Respectful Insolence

Homeopathy and quacks versus science

I know this one’s been floating around the blogosphere for a while, but it finally made its way to me at a time when I needed something lighthearted and amusing:

Best quotes:

“Well, science doesn’t know everything.” Well, science knows it doesn’t know anything, otherwise it would stop … But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairytale most appeals to you.”

…”nutritionist” isn’t a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. “Dietitician” is the legally protected term. “Dietician” is like dentist, and “nutritionist” is like tootheologist.”

“I’m sorry if you’re into homeopathy. It’s water. How often does it need to be said? It’s just water. You’re healing yourself. Why don’t you give yourself the credit?

When reason doesn’t persuade, all that’s left is mockery.

Comments

  1. #1 Todd W.
    August 22, 2009

    Dara O’Briain is brilliant! I strongly recommend watching the videos of that complete show (“Talking Funny”).

    Don’t forget: “There’s more to life than evidence. Get in the f*ing sack.”

  2. #2 FormerComposer
    August 22, 2009

    … it finally made its way to me at a time when I needed something lighthearted and amusing …

    What more proof do you need that this is an Intelligently Designed universe?? Just when you need something, it’s there! Like clockwork — or maybe more like a watch on the beach just when you need to know the time.

    In fact, this may even be evidence of the benevolent watching over the universe by something that need not be named. Without even having to invoke an supplicatory incantation, you were provided with what you needed.

    OK — I’ll get back into the f*ing sack now …

  3. #3 PlanetaryGear
    August 22, 2009

    “whats left is a nice bowl of soup and some potpourri” is my favorite :) brilliant!

  4. #4 John
    August 22, 2009

    I watch this video everytime its posted somewhere, amazing! Though, I can never make out what the last punchline is before the clip ends..

  5. #5 Coz
    August 22, 2009

    I love this, I put in on my blog and watch it often.

    The last line is “You look like Noddy”
    Noddy is from a British kids show, that was also played in Australia when I was a kid.
    Noddy and Big Ears had so much fun together.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noddy_(character)

  6. #6 Caro
    August 22, 2009

    Hooray for Dara O Briain! Thanks for the link ^^

  7. #7 jdhuey
    August 22, 2009

    There was this New Age ‘health’ food store that I would go to every now and then to buy massage oil (they were the only store that carried a nice variety of oils) and when I would pass by the section that displayed all their homeopathic nostrums I would stick a post-a-note on the shelf that said: ‘It’s just water, folks.’ I don’t know if I affected their sales volume or not, but it made me feel better.

  8. #8 sophia8
    August 22, 2009

    I know that survey about teeth that he’s talking about – I took part in it. It was a simple internet survey, with no attempt to verify the answers. As I recall, this was the question:

    What did you do the last time you had a serious toothache?
    1) Went to an NHS dentist
    2) Went to a private dentist
    3) Didn’t see a dentist, took lots of whiskey and painlkillers
    4) Had a friend help you pull it out
    5) Took it out yourself with string and a door

    Some of the surveys I take are pretty rigorously filtered and checked, but this doesn’t apply to the majority of them, which includes the ones put out by the company that was responsible for this. There’s no way they can check the validity of the replies.
    Remember that the next time you see some stupid-sounding survey results quoted in the news.

  9. #9 MikeMa
    August 22, 2009

    sophia8
    I don’t think many people take internet surveys too seriously. After spending some time on PZ’z Pharyngula blog and participating in a few of the poll crashes sponsored there, that ‘many’ drops to almost none.
    Think of it as almost believable humor and smile.

  10. #10 Bronze Dog
    August 22, 2009

    More on polls: I remember seeing a “moment of zen” on a recent Daily Show where a Fox poll (many earlier ones coming out at 95%+ of the echo chamber’s declared opinion) came out fairly even, but the anchor discounted the results because, apparently, he found out about poll crashing from some unidentified “liberals.”

    Back on topic, I’m going to make a note to look around for more of this Dara O’Briain’s stuff. This clip was quickly favorited the first time I saw it, and I’d certainly like to see more comedy along those lines. Straightforward ridicule of the ridiculous is a good thing.

  11. #11 Phoenix Woman
    August 23, 2009

    Reminds me: Awhile back, I picked up some Nelsons Acne Gel from Nelson & Bach, a chief purveyor of allegedly homeopathic remedies. The stuff does work, but I’m guessing it’s mainly because the makers have cheated by using actual evidence-based medicines in it whilst calling them “inactive” ingredients.

