Respectful Insolence

I bet you didn’t know this (maybe because of homeopathic publicity), but today is the first day of Homeopathy Awareness Week, which runs from June 14 to 21.

It turns out that I’m torn over whether to mention or do much about this. On the one hand, publicizing the magical, mystical thinking that is homeopathy serves a purpose in emphasizing time and time again just how utterly implausible from a scientific standpoint homeopathy is, how most studies showing and “effect” from homeopathy are seriously flawed, and how the best quality studies of homeopathy show it to be no more effective than a placebo. On the other hand, why provide homeopaths publicity this week by doing lots of posts about homeopathy, given that that is exactly what the purpose of “awareness” weeks or months of any kind is?

Still, keeping in mind that homeopathic principle that dilution and succussion makes a remedy stronger, would ignoring Homeopathy Awareness Week be the equivalent of diluting it and thus making it stronger?

Decisions, decisions…

Comments

  1. #1 Damien
    June 14, 2009

    I would say post away, mainly because I adore your vicious and entirely rational dissections of why this stuff is nonsense. Friend of mine may have MS, and I’m using a lot of your articles to convince her not to use this homeopathy crap.

    Also, not to be pedantic, but it should be:

    “given that that is exactly what the purpose of “awareness weeks” or months of any kind is?”

    Because your using the present form of a verb that references “purpose,” which is singular, versus “awareness weeks/months.”

    Huh, I guess I did mean to be pedantic. Watch me go!

  2. #2 Tony
    June 14, 2009

    Don’t worry too much. Chiropractic Awareness Week in April didn’t do that bunch much good, did it?

  3. #3 natural cynic
    June 14, 2009

    Homeopathy Awareness Week lasts about an attosecond.

  4. #4 Orac
    June 14, 2009

    Damien,

    Your pedantry is tempting fate. You do know how Orac detests pedantry, don’t you? You do know that he has a tendency to ruthlessly delete comments that are nothing more than spelling or grammar flames or, failing that, to direct some not-so-Respectful Insolence their way?

    I’d like to see the pedants pump out the amount of verbiage I do every week and not make the occasional slip up in grammar or typos. Sadly, I am not a supercomputer like Orac.

  5. #5 Tony
    June 14, 2009

    “…just how utterly implausible from a scientific standpoint homeopathy is.” Yes, of course, but in this sort of context why not leave out “from a scientific standpoint”? The statement is still just as true and perhaps more telling to some lay (i.e. non-scientific) minds.

  6. #6 PJH
    June 14, 2009

    Here’s a bit of a challenge (I’d do it myself if I had time!) I thought of following links off this post:

    http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/rcts_in_homeopathy/

    Here’s a list of “138 peer-reviewed RCTs [randomised controlled trials] in 125 papers reporting placebo controlled or non-placebo controlled RCTs of homeopathy: 60 (44%) had positive findings; 10 (7%) were negative; 68 (49%) were non-conclusive.”

    Someone should take a careful look at these! For example, an easy one would be to break these studies up by placebo vs. non-placebo controlled and see how that changes the percentages above. Ideally, someone would throw a power analysis at each paper and categorize them further, but that would take considerably more effort (though it might make for a decent publication?). Perhaps others can come up with ideas to see if there is actually anything to these studies, and if there isn’t – to provide an explanation for the numbers above?

  7. #7 PJH
    June 14, 2009

    Here’s a bit of a challenge (I’d do it myself if I had time!) I thought of following links off this post:

    http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/rcts_in_homeopathy/

    Here’s a list of “138 peer-reviewed RCTs [randomised controlled trials] in 125 papers reporting placebo controlled or non-placebo controlled RCTs of homeopathy: 60 (44%) had positive findings; 10 (7%) were negative; 68 (49%) were non-conclusive.”

    Someone should take a careful look at these! For example, an easy one would be to break these studies up by placebo vs. non-placebo controlled and see how that changes the percentages above. Ideally, someone would throw a power analysis at each paper and categorize them further, but that would take considerably more effort (though it might make for a decent publication?). Perhaps others can come up with ideas to see if there is actually anything to these studies, and if there isn’t – to provide an explanation for the numbers above?

  8. #8 JD
    June 14, 2009

    I thought something had to exist before there could be an awareness of it. lol.

