Respectful Insolence

Oh goody.

Goody, goody, goody, goody, goody.

As I sat down to lay down a bit of the old ultrainsolence on a hapless bit of psuedoscience, I was near despair. For whatever reason, there didn’t appear to be anything new out there for me to sink my teeth into. True, when this has happened in the past, I’ve often delved deep into the Folder of Woo in search of tasty tidbits of quackery saved for just this eventuality, but I really hate to do that. After all, it might be good to apply science, critical thinking, and reason to a particularly nonsensical bit of pseudoscience (which is fun) or to a more challenging bit of poor scientific reasoning (which is educational), but it’s even more fun to take on pseudoscience that is topical, either as a result of its being in the news or as a result of a its being new excretion of burning stupid by a pseudoscience booster. Yesterday, I took on the pseudoscience that was topical because it was in the news. Last night, thanks to the wonder of Google Alerts, I became aware of a bit of tempting pseudoscience from a very old “friend” of the blog.

Who could it be? Take a guess. First, what’s The One Quackery to Rule Them All, The One Quackery to Find Them, The One Quackery to Bring Them All and in the Darkness Bind Them? Yep, we’re talking homeopathy baby! That tells you the what. But what about the who? (And, no, I don’t mean The Who, as in the band, no matter how much I love The Who.) Regular readers of this blog probably know about whom I speak, or they will if I tell you that it isn’t John Benneth. It is, however, someone who calls himself an “evidence-based homeopath.” (It’s even right there under his name in the blog post.) He’s even occasionally “graced” this blog with his presence on occasion? Do you know who it is yet? OK, I’ll tell you.

Yes, it’s Dana Ullman. Once again, Dana’s decided to pontificate from his blogging home on that wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post. As usual, Dana’s blogging about homeopathy. He’s also quite unhappy. The reason is that he sees a nefarious plot, an evil plot, a veritable disinformation campaign against homeopathy. As is typical for Dana, criticism by homeopathy by supporters of science-based medicine (like myself) is not due to the fact that homeopathy is based on vitalism and sympathetic magic; that homeopathic remedies are diluted into nonexistence; or even that for homeopathy to work, huge swaths of physics, chemistry, and biochemistry would have to be not just wrong, but spectacularly wrong. Oh, no. It’s not that at all. To Ullman, it’s all ideological; it’s all nothing more than a huge conspiracy to crush a competitor because, as Ullman puts it, homeopathy is an “ongoing threat to the scientific, philosophical and economics of conventional medical care.” In the process of trying to defend homeopathy, Ullman further lays down his usual panoply of logical fallacies, misinformation, and pseudoscience, beginning with the claim that only homeopathy treats the real cause of disease:

It is common, for instance, for homeopaths to question the alleged “scientific” studies that conventional drugs are “effective” as treatments because of concern that many of these treatments tend to suppress symptoms or disrupt the complex inner ecology of the body and create much more serious illness. Just as opiate drugs of the 19th century gave the guise of healing, homeopaths contend that many modern-day drugs provide blessed short-term relief but create immune dysfunction, mental illness and other chronic disease processes in its wake. Further, the fact that most people today are prescribed multiple drugs concurrently, despite the fact that clinical research is rarely conducted showing the safety or efficacy of such practices, forces us all to question how scientific modern medicine truly is.

Homeopaths contend that increased rates of cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue and various chronic diseases for increasingly younger people may result from conventional medicine’s suppression of symptoms and disease processes. It is therefore no surprise that conventional physicians and Big Pharma have a long and dark history of working together to attack homeopathy and homeopaths.

Because to Ullman it is nothing more than big pharma keeping homeopathy down, rather than the fact that homeopathy is pure quackery. Ullman then engages in his favorite logical fallacy, argumentum ad populum. He points out how popular homeopathy as in the 19th century, as if that has any relevance today. After all, homeopathic remedies are diluted to nothing more than water, given that they are diluted far beyond the point where a single molecule is likely to remain; so they are the equivalent of doing nothing. Given that a lot of medicine practiced in the 19th century involved toxic purges and various other harmful practices, it’s not that surprising that homeopathy appeared to do better. But you know what? As medicine became more scientific, as the toxic therapies were replaced with more science- and evidence-based therapies, medicine became more effective than doing nothing for many conditions, which means it became more effective than homeopathy appeared to be.

I must admit, though. Ullman is pretty funny. Let’s take a look at how he tries to paint skepticism of homeopathy as being in reality pseudoskepticism. It’s a textbook example of not understanding what skepticism really is. Ullman first complains that “homeopathy deniers” (a label that I wear proudly as a practitioner and defender of science-based medicine, by the way) “make a simple false accusation, a lie, and repeat it constantly and consistently in an attempt to make it a new ‘truth.'” In reality these are not false accusations at all; they are the truth. Rather, it’s Ullman and homeopathy apologists who take a lie and repeat it constantly. Next, Ullman tries to accuse us evil skeptics of finding excuses to downplay positive evidence for homeopathy. Never mind that that “positive” evidence is invariably easily explained by the random noise that occurs in clinical trial results, in which at least 5% of clinical trials produce false positive results based on the definition of statistical significance (and, given the imperfections, biases, and flaws in clinical trial methodology, it’s usually much more than 5%). Combine that with the utter implausibility of homeopathy based on physics, and those equivocal results are even more obviously false positives.

Let’s just put it this way. It’s possible that everything we know about physics is wrong in such a way that homeopathy works. Incredibly unlikely but probably not absolutely impossible. However, if homeopaths are going to disprove well established laws of physics supported by mountains of evidence, they need to bring mountains of unequivocal evidence of their own that are equal to or greater than the scientific evidence that concludes that homeopathy can’t work. Equivocal clinical trials that appear to show results just barely better than placebo just won’t cut it. Heck, I’d even settle for a quantity and quality of evidence that are even in the same order of magnitude as the quantity and quality of evidence showing that homeopathy can’t work.

Homeopaths have never come close to that.

Next, Ullman tries to appropriate the concept of skepticism for himself, while at the same time erroneously trying to appropriate a simple principle of how new theories expand upon old theories:

The third component of the technique is to sell the lie to a vulnerable population in an attempt to have repetition from that group. In the case of the homeopathy deniers, the vulnerable groups are often young students of science who are enamored with the language and elitism of their newly-learned craft, but who lack the deep understanding and experience to realize that they are being “used” by the deniers. The homeopathy deniers also play on the fears of those older and established scientists and physicians and who are led to believe that “if homeopathy is true, then everything about modern medicine and science is false.” This over-simplification of reality is commonly repeated.

However, just as quantum physics does not “disprove” all of physics — but, rather,extends our capability to understand and predict events on extremely small and extremely large systems — likewise, homeopathy does not disprove all of modern pharmacology but extends our understanding of the use of extremely small doses of medicinal agents to elicit healing responses.

Apparently Ullman’s been reading about physics. He’s even correct that new theories don’t usually completely refute old theories, although he used the wrong example. The most common example used here is relativity. Relativity didn’t disprove Newtonian physics. Relativistic equations simplify to Newtonian equations under the condition of velocities that are such a small fraction of the speed of light that they are negligible in comparison. Of course, most velocities that humans ever see in common everyday life fall into this category, which is why Newtonian physics was so useful for so long and remains so for many applications. The problem, of course, is that homeopathy “extends” our understanding of…nothing. Certainly homeopathy provides no understanding of the use of extremely small doses of medicinal agents unless you mean no doses of medicinal agents. Again, most homeopathic remedies have been diluted to the point where nothing but water remains. Does this really need to be repeated? Apparently it does to Dana Ullman.

Let’s take a look at Ullman’s “myths.” First up on the list:

Myth #1: “There is no research that shows that homeopathic medicines work.”

Such statements are a creative use of statistics, or what might be called “lies, damn lies and statistics.” Actually, most clinical research studies conducted with homeopathic medicines show a positive outcome. However, if “creative statisticians” evaluate only the smaller number of large studies, a positive result is less likely, not because homeopathy doesn’t work, but because these larger studies tend to dispense only one homeopathic medicine for everyone in the study, without any degree of individualized treatment that is typical of the homeopathic method (1). To claim that homeopathic medicines do not work using only these studies is as illogical as to say that antibiotics are ineffective just because they do not cure for every viral, fungal or bacterial infection.

