Respectful Insolence

A question about homeopathy

You know, if there’s one question I’ve always had about homeopathy, it’s the one asked by Viktor Poór below:

i-2c8e0981f38266b7c5efc0afec3a7f83-homeopathy.jpg
(Click for full comic.)

Certainly the cost of materials for homeopathic remedies is lower than just about any other product that I can imagine.

Comments

  1. #1 Leslie
    May 7, 2010

    Meanwhile, I just saw this:
    http://autisminnb.blogspot.com/2010/05/offit-offensive-has-failed-vaccine.html
    The blogger did vaccinate his kids, but accuses scientists of not being respectful enough to parents who don’t believe in vaccination:

    “…Insulting Jenny McCarthy and other parents fighting for their children will not work. Let me repeat that one since it is quite simple yet difficult for Offit and company to grasp: insulting Jenny McCarthy and other parents fighting for their children will not work…”

    WTF?

  2. #2 Party Cactus
    May 7, 2010

    I’ve always wondered that one myself. For all the times you hear that alternative medicine is better than the Big Pharma because drugs are just there to make money, so you’d think they’d just sell homeopathic starter kits and encourage people to start their own batches and continue the line for the rest of their lives, sort of like an heirloom seed business that encourages you to save your seed. Surely they know how homeopathy ‘works’ and aren’t just making crap up as they go along, so what is is? Do the homeopaths also have a profit motive that guides them like the pharmaceutical companies (which in this case is even worse because no one’s claiming you can make more of drug X by putting it in water), or are they incompetent in their own field for not knowing such an critical fact that could save people so much money (like that unfortunate woman in the other post who was paying a grand a month for the stuff)?

  3. #3 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 7, 2010

    @Leslie:

    They may be “fighting for their children”, but they’re fighting against mine. They will get no respect from me.

  4. #4 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 7, 2010

    The homeopaths need to break the costs down into Parts and Labour.

    Succussion is HARD WORK!

  5. #5 Scott
    May 7, 2010

    No, see, you don’t get it. You can’t just keep taking the same remedy. You have to keep going back to the homeopath so they can ask you all your current symptoms and pick the right remedy you should be taking now. (Of course, the fact that the homeopath then gets to bill you for another visit has nothing to do with it.)

    “But wait,” I hear you saying, “they don’t actually change the remedies. Heck, a bunch are sold OTC without a homeopath’s examination at all.” Just gimme a minute, I’m sure I can come up with an answer to that one too…

  6. #6 Moopheus
    May 7, 2010

    I would assume that homeopathic vendors do not want to be like heirloom seed companies, but more like Monsanto, and sue you for patent infringement if you save the “seeds.” (Actually, my first thought was sourdough starter cultures that can be saved from loaf to loaf.)

  7. #7 chris
    May 7, 2010

    I’ve wasted a lot of my seeds over the years. I don’t think they’re patentable, but I can’t imagine anyone else wanting them.

  8. #8 jamesclaims
    May 7, 2010

    I’m sure the reason is something like “Big pharma is in bed with Big water”. One more evil international cartel shouldn’t harm their conspiracy theories any more than defying the laws of chemistry and physics should.

  9. #9 sirhcton
    May 7, 2010

    The answer is obvious. Since diluting a homeopathic remedy makes it stronger, buying one, rather than diluting your own from your purchase, ensures that you do not harm yourself by making it too strong. Only the purchased remedies are weak enough. See, there is no “Big Homeo” conspiracy hoping to separate people from their money with useless potions. I am certain that the profit margins are exceedingly minute — perhaps even at homeopathic levels.

  10. #10 Nom
    May 7, 2010

    It seems to me you could simply combine water and the “kitchen sink” and you’ll have covered all your bases.

  11. #11 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 7, 2010

    “…Insulting Jenny McCarthy and other parents fighting for their children will not work. Let me repeat that one since it is quite simple yet difficult for Offit and company to grasp: insulting Jenny McCarthy and other parents fighting for their children will not work…”

    I highly disagree. When someone handles a matter that is literally life and death with dangerous stupidity, insults and public shaming and anything else that discourages others from imitating that stupidity is appropriate. And make no mistake, Jenny is stupid on this matter, has been from the time that, challenged on the lack of any scientific basis for her claims, announced “[my son] Evan is my science,” a statement that anyone who passed a science class after fourth grade should be able to see the fallacy in.