  9. #9 shpalman
    June 14, 2009

    Homeopaths complain about RCTs if they don’t go their own way. It would be interesting to break those studies up according to whether or not they are published in the British Journal of Homoeopathy…

    Shang et al. already did a meta-analysis of homeopathy (DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67177-2 ) and the homeopaths are still complaining about the result: http://hawk-handsaw.blogspot.com/2009/04/homeopathy-paper-published.html

  10. #10 shpalman
    June 14, 2009

    Homeopaths complain about RCTs if they don’t go their own way. It would be interesting to break those studies up according to whether or not they are published in the British Journal of Homoeopathy…

    Shang et al. already did a meta-analysis of homeopathy (DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67177-2 ) and the homeopaths are still complaining about the result: http://hawk-handsaw.blogspot.com/2009/04/homeopathy-paper-published.html

  11. #11 Pareidolius
    June 14, 2009

    Could be a good month for my “Homeopathy is Full of Shit” posters, click on my name, download, print and distribute. There are g-rated versions too (and one in Polish).

    Damien: follow this link to a life free of grammar pedantry, I know these books really changed my life (and saved more than a few friendships) . . .
    http://www.grammarsnobs.com/

    BTW, if anyone else can balance a surgery schedule, cancer research, a family and writing cogent, in-depth critical posts on complex scientific topics every day without the occasional grammatical error . . . well, nevermind, you don’t exist.

  12. #12 teddlesruss
    June 14, 2009

    I thought I felt a faint, barely discernible disturbance in the force, as though 1000 sucussions um… sucussions… um… Oh look! A microscope!

  13. #13 Anthro
    June 14, 2009

    Hey grammar-nazi:

    You used “your” for “you’re”, so try some proofreading before you submit. I can be pedantic as well as the next person, but a blog just isn’t the place for it, especially when the blogger is as busy as Orac–I’m just glad he takes the time at all!

  14. #14 mandydax
    June 14, 2009

    Orac, I think everyone should use combine this link for Homeopathy Awareness Week when they mention it to push it up from number 3 on Google. Krelnik posted that last night on twitter. Perhaps a link to his WhatsTheHarm.net page on 433 people who were harmed or killed by someone not thinking critically about homeopathy wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

  15. #15 Kimbo Jones
    June 14, 2009

    Given that this is homeopathy week and someone who doesn’t know a lot about it who hears about this may be doing internet searches, it may be beneficial for skeptical articles to show up on Google as well. Perhaps a collection of past homeopathy posts summarized in one easy-to-find post?

  16. #16 D. C. Sessions
    June 14, 2009

    Grammar lames aside, I have a suggestion for DUllman (who, like Kibo, greps and will therefore be along soon):

    The way to really prove your point regarding the power of homeopathy is to actually, unambiguously, no-two-ways-about-it demonstrate it. That’s not all that hard to do, really.

    All you have to do is get infected with any number of pathogens (P. falciparum, Y. pestis, or my favorite, rabies.) Once frank symptoms appear go into isolation to keep nasty-minded people from thinking you’re using real medicine, and then cure yourself using homeopathy.

    It’s really that simple — and, after all, you know it works so there’s really no danger.

  17. #17 Donna B.
    June 14, 2009

    #11… how can homeopathy be full of shit? Wouldn’t it retain only the memory of being full of shit? I’m SO confused now :-)

  18. #18 Mike the Mad Biologist
    June 14, 2009

    When I first saw this, I thought it was to warn the rest of us about homeopathy.

    Silly me.

  19. #19 Mike the Mad Biologist
    June 14, 2009

    When I first saw this, I thought it was to warn the rest of us about homeopathy.

    Silly me.

  20. #20 D. C. Sessions
    June 14, 2009

    MtMB@18:

    Welcome to the side of ScienceBlogs that the rest of us see. Fun, ain’t it?

  21. #21 AZSkeptic
    June 14, 2009

    That’s strange… My calendar says that National Drinking Water Week was back in May!

    My opinion is that you can NEVER dump enough insolence on the perpetrators of this kind of quackery. They should all have warning labels affixed to their foreheads–”WARNING!! Contents of this brain include the burning stoopid. Do not mix with gullible and/or uneducated people. If found with mouth open, stick sock in it and read science text book to reduce chance of infection spread.”

