Respectful Insolence

Homeopaths are irritating.

They’re irritating for a number of reasons. One is their magical thinking, and, make no mistake, their thinking is nothing but pure magic, sympathetic magic to be precise. That’s all that the principle of “like cures like” really is at its heart. Normally, that principle states that “like produces like,” but homeopathy reverses that principle by saying that, while like produces like at normal concentrations, like reverses like at high dilutions. Somehow the magical process of shaking the remedy very hard between each dilution step (called “succussion”) imbues it with the property of curing what it would normally cause. Of course, scientists know that the whole “shake and dilute” process is bunk, given that a typical 30C homeopathic dilution dilutes a substance to the point where it is incredibly unlikely that even a single molecule remains.

This brings us to the second magical principle upon which homeopathy rests: The law of contagion, which states that things that have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed. The perfect embodiment of this is the claimed “memory of water,” which is how homeopaths get around the inconvient fact that most of their remedies contain not a single molecule of the original remedy. Somehow the water “remembers” the contact with the remedy and magically forgets the contact it’s had with all the other things that water has been contact with, like poo, pee, chemicals, foodstuffs, and everything else. It’s not as if waterfalls and various other natural processes don’t “succuss” the water quite nicely.

What makes homeopaths particularly irritating is that they believe so highly in their magic that they all too often abuse science to try to “prove” that it works. Lately, homeopaths have been throwing a new study in my face as “evidence” that their woo works:

Frenkel M, Mishra BM, Sen S, Yang P, Pawlus A, Vence L, Leblanc A, Cohen L, Banerji P, Banerji P. (2010). Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells. Int J Oncol. 2010 Feb;36(2):395-403.

Let’s looks at the abstract:

The use of ultra-diluted natural products in the management of disease and treatment of cancer has generated a lot of interest and controversy. We conducted an in vitro study to determine if products prescribed by a clinic in India have any effect on breast cancer cell lines. We studied four ultra-diluted remedies (Carcinosin, Phytolacca, Conium and Thuja) against two human breast adenocarcinoma cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) and a cell line derived from immortalized normal human mammary epithelial cells (HMLE). The remedies exerted preferential cytotoxic effects against the two breast cancer cell lines, causing cell cycle delay/arrest and apoptosis. These effects were accompanied by altered expression of the cell cycle regulatory proteins, including downregulation of phosphorylated Rb and upregulation of the CDK inhibitor p27, which were likely responsible for the cell cycle delay/arrest as well as induction of the apoptotic cascade that manifested in the activation of caspase 7 and cleavage of PARP in the treated cells. The findings demonstrate biological activity of these natural products when presented at ultra-diluted doses. Further in-depth studies with additional cell lines and animal models are warranted to explore the clinical applicability of these agents.

Basically, it’s a test of homeopathic remedies against breast cancer cell lines in a dish that claims differential toxicity aginast breast cancer cell lines compared to normal breast cells and claim that homeopathic remedies did just as well as cytotoxic chemotherapy. For three weeks, I have been assiduously ignoring them because I thought that Dr. Rachie’s takedown of the study was excellent (not to mention that neither my university library nor those of several of my friends apparently carry a digital subscription to the journal–the best that anyone could send me was from a library loan, which was FAXED, and the figures come out as not that clear), but yesterday was the last straw. I don’t know what it was, but finally I had had enough. Dr. Rachie did good, but I’m a breast cancer researcher, and I have worked with the cell lines used in the paper. It’s time for a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence. It’s also time for me to make a note never to submit a paper to the International Journal of Oncology, whose editorial and peer review standards are clearly lacking.

Dr. Rachie hit upon one huge flaw in the study, and I can’t help but mention it as well. There isn’t a single mention of statistics to show that the differences described are significant. In fact, there is a rather disturbing lack of proper quantification of results throughout the paper, in particular with image-driven data, such as assays for DNA breakage by FISH. For these analyses, all the authors show are pictures of “representative” cells, but they didn’t bother to analyze large numbers of cells to see if the qualitative results that show up on the panels they chose to print are real, if they hold up to statistical analysis. It’s very easy to be fooled, even unintentionally, if you don’t look at large numbers of cells. The same is true of the flow cytometry data, as Dr. Rachie also points out.

Let’s step back a minute, now. This study is based on homeopathic remedies of the P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation (homeopatic research: an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one!), which claims to be able to cure a lot of cancers that “conventional therapy” can’t. Indeed, they even submitted a “best case” series to the NIH in which, out of 941 patients with breast cancer, the PBHRF claimed that in 19% of patients, tumors regressed and that 21% of tumors were stable. One thing I noted is that the reference cited for this claim is not a peer-reviewed article. It’s merely cited as:

Banerji, P. P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation (PBHRF) in Kolkata, India, 2008.

Gee, I wish I could cite claims like that in my papers!

Of course, the claim above is meaningless without knowing a lot more about the patients. For instance, as I’ve pointed out before, as many as 20% of mammographically detected breast cancers might spontaneously regress. I’ve also pointed out that the natural history of breast cancer is highly variable, from relatively rapid growth and decline to a slow and indolent course. Indeed, a subset of women with untreated breast cancer can survive as long as 10 years or more, and this data comes from before the age of mammography, which means that these were at the very least palpable tumors. Indeed, most tumors detected at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (which is when this data was collected) were stage II and III. These days, the vast majority of breast cancers are detected by mammography and are stages 0 (noninvasive–or preinvasive–ductal carcinoma in situ) or stage I. Without stage-specific survival data, with stages documented by pathology, imaging studies, and clinical data, a claim like the one made above is uninterpretable and, in essence, meaningless.

The remedies, however, are Carcinosin, 30C; Conium maculatum, 3C; Phytolacca decandra, 200C and Thuja occidentalis, 30C. At this point I can’t help but note a couple of things. First, a 3C dilution of conium muculatum is only a 106 or one to one million dilution, which means that there might well be something active left in this particular remedy. The second point I’d like to make is just to express awe at a 200C homeopathic dilution, which would represent a dilution of 10400, or 10367 or so (what’s an order of magnitude between friends?) greater than Avagadro’s number. This is a mind-boggling number, not to mention a mind-bogglingly tedious process.

There’s one other aspect to consider. The diluent was not water. Rather, it was 87% “extra neutral alcohol,” and this alcohol was used as the control. So far, fair enough. At least they used a solvent-only control, which is more than I can say for a lot of homeopathic “researchers.” They then treated the cells with different “doses” (although how one can speak of a dose of a nonexistent remedy, I don’t know) of the remedies or solvent. The cells treated included MCF-7 cells (which are estrogen receptor-positive, or ER(+), cells and a very commonly used cell line in breast cancer research; I use them myself) and MDA-MB-231 cells (an ER(-), progesterone receptor-negative, HER2/neu-negative cell line, which I’ve also used in cell culture and xenograft experiments). The former is relatively slow-growing and somewhat tricky to grow in xenografts, although easy to grow in cell culture, and the latter is a model of a particularly nasty form of breast cancer known as “triple negative” breast cancer.. Control cells are an immortalized human mammary epithelial cell line, HMLE, which are supposed to represent “normal” mammary epithelial cells.

I think the entire problem with the paper can be summed up with this figure, which shows the effect of these remedies on cell viability:

i-48a1e7228e1eb41e934c9aa324436690-frenkelfig-thumb-450x305-42074.jpg

Notice how each remedy and the controls are graphed in little bar graphs for each cell type. This makes it very difficult to compare directly effects of each remedy at each dose compared to the solvent control. Really. Click on the picture and see if you can easily tell whether the differences shown look significant. You can’t. Moreover, no statistics are provided to tell you whether the differences might be significant. Worse, however, look at the solvent-only control groups. Do you see what I see? The solvent is killing the cells, up to 50% of them! Not only that, but the normal control cells appear to be more resistant to the effect of the solvent, with very little effect seen. In fact, by the lack of a clear dose-response curve for the solvent-only control, with the measurement fluctuating around a point slightly lower than that seen with no solvent added, you can get an idea of the variability of this assay from well to well, which is quite a bit. The cynic in me thinks that the data were graphed this way intentionally, to obscure just how weak it is, but the angel in me will attribute it to gross incompetence.

If I had reviewed this paper, I would have insisted for the figure above that all the data for each cell line be graphed on a single graph, with a dose-response curve clearly indicated for each and error bars, along with proper statistical analysis for a dose-response effect showing that there were significant differences between the effect of the homeopathic remedies at each dose compared to the solvent control. All that the above figure shows is that adding 10 μl/ml of 87% alcohol has a significant effect on cell viability for the cancer cell lines. They have not shown in any way that I can tell that any of their remedies have a significant effect on cell viability compared to the alcohol solvent alone. As I’ve said time and time again, anyone can kill cells in a dish with alcohol or bleach or any number of other nonspecific solvents. That does not mean that this study shows that these homeopathic remedies are as “effective as paclitaxel” (a commonly used chemotherapeutic agent in breast cancer) against these cells. All it proves is that the solvent at the doses used can nonspecifically kill cells and that perhaps the normal cells are more resistant to the alcohol.

Speaking of the solvent, there’s something very fishy in this passage from the paper:

All four remedies had very similar HPLC chromatograms to each other, with only trace amounts of limited number of peaks. They were not significantly distinct from the solvent and they lacked the distinct peak seen in the solvent.

The chromatograms are not shown, but note the last part: They lacked the distinct peak seen in the solvent. What on earth does this mean? One guess is that the solvent peak was wider and less distinct in the homeopathic remedies, but another is that it was gone. Which is it? Who knows? As I said before, the chromatograms weren’t shown. In any case, if these remedies are truly homeopathic, then why are the solvent peaks different?

I seriously have to wonder about this solvent. The maximum dose used (10 μl/ml) is in essence a 1:100 dilution of alcohol, making the alcohol content in the media less than 1%. The lowest dose (1.25 μl/ml), is close to a 1:1000 dilution. Alcohol alone should not be that toxic to these cells. At least, in our hands it isn’t. We’ve used drugs diluted in alcohol at similar concentrations to the lowest dose of solvent used in this study (1.25 μl/ml), and we don’t see 35% cell kill in MDA-MB-231 or MCF-7 cells due to solvent effects alone. Something odd is going on here.

A journalist acquaintance of mine once asked me for examples of massive failures in the peer review process. I can’t think of a better one than this paper. It tests a remedy so highly implausible as to be safely considered, for all practical intents and purposes, impossible barring some truly extraordinary evidence coming to light, evidence sufficient to overthrow long-established science in multiple disciplines. Its statistical analysis is nonexistent, and its quantification dodgy in many places. All of this means that its conclusions do not flow from its data and are not supported by its data. The only conclusion that is supported by the data is that the solvent in which the homeopathic remedies had been diluted is toxic to MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells.

Finally, I can accept that perhaps a 3C homeopathic dilution might have an effect on cells. There could be an actual drug remaining there. However, 30C and 200C homeopathic dilutions leave nothing behind, and there is nothing in this paper to show that there is an effect above and beyond solvent effects from either of these remedies. Come to think of it, there’s nothing in this paper to show that the 3C homeopathic dilution really has any effect above and beyond solvent toxicity effects. Put it all together, and this is a EPIC FAIL on the part of the peer reviewers and the editors.

You know what’s more irritating than homeopaths? Peer reviewers and editors who let dreck like this see print, giving homeopaths something to irritate me with.

Comments

  1. #1 Mojo
    March 4, 2010

    I was waiting for you to get around to this one.

  2. #2 spudbeach
    March 4, 2010

    Gotta love the absence of statistics. I’d say “this is how publication bias works”, as I’m sure they wouldn’t have published it if the results had gone the other way, except without the stats, I’m not even really sure which way the study went.

    Teaching high school physics, my students were upset with me for making them do multiple trials and computing error bars. Next time I teach them, I’ll use this as my justification.

  3. #3 Mu
    March 4, 2010

    The HPLC data description is the kicker, if it’s a solvent you’re not supposed to see any peaks, and if you do, you better get an idea of what they are if they are larger than your agent signal.

