Respectful Insolence

Following 50 woo-ful facts: Nine woo-ful myths

I had been planning on taking on a couple of articles about breast cancer to start out the week. However, between having to deal with a tsunami of leaves before Monday, when the giant trucks come along to pick them up today and a number of other issues, I didn’t have time. As much as I love taking a recent study and doing an in-depth analysis, such posts take probably twice as much time for me to do as the average post. Unfortunately, various issues this weekend prevented that, at least for today.

Fortunately, there’s always homeopathy.

Yes, homeopathy is always there for the easy post. Even better, there’s uber-woo-meister Mike Adams at NaturalNews.com. Even better still, Mike Adams has found a protégé, a homeopath, and this homeopath can churn out some of the most ridiculous articles on homeopathy that you’ve ever seen. I realize that homeopathy is inherently ridiculous by its very nature, but that’s what makes these articles so “meta-ridiculous,” if you will. Three weeks ago, I first had some fun with “50 woo-ful facts” about homeopathy. The homeopath writing such nonsense? Louise Mclean. And guess what?

She’s baaa-aack.

This time around she’s trying to dispel the myths surrounding homeopathy. Not surprisingly, she’s provided some grade-A first class woo. It starts right from the beginning:

In this article, I would like to dispel a plethora of myths surrounding homeopathy which have been used to discredit this highly efficacious healing art and science. Homeopaths are given few opportunities in the media to defend their profession, so a lot of misconceptions abound. The medical profession in general presents a fierce and blinkered opposition, yet as Big Pharma is learning of all sorts of amazing cured cases, they are determined to stamp out competition via EU regulation.

That’s right. We evil, deluded shills of big pharma must obey our corporate paymasters in order to assault homeopathy whenever we eoncounter it. Louise has found us out! Nothing escapes her amazing powers of deduction! Unfortunately, I have yet to find out how to get on this big pharma gravy train. I mean, really, think about it. I do this already because I believe in what I write. Why on earth wouldn’t I be happy to become a real paid shill of the Dark Lords of Pharma, sitting back in my underwear in front of my computer, or in my sweats with my laptop on my lap in front of the TV, turning out these peerless words for your edification and to cast doubt on homeopaths like Louise because, well, I’m a cancer surgeon and obviously (according to Mike Adams and Louise Mclean, anyway) I don’t want to see more effective treatments for cancer, lest they cut into my obscene profits made treating cancer patients.

But back to the “myths” about homeopathy.

I don’t think I’ll bother to go through all nine. After all, some of them are very similar to the “50 facts” she asserted before. But, hey, let’s see how many I can stand to go get through before the laughter is so intense that I can no longer type. then I’ll leave the rest to you, my capable readers. So let’s start with “Myth #1″:

Myth No. 1 – Homeopathic medicines cure nothing

Homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms, through like for like. A substance that would cause symptoms in a healthy person can be used to cure the same symptoms in a sick person by giving a minute, highly potentized dose of that substance acting as a catalyst to jump start their own healing mechanisms. Everyone of us has our own natural innate healing powers. All that is needed is the correct stimulus to kick start it. In healthy people this may just be rest and good food but many people become ‘stuck’ in their physical, emotional or mental illness and cannot recover. Of course there are different levels of health and the choice of potency given should reflect that. Low potencies are given for very physically ill people and higher doses for those whose problems are emotional or of the mind. Homeopathy is very successful in treating emotional problems such as stress, anxiety and fears.

Unlike orthodox medicine, outcomes of homeopathic treatment are measured by the long term curative effects and the eradication of the disease state culminating in complete restoration of health. If we could have two year trials of outcomes for conditions such as asthma, arthritis and other chronic diseases, this could be proven.

Note that none of this shows that homeopathy cures anything. It’s argument by assertion, without a single speck of evidence, all tarted up in the usual nonsense about “catalyzing the body’s own healing mechanisms.” My favorite part of this one is that the “outcomes” of homepathic treatments at two years. For one thing, it’s idiocy to argue that there aren’t studies with two year followup for conventional treatments, and it’s even more silly to whine about not having trials with two year outcomes of homepathy. There’s nothing to stop homeopaths from doing just such studies. Why don’t they? Why don’t they apply to NCCAM for grants to fund such studies?