    Open ridicule is the best medicine you can produce for this problem. Otherwise, we get things like The Cancer Cure Foundation, which just sucks the IQ right out of you…

  22. #22 Marie
    June 14, 2009

    Like Mike, I jumped to the wrong conclusion regarding what “homeopathy awareness” meant. In my experience, most campaigns for ‘awareness’ of something are to make people aware of a problem.

  23. #23 Cath the Canberra Cook
    June 14, 2009

    Homeopathy awareness week sounds like a great idea! Just like AIDS awareness and Breast Cancer awareness and all those other ribbon campaigns. You could wear a piece of thread and pretend it’s a ribbon in memory of that little girl dead of eczema.

    And I have two points on the grammar flames.

    1. Orac – I write my own little blog and I also write for my local newspaper. In the newspaper, there’s a process called copy editing, where grammar and spelling fixes get made. It’s a truism that no-one can edit their own work. On the blog – there is no editor. A polite correction from a reader can help with this function. I humbly suggest that you relax and just banninate the flamey ones.

    2. Damien, you’re wrong. Apart from the incorrect use of “your”, your actual point is wrong, too. “The purpose of the weeks” is singular. There is only one purpose, publicity, even though it is shared by many weeks.

    3. By Muphry’s law, I must have made a mistake somewhere above. Feel free to point it out :)

  24. #24 Katherine
    June 14, 2009

    Pity that there isn’t an easy way to fix typos and mistakes without having to bother Orac about it. No-one is criticising you Orac, we just want your writing to be as correct as your evidence-based medicine. Or something.

    I have a suggestion about homeopathy awareness week for you guys. I had a discussion with my mother recently about homeopathy. She is a skeptic and recently became an atheist, so this shouldn’t be too hard. But I found out that she may have given my sister homeopathic medicines for her allergies when she was a child. When I brought up the issue of people promoting homeopathy for things like AIDS and malaria, she said of course she didn’t believe in homeopathy for things like that. But I realised since then that I didn’t tell her what homeopathy IS, and that she might be confusing it with herbal medicine, as so many people do.

    I’m going to use homeopathy awareness week to make people around me aware of exactly what homeopathy is, and that it is different from herbal medicine.

  25. #25 Matthew Cline
    June 14, 2009

    The smaller the awareness generated by Homeopathy Awareness Week, the more potent that awareness is…

  26. #26 DLC
    June 14, 2009

    You know, Homeopathy, there’s Nothing To It.

    I liked Oliver Wendell Holmes’ deconstruction of homeopathy.
    He wrote it back when Homeopathy was still new.

    http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/holmes.html

    It’s reprinted there for those interested in reading it.

  27. #27 Azkyroth
    June 15, 2009

    Still, keeping in mind that homeopathic principle that dilution and succussion makes a remedy stronger, would ignoring Homeopathy Awareness Week be the equivalent of diluting it and thus making it stronger?

    This sounds like an opportunity for some of that scientific testing stuff. ^.^

  28. #28 righteous indignation
    June 15, 2009

    Science used to believe in blood letting, the ingestion of mercury, and all sorts of whacked out medicinal practices; not to mention a flat earth the universe revolved around.

    Just because some medical treatment is less barbaric than removing an organ or blasting it with radiation doesn’t mean it has no merit. Heck half the medications on the market have worse side effects than the ailment they treat.

    (Rich) folks from the US go to Germany for cancer treatments which work because the treatments which save lives are not “approved” in the US. I guess science isn’t universal and often goes to the highest bidder.

    If it wasn’t for all the crooked money of the pharma companies sleeping with the FDA and the AMA we’d have far better alternative treatments available.

    Perhaps a whole week of any kind of awareness is beyond you, too much to expect of you. Just go on being the sheeple you all are.

  29. #29 righteous indignation
    June 15, 2009

    Science used to believe in blood letting, the ingestion of mercury, and all sorts of whacked out medicinal practices; not to mention a flat earth the universe revolved around.

    Just because some medical treatment is less barbaric than removing an organ or blasting it with radiation doesn’t mean it has no merit. Heck half the medications on the market have worse side effects than the ailment they treat.

