supposedly “prove” homeopathy combined with numerous logical fallacies and an incredible persistence, not to mention an amazing imperviousness to science and reason.

You probably know where this is going.

Sadly, thanks to Steve Novella, I’ve learned that Ullman’s back, and he’s badder than ever (and not in a good way) with an article entitled How Scientific Is Modern Medicine? Given how well Steve has deconstructed Ullman’s blather, I was almost tempted to let this cup pass. Almost. Unfortunately, because I feel a bit responsible for apparently inspiring Ullman to run amok on the JREF discussion boards, I also feel an obligation to dive into the muck that is Ullman’s prose again. Besides, just because another blogger, even one whom I respect, has taken on a topic never stopped me before.

I actually did know about Dana Ullman’s book, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy, which came out a few months ago. I even knew that Ullman was going around claiming that all sorts of famous historical figures used homeopathy and apparently loved it and that Ullman’s claims were being credulously parroted by some of the more credulous homeopaths out there. In essence, Ullman’s book looks like one big exercise in argumentum ad populum, chock full of anecdotes. (And we all know that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” particularly when most of Ullman’s anecdotes date back to the 19th century.) Indeed, if you were to believe Ullman, you’d think that pretty much every major literary figure in the 19th century was a die-hard true believer in homeopathy, for whatever that’s worth, which is not much even if true. Moreover, as Le Canard Noir has documented for Ullman’s claims about how much stock Charles Darwin put in homeopathy, Ullman doesn’t tell the whole story, leaving out rather important bits of information that color Darwin’s relationship with homeopathy in a way different than the picture that Ullman paints does. Ullman also leaves out why homeopathy may have seemed reasonable 150 years ago but, thanks to the advancement of medical science, is now known to be utterly ridiculous.

I was half-tempted to write Ullman and see if he’d send me a review copy, but then I decided that I had better things to do with my time than to subject my brain to such rot. Besides, the two chapters that I could view online were more than enough to make me realize it would be a waste of my time. Even so, I just couldn’t leave Ullman’s downright silly condemnation of modern medicine as “unscientific” (apparently an excerpt from his book) pass unchallenged. His start is not auspicious:

Conventional medicine adherents have consistently asserted that its methods are scientifically verified, and they have ridiculed other methods that are suggested to have therapeutic or curative effects. In fact, conventional physicians have consistently worked to disallow competitors, even viciously attacking those in their own profession who have questioned conventional treatments or provided alternative modalities.

And yet, strangely enough, whatever has been in vogue in conventional medicine in one decade has been declared ineffective, dangerous, and sometimes barbaric in the ensuing decades. Surprisingly, despite this pattern in history, proponents and defenders of “scientific medicine” tend to have little or no humility, continually asserting that today’s cure is truly effective.

The good news about conventional medicine and one of its remarkable features for which it should be honored is its history of consistently and repeatedly disproving its own treatments. The fact that only a handful of conventional drugs have survived thirty or more years is strong testament to the fact that conventional medicine is honorable enough to acknowledge its mistakes.

Recognize it? It’s the “science has been wrong beforegambit applied to medicine, with a bit of faux “praise” for medicine’s willingness to challenge its own therapies, just to twist the knife a bit. Of course, Ullman’s knife is so dull that it couldn’t even breach a single cell layer of the epidermis on a baby’s bottom, but he apparently thinks that his critique is devastating. It’s not. For one thing, Ullman is apparently clueless about just how many drugs we use today that have been around for decades or even longer. Aspirin and digoxin come to mind as examples that have been around many decades. Even good old-fashioned penicillin is still useful for some infections, as are streptomycin, clindamycin, and first generation cephalosporins. For cancer we still use drugs like methotrexate, 5-fluoruracil, and cyclophosphamide, all of which have been around for decades and all of which are still effective against specific cancers. Also, in his contempt for the way that new therapies in scientific medicine frequently supplant old therapies over time Ullman conveniently neglects to mention that the reason this happens is because the new therapies are usually better in some way, either less toxic, more effective, or cheaper. True, there are a fair number of blind alleys that scientific medicine goes down from time to time. It’s also true that medicine can be prone to fads in treatments and that sometimes therapies are adopted before they are truly evidence-based (physicians are human too, and they like to offer their patients the newest and what they think to be the best), but if you look at the progress of medicine overall medicine in 2007 is clearly more effective than medicine in 1907 and medicine in 1907 was clearly more effective than medicine in 1807, which was Hahnemann’s time. Yes, it may take a lot longer than we would like. (Sometimes it even requires a generational change to occur.) Yes, it may be messy to watch. But it does happen, and the trajectory of modern medicine is slowly, relentlessly upward. Just think about it: Would you want to use medical therapies that haven’t changed since 1807? 1907? Hell, I wouldn’t want to use medical therapies that are more than a decade old and, for some diseases and conditions, that are more than a couple of years old.

This constant change and evolution are in marked contrast to homeopathy, which hasn’t changed appreciably in 200 years. It has made no new discoveries, and homeopaths practice now in much the same way that they did in Hahnemann’s time, with the exception that many homeopaths also practice various other “alternative” therapies, particularly herbalism. Now, as 200 years ago, homeopaths postulate that diluting “like cures like” based on no evidence. Now, as 200 years ago, homeopaths postulate that diluting a remedy beyond the point where a single molecule remains with ritualized shaking “succussion” at each dilution, actually makes the remedy more potent. The only real innovation ever made to Hahnemann’s ideas was the concept of the “memory” of water, an innovation necessitated by the realization later in the 19th century that homeopathic dilution diluted remedies until no molecule remained, a fact appreciated even in 1842 by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Well, that and more recent ludicrous attempts to invoke quantum theory to explain how homeopathy “works.” It should be pointed out once again that the reason homeopathy seemed to do better than conventional medicine two centuries ago was because medicine was very primitive and was all too often worse than the disease, involving the use of purgatives, heavy metals, and various other nasty remedies. Many treatments of the time involved cadmium, antimony, and even mercury. By comparison the placebo that is homeopathy didn’t look bad at all.

Not surprisingly, Ullman seems to have a bug up his butt about a couple of other aspects of modern medicine. Like many alternative medicine fans, he can’t resist a little conspiracy-mongering about Big Pharma, which, with its lackeys in the AMA, is apparently dedicated to ruthlessly stamping out “alternatives” like homeopathy:

Yes, a gorilla is in the house, but anyone who refers to him as a gorilla is usually called a quack or a crank. This gorilla was not born yesterday; he has been growing for generations. A part of his self-defense propensities is to eliminate competing forces, whether the other side seeks cooperation or not. Any competitive force is frequently and soundly attacked. The history of homeopathy shows this side of medicine, for from 1860 to the early twentieth century, the AMA had a consultation clause in its code of ethics that members were not allowed to consult with a medical doctor who practiced homeopathy and weren’t even allowed to treat a homeopath’s patients. At a time in medical history when doctors bloodlet their patients to death and regularly prescribed mercury and various caustic agents to sick people, the only action that the AMA considered reprehensible and actionable was the “crime” of consulting with a homeopath.