Let’s go on to “Myth #2″:

Myth No 2 – Homeopathic medicines are just water

Homeopathic medicines are not made using only dilution. Dilution alone would do nothing whatsoever. Many homeopaths are getting tired of reading this highly inaccurate reporting in the media. All homeopathic medicines are made by a process of dilution and Succussion (potentization through vigorous shaking — 100 shakes between each potency — i.e. between a 1c and a 2c, between a 2c and a 3c potency, between a 3c and a 4c, etc, etc). Most homeopathic medicines can be bought in either 6c or 30c from Boots or from health shops. Higher potencies of 200c and 1m (1000c) can be obtained only from homeopathic pharmacies. Succussion is nowadays done by machines, originally by hand. Succussion brings out the formative intelligence of the substance and imprints it upon the 60% distilled water + 40% alcohol medium used to make homeopathic medicines — alcohol acting as a preservative.

Ah, yes, the whole “homeopathy isn’t just dilution” thing. If you want magical thinking writ large, here it is. The dilution isn’t the thing, it’s the shaking, the “succussion,” because, you see, the shaking imbues the homeopathic remedy with its magical powers. I’m surprised there isn’t chanting with each round of “succussion.” I’m also particularly amused by the whole bit about the “formative” intelligence of the substance. What on earth does that mean? I’m half tempted to say something along the lines of “Formative intelligence? I’ll show you my ‘formative intelligence’!”

But that would be too easy.

I thought about marching through the remaining “myths,” but, really, why bother. Instead, I’ll jump ahead to “Myth” #9 (feel free to deconstruct the others as you see fit):

Myth No. 9 – ‘Anecdotal Evidence’ does not constitute scientific evidence!

Most medical, surgical procedures and drug usage are not backed by studies — only by anecdotal evidence. According to the U.S. Government’s Office of Technology Assessment (Congress of the United States, Office of Technology Assessment: Assessing the efficacy and safety of medical technologies. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1978), only 10-20% of all medical procedures and off-label drug usage are backed by clinical studies.

Strong anecdotal evidence among informed professionals is actually quite reliable — at least as reliable as clinical testing.

No, it’s not, and there are plenty of reasons why. First, there are a number of biases and problems in observation that creep into anecdotal evidence, as well as a number of well known phenomena that interfere with making reliable conclusions from anecdotal evidence. It has nothing to do with the intelligence or skill of the practitioner, either (although I would wonder about the logical faculties of anyone who’s fallen into the trap of being a homeopath”). Rather it’s characteristics of disease that can lead the single observer astray. These include:

Regression to the mean. Most illnesses wax and wane. Any extreme variation in illness intensity is likely to be followed by a more average variation by chance alone. Many diseases have variable or fluctuating symptoms. If a person happens to seek out a treatment when his symptoms are at their worst (very common), by chance alone this period is very likely to be followed by a period when the symptoms are not as severe. Not surprisingly, the treatment, whatever it is, gets the credit.

Confirmation bias. This is the natural human tendency to seek out evidence that confirms what he already believes and pay less attention to evidence that goes against it.

Placebo effect. This is the tendency for symptoms with a subjective component to improve with any intervention, even sugar pills.

Reporting bias. Dead men tell no tales. Patients who do not improve do not give glowing “testimonials” to the efficacy of treatment.

A good discussion of the problems involved with anecdotal evidence can be found here.

Note also how Louise is parroting the myth that “only” 20% of modern evidence-based medicine is in fact truly evidence-based. This is yet another myth favored by the woo-friendly crowd. True, I would agree that not as much of modern medicine is as stronly science- and evidence-based as I would like, but that is a long way from agreeing that such a small percentage of medicine used by “conventional” doctors is “evidence-based.” It turns out that that figure is based on a rather dubious “study” from nearly 50 years ago. In fact, the real percentage of interventions that are science- and evidence-based is much higher. But it’s a convenient myth for woo-meisters.

Louise can’t resist digging herself in deeper:

The problem isn’t with the use of anecdotal evidence. It’s with the double standard applied by the establishment (medical and regulatory) that holds complementary medicine to an absurdly higher standard, allowing medical doctors to do pretty much whatever they want. If informed anecdotal evidence is allowable for 85% of all medical procedure and drug usage, why is alternative health held to an impossible 0% standard?