So many typical fallacies, so little time. First, I would dispute that “most” studies of homeopathic remedies show a positive outcome, although, if that were true, it would be excellent evidence of publication bias more than anything else. Typically, Ullman falls back upon the claim that, when clinical trials show homeopathy doesn’t work, it must be the fault of the clinical trial because the remedies aren’t “individualized.”

Onward to myth 2:

Myth #2: “The research studies showing that homeopathic medicines work are ‘poorly conducted studies.'”

Which is, for the most part true, no matter how assiduously Ullman tries to deny it. True, he tries to argue that because these studies have been published in prestigious journals then they must be good. However, any regular reader of this blog will realize that publication in a respectable journal does not guarantee that a study is any good. At least once a month, if not more often, I lament how badly designed trials of blatant pseudoscience somehow slip past reviewers of prestigious journals, yes, even journals like the New England Journal of Medicine.

Now here’s a silly one:

Myth #3: “12C is like one drop in the entire Atlantic Ocean.”

Pure fantasy (and fuzzy math)! In fact, the 12C dose requires 12 test tubes, and 1 percent of the solution is drawn from each of the 12 test tubes. It is also very typical for the “deniers” of homeopathy to assert with a straight face that the making of a single homeopathic medicine requires more water than exists on the planet. It seems that the skeptics are so fundamentalist in their point of view that they consciously or unconsciously mis-assume that the dilutions used in homeopathy grow proportionately with each dilution; they assume that each dilution requires 10 or 100 times more water with each dilution — which they don’t, and even the most elementary articles and books on homeopathy affirm this fact.

Oh, Dana! Dana! The organizers of the Burning Man festival called. They want their giant strawman back. No, skeptics don’t claim that it requires a volume of water the equivalent of that of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a metaphor to demonstrate the degree of dilution. No skeptic claims that the making of a single homeopathic remedy requires more water than exists on the planet. That would obviously be ridiculous. However, it is not ridiculous to point out that, through the power of serial dilution, homeoapths can achieve dilutions equivalent to diluting a remedy in all the water on earth or even in all the particles in the universe. For example, there are homeopathic remedies that are diluted to 200C. That’s 200 hundred-fold dilutions, or 10400. I note that the number of particles in the known universe is on the order of 1078 to 1082.

You get the idea. Unfortunately, as usual, Ullman does not. After all, he says with a straight face:

Myth #4: “There is nothing in a homeopathic medicine. It is just water.”

This is, of course, true for most homeopathic remedies greater than 12C or so, which, being a dilution of 1024, is greater than Avagadro’s number. Certainly it’s true for homeopathic dilutions greater than 15C or so. So what’s Ullman’s retort? First, he points out “low potency” homeopathic remedies. This is, of course, true; there are homeopathic remedies less than 12C in which there is detectable starting compound. None of this validates homeopathy, which claims that diluting a remedy with succussion makes it stronger, that “like cures like,” and that homeopathic “provings” are the way to figure out how a remedy “works.” Ullman also cites a couple of very dubious studies that claim to find differences between homeopathic remedies and water, one of which I myself deconstructed in depth.

Finally:

Myth #5: “If we do not presently understand how homeopathic medicines work, then, they cannot work. It’s witchcraft.”

Well…not exactly. Homeopathy is indeed witchcraft, but not because we don’t understand how they work. Certainly that’s not the reason why we conclude that they cannot work. We conclude they cannot work because they violate the laws of physics and homeopaths can’t produce evidencethat they do work of sufficient power, quality, and quantity to lead scientists to seriously question current laws of physics and chemistry. Ullman even tries the tired old ploy of labeling skeptics as “close-minded”:

One other critical piece of evidence to show and even prove the unscientific attitude of the homeopathy deniers is that they now wish to close off all discussion of the efficacy of homeopathic medicines (Baum and Ernst, 2009). These medical fundamentalists actually discourage keeping an open mind about homeopathy. One must question this unscientific attitude that select antagonists to homeopathy embody, and one must even wonder why they maintain such a position.

Uh, Mr. Ullman. Burning Man festival organizers again. We still want our giant straw man back. You haven’t returned it yet. In fact, we may have to charge you for wear and tear, given how much you appear to be using it.

In reality, the argument is more subtle than what Ullman represents. Basically, the argument is quite reasonable, pointing out that the evidence against homeopathy based on physics and the overwhelming lack of clinical evidence, is so compelling that it is unreasonable to keep doing clinical trials using homeopathy until such a time as there is compelling evidence that it might be effective. Although the end result would be the same (no more clinical trials of homeopathy) this is a very different argument than how Ullman represents it. Nor is it unscientific to suggest that it is unethical and a waste of resources to test pseudoscientific remedies based on sympathetic magic more than science on human subjects unless and until there is compelling basic science evidence supporting homeopathy.

So much for the “evidence-based” part of “evidence-based homeopath.”

Although this little paranoid screed is typical Dana Ullman, it does end on an intriguing note. Ullman finishes by promising to “provide further specific evidence of the unscientific attitude and actions from those individuals and organizations who are leading the campaign against homeopathy.” He even promises to name the names of a “leading antagonist” to homeopathy from the U.S. and another from the U.K. Obviously, the U.K. “antagonist” will almost certainly be Edzard Ernst, but who will the U.S. “antagonist” be? I wonder.

Oh! Oh! Dana! Pick me! I want to be the U.S. homeopathy antagonist! Don’t be boring and pick someone like Steve Novella (a likely choice) or James Randi (another likely choice)! Pick the wild card. Pick Orac. I deserve it. Whatever the identity of the U.S. homeopathy antagonist is, I bet Ullman’s followup article will be as unintentionally hilarious as this one was.

Comments

  1. #1 novalox
    September 15, 2011

    I’ll say this, Ullman certainly brought the stupid with that article.

  2. #2 Matthew Cline
    September 15, 2011

    Typically, Ullman falls back upon the claim that, when clinical trials show homeopathy doesn’t work, it must be the fault of the clinical trial because the remedies aren’t “individualized.”

    It’s worse than that: according to Ullman, homeopathy usually requires individualization, but there are exceptions. So for any study of a non-individualized remedy, if the study comes out positive it’s an exception-to-the-rule which is evidence in support of homeopathy, but if it comes out negative isn’t isn’t evidence against homeopathy. Heads I win, tails it’s a tie.

    while at the same time erroneously trying to appropriate a simple principle of how new theories expand upon old theories

    When those expansions of old theories occurred, it happened because of stumbling across something weird which didn’t fit into the current theory, like the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit or the black body radiation curve. It’d be really weird if homeopathy worked yet all the research into physics and biology never ran into the homeopathic version of the black body radiation curve.

  3. #3 Sam C
    September 15, 2011

    I don’t see how Ullman thinks individualisation should make trials impracticable. The homeopath can still prescribe whichever “remedy” s/he wants, as long as a dispensary can distribute double blinded bottles of (a) water (ordinary) or (b) water (magic, shaken’n’stuff).

    When they’ve all done their stuff, measured subjective and objective results, the results can be unblinded by an impartial medical statistician.

    I can’t see any ethical problem because this the victims, sorry, patients are people who are already visiting World of Woo out of choice, who have bought the biscuits. There’s no need for real doctors to mislead the marks.

    Of course, it would all be labeled a “fix!!!” by the quacks when it showed nothing good for them.

    Would it be unethical to release fake results first, where they show a positive result for quackery, so the homeopaths praise the quality of the study, how well it is constructed and so forth, then to tell them, er no, you agreed it was very well-designed, but here are the real results? Watch them wriggle as they explain away their earlier praise?!

  4. #4 anarchic teapot
    September 15, 2011

    Lovely post. I see you’ve achieved mid-season form with a minimum of effort.

    I’m not sure the BM festival would want their strawman back, considering that what Ullman does with it is definitely against nature.
    This nutter’s been showing up regularly in my Scoop.it search ever since I started it; in fact, he was what inspired this little rant. His thoughts on Contagion are priceless, to the point where you begin to wonder if he isn’t the real-life version of Jude Law’s character.