[...]

This King Kong, however, is not a monster to everyone. In fact, this big gorilla is wonderfully generous to executives, to large sales and marketing forces, to supportive politicians , and to the media from whom he buys substantial amounts of advertising (and thus, an incredible amount of positive media coverage). And this gorilla is wonderfully generous to stockholders.While it may seem inappropriate to criticize profits, it is important and appropriate to do so when profits are unbelievably excessive, when long-term efficacy hasn’t stood the test of time, and when common use of more than one drug at a time is rarely if ever scientifically tested for efficacy.

Naturally, it never occurs to Ullman that maybe–just maybe–the reason medical societies don’t like homeopathy is because they recognize it for the quackery that it is. True, there may have been some element of not wanting the competition in the past, but I don’t consider it to be wrong not to want competition that has no basis in science and no compelling clinical evidence that it does anything more than a placebo. That’s just good patient care and advocacy. Moreover, it’s a stretch to invoke real problems with big pharma and the profit motive as the reason why big pharma and the AMA supposedly want to suppress homeopathy, because homeopathy and other alternative medical therapies have become big business. They don’t rise to near the level of profitability as the pharmaceutical industry–yet. But then they also don’t involve anywhere near the level of risk that the pharmaceutical industry involves, given that enormous costs of developing a drug, getting it past the regulatory gauntlet, and bringing it to market that can take a decade and nearly a billion dollars per drug. Yes, big pharma can be a bad actor at times in pursuit of profits, but it’s also produced life saving drugs that make people’s lives better. It also recognizes a profit center when it sees it, which is why big pharma is increasingly diving into the supplement business. I predict that it won’t be long before it starts making homeopathic remedies as well.

If you’re still with me this far, you can see that Ullman’s arguments are weak at best and risible at worst. But perhaps the worst of the lot is this:

Modern medicine uses the double-blind and placebo-controlled trial as the gold standard by which effectiveness of a treatment is determined. On the surface, this scientific method is very reasonable. However, serious problems in these studies are widely acknowledged by academics but remain unknown to the general public. Fundamental questions about the meaning of the word “efficacy” are rarely, if ever, raised.

For instance, just because a drug treatment seems to eliminate a specific symptom doesn’t necessarily mean that it is “effective.” In fact, getting rid of a specific symptom can be the bad news. Aspirin may lower your fever, but physiologists recognize that fever is an important defense of the body in its efforts to fight infection. Painkilling drugs may eliminate the acute pain in the short term, but because these drugs do not influence the underlying cause of the discomfort, they do not really heal the person, and worse, they can lead to physical and psychological dependency, addiction, tolerance, and increased heart disease. Sleep-inducing drugs may lead you to fall asleep, but they do not lead to refreshed sleep, and these drugs ultimately tend to aggravate the cycle of insomnia and fatigue. Uncertainty remains for the long-term safety and efficacy of many modern drugs for common ailments, despite the high hopes and sincere expectations from the medical community and the rest of us for greater certainty.

“Fundamental questions about the meaning of the word ‘efficacy’ are rarely, if ever raised”? “Rarely, if ever”? What planet is Ullman living on? Trying to figure out what represents efficacy for each disease is a major concern of clinical trial design. In my area of cancer, for instance, it’s debated endlessly whether overall survival, disease-free survival, or response rates are appropriate clinical measures of efficacy. We discuss quality of life issues and whether the complications of therapy are worse than the disease. The same is true in surgery. The only reason Ullman could say something so astoundingly, jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly ignorant is because he is astoundingly, jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly ignorant of how clinical trials work. In the end, Ullman’s whine is nothing more than a case of special pleading. Because homeopathy can’t demonstrate efficacy in randomized, double blind clinical trials (RCTs), he has to attack the methodology of these trials. RCTs may have problems when it comes to interpretation and application to clinical practice, but not being adequate to the task of testing the efficacy of homeopathy is not one of them, nor is being inferior to the retrospective trials most prone to bias and confounding factors, which are, not surprisingly, the type of trial beloved of homeopaths. In the end, Ullman can do no better than claiming that scientists rig clinical trials. While this may happen, the solution to such problems is more transparency and better science, not replacing science with pseudoscience like homeopathy, nor do the deficiencies of scientific medicine or the expense of American health care relative to indicators of health mean that homeopathy could do any better. Certainly, Ullman can’t present any evidence that it could.

Finally, Ullman can’t resist retreating not only into special pleading but into postmodernism:

History also tends to portray those who lose a war and who represent a minority point of view as having less than positive attributes. For instance, those physicians practicing medicine differently than the orthodox medical practice might be called cranks, crackpots, and quacks. Such name-calling is a wonderfully clever way to trivialize potentially valuable contributions, whether or not one understands what these contributions really are.

Besides name-calling, practitioners of the conventional and dominating paradigm often spin facts to make the strong and solid features of a minority practice into something strange and weird. The fact that homeopaths use smaller doses than used in orthodox medicine has been portrayed as homeopathy using “wimpy” doses that theoretically could not have any physiological effect. Accusations that homeopathic medicines could not possibly have any effect are made without knowledge, experience, or humility, and such accusations simply become evidence of the accuser’s unscientific attitude and his or her ignorance of the diverse body of basic scientific work on the effects of nanodoses of certain substances in specific situations.

In other words, science is just another narrative by the “victors” (of course the real reason why homeopathy lost the battle never occurs to Ullman) and we medical scientists are all just microfascists for insisting on evidence from well-designed experiments and clinical trials before accepting therapy as efficacious. Either that, or we’re just arrogant jerks. Even if that were true, it wouldn’t invalidate science. I have to wonder if Dana Ullman knows Dave Holmes, he of the “microfascist” fame. He’s starting to sound like Holmes.

In the end, Ullman retreats to the same tactics that all pseudoscientists use: straw men arguments about science (in this case, medical science) that would decimate the fields of Kansas to construct; argumentum ad populum; special pleading, and, when all else fails, postmodernist bullshit. He has to. He has no choice, because when it comes to scientific evidence, he’s got nothing.