Millions of people worldwide testify that homeopathy cures their illnesses yet apparently that cannot be construed as ‘evidence’.

If a person were to walk out of their house to the town centre and witness someone having their bag snatched or witness a car accident, then when they relay this information to the Police or to their friends and family, it is anecdotal evidence.

If someone goes on holiday, stays at a nice hotel, eats delicious food, swims in the sea, comes back home and relates the holiday to their friends, that is anecdotal evidence.

Does that mean that the above never happened? According to the detractors of complementary or alternative medicine, yes it does!

There is no double standard. Anecdotal evidence is viewed by science-based medicine as hypothesis-generating, nothing more. The reason, of course, is all the cognitive and observational pitfalls that come with anecdotal evidence. any hypothesis generated with anecdotal evidence can’t be considered validated until studied in a more formal manner. Anecdotal evidence is, simply, the lowest and least reliable form of evidence. The bit about the purse snatching, of course, is unintentionally appropriate, given that homepaths separate gullible people from their money all the time. Of course, the entire argument is a straw man. No one is saying that such things didn’t happen; what skeptics say is that it is the interpretation of believers of what has happened is the problem. They attribute phenomena such as regression to the mean to treatment with homeopathy. That doesn’t stop Louise from whining:

So how for so long have we put up with the top dogs in the medical establishment dismissing our cures as total nonsense, figments of our imagination, placebo cures, or outright lies?

How, when millions are cured around the world using homeopathic medicines, can these cures be dismissed as unworthy of attention, simply ‘anecdotal evidence’.

Orthodox medicine implies through this that all cures with alternative medicine are untrue or simply imagined. Even when all the evidence is put before them, they become angry and even aggressive, simply refusing to see or to listen.

No, we become annoyed by the constant repetition of canards such as the ones that Louise keeps repeating. Personally, I’d love to see these “millions of cured” with one twist: I’d like to see evidence that they were actually “cured” of anything by homepathy. After all, all homeopaths ever seem to have are “testimonials.”

I could go on, but there comes a point when the stupidity starts to cause my brain to hurt. So, instead, I’ll let you have your say, and I’ll even give you another tidbit from Louise in which she claims that homeopathy can cure mental illness.

As for something a bit more substantive and science-based, I’ll try to do something tomorrow. Slumming among homeopaths gets old after a while.

Comments

  1. #1 blf
    November 10, 2008

    I have yet to find out how to get on this big pharma gravy train.

    ORAC: Hello? I’d like a pair of tickets on The Big Pharma Gravy Train, please.

    VOICE: Where to, Mr Orac?

    ORAC: Easy Street.

    VOICE: Date of departure?

    ORAC: Immediately.

    VOICE: And departing from where, Mr Orac?

    ORAC: Rationality.

    VOICE: Ok-kay, the next Big Pharma Gravy Train is due to depart Rationality for Woo-Woo Land, stopping at Easy Street, on…

    (The phone vanishes in a puff of smoke. ORAC stares at his empty hand.)

    BOOMING BUT SQUEAKY VOICE: Orac!

    ORAC: Er, yes? Who is this?

    BOOMING…: I am the Voice of The Overlords.

    ORAC: The Lizard People?

    BOOMING…: Yes. Who else? That upstart, the Fecking Spaghetti Monster?

    ORAC: Um, tasty!

    BOOMING…: You don’t have to buy a ticket on the Big Pharma Gravy Train. I can give you one.

    ORAC: Oh, er, how?

    BOOMING…: Just write shorter blog posts. [editor's note: ;-) ]

    ORAC: Impossible!

    BOOMING… (sighs): Well, it was worth a try.

  2. #2 Tricia
    November 10, 2008

    I would love to see a discussion of homeopathic proving and the logical fallacies therein. From what I have read, it seems like a ridiculous way of determining the action of a homeopathic remedy. Healthy people take the remedy and then record all “symptoms” they experience and these are recorded and used for determining the appropriate remedy for a sick person. Seems highly stupid to me.

  3. #3 Scott
    November 10, 2008

    The complete lack of any attempt to confirm whether the “symptoms” are in fact related to the remedy is one rather glaring flaw. If somebody coincidentally happens to get a cold during the proving, the remedy is obviously a cold cure!