  12. #12 Harold L Doherty
    May 7, 2010

    Hello people.

    Did any of you actually read the blog comment that I wrote and from which one paragraph is set out above?

    This blog and the comment authors here have been insulting for some time parents who have concerns about vaccines.

    Do you do it because it makes you feel good about yourself or do you do it in the hopes that you will convince those parents to change their views and vaccinate their children (both of mine have received all recommended vaccinations BTW).

    If it is the latter, if you hope to change their minds then you have failed. That’s all I said. Your strategy, if that is what it is, has failed. Vaccination refusal rates are reportedly increasing in the US.

    You may all be as smart as you pretend to be in some area of life. But if you are trying to increase vaccination rates you are failing and failing badly. Of course if your true motivation is to feel better about yourself by insulting others than by all means .. carry on regardless.

  13. @11, Harold L Doherty

    “Hello People”

    Well, hello yourself. :)

    “Did any of you actually read the blog comment that I wrote and from which one paragraph is set out above?”

    Other than the fact that these people are USING neurodiverse children to further their agenda of paranoia and supersticial beliefs that have no basis in fact, and that their doing so threatens the lives of children around the world? These people have proven they have no vested interest in learning about vaccine safety or about what science has to say about it; instead, they have proven that they only want to believe their beleifs, and anything that doesn’t support that is part of some vast conspiracy by an evil corporation/government/jews/alien illuminati.

    Also, I don’t believe we’ve ever insulted parents, at all, but rather, their close-mindedness for the sake of open-mindedness and their refusals to believe what common sense and science say over their “mommy instincts”

    “Do you do it because it makes you feel good about yourself or do you do it in the hopes that you will convince those parents to change their views and vaccinate their children (both of mine have received all recommended vaccinations BTW).”

    That is awesome! ROCK ON! Good for your children, and I mean that in the least sarcastic way possible, we need more parents who protect their children. I do it because one more child vaccinated is one less child I have to intubate after they’ve gone into respiratory failure and broken ribs from pertussus, or suffered through an emergency crichothyrotomy because their epiglottis has swelled to the size of a quarter, or had to comfort their parents as a helicopter lifts their child to the nearest specialty care center because of Meningitis.

    “If it is the latter, if you hope to change their minds then you have failed. That’s all I said. Your strategy, if that is what it is, has failed. Vaccination refusal rates are reportedly increasing in the US.”

    I disagree. I’ve used this blog in numerous papers on the topic, as well as given it to several people concerned with vaccine safety. I’ve even been able to win them over. It’s not because of this blog that vaccination refusal rates are rising, it’s because of a literal war on science and common sense in the guise of a naturalistic fallacy and the fallacy of “All corporations are evil!”, coupled with talking heads such as Oprah and McCarthy and AoA.

    “You may all be as smart as you pretend to be in some area of life. But if you are trying to increase vaccination rates you are failing and failing badly. Of course if your true motivation is to feel better about yourself by insulting others than by all means .. carry on regardless.”

    I disagree, and that’s the beauty of the internet, expecially in the United States: You have EVERY right to voice your opinion, no matter how wrong it is; but you also have the right to be ridiculed for your opinion should it be nonfactual, and the people that Orac ridicules have every right to be for their continuing efforts to believe in a world that doesn’t exist over harsh reality.

  14. #14 Chris
    May 7, 2010

    Harold Doherty whinged:

    Did any of you actually read the blog comment that I wrote and from which one paragraph is set out above?

    People who post off topic comments deserve to be ridiculed, just as much as those who post a comments on year old threads.

  15. #15 Pablo
    May 7, 2010

    They may be “fighting for their children”, but they’re fighting against mine. They will get no respect from me.

    I’ve described on multiple occasions how I lost my patience with anti-vaxxers when I learned we were expected our first. At that point, their actions moved away from simple selfish idiots, and it became personal. When you activately promote putting MY son at risk for disease, do not expect me to sit back and be quiet about it. Worse are the selfish sponging assholes who expect ME to put my son at risk to complications of vaccines to help provide herd immunity so they can chose to not participate (yes, I’m talking about you, Sid). I’m perfectly willing to do our part to help protect society, but damn it, I expect you to do yours.