Comments

  1. #1 Thony C.
    December 13, 2007

    If Ullman really wants to argue using stories about the famous people who used homeopathy then I have an anecdote for him. One of George Boole’s daughters (that’s George Boole the inventor of Boolean Algebra) says that her mother killed her father because of her belief in homeopathy. Boole’s wife Mary Everest Boole (the mountain is named after her uncle!) grew up in Hahnemann’s house in France and so was a devoted disciple of the great man’s theories, when her husband developed a chill after walking home in a downpour she wrapped him in damp bed sheets, like cures like, whereupon he developed pneumonia and died. I bet that one’s not in Ullman’s book.

  2. #2 Warren
    December 13, 2007

    Thony C., we can’t blame homeopathy for Boole’s death; obviously his wife made the mistake of not diluting the water sufficiently with … um, water.

  3. #3 Inquisitive Raven
    December 13, 2007

    Thony C.: She obviously wasn’t doing it right. She should have applied one drop of water to the sheets and shaken them vigorously before wrapping her husband in them. Gotta dilute your treatment.
    ;)

  4. #4 Linda
    December 13, 2007

    Don’t feel too bad about loosing Mr. Ullman on the JREF forum. We have the discussion well in hand, and it’s proving to be quite informative. In addition to deconstructing the research that serves as his ‘evidence’, we have asked him to provide a single example of a well-documented case of someone recovering, through the use of homeopathy, from a condition where recovery would be unexpected. He has made several attempts now, and his failure to find even a single case speaks louder than his bluster.

    A google search on his name brings up the JREF forum and Steve Novella’s blog on the first page. He is providing, for anyone who wants to know more about him, a ‘paper trail’ demonstrating the vacuity of his arguments.

    Just do not make me read any more of that book!

    Linda

  5. #5 Joe
    December 13, 2007

    For anyone going to the JREF Forum for the first time- Dana Ullman (MPH!!) posts there under the name “James Gully” these days. Ullman claims that Gully was the “homeopath” that cured Darwin of a long-term illness. In fact, Gully was a “hydrotherapist” and Darwin despised homeopaths.

    As for Orac getting a copy of Ullman’s newest book, someone at JREF observed that something softer and more absorbent is preferable.

  6. #6 Nat
    December 13, 2007

    I just can’t work out how you write so much.

    My favourite in that screed has to be:
    “The only reason Ullman could say something so astoundingly, jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly ignorant is because he is astoundingly, jaw-droppingly, breathtakingly ignorant…”

  7. #7 Deetee
    December 13, 2007

    Just to follow-up on Linda’s comments – over at JREF we also challenged him to find one study where homeopathy showed its superiority so clearly that the independent Data Safety Monitoring Board called a halt to the trial because it felt it was unethical to continue to deprive study participants of homeopathy’s benefit.

    Just one study would do. The result? – an embarrassing silence.

  8. #8 Dana Ullman
    December 13, 2007

    Dear Orac and others,
    Warm greetings to you.

    I am honored by your editorial, and thanks for sharing my words with others. I stand with them.

    Please also know that despite having a certain critique of conventional medicine, there is a lot that I honor in it too. Bless emergency medicine. Bless surgery (even though there are not too many double-blind placebo-controlled trials in it!). Bless insulin (my insulin-dependent father needed it, and I wouldn’t be around without it). Bless antibiotics (when appropriately used). And bless a select number of other drugs.

    That said, I honor the Hippocratic tradition of “First,do not harm.” I honor exploring and even exhausting safer methods before resorting to more risky ones, except in certain medical emergencies.

    Let’s avoid speaking or thinking in black and white.

    Let’s also be good scientists about this. When drugs are tested, they are usually tested one drug at a time, except in certain ailments like cancer or AIDS. However, the average American was prescribed 12.3 presciption drugs in 2006, and this doesn’t could all of the over-the-counter drugs they took. What “science” is there when people take multiple drugs concurrently? What “science” is there when most drugs are not tested on the elderly or on children, and despite the fact that they seem to metabolise drugs differently, physicians “guestimate” their dose based on body weight or other more subjective determinations.

    I’m for a good solid medical science. My skepticism of modern medicine as a “scientific medicine” is well-founded.

    As for your writing…
    Was it a mistake that you wrote: “Fundamental questions about the meaning of the word ‘efficacy’ are never raised”? Never? What planet is Ullman living on?”

    And yet, just above your words were my words: “Fundamental questions about the meaning of the word ‘efficacy’ are rarely, if ever, raised.” I didn’t say that these questions are “never” raised. Whooops.

    A note to ThonyC…yes, and thanks for asking. George and Mary Boole ARE in my book. They are in the chapter on “Physicians and Scientists: Coming out of the Medicine Closet.” Others in that chapter include: Charles Darwin, Sir John Forbes, Sir William Osler, Emil Adolf von Behring, Sidney Ringer, Charles Frederick Menninger, August Bier, Royal S. Copeland, William J. Mayo and Charles H. Mayo, C. Everett Koop, Brian Josephson.

    As for George Boole, he died at 59 years of age in 1864. Would you have preferred that he be bloodlet to death or prescribe calomel or just leeched? Hmmm.

    As for Charles Darwin, you judge for yourself. Here’s just a portion of my info on Darwin, with links directly to his letters. Ullman’s article about Darwin and his homeopathic physician

    And Orac, despite your crude and rude remarks of me, you seem to be in the minority. Read this interview with me in UC Berkeley’s alumni magazine. Once again, judge for yourself: UC Berkeley’s alumni magazine

  9. #9 Mojo
    December 13, 2007

    “I’ve learned that Ullman’s back, and he’s badder than ever”

    I think you mean “worse”.

  10. #10 Orac
    December 13, 2007

    And yet, just above your words were my words: “Fundamental questions about the meaning of the word ‘efficacy’ are rarely, if ever, raised.” I didn’t say that these questions are “never” raised. Whooops.

    Oh, please. Give me a break.

    For purposes of my point, that’s a distinction without a real difference. It doesn’t change the fact that your remark shows that that you have no clue how clinical trials are designed. I stand by my words: You don’t know what you’re talking about, and whether you said “never” or “rarely, if ever” makes little difference, although I know it’s a nice little “gotcha” for you to latch onto to dodge the real questions. In fact, to make you happy, I’ll even change it. It will not appreciably change my point about your cluelessness with regards to clinical research.

  11. #11 daedalus2u
    December 13, 2007

    What about the interactions of homeopathic preparations? I presume you have studied them “scientifically”?

    What is the half life of homeopathic treatments in the body, so that one can know when the effects of the first dose have worn off and another dose can safely be given?

    If the homeopath is to administer to each patient individually, how does the homeopath measure each patients response to the agent?