  4. #4 TheOtherOne
    November 10, 2008

    Low potencies are given for very physically ill people and higher doses for those whose problems are emotional or of the mind.

    Um, if you use “like for like” or whatever, exactly how much of *what* does she think is the appropriate treatment for any given emotional problem?

  5. #5 Andrew Dodds
    November 10, 2008

    Tricia -

    I’d just like to see the list of ‘remedies’ that failed this proving process.

    That’s the interesting thing about alternative medicine – every single therapy they come up with seems to work! There is never a therapy out there that they drop because it dosen’t seem effective. Shows how good they are at finding new therapies..

  6. #6 Scott
    November 10, 2008

    The problem I mentioned above guarantees that any homeopathic “remedy” will “cure” something – keep the proving going on long enough, and one of the subjects will develop some symptom or another. Psychosomatic if nothing else.

  7. #7 D. C. Sessions
    November 10, 2008

    The problem I mentioned above guarantees that any homeopathic “remedy” will “cure” something – keep the proving going on long enough, and one of the subjects will develop some symptom or another.

    That’s why they don’t go in for long “proving” cycles. One investigator should be enough.

    I’ll agree with Mr. Dodds, though, that the appropriate response to their claims to being “scientific” or “evidence-based” should be met with a request for practices which have been abandoned or superceded for lack (relative?) of safety or efficacy.

  8. #8 StuV
    November 10, 2008

    So, for “like cures like” curing depression; wouldn’t a 30c of children’s tears be the ultimate?

  9. #9 Mu
    November 10, 2008

    As a chemist, I always had an issue with the vigorous shaking part to enhance the potency. The only possible way for the formation of an efficacious species (since the original molecules are diluted out) would be some hypothetical stable water complex that preserves “a negative imprint” of the original molecule. Never mind that a negative would have huge issues to have the same function as the positive, adding energy to an unstable complex in the form of shaking should actually lead to a loss of efficacy. But then, molecular interactions where never the strong part of homeopathy.

  10. #10 Blake Stacey
    November 10, 2008

    If a person were to walk out of their house to the town centre and witness someone having their bag snatched or witness a car accident, then when they relay this information to the Police or to their friends and family, it is anecdotal evidence.

    And what happens when the police ask for a description of the assailant? What were the colour of the purse-snatcher’s shoes? Did he have facial hair? Distinguishing jewellery?

    Did the car make a full stop at the sign, or did it roll through? And the other car, the one which made the hit-and-run, was it blue or black? Did it have any bumper stickers? Was it a two-door or a four-door?

    And so forth.

  11. #11 imr90
    November 10, 2008

    In Penn & Teller’s series “Bullsh*t” they set up a fake alternative medicine situation, using an MD who was cooperating with the nonsense and pouring on the woo for gullible subjects. Most of them reported experiencing a definite benefit from the treatment. It’s not hard to get anecdotal evidence.

  12. #12 thetwitchytechnician
    November 10, 2008

    Myth No 2 – Homeopathic medicines are just water
    Homeopathic medicines are not made using only dilution. Dilution alone would do nothing whatsoever. Many homeopaths are getting tired of reading this highly inaccurate reporting in the media. All homeopathic medicines are made by a process of dilution and Succussion (potentization through vigorous shaking — 100 shakes between each potency — i.e. between a 1c and a 2c, between a 2c and a 3c potency, between a 3c and a 4c, etc, etc)…

    My brain just exploded. No. Really. I read it, stared at the screen, tried reading it again and had some sort of bizarre head-twitching eye-blinking misfire while trying to comprehend her “science”.

    Her articles are dangerous! Don’t read them! This is my anecdotal evidence!

  13. #13 Penh
    November 10, 2008

    I love the idea that substances diluted 200 or even 1,000 times are so horrifically potent that only pharmacists dare dispense them. I love that almost as much as the foot-stamping indigation of “It’s not just water! It’s scientifically shaken water!”

  14. #14 imr90
    November 10, 2008

    In Penn & Teller’s series “Bullsh*t” they set up a fake alternative medicine situation, using an MD who was cooperating with the nonsense and pouring on the woo for gullible subjects. Most of the subjects reported experiencing a definite benefit from the treatment. It’s not hard to get anecdotal evidence.