  4. #4 DVMKurmes
    March 4, 2010

    It always makes me a little nervous to see 3C conium. I grew up in an area where Conium maculatum (poison hemlock) grows and learned of the death of Socrates and accidental poisonings.
    Even 3c is enough dilution to make the dose tiny, but I would still be nervous taking it, just because of childhood cautions against such a toxic plant. It seems the homeopaths like using latin names to sound “sciency”, but it also sounds better to the average person than “poison hemlock”.

  5. #5 Mu
    March 4, 2010

    Their special neutral grain alcohol seems to contain some cytotoxic chemicals, for example the oxidation products of ethyl alcohol, ethyl aldehyde and acetic acid. Makes me wonder if shaking the alcohol with air in the flask repeatedly would increase the content of said compounds. Can we please have a plot of cytotoxicity vs. succusion too?

  6. #6 squirrelelite
    March 4, 2010

    When you get tired of good old homeopathy, how about doing a good takedown on mesotherapy? It got a rather fawning late night news story on a local TV station that normally does pretty reasonable coverage of medical issues like vaccination.

    They describe this as:

    “Mesotherapy introduces microscopic quantities of homeopathic medications, traditional pharmaceuticals, vitamins, mineral and amino acids into the skin to treat a variety of conditions. All medications are selected for the specific condition being treated.”

    And they claim advantages that:

    “The advantages of injecting medication into the skin/fat include the elimination of side effects and contra-indications. Intolerance to a medication is often triggered by factors such as dose and the body’s ability to break down and excrete the product. In many cases, formerly intolerant patients can tolerate a medication in Mesotherapeutic form.”

    Here is the website describing the “therapy”.

    http://www.mesotherapy.com/aboutprocedure/index.shtml

  7. #7 MikeMa
    March 4, 2010

    DVMKurmes,
    I raised many an eyebrow when my ex-wife would swear by her homeopathic poisons (arsenic, hemlock, etc) but was confident even that far back that the dosages were extremely small. As I have followed Orac and the other mathematically minded homeo-bashers, I have come to believe that, in fact, not a single active molecule is likely present in any of the concoctions.

    Further, I believe many of the homeopathetics know this and don’t bother even trying to concoct a ‘treatment’. Your $200+ gets sugar pills and nothing more. Placebos (and Profit) R Us.

  8. #8 Rene Najera
    March 4, 2010

    Lies, damn lies, and…

    So these two men were up on a balloon and were lost for some time. Suddenly, they saw a man on the ground and yelled down, “Hey! Hey! Where are we?”
    “On a balloon, up in the air,” the man on the ground answered.

    It was obvious that the men on the balloon were Epidemiologists because they asked the right question. The man on the ground, on the other hand, was a Biostatistician; He gave them a correct, but useless answer.

    Suck for me that I’m both.

  9. #9 Chip
    March 4, 2010

    “Banerji, P. P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation (PBHRF) in Kolkata, India, 2008.”
    Orac personal communitcations are acceptable…although usually not with oneself!
    “Self I think these tumors are regressing…well self I agree with you…May I use this in a paper…certainly self I would encourgage it”
    This is just my recreation of the possible events leading to the reference, your experience may vary.

  10. #10 Kimberly
    March 4, 2010

    How can that possibly be peer-reviewed?

    I review for both medical education and psychometric conferences/journals. I’ve seen some bad studies – studies where researchers were not measuring what they thought they were measuring, where 20 different hypothesis tests were performed on the same dataset with no p-value adjustment, where researchers confused standardizing with equating, and so on.

    I’ve yet to see a study that tried to get away with no statistics. That wouldn’t get past a grad student. How did it get through here?

  11. #11 Scott
    March 4, 2010

    Orac personal communitcations are acceptable…although usually not with oneself!

    Depends on the context. For, say, a statement that something is being investigated or that there is interest in an area, certainly. For a point drawn from another researcher’s work that hasn’t yet been published and is of minor importance to the overall paper, OK but not ideal.

    For something as simultaneously astounding, AND core to the entire study as this? NO WAY. That has to be published to be credible.

  12. #12 Imaging Geek
    March 4, 2010

    I see another issue with this study – while the control cell line is not derived from a tumour, it almost certainly displays tumour-like characteristics. In general, to make a cell line you have to force cells well along the path towards tumor-ness; overcome limitations on cell division, contact growth-inhibition, etc.

    For that matter, most of our “non-tumor” cell lines display markedly tumor-like characteristics such as aneuploidy, the Warburg effect (anerobic metabolism), and so forth.

    A better study (OK, anything would be an improvement) would be to compare to a primary cell line; primary breast material is readily available in most hospitals (healthy tissue from mastectomies, breast reduction surgery, etc). I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that those “real” cells would be far more sensitive than any cell line that you can get from the ATCC.

  13. #13 Orac
    March 4, 2010

    The problem with primary breast epithelial cultures is that it’s devilishly difficult to get them to grow pure enough to be useful. Fibroblasts quickly overrun the culture.

  14. #14 Anthro
    March 4, 2010

    Please make sure Dana Ullman gets a copy of this. He is blathering away at Huff Post about “scientific proof” of homeopathy–Part two offers “evidence” in the form of anecdotes about how “popular” magic water is in various European countries!

  15. #15 Summer Seale
    March 4, 2010

    Perhaps Homeopaths “succussed” the statistics and other evidence so hard that not a single molecule remains of any real studies, and now are trying to make us swallow their magic water and sugar pills in the attempt to demonstrate how well their “theories” work.

  16. #16 Eric
    March 4, 2010

    Out of curiosity, the solvent is “87%” ethanol, what’s the other 13%?

  17. #17 BCM
    March 4, 2010

    Well, at least they didn’t use monkeys!

  18. #18 ImagingGeek
    March 4, 2010

    The problem with primary breast epithelial cultures is that it’s devilishly difficult to get them to grow pure enough to be useful

    I’d have to disagree here (at least on the definition of ‘devilishly’) – a gal in my old lab used to do it weekly (human & mouse at that). Like all primary cultures fibroblasts are a problem, but they can be dealt with easily these days. Her method was to use one of those magnetic beads systems; I believe it was negative selection; deplete fibroblasts, grow up everything else.

  19. #19 Dave Ruddell
    March 4, 2010

    Orac, how well regarded is International Journal of Oncology?

  20. #20 Militant Agnostic
    March 4, 2010

    how well regarded is International Journal of Oncology?

    Not very well after publishing this turd, I would suspect.

  21. #21 Travis
    March 4, 2010

    I tried to do some searching but did not find a lot. The impact factor for 2008 was 2.234.

    I also found this at eigenfactor.org
    Eigenfactor analysis

    It does not look like it is that badly regarded but as Militant Agnostic says, not so good after this. I would hope at least.

  22. #22 DayOwl
    March 4, 2010

    Orac, do you ever sleep?

    Bit of a tangent:

    This brings to minds how the “anti’s” like to claim that barely measurable/trace amounts of (…whatever they’re targeting) cause health issues. I’ll be waiting, and probably not in vain, for a headline or two using this “research” to support such nonsense.

    In the meantime, let’s break out the Everclear to fight breast cancer.

  23. #23 Scott
    March 4, 2010

    @22:

    Well, by the principles of homeopathy, homeopathic tamoxifen should cause breast cancer, right?

  24. #24 Mac
    March 4, 2010

    Wow. I can’t believe this shit got published.

    Just seeing MCF-7, I am already skeptical about the results. I worked with this cell line (actually the entire NCI60 panel), and these were, without a doubt, the hardest to grow. We were doing infection studies, but we had to redo our trials twice, because our control lines kept dying too fast. Kind of makes me wonder if this was happening in this case, and they were just mistaking normal cell death for effect.

  25. #25 Catherine
    March 4, 2010

    If your journalist friend is still looking, tell him or her to look at behaviorist journals. Try this on for size:

    Herron et al. Applied Animal Behavior Science 117 (2009) 47-54

    Loads o’ statistics, but sample bias renders the entire thing ludicrous.

    ah, science.

  26. #26 W. Kevin Vicklund
    March 4, 2010

    Interesting that in many cases, the error bars for the solvent overlap the error bars for the remedies. This is more apparent in the pdf, available at Dr. Rachie’s blog. If you normalize the controls, they line up pretty well. Observation by Eyeball MkII (ie, I wear glasses).

    The only conclusion I can draw from what they presented is that homeopathy is as effective as the solvent used for dilution.

    Hey, that means that 174 proof booze CUREZ TEH CANCERZ!!!!!111eleventy-one11!!

  27. #27 Kausik Datta
    March 4, 2010

    I am acutely embarrassed to find that this ‘study’ came out from my hometown. The level of unsupported wild claims in this paper is astounding. But at least I take solace from the fact that an international journal, like the Int J Oncol which published it, has set a blazing example of how peer review is not done.

  28. #28 MitoScientist
    March 4, 2010

    Not to mention, the difference between a 1 and 2 OD reading is nothing! I see differences like that in tons of assays, and its always just well to well, or plate to plate variability.

  29. #29 Doctor Smart
    March 4, 2010

    My mother died from breast cancer 2001. If I had knew then what I know now I might could have saved her.

    If women were put on Vitamin D3 (400 IU min) daily, breast cancer could be significantly reduced if not wiped out entirely. This could save billons on healthcare costs alone just by staking a simple inexpensive daily dose of Vitamin D3, yet the Fascist Dumb Asses (FDA) continue to repress information to the public to protect the profits of Big Pharma and the cancer industry.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090204172437.htm

    One of hundreds of sources.

  30. #30 snerd
    March 4, 2010

    “These studies provide a basis for the design of new anticancer agents that can target the protein as a candidate for breast cancer treatment.”

    How that comes to mean OMFG VITAMIN D CURES CANCER is beyond me. Everything you write is like unto an ocean of fail, and fractally wrong.

  31. #31 Jennifer B. Phillips
    March 4, 2010

    Dr. Smart, I’m very sorry about your mother.

    I’m afraid, however, that the press release you linked to doesn’t support your claims. The study you cite was done in cell culture in one type of cancer cell line (MCF-7, described by Orac in this post). Treatment of these cells with vitamin D3 resulted in an up-regulation of a tumor suppressor protein. This is an interesting finding indeed, and lights the way down several research avenues, but ‘vitamin D prevents breast cancer’ is an inaccurate conclusion.

    I’m sure Orac will be able to clarify this, if he has time, but as far as I’m aware the data at this point are not sufficient to conclude that every woman should take [some preventative dosage] of vitamin D.

    I understand that losing a loved one to cancer can engender a great deal of anger and bitterness toward the medical and the pharmaceutical industry. I am sorry for your loss, but for the sake of the other women in your life I hope you will do some more research before going any deeper into your “Cancer Industry” conspiracy theory.

  32. #32 Doctor Smart
    March 4, 2010

    Jennifer,

    Thank you.

    Vitamin D3 is not the cure all for breast cancer. I was merely pointing out that it has the potential for a possible preventative measure. Of course it is not 100 percent effective against cancer. Nothing is. There is no definite cure for cancer at this time. There are some alternatives to chemo that are supplement based. They seem to work with some people and fail with others. The fact is that no two people’s body chemistry is the same and treatments whether standard chemo or alternatives will afeect each indivudal differently. This s the problem with cancer:

    1) No one knows what causes cancer for sure. There are environmental factors, nutritional factors, amnd many other things that can cause cancer.

    2) There is no definite cure for the disease. There are basic chemo/radiation treatments and some alternatives that may or may not help at all.

    3) Scientists dismiss an important fact when studying cancer: Cancer can reseed itself if not entirely killed through chemo. Scans can be made that show that cancer is in remission when in fact it is still breeding and most of the time, more rapidly after being attacked. If one is to study this disease, then we have to consider all possibilities and not dismiss anything based on how loony an idea sounds. The smallest and least impressive idea could turn out to be a huge discovery.

  33. #33 Matthew Cline
    March 4, 2010

    I seriously have to wonder about this solvent. The maximum dose used (10 μl/ml) is in essence a 1:100 dilution of alcohol, making the alcohol content in the media less than 1%. The lowest dose (1.25 μl/ml), is close to a 1:1000 dilution. Alcohol alone should not be that toxic to these cells. At least, in our hands it isn’t.

    Did they dilute the alcohol with the proper sort of saline solution, or did they dilute it with pure water? If the later, that could account for it being deadly to cells.

  34. #34 snerd
    March 4, 2010

    They seem to work with some people and fail with others.