    What happens to homeopathic compounds when they are discarded? How can one actually destroy a homeopathic agent? Doesn’t incineration in a 10-9′s chemical incinerator simply turn a 40x into the more powerful 50x?

    When physicians “guesstimate” a dose, they usually can get it within an order of magnitude. What is the dynamic range for homeopathic agents? 500 orders of magnitude?

    How does a homeopath assay the agents he is using?

    When you can’t answer a single one of these questions, every one of which could be answered for every medication given by a real doctor, what basis do you have for claiming homeopathy is science when there is nothing about it that can be measured?

  12. #12 Alan Kellogg
    December 13, 2007

    Orac,

    Homeopathy is magic. A type of magic to be exact. It relies on similarity and contagion to work, and those are both governing principles of magical thought.

    There is just one problem with magic. If it did work we would see it in use in daily life, and many things we now have and do we would have and do through magic. Something like an enchantment to clean automobile exhaust would be required by law, if it only worked.

    What’s more, that it works and how it works would be supported by scientific research. There would be evidence for it, and theory concerning how it works. That we don’t even have an observable phenomenon to formualate hypotheses about pretty much puts paid to the whole idea.

  13. #13 thirst_for_knowledge
    December 13, 2007

    Hello. I learn a lot from your articles and would like to link to them from time to time on my blog, if thats alright.The only problem is, I am not too internet savvy. Could you tell me how to do a trackback from your blog to mine? Thank you for your time

  14. #14 HCN
    December 14, 2007

    I’ve posted this before, here and elsewhere:
    http://www.accampbell.uklinux.net/homeopathy/homeopathy-pdf/homeobook.pdf

    “The real importance of the miasm theory, it seems to me, is the insight it gives into Hahnemann’s character. We shall not understand the man unless we realize that for him, homeopathy was much more than a mere medical theory; it was a divine revelation. I am not exaggerating here. We know from his own writings that the idea of homeopathy came to him as the solution to a religious dilemma.”

    and

    “But whose authority are we to acknowledge? Presumably Hahnemann’s; but surely Hahnemann was a man, and therefore no more exempt from error than other men? Not so, Kent implies, for Hahnemann had discovered a divinely ordained law. Homeopathy is an inspired science, which is the only true kind of science; all the rest is mere opinion. It is therefore not merely foolish but actually impious to question Hahnemann. By implication it is also impious to question Kent.”

    The key quote is “Homeopathy is an inspired science, which is the only true kind of science; all the rest is mere opinion.”

    You see, the important thing to remember is the homeopathy is a delusional cult-like religion. Those of us who question it are considered blasphemers.

    This is why proponents like Ullman seem to be from some kind of Bizarro Contrary World (those of you who in your youth spent too much time reading Superman comics you will know what I mean, for the rest there is this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bizarro_World ).

    Look at the “Laws” of homeopathy. Hahnemann thought up the “Law of Similars” and the “Law of Infinitesimals”… what they call “laws”, we (or at least I) call “wild ass guesses!” They were just thought up, or if you please, were divine revelations. There was no real experimentation to see if it actually worked and was TRUE!

    While we think that making something stronger would make it it effects more noticeable (my kid’s Atenolol was increased from 50 mg to 100mg per day to reduce symptoms), including sometimes dangerous (the “dose makes the poison”, even too much water can kill, much to the dismay of a radio station in California, and the family of a mom who died in the “Hold your wee for a Wii” contest)…. homeopaths claim that the more you DILUTE a solution the STRONGER it gets. How much Bizarro can you get than that!

    One proof of how it is blasphemous to question the dogma of Hahnemann is to try to get a straight answer out of a homeopath. Take a basic problem that could be solved using high school level chemistry and algebra: how many sodium and chlorine atoms are in one cubic centimeter of Nat Mur 30C ? Recipe for Nat Mur 30C is here:
    http://groups.google.com/group/misc.health.alternative/msg/8e13fd1b374ce84b … Just try to get a homeopath to answer that question. Over the last week I have asked several of them to answer, only to get blustering answers like “I have medical degree” or “I took science and math”, but not one attempted to give the simple number (or fraction)…. just a bunch of excuses.

    Homeopaths like Ullman claim they want to educate us, but they refuse to answer our questions! Questions like those posed on JREF, and even the simple chemistry/algebra I asked. I was told in school that it was good to ask questions and that good teachers would try to answer them. Is it only in Bizarro World that questions are ignored?

    When we think of “holistic” we think of a medicine that considers the “whole” body, and how it can be helped to be cured. To many of us that is not only the symptoms, but the tests to show what causes the illness from germs to checking for anatomical problems. Homeopaths don’t care about the CAUSES of illness, just the symptoms. Again, they are being Bizarro by claiming to look at the “whole” person, but just look at symptoms NOT reasons for illness!

    When we think of “nano” we think of 1/1000000000, Ullman sees a cool word to describe homeopathy!

    When we see a Cochrane report saying “Oscillococcinum treatment reduced the length of influenza illness by 0.28 days”, we see it the same as saying with it the flu is cured in 14 days, without it takes two weeks (the .28 day being less than 7 hours)… but Ullman claims it is proof that homeopathy works!

    This could go on and on, but it is almost midnight. I will end by noting that Ullman is trying to sell a book claiming that James Gully was Darwin’s homeopath, yet he has been told again and again that the evidence does not support that conclusion. Most recently here:
    http://forums.randi.org/showpost.php?p=3238843&postcount=1086

    There are probably more examples of homeopaths being citizens of Bizarro World, but it is late. I know I hit the URL max, but it is midnight on the American West Coast, and if Orac is kind he will approve by lunch on the American East Coast. All hail Orac and others with open minds!

  15. #15 Mojo
    December 14, 2007

    “As for Charles Darwin, you judge for yourself. Here’s just a portion of my info on Darwin, with links directly to his letters. Ullman’s article about Darwin and his homeopathic physician

    Repeatedly referring to Gully as a homoeopath will not alter the fact that he was primarily a hydropath, and that this is the treatment for which Darwin went to him. Any reasonable literate person will be able to tell this by reading the letters that you claim show that Darwin was a supporter of homoeopathy. Darwin consistently refers to Gully’s treatments as the “Water Cure”. The one letter which refers to Darwin’s treatment including homoeopathic remedies reveals, when the short quotation you took from it is read in context, that Darwin was receiving a wide range of “treatments”, and that the homoeopathy was only a very small part of them. By the way, Gully himself is quoted in the footnotes:

    Gully was strongly against the administration of medical drugs for chronic disorders (Gully 1846, p. 513 n.) and cautious in his use of homoeopathic remedies: ‘although I might be induced to try to subdue a passing but troublesome symptom, I could not trust to remove the essential nature of a chronic malady by homœopathic means’ (Gully 1846, p. 83 n.).