  15. #15 Beowulff
    November 10, 2008

    If a person were to walk out of their house to the town centre and witness someone having their bag snatched or witness a car accident, then when they relay this information to the Police or to their friends and family, it is anecdotal evidence.

    Yeah, anecdotal evidence for the hypothesis that all bags disappear due to being snatched by street thieves. Never mind the records of the Lost & Found departments all over the world.

  16. #16 Patrick
    November 10, 2008

    Could someone please post a link to the peer-reviewed study that showed that mechanical succussion was verified to potentiate as well (or better) than manual succussion?

    After all, if I am going to give out money for a POS/LOC remedy then shouldn’t I be entitled to all of the personal one on one hands on fuzzy feeling that makes woo, well, Woo? Enough of the crapitalistic efficiency!

  17. #17 Kemist
    November 10, 2008

    As a chemist, I always had an issue with the vigorous shaking part to enhance the potency.

    Also as a chemist (medicinal), I’ve had problems with every single one of the homeopathy papers that have been shown to me. And with the dilution-makes-it stronger and memory-of-water schticks, especially when I discuss these things with believers and they tell me that homeopathy cannot be explained with high school chemistry, and I end up mentioning that I have a frakkin’ PhD (you know, that piece of paper you get for doing actual peer-reviewed research on the subject ?), and still it makes no sense. Ah, well.

    If anybody gets the Big Pharma ticket, would you please drop a good word for me ? Research funding has gone very very thight in the last few years (and I somehow sense that the coming crisis wont be kind to industrial R & D either; just last month Aventis fired 1000 people in France), and I would love some money sitting in front of my computer in my underwear rather than turning burgers in a McD.

  18. #18 tim gueguen
    November 10, 2008

    Do you really need to go to a homeopath for your homeopathic medicines? Seems to me in a lot of cases you shouldn’t have to, because any randomly picked sample of water may have had a supposed curative substance in it at some point. So taking that randomly picked sample of water and shaking it the required amount of times could very well cure you of your ailment, but without you having to take the time to go to a homeopath, pay his fees etc. etc.

  19. #19 Occasional Lurker
    November 10, 2008

    I’ve always had a problem with this succussion thing. If shaking is so important, what happens when moving a filled bottle:
    a) in the factory or wherever it’s made
    b) while shifting it to/around the warehouse or other storage facility
    c) during transport to the pharmacy or wherever it’s being sold
    d) by taking it out of the box and dumping it on a shelf
    e) by picking it off the shelf and taking it to the checkout
    f) by carrying it home in your bag
    g) or just picking it up to use it

    And any other points at which it might be moved, dropped, shaken, whatever. Do all these add more potency to the memory of the water? Or might they counteract it? Or is there something terribly special about the precise process of succussion (or the succussor – magic wrist action) and no other shaking has the same effect? Or does the effect get stuck at a certain point and then can’t be altered?

  20. #20 D. C. Sessions
    November 10, 2008

    I’ve always had a problem with this succussion thing. If shaking is so important, what happens when moving a filled bottle:

    How does a homeopath ensure that hir raw materials (water) aren’t “contaminated?” Especially since the more the “contaminants” are diluted the more powerful they become? (Shades of Obi-Wan!)

    The old answer used to be that the intention of the preparer transmitted itself during succussion to the preparation, which selected for the desired non-constituent against all of the other non-constituents. With a whole lotta machine-shakin’ goin’ on, I don’t see how that story works any more.

  21. #21 Joseph C.
    November 10, 2008

    The old answer used to be that the intention of the preparer transmitted itself during succussion to the preparation, which selected for the desired non-constituent against all of the other non-constituents.

    Jesus! Homeopathy just gets more and more absurd the more I read about it. I’m beginning to think that homeopaths must be of a separate species: Homo credulous

  22. #22 Gary Bohn
    November 10, 2008

    Occasional Lurker;

    It has to be shaken, not stirred and the total number of shakes must be evenly divisible by any digit contained in the magic number pi.