    There’s one thing that really cracks me up about the reccurrent “individualized treatment” speil. Homeopathic sugar pills are available over the counter just about anywhere credulity can be exploited. How can this possibly be reconciled with an individually tailored, specially adapted treatment?

  5. #5 herr doktor bimler
    September 15, 2011

    When those expansions of old theories occurred, it happened because of stumbling across something weird which didn’t fit into the current theory, like the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit or the black body radiation curve.

    I would certainly pay more attention to astrologers if they were predicting the orbits of hitherto-unobserved outer-solar-system planets, in order to explain the mismatch between people’s actual biographies and the biographies predicted by the known planets.

  6. #6 Matthew Cline
    September 15, 2011

    @Sam C:

    I don’t see how Ullman thinks individualisation should make trials impracticable.

    It’s not that he claims that studies of individualized remedies are impracticable. Rather, it’s that if a study of non-individualized homeopathy gives a negative result, he claims that the negative result doesn’t count as evidence against homeopathy because homeopathy is individualized. Of course, if a study of non-individualized homeopathy gives a positive result he claims that it’s evidence for homeopathy, since in that case “homeopathic remedies must be individualized” is a general rule which has exceptions. Heads I win, tails it’s a tie.

  7. #7 phayes
    September 15, 2011

    “Equivocal clinical trials that appear to show results just barely better than placebo just won’t cut it.”

    Unfortunately, I expect that unless and until it’s recognised that ostensibly unequivocal clinical trials of homeopathic remedies wouldn’t cut it either, this unethical form of cargo cult science will continue.

  8. #8 phayes
    September 15, 2011

    @Sam C

    “Would it be unethical to release fake results first, where they show a positive result for quackery, so the homeopaths praise the quality of the study, how well it is constructed and so forth, then to tell them, er no, you agreed it was very well-designed, but here are the real results? Watch them wriggle as they explain away their earlier praise?!”

    I’d be more entertained by the wriggling that’d follow a ‘genuine’ positive result. ;-)

  9. #9 daijiyobu
    September 15, 2011

    Does HuffPo care about what they publish? Seems that it’s so inexpensive for them to simply cast a hugely wide net across the net, benefit from the traffic, and never have to answer for the complete lack of journalistic quality of their content.

    -r.c.

  10. #10 FilipinoMDstudent
    September 15, 2011

    “I must admit, though. Ullman is pretty funny.”

    Oh, I agree. I tried watching Dana Ullman’s youtube video “Why Homeopathy Works and Makes Sense”. It should have been entitled “Why Homeopathy Doesn’t Work or Make Sense.” He made an analogy that since low frequencies (radios) are used in communicating in salt water, then the same should be done in human blood: “communicating” in blood, he says, requires low doses, just like how salt water requires low frequencies.

    After hearing that, I had an inner conflict; a part of me wanted to cry while another wanted to laugh out loud.

  11. #11 Den!s
    September 15, 2011

    I guessed Joe Mercola, but Ullman will do :) I bet the two are close friends

  12. #12 Acleron
    September 15, 2011

    It’s interesting to see how Dana has evolved his arguments.
    When he was found out using a pseudonym, he has made a virtue out of using his own name.
    When the skeptics showed the faults in his references, he became a ‘skeptic’.
    When he was told that evidence based medicine was necessary for his claims, he became evidence based.
    So what next for the old chap? My guess is that he will become a insolent purveyor of ramblings about pseudoscience, so Orac, he won’t choose you for the American Idol (alas), he will BECOME you.

  13. #13 Mary
    September 15, 2011

    Oh, I thought for sure it was going to be about the new Sense about Science campaign–which really is “Ask for Evidence”!

    http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/a4e_launch.html

    It’s totally subversive to ask for evidence, right?

  14. #14 Dangerous Bacon
    September 15, 2011

    “It’s not that he claims that studies of individualized remedies are impracticable. Rather, it’s that if a study of non-individualized homeopathy gives a negative result, he claims that the negative result doesn’t count as evidence against homeopathy because homeopathy is individualized. Of course, if a study of non-individualized homeopathy gives a positive result he claims that it’s evidence for homeopathy, since in that case “homeopathic remedies must be individualized” is a general rule which has exceptions.”

    But of course, Matthew. It’s that way for any type of alternative medicine. What doesn’t work for one person may work for another, remedies must be respected since they’ve been popular or at least existed for hundreds or thousands of years, and you keep trying until you find the one that works for you even if it isn’t validated by pharma-controlled We$tern medicine. There’s not just one cure, there are thousands of cures. We are reminded of the great W.C. Fields who said “It’s easy to stop drinking. I’ve done it a thousand times.”

    Ullman: “many of these (mainstream) treatments tend to suppress symptoms or disrupt the complex inner ecology of the body”

    Exactly! I can’t tell you how often it is that, for example, physicians treat serious infections with antibiotics or surgery, preventing the bugs from establishing a complex inner ecology (gas gangrene is particularly complex and lovely) and “curing” the patient, who may 20 years later get cancer. We have to reverse this trend and let natural ecology take its course, like when homeopathy was King.

  15. #15 Dana Ullman
    September 15, 2011

    I could easily deconstruct what you’ve written above…but don’t care to do so. However, I do simply want to ask why you choose to omit my reference to a study that was conducted at India’s prestigious Institute of Technology (let alone other basic sciences referenced) that tested SIX different homeopathic medicines using THREE different modern technologies and found NANOPARTICLES of the original medicines even after the 200C potency…(reference below)

    Therefore, you those who engage in disinformation on homeopathy say that there is “nothing” in homeopathic medicines, they are either misinformed or are lying (which is it?).

    When you consider the large body of work in hormesis, we know that small doses of certain substances have powerful effects on certain systems.

    Chikramane PS, Suresh AK, Bellare JR, and Govind S. Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective. Homeopathy. Volume 99, Issue 4, October 2010, 231-242. http://www.homeopathy.org/files/HomeopathyandNanoparticle.pdf

    The other work by Elia also provide basic science evidence of the physical effects of homeopathic drugs even in high potencies. Sorry to confuse you with the facts…and I realize that people here only like to use science when it supports their worldview and to ignore it at other times.

  16. #16 Lawrence
    September 15, 2011

    Homeopathy is not Science – more like Fantasy (not even science fiction). How can you sit there and write your crap?

    Please show how a single molecule of anything is supposed to be able to help/cure disease?

    Anyone that understands even elementary physics or biology can understand that all homeopathy is just water, plain and simple.

    Oh, when you do your dilutions, do you still knock the vials against Bibles?

  17. #17 Mu
    September 15, 2011

    Mr. Ullman, do you even realize what that paper means? It proves that the producers of homeopathic remedies in India are a little bit less than truthful about their procedures, clearly not diluting as thoroughly as they claim.
    That, or they have reproduced the miraculous increase in material, finally explaining the miracle of feeding the 50,000.

  18. #18 James Sweet
    September 15, 2011

    There actually is a rather aggressive misinformation campaign “targeting” homeopathy, except I think it’s more accidental than conspiratorial, and it actually benefits homeopaths. Namely, it is the conflation of the word “holistic” with “homeopathic”.

    There is nothing wrong with a holistic approach per se, even though if often gets tightly associated with quackery. But the idea of treating the whole person, of being concerned with that person’s sense of fulfillment and happiness as well as their basic physical health… that’s a worthy goal, and it is something with which mainstream (i.e. real) medicine really does struggle at times — not because of some fundamental incompatibility, but more just because getting that right is difficult and expensive and time-consuming. In any case, it is not at all crazy to seek out a practitioner with a more holistic view of medicine. I’ve been very pleased with our family doc’s performance in this category — no woo required.

    Homeopathy, on the other hand, is such a laughably dumb idea that I think if most people with at least a junior high-level education knew what it was before they tried it and got sold on the idea, homeopaths would be completely out of business.

    I know for a fact that people confuse these two H-words. At one time, I did. My wife did, and in fact didn’t believe me when I have her a basic summary of what homeopathy was — she thought I must be mistaken, because who could believe something so stupid? (A brief perusal of Wikipedia confirmed that I had gotten the gist correct. She was shocked, hehehehe.) Many of my wife’s friends still do confused the two.