    If you’re going to go quote-mining, perhaps it isn’t too wise to link to the sources.

    The letter that you claim shows that Darwin was surprised at the recovery of Gully’s daughter and attributed it to either hydropathy or homoeopathy shows neither. It merely says that she recovered at some point after receiving these treatments (and the attentions of a mesmerist and a “clair-voyant”). You try to imply that the words “and the girl recovered” gives skeptics some sort of problem by claiming that they never quote them, but a brief look at, for example, the Quackometer article that you have complained quotes Darwin out of context reveals that this is not true; the entire quotation is there. That you claim that these words indicate that the recovery was caused by the treatments merely demonstrates that your reasoning is flawed.

    I strongly recommend that people judge for themselves by reading Darwin’s letters rather than Dana’s interpretation of them.

  16. #16 Dana Ullman
    December 14, 2007

    Mojo: Gully owned a hydrotherapy establishment where HE prescribed homeopathic medicines. The body of work that I cite is that I show that Darwin was initially skeptical of homeopathy, but the results of treatment, including improvement within 8 days (!) of his arrival of serious symptoms that had had for 12 years suggests that homeopathic treatment provided benefit. Skeptics of homeopathy need to explain this “coincidence.”

    You will also need to explain how clairvoyance (of a diagnostic sort) could initiate healing (perhaps you are more metaphysical than I am), or perhaps you are saying that hypnosis was the effective treatment. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that you think that hypnosis is not an effective treatment for chronic disease?

    You cannot claim that I am “quote-mining,” as you often do, because I link people to many letters and show a pattern. And yes, people should read the letters themselves, not just my analysis of them.

    I did notice that you (like everyone else here thus far) has chosen to ignore reference to the experiments that Darwin and his two sons conducted using exceedingly small doses of ammonia salts in their effects on Drosera. Hmmm.

    Most of all, my new book, “The Homeopathic Revolution,” provides a veritable treasure-trove of personal experiences and/or words of wisdom from many of the most respected cultural heroes of the past 200 years. And of course, the book has references to many of the high quality studies as well. Judge for yourself.

    I simply encourage people to avoid simplistic thinking or knee-jerk responses to why they think that homeopathy shouldn’t work. Being an arm-chair philosopher is so much easier than being a real scientist.

  17. #17 Acleron
    December 14, 2007

    Ullman:-”I simply encourage people to avoid simplistic thinking or knee-jerk responses to why they think that homeopathy shouldn’t work. Being an arm-chair philosopher is so much easier than being a real scientist.”

    And being a homeopath is so very much easier than either an armchair philosopher or scientist.

    The homeopath needs neither evidence or logic and can obfuscate and lie whenever needed.

    Lies? “homeopathy works” No proof and no mechanism.
    Obfuscations “I didn’t say ‘never’ only ‘rarely if ever’”

    I appreciate and enjoy the critical analysis of Orac and all the others who have spent time debunking the odd belief system of homeopathy. However it is up to the practitioners of these discredited system to spend the money they make from their patients on clear and concise trials to verify that it works. That they continually fail to produce any acceptable evidence or any rational mechanism after 200 years would convince any reasonably intelligent person that it doesn’t work. If they are not so convinced it must be that they are either unintelligent or charlatans.

  18. #18 Orac
    December 14, 2007

    I simply encourage people to avoid simplistic thinking or knee-jerk responses to why they think that homeopathy shouldn’t work. Being an arm-chair philosopher is so much easier than being a real scientist.

    I agree. That’s why I am a real scientist and do real research published in real journals and funded by real funding agencies. As such, I have yet to see anything in the way of convincing science to support the hypothesis that homeopathic remedies are anything more than placebos, that water has “memory” that lasts longer than an infinitesimal fraction of a second, that diluting a remedy makes it stronger, that like cures like is a general “law” in science, or anything other tenet of homeopathy.

    The bottom line is that homeopathy may have looked attractive 200 years ago because back then conventional medicine was so nasty, with remedies that were often worse than the disease and did more harm than good. By comparison, in the 19th century (particularly the first half of the 19th century) doing nothing (or, if you prefer, administering a placebo) could certainly appear to do better by comparison. Also, given that the germ theory of disease hadn’t yet been elucidated, the “miasma” concept of disease favored by Hahnemann probably looked about as good as any other concept (imbalances of humors, etc.).

    The problem is, the more we learned about science, the human body, and diseases, the more it became apparent that homeopathy was without any basis in science. The first blow was by Avagaddro, after which it was obvious that the dilutions homeopaths employ dilute the remedy many orders of magnitude more than Avagaddro’s number, meaning that not a single molecule of the remedy is likely to remain after a 30C dilution. That didn’t stop the magical thinking of homeopaths. They merrily invented the concept of the “memory” of water and marched on. When it became clear that water didn’t have any sort of “memory” beyond the picosecond range, with the latest research putting it in the 50 femtosecond range, then they invoked quantum mechanics in increasingly ludicrous ways.

    Magical thinking, indeed.

  19. #19 Mojo
    December 14, 2007

    I did notice that you (like everyone else here thus far) has chosen to ignore reference to the experiments that Darwin and his two sons conducted using exceedingly small doses of ammonia salts in their effects on Drosera. Hmmm.

    I notice that you’re not very observant.

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?postid=3238843#post3238843

    “And then you refer to Darwin’s experiments with Drosera. As has been pointed out, these experiments have nothing to do with homoeopathy. While the solutions used were very dilute, they were not ultramolecular: there will still have been actual amounts of the ammonium salts present. There is no suggestion that the solutions were succussed (something that homoeopaths claim is an essential part of the homoeopathic process), the principle of “like cures like” is not involved…

    Nothing to do with homoeopathy, and I’m sure that if a negative trial had been reported using the sort of preparations Darwin used in the manner that he used them, you would be the first to say it wasn’t using homoeopathy.”

  20. #20 Cain
    December 14, 2007

    Mr. Ullman, how exactly does collecting a book full of anecdotes count as science? Anecdotes don’t become data as you accumulate more of them. They never become data.

  21. #21 Thony C.
    December 14, 2007

    A note to ThonyC…yes, and thanks for asking. George and Mary Boole ARE in my book. They are in the chapter on “Physicians and Scientists: Coming out of the Medicine Closet.”

    But I bet you book doesn’t mention that Boole’s daughter thought that her mother had effectively murdered her father because of her irrational belief in Hahnemann’s quackery.

    As for George Boole, he died at 59 years of age in 1864. Would you have preferred that he be bloodlet to death or prescribe calomel or just leeched? Hmmm.