    Now, with a second offspring on the way, I am more adamant than ever. Anti-vaxxers are dangerous to my family. Why should I treat them with any respect?

  16. #16 a-non
    May 7, 2010

    Harold,

    First off, nice heavily moderated blog. Kinda like a mini-AoA.

    (By the way, do you notice that more often that not, blogs that are sympathetic to quacks – or outright promote quackery – are almost always moderated?)

    Now that being said, I do agree there should be debate and discussion. But not with the true believers, who are convinced beyond all reason that vaccines are the one true cause of autism. Those people deserve ridicule as the vapidness of their position becomes more clear every day. The fact that some of them happen to be parents doesn’t not shield them from that fact.

  17. #17 Travis
    May 7, 2010

    I just went to Harold’s blog and I died a bit. He is from my home town, Fredericton, NB. *sigh* I wonder if my father knows of this blog, he might be interested in trying to post there. Or trying to post there at least, if the moderation is relaxed a bit.

  18. #18 Travis
    May 7, 2010

    Arg, when you write part of a message, get up for a minute or two, and then come back to it one should always reread it to make sure you have not repeated yourself or made a terrible mistake.

  19. #19 Travis
    May 7, 2010

    Anyway, I think parents need to grow up. People in general need to grow up actually. If someone calls you on something and they actually make a point, I really do not care if they are not overly polite when doing it. Too many people seem to think that being impolite invalidates an argument, or that it is tantamount to an ad hominem argument.

    True believers do deserve ridicule and they will never change their viewpoint. There is no point in trying to actually change their mind. If they are parents they should still be ridiculed. The middle of the road people are those we should actually reach out to, and be more gentle with. But sadly they seem to be a rare breed. Most of those who have strong enough opinions to track down the threads here seem to be hardcore anti-vaxers.

  20. #20 DLC
    May 8, 2010

    Homeopathy, as useless as concern trolls.

  21. #21 Mojo
    May 8, 2010

    Something very like the process described in the cartoon is actually carried out by homoeopaths. They take a single pill of a remedy and put it into a bottle of “blank” pills, and apparently the magical properties of the pill are transferred onto the blanks. Or at least they work just as well as the original pill.

    Homoeopaths call this “grafting”: if you don’t believe me just Google it.

  22. #22 Mojo
    May 8, 2010

    @sirhcton

    Since diluting a homeopathic remedy makes it stronger…

    No, it’s the magic shaking that makes it stronger. Homoeopaths also claim that liquid remedies can be grafted by simply adding more solvent. They just have to be careful not to shake it.

  23. #23 DebinOz
    May 8, 2010

    Let us all note how Harold is concerned about vaccination uptake rates. To Harold, an unvaccinated child is a positive outcome. Not a decrease in alleged vaccine injuries or autism rates; just an increase in the number of unvaccinated kids. Short-sighted in the extreme.

  24. #24 Tanya
    May 8, 2010

    I think that if I ever were to go to a homeopath for treatment, that when the time came to pay for the treatment, I would give them a penny and tell them to put in in a bottle of water and shake it until it turns in to the amount they require to pay for the treatment.

  25. #25 notedscholar
    May 8, 2010

    Naturally you have started a firestorm over alternative medicine. Frankly there are like a thousand D.O.’s who would disprove the prejudices evidenced in this post and the ensuing comments.

    For one thing, homeopathics often require certain densities, so the comic is an ad sequitur.

    Lastly, opposition to homeopathy cannot explain the widespread testimonial evidence in favor of chiropractors. And if there so bad, then why are they sued less than doctors?

    NS

  26. #26 Johnny
    May 8, 2010

    Homoeopaths call this “grafting”: if you don’t believe me just Google it.

    I didn’t, so I did.

    I have come to the conclusion that if people believe grafting works, that homoeopaths will come up with something even more unlikely. Homeopathy is probably a long term experiment (conducted by mice) to see just how much BS you can feed people before they say “No, that’s just silly”.

    Either that, or a simple con game.