    (Rich) folks from the US go to Germany for cancer treatments which work because the treatments which save lives are not “approved” in the US. I guess science isn’t universal and often goes to the highest bidder.

    If it wasn’t for all the crooked money of the pharma companies sleeping with the FDA and the AMA we’d have far better alternative treatments available.

    Perhaps a whole week of any kind of awareness is beyond you, too much to expect of you. Just go on being the sheeple you all are.

  30. #30 TexasSkeptic
    June 15, 2009

    This is “Homeopathic Awareness Week,” so make ‘em aware!

  31. #31 Matthew Cline
    June 15, 2009

    Science used to believe in blood letting, the ingestion of mercury, and all sorts of whacked out medicinal practices;

    Those ideas didn’t arise due to science; they were abandoned due to science. Using science to determine what medical practices to use didn’t start until sometime in the 19th century (someone else, please provide more details). “Science” is not synonymous with “Western thought over the past few thousand years”.

  32. #32 Crispian Jago
    June 15, 2009

    Some help with homeopathy awarness week from the myself and the Pythons:

    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.com/2009/06/homeopathy-sketch.html

  33. #33 Crispian Jago
    June 15, 2009

    Some help with homeopathy awarness week from the myself and the Pythons:

    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.com/2009/06/homeopathy-sketch.html

  34. #34 Crispian Jago
    June 15, 2009

    Some help with homeopathy awarness week from the myself and the Pythons:

    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.com/2009/06/homeopathy-sketch.html

  35. #35 Crispian Jago
    June 15, 2009

    Some help with homeopathy awarness week from the myself and the Pythons:

    http://crispian-jago.blogspot.com/2009/06/homeopathy-sketch.html

  36. #36 Crispian Jago
    June 15, 2009

    Oops, soory to keep repeating the previous comment. It kept reporting a failure due to timeout, but apparantly worked after all

  37. #37 Crispian Jago
    June 15, 2009

    Oops, soory to keep repeating the previous comment. It kept reporting a failure due to timeout, but apparantly worked after all

  38. #38 sosman
    June 15, 2009

    no your not.

  39. #39 Sam C
    June 15, 2009

    Orac muses:

    Still, keeping in mind that homeopathic principle that dilution and succussion makes a remedy stronger, would ignoring Homeopathy Awareness Week be the equivalent of diluting it and thus making it stronger?

    Only if you take a homeopath, shake them violently and bang their bottom on a table, then chuck them in a large lake. Drink a teaspoonful of the water from the lake and you will be aware of homeopathy.

  40. #40 David
    June 15, 2009

    not even the great Orac can match the insolence of Winston Churchill, when criticized for ending a sentance with a preposition: “This is the kind of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put!”

    back on topic… great post, Orac. Perhaps for this week you could water down your criticism of homeopathy. It might hurt them more.

  41. #41 DebinOz
    June 15, 2009

    It will be interesting to see how homeopathy is viewed in Australia after the recent conviction of two parents for the death of their daughter, due to reliance on homeopathy to ‘cure’ her ezcema:

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,3930,n,n

  42. #42 James Sweet
    June 15, 2009

    @David #40: Sorry, but Churchill’s example of when the preposition really should have been dangled has since been eclipsed by this line from, of all things, the Beavis & Butthead movie:

    “Isn’t that the guy whose trailer those kids were whacking off in? I mean, uh, isn’t that the guy in whose trailer those kids were whacking off? Oh, uh, I mean, isn’t that the guy off in whose trailer those kids were whacking?”

    (Yes, I realize that idiomatic verbs like “to whack off” are atomic and don’t count as dangling prepositions, but I still love the line)

    As far as a homeopathy awareness, if there was one message I could get to the alties about homeopathy, it would be this:

    Okay, so you don’t care about peer-reviewed studies. You think big pharma is causing money to be diverted away from perfectly good “natural” cures. Okay, fine. I don’t think that’s likely, but it’s possible. Many herbs have a pharmacological effect, and while there’s no reason to believe they are safer because they are natural, and little or no data to support their efficacy, at least I can imagine a reality in which there is some great herbal remedy that has been entirely overlooked by mainstream medicine. Could happen in theory, I suppose.