    Come off it Mr Ullman the logic of that is just plain pathetic.

    Gang member to judge; “Of course I murdered him, but if I hadn’t cut his throat Joey from the rival gang at the next intersection would have shot him anyway!”

    If that’s your level of logic then I would recommend all of your potential clients to run a mile when they see you coming.

    Viewed from the historical standpoint, it is true that in the 19th century homeopathy, which because it basically only consisted of drinking water, was relatively harmless when compared with some of the other barbaric “medical” treatments, left over from the Middle Ages and so enjoyed a certain reputation at the time. However, as should be well known, the 19th century saw a revolution in medicine, the establishment and development of scientific evidence based medicine. We now live in the 21st century and in the intervening years scientific evidence based medicine has proved remarkably effective in curing a large number of diseases whereas homeopathy has proved totally ineffective in curing anything at all.

  22. #22 Dr Aust
    December 14, 2007

    Oh dear. Is Dana U, aka Dullman, back again?

    Dozing post-lunch in my office I have a weird vision of a Dullman roadshow, with the character “Dullman” appearing in a puff of magical smoke to the sound of Queen’s “It’s a kind of magic”. Dullman is dressed in a Dumbledore-style robe, succussing a vial of homeopathic water vigorously in either hand, while pouting females assistants fling copies of his pamphlets to the adoring crowd of massed homeo-apologists and naturopaths, who are chanting “Shake it baby, shake it!”

    ..sorry, must be the pint of strong German beer I consumed with my lunch.

    PS On second thoughts, maybe the magical robe is wrong. In this homeopathic spirit of “less is more”, and of the Emperor’s Clothes, perhaps Dullman should be naked.

  23. #23 Bronze Dog
    December 14, 2007

    As for George Boole, he died at 59 years of age in 1864. Would you have preferred that he be bloodlet to death or prescribe calomel or just leeched? Hmmm.

    Of course not. Allopathy‘s even worse than the inaction of homeopathy. I would have preferred that evidence-based medicine took off earlier. Thony C.’s comment is dead on. Even if inaction was the best “alternative” back then, at least he wouldn’t have to waste time and money for something equivalent to inaction.

    Thony correctly points out that allopathy survived thanks in part to antiquity: It gained unearned prestige because it was ancient. It also had the support of anecdotal “evidence.” Homeopaths aren’t afraid to invoke the same arguments as the allopaths of yore. Homeopathy just looks like allopathy lite to me, even if they were bitter rivals in the old day.

  24. #24 Thony C.
    December 14, 2007

    As for George Boole, he died at 59 years of age in 1864. Would you have preferred that he be bloodlet to death or prescribe calomel or just leeched? Hmmm.

    Actually she should have tucked him up in a warm bed, in a warm, well ventilated room and served him nourishing broth three time a day proceeded by an infusion of meadowsweet. A standard treatment for a chill that goes back to at least the Middle Ages and probably much earlier. In fact it’s still the most common first treatment for a chill used throughout the world today: “send him to bed with a couple of aspirin”!

    Not all forms of traditional or natural medicine were dangerous.

  25. #25 Mojo
    December 14, 2007

    Bronze Dog wrote, “Thony correctly points out that allopathy survived thanks in part to antiquity: It gained unearned prestige because it was ancient. It also had the support of anecdotal “evidence.” Homeopaths aren’t afraid to invoke the same arguments as the allopaths of yore. Homeopathy just looks like allopathy lite to me, even if they were bitter rivals in the old day.”

    In fact, allopathy still survives, for example in India in the form of Ayurveda, although this system only uses three humours (it calls them “doshas”) instead of the four of 18th century Western medicine. Ironically, Ayurveda often seems to be practised alongside homoeopathy. So perhaps they’re not such bitter rivals.

  26. #26 Alan
    December 14, 2007

    Let’s assume:
    1) Water has a memory of whatever substances that it has contacted.

    2) The memory-enhanced water is effective at treating conditions as claimed in homoeopathy.

    3) The effectiveness of the memory water is enhanced the further removed, or more diluted, the water is from the particular substance.

    OK, water has contacted pretty much every substance on earth – dinosaur dung, nuclear waste, rose petals, etc. Water also passes through multiple cycles, both large and small scale. Surely, over the billions of years, every water molecule has contacted enough other water molecules that all of the built-up memories are diffused as much as possible over the entire population of water molecules. Therefore, any random water sample must already be maximally effective against all possible conditions.

    Moreover, placing water in contact with a substance would increase the concentration of the memory in the water. No matter how many dilutions you then did, you could only, at best, restore the water memory to the state it was in before contact with the substance.

    Thus, according to its own logic, a homoeopathic remedy must be less effective than drinking water from the tap!

  27. #27 Mojo
    December 14, 2007

    Dana Ullman wrote:

    Gully owned a hydrotherapy establishment where HE prescribed homeopathic medicines.

    To quote Dana Ullman, “this practitioner may also be prescribing homeopathic medicines, but this doesn’t mean that s/he is a homeopath.” Every source of information I’ve so far managed to find about Gully, apart from those provided by homoeopaths, describes him as a hydropath – this includes the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which is generally regarded as an authoritative reference source for British figures. Darwin consistently described Gully’s regime as the “Water Cure”. Read Darwin’s descriptions of the treatments he was given, rather than just quoting the bits that suit you. And remember what Gully himself wrote about homoeopathy: “although I might be induced to try to subdue a passing but troublesome symptom, I could not trust to remove the essential nature of a chronic malady by homœopathic means.”

    The body of work that I cite is that I show that Darwin was initially skeptical of homeopathy, but the results of treatment, including improvement within 8 days (!) of his arrival of serious symptoms that had had for 12 years suggests that homeopathic treatment provided benefit. Skeptics of homeopathy need to explain this “coincidence.”

    You need to explain why, after the time you allege he became convinced that homoeopathy works, Darwin wrote this in a private letter:

    You speak about Homœopathy; which is a subject which makes me more wrath, even than does Clairvoyance: clairvoyance so transcends belief, that one’s ordinary faculties are put out of question, but in Homœopathy common sense & common observation come into play, & both these must go to the Dogs, if the infinetesimal doses have any effect whatever. How true is a remark I saw the other day by Quetelet, in respect to evidence of curative processes, viz that no one knows in disease what is the simple result of nothing being done, as a standard with which to compare Homœopathy & all other such things. It is a sad flaw, I cannot but think in my beloved Dr Gully, that he believes in everything­ when his daughter was very ill, he had a clairvoyant girl to report on internal changes, a mesmerist to put her to sleep­, an homœopathist, viz Dr. Chapman; & himself as Hydropathist! & the girl recovered.

    these are not the words of someone who is a supporter of homoeopathy.