    I don’t think there is a “conspiracy” of homeopaths to perpetuate this confusion, but I’m pretty sure they don’t exactly discourage it. It’s good for them. As long as people think the definition of homeopathy is “a more comprehensive approach to medicine” instead of “magic water”, it is a lot easier for them to recruit new customers.

  19. #19 Science Mom
    September 15, 2011

    However, I do simply want to ask why you choose to omit my reference to a study that was conducted at India’s prestigious Institute of Technology (let alone other basic sciences referenced) that tested SIX different homeopathic medicines using THREE different modern technologies and found NANOPARTICLES of the original medicines even after the 200C potency…(reference below)

    Oh you mean the study that did not control for the starting materials and were really looking at contamination of the water with metals? Heh.

  20. #20 Lynn Wilhelm
    September 15, 2011

    Your mention of Benneth today was interesting. In the nature of fair play with my local blogger who loves homeopathy I listened Benneth’s simply dreadful Secrets of Homeopathy youtube videos.
    In the last http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrPmjKr7f5Q, he talks about cancer. He notes some more recent research (than the ancient ones he touts in earlier episodes) and me, being a layperson, am wondering if there are flaws in these that show positive effects from homeopathic remedies. This one in particular, using Ruta seems to have some effect: http://www.virtualtrials.com/pdf/ruta6.pdf The dose is a low dilution so the plant extracts might actuall be having a true effect.

    Anyway, there are other studies listed under the video in the first link. Any comments on those?

    By the way, I have been invited to guest post on “Moving Strongly Forward”. I certainly don’t feel qualified to do this, but perhaps I can be a voice of reason on her blog.
    If I do, this post will be one of my links. I’m thinking of talking about skepticism and homeopathy, so this post is perfect. Thanks.

  21. #21 Lynn Wilhelm
    September 15, 2011

    By the way Diane Rehm is talking about the HPV vaccine on her show now: http://thedianerehmshow.org/

  22. #22 Lawrence
    September 15, 2011

    Lynn – I’m surprised she is letting you post. I would definitely recommend a definitive takedown of homeopathy (since she seems to be in love with it). I wonder if she actually understands what it really means.

    Good luck – I’ll offer any assistance that I can.

  23. #23 FilipinoMDstudent
    September 15, 2011

    @Dana Ullman

    “However, I do simply want to ask why you choose to omit my reference to a study that was conducted at India’s prestigious Institute of Technology”

    Actually, Orac didn’t leave it out. Go back to the post and read his paragraph on myth # 4. He already made a post about this …errgh… “scientific” paper.

  24. #24 MikeMa
    September 15, 2011

    Ullman:

    Therefore, you those who engage in disinformation on homeopathy say that there is “nothing” in homeopathic medicines, they are either misinformed or are lying (which is it?).

    I need a third choice here. Neither of those fit my understanding of the dilution homeopaths say they do. If you use uncontaminated vessels and water, you will have nothing left when you are done. Except cash from suckers. Homeopathy and Mr Ullman are full of shit.

  25. #25 Beamup
    September 15, 2011

    I find that the most utter hilarity results when the moron castigates real medicine for treating symptoms only.

    Homeopathy is BY DEFINITION strictly symptomatic! It hasn’t the fainest concept of underlying causes. Everything is completely based on “you have symptom X so you get remedy Y.”

  26. #26 the bug guy
    September 15, 2011

    I love a good smackdown in the morning. It smells like Science.

  27. #27 Lynn Wilhelm
    September 15, 2011

    Lawrence I’m surprised too. We had an interesting email conversation and she made the offer. She just didn’t like me and thinks I’m being a bully. This whole thing started when NC was working on that CAM legislation. She feels she was instrumental in watering it down, protecting her CAM friends.

    Anyway, I’m collecting some good information and I think I’ll take her up on her offer. I told her that any post I make won’t be much different from comments I’ve made. She says the post will get more notice than comments would. We’ll see.

    Her favorite local homeopathic guy is Hart Matthews in Chapel Hill NC: http://www.dynamishomeopathic.com/bio.shtml
    His links led me to Benneth’s videos. He got his certification from Caduceus Institute of Classical Homeopathy which sounds very intersting.

  28. #28 Science Mom
    September 15, 2011

    Homeopathy is BY DEFINITION strictly symptomatic! It hasn’t the fainest concept of underlying causes. Everything is completely based on “you have symptom X so you get remedy Y.”

    Eggzacktelly!!!

  29. #29 Krebiozen
    September 15, 2011

    To elaborate Mu’s “miraculous increase in material”, that Indian homeopathy paper found that a 200C dilution of gold still contained up to 100 pg of gold per ml. That means that if you took a liter of the mother tincture of gold and diluted it to 200C without discarding any solutions in the process (I know that’s impossible as there isn’t enough water in the universe, or a big enough container to succuss it in, but I’m being hypothetical here), you would then have somewhere in the region of 10^400 liters of ‘remedy’ containing 100 pg/ml of gold, which by my calculations makes about 10^385 kilograms of gold. I suspect that’s more gold than there is in the entire universe.

    Maybe the portion of each dilution selected at each stage had more gold in it than the portion thrown away, but that doesn’t make sense – after all that shaking it should be homogeneous right? The most likely solution, as others have stated, is that there is a contamination problem somewhere, or that the manufacturers didn’t dilute the stuff as much as they claimed.

  30. #30 njd
    September 15, 2011

    I have a simple question: is Dana Ullman numerate?

    I ask this as an honest question, not as an attempt to be snide. I ask because a quick calculation suggests that a 12C dilution is indeed roughly equivalent to mixing one drop of pure “stuff” into the Atlantic Ocean, for what (to me) are reasonable estimates of the volume of “one drop” and “the Atlantic Ocean”.

    Do people think that, perhaps, Dana genuinely does not realize this?

  31. #31 cervantes
    September 15, 2011

    OT, but Orac will enjoy this: In a spirited showdown on “Good Morning America ” today, ABC News Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser confronted Dr. Mehmet Oz on what he called “extremely irresponsible” statements made on “The Dr. Oz Show” show Wednesday concerning arsenic in apple juice.

    “Oz and his producers drew criticism on Wednesday for a show focusing on the dangers of trace levels of arsenic present in many popular brands of apple juice. Juice manufacturers, government regulators, and scientists said the results of what the program called its “extensive national investigation” discussed in Wednesday’s episode of the “Dr. Oz Show” were misleading and needlessly frightening to consumers.

    In a statement released Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said, “There is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices.” . . .

    Scientists say arsenic is a naturally occurring substance, and is so abundant in the Earth’s soil that it often ends up in many of the foods we eat. However, experts make a distinction between this abundant organic arsenic, which is harmless, and inorganic arsenic, which can be found in some pesticides and other chemicals.

    “It is the inorganic form of arsenic in the environment that is toxic and measuring total arsenic is not informative,” said Aaron Barchowsky, a professor of environmental health at the University of Pittsburgh, who has studied the toxicity of arsenic in drinking water for 15 years. ”

    Maybe we’ll get more people calling out this charlatan.

  32. #32 Jojo
    September 15, 2011

    Dana wrote

    I could easily deconstruct what you’ve written above…but don’t care to do so.

    I’m going to bet that you do care considering that you are so passionate about the topic. And, if you could deconstruct it, you would have. Considering that your best argument here is NANOPARTICLES, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for you to come up with something convincing.

    And really, I’ve got to know. Do you really think putting a word in ALL CAPS somehow makes it more truthful? That’s almost as silly as thinking that diluting a substance makes it more powerful. Oh…wait.

  33. #33 Rev.Enki
    September 15, 2011

    Are they trying to dilute the disinformation campaign? Fools. That will only make it more potent! Muahahahahahaha *cough*, *wheeze*.

  34. #34 Denice Walter
    September 15, 2011

    Oh, my great and holy non-existent Lord!

    Thank you Orac for this! I usually feel awfully about this time of year but this has perked me right up!

    Nearly synchroniously, I heard another woo-meister expound upon the virtues of homeopathy while explaining *how* it worked: you see, it’s all about vibrations of differing frequencies. Each substance vibrates *even* after its substantial representations are removed. Health problems are examples of disharmonious vibrations which the remedy puts “into tune”. Turning those bad vibrations *good*.**

    Said woo-meister goes on to explain how all human interactions are also “energy exchanges” : turned on by someone? (it’s an energy exchange); learn from someone? ( the same); get upset by another’s words ? ( * la meme chose*). This is why *healers* can do their work: they re-adjust the disharmonies like human tuning forks.