    But homeopathy can’t work. Even if there is some giant conspiracy by Big Pharma and “the cancer industry” to keep people sick and keep people from effective natural remedies, even if we accept this tinfoil hat theory, homeopathy would still be bullshit, because it can’t possibly work. At all. Ever. You’d have better luck flapping your arms and expecting to fly.

  43. #43 Ignorant but Curious
    June 15, 2009

    Your challenge, if you really want to convince people of something and not just enjoy condescending to them and calling them names, is to explain, in layman’s terms, both the position of and the problem with the offending party.

    Take me. I have no dog in this fight, consider myself rational, and believe that the approach of science, when approached with integrity, is our best light for moving forward. So I hear about homeopathy and don’t know much about it beyond a general idea that it has something to do with using natural means to cure or benefit the sick and injured. I also know that pharmacy’s roots are in figuring out what plants do what to the human body and building from that. So I think, hey … if chewing on this leaf can help me make it through my cold (which my pharmacist can’t cure, either), why not? And when I hear someone say, with no justification, that “homeopathy can’t work,” I say: what the hell are you talking about? That leaf helped me more than my pharmacist did. Wanna explain yourself and back it up?

    Instead, I just hear ranting. So I’m not helped, my ignorance is not abated, and I leave thinking you guys are a bunch of defensive, condescending jerks.

    There are better ways to raise awareness …

  44. #44 Damien
    June 15, 2009

    Orac, I was hoping my facetiousness would get across in that post. Honestly, I am amazed and impressed that you have the time to put this blog out as quickly and verbosely as you do. It’s truly like reading a book every single week. I recommend you to every single person who talks to me about this quackery, along with using the quiver of quick retorts you’ve given me.

    Besides, I’m just jealous because I’m an English major and I’m not as eloquent as you.

  45. #45 Stu
    June 15, 2009

    Ignorant but Curious:

    Maybe this will help.

  46. #46 LibraryGuy
    June 15, 2009

    Ignorant but Curious, James Sweet is right. Have you looked into homeopathy?
    Here’s how it works in a nutcase, er, nutshell:
    You’ve got a cold. Okay, but those watery eyes, the cough, the nose running? Those aren’t symptoms of the disease. No, they’re your body’s way of fighting the disease. So you don’t want to fight those symptoms, you want to take something that’ll encourage those symptoms.
    But you don’t want to hurt yourself with big doses of nasty powerful natural thing. No, you want to take that leaf you’re chewing on and dilute it. And dilute it some more. Lather, rinse, repeat. You see, the great thing about homeopathy is, the more you dilute something the more powerful it gets. I work in the “Natural Resources” section of a large destination grocery store, and most of the homeopathic dilutions we sell are 30X. That’s not one part leaf to 30 parts water. It’s one part leaf to 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 parts water (I think I got the right number of zeros in there). There’s not even any of the original leaf present anymore. It was diluted out about a million dilutions ago. But see, the water remembers having the leaf, and so it works even better than when the water actually had the leaf. Of course, the water doesn’t remember being in someone’s digestive system, or cooling a nuclear power plant, or any of the other places it’s been. You follow?
    If this sounds insane to you, then welcome to the party. Homeopathy can’t work because it violates so many physical laws. It’s not about chewing a leaf when you’re sick. It’s about choosing something that can’t possibly work over something that’s either been proven to work or at least might work. It’s about my insurance bills going up ’cause you want my insurance company to cover something that can’t work. And it’s about me selling you something that can’t work so you can treat your helpless child or helpless pet with it instead of taking them to get treatment that either will or might work.
    Sorry for the length of the post, and my apologies in advance to the grammar pedants.

  47. #47 James Sweet
    June 15, 2009

    Ignorant but Curious, I believe you are confusing “homeopathic medicine” with “holistic medicine”. At least that’s what it sounds like from your description.

    In my opinion, “holistic medicine” is not at all a bad thing in and of itself. Unfortunately, it has wound up getting associated with a lot of quackery, and that’s too bad… but the concept of “treating the whole person” instead of just a specific ailment is a pretty good one.