    Dana Ullman wrote,

    You will also need to explain how clairvoyance (of a diagnostic sort) could initiate healing (perhaps you are more metaphysical than I am), or perhaps you are saying that hypnosis was the effective treatment. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that you think that hypnosis is not an effective treatment for chronic disease?

    Try reading what I have posted above. I haven’t suggested that clairvoyance or hypnosis may have been responsible for the recovery: I have pointed out that Darwin wasn’t, as you claim, suggesting that any of the treatments given caused the recovery. He merely wrote that the recovery happened after the treatments. To suggest that these words indicate that homoeopathy caused the recovery is to invoke the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, and to invoke it highly selectively at that, and is totally unjustified in the context of the rest of the letter.

    As to why you have a sneaking suspicion that I think hypnosis is an effective treatment for chronic conditions, I can only assume you have an overactive imagination.

  28. #28 Mojo
    December 14, 2007

    Ah, sorry, Dana: I missed the word “not” in that final sentence of yours I quoted. I made the rather foolish assumption that it was going to be consistent with the first sentence of the same paragraph, in which you seemed to be saying that I had suggested that clairvoyance or hypnosis caused the recovery. My bad.

    I’m prepared to concede, by the way, that the letter provides as much evidence that the recovery was caused by clairvoyance or hypnosis as it does that it was caused by homoeopathy or hydrotherapy; that is to say, none.

  29. #29 Mitchbert
    December 14, 2007

    I would really like to know why there are no homeopathic birth control remedies.

  30. #30 Mojo
    December 15, 2007

    If anyone’s interested, a review of Ullman’s book The Homeopathic Revolution has just gone up on the Quackometer blog.

  31. #31 Richard Carter, FCD
    December 15, 2007

    Ullman’s been pestering me too:
    http://darwin.gruts.com/weblog/archive/2007/12/13/

  32. #32 Jeremiah
    December 16, 2007

    Now, now, Alan, that logic is obviously fallacious because in the natural world, water doesn’t undergo that magical process of “succussion” that is so obviously critical to the making of homeopathic solutions. Even if vigorously shaken by say… earthquakes, the exact frequency of shaking is obviously different from the mystical frequency required to invoke the memory powers of H2O.

    Hurrah for lame excuses and rationalisations!

    Not sure how that would apply to humans. Obviously, a person, consisting 70% of water, would just need to take multiple homeopathic solutions and jump vigorously like a maniac (we gotta have succussion) to become practically invulnerable to illness! It’ll put Big Pharma out of business! That’s why they’re beating homeopathy down.

  33. #33 Dana Ullman
    December 16, 2007

    Richard Carter: I’m sorry if you think that I am “pestering” you. You chose to comment on the evidence that I provide in my book and that was described at a leading medical website with a response that had the headline “Charlatans.” And yet, when I asked you the simple question if you had seen or read my online article on this subject (The surprising story of Charles Darwin and his homeopathic doctor), you proudly declared that you didn’t. Whooops.

    Because this article provides direct links to Darwin’s letters, it is hard to avoid seeing this history.

    Sadly, you confirm my analysis of most skeptics of homeopathy. You don’t know much about the subject, you don’t want to learn about it, and you are against it. Are people at this website supposed to model good scientific thinking?

    Darwin had enough appreciation for homeopathic doctors that he sought the care of Dr. James Manby Gully, then after Gully retired, he sought the care of Dr. James Smith Ayerst, and then after this, he sought the care of Gully’s teacher of homeopathy, Dr. John Chapman.

    Darwin wrote about the “ice treatments” that Chapman gave him, but there is no mention of homeopathy here. Still, the respect that Darwin had for him, despite being a homeopath, was strong.

    Chapman was a highly respected homeopath who studied with Hahnemann in Paris and who later was that intellectual giant who owned and edited the Westminster Review which provided a place for Darwin and Darwin’s supporters to write about the important work of evolution.

    Dr. John Chapman is a very interesting figure (what a spectacular man he was), and yet, history (and wikipedia) chooses to ignore important parts of this man’s past.

  34. #34 HCN
    December 16, 2007

    D. Ullman said “Sadly, you confirm my analysis of most skeptics of homeopathy. You don’t know much about the subject, you don’t want to learn about it, and you are against it. Are people at this website supposed to model good scientific thinking? ”

    Well it would be helpful if you did not AVOID answering simple questions.

    Why is it so difficult for you guys to tell us how many sodium and chlorine atoms are in one cubic centimeter of Nat Mur 30C ? (is there a requirement to learn homeopathy to have NOT taken high school chemistry and algebra?)

    Why have you not given Badly Shaved Monkey “ONE INCONTROVERTIBLE EXAMPLE, WITH REFERENCES, OF HOMEOPATHY CURING A NON-SELF-LIMITING CONDITION”

    Or even attempted to answer his other question: “Dana, HOW MANY AIDS PATIENTS HAVE YOU CURED?”

    Oh, you answered the last one, so sorry. The number was a big fat ZERO! See:
    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=3236867&highlight=dana#post3236867

  35. #35 Dana Ullman
    December 16, 2007

    HCN: I have answered this question about how many molecules with you before, though you still don’t seem to get it. Perhaps others will…

    Just as a CD-ROM will have the same chemistry of its constituency when it is blank or has 10 encyclopedias on it, “information” is not molecular per se, but structural. The information becomes encoded on the disk. Homeopathic pharmacology has discovered a way to store information in water.

    For a summary of this and other thinking and research, I invite you to my article, Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works at: Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works

  36. #36 HCN
    December 16, 2007

    Oh what a completely idiotic statement, just list the NUMBER of atoms. Don’t give some stupid hand waving about “information” of the molecules equating water with having memory like a CD. Evasion duly noted as a datapoint that you cannot do a simple high school level chemistry/algebra problem.

    Oh, come to think of it you never answered what were the deficiencies were in this article:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/07/homeopathy_in_thecringeicu_1.php

  37. #37 HCN
    December 16, 2007

    The scorecard now reads for the three questions:

    1) Dana now kind of, sort of, well might of admits there are NO sodium and chlorine atoms (or a infinitesimal chance) in one cubic centimeter of Nat Mur 30C, which is why he expounds the made up fairy tale that water can retain memory much like a CD. Though, he does not seem to understand how a CD works. Nor does he understand how water works, because if water retained memory, it would have memory of everything it came into contact with, and had been shaken. Of course there is the argument of the “special” shaking… but of course that does kind of happen when sea water evaporates, condenses into clouds and then falls down as rain, and then into streams, and later gets sucked up into a municipal water supply.