    If only there was some kind of, I don’t know, scientific method we could use to determine that.

  35. #35 nsib
    March 4, 2010

    Doctor Smart, you bloody liar,

    You said:

    If women were put on Vitamin D3 (400 IU min) daily, breast cancer could be significantly reduced if not wiped out entirely.

    and then:

    Vitamin D3 is not the cure all for breast cancer. I was merely pointing out that it has the potential for a possible preventative measure.

    The contradiction should be obvious. Also,

    1) No one knows what causes cancer for sure.

    is another lie. The causes of many cancers are known well. Of course, that doesn’t make it much easier to treat them.

    And finally,

    3) Scientists dismiss an important fact when studying cancer: Cancer can reseed itself if not entirely killed through chemo.

    What
    The
    Hell?
    I don’t even want to know where you pulled that “fact” from. Everyone with even a passing knowledge of cancer knows that it can recur.

  36. #36 redrabbitslife
    March 4, 2010

    I wonder what this has to say about the Newfie Screech in my grog cupboard. I knew the stuff had to be good for something!

  37. #37 Prometheus
    March 4, 2010

    Dr. PseudoSmart claims:

    “3) Scientists dismiss an important fact when studying cancer: Cancer can reseed itself if not entirely killed through chemo.”

    Funny thing – we had a guest speaker in my dept. today who discussed his research on depleting M2 macrophages in tumors in order to allow the immune system to eliminate the residual cancer cells. Now here’s the strange part – everybody in the room already knew that any residual cancer cells (i.e. those not killed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy) can reseed the tumor.

    Even stranger was the fact that all of the scientists in the room – graduate students, faculty, even people who research plants – already knew that chemotherapy (and radiation therapy, as well) can’t eliminate all of the cancer cells, something that “Dr. PseudoSmart” apparently doesn’t know.

    Now, I suppose that there are “scientists” who “dismiss” these facts, but I suspect they aren’t biologists or (real) doctors.

    Since “Dr. PseudoSmart” knows less than the newest graduate student, maybe he should consider changing his ‘nym to something more appropriate, like “Dr. Simple”.

    Prometheus

  38. #38 Kelner
    March 5, 2010

    “Out of curiosity, the solvent is “87%” ethanol, what’s the other 13%?”

    Good question. For a start, ethanol is very hygroscopic and even distilling it doesn’t remove all the water. So water will be a major component of that 13%. One way of getting ethanol with less water is by adding a little BENZENE to it and then distilling it. You get less water at the end, unfortunately you also get enough benzene in the distillate to make this method of purification banned from ethanol for human use (benzene is also banned in all pharmaceuticals above 2 ppm). I’d put money on benzene being the impurity giving the ethanol its toxic effects. Other things that are likely to be in there are methanol, cyclohexane, ethyl acetate and acetaldehyde.
    Typically ethanol for pharmceutical/medical use is 95% pure and has tested absent for benzene. It is also very easy to come by and is very odd why they wouldn’t use it. 87% ‘neutral’ is a new for me.

  39. #39 Andreas Johansson
    March 5, 2010

    Hey, that means that 174 proof booze CUREZ TEH CANCERZ!!!!!111eleventy-one11!

    Not only that – it sells better than homeoquactic remedies in any European country you care to name. Clearly it’s the bestest cancer cure EVAR!!!!!eleven1

  40. #40 Rogue Medic
    March 5, 2010

    My biggest question relates to the like cures like silliness.

    What in these drugs causes breast cancer-like symptoms. The poison hemlock (Conium), the breast cancer discharge (Carcinosin), the pokeweed (Phtolacca), or the arborvitae (Thuja)?

    How are any of these alike?

    Banerji, P. P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation (PBHRF) in Kolkata, India, 2008.

    Gee, I wish I could cite claims like that in my papers!

    You could always start your own Respectful Insolence Institute for Insightful and Inspired Gratuitous Homeopathy Thrashings – RIIIIGHT!

    The second point I’d like to make is just to express awe at a 200C homeopathic dilution, which would represent a dilution of 10400, or 10367 or so (what’s an order of magnitude between friends?) greater than Avagadro’s number. This is a mind-boggling number, not to mention a mind-bogglingly tedious process.

    Were they studying this in a lab that can achieve the kind of sterility that would not make even 30C laughable? They will introduce more contamination themselves, than they are able to dilute out.

    If I had reviewed this paper, I would have insisted for the figure above that all the data for each cell line be graphed on a single graph, with a dose-response curve clearly indicated for each and error bars,

    But they dilute their errors to the point of insignificance. If they were to dilute the P value to 200C, they could end up with the most significant paper possible.

    Actually, some graph bars do appear to have errors bars. It is difficult to see them, because the person who used crayon to color in the graph bars was not doing a good job of staying within the lines. Of course, they may claim that they were just thinking outside the box as well as coloring outside the box.

    In any case, if these remedies are truly homeopathic, then why are the solvent peaks different?

    Because, rather than dilution, they were engaging in contamination?

    We’ve used drugs diluted in alcohol at similar concentrations to the lowest dose of solvent used in this study (1.25 μl/ml), and we don’t see 35% cell kill in MDA-MB-231 or MCF-7 cells due to solvent effects alone. Something odd is going on here.

    Morgellons.

    Or Vermicious Knids.

    Or Evil Reiki Masters trying to corner the Big Placebo market.

  41. #41 Dangerous Bacon
    March 5, 2010

    Dr.Smart: “If one is to study this disease, then we have to consider all possibilities and not dismiss anything based on how loony an idea sounds.”

    Cancer is not “this disease”, it’s many diseases. And no, we do not have to “consider all possibilities” when researching cures – especially the ones that have been in circulation for a long time and never panned out (i.e. homeopathy).

    Why is it that alties think that we have infinite resources and time to sink into studying every piece of woo that crops up?

  42. #42 brook
    March 5, 2010

    #36 Newfie screech is traditional in our eggnog, keeps the faint of heart and the young from over indulging. That said a fifth lasts a long long long time.

  43. #43 Travis
    March 5, 2010

    Screech is good for lots of things.
    * Getting drunk without concern for the finer things in life
    * Ensuring no one steals your alcohol at a party
    * Industrial cleaner

    I have not had it in a while though but the last time I did I was with a guy from Newfoundland and I doubt a fifth would have lasted long with us.

  44. #44 James Sweet
    March 5, 2010

    Oh my god… they had the good sense to include a control, found no significant effect above and beyond the control (as can be seen pretty clearly from their graphs despite the attempt at obfuscation), and then DECLARE SUCCESS ANYWAY.

    Mind-blowing.

  45. #45 James Sweet
    March 5, 2010

    They seem to work with some people and fail with others.

    If only there was some kind of, I don’t know, scientific method we could use to determine that.

    Heh… the “everybody’s biological response is different” canard is a favorite of the alties. Of course it is trivially true. And I’ll even accept that there could potentially be a scenario where a particular remedy was highly effective on a very small subgroup of people, but that this subgroup was so small that testing on the general population would show the remedy as having no statistical effect. This is certainly a possibility.

    However, this does not give you carte blanche to believe in any old bullshit you want. Without a plausible causal mechanism — or even better, a set of criteria that would separate the “benefits” group from the “does-not-benefit” group, though I recognize even with legitimate medicine this latter is often impossible — you might as well be claiming that Mountain Dew cures herpes, or that getting rid of your thetans will cure depression, or whatever. That a claim is POSSIBLE is no justification for subscribing to it.

    It reminds me of when those who seek to “prove” the existence of God invoke the cosmological argument. (Note: If you believe in God because of faith, that is fine with me; I am only criticizing those who believe it is necessary to believe in God because of some logical argument) While recent understanding of quantum theory has thrown a monkey wrench in the philosophical contention that a non-eternal universe must have a First Cause, for the sake of argument, let’s say we do need an Uncaused Cause. Okay, fine. That is not an argument in favor of worshiping Jesus, any more than its an argument in favor of worshiping Zeus!

    Similarly, that some medications may conceivably show a statistically significant effect only in a small subpopulation is NOT an argument in favor of any given potential remedy. It is a non-specific argument about the possible — but it doesn’t take an awful lot of reductio ad absurdium to show that we cannot practically apply arguments about the possible to our daily lives without any regard for what is PROBABLE.

    You know, I heard that if you stop spreading misinformation on the internet, it can prevent cancer 100% of the time in a small subset of people… I can’t statistically prove this, because it doesn’t work for everyone… but perhaps if the cancer quacks just tried it!

  46. #46 dt
    March 5, 2010

    My problem with homeopaths trying to do such studies are that:

    1). They fly in the face of holistic individualization of homeopathic remedies. We are constantly told how important this is, and yet here the homeoquacks are doing orthodox in vitro work that runs quite counter to their raison d’etre.

    2). Homeopathy is not meant to exert its actions in this way, by direct cytotoxicity. We are constantly told that it works by gently restoring balance to the whole organism, and stimulating the metabolism and immune system of the organism to work against the disease.

    Whatever effect has been demonstrated (and there seems to be a lot of doubt about whether there is an effect at all), it is certainly not classical homeopathy.

  47. #47 Doctor Smart
    March 5, 2010

    Of course we could try the controverisal and dangerous yet effective trteatment of cesium chloride to kill cancer cells. Cesium is dangerous becuase it severely depletes calcium and potassium levels, but seems to be highly effective used with even late stage cancers. Graviola is not as dangerous and not as effective, but still works with some early stage cancers, so does Tumeric, Oregano, and Astragulus.

  48. #48 Karl Withakay
    March 5, 2010

    200C!

    1E400 dilution?

    There’s only about 2.5E89 elementary particles in the observable universe for FSM’s sake!

  49. #49 mark
    March 5, 2010

    The author of this blog has made it patently obvious that his views are biased and based more on his emotions than on sound and objective reasonings. Therefore his observations and conclusions cannot be regarded as other than the rant of a disturbed mind. I’m sure his arguments will strongly appeal to others of a similar nature. For those who fancy more open-minded thinking, this blog is anathema.

  50. #50 harbo
    March 5, 2010

    Now alcohol has memory!?

  51. #51 Johnny
    March 5, 2010

    Now alcohol has memory!?

    Well, it should have some memories – Tequila has stolen a few of mine.

  52. #52 Travis
    March 6, 2010

    mark,
    You say nothing at all that actually addresses the content of this post, do nothing to indicate you have understood any of the actual criticisms of the paper or the paper itself for that matter, you do not even give an example of where he has been overly emotional and you are complaining that this is all based on emotion rather than reasoning?

    Pot, meet kettle.

  53. #53 Michael
    March 6, 2010

    @Dave Ruddell (#19) and @Militant Agnostic (#20)
    re: “how well regarded is the International Journal of Oncology?”

    Not very well, it would seem. Their publishers, Spandidos Publications (http://www.spandidos-publications.com/), would appear to have a history of publishing poor quality works, including several by Bannerji (who was mentioned in Orac’s original text)
    http://groups.google.com/group/misc.health.alternative/browse_thread/thread/f70e1754c90c00fc/4783cdc0d63814c0?lnk=raot

    Their “page charges” (see http://www.spandidos-publications.com/pages/static.jsp?content=info_for_authors, scroll down) seem to be rather steep to me, but perhaps someone with more experience of having their work published could comment further as to how it compares with other, better heard-of journals.

    Finally, the number of universities subscribing to the International Journal of Oncology is rather low. Of all the libraries in the “Inform25″ consortium (http://www.inform25.ac.uk), which includes most of the universities of the South-East of England, only two have subscriptions: Imperial and Middlesex Universities. A crude measure, I grant you, but one that suggests that universities aren’t exactly crawling over each other to be the first in line to get their copy – which is consistent with Orac’s original difficulty in obtaining the article.

  54. #54 Setar
    March 6, 2010

    mark:
    Is that some sort of stock response that’s simply been edited slightly from base “you’re closed minded because I can’t construct a valid counterargument”? Sure looks like at least a hundred similar posts I’ve seen elsewhere on the internet from numerous people who are demonstrably wrong yet refuse to admit to being in the wrong.

  55. #55 Joe
    March 6, 2010

    The remaining 13% in the alcohol is not likely to be benzene which, in any case, is not an acute poison. I have no idea what that product (87% alcohol) is if it contains something that is cytotoxic at low doses. One must consider contamination if the authors grabbed an old bottle of “alcohol solvent” off a shelf.