  23. #23 khan
    November 10, 2008

    A little gem from ‘Myth No. 3′:

    The Homeopathic Materia Medica and Repertory are extremely large books

  24. #24 Aj
    November 10, 2008

    Hmmm. I’m thinking of starting my own practice…

    Quantum Homeopathy.

    Since at the big bang singularity everything was touching everything else and pretty much all of that everything has been vibrating, sorry, “succussing” ever since; it seems pretty logical to conclude that anything is in fact the cure for everything (and vice versa).

    So, if you have recovered from any ailment whatsoever, at any point in your life; firstly, you’re welcome, secondly, when you get my bill I expect it to be paid promptly.

  25. #25 Acleron
    November 10, 2008

    More on myth 2. The mechanical succussion to which she refers spins the fluid inside a test tube. Seems to be very different from banging it against a bible 100x. I presume they performed the relevant trials to show that the two methods gave identical results i.e. completely no clinical effect.

  26. #26 Mu
    November 10, 2008

    The question of the purity of the water is valid. Their “least potent” C6 concoction gives you ppt levels of “active ingredient”. Analytically, that’s close to woo territory, where a strong measure of believe into one’s methodology comes into play, since you can rarely actually physically measure the analyte without enhancements.
    So that might explain why you never see a change in potency – your water just wasn’t clean enough to truly eliminate all agent.

  27. #27 Prometheus
    November 10, 2008

    “If a person were to walk out of their house to the town centre and witness someone having their bag snatched or witness a car accident, then when they relay this information to the Police or to their friends and family, it is anecdotal evidence.”

    However, if the report of the witness were different from other, more reliable data – for instance, a police surveillance camera – or if other people who witnessed the event had different accounts, it would be completely reasonable for the police to ignore the “anecdotal evidence”.

    This obsession with the “validity” of anecdotal evidence seems to be a central feature of “alternative” medicine. They like to argue either that it is equivalent to other forms of data (which it is not – anecdotal “data” is the least reliable form of data) or that “mainstream” science completely discounts anecdotal information (which it doesn’t).

    Anecdotal information is useful in formulating a hypothesis and it can – in medicine – point the direction to a possibly useful treatment. However, anecdotes don’t “trump” real data. If the real data don’t support the hypothesis that your anecdotes helped you formulate, it would be foolish (idiotic!) to argue that the anecdotes are right and the data is wrong.

    Also, if the homeopathic supporters assert that their claims can’t be scientifically tested, they are essentially admitting that homeopathy is a religion. In fact, when you look at it that way, it’s no stranger than most religions.

    It’s just not a science.

    Prometheus

  28. #28 notedscholar
    November 10, 2008

    Thank you for the mythbusting!!

  29. #29 Sophist FCD
    November 10, 2008

    Succussion brings out the formative intelligence of the substance and imprints it upon the 60% distilled water + 40% alcohol medium used to make homeopathic medicines — alcohol acting as a preservative. (emphasis mine)

    Huh? If the active part of the ‘medicine’ is some nebulous attribute of the water, why the alcohol? Alcohol isn’t magical, it acts a preservative because of its chemical properties. None of these apply to water, which doesn’t need preserving to begin with.

    So just what the hell is being preserved here?

  30. #30 Brian X
    November 10, 2008

    Sophist:

    I’m sure there were quite a few people who asked the same question of Lydia Pinkham…

  31. #31 fsb
    November 10, 2008

    Myth No. 8 – Homeopathic medicines contain no molecules

    She didn’t complete her sentence here, and what she’s going at here is basically the same as Myth No. 2. Also,

    Any remedy under a 12c or a 24x potency still contains the original molecules of the substance and this is known as Avogadro’s number.

    What is known as Avogadro’s number??? “Any remedy… is known as Avogadro’s number” “the original molecules of a substance… is known as Avogadro’s number” Aside from being just plain incorrect, this sentence doesn’t even make sense! She also made a similar statement in the 50 Facts article (number 18).

  32. #32 Alan Kellogg
    November 11, 2008

    Did Avogardo have his phone disconnected because of all the crank calls he was getting?

  33. #33 Andrew Dodds
    November 11, 2008

    Sophist – well, if it’s 40% alcohol, maybe I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Are you allowed to mix homeopathic remidies with tonic(sic)?