    Here’s the list of “active” ingredients, making up 9% of the total product: Extracts of organically grown Arnica montana tincture 2.5%, Calendula officinalis tincture 2.5%, Hypericum perforatum tincture 2.5%, Sulfur 6x 1.5%

    Now here’s the list of “inactive” ingredients, making up the other 91% of the product: Alcohol, Carbomer [of what?], Methylparaben, Purified Water, Tea tree oil, Trolamine.

    You tell me which ingredients are more likely to do a number on acne.

    It is true that sulfur would normally be considered a pretty potent anti-acne medicine, but at a 6x dilution — meaning that it’s literally a millionth of what it once was — it’s practically nonexistent in this gel.

    I will e-mail a photograph of the box or tube label to Orac should he want to post the confirmation of this.

  12. #12 Michael Simpson
    August 23, 2009

    “Well, science doesn’t know everything.” Well, science knows it doesn’t know anything, otherwise it would stop … But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairytale most appeals to you.”

    Mr O’Brien might have paraphrased someone else, but I’m going to give him credit for one of the best quotes I’ve ever heard about science vs. pseudoscience. I’d use it on creationists particularly.

  13. #13 Travis
    August 23, 2009

    Phoenix Woman, your post sort of reminds me of this story from Richard Feynman.
    http://blog.everydayscientist.com/wp-content/uploads/feynman-paint.pdf

    In it a painter seems to have fooled himself into thinking his yellow paint is somehow not an active ingredient while the white and red paint are active, and of course he can get the desired effect, yellow paint, but only once he uses his inactive ingredient.

    But I somehow doubt the makers of that product are as honest in their mistake.

    I know this is pretty random of a connection but it is 04:20 and I am tired. It makes sense to me now.

  14. #14 Phoenix Woman
    August 23, 2009

    Travis, I also doubt that the makers of that gel are making an honest mistake here. Alcohol and tea tree oil are both known to be effective against acne — tea tree oil kills the bacteria that causes it, for starters — whereas the only one of the ‘active’ ingredients that actually might do any good and is present in meaningful amounts is calendula, and that only acts as an anti-inflammatory.

  15. #15 Jeff Read
    August 24, 2009

    You missed a money quote: “But there’s notion that everyone’s opinion is equally valid — my arse! Bloke who’s been a professor of dentistry for 40 years does not have an argument with some idiot who removes his own teeth with string and a door!”

  16. #16 Pieter B
    August 24, 2009

    When reason doesn’t persuade, all that’s left is mockery.

    Ed Brayton put that beautifully last week. It’s my new tagline.

    Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success.

  17. #17 James Pannozzi
    August 24, 2009

    Well, here’s a quote from one of those supposedly “quack” scientists…. no wait a moment, it’s from a Nobel prize winner, Dr. Brian Josephson:

    “…criticisms centred around the vanishingly small number of solute molecules present in a solution after it has been repeatedly diluted are beside the point, since advocates of homeopathic remedies attribute their effects not to molecules present in the water, but to modifications of the water’s structure.”

    “Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.”

  18. #18 Ramel
    August 24, 2009

    Dr. Brian Josephson shared a nobel prize for work on super conductors in the early ’70s. Since then he has become something of a crank, including research into the paranormal, and cold fusion bollocks.

    James Pannozzi, get in the fecking sack.

  19. #19 guthrie
    August 24, 2009

    JOsephson, and others have been unable to demonstrate any connnection between physics and chemistry and their favourite forms of wooooo.

  20. #20 Mike
    August 24, 2009

    I found this quote a while ago, when looking for evidence about homeopathy, and he’s now one of my favorite comedians. I love that he says he’s a “numbers guy”, because it really does come down to whether or not the number support your point.

  21. #21 Mike
    August 24, 2009

    I found this quote a while ago, when looking for evidence about homeopathy, and he’s now one of my favorite comedians. I love that he says he’s a “numbers guy”, because it really does come down to whether or not the number support your point.

  22. #22 Greg Merriam
    August 24, 2009

    If you were half believing in homeopathy this video will not convince you. I think that homeopathy works if you believe it works, don’t know why but there are a lot of people that use homeopathy on a consistence basis and believe in it.