    “The chromatograms are not shown, but note the last part: They lacked the distinct peak seen in the solvent.” I have seen that sort of thing before, it usually means that the “control” solvent is not the same solvent that was used to dilute the remedies. Either the control solvent is the wrong stuff, or it is from a different, or contaminated, batch.

  56. #56 Shane McKee
    March 7, 2010

    I sometimes wonder if homeopathy is at least partially based on a misunderstanding of logarithms. For example, if 10^1 of something *causes* symptoms, surely 10^-1 should decrease them? 10^2 would cause a LOT of symptoms, so 10^-2 should be better at combating them. And if THAT is the case, surely -30 or -100 must be even better!

    Is that likely to be an issue in homie thinking, I wonder?

  57. #57 Pablo
    March 7, 2010

    If I had reviewed the paper, with my expertise, the whole part about the “solvent peak that went away” would have raised a red flag for me. Huh?

    The problem is that, in spectroscopy peaks show up for a reason. That means that if there was a peak in the spectrum, then something caused it. Some component or interaction in the substance. If it “disappears” then the carrier of that signal is gone. Where did it go? What changed? I need them to explain what caused the signal in the first place, and what made it go away before I can worry about the results. Is it a known peak in the spectrum of 87% alcohol?

    I’m with Joe on this. My first impression is that the control solvent is not the same stuff that was used for the studies. That means it wasn’t actually a control.

  58. #58 Mojo
    March 8, 2010

    Dr. Michael Dixon, medical director of the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, has now cited this study as “data … that indicates the effects of homeopathy may be real”:

    For instance, in this month’s International Journal of Oncology, the lead scientist from one of the most reputable cancer centres in the world has confirmed the ability of four homeopathic remedies to bring about programmed cell death in breast cancer cell lines in the laboratory.

  59. #59 Mojo
    March 8, 2010

    @Chip (#9):

    “Banerji, P. P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation (PBHRF) in Kolkata, India, 2008.”
    Orac personal communitcations are acceptable…although usually not with oneself!

    But remember, there are two P. Banerjis. See the list of authors:

    Frenkel M, Mishra BM, Sen S, Yang P, Pawlus A, Vence L, Leblanc A, Cohen L, Banerji P, Banerji P.

  60. #60 gaiainc
    March 8, 2010

    That makes me facepalm hard. Then again, Dr. Dixon may be sucking up to his benefactor. Ugh… my head hurts.

  61. #61 Todd Hoover
    March 8, 2010

    While the critique mentions that no p values are used, this does not always occur in pilot or preliminary bench research
    typically such reports just demonstrate a difference, but the sample sizes are too small to develop statistical significance even if there is a 100% variance.

    And I do not believe the authors conclusion suggests that there is a significant difference just that there seems to be something happening here. To the alcohol question, clearly the authors tested solvent without remedy and compared that against the samples with remedy the largest difference clearly appeared between saline and solvent, but there was an apparent difference in the other samples.

    this is of course of interest, but certainly inconclusive.
    Similar types of research are conducted in the pharmaceutical industry all the time.

    Of 1000 drugs that show promise of value in the bench, only 100 will make it to animal studies, and only 10 will make it to phase I-III studies, and only 1 will eventually make it to market.

    This does not mean that the drug did not have an effect, only that the effect did not eventually translate into clinically significant product.

    Similarly, while this study seems to indicate something happened, it would certainly need to be repeated at a higher sample size to demonstrate statistical significance. And if it does, it certainly should be considered for further testing downstream to determine if these remedies represent a real clinical treatment for breast cancer on par with taxol. The problem here is lack of patentability and therefore no funding for such work which now approximates $1 billion per drug.

    So, I think the rigorous scientist should look at this and say, it is an interesting possibility, but obviously we would like to see a more comprehensive study.

  62. #62 WikiSysop
    March 13, 2010

    With permission by Orac, we put up a german translation of his article: http://blog.esowatch.com/?p=1045

    German Homeopaths really need a good helping of respectful insolence.

  63. #63 MedTek
    March 13, 2010

    I wrote to M.D. Anderson about this study. They are investigating. They reiterated the fact that they do not use homeopathy in the treatment of cancer of any sort, but they do sponsor some research.

    They indicated Dr. Frenkel “retired” last year.

    Here’s where he’s turned up.

    http://www.moshefrenkelmd.com/

    Did he list this as a conflict?

    This study has also now been picked up by John Benneth who is promoting homeopathy as a breast cancer cure.

    This is illegal in the UK but it isn’t in the US.

  64. #64 DrRachie
    March 14, 2010

    There is now a YouTube video up about this study where the same crap is being repeated about a ‘cure for breast cancer’. You can add a comment here http://tinyurl.com/yhzcl68

  65. #65 Marty the Homeopath
    April 19, 2010

    Todd seems to be the one scientist here that treats the study without insolence.

    The oxymoron title of your web page clearly starts you with the premise of bias and prejudice, whereas Todd Hoover puts things in perspective and leaves room for doubt of the “proven” I noticed his comment of truth has so far been ignored on the blog, funny enough.

    Richard Feynman said ” We must discuss each question (like does God exist?) within the uncertainties that are allowed. And as evidence grows it increases the probability that some idea is right, or decreases it. But it never makes absolutely certain one way or the other…We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning.”

    The only insolence the majority of the posters and the author of this website are ranting with is toward science itself.

    Additionally, I’m always amazed at the results that studies in homeopathy do get, since the set-up is always inappropriate for how it is actually practiced and works.

  66. #66 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 20, 2010

    Marty, the fact is that in order for homeopathy to be true, most of what we know about basic physical science would have to be shown to be false. Should we “leave room for doubt” that perhaps so much of our basic scientific knowledge is indeed wrong? Sure.

    But leaving room for doubt is not the same thing as actually concluding that there is reason to doubt. I am constantly amazed at how many believers in homeopathy and other pseudosciences don’t grasp the difference between acknowledging something as a possibility and acknowledging it as The Truth. Even those who don’t go that far still tend to act as though all things which are possible are equally probable.

    If you can show me absolutely convincing evidence that homeopathy works, or that the majority of world leaders are actually reptilian humanoids, or that Elvis faked his own death and went into hiding, you’ll convince me. But it is absolutely your obligation to muster that evidence before I have any obligation to believe your case or regard it as having any real likelihood. “The only insolence the majority of the posters and the author of this website are ranting with is toward science itself”? It’s insolent to science itself to actually pay attention to what it’s been telling us all these years and notice that what it’s been telling us is utterly inconsistent with homeopathy? In your dreams.

  67. #67 Rogue Medic
    April 20, 2010

    Marty the Homeopath,

    The only insolence the majority of the posters and the author of this website are ranting with is toward science itself.

    The idea that homeopathy, or any other alternative medicine, can ignore all of the research that has been done before that shows no effect, yet suddenly proclaim that this one apparently very flawed study has meaning, is what is not scientific.

    Please provide some evidence that those commenting negatively about this study are ignoring science.

    Additionally, I’m always amazed at the results that studies in homeopathy do get, since the set-up is always inappropriate for how it is actually practiced and works.

    This research is done by homeopaths. You are now claiming that homeopaths do not know how to do scientific research. Doesn’t that contradict the previous paragraph?

    Or are you claiming that the effects in the lab remove the holistic approach that homeopaths claim is just as important as the selective memory of water?

    I guess, if you want to drink the diluted Kool-Aid, you might as well chug it all down.

    One of the reasons for the lack of respect is the lack of sense of this treatment that is probably best described as magic.

    Why should anyone believe that it doesn’t work when you study it, but somehow (magic?) it manages to work spectacularly well when it is not being studied?

    It is much more likely that homeopathy just does not work.

    As Mitchell and Webb put it – OK, so you kill the odd patient with cancer or heart disease, or bronchitis, flu, chicken pox, or measles. But when someone comes in with a vague sense of unease or a touch of the nerves or even just more money than sense, you’ll be there for them. A bottle of basically just water in one hand and a huge invoice in the other.

  68. #68 Marty the Homeopath
    April 20, 2010

    Mr. Feldspar:

    I never inferred, nor do I think that our basic scientific knowledge is wrong. I’m not even inferring there’s sufficient evidence that homeopathy works, at least not to convince you or presumably your skeptic colleagues that it does, and indeed you’ll be the last ones to concede to the side of increased probability. There are scientists, however that are convinced there’s something to it.

    I’m saying this kind of skepticism is the antithesis to science because I think you all have this idea in your mind that there’s no possibility whatsoever homeopathy is a valid treatment for disease, and therefore neither is there room for probability.

    Therefore, any study done by homeopaths or others, will automatically be looked at by people like Orac as nonsense, or, in some way or another be dead-ended, REGARDLESS of what they MIGHT suggest.

    So yes, I’ve noticed the inconsistencies you speak of, but look at the research in quantum physics: it’s turned many scientist’s versions of reality on its head. And the research has proved very practical and applicable too.

    When skepticism is taken to the Orac extreme, it becomes not only insolent, but a major imposition to progress for health care.

  69. #69 Marty the Homeopath
    April 20, 2010

    OK, now I’ll reply to the Rogue Medic:

    Rogue boy, you’ve decided its a done deal before its even done just like the rest of the anti-scientists on this site. I think that’s what I’ll call the power-skeptics from now on.
    And Todd Hoover has made it clear that this recent study isn’t necessarily flawed, relative to others of its kind.

    I’m sure many of the other studies that show no significance could be picked apart in a similar way to how this one has been on this sight: a study showing something.
    Speaking of picking apart, I loved how the Lancet meta-analysis study on homeopathic research hand-picked the studies that would conveniently give them the results they were looking for.

    “This research is done by homeopaths. You are now claiming that homeopaths do not know how to do scientific research. Doesn’t that contradict the previous paragraph?”

    No, firstly, the 2 paragraphs are entirely unrelated, do you notice that word “additionally” -that may have clued you in.

    Secondly, I believe the study was done by scientists at the Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas, led by Moshe Frenkel, MD, with scientists from the Integrative Medicine Program, the Department of Molecular Pathology, and the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology of MDA. They did have two Indian collaborators from the Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation, Kolkata, India, who are homeopaths.

    Thirdly, I’m saying that most studies simply try and show that you CAN get SOME therapeutic or biological effect from a solution prepared by “potentization” Homeopathy is so much more than that. It deals with the complexity of living systems, not simple cause-effect mechanisms. WIth a patient, the effect occurs over time, and symptoms and conditions get better in an evolutionary way, not all at the same time, while the person begins to resolve a very individual life challenge reflecting a disharmony with them and their environment – a disharmony they’ve always had, that shifts into harmony for the first time in their lives. It is magic, I won’t argue that.

    A remedy is selected for the person with the disease, not ONLY the disease the person has. 2 people with the same disease will very often require different remedies. For example, they only studied 4 remedies in this study, ones that do have affinites for cancer treatment, but are the tip of the iceberg for what other remedies might be chosen according to how the person uniquley presents.
    So yes its holistic, and most studies seem to not be able to handle that.
    I have heard there are good ways to set up appropriate studies, but I guess they’re still coming. Obviously there are many limitations to doing good research for homeopathy, including the fact that homeopaths aren’t good researchers, and other researchers don’t get homeopathy. But that doesn’t justify anti-scientist rants.

  70. #70 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 20, 2010

    So yes, I’ve noticed the inconsistencies you speak of, but look at the research in quantum physics: it’s turned many scientist’s versions of reality on its head. And the research has proved very practical and applicable too.

    The difference between the two is that quantum physics is based on actual verifiable scientific observations. Homeopathy is based on anecdotes and wishful thinking. I said it before and I’ll say it again: It is absolutely your obligation to muster the appropriate evidence (and for an extraordinary claim such as “something gets more effective as it gets diluted, including when it’s diluted to the point where it’s worse odds than the lottery that there is even a single molecule remaining,” absolutely extraordinary evidence would be needed) before I have any obligation to believe your case or regard it as having any real likelihood.

  71. #71 Rogue Medic
    April 21, 2010

    Marty the Homeopath,

    Thank you for the giggles.