  27. #27 Wizard
    May 8, 2010

    You folks can continue your mental masterbation on how and why you “think” that homeopathic medicines don’t work, but you obviously don’t know s***. Get out of your arm-chair philosopher chairs and either read the ****ing basic science research and clincal trials that mostly show evidence for homeopathy.

    This article on the relationship between hormesis and homeopathy should help you to shut the **** up:
    http://www.belleonline.com/newsletters/volume16/vol16-1.pdf

    But few of you seem to be able to read and would rather watch youtube videos and dwell in your linear-thinking lazy minds. Hey, wake up to the biphasic response world of nature and real life.

    Read something on homeopathy and oncology:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/31007717/Narrative-Review-Homeopathy-in-Cancer-Care-by-Moshe-Frenkel-MD

    Or some repetition of basic science work:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20129174

    Or go on masterbating…you seem good at it.

  28. #28 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 8, 2010

    notedscholar:

    Lastly, opposition to homeopathy cannot explain the widespread testimonial evidence in favor of chiropractors.

    Why in hell should it?

    And if there so bad, then why are they sued less than doctors?

    If you are referring to chiropractors, you are mistaken. The malpractice insurance premium for a chiropractor in Canada is about the same as that for a primary care physician.

    BTW, I took a look at your website. You are truly a legend in your own mind. And before you overturn the basis of all modern knowledge, you might want to brush up on your literacy skills. Confusing “there” with “they’re” tends to dilute the power of your message.

  29. #29 speedwell
    May 8, 2010

    The one question I always wanted to ask believers in homeopathy was how they purified their water so it no longer had the memory of other, unwanted substances dissolved in it.

  30. #30 squirrelelite
    May 8, 2010

    @Harold L Doherty,

    I took some time this morning to check out the link in the first comment. I did read your entire blog and all the comments and posted a comment of my own.

    I don’t understand why you referred to Dr Paul Offit as “Field Marshall Offit” since as far as I know he has never served in any military organization and Field Marshall is not a rank in any U.S. military organization.

    On a more pertinent subject, though, how safe do vaccines have to be to be safe enough? How effective do they need to be to be effective enough? (Unfortunately they can never be 100% safe and 100% effective and Dr Offit and Orac both are well aware of that.)

    What strategy would you suggest for presenting this evidence to concerned parents?

  31. #31 Leslie
    May 8, 2010

    “First off, nice heavily moderated blog. Kinda like a mini-AoA.

    “(By the way, do you notice that more often that not, blogs that are sympathetic to quacks – or outright promote quackery – are almost always moderated?)”

    Eh, freedom of the press belongs to s/he who owns the press. Moderating one’s own blog comments sections ain’t any worse than deciding which letters to the editor to print in one’s own magazine (no matter what the topics and slants of the blog or magazine are).

    “That is awesome! ROCK ON! Good for your children, and I mean that in the least sarcastic way possible, we need more parents who protect their children. I do it because one more child vaccinated is one less child I have to intubate after they’ve gone into respiratory failure and broken ribs from pertussus, or suffered through an emergency crichothyrotomy because their epiglottis has swelled to the size of a quarter, or had to comfort their parents as a helicopter lifts their child to the nearest specialty care center because of Meningitis.”

    Exactly!

    “…Lastly, opposition to homeopathy cannot explain the widespread testimonial evidence in favor of chiropractors.”

    It can explain *part* of that evidence: patients who are opposed to homeopathy and *not* opposed to chiropractors. :)

  32. #32 Leslie
    May 8, 2010

    Meanwhile, a big part of the problem seems to be a pendulum swinging between two extremes: the anti-vaccine crowd and the pro-autism crowd.

    The worst of the former make excuses for spreading measles, rubella, pertussis, polio, etc. even to infants.

    The worst of the latter makes excuse for racial harassment (see http://life-with-aspergers.blogspot.com/2010/02/some-thoughts-on-intolerance.html ), breaking other people’s ribs (seehttp://letters.salon.com/mwt/feature/2009/03/26/bauer_autism/permalink/5bd7aa93436c989458e31068b4a5ef7e.html ), sexual assault (see the “But if he WAS unaware, why are you so angry?” part of http://www.wrongplanet.net/postxf83001-0-60.html ), etc.