    Which got me thinking: perhaps psychology may be the next field of conquest for our intrepid homeopathists.

    First of all, I think that they already do homeopathic statistical analysis: take one page of a standard text and dilute with oh, I don’t know … novels: Melville, Dana, Thomas Hardy – lots of water there.
    Cognitive psychology – take 20 studies about semantic memory, drop all else, as its resonance will remain, and mix with reference works from the library. I can see it now: Diluted Cognition 101.
    The list goes on: students will love this new science because the dilution does all of the heavy lifting for you!

    But to be entirely serious: isn’t all alt med homeopathetic? Because it involves mixing a minute amount of knowledge that addresses reality with oceans of other stuff- fictions, general information, misplaced minor factoids out of context, wishful thinking, naive science, mythologies, and self-serving bragadocio. Don’t worry if it doesn’t really fit: the all-encompassing restorative and tonifying vibes will fix it all up. Saves a lot of work, study, and research. No heavy lifting required.

    People take diverse instances , events, or ideas and relate them through the actions of their own memory and thought. The superstitious person ( like the famous “superstitious” pigeon of the learning lab) associates unrelated items because they occur together in time or to the same person. When it’s actually chance. These chances however, have emotional impact as we all can personally attest.

    * my apologies to Mssrs Wilson et al

  35. #35 Elin
    September 15, 2011

    Last time I went to see my folks in Germany, I happened to leaf through some issues of a popular science (or should that be ‘science’?) magazine they subscribed to. One of them had a feature on ‘the 10 most important things science has to figure out yet’. Number 1: ‘How does homeopathy work?’
    (My folks do not subscribe any longer.)

  36. #36 Scott Cunningham
    September 15, 2011

    Dana Ullman

    I could easily deconstruct what you’ve written above…but don’t care to do so.

    Oh yes, I’ve done my homework. But I don’t feel like handing it in today. Also, I don’t deign to answer questions on the chalk board. It is beneath me. And I don’t write pop quizzes. Pop quizzes are mean.

    Mr. Ullman, you do realize everyone who has been through elementary school recognizes those excuses, right?

    And as others have said, that article got its own separate treatment of insolence earlier. India’s water is notoriously polluted. Serially diluting anything in polluted water leaves you with polluted water.

  37. #37 Dangerous Bacon
    September 15, 2011

    Ullman: “Therefore, you those who engage in disinformation on homeopathy” say that there is “nothing” in homeopathic medicines, they are either misinformed or are lying (which is it?).”

    Well Dana, we those who engage in laughing at you have never said there is “nothing” in homeopathic drugs, just that water alone or water containing extremely dilute amounts of drugs or toxic metals does nothing therapeutically. These conclusions require, in addition to quality research demonstrating the ineffectiveness of homeopathy, just a few NANOPARTICLES of common sense. If we were able to bottle the latter, homeopathic quackery could magically be cured.

  38. #38 Calli Arcale
    September 15, 2011

    Dana Ullman:

    I realize that people here only like to use science when it supports their worldview and to ignore it at other times.

    That is certainly true of some people here, and I will note that you are the one who said it, not me. I guess it takes one to know one, eh?

    You can’t compare the implausibility of homeopathy to the implausibility of quantum mechanics. You try to do so anyway, probably because you have only a vague idea of what quantum mechanics is. It’s not even a question of threatening worldviews; there is so much evidence that the laws of physics work that it requires actual science denialism (or immense ignorance) to even suspect the possibility of homeopathy being anything other than total bunk. Seriously. Dilute a substance beyond absence and it gains a power that is the inverse of what it had before? Perhaps that could have sort of made sense in the days of vitalism, but how can it make any sense at all to someone born in the 20th Century? I honestly don’t get it.

    What’s the difference between a homeopathic dilution and washing a test tube? A hundred bucks!*

    *This may be a fairly serious underestimate, given how much Boiron charges for those occillinococum tablets.

  39. #39 warhelmet
    September 15, 2011

    Ah, it might be worth mentioning Martin J Walker’s “Dirty Medicine: The Handbook”. Don’t buy it, whatever you do, but it reveals the astonishing “truth” that skeptics are recruited using “classic CIA infiltration techniques” and operate in cells. etc.

    Dana Ullman has not invoked enough conspiracy theories.

  40. #40 Reuben
    September 15, 2011

    However, I do simply want to ask why you choose to omit my reference to a study that was conducted at India’s prestigious Institute of Technology (let alone other basic sciences referenced) that tested SIX different homeopathic medicines using THREE different modern technologies and found NANOPARTICLES of the original medicines even after the 200C potency…(reference below)

    Pop quiz, Mr. Ullman… What is Avogadro’s number and why does it matter in the discussion on homeopathy?

    Ah, never mind. You show no proficiency in science, so why would you answer that question?

    Let me put it to you in simple, understandable terms. When you truly dilute something that many times (200C), you would have to look at billions of trillions of gallons of water (or whatever diluent you use) before you see ONE single particle of the “active” ingredient. Homeopaths explain this away by saying that water retains “memory” with each subsequent dilution, so, magically, you don’t need those damn particles. You only need the water’s uncanny ability to remember shit stuff that’s gone into it.

    So, if the “study” you cite is true, there is no need for water to have memory, is there? Since the particles are still there, according to your “evidence”.

    Which is it, Mr. Ullman? Either it’s not there and the magic of water’s memory is what cures, or the ingredient is there and acting. You can’t have it both way.

    Somehow, I think you will attempt to have it both ways.

    By “both ways”, I also mean the way homeopaths screw their clients over.

  41. #41 lilady
    September 15, 2011

    Well Mr. Ullman really piled on the woo with this article. I’m wondering what diseases he is referring to with this little gem?:

    “The homeopathic approach to healing maintains a deep respect for symptoms of illness as important defenses of a person’s immune and defense system. While conventional medicine often tends to assume that symptoms are something “wrong” with the person that need to be treated, inhibited, suppressed or biochemically manipulated, homeopaths tend to assume that symptoms are important defenses of the organism that are most effectively resolved when treatments nurture, nourish or mimic the symptoms in order to initiate a healing process. Ultimately, these two different approaches to healing people have led to various conflicts.”

    I wonder how homeopaths treat cancer? How would a homeopath “nurture, nourish or mimic the symptoms in order to initiate a healing process?”

    Just how does homeopathy work when it comes to infectious diseases? Or epilepsy, hypertension, heart arrhythmias…would nourishing, nurturing or mimicking work to effect cures? Would the principle of “like cures like” effect cures? Anyone want to try a “much diluted” cocktail of cancer cells?…how about swallowing a dose of diluted salmonella? Just what would be the “cure” for epilepsy or for heart arrhythmias…maybe swallowing a diluted battery acid?

    David Emery at “Urban Legends” describes old wives tales that seem to describe the homeopathic principle of “like cures like”:

    “Premised on the quaint notion that the best thing for what ails you is more of what ails you, “hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-you” nostrums have been popular since the time of Shakespeare (before that, etymologists tell us, the phrase referred quite literally to a method of treating dog bites).

    The Bloody Mary, invented during the Roaring Twenties, is still touted as the ideal morning-after pick-me-up. Another evil-sounding but reputedly effective concoction popularly believed to relieve the symptoms of a hangover is called “Black Velvet” and consists of equal parts champagne and flat Guinness. Hemingway, it is said, relied on a morning-after tonic of tomato juice and beer”.

    Mr. Ullman needs to look into this “hair of the dog that bit you cure for hangovers” and properly dilute the Bloody Mary mixture and market it. I bet it will be a gold mine for him.

  42. #42 MikeMa
    September 15, 2011

    What, pray tell, would Mr Ullman proscribe for type 1 diabetes? Sugar or insulin? The memory of sugar or the memory of insulin?

  43. #43 Marry Me, Mindy
    September 15, 2011

    Just to add on, if, as DU says, said Indian scientists found detectable concentration of substance after a 200C dilution, then the appropriate conclusion is that they didn’t do a very good job diluting their solution (or that it was not created homogeneously in the first place), not that there is something magic going on.