    I’m sure many of the other studies that show no significance could be picked apart in a similar way to how this one has been on this sight: a study showing something.
    Speaking of picking apart, I loved how the Lancet meta-analysis study on homeopathic research hand-picked the studies that would conveniently give them the results they were looking for.

    Please provide something to support your claims that any flaws in other studies invalidate their findings.

    Please provide some evidence that the Lancet meta-analysis study on homeopathic research hand-picked the studies that would conveniently give them the results they were looking for.

    Is my request for evidence to support your claims in some way anti-science?

    I wrote –

    Please provide some evidence that those commenting negatively about this study are ignoring science.

    Thirdly, I’m saying that most studies simply try and show that you CAN get SOME therapeutic or biological effect from a solution prepared by “potentization” Homeopathy is so much more than that.

    And yet the research suggests that it is so much less than that.

    It deals with the complexity of living systems, not simple cause-effect mechanisms.

    Why would anyone be skeptical of that?

    With a patient, the effect occurs over time, and symptoms and conditions get better in an evolutionary way, not all at the same time, while the person begins to resolve a very individual life challenge reflecting a disharmony with them and their environment – a disharmony they’ve always had, that shifts into harmony for the first time in their lives.

    Evolutionary medicine?

    You classify my skepticism as extreme to the point of being anti-science.

    As I understand it, the things that homeopaths claim that there is evidence for are limited to sinus infection and other maladies that are self-limiting and certainly not in need of a shotgun vs. gnat cure. I believe that the current recommendation for acute sinus infection is to avoid medication.

    An evolutionary cure does seem to be a bit much. That is assuming that there is any reason to even consider such an extraordinary claim in the absence of even ordinary evidence.

    It is magic, I won’t argue that.

    After the power-skeptic and anti-science comments, you admit that it is magic.

    Then you finish up with –

    But that doesn’t justify anti-scientist rants.

    You claim that criticism of homeopathy is anti-science, while you admit that homeopathy is magic. You clearly do not understand science or anti-science.

    Science is not magic. Science explains magic.

    Science explains magic as a natural phenomenon or as an illusion.

    You seem to believe that your magic is some natural phenomenon, maybe even a supernatural phenomenon. I expect that when the research on homeopathy has exhausted far more money than this silly old idea deserves, any possible effect will be shown to be illusion.

    You quoted Feynman in an earlier comment. Then you wrote –

    So yes, I’ve noticed the inconsistencies you speak of, but look at the research in quantum physics: it’s turned many scientist’s versions of reality on its head. And the research has proved very practical and applicable too.

    Richard Feynman wrote this about quantum physics –

    Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” because you will get “down the drain,” into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.

    Feynman understood that the concept was not one that could be easily explained. Perhaps no explanation would work, even for experts in the field. He did not state that this absurdity prevented study of the observable and predictable evidence that quantum physics is real.

    The results of these experiments are predictably reproduced in accordance with quantum theory. This is why quantum physics, as bizarre as it is, is science.

    Homeopathy, until it can provide some predictable results other than mimicking Charlie Brown trying to kick a football being held by Lucy, will remain in the category of magic. Not even good magic.

    I do not claim that it is impossible that homeopathy works. You mistakenly attribute that claim to others and to me. I state that there is no reason to believe homeopathy works. Homeopathy has been studied. A lot.

    Until there is a reason to believe that homeopathy works, based on all of the evidence, the most appropriate action is to ridicule homeopathy.

    If there is ever evidence that homeopathy does work, I will have some apologizing to do. Since that risk is ridiculously low, so I am quite comfortable calling homeopathy ridiculous at every opportunity.

    Next time please include a beverage alert. Thanks again for the giggles.

  72. #72 Poogles
    April 21, 2010

    “If there is ever evidence that homeopathy does work, I will have some apologizing to do.”

    Or as Tim Minchin says:

    “You show me that it works and how it works
    And when I’ve recovered from the shock
    I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock.”

    :-D

  73. #73 Marty the Homeopath
    April 21, 2010

    Antaeus,

    Yes, and the scientists involved were creative and open-minded enough to come up with studies that could verify their experience, as they went along, unlike anti-scientist skeptics.
    And what about the concept of “experience”?
    Experience is subjective. Interestingly enough, what their openness led them to was the intersection between the subjective and the objective, what was shown through entanglement theory research.
    I think more appropriate research in homeopathy needs to involve anecdotes, not the heresy kind, but the reports of improvement in follow ups of patients. There can still be quantification, but it will be for that particular patient, and therefore include the subjective, as it rightly should. But you’re not going to be able to make any conclusions that this remedy works for that disease, because it leaves out the subjective aspect of homeopathy.

    Scientists seem obsessed with the objectification of things, when we know from quantum physics that its just not the whole story. And if a person, after a certain time period reports that they aren’t getting this symptom or that one anymore, and their approach to things has changed, and its stayed that way, and their whole paradigm has shifted (hard to quantify) then this is a study in and of itself. The controls are all the drugs and surgery they’ve tried that haven’t worked for them before in their entire life, at least not in any long term way.
    Making more case studies would increase the significance. We homeopaths do this all the time, reporting results to each other, so we can learn how to practice well. But studies should be made of them. I was thinking of talking to a colleague about this thats more into research than me.

    To me, the most important premise to study is a practical one, that according to the principles used, the remedy does indeed lead a person to health. That’s the posit and verifiability that needs to be studied. Generally its not.

    I can tell you if I practiced homeopathy just for the money, I would get depressed pretty fast, same if it wasn’t working, which at times when my success was less, it wasn’t. I’m better at it now, and I find it very fulfilling. I’ve always been a wishful thinker, so that variable is not significant. Plus I’m not talented enough to talk people out of their asthma or what have you.

    My obligation is to treat the sick, thats what they want from me. Frankly, many people- non-scientists, don’t really care about science, except that it might help them feel more in control of their world. So I’m not really interested in showing you evidence for this or that. But I did glean over some feedback with evidence from a group of scientists that made this conclusion about the Lancet study, and many of them were embarrassed by the fact it was even published in a respected journal. BUT, don’t get me wrong, its not that I don’t think science and evidence is important. Its more, as a homeopath, and in order to treat people with my art and science, I don’t need proof it works, its too time consuming for something so obvious to me and to my patients that do well. Its like saying: how can we prove the grass is green? Someone probably has tried to study that, it kills me how anal science gets. Even if its not green or soft, we can still walk and play on it rather nicely.

    Having said that, I do think it’d be very interesting to have an explaination of how it works, derived from better research. And that would appease you, and lend credibility to those wanting it. And then it would get big – very big.

    I know it works, but I how it actually does has been a big question mark for me, but I’m a homeopath, not a researcher of modern science, except in what’s been discovered that can help put the nature of things into context for me, because that’s what my remedies are. They are contextual representations of substances, reflecting the type of relationship something has with its environment, so there’s a lot of subject there, not just object, which is why creative research models need to be found. When a patient presents a similar relationship to his or her environment as the remedy, as reflected by a totality of symptoms that has a specific pattern to it, and then the person is given that remedy, the magic happens. Thats the “law of similars” But the context perceived by the homeopath needs to be the one from the subjects themselves, not anyone else’s, including the homeopath. There in lies the science side of homeopathy, but its different than mechanistic science in that it doesn’t try and eliminate the subject, rather it must include it – precisely. Like entanglement theory has explained.

    Hey Rogue,
    Yes, I do think homeopathy is a natural phenomenon. Many of these have been said to be magic until they were given some explanation through science. Now, did that take the magic out of them? I hope not, for your sake, otherwise – dullsville!
    Are you ridiculing homeopathy because there’s no evidence for it?, or is it because you’re defending the point that not everything is within your control?

    And Poogles, I love your rhyme there, LOL, it nicely points out how much of a cockfight you’re looking for. Don’t worry guys, it just has to reach to do its job.

  74. #74 Todd W.
    April 21, 2010

    @Marty the Homeopath

    I think more appropriate research in homeopathy needs to involve anecdotes, not the heresy kind, but the reports of improvement in follow ups of patients. There can still be quantification, but it will be for that particular patient, and therefore include the subjective, as it rightly should.

    So, how do you ensure that the effect seen is not because the condition just resolved on its own, without homeopathy? Or that some other thing they did had an effect? Or that their report is true to factual events (human memory is pretty bad). You seem to be of the opinion that if the patient takes homeopathic pill X and gets better, that pill X must therefore work, without controlling for any confounding variables. That is the same sort of thinking as “my baseball team was in a losing streak until I wore my lucky shirt, then they won, so my lucky shirt must have caused them to win”.

    This is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Boiled down, X happened, then Y happened, therefore X caused Y. That simply isn’t good enough to establish causation, because there are numerous other things that could have been the cause of Y (events A-W, for example). The reason we have all manner of controls and such in scientific studies is to make sure we aren’t simply fooling ourselves.

    You also keep invoking quantum physics. Have you actually studied it? Or does your knowledge of it only come from homeopathy sources (i.e., science-y sounding sound bites)?

  75. #75 Scott
    April 21, 2010

    Marty,

    Please don’t butcher quantum any worse. You have less than zero understanding of it. It simply DOES NOT SAY anything that you’re trying to have it say. For instance:

    There in lies the science side of homeopathy, but its different than mechanistic science in that it doesn’t try and eliminate the subject, rather it must include it – precisely. Like entanglement theory has explained.

    Beyond BS. Entanglement is entirely susceptible to proper study by what you call “mechanistic” science. Indeed, it has very successfully been studied so.

    You appear to be arguing that entanglement somehow makes the supposed effects of homeopathy disappear when studied scientifically. This is a gross falsehood. If such effects caused homeopathy to be ineffective in studies, it would cause homeopathy to be ineffective always. Quantum effects do NOT imply that things behave differently in and out of scientific studies.

    The garbage you’re spouting is the sort of “sciency” bovine fecal matter that sounds impressive to laypeople, but that instantly betray you as utterly clueless to anyone with any actual understanding of the subject.

    Additional notable points:

    Experience is subjective. Interestingly enough, what their openness led them to was the intersection between the subjective and the objective, what was shown through entanglement theory research.

    Entanglement has less than nothing to do with “the intersection between the subjective and the objective.” It is strictly objective.

    But you’re not going to be able to make any conclusions that this remedy works for that disease, because it leaves out the subjective aspect of homeopathy.

    False. It’s quite trivial to include that aspect, in fact. You have the homeopath do whatever it is they care to do, prepare whatever water they care to prepare. Then a third party swaps half of those doses of water with tap water that hasn’t had a spell cast on it. Done.

    And if a person, after a certain time period reports that they aren’t getting this symptom or that one anymore, and their approach to things has changed, and its stayed that way, and their whole paradigm has shifted (hard to quantify) then this is a study in and of itself.

    No, it is not. It is an anecdote, which tells us nothing, because an anecdote cannot distinguish between treatment, placebo effect, the natural course of the condition, etc.

    The controls are all the drugs and surgery they’ve tried that haven’t worked for them before in their entire life, at least not in any long term way.

    Not appropriate controls in any sense of the word.

    Making more case studies would increase the significance.

    More case studies are worse than useless. There are high-quality studies demonstrating there to be no effect. More case studies cannot overturn that. Only high-quality studies can.

    To me, the most important premise to study is a practical one, that according to the principles used, the remedy does indeed lead a person to health. That’s the posit and verifiability that needs to be studied. Generally its not.

    WTF are you talking about? That’s what is ALWAYS studied.

    Its more, as a homeopath, and in order to treat people with my art and science, I don’t need proof it works, its too time consuming for something so obvious to me and to my patients that do well.

    Without the time-consuming proof, being “obvious” has no meaning.

    Its like saying: how can we prove the grass is green?

    Irrelevant. An eyeball observation of the color of grass is subject to far fewer confounders than is whether casting a spell on some water makes it medicine. To such an extent, in fact, that asking several random people is eminently scientifically acceptable evidence.

    Having said that, I do think it’d be very interesting to have an explaination of how it works, derived from better research. And that would appease you, and lend credibility to those wanting it. And then it would get big – very big.

    They are contextual representations of substances, reflecting the type of relationship something has with its environment, so there’s a lot of subject there, not just object, which is why creative research models need to be found. When a patient presents a similar relationship to his or her environment as the remedy, as reflected by a totality of symptoms that has a specific pattern to it, and then the person is given that remedy, the magic happens. Thats the “law of similars” But the context perceived by the homeopath needs to be the one from the subjects themselves, not anyone else’s, including the homeopath.