  34. #34 MarkusR
    November 11, 2008

    1M only at homeopathic pharmacies. Yeah. Cause it’s such a controlled substance…

  35. #35 vlad
    November 11, 2008

    “60% distilled water + 40% alcohol medium used to make homeopathic medicines” Um, you know I think I will be supporting medical insurance for homeopathic remedies after all. Will not cure anything but free top shelf alcohol at the insurance companies expense would help to cure my mental anguish.

  36. #36 D. C. Sessions
    November 11, 2008

    Are you allowed to mix homeopathic remidies with tonic(sic)?

    Only small amounts of tonic, since too much would result in an overdose.

  37. #37 jayh
    November 11, 2008

    While reading this I got an email that I needed to check a file because our kanban system was down. Then suddenly I got an email saying it was working, but no one did anything. Little did they know that by *reading* about homeopathy, I cured that problem

  38. #38 Damitall
    November 11, 2008

    I see the factoid that many of the British aristocracy used homeopathy is cited in its favour.

    Have you SEEN our aristocracy? Hardly an advert for anything!

  39. #39 Kemist
    November 11, 2008

    Any remedy under a 12c or a 24x potency still contains the original molecules of the substance and this is known as Avogadro’s number.

    uhh, what exactly are “original molecules” ? There was a paper once in JACS or JOC (don’t remember which) which described the synthesis of molecules that, in their chemical 2D short-hand representation, looked like little stick figures. There was the normal guy, the ballerina, the guy with the top hat… They called them “nanoputians” (you could call that “chemical art”, I guess. After all, some people had fun drawing logos with scanning tunneling microscope, we want our fun too). Maybe that’s what she means:).

    And yes, regardless of your level of science education, this sentence makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

    So that might explain why you never see a change in potency – your water just wasn’t clean enough to truly eliminate all agent.

    Not only that – it can never be clean enough. No 100% pure substance can exist while there is an interface (contact) with another substance (air, the container, ect.). Water in glass will absorb borates and silicates if it is pure enough. What will happen with dilution is that your contaminants will exceed solute concentration at some point (and this will happen even before you exceed Avogadro’s limit). Pure water does not conduct electricity; therefore one way to measure purity from ionic substances, e.g. salts, is to measure resistance. Very pure water has resistance of 18 to 22 MOhms. This is obtained with costly laboratory equipment, and not from simple distillation. I’ve not read any homeopathy paper describing these levels of purification, and 200-years old homeopathy didn’t have access to them anyway.

    So I guess the question is : even if there was a “memory of water” (and that’s pretty different from any high-dilution behavior, because in a high dilution, you still have some solute, so I would need a lot more evidence than currently available to accept this), how is the solute’s (the “active ingredient”) influence getting over the contaminant’s influence in this system ? Because it gets diluted away ? But what if then, as is most certainly the case, there is an impurity in your mother tincture ? It too gets diluted and succussed. How come the active subtance “imprit” is more important than the impurity’s ? Because you really really want it to ? No matter how I try to make sense of this, I just can’t.

  40. #40 vodkanscones
    November 12, 2008

    So is this why James Bond always gets his martinis shaken?

  41. #41 James Pannozzi
    November 12, 2008

    For the “Homeopathy is just placebo” crowd, yet more research,
    one of them published in the Journal of Clinical Epdidemology again excoriates and refutes the Shang article that appeared in Lancet 2005 whose conclusion was that its meta analysis showed Homeopathy to be no better than palcebo:

    References
    Lüdtke R, Rutten ALB. The conclusion on the effectiveness of
    homeopathy highly depend on the set of analysed trials. Journal of
    Clinical Epidemiology, 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.06.015

    Rutten ALB, Stolper CF. The 2005 meta-analysis of homeopathy: analysis
    of postpublication data. Homeopathy, 2008. doi:10.1016/j.homp.
    2008.09.008.

    “It’s just water” say the critics, oh, those Homeopathists (image of “quacks” charlatans and unscientific woo-ists is supposed to be imagined here by those docile enough to accept this view unquestioningly) but back in the real world of real Homeopathists, it appears the latest attack againt them in Britian is on stationary with an NHS (National Health Service) logo just to give it that pseudo authoritarian look and feel that the “scientific” anti-Homeopaths so love and admire.