  23. #23 Skemono
    August 24, 2009

    I think that homeopathy works if you believe it works

    Which doesn’t really make sense unless homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo. If it works, it works–you don’t have to believe in it.

  24. #24 Bronze Dog
    August 24, 2009

    Science is that which works, even if you don’t believe it.

  25. #25 Mike
    August 25, 2009

    Well, Bronze Dog, THAT is now one of my favorite quotes.
    And to be clear, I was NOT looking for evidence FOR homeopathy. I was having a discussion with someone who’s into it, and I was looking for “lack of evidence”.

  26. #27 Rogue Medic
    August 26, 2009

    “Well, science doesn’t know everything.” Well, science knows it doesn’t know anything, otherwise it would stop … But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairytale most appeals to you.”

    Shouldn’t that be everything? As in:

    “Well, science doesn’t know everything.” Well, science knows it doesn’t know everything, otherwise it would stop … But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairytale most appeals to you.”

    Phoenix Woman,

    Sulfur 6x 1.5%

    It is true that sulfur would normally be considered a pretty potent anti-acne medicine, but at a 6x dilution — meaning that it’s literally a millionth of what it once was — it’s practically nonexistent in this gel.

    Maybe I just don’t understand homeopathies claims, but if sulfur is diluted down to 6x (is it the same as 6C?), then how can it be 1.5% of the so called medicine?

    If all dilutions are to 1% (1C), even the first dilution should prevent anything from making up more than 1% of the silly sauce. If you started with pure anything, after the first dilution, you can’t have more than 1% of anything except water, which would be 99%. Of course, the BS is 100%.

    The only thing that seems to get stronger, with each dilution, is the strength of belief in this nonsense.

  27. #28 kumquat
    August 26, 2009

    Rogue Medic –

    My guess is that they’ve got a big batch of the Sulfur 6X solution (i.e. water) in the factory, and that’s what comprises 1.5% of the acne medicine.

    Also, I’m ashamed to admit I know this, but X and C are not the same. X means a dilution factor of 10, and C means a dilution factor of 100. So 6X = 3C.

  28. #29 ?
    September 13, 2010

    Treatment of acute childhood diarrhea with homeopathic medicine: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua.
    Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, Gale JL, Crothers D.

    Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle.

    OBJECTIVE. Acute diarrhea is the leading cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality worldwide. Oral rehydration treatment can prevent death from dehydration, but does not reduce the duration of individual episodes. Homeopathic treatment for acute diarrhea is used in many parts of the world. This study was performed to determine whether homeopathy is useful in the treatment of acute childhood diarrhea. METHODOLOGY. A randomized double-blind clinical trial comparing homeopathic medicine with placebo in the treatment of acute childhood diarrhea was conducted in Leon, Nicaragua, in July 1991. Eighty-one children aged 6 months to 5 years of age were included in the study. An individualized homeopathic medicine was prescribed for each child and daily follow-up was performed for 5 days. Standard treatment with oral rehydration treatment was also given. RESULTS. The treatment group had a statistically significant (P *******************************
    Homeopathy Proven Successful for ADHD
    Randall Neustaedter OMD

    The number of children put on drugs for attention problems is staggering, and school authorities pressure parents to use dangerous stimulant medications and antidepressants to keep children behaving in specific desirable patterns in the classroom. The approach of holistic pediatrics offers an effective management system for attention problems (so-called ADD and ADHD). An important component of this system includes the prescription of constitutional homeopathic medicines according the principles of classical homeopathy.

    Clinical Study Design

    Now a carefully controlled clinical trial has shown that homeopathy does significantly improve attention. This study was published in the July 27, 2005 online edition of the European Journal of Pediatrics. The study, conducted in Switzerland, followed 62 children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). All children were carefully diagnosed with a number of screening instruments to verify the diagnosis of ADHD, excluding other diagnoses. The study involved three phases. First the children were treated with a constitutional homeopathic medicine individualized to their case. Only the children who improved by at least 50 percent on an ADHD rating scale were included in the second phase of the study, a crossover trial with a placebo group. Following that crossover phase, the children were then treated again with their homeopathic medicine in an open label phase.