    Not a single bit of that makes scientific studies more difficult to conduct.

    Are you ridiculing homeopathy because there’s no evidence for it?

    We are ridiculing homeopathy not because there is no evidence for it, but because there is more evidence AGAINST it than there is against the claim that the world is flat.

  76. #76 Poogles
    April 21, 2010

    Marty, it’s not my rhyme (wish it was!), it’s from Tim Minchin’s beat poem “Storm”

    Also, i’d be rather disadvantaged in a cock fight, since I do not have the requisite equipment :-P

  77. #77 Vicki
    April 21, 2010

    Marty–

    If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that there is no homeopathic remedy for, say, influenza or asthma or cancer or fever, because homeopathy treats people rather than medical complaints. If so, you should agree that, because they are not tailored to the patient, all generally marketed homeopathic “remedies” (the stuff sold in drugstores as suitable for use against specific complaints) are fraudulent, because they aren’t tailored to the whole patient. That is, even by the theory of homeopathy, they are useless, and a waste of people’s money and time.

    If so, why aren’t homeopaths campaigning against this massive fraud that cheats people out of millions of dollars every year?

  78. #78 Calli Arcale
    April 21, 2010

    Marty the Homeopath @ 73:

    Scientists seem obsessed with the objectification of things, when we know from quantum physics that its just not the whole story.

    We do? I think you may have a mistaken impression of quantum physics. A lot of people think that quantum physics means there’s something spooky going on in the world, something fundamentally unpredictable, but that’s only because they don’t know what quantum physics is. Lagrange Points look spooky too, until you understand how they work.

    Now, uncertainty is a fundamental element of quantum physics. But all it’s saying is that certain measurements can be paired up in a list (most famously, position and velocity) such that you can’t know precisely without losing precision on the other. This is not because some element of the world is fundamentally unknowable. It is because the methods used to determine one affect determination of the other.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the philosophical pillars of homeopathy, nor even the claims of Dana Ullman, who uses “quantum” as a sort of linguistic jewelry rather than to support any particular point.

    Homeopathy is all based on the Law of Similars and the Law of Infinitesimals. The first is based on ancient beliefs about sympathetic magic. The latter is based on ancient philosophies regarding cycles. It’s the sort of sentiment that Terry Pratchett lampoons when discussing Klatchian Coffee in his Discworld novels. It’s so strong that if you are not drunk before you start drinking it, you will go right through sober and out the other side, approaching drunkenness from the other side — a terrifying state known as knurd. (He also mentions a few characters who became so insane that they eventually approached insanity from the other side.)

    These ideas are philosophies, they are based in very ancient superstitions, and they have absolutely no relationship to quantum physics.

  79. #79 Scott
    April 21, 2010

    Now, uncertainty is a fundamental element of quantum physics. But all it’s saying is that certain measurements can be paired up in a list (most famously, position and velocity) such that you can’t know precisely without losing precision on the other. This is not because some element of the world is fundamentally unknowable. It is because the methods used to determine one affect determination of the other.

    Not quite. The modern understanding is that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (using the classic position/momentum example as you did) indicates that a particle cannot HAVE simultaneously a precise position and a precise momentum. It’s not really about knowledge, or about measuring one of them collapsing the wavefunction which affects a subsequent measurement of the other – it’s much deeper than that.

    Essentially, “this particle has precisely position X and precisely momentum P” is understood as a statement which is internally inconsistent in the same sense that “X=1 and X=2″ is internally inconsistent. The one statement necessarily precludes the other.

  80. #80 Vicki
    April 21, 2010

    A thought on this whole homeopathy and quantum thing:

    The defenders of homeopathy seem to be appealing to intuition rather than math and hard evidence. But they’re invoking quantum physics, which is “weird” because it goes against most people’s intuition, but the math works, and the evidence is there.

  81. #81 Calli Arcale
    April 21, 2010

    Well, I admit my physics goes up through high school, and then what I’ve sponged up on my own after that. ;-)

    Still, it’s not a case of “it’s, like, all fundamentally unknowable, and like, totally invalidates materialism maaaaaan!”

    Vicki: homeopaths invoke quantum physics because it makes them sound smart, but the average mark won’t realize it’s just bafflegab.

  82. #82 Travis
    April 21, 2010

    I won’t repeat what Scott said above as he does a good job showing where you are wrong and demonstrating that Marty has no real understand of Quantum Mechanics or science in general.

    Marty, you should stop coming here and embarrassing yourself by using logical fallacies and talking about QM to physicists (I might work in a different field now but I do have a physics degree and I am sure there are others here) and those who know more about it than you and go learn about these things. And not from some website that hand waves about these topics, invoking QM to explain anything that requires weirdness or counter-intuitive ideas. QM is not magic, it is well defined and experiments can be done to amazing precision using the predictions it generates. Go to your local library and get a look on logic, maybe talk to some actual physicists about what QM is and what it means.

  83. #83 Antaeus Feldspar
    April 21, 2010

    This is Marty on April 19:

    The oxymoron title of your web page clearly starts you with the premise of bias and prejudice … The only insolence the majority of the posters and the author of this website are ranting with is toward science itself.

    and here is Marty on April 21:

    Its more, as a homeopath, and in order to treat people with my art and science, I don’t need proof it works, its too time consuming for something so obvious to me and to my patients that do well.

    So here we see Marty’s massive double standard. Science is all about subjecting our assumptions and beliefs and hypotheses to testing, but Marty thinks his beliefs should be exempt from testing. Why? Because it’s “so obvious” to him that it works! (I suppose he thinks that practitioners of bloodletting and all the other antique medical practices we now know to be ineffective or actively harmful, I suppose he thinks that none of them ever thought their treatments were of obvious benefit to the patient.) Oh, well, let’s be fair, it’s not just obvious to him, it’s also obvious to his patients! That is, to his patients “that do well.” (The rest of his patients might have a very different perception of whether homeopathy works, but as far as Marty’s concerned, their perceptions don’t count because they don’t match his perceptions.)

    So let’s recap. Science is about testing assumptions, and accepting them as true if they pass that testing. Marty is the one coming here with an entire career built upon assumptions that he thinks should not be put to the test. But somehow he thinks it’s we who are approaching the subject with “bias and prejudice … insolen[t] … to science itself”? The only proper response to that is laughter.

  84. #84 Pablo
    April 21, 2010

    I consider myself more sensical than the posters above that I don’t waste time reading idiotic blatherings from morons like Marty, and so I only get this secondhand, but did he really say,

    Its like saying: how can we prove the grass is green?

    ?

    I’m assuming he’s referring to the “objectification of things” that science does that QM says is more complicated?

    That’s quite a joke, I have to say. It is a trivial exercise:

    1) Define what we mean by “green.” Fortunately, there is a very objective scientific description of what makes something appear green. In order to do that, we define what wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum constitutes the “green” region. We have that (around 520 – 540 nm, or so is green)
    2) Examine the absorption spectrum of the object in question, to determine the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that are absorbed and which are reflected/transmitted
    3) Determine the color that would result by combination of those wavelengths that are reflected/transmitted and show that they consist predominantly of those that were defined as green.

    If we do that, using grass as our substrate, then it would show that grass is green.

    Marty thought he was being clever by talking about “proving that the grass is green,” not realizing that this is something that science has absolutely addressed in very high detail. Spectroscopists talk about the “color” of stuff all the time, even for stuff that they can’t see (for example, can’t be generated in sufficient concentration or in conditions that can be seen by the human eye).

    In fact, it is not all that difficult to set up an apparatus to allow a blind person to detect color, by doing something like associating an audio tone with various electromagnetic wavelengths. Heck, you could even give the blind person a larger “visible” range because you could allow them to detect wavelengths outside of our visible region.

    The science of color is extremely objective.

  85. #85 Marty the Homeopath
    April 21, 2010

    Boy, I got the whole hive humming now!

    Arcale: if you’re saying I’m invoking “bafflegab” (nice word) or that I have a mistaken impression of physics, how would you know that?, given you seem to be at the same level as physics as I am. You sure like to sound like an expert though. And, since you have a mistaken impression of homeopathy, I think that’s what’s provoked your comment. ie overall you just didn’t understand what I was getting at, and of course you lumped me into huge generalizations that materialists like you tend to make. You started out with correct homeopathic terminology, then went right into some of your own bafflegab. You somehow missed, as did others here, that I was pointing to the practical side of homeopathy, not philosophy.

    And I can see Todd is not a clinician, probably a drug researcher. If you were a clinician Todd, you’d be able to answer your own question. Conditions outside of infectious diseases tend not to resolve themselves on their own. And even with infectious diseases, they recur, often getting progressively worse. There are definitely some musculoskeletal problems that slowly go away. Many don’t entirely. People can forget things, but they tend to remember things they’ve been complaining about for a long time, or that in the moment are bothering them – thats what notes are for. Its possible some other thing they did helped, but if you were a clinician, and good observer, which I get the impression you are, you’d know that chronic disease doesn’t go away easily.

    Now you people will love this one: I actually think that other complementary methods don’t work as well as homeopathy. And I’ve used them, I’m also a naturopath. Often they have some impact, but like modern medicine, the condition/symptoms seem to come back, or it only helps with one or two things, and boosts the vitality. There may be exceptions. With homeopathy, as I said, there’s a change in the person that takes place, and a broader elimination of symptoms. Seeing the general change (refer to post 69, pg 7) helps us account for other variables and trust they may come around to leave, as does the fact that chronic disease isn’t easily rid of help us with variables. So the variables aren’t so confounding, especially when at the end of the treatment, the patient is left with little or no remaining complaints, and they’ve resolved issues for themselves they never have resolved before, then yes, the grass is green. Additionally, there are these temporary responses that happen following the dose that result in dramatic improvements. And before the remedy, many things were ineffective. These effects may fade after a few days or weeks (unlike a drug)
    but they maintain more improvement than the start, and eventually the whole state improves entirely.

    Vicki, I bet you wish you had one! Just kidding, The complex remedies seem to have some effect on the condition they claim they treat, so if people are getting colds or more acute problems they seem to work. Its likely that there’s enough similarity in the formula to the condition that it can have an effect. But the effect doesn’t last. They don’t really follow true homeopathic principles, and I never recommend them. And makers like Dolisos are out for a buck. By the way I think Dolisos was taken over by a pharmaceutical multinational. Maybe Todd would know.

    I’ll follow up on more later…

    If I’m a bit shy on the knowledge of physics

    Now as a homeopath, just as Im being told I understand I’m not getting quantum physics, I can say to
    What I understand about quantum physics is this:

    That in submolecular dynamics, there is uncertainty and paradox.
    Seems Scott seems agrees with this.
    Why shouldn’t that be extrapolated macrocosmically into the human, biological and universal realm? If I’m too clued out with QM, look at chaos theory. Natural open systems are self-organizing into form which is predictable, and then they hit chaos and are thrust into a new order and another form.

  86. #86 Marty the Homeopath
    April 21, 2010

    Oops I forgot to delete that last part after the ….

    that wasn’t to be included, please ignore.

  87. #87 Calli Arcale
    April 21, 2010

    Marty @ 85:

    Arcale: if you’re saying I’m invoking “bafflegab” (nice word) or that I have a mistaken impression of physics, how would you know that?, given you seem to be at the same level as physics as I am.

    Don’t flatter yourself — or me. I’m not an expert. But I did pay attention in science class, and I do like to read.

    BTW, “bafflegab” is indeed a wonderful word. It’s a Britishism; I picked it up from Dr Who.

    “Bafflegab, my dear! I never heard such bafflegab in all my lives.”

    You sure like to sound like an expert though. And, since you have a mistaken impression of homeopathy, I think that’s what’s provoked your comment. ie overall you just didn’t understand what I was getting at, and of course you lumped me into huge generalizations that materialists like you tend to make. You started out with correct homeopathic terminology, then went right into some of your own bafflegab. You somehow missed, as did others here, that I was pointing to the practical side of homeopathy, not philosophy.