    2) As of yet, Ullman as yet to answer Badly Shaved Monkey’s question of the one case of homeopathy curing a non-self limiting illness.

    3) Despite writing a paper claiming that homeopathy has promise in dealing with HIV/AIDS, Dana has not cured, nor even really treated a person with HIV/AIDS, so that answer is a big fat ZERO.

    Also, we are still waiting to read what his detailed criticisms are of Orac’s review here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/07/homeopathy_in_thecringeicu_1.php

  38. #38 Dana Ullman
    December 17, 2007

    Communication is most authentic and effective when it is respectful. Your venomous word are more reflective of the person you are than the subject at hand. I sincerely hope that you will one day realize that venom may be useful and may heal but only when used in small doses.

    Humility is an important character of a good scientist, while your arrogance creates blindness. Serious blindness…and many people here seem to thrive and dwell and even brag about their ignorance of homeopathy…and yet, still hate it. Once again, you are being a good model for scientific thinking and action?

    You’ve set up a straw man. You have no sense of its depth or breadth.

    And please consider avoiding the name-callling and try to keep to substantative issues. My article on “Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works” raises many important issues, and your antagonism and venom doesn’t mute its message.

    Is this how you like to be in the world? Yuck.

  39. #39 Mojo
    December 17, 2007

    Well, it appears that the Dr. John Chapman who treated Darwin had a way of preserving structures in water: the treatment he prescribed for Darwin appears to have been applying bags of ice to the spine.

  40. #40 Jesse
    December 17, 2007

    What “science” is there when people take multiple drugs concurrently?

    Well, let’s see: how about Augmentin (Clavulanic acid + Amoxicillin)

    Or, how about HAART therapy; efavirenz + zidovudine + lamivudine

    Hmm, still want another? atorvastatin + amlodipine, trade name of Caduet, for treating both high BP and high Cholesterol.

    My article on “Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works” raises many important issues

    Sounds like a creationist. No, Mr. Ullman, your article and its ‘issues’ matter not a whit when you have no other scientific explanations. You can whine and complain all you’d like but your failure to grasp evidence-based medicine does not a case for homeopathy make.

  41. #41 HCN
    December 17, 2007

    D Ullman said “Just as a CD-ROM will have the same chemistry of its constituency when it is blank or has 10 encyclopedias on it, “information” is not molecular per se, but structural. ”

    Not really. A data CD-ROM has physical pits that are pressed its surface that the laser reads. There is a dye that the laser changes when it writes to the CD-R, changing its molecules to change its transperancy:
    http://computer.howstuffworks.com/question287.htm

    This has been explained to you in great detail, including the part where one can actually tell just by looking at the readible surface of a CD-R whether or not it has been written on!

    Now tell me what kind of memory does water have? Can I store my family pictures in a glass of water? How do you erase any other contact water may have had to other substances, like the various minerals in the ocean where much of the rain that falls on the West Coast originates? Or even the memory of the dust, smoke and other things that the rain falls through before it hits the ground?

    Next thing you’ll be telling us is that homeopathic remedies can be transmitted over a phone line!

  42. #42 Bronze Dog
    December 17, 2007

    I’m suddenly reminded of a Metalocalypse episode. Dethklok, to prevent theft of their music via file sharing, start recording their music on what their scientists call the ‘ultimate analog medium’: Water. Somehow, they got sealed glasses of water to play their test recordings.

    Trouble is, they had to crank up a particularly nasty nuclear plant every time they turned on the microphone.

    Amusing diversion aside, I’d love to hear how homeopathy somehow gets recorded on water and stored there. Got any water molecule animations or anything to show us how it works?

    Of course, that’s all sophistry, given that they’ve been unable to show it working under quality conditions.

  43. #43 Mojo
    December 18, 2007

    Bronze Dog wrote,

    Trouble is, they had to crank up a particularly nasty nuclear plant every time they turned on the microphone.

    Amusing diversion aside, I’d love to hear how homeopathy somehow gets recorded on water and stored there.

    Apparently it all works through nuclear spallation!

  44. #44 Ex-drone
    December 18, 2007

    Ullman’s article Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works

    This is homeopathic logic. Similar to “like cures like”, this article addresses confusion with nonsense.

  45. #45 HCN
    December 19, 2007

    Ex-drone said “addresses confusion with nonsense”.

    Very funny! I hope you don’t mind if I steal that upon occasion? No matter, I’m gonna steal it anyway.

    Oh, flashback time (this was linked up above):
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/10/homeopathy_deconstructed_in_the_faseb_jo.php

  46. #46 Dana Ullman
    December 19, 2007

    Weissmann’s critique of homeopathy was intellectually weak. The fact that he didn’t reference or discuss any of the 100+ double-blind and placebo controlled clinical trials and the several hundred basic science trials suggests that he has an unscientific and ill- or uninformed attitude towards homeopathy.

    How can one have a serious discussion on what science has said on homeopathy without referencing controlled studies? Do diatribes without evidence and the old-fashion assertion that homeopathy cannot work because “I do not understand it” hold water…no, there is no memory in this type of water.

    Weissmann’s suggestion that OW Holmes’ critique was valid then or now is simply further evidence of the inadequacy of his critique. In my book, I have a special section devoted to Holmes, and he is such an easy target. Are you know going back to bloodletting, leeches, and mercury.

    Weissmann was at least a gentleman to publish my response to his editorial, though I was allowed only a relatively short space. Read it at:
    DanaUllmanFASEBletter

    With all of the discussion about Oscillococcinum being made from the heart and liver of a duck, I’m a tad surprised that none of you have asserted that this proves that homeopathy is quackery. I also call this medicine “homeopathic duck soup,” but I also call it effective in the treatment of the flu…that is, if you happen to believe in double-blind placebo controlled trials.

    Yeah…the results are not huge, but the three large-scale studies have consistently shown efficacy above and beyond a placebo…and when YOU are sick, any help is appreciated.

  47. #47 HCN
    December 19, 2007

    D Ullman said ” I’m a tad surprised that none of you have asserted that this proves that homeopathy is quackery. I also call this medicine “homeopathic duck soup,” but I also call it effective in the treatment of the flu…that is, if you happen to believe in double-blind placebo controlled trials. ”

    And again, you have been told that this is not what the studies say. The difference in recovery days was 0.28 of a day, that is 7 whole hours, something that could be explained in reporting by the individuals. Your selective memory is again working against you.

    Also Oscilococcinum is often sold in a homeopathic dilution of 200C. That translate into one atom of duck bit to four times the total number of atoms in the known universe. That is a physically impossible.

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