  33. #33 Militant Agnostic
    May 8, 2010

    Lastly, opposition to homeopathy cannot explain the widespread testimonial evidence in favor of chiropractors. And if there so bad, then why are they sued less than doctors?

    Testimonial evidence is nearly worthless. There is widespread testimonial evidence of anal probing by extraterrestrials.

    As T Bruce McNeely pointed out, in Canada chiropractors have to pay as much for malpractice insurance as MDs. Even if chiropractors payed less, it could simply be due to the the lower risks of treating the worried well for often imaginary conditions.

    Also, people who have been conned are often reluctant to admit that they have been conned as any fraud squad detective will confirm. Several years ago we dealt with an insurance agent in the small Mennonite town of Linden, Alberta. A few years later Linden became the epicenter of large affinity fraud Ponzi scheme. I heard a radio interview of our former insurance agent and the RCMP officer who was investigating the fraud. The Mountie expressed his frustration about being unable to get the victims to press charges and said that many of the victims believed the main perpetrator was in the US trying to find their missing money. The insurance agent said that he had tried to dissuade people from investing in the scam and had lost many friends as a result. People who had be swindled would rather shun him than admit that they should have listened to him.

    Bottom line = your arguments are worthless – just like chiropractic (when it used for things other than low back pain).

  34. #34 a-non
    May 8, 2010

    Leslie,

    I am not arguing anyone’s right to moderate their blog such as they wish. I was just making the observation that, by and large, dissent on blogs that are sympathetic to or support quackery is far more prevalent. I think a comparison with AoA with, say, Respectful Insolence is illustrative of that fact.

    That is why the idea that there should be “discussion and debate” on the vaccine topic is, at times, laughable. The anti side doesn’t want anything to do with that debate unless they can stack the deck in their favor.

  35. #35 Leslie
    May 8, 2010

    Interesting article on both pro-science and respectful outreach here: http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2009/10/hmong_shamans_h.php

    “…Unfamiliarity with Western medical practices has led to distrust among the Hmong refugees who settled in the Valley. Some of the biggest fears surround surgery—that the removal of body parts could affect them in the next life after reincarnation…

    “…During evening classes, the shamans looked through microscopes, learned about prescription drugs, X-rays and blood tests, and toured the hospital, including stops inside empty operating rooms.

    “Shamans invited doctors to their homes, where the physicians learned about Hmong healing beliefs and witnessed traditional spiritual healing ceremonies…”

  36. #36 Dangerous Bacon
    May 8, 2010

    noted scholar: For one thing, homeopathics often require certain densities”

    The success of homeopathy requires a lot of density. ;)

  37. #37 Chris
    May 8, 2010

    Leslie, what does your post about the Hmong have to do with homeopathy?

    Are you implying that homeopathy is not “Western”? Does this mean that Germany was magically transported to the “East” when Hahnemann was living there two centuries ago?

    In short: Leslie, you are either an off topic concern troll, or you have absolutely no clue what homeopathy is! I am betting on both, since you have not posted one on topic comment.

  38. #38 Chris
    May 8, 2010

    T. Bruce McNeely, I also just looked at notedscholar’s little website. You are right, he is a legend in his own mind.

    As a structural dynamics engineer, I found this bit on imaginary numbers particularly amusing in its stupidity.

    notascholar, I suggest you do a bit of reading on the subject. Until then stay away from every piece of technology that has used imaginary numbers, and especially Euler’s Formula. That means nothing with springs, electrical circuits, hydraulics, manufactured goods, any motorized vehicle and the list goes on… because it involves anything with mechanics and electricity.

  39. #39 Tom (iow)
    May 8, 2010

    Quite simple: because most people don’t know about water memory, what 6C means, or any of that stuff.

    They just think the homeopathic medicine contains a small amount of a substance, a fraud which the homeopaths are only too happy to perpetuate as much as possible, hence the ludicrous and esoteric numbering system.

  40. #40 Leslie
    May 8, 2010

    “…Are you implying that homeopathy is not “Western”? Does this mean that Germany was magically transported to the “East” when Hahnemann was living there two centuries ago?…”

    Of course not, just pointing out an example I found of doctors who practice evidence-based medicine (not my fault the article called it “Western”) reaching out to a group of people whose customs didn’t have much of it before (not my fault that in this particular case the first generation of Hmong people in America came from Southeast Asia instead of Europe).