    Oh, I know you’re talking about the “practical” side of homeopathy, but if you deny its philosophical underpinnings, what is your basis for believing it to be correct? If you are not a follower of Hahnemann’s Law of Similars and Law of Infinitesimals, then what leads you to believe that homeopathy is at all plausible, much less effective?

    And I am genuinely curious: how do you think quantum mechanics applies?

    Also, I’m quite happy to be corrected (see above) so I’d love it if you’d indicate where I was mistaken in my impression of homeopathy. I will certainly grant that not all modern homeopaths really follow Hahnemann’s principles. For instance, the manufacturers of Zicam. But if you don’t follow Hahnemann, and you obviously don’t follow chemistry or physics or biology (since those all contradict homeopathy), what do you follow? What actually guides your clinical practice?

  88. #88 Travis
    April 21, 2010

    That in submolecular dynamics, there is uncertainty and paradox.

    Paradox? What do you mean by paradox? I think you are confused about QM even more if you use that word.

    Uncertainly also is a really well defined thing in QM. You cannot just take the standard english definition of the word and act as though that is what it means in the theory.

    Why should it not be applied to the whole body? Because these things do not happen at that scale. At large scales things generally behave in a classical way. You cannot just take a result from an electron and apply it to a human being. You do not expect that a human being will act the same way looking at the math.

    As for Chaos theory, well, please read up on it. Things do not “hit chaos” and are thrust into anything. I am not really sure what you mean here actually. There is lots of self ordering in the world, we know that, but just because these things happen does not mean homeopathic medicine works because of it. You actually would have to do work in describing how these things apply to homeopathic medicine, show that homeopathic systems display self organization etc. And then actually how it happens and is meaningful in medicine.

  89. #89 Travis
    April 21, 2010

    And I should say, I am aware that there are paradoxes like the EPR paradox, but that is a thought experiment that leads to paradoxical, counter-intuitive consequences. However, the theory itself is consistent.

  90. #90 Pablo
    April 21, 2010

    To follow up Travis’s comments

    1) Regarding the “paradox” of QM – I presume that Marty is referring here to something like wave/particle duality, which certainly seems paradoxical for macroscopic systems. However, as Travis notes, it is anything but paradoxical in QM, and, moreover, is actually pretty obvious. Quantization is an obvious result if you require the wave function to be a standing wave, which is what QM is. Application of boundary conditions on a standing wave results in quantized harmonics. In fact, this is a standard demo with a long spring in introductory physics classes. You can create the standing wave but you have to oscillate it just so.

    2)

    Why should it not be applied to the whole body? Because these things do not happen at that scale.

    The uncertainty principle says deltaX times deltaP = delta E * delta T > h/2pi. h/2pi is something like 6.6e-34. That means if the uncertainty in time is a picosecond (1e-12), the uncertainty in energy is 1e-21 J. That’s a pretty tiny uncertainty.

    In our lab, we sometimes run into Uncertainty effects if we try to measure processes at very fast times (sub-femtosecond), where effects on momentum of the electron can be detected, but that is rare.

    Nothing in the body happens fast enough to be affected by the uncertainty principle (even vision occurs on what timescale, > 1 microsecond).

  91. #91 Marty the Homeopath
    April 22, 2010

    OK, finishing up:

    Its interesting that the tone of discussion has gone from first person, addressing me directly, to third person, where your comments can be stronger in numbers. Feeling weak are we?

    Mr Feldspar, if you actually read and tried to comprehend my previous post, which I know anti-scientists have a hard time with, since you like to pick out what verifies your bias, you’d see that I said we homeopaths count on the perceptions of our patients, NOT our own. And to this we’re consistent and comitted. At least I can speak for me. That is, the patients who don’t do well, I listen to them, weigh all the variables that I mentioned above in 85, acknowledge they haven’t improved, then prescribe a different remedy that is closer to a retake on what’s been presented. Often, that allows things to proceed. And I can’t help everyone, for various reasons, and I think thats realistic in any intervention.

    And I never said I thought my beliefs should be exempt from testing. In fact I was trying to come up with ways of testing them. (Again something you seemed to skim by that), and I elect Todd to set that up.

    I was simply saying, in order to do my job, I didn’t need this KIND of verification. Come on, try and follow my point here. Like I said, you’re so obsessed with objectivity, you miss the common subjectivity we can all share. I tried to share some of my experience with you that I didn’t think a study was needed for in order to get it. Then I tried to suggest that science, like you, likes to stomp on the subject, except with physics, and their “hard science”, we see that the observer counts. Is the observer not a subject Scott?
    And Scott, the hardest anti-scientist of them all it seems, likes to put words in my mouth too. You said:
    “You appear to be arguing that entanglement somehow makes the supposed effects of homeopathy disappear when studied scientifically”
    Well I’m not arguing that at all, end of story there, don’t have to listen to subsequent “sciency” bovine fecal matter from you on that point.
    And Scott, I’m glad you feel that the true nature of the homeopathic practice and effect is easy to study: go to it man.
    Like I’ve said, I’m not opposed to studies, as I had to remind Mr. Feldspar.
    And, Scott, I wish you could get “WTF” I’m talking about, regarding the differentiation of studies that would be appropriate or not for homeopathic treatment.
    Most studies done thus far miss the principle – very individualistic – of like curing like. They simply want to follow their own paradigm for disease and health, which is very general. Thats what science tries to do: make general rules that can be verified where-ever we might test them, so they can apply to everything, so we can all have the predictability we’re looking for. Individuals DIFFER, remedy prescriptions DIFFER. So like in this cancer study as I said: it doesn’t account for the law of similars because it lumps a bunch of patients together, not as people, but as having breast cancer, then tests 4 remedies, when there could be 1000’s that might work. Most studies are trying to see:
    1. If these dilutions have activity in biological systems, YES counterintuitive, I agree!
    2. If some disease conditions might be helped. Homeopaths see disease, not as a single condition but as a contextual expression of a whole state of being. And getting to health requires a process that has autonomy of the complex organism: more than cause-effect, therefore proving cause-effect actually becomes less relevant (You’ll have fun with that I’m sure)
    or 3. that homeopathy can’t work because it goes against the laws of science known thus far. Do you see the bias in there? This is where you anti-scientists step in.
    Scott, go over everything here and in the rest of the blog that I’ve said, and try and get it, then you might make less redundant inquiries or comments.

    And Pablo,
    You might be one of those anal scientists I was talking about earlier, that want to prove obvious things nobody cares about. But your missing the forest for the trees(still green), which I know is what mechanistic thinkers do. I guess it’s to you: “sensical”

    I’m getting lots of verification here that scientists tend to obsess on objectivity: they have a hard time putting things in context.

    PS Vicki, I might have confused you with Poogles, sorry, there’s a lot going on with this blog.

  92. #92 Marty the Homeopath
    April 22, 2010

    I said to ignore those comments at the end of 85 Travis, I wanted them deleted when I was editing, but whatever.
    I actually have done a little work on how chaos theory applies to how humans as self-organizing systems heal themselves. But more on that later, I’m running out of batteries with no chord.

    Pablo, I just saw your second comment. You’re not just anal, you’re one smart dude! I’m serious.

    Later dudes

  93. #93 Rogue Medic
    April 22, 2010

    @73 Marty the Homeopath,

    Its like saying: how can we prove the grass is green?

    What do you mean by green?

    After all, green is just the interpretation by the mind of the visual stimuli from light reflected off of the grass. That is subjective.

    Is your green the same as mine?

    What the mind is interpreting is not subjective.

    This does not mean that your body will somehow process the magic moisture memories in a productive way when you take a homeopathic remedy. Healing is not subjective, although reports of the feeling of wellness are subjective.

    Yes, the brain does have memories, but not because it is squishy and wet.

    Do you remember more, or better, when you are succussed on your noggin? Although it might explain some things. ;-)

    Frankly, many people- non-scientists, don’t really care about science, except that it might help them feel more in control of their world.

    That is a mistake. Control is a bit of an illusion.

    What science does help us to do is to understand and to predict.

    The method of science does require that we attempt to control, as much as practical, the variables that may affect outcomes. It is not really control, so much as it is an attempt to minimize the influences that mislead.

    You seem more than willing to be misled.

    Back to Richard Feynman –

    Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

    Of course, he was not addressing you directly, even though it may seem that way.

    When we just accept that the patients telling us what we want to hear is a valid assessment of the efficacy of a treatment, we end up with barbers bleeding patients, with pinpoint perforations to activate systemic energy healing, and miraculous memory moisture.

    Each of these has been investigated scientifically. None of these are as good as placebo. At least the barbers stopped.

    So I’m not really interested in showing you evidence for this or that. But I did glean over some feedback with evidence from a group of scientists that made this conclusion about the Lancet study, and many of them were embarrassed by the fact it was even published in a respected journal. BUT, don’t get me wrong, its not that I don’t think science and evidence is important.

    Golly, I ask for something that shows that your claim about the Lancet meta-analysis is not baseless. I was expecting nothing. You provided a comment about a group of scientists disparaging the study. Clearly, this is so much better than real evidence.

    Hey Rogue,
    Yes, I do think homeopathy is a natural phenomenon. Many of these have been said to be magic until they were given some explanation through science. Now, did that take the magic out of them? I hope not, for your sake, otherwise – dullsville!

    I find reality to be much more interesting than magic.

    Are you ridiculing homeopathy because there’s no evidence for it?, or is it because you’re defending the point that not everything is within your control?

    Not much is within my control. That is no reason to ridicule something.

    I ridicule homeopathy for several reasons.

    The proposed mechanism is based on wild imaginings from a time when medicine did not cure anything, so taking inactive water was better than taking active medication. That has changed.

    Homeopathy has been studied. A lot. Still no difference between the placebo water and the other water. That has not changed.

    The idea that Samuel Hahnemann came up with this a couple hundred years ago, that it works, and that it hasn’t needed to be modified, is what we might expect if homeopathy were delivered during some alien visitation.

    I would expect some super medicine from an advanced alien species to be able to have effects on illnesses that do not go away on their own. Either this is a complete waste of time for these aliens, or it is a practical joke.

    We know that aliens favor surgery – the abductees tell us so. Real aliens would never go for homeopathy. not even in its ridiculously diluted form.

    @74 Todd W.,

    That simply isn’t good enough to establish causation, because there are numerous other things that could have been the cause of Y (events A-W, for example).

    Don’t be silly. A&W is root beer. Much more substantial than homeopathy. On the other hand, cream soda has less color to it. Seltzer water is even better. The fizzing means it is working. Why didn’t Hahnemann include fizzies? Alka-Seltzer showed us the tremendous marketing potential of fizzies.

    @83 Antaeus Feldspar,

    But somehow he thinks it’s we who are approaching the subject with “bias and prejudice … insolen[t] … to science itself”? The only proper response to that is laughter.

    No. No. No.

    The only proper response to that is ridicule. Maybe appropriately derisive laughter with an occasional chortle and a double, or triple, snurfle.

    I get the feeling you just aren’t taking this seriously.

  94. #94 Calli Arcale
    April 22, 2010

    Marty:

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say once you have power. That’s the one problem with laptops — they do eventually run out of juice. On the other hand, when I’m out using my laptop off of WiFi, I do get the feeling that I’ve stepped into the future. This is an exciting time!

    Scientists do obsess on objectivity, because that’s the whole point of science. But you seem to think that is antithetical to context. I’m not sure why you think that. Of course things need to be taken in context — the uncertainty principle, for instance, which you have applied *outside* of its context.

    Objectivity is not the opposite of context. Understanding context is actually vital to being properly objective. It’s the opposite of subjectivity. There’s a difference, and mostly it’s that when you’re being subjective, you’re letting your own context intrude upon the context of that which you are studying.

    Most studies done thus far miss the principle – very individualistic – of like curing like. They simply want to follow their own paradigm for disease and health, which is very general.

    I hate to break it to you, but Hahnemann himself wasn’t individualistic. Oh I know homeopaths like to sell it as individualistic, but if you’re being a proper homeopath (rather than a fraud like the Zicam manufacturers who just use the word “homeopathy” to convince regulators that it’s harmless), then you are using an index of homeopathic provings to determine what remedy to apply for each complaint. I’ve seen many homeopaths make the same claim, that your remedies are too *individual* to be tested, but that’s nonsense, and not even reflective of the average homeopath’s clinical practice.