    The primary device for measuring improvement was the Conners Global Index (CGI), a 10-item rating scale containing the most important ADHD symptoms (temper outbursts, excitability, impulsivity, overactivity, crying often, inattentive, fidgeting, disturbing other children, easily frustrated, failure to finish things, quickly changing moods). Rating: 0= never, 1= occasionally, 2= often, 3= very often. Therefore the higher the score the more prominent and severe the symptoms. Other assessment instruments included standardized achievement and intelligence tests.

    The medicines used included Calc-carb (15), Sulphur (8), Chamomilla (5), Lycopodium (5), Silica (5), Hepar-sulph (4), Nux-vom (4), China (3), Ignatia (3), and Mercurius (3). Each of the following were used in one case only: Capsicum, Causticum, Hyoscyamus, Phosphorus, Phosphoric-acid, Sepia, and Staphysagria. Each was used on a daily bases in the Q3 to Q42 potency (LM). No other treatment of any kind was permitted during the course of the study.

    The progress under homeopathic treatment was assessed with the parents only at intervals of 4 weeks. After an unlimited period of observation, children eligible for the crossover phase of the trial were randomly assigned to either receive the appropriate homeopathic medicine or a placebo in a blinded trial. During the second period of the crossover phase, the groups were switched. Following the crossover phase, the children were then treated with their homeopathic medicine in an open label phase of the trial.

    Study Results

    Results showed that children did not improve while taking placebo, but continued to improve while taking the homeopathic medicine during the blinded phase of the trial and in the post-crossover phase. The median Conners rating for ADHD symptoms dropped from 19 at the start of treatment to a median of 8 within 6 weeks after the crossover phase of the trial. During the blinded trial the children receiving placebo had a high CGI rating of 12 compared to the homeopathic group with a rating of 9. After all children were returned to their homeopathic medicine, both groups returned to the low symptom level they had achieved before the crossover phase (median of 8).

    The authors formed a definitive conclusion from this study. “The results of this trial point to the effectiveness of homeopathy in the treatment of ADHD.”
    **************************8
    Br Homeopath J. 2001 Oct;90(4):180-2.

    Comment in: Br Homeopath J. 2001 Oct;90(4):178-9.

    Homeopathy in acute otitis media in children

    Frei H, Thurneysen A.

    Spezialarzt FMH fur Kinder and Jugendliche, FA Homoopathie SVHA, Laupen, Switzerland. dr.heiner.frei@swissonline.ch

    The conventional antibiotic treatment of acute otitis media (AOM) faces a number of problems, including antibiotic resistance. Homeopathy has been shown to be capable of treating AOM successfully. As AOM has a high rate of spontaneous resolution, a trial to prove any treatment-effect has to demonstrate very fast resolution of symptoms. The purpose of this study was to find out how many children with AOM are relieved of pain within 12 h after the beginning of homeopathic treatment, making additional measures unnecessary. Two hundred and thirty children with AOM received a first individualized homeopathic medicine in the paediatric office. If pain-reduction was not sufficient after 6 h, a second (different) homeopathic medicine was given. After a further 6 h, children who had not reached pain control were started on antibiotics. Pain control was achieved in 39% of the patients after 6 h, another 33% after 12 h. This resolution rate is 2.4 times faster than in placebo controls. There were no complications observed in the study group, and compared to conventional treatment the approach was 14% cheaper.

  29. #30 Todd W.
    September 13, 2010

    @?

    Spam much?

  30. #31 Composer99
    September 13, 2010

    These guys have some serious big heap mojo, performing such amazing feats of thread necromancy.

  31. #32 Spider
    October 20, 2010

    I don’t trust homeopathy, but I know better than to refer to clinical trials as “spam” just because I doubt them. I can see it now, in my next journal club in school, “This paper was spam.” Yeah, the profs would love that.

  32. #33 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 20, 2010

    … I know better than to refer to clinical trials as “spam” just because I doubt them.

    I think you are missing the point, badly. The abstract was not “spam” because it was about a clinical trial for a dubious hypothesis. It was spam because it was copy-pasted in full in a place where people are expected to display a little courtesy for others in the form of brevity.

    Take a look at the other comments on this post. Even the longest of them is 1/3rd to 1/4th the size of what ? posted, and those people actually exhibited some thought to compose their comments, instead of just copy-pasting.

  33. #34 Todd W.
    October 20, 2010

    Also, if I remember right, ? posted the exact same post in several different threads.

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