  41. #41 sophia8
    May 8, 2010

    Tom @36: Nearly everyone I talk to about homeopathy thinks it’s some form of herbalism, and that homepathic remedies contain measurable amounts of herbs or herbal extracts. Homeopaths are of course happy to let this confusion continue and most of them will actually prescribe some sort of herbal remedy as well as the magic water and the sugar pills.

  42. #42 Candy
    May 8, 2010

    I don’t really know what point is being made in the comparison between belief in homeopathy vs. chiropractic, but would just like to throw this out there about the chiropractic insurance statement: I’m a paralegal who worked for a tort attorney. Neither he nor any personal injury lawyer I know will get within miles of a chiroquackter. They’ve all seen too many injured back pain patients. Chiropractic is dangerous. They should have to take out more insurance than most medical doctors.

  43. #43 Chris
    May 8, 2010

    Leslie:

    Of course not, just pointing out an example I found of doctors who practice evidence-based medicine (not my fault the article called it “Western”) reaching out to a group of people whose customs didn’t have much of it before (not my fault that in this particular case the first generation of Hmong people in America came from Southeast Asia instead of Europe).

    And what in the blue blazes does that have to do with homeopathy?

    Noting also that the website you found the article on was extremely xenophobic, you are exhibiting extreme off topic concern troll behavior.

  44. #44 anonymous
    May 8, 2010
  45. #45 Antaeus Feldspar
    May 8, 2010

    To the “Chris” at 40 (who I have reason to think may not be the long-time commenter who we know around here by that name): what is your test for determining who is an “off-topic concern troll”? Given that the worst “offenses” Leslie has committed seem to be posting about “perennial topics” of the blog rather than the specific topic of this post (something that many of us have done at one point or another), disagreeing about whether moderation of blog comments is automatically un-kosher (a subject on which there can be legitimate disagreement), and speaking positively about the benefits of explaining Western medicine to those who aren’t familiar with it and don’t have any inherent reason to trust it — I’m not seeing how an accusation of “concern trolling” holds up. Surely the accusations on such flimsy evidence are more disruptive than anything Leslie’s done.

  46. #46 Chris
    May 8, 2010

    That she posted on topics that were not homeopathy.

  47. #47 Chris
    May 8, 2010

    The concern troll bit was because of her attempt on the first post to change the topic. So maybe the “concern troll” bit is unwarranted.

    I also think it is interesting when she invoked the “not my fault” about the article said… when it was from a very right wing racist web page. Sorry, she lost any remnant of respect for even linking to that page.

    I also still dislike those who post off-topic when there are more relevant recent posts to place that comment on.

  48. #48 Rorie
    May 8, 2010

    From the first panel of that comic, the contents of the next two were pretty obvious.

    And I wonder, why did I not think of that question myself…

  49. #49 Leslie
    May 9, 2010

    “And what in the blue blazes does that have to do with homeopathy?”

    Homeopathy isn’t evidence-based either, and so maybe doctors who practice evidence-based medicine and want to reach out to communities that prefer homeopathy (no matter what race/s they are!) could learn from doctors who practice evidence-based medicine and successfully reached out another community that preferred other non-evidence-based healing customs (so what if they’re any less white than the Germans who invented homeopathy?).

    Anyway, already knowing about some controversy among the Hmong about surgery, I searched for those keywords, and found the page with that article. It was copying and pasting part of an article originally at http://www.fresnobee.com/832/story/1669868-p2.html and no longer online (I checked). My apologies for not checking the rest of the website and for not clarifying that the article was originally in The Fresno Bee.

  50. #50 Chris
    May 10, 2010

    Thank you, and good. I’m sorry but you did not seem to start off well by going off topic and linking to a blog with an agenda. Then going off on to that other website.

    But really, it was a humorous look at homeopathy… and it looked like you were trying to push something that I misinterpreted when you went off on a completely different direction. Sorry.

  51. #51 Leslie
    May 10, 2010

    No hard feelings, Chris!

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