    Now, it is true that a homeopath does decide what dose of what remedy to give. This is also what a doctor does. The difference between the two is largely that only the second one has any evidence that the remedy will do any good.

    Look, forget about trying to shoehorn the latest sciency buzzwords in to explain why homeopathy works. I’d just be impressed if you could show that it works, period.

    You say it’s too individual to be tested? Bullshit! Nothing is too individual to be tested. And even Hahnemann never claimed that. The whole *point* of his provings was to find what to treat his patients with. He applied what he found in himself to his patients, so obviously he didn’t think it was too individual to be tested.

    Seriously, if homeopathy is really impossible to test, you are claiming that you have no idea if it works, and are flying completely blind when you treat your patients.

    So like in this cancer study as I said: it doesn’t account for the law of similars because it lumps a bunch of patients together, not as people, but as having breast cancer, then tests 4 remedies, when there could be 1000’s that might work.

    Would it make sense to test an alleged breast cancer remedy in people who did not have breast cancer? More to the point, this proves you actually have not read the study, or even the abstract — the remedy was tested in cell lines, not actual breast cancer patients. So the reason why it isn’t talking about treating people is because it actually wasn’t treating people. (There are plenty of limitations to in vitro studies, but they do have the advantage of simplifying things, and much lighter ethical standards to meet since no lives are at stake.)

    Most studies are trying to see:
    1. If these dilutions have activity in biological systems, YES counterintuitive, I agree!

    Very much so, and a very logical thing to test. So far, I’ve yet to see a study which a) found an effect, b) was double-blind, and c) was reproduced. Technically, the study above (though mostly falling into your next category) addresses this. Badly. Basically, the data shows that the solvent is evidently quite toxic (since the *control* was pretty lethal).

    2. If some disease conditions might be helped. Homeopaths see disease, not as a single condition but as a contextual expression of a whole state of being. And getting to health requires a process that has autonomy of the complex organism: more than cause-effect, therefore proving cause-effect actually becomes less relevant (You’ll have fun with that I’m sure)

    This study falls primarily into this category; it was testing to see whether breast cancer might respond to homeopathy. But what do you have against cause and effect? The whole point of someone seeing a homeopath is have them give them a remedy which will make them better. That’s cause and effect. Complex organism? You bet! Humans are enormously complex, which is why in vitro tests are never sufficient to guide clinical practice. (Oddly, homeopathy is based almost entirely on lab tests — the homeopathic provings and a smattering of rather lackluster bench tests conducted by people attempting to find support for homeopathy — rather than clinical trials. Yet you have the gall to accuse *us* of neglecting the whole human being.)

    Why would you not want to know if a homeopathic remedy really did cause the patient to get better? Is it because you’re afraid of learning the converse — that the homeopathic remedy did *not* cause the patient to get better?

    If homeopathy is true, then it should make people better. I don’t see why homeopaths argue so strenuously that it can’t be tested. That smells very fishy — a bit like “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

    or 3. that homeopathy can’t work because it goes against the laws of science known thus far. Do you see the bias in there? This is where you anti-scientists step in.

    A lot of us are arguing that homeopathy contradicts well-established principles in chemistry and biology and physics. (Few of them are actually laws. If you actually take the time to study it, you’ll find that these hard sciences are actually considerably more complex than homeopathy, which grossly simplifies what it observes.) But I have not seen an experiment or study designed to determine whether homeopathy can’t work because it goes against the “laws of science”, as you put it. For one thing, that’s a very broad statement, but more importantly, science doesn’t work like that. People can argue like that, but that’s not a question that can really be tested scientifically. It’s a negative, and you can’t prove a negative.

    Instead, what is tested (and what was tested in the study Orac posted about) is mostly variations on questions 1 & 2 above. Science is very practical-minded, and what it tells you depends on what questions you ask. It is not actually obligatory to find out why homeopathy might work. Certainly, it would contribute to greater understanding, but I concede that maybe homeopaths don’t care about that. But one would think that you’d be at least curious to know whether or not it *does* work.

    Here’s how science works: make a prediction, collect data, see whether or not the data supports your prediction. The more objectively you can do this, the less likely you are to inadvertently fool yourself. Objectivity is not bad, but it is scary to a lot of people because it means setting aside your pride and testing your faith.

  95. #95 Scott
    April 22, 2010

    Well I’m not arguing that at all, end of story there, don’t have to listen to subsequent “sciency” bovine fecal matter from you on that point.

    So you didn’t actually mean anything at all then.

    And Scott, I’m glad you feel that the true nature of the homeopathic practice and effect is easy to study: go to it man.

    I don’t have to, as it’s been done. Repeatedly.

    And, Scott, I wish you could get “WTF” I’m talking about, regarding the differentiation of studies that would be appropriate or not for homeopathic treatment.
    Most studies done thus far miss the principle – very individualistic – of like curing like.

    In large part that’s because most homeopathy ignores individualism (Zicam, oscillococcinum, to name two common examples). But more importantly, the studies that DO individualize show the same effect – i.e. none beyond placebo.

    Scott, go over everything here and in the rest of the blog that I’ve said, and try and get it, then you might make less redundant inquiries or comments.

    I might note that random made-up incoherent garbage like you’ve been spouting cannot be “gotten” by anyone sane.

  96. #96 Scott
    April 22, 2010

    I’m also noting a rather pronounced Gish Gallop here – when one of his arguments is shot down in flames, Marty simply ignores it and moves on. Quite dishonest, really.

  97. #97 Rogue Medic
    April 22, 2010

    @91 Marty the Homeopath,

    Its interesting that the tone of discussion has gone from first person, addressing me directly, to third person, where your comments can be stronger in numbers. Feeling weak are we?

    Don’t take your silliness to a new level.

    I know the difference between you and me.

    I don’t believe I have addressed you in either the first person or the third person.

    The rest of comment 91 does not get any better. You mistakenly claim that everybody else is wrong. Marty the God hath spake or some similar silly statements.

    And on the Eighth Day I created Homeopathy! Or was I still hung over from that 7th day party where I showed them the groovy mushrooms I created. Oh well, I’ll just tell them that I did create homeopathy and reiki. They’ll never notice.

    There’s some first person satire for you. ;-)

  98. #98 Todd W.
    April 22, 2010

    probably a drug researcher

    I’m not sure if I should feel honored or slighted when alties mistake me for a practicing researcher or pharma type. The closest I come to either is being a volunteer member of an institutional review board at a hospital.

    Conditions outside of infectious diseases tend not to resolve themselves on their own.

    You mean, like headaches, muscle aches, sprains, bruises, pain of varying origins and severity, mood changes, etc. Those are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. What conditions outside of infectious diseases do you feel do not resolve on their own and which homeopathy can help?

    And even with infectious diseases, they recur, often getting progressively worse.

    That depends on the disease and the individual. If the pathogen that causes the disease mutates very slowly, the likelihood of the disease recurring in a normal, healthy individual is quite small. If the pathogen mutates pretty quickly, e.g., influenza, or if the person has a suppressed immune response for some reason, then the disease can “recur”. As for getting progressively worse, that depends. For example, suppose someone is exposed to polio as an infant, but does not develop immunity. The initial infection is likely to be relatively mild. However, the older they get, the more likely it would be that they will have a more severe reaction if reinfected.

    People can forget things, but they tend to remember things they’ve been complaining about for a long time, or that in the moment are bothering them – thats what notes are for.

    Notes are good, if they are written as close as possible to the event described therein and if they include as much detail as possible. But my comment on memory was not just about people forgetting. Rather, it is that people do not always remember correctly or completely. There are elements that escape their notice, elements that are not deemed important to consider, the details morph over time, etc. Even when describing something that just happened, people do not remember correctly. Therefore, relying solely on remembered stories of experiences is inherently flawed.

    Seeing the general change (refer to post 69, pg 7) helps us account for other variables and trust they may come around to leave, as does the fact that chronic disease isn’t easily rid of help us with variables. So the variables aren’t so confounding, especially when at the end of the treatment, the patient is left with little or no remaining complaints

    You do not seem to understand just what is meant by “confounding variable”. A confounding variable is any variable for which the researcher does not control. It can skew the results of any observation, leading to increased likelihood of either false positives (thinking there is an effect when there really isn’t) or to false negatives (thinking there is no effect when there really is one). In the context of homeopathy research, the confounding variables generally lead to false positives, suggesting that the solutions are effective when they have no effect beyond placebo.

  99. #99 Todd W.
    April 22, 2010

    @Scott

    Marty’s not engaging in the Gish Gallop. Ignoring evidence refuting a claim and moving on to some other new claim is shifting the goalposts. The Gish Gallop would be if he buried us in a long, long list of studies, leaving us to sort through them and figure out which ones really support his claims, which refute his claims and which have absolutely no relevance to his claims.

  100. #100 Scott
    April 22, 2010

    Apologies if I’m getting the terminology wrong. I think my point that it’s dishonest argument still stands, though.

  101. #101 Rogue Medic
    April 23, 2010

    Scott,

    Sometimes there are several logical fallacies in a single comment. It is less important that we be able to name them as that we recognize that there is a faulty argument.

    When looking at a debate that I am not familiar with, I find that there are 2 types. There are valid debates between people of differing opinions, honestly trying to figure out the truth. Then there is the debate, where one side uses logical fallacies to try to prevent the audience from recognizing the truth. I don’t worry about which logical fallacies they are using, just that one side relies heavily on logical fallacies.

    The reliance on logical fallacies is a pretty good indicator of general dishonesty.

  102. #102 Scientizzle
    May 10, 2010

    Interesting follow-up here…check out the (currently last) comment by Alison on May 01 10 at 12:54 am at Dr. Rachie’s site:

    As an unintentioned co-author on this study, I feel obligated to respond, particularly since I asked to not be included because I did not think it was a sound study that would add to confusion.

    The reason was that I was not convinced it was a sound study. I chemically analyzed the homeopathic medicines, using direct infusion MS, a technique 10 folds more sensitive then the published HPLC. My work was not included.

    Outside of me not finding the argument for homeopathic scientifically plausible, I had one major concern with this study scientifically, if assuming I was completely wrong in not believing in homeopathy (keeping the most open mind possible, because I do not believe that water has memory, or if it does then I’m getting homeopathic doses of everything just by breathing in and drinking tap water, nor do I believe that likes-treating-likes makes any rational sense etc. etc.).

    That concern was the alcohol content. It is common knowledge with cell based assays that even small amounts of ethanol (talking about smaller than 5%) dosed directly onto cells in culture has profound cytotoxic effects. So, since these medicines contained ethanol, I felt that unless they contained the same EXACT amount of ethanol (which they did not), the study was irrelevant. Some medicines were created with different percentages of ethanol and considering they were put in plastic tubes (a source of phthalate esters, a cytotoxic compound found in plastics), not made on the same day, and sent across an ocean, then small differences were inevitable.

    The negative control was made after I requested a negative control to be made in the same manner, but all of the samples should have been made in the same manner, at the same time, with same amount of shaking between multiple dilutions. This is important because ethanol is a good solvent for phthalates and is volatile. Since large percentages of ethanol was used, a change of a couple of percentages could easily occurred during the many stages of preparation and during the cell studies.

    Therefore, I believe this study demonstrated changes in alcohol percentages on cells rather than the efficacy of homeopathic medicine.

    Alison added these pithy words on May 01 10 at 12:54 am

    I think I’ll leave a comment to the effect of “Allison, please write this up in a letter to the journal editor…this is a crucial flaw in this paper.”

  103. #103 Homeopathy NYC
    July 10, 2010

    Regardless of the results or methodology of this study, it has absolutely nothing to do with homeopathy. Neither for that matter does the “memory of water”, which seems to show up in every criticism of homeopathy. Just diluting something doesn’t make it homeopathic.

  104. #104 tresmal
    July 10, 2010

    Just diluting something doesn’t make it homeopathic.

    No you also have to shake it while magically transferring your intent into it.

  105. #105 squirrelelite
    July 10, 2010

    @Homeopathy NYC,

    Since your understanding of homeopathy seems to differ from our interpretation of the written materials, what does make something “homeopathic”?

    Also, what is the purpose of using three different potentiations (or dilutions) of the same homeopathic “medicine” in the same pill?

    And, if something is diluted to 198X, where do they get all the water?

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