    As far as using herbs/natural cures, I don’t reject that outright, although I maintain a strong skepticism. I was recently having this discussion with my wife. She said, “You know that some herbs have a chemical effect on people… why are you so instantly skeptical of any one you hear about?” I thought about this, and I said, “Well, past experience has shown that if I hear about some supposed new herbal remedy, if I assume it is BS then I will be correct more than 99% of the time.” So I dunno… However, let me state two things unequivocally:

    1) There is no doubt that some herbs/natural remedies work. (e.g. before there was aspirin, people used willow bark, which contains the same exact chemical.. aspirin is way more effective, but that’s not to say the effect of willow bark is not real)

    2) I don’t have a major problem with people who are into herbal supplements — even if they are far too credulous and end up spending a lot of money on stuff that doesn’t work. I can understand the appeal. And while I think it’s maybe a bit “foolish” to be so trusting of the claims of herbal supplements, I definitely don’t think it’s “stupid”. Herbal supplements could work. The evidence states that most don’t, but they could. So I understand that.

    Homeopathy is an entirely different ballgame. LibraryGuy gave a good explanation. Homeopathy is essentially if you took herbal medicine, which as I said could work even if it usually doesn’t, and then dilute it with so much water that it can’t possibly work. Now that is stupid. I’m sorry, but there’s no other word for it.

  48. #48 wfjag
    June 15, 2009

    How about a “keep the libel laws out of science” week? See Sense About Science’s updates on the British Chiropractic Association’s libel suit against Simon Singh at http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/333/

    - heck, SAS is already selling T-shirts (mugs, caps, etc.), so all that’s needed is an announcement proclaiming the week. They’ve done all the work, all that is needed is a prominent skeptical blogger to make it official. Suggestions? Anyone?

    (Oh, FYI, Singh has appealed that ridiculous ruling by the trial judge).

  49. #49 James Sweet
    June 15, 2009

    This line from the Wikipedia entry sums it up nicely:

    “Homeopathic remedies generally contain few or no pharmacologically active ingredients, and for such remedies to have pharmacological effect would violate fundamental principles of science.”

    Bingo. Herbal supplements generally do contain pharmacologically active ingredients, or at least ingredients that could be pharmacologically active in theory. Whether the ingredients are in practice able to reliably produce the advertised effect is a discussion that requires care and respect, and does indeed need to be translated into “layman’s terms”.

    Homeopathic remedies do not contain pharmacologically active ingredients — they contain only water. Therefore, I don’t find it necessary to explain it in layman’s terms. It’s already in layman’s terms: It’s water.

  50. #50 James Sweet
    June 15, 2009

    Actually, I take it back that homeopathy can’t possibly work at all.

    There is a popular homeopathic remedy that is purported to relieve the symptoms of teething in infants. I have heard from relatively non-crazy people that it actually seems to work quite well. Even though anecdotes != evidence, that still had me scratching my head…

    …until it was pointed out to me that if you place sugar water on the gums of a teething infant, that is also surprisingly effective at short term relief of symptoms.

    So yeah: Homeopathy can work… it just can’t work better than water.

  51. #51 Sam C
    June 15, 2009

    James Sweet #50:

    So yeah: Homeopathy can work… it just can’t work better than water.

    I find it infuriating when people say that homeopathy relies on the placebo effect.

    It’s not just the placebo effect.

    It’s also regression to the mean, selection bias, fallacious diagnosis and outright lies. Much, much more than the placebo effect!

    But sure as ducks quack and quacks deceive, it ain’t nothing to do with potentisation, succussion or any other quackerwooery.

  52. Perhaps an anti-homeopathy poster for equal time.

    Homeopathy Week!

  53. #53 techskeptic
    June 15, 2009

    Stu,

    that was freaking hilarious

  54. #54 Dangerous Bacon
    June 15, 2009

    Ignorant But Curious: “Take me. I have no dog in this (homeopathy) fight”

    If you did, it would have to be a Chihuahua. Nyuk nyuk.

    righteous indignation: “Just go on being the sheeple you all are.”

    Meh.

  55. #55 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 15, 2009

    (Self)Righteous Indignation: Science used to believe in blood letting, the ingestion of mercury, and all sorts of whacked out medicinal practices; not to mention a flat earth the universe revolved around.

    Homeopaths used to believe that dilutions to nonexistence and succussions strengthed the effect of a treatment, and that provoking the symptoms of an illness was the only way to cure it.