  44. #44 Phoenix Woman
    September 15, 2011

    Ah, I see the regulars have the duty of defenestrating Mr. Ullman well in hand. (Full marks to those who pointed out his claiming Orac didn’t discuss the Indian paper, among other things.)

    As a reward, I thought I’d post this video of the original wretched hive of scum and villainy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRd_vZT6zPY

  45. #45 feralboy12
    September 15, 2011

    Homeopathic sugar pills are available over the counter just about anywhere credulity can be exploited.

    The hilarious part of this technique is that the magic water, dribbled over a pill, is then allowed to evaporate.
    Which means the pills don’t even contain any of the water that doesn’t contain the original “therapeutic” ingredient.
    Pick me! I’m as mean toward homeopaths as anybody.

  46. #46 puppygod
    September 15, 2011

    @ Denice Walter

    Nearly synchroniously, I heard another woo-meister expound upon the virtues of homeopathy while explaining *how* it worked: you see, it’s all about vibrations of differing frequencies. Each substance vibrates *even* after its substantial representations are removed.

    Yeah. All particles vibrate. We call that “temperature”. And yes, they cause other particles vibrate even after the original was removed – we call it “heat transfer”. But I fail to understand how making water infinitesimally slightly warmer or colder by adding drop of other stuff turns it into potent medicine. Must be some NANO-quantum magic. No! I mean science. NANO-quantum science.

    @ warhelmet

    Ah, it might be worth mentioning Martin J Walker’s “Dirty Medicine: The Handbook”. Don’t buy it, whatever you do, but it reveals the astonishing “truth” that skeptics are recruited using “classic CIA infiltration techniques” and operate in cells. etc.

    :-)
    I’m sooo going to set-up my own sceptic infiltrators cell.

  47. #47 lilady
    September 15, 2011

    @ Phoenix Woman: I wonder if Orac would consider changing his description of that wretched hive of scum and villainy?

    Thanks, I still chuckling.

  48. #48 lilady
    September 15, 2011

    “Thanks, I still chuckling”. Chuckling so much, in fact, that I meant “Thanks I am still chuckling”.

  49. #49 trrll
    September 15, 2011

    I could easily deconstruct what you’ve written above…but don’t care to do so. However, I do simply want to ask why you choose to omit my reference to a study that was conducted at India’s prestigious Institute of Technology (let alone other basic sciences referenced) that tested SIX different homeopathic medicines using THREE different modern technologies and found NANOPARTICLES of the original medicines even after the 200C potency.

    Oh, this is amusing, although not quite as funny as the “silica hypothesis” that Dana has cited in the past (and which is cited in the paper in question).

    By the way, for those who have not previously encountered it, the silica hypothesis is that homeopathic medications are not water; they are glass! The notion is that all of that banging (succussion) causes little bits of silica to break off of the tube, and the silica somehow organizes it around the originally added ingredient to create ingredient-specific silica compounds–which then, by happy coincidence, function as catalysts to organize other bits of silica into similar structures as the original ingredient is diluted down to zero in successive bouts of succussion (hmm…that has kind of a ring to it). Then, these self-replicating silica compounds by another happy coincidence happen to satisfy the “law of similars,” allowing the homeopathic practitioner to anticipate their effects without the expensive and time consuming clinical trials that pharmaceutical companies have to go through.

    In this particular study, the “experimenters” did not even bother to manufacture their own homeopathic preparations–they compared purchased homeopathic preparations to their own solvent “control” (If you are an actual scientist, you may be overcome with giggling at this point; take your time to recover). They used homeopathic preparations made from metallic starting materials, and analyzed them for metals using atomic emission spectroscopy (and also looked at them through an electron microscope). They found that the dilution of the metals did not correspond to the homeopathic dilution, but rather leveled out somewhere around 6C, and was no lower at 200C. Now if one believed in homeopathy, and were actually thinking like a scientist (try to hold these contradictory ideas together in your mind for the sake of argument), this would be a big problem. After all, high dilutions are not supposed to be the same as low dilutions; the process of repeated succession and dilution is supposed to “potentize” the preparation. But this doesn’t seem to bother the authors, any more than it bothers Dana.

    The authors hypothesize that the dilution process after a certain point becomes ineffective, because the metal particles float at the surface and are preferentially transferred in the next round (needless to say, they don’t bother actually trying to test this). Again, if you are thinking like a scientist, you will immediately recognize that this is absurd, because their own data does not say that the dilution process is merely less effective above 6C–it says that after a few cycles no further dilution can be achieved. Which means that all of the metal from one tube must be transferred to the next, even though “the settling time for the dilutions was not fixed. Also, the removal of one part of the previous dilution for the purpose of transferring into a fresh solvent was carried out randomly from the container and was a manual process” (I’ll pause again for the giggling to subside).

    Of course, anybody who had done actual lab work will instantly think of a simple explanation for their results–contamination. This could occur either if the factory’s solvent has become contaminated, or if the air is contaminated with metal dust or aerosol. Such cross contamination is a common problem in factories–that’s why there is a warning notice on foods that are prepared in a factory that processes nuts, because the degree of unavoidable cross contamination in such a factory can be enough to trigger anaphylaxis in somebody with an allergic sensitivity to nuts. After a certain number of dilutions, all of the metal present in the solution will be due to contamination, which is why the concentration levels off.

    Of course, if any real scientist were to carry out such an experiment, they’d probably do the dilution transfer in a hood under filtered air, side-by-side with a control that was processed the same way, except with pure solvent only (in order to detect contamination). But of course, that would be actual scientists interested in a real answer, not apologists in lab coats.

  50. #50 Yojimbo
    September 15, 2011

    Shame on you people for deriding the study done by “India’s prestigious Institute of Technology”. Did you not hear Mr. Ullman? It is “prestigious”!

    ‘Nuff said.

  51. #51 Dangerous Bacon
    September 15, 2011

    Speaking of “disinformation” (or if you prefer, nano-logic), I ran across another Dana Ullman classic on HuffPo. He suggested in the wake of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami (and associated nuclear plant damage) that people use homeopathic remedies to prevent radiation-induced illness.

    The best part of this lunacy is where he extols the career of Emil Grubbe, a physician who pioneered use of radiation therapy for cancer. Ullman credits homeopathy for helping Grubbe live to an advanced age despite his heavy radiation exposure – but fails to mention the 90+ surgeries that Grubbe underwent to control multiple cancers thought to be associated with radiation damage.

    Suggesting that people frightened by the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami use homeopathic arsenic and other remedies to prevent radiation sickness, is right up there with Homeopaths Without Borders’ mission to Haiti.

  52. #52 anthrosciguy
    September 15, 2011

    You want some “Big Pharma”? How about a multi-billion dollar industry that sells little bottles of water and sugar pills to sick people telling them it’ll make them well?

  53. #53 pvandck
    September 15, 2011

    Actually no further studies are required to see whether homeopathy works. In the 200+ years since its invention there have been no verifiable, properly documented cases of homeopathy curing any non-self-limiting condition. Not one. Dullman knows this very well, as do all homeopaths, which is why he can never produce any himself. The companies such as Boiron, Nelson and Boots Plc., who make the “remedies”, know it also.
    The same goes for self-limiting conditions which, by definition, limit themselves.
    Dullman knows it’s a scam. It’s his living. It is inconceivable he doesn’t know homeopathy is fraudulent medicine. He is to medicine what Bernie Madoff was for financial investment, as are practically all homeopaths (even if some of them are so deluded as to actually believe in this garbage).

  54. #54 Matthew Cline
    September 15, 2011

    He made an analogy that since low frequencies (radios) are used in communicating in salt water, then the same should be done in human blood: “communicating” in blood, he says, requires low doses, just like how salt water requires low frequencies.

    *headdesk*

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    September 15, 2011

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  56. #56 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    September 15, 2011

    Dana Ullman,

    I could easily deconstruct what you’ve written above…but don’t care to do so.

    I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.

  57. #57 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    September 15, 2011

    Shame on you people for deriding the study done by “India’s prestigious Institute of Technology”. Did you not hear Mr. Ullman? It is “prestigious”!

    I’ve known several graduates of India’s Institute of Technology, and it seems to be quite good.