    A prompt DISAVOWAL from the Dept. of Health soon appeared:

    “A document entitled “Homoeopathic Services” which was distributed to
    Directors of Commissioning earlier this year has caused some confusion
    because it carried the NHS logo.
    We would like to clarify that this document was not issued with the
    knowledge or approval of the Department of Health and that the use of
    the National Health Service logo was inappropriate in this instance.
    The document does not represent any central policy on the
    commissioning of homoeopathy and PCTs continue to be responsible for
    making the decisions on what services or treatments to commission to
    meet their community’s health needs.”

    And one angry British MD and Homeopathic physician, had THIS to say:

    Dr. David Colquhoun writes about me and that UCL debate in his rather
    sneering blog in which he accuses anyone using alternative medicine of
    lying to their patients. This is a blatant and untrue insult which he
    arrives at via an illogical and irrational cascade of argument.
    Suffice to say that I’ve yet to meet a doctor using homeopathy who
    does not believe his or her homeopathic prescriptions have an effect
    independent of the placebo effect. Prof. Colquhoun might not think
    that homeopathic remedies have a physiological effect but homeopathic
    doctors using them certainly do.”
    (Dr. Brian Kaplan)
    see details and full article at his blog here:
    http://drkaplanarticles.blogspot.com/

    A rightly furious Dr. Kaplan also states:
    “Do I like that? No, Prof. Coquohoun I don’t. Bullying Britain’s GPs, leaving the utterly spurious impression that conventional medicine is based on solid evidence while homeopathy isn’t, writing to non-medical bureaucrats utterly inappropriately on NHS paper thus giving the false impression that your pompous letter was somehow an NHS document (a ‘technicality’ that would have your entire case for a reform in NHS policy unceremoniously thrown out in a British court of law), is definitely not to my taste”
    see details and full article at his blog here:
    http://drkaplanarticles.blogspot.com/

    Dr. Kaplan concludes with :
    “Professor David Coquhoun, I’m happy to debate this with you. Feel free to be assisted by the jeering journalist, Simon Singh or preferably the medically trained journalist, Ben Goldacre. Bring along the man who also nastily accused homeopaths of ‘lying’ to their patients, Prof. Edzard Ernst.”
    see details and full article at his blog here:
    http://drkaplanarticles.blogspot.com/

    Gee, improper use of an official looking logo on a letter
    attacking Homeopathy. It’s amazing how these “scientists”…
    or is it “scientism-ists” seem to need to resort to
    “tricks” in order to attack Homeopathy – looks like even they
    realize the inadequacy of their scientific criticisms. It’s truly wooful.. er, I mean woeful.

  42. #42 LMM
    November 13, 2008

    Kemist –

    As a chemist, what fascinates me about homeopathy is the proponent’s lack of creativity. If homeopathy works — if medicine does become “stronger” with dilution — then the problem is not purchasing sufficiently dilute homeopathic solutions; the problem is trying to obtain water which isn’t a homeopathic medicine. Can water’s “memory” be erased by distillation? Or can one only obtain “clean” water by synthesizing it? Either way, I see a nitch market available.

  43. #43 Kemist
    November 13, 2008

    As a chemist, what fascinates me about homeopathy is the proponent’s lack of creativity. If homeopathy works — if medicine does become “stronger” with dilution — then the problem is not purchasing sufficiently dilute homeopathic solutions; the problem is trying to obtain water which isn’t a homeopathic medicine. Can water’s “memory” be erased by distillation? Or can one only obtain “clean” water by synthesizing it? Either way, I see a nitch market available.

    mmm… I see a business opportunity. Let’s associate and sell Amnesic Water (TM): The water that’s forgotten everything it’s ever touched. Made by a unique and patented quantum/organic/sofistimacated process involving reiki crystals or something.

  44. #44 Metro
    November 13, 2008

    As I understand it, the water “remembers” all the substances with which it’s ever been in contact, right?

    Next time I run into anyone who expresses a belief in homeopathy, I will remind them of this, and ask what the fecal coliform count in their municipal supply is.

    Meantime, I’m moving to L.A. for a year. I understand that recent analyses have found detectable amounts of LSD and ecstasy in their water system.

    Kemist: Be careful! It’s a known fact that Amnesiac Water contains dangerous levels of DHMO.