    Wait, they still do!

  56. #56 Zetetic
    June 15, 2009

    @ James Sweet #50:
    Two observations…. First is that the perception the remedy helped may be a case bias on the part of the parents, or a post hoc fallacy on the part of the parents. That is why double blind studies are considered important after all.

    Secondly, there are many case of actual (read: “scientific”)over the counter medicines being falsely labeled as “homeopathic” in order to encourage sales among the woo-ish. These products often also often have their price marked up greatly from the same over the counter treatments that aren’t labeled as “homeopathic”.

    So now we have a kind of “double negative” situation for medicine where a fake-fake treatment, is a treatment that actually works! So the woo inclined are deceived into paying more for a treatment that does work, thinking that they are buying a treatment that scientifically can’t work!

    Now the big question is…Is this fraud? Selling medicine that does work, but labeling it as something that doesn’t?
    Hmmmmm.

  57. #57 Rogue Medic
    June 15, 2009

    Bogus Chiropractic Association,

    I love it.

    We do need to increase the ridicule.

    Homeopathy Week – Shouldn’t it be Diluted?

  58. #58 Autodidactyl
    June 15, 2009

    “So yeah: Homeopathy can work… it just can’t work better than water.”

    Or alcohol, which is another ingredient that the preparations are suspended in.

    Directions: Place 20 drops of homeopathic remedy ( aka alcohol) under the tongue every 15 minutes for 3 hours…more than just placebo, eh?

    Will this scam ever end?

  59. #59 Marie
    June 15, 2009

    With all of the complaining about use of language, one would think it odd that no one has yet called Righteous Indignation out on the use of the word ‘sheeple’. How can someone even write that without laughing. I find it almost as silly as the ‘Big Pharma will kill us all’ nonsense.

  60. #60 Zetetic
    June 15, 2009

    @ deluded indignation #28:
    The funny thing is that homeopathic treatments came from those same times of non-scientific medicine. All of the thing you listed that were shown to be wrong were unscientific to being with, just like homeopathy.

    Now in someways homeopathy was better back then, but that only because it didn’t actually do anything! So at least it didn’t do any damage either.

    Today though we have better, while homeopathy still clings to it’s pre-scientific dogma. The fact of the matter remains that it’s no better than a placebo, even though it’s more expensive than one. Funny how people like you always complain about “Big Pharma” making profits, but never have a problem with “Big Quackery” having even higher profit margins selling water, sugar, and alcohol.

    The only sheeple are gullible suckers like you, throwing money at snake oil salesmen. Letting yourselves get sheared.

    Think we’re wrong? Then please explain, and provide credible evidence for, how any part of homeopathy makes any scientific sense. Tell us how it logically would be better than a placebo.

    I’m not holding my breath for you to provide a logical answer, sheep never do.

  61. #61 Zetetic
    June 15, 2009

    @ Marie:
    Since “indignation” comes off like a schizophrenic yelling on the street corner, it seems silly to hold him/her to higher standards of grammar when the person already has trouble with just logic.

  62. #62 Greg
    June 15, 2009

    Oh good, homeopathy awareness week. I guess that means it’s time to trot out the good ol’

    If Water Has Memory Then Homeopathy Is Full Of Shit

    slogan.

  63. #63 James Sweet
    June 15, 2009

    @Zetetic in #56: Yeah, my original hypothesis had been that it was a “labeled homeopathic but actually just herbal” thing. I mean, plenty of herbs function as a local anesthetic, and that’s all you really need… But nah, it’s really homeopathic, it’s just in a sugar solution. Which happens to be soothing to teething infants, not as a placebo, but because, well, if your gums ache, putting something cool and sweet on them makes them feel a little better. Duh.

    I also don’t entirely discount the indirect placebo affect from the parents. I got a striking demonstration of this a few months ago, albeit with a dog not a human:

    My wife said something was wrong with one of our dogs. And sure enough, the dog has her tail between her legs, didn’t want to move, was trembling, looked very sad… in other words, everything that would make you think a dog was upset and/or in pain. I started to get concerned and wonder if we should call the vet… and then it hit me. “Honey, it’s your body language that’s upsetting her. Try leaving the room.” And sure enough, she hid behind a door, I said, “Good dog!” and I’ll be damned if the pup wasn’t miraculously “cured”!