    This particular study, on the other hand…

  58. #58 herr doktor bimler
    September 15, 2011

    @ Dangerous Bacon:
    Speaking of “disinformation” (or if you prefer, nano-logic), I ran across another Dana Ullman classic on HuffPo. He suggested in the wake of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami (and associated nuclear plant damage) that people use homeopathic remedies to prevent radiation-induced illness.

    Everyone had a whack at the pinata in an earlier RI thread.

  59. #59 herr doktor bimler
    September 15, 2011

    WRT that “Dana Ullman classic on HuffPo”, and the treatment it received here… the fascinating thing, for me, was that although successive fabulists have been embroidering the “homeopath invented radiotherapy” story for the last 8 decades, the story was still too fact-based for Ullman and he felt obliged to contribute a few new untruths of his own.

  60. #60 Marry Me, Mindy
    September 15, 2011

    “I’ve known several graduates of India’s Institute of Technology, and it seems to be quite good.”

    There are many different IITs in India. They are not all the same.

  61. #61 Antaeus Feldspar
    September 15, 2011

    I have a simple question: is Dana Ullman numerate?

    I ask this as an honest question, not as an attempt to be snide. I ask because a quick calculation suggests that a 12C dilution is indeed roughly equivalent to mixing one drop of pure “stuff” into the Atlantic Ocean, for what (to me) are reasonable estimates of the volume of “one drop” and “the Atlantic Ocean”.

    Do people think that, perhaps, Dana genuinely does not realize this?

    I had to read it a couple of times before I got it myself. Dana is seriously alleging that skeptics think homeopathic medicines are prepared using an actual ocean’s worth of water. This is, of course, not what any skeptic actually believes. I don’t know if he is actually as completely clueless as one would have to be to think this is what skeptics think – or if he is just dishonest. Neither one reflects particularly well on him.

    To be honest, I’m surprised that he went such a route. I thought all True Believers in homeopathy subscribed to the notion that homeopathic preparation imbues the water with a special “memory” of the substance intended. If I believed in such a notion (not that I ever will) I would view what skeptics believe about the quantities of water involved in such preparation as entirely secondary to their real “misunderstanding,” that the quantity of original material that could possibly be left after so many dilutions doesn’t matter. Isn’t that the point, that there doesn’t have to be any original material left, not if the water has been given a strong “memory” from the substance?

    To give a parallel example, creationists not infrequently argue that for this biological feature or that biological feature to have appeared in one generation by “random chance” would take more millions of years of trial and error than even the longest scientific estimates say our planet has been around. Who would even bother correcting such creationists about whether they have the estimate of our planet’s age right when what they definitely don’t have right is the key principle of evolution? Evolution doesn’t hold that complex biological features spontaneously appear in single generations. I can’t imagine why one would go after an ambiguous “error” on a side issue, when a much larger error in understanding of the entire paradigm is glaring in close proximity to it.

    Does Dana Ullman believe in some other variant of homeopathy than the “water has memory” kind? If so, what do they believe?

  62. #62 evilDoug
    September 15, 2011

    Here’s another way to look at the ‘rithmetic:

    If, at “200C” dilution, the gold concentration was found to be 100pg per millilitre, at “194C”, the gold concentration would be 100 grams per millilitre. Now given that the bulk density of gold is about 19.3g/cm3, that really is quite an accomplishment.

    Even if the concentration was one attogram (10-18) per ml at 200C, you would only have to go back to 188C to get to a concentration of one tonne per litre.

  63. #63 Roadstergal
    September 15, 2011

    I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.

    Ach, Cogburn followed through, and I highly doubt Dana will.

    Although I now have in my head – Fill yer hands with strawmen, you sonofubitch!

  64. #64 herr doktor bimler
    September 15, 2011

    Denice Walter:
    First of all, I think that they already do homeopathic statistical analysis: take one page of a standard text and dilute with oh, I don’t know … novels: Melville, Dana, Thomas Hardy – lots of water there.
    Cognitive psychology – take 20 studies about semantic memory, drop all else, as its resonance will remain, and mix with reference works from the library. I can see it now: Diluted Cognition 101.
    The list goes on: students will love this new science because the dilution does all of the heavy lifting for you!

    I claim priority for this idea.

  65. #65 Militant Agnostic
    September 16, 2011

    Marry Me, Mindy @58

    There are many different IITs in India.

    Yes, but how many of them are prestigious?

  66. #66 Igor
    September 16, 2011

    Orac: On an unrelated note, more shenanigans from the guy who forgot that he doesn’t just play a doctor on TV, Dr. Oz. Apparently now there are the toxins in our apple juice.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/dr-richard-besser-dr-mehmet-oz-debate-arsenic/comments?type=story&id=14526426

  67. #67 DC
    September 16, 2011

    CALIFORNIA COURT SHOOTS THE QUACK-BUSTERS
    P R E S S R E L E A S E
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Date:
    October 13, 2005
    Location:
    Allentown, Pennsylvania

    Court Case:
    Stephen Barrett, M.D. vs. Tedd Koren, D.C. and Koren Publications,
    Inc.Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County for the State of
    PennsylvaniaCourt Case No.: 2002-C-1837

    (Dr Barrett had his Doctors License revoked and we was supported
    by some large corporations too.

    Contact:

    Carlos F. NegreteLAW OFFICES OF CARLOS F. NEGRETESan Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
    Phone:
    949.493.8115
    email:
    mediarelations@…

    URL:
    http://www.healthfreedomlaw.com

    http://www.negretelaw.com

    Dr. Tedd Koren, DC
    Phone:
    800.537.3001
    267.498.0071
    Fax:
    267.498.0078

    URL:
    http://www.korenpublications.com

    Subject:
    Quackwatch Founder Stephen Barrett loses Major Defamation trial in Hometown