    The weird thing was how subtle the things were that my wife was doing to put the dog off. She wasn’t talking in a concerned tone of voice, she wasn’t stroking the dog in a weird way… if I didn’t know my wife so well, I wouldn’t have figured it out. It was just some really subtle cues, like how she was moving her arms and how she was walking, and the dog was picking up on it and decided something must be horribly wrong.

    Kinda reminds you of why the “double” in double-blind is so important…

  64. #64 Zetetic
    June 15, 2009

    @ James Sweet:
    Nice example, yes people tend to underestimate the degree to which children and animals (especially dogs) respond to things like tone of voice and body language. I guess we tend to lose some of that as we become more reliant on language for communication as we get older.

  65. #65 D. C. Sessions
    June 15, 2009

    Hey, a little respect for homeopathy. It could have very important industrial applications. Following the homeopathic principles of extreme dilution, we can make some very specific predictions about the effects of a few atoms of arsenic or boron in crystalline silicon.

    Pardon me while I check to see how those predictions work out.

  66. #66 wfjag
    June 16, 2009

    “Yeah, my original hypothesis had been that it was a “labeled homeopathic but actually just herbal” thing. I mean, plenty of herbs function as a local anesthetic, and that’s all you really need… ”

    James, be very, very skeptical of “herbal” or “natural” remdies sold OTC. See, e.g., “Buyer Beware, The FDA Finds Dangerous Levels of Medications in Weight-Loss Supplements”, Popular Science (May 2009) at 27. The FDA investigated approx. 70 “natural” weight loss supplements and found that nearly all contained various prescription drugs, some of which were at up to 4x the levels for a safe daily dose. None of the supplements listed the drugs on their labels. In Dec. 08, the FDA issued warnings and called for the manufacturers to re-call the supplements. As of the article’s publication date, only 3 had been re-called.

    This is only a recent example of unlisted, potent drugs being contained in “all natural” or “herbal” supplements sold OTC. Google the issue and you’ll find many, similar reports over the last 10 years.

  67. #67 James Sweet
    June 16, 2009

    @wfjag: Yeah taken out of context my comment sounds like I’m saying that using an herbal local anesthetic on your infant is a good idea, doesn’t it? heh, that is not what I meant… By “that’s all you really need”, I just meant tha it was sufficient for a skeptic to explain a possible reason why parents were perceiving that the medication was having an effect. (i.e. if it were truly homeopathic, there needs to be some other explanation.. but if it had a pharmacologically active herb, then that could be the explanation right there)

    For my money, if there is a pharmacologically active ingredient in a particular herb, generally speaking I’d rather have that ingredient distilled out into an actual medication. Don’t worry, I’m not a supplement guy :) Hell, even if I was, I’d never remember to take them…

  68. #68 Zetetic
    June 16, 2009

    @ D.C. Sessions:

    Following the homeopathic principles of extreme dilution, we can make some very specific predictions about the effects of a few atoms of arsenic or boron in crystalline silicon

    Heh…if it was a homeopathic principle, wouldn’t it be tons of silicon to dilute a few atoms of arsenic or boron? To be homeopathic there need to be almost no chance of there being a single atom of arsenic or boron left, and remember, the less likely for there to be a single atom, the better! LOL!
    ;-)

  69. #70 Anosmia Rex
    June 17, 2009

    It cannot be coincidence that the FDA has issued warnings on the homeopathic drug Zicam during Homeopathy Awareness Week.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-12837-US-Headlines-Examiner~y2009m6d16-Zicam-Recall

    I smell a plot by Big Pharma and their evil blogger and blog commenter minions to embarass alternative medicine.

    Or I _would_ smell a plot if I still had a sense of smell.

  70. #71 Lisa J
    June 17, 2009

    Homeopathy awareness is simple – with the multiple dilutions, awareness requires that you only have the essence, not the actual awareness…

  71. #72 irons
    September 24, 2009

    It is very good article for homeopathy! I have trust on Homeopathy! It is very helpful for any Disease. It is very slow but whatever it will do for forever! I truly believe that homoeopathy has its place in the health care sector. Both allopathic medicine and homoeopathic medicine have their pros and cons, but together could be very effective.