    In a stunning development, Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania Judge J. Brian Johnson
    on Thursday, October 13, 2005, tossed out nationally known self-proclaimed
    “consumer medical advocate” Stephen Barrett’s defamation lawsuit just minutes before it was going to be considered by a local jury.
    The lawsuit, filed in August 2002, against also nationally known Pennsylvania
    chiropractor, lecturer, researcher and publisher, Dr. Tedd Koren sought
    unspecified damages against Koren and his company, Koren Publications, Inc.
    for statements that he wrote in his newsletter in 2001 about Barrett. Barrett,
    a long-time nemesis of chiropractic, filed the lawsuit because of Koren’s
    publication that Barrett was “de-licensed” and “in trouble because of a
    $10 million lawsuit” and because Barrett was called a “Quackpot.” In his defense,
    Koren contended that the statements were true and not defamatory and that he had a First Amendment right to write them in his newsletter.
    Thursday’s ruling by Judge Johnson represented a major reversal of the finding
    of an arbitration in August 2004 wherein a panel of three local private attorneys
    reviewing the case had found in favor of Barrett and awarded Barrett $16,500 in
    damages and that Koren should publish a retraction. That award was appealed by
    Koren.
    Dr. Koren was represented by well-known health freedom San Juan Capistrano,
    California, attorney Carlos F. Negrete for trial and Washington, D.C. attorney
    James Turner of Swankin & Turner. Easton, Pennsylvania attorney Christopher
    Reid of Laub, Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid served as local counsel for the team
    and was co-counsel for the trial along with Negrete. Turner and Negrete have
    been well known for their representation of clients in the health food, supplement
    and vitamin industries as well as representing naturopaths, nurses, dentists,
    physicians, chiropractors and complimentary therapists across the country.
    Turner’s experience dates back to the 1960s when he joined consumer advocate
    Ralph Nader and was one of the groundbreaking Nader’s Raiders that made
    consumer advocacy popular and brought about significant changes in
    manufacturing and consumer protection.
    In making the ruling to throw out the case, Judge Johnson granted a rare
    directed verdict to the jury finding there was insufficient evidence to support
    Barrett’s claims. Judge Johnson indicated that this case was one of those
    “rare times” where such a motion was appropriate.
    Barrett operates the web sites http://www.quackwatch.org , http://www.chirobase.org and 20 other
    web sites and has been a long time critic of chiropractic calling much of it
    “quackery.” The victory to chiropractor Koren comes almost 18 years to the
    date that chiropractors received national attention with their victory against the
    American Medical Association (AMA) by obtaining an injunction against the AMA
    from an Illinois federal judge for engaging in illegal boycotting of doctors of
    chiropractic in Wilk et al vs. AMA. Barrett had been an outspoken supporter of
    the AMA at the same time that Koren had been a vocal advocate that the AMA
    has, in recent years, violated the spirit of the federal judge’s order.
    After the ruling, Koren proclaimed that: “I am overjoyed and enthusiastic that
    this nightmare is over and that the science, art and philosophy of chiropractic
    and the work of all of my colleagues have been vindicated.” “This case took a
    toll on my life and family, but I knew that I was right in publishing the truth.”
    “Dr. Barrett has no right to misinform the public about chiropractic and other
    natural healing arts or to try to silence anyone who criticizes him or tell
    consumers that he is not what he purports to be.” “I believe that it is not right
    to be silent when there is a duty to inform the public and let the truth be told.”
    For years, Barrett has touted himself as a “medical expert” on “quackery” in
    healthcare and has assisted in dozens of court cases as an expert. He also
    was called upon by the FDA, FTC and other governmental agencies for his
    purported expertise. He was the subject of many magazine interviews, including
    Time Magazine and featured on television interviews on ABC’s 20/20, NBC’s
    Today Show and PBS. He has gained media fame by his outspoken vocal disgust
    and impatience over natural or non-medical healthcare, including his criticisms
    of two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling.
    Dr. Tedd Koren is known for his writings and lectures on chiropractic science,
    research, philosophy, and chiropractic patient adjusting. He is known for his
    Koren Publications chiropractic patient education brochures, posters, booklets,
    books and other products that are used in chiropractors’ offices throughout
    the United States and around the world. Dr. Koren also co-founded a chiropractic
    college, is on the extension faculty of two chiropractic colleges, is published in
    chiropractic and bio-medical journals and has received numerous awards in his
    field. His web sites include http://www.korenpublications.com and http://www.teddkorenseminars.com.
    In his 2001 newsletter, Koren published articles that revealed that even though
    he touted himself as a medical expert, Barrett had not been a licensed physician
    since the early 1990s. He also published that Barrett had been the subject of a
    $10 million racketeering lawsuit [that had been withdrawn] and called him a
    “quackpot” for the contradiction of his web site and lack of credentials.
    Koren’s trial attorney, Carlos F. Negrete of San Juan Capistrano, California,
    is known for his defense of physicians, chiropractors, dentists, clinics and
    natural heath providers who practice what is known as complimentary &
    alternative medicine and holistic healthcare. Negrete has also handled
    groundbreaking cases against HMOs in California and has represented many
    celebrities and politicians.
    At trial, under a heated cross-examination by Negrete, Barrett conceded that
    he was not a Medical Board Certified psychiatrist because he had failed the
    certification exam. This was a major revelation since Barrett had provided
    supposed “expert testimony” as a psychiatrist and had testified in numerous
    court cases. Barrett also had said that he was a “legal expert” even though he
    had no formal legal training.
    The most damning testimony before the jury, under the intense cross-
    examination by Negrete, was that Barrett had filed similar defamation lawsuits
    against almost 40 people across the country within the past few years and had
    not won one single one at trial. During the course of his examination, Barrett
    also had to concede his ties to the AMA, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and
    Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
    This was not the first time that Negrete was a trial attorney in a Barrett case.
    He also represented anti-fluoridation advocate Darlene Sherrell in a federal
    lawsuit filed in Eugene, Oregon by Barrett. Barrett also lost in trial of that case.
    Negrete also represented Frank King of King Bio Natural Medicine of North
    Carolina and MediaPower (manufacturers of CalMax and Nu-Zymes) of Maine in
    cases filed by an organization led by Barrett, which were lost by Barrett’s
    organization. Barrett has also filed a lawsuit against Negrete and his client
    Dr. Hulda Clark (author of The Cure for All Diseases and The Cure for All Cancers),
    which is now pending and awaiting trial in San Diego, California federal court.
    After the Koren trial, Negrete stated: “The de-bunker has been de-bunked.
    I am pleased and satisfied with this outcome for Dr. Koren and am proud that
    Dr. Koren did not succumb to the pressures of the intimidation of Barrett’s legal
    wrangling.” “Not everyone can stand up to someone as well known as Barrett.”
    Negrete continued, “It is another great day for health freedom and alternative
    healthcare around the world. I am especially pleased that this most important
    victory was in Barrett’s own hometown. It just goes to show you that there is
    justice anywhere, even when you are a visitor challenging the home team.
    Barrett is a shill for the medical and pharmaceutical cartels and his bully tactics
    and unjustified discrediting of leading innovators, scientists and health
    practitioners should not be tolerated.”
    Negrete said, “You can be assured that our legal team will be wherever health
    freedom advocates and practitioners are being persecuted. The tide is now
    turning and people are no long accepting that synthetic drugs are the only
    way to address health concerns. Every day, consumers are becoming more
    educated about the benefits of holistic and alternative methods. This is something
    that the medical establishment obviously fears and wants to crush with false
    propaganda.”
    Koren said that he would now go back to his home in Pennsylvania to spend
    more time with his family and continue to write, research, and lecture on
    topics concerning chiropractic and healthcare and the experiences he has
    gained from this precedent setting legal battle. He plans to give new lectures
    to chiropractors across the country who are under attack or have been
    subjected to governmental actions. He also announced that he is forming a
    new organization aimed at informing and assisting chiropractors across the
    country.
    The trial started on Monday, October 10, 2005 and ended on October 13, 2005
    Barrett was represented by local Allentown attorney, Richard Orloski.
    ####

    *Quackbusters; A Government Plot

    Dr Barrett Of Quackbusters is an(unlicensed) M.D. and has lots of disproving experience. Together with Randi the magician they could sour the world if you choose to listen to them.

  68. #68 Acleron
    September 16, 2011

    ‘I have a simple question: is Dana Ullman numerate?’

    Yes, Dana is certainly numerate but he doesn’t want the dilution problem phrased in that way. It makes it too easy for the undecided to realise the truth about homeopathy. Several times he has tried to confuse his congregation by pretending that skeptics are saying they actually USE the amount of water in an ocean. He often uses false analogies (water memory is equivalent to information stored on a CD/DVD etc) but objects strenuously when appropriate analogies are used to disclose how ludicrous it all is.

  69. #69 Mojo
    September 16, 2011

    Dana wrote:

    However, if “creative statisticians” evaluate only the smaller number of large studies, a positive result is less likely, not because homeopathy doesn’t work, but because these larger studies tend to dispense only one homeopathic medicine for everyone in the study, without any degree of individualized treatment that is typical of the homeopathic method (1). To claim that homeopathic medicines do not work using only these studies is as illogical as to say that antibiotics are ineffective just because they do not cure for every viral, fungal or bacterial infection.

    OK, let’s just look at the RCTs of individualized homoeopathy, then.

    Fortunately one of the researchers who is most often cited by homoeopaths has published a systematic review of them: Linde K, Melchart D. (1998) Randomized controlled trials of individualized homeopathy: a state-of-the-art review. J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Winter;4(4):371-88.

    The results:

    The methodological quality of the trials was highly variable. In the 19 placebo-controlled trials providing sufficient data for meta-analysis, individualized homeopathy was significantly more effective than placebo (pooled rate ratio 1.62, 95% confidence interval 1.17 to 2.23), but when the analysis was restricted to the methodologically best trials no significant effect was seen.

    Pretty much exactly what you would expect to see for an ineffective treatment.

    I wonder why homoeopaths never seem to cite this review, but prefer to cite the one Linde published the previous year which included all the studies of non-individualized homoeopathy.

  70. #70 Mojo
    September 16, 2011

    @DC

    That’s nice: an ad hom directed at someone who has nothing to do with the thread.

  71. #71 Igor
    September 16, 2011

    Because clearly failing to prove defamation means that homeopathy must be true. Curiously, and I know this is a trend in “quackporting”, the article does not link to the actual opinion nor does it cite it in any way. Now i am a lawyer, so i would be curious to see what the opinion actually states. In my experience those with fractured understanding of basic fundamental scientific principles don’t fare well with legal reasoning either.

  72. #72 Militant Agnostic
    September 16, 2011

    He made an analogy that since low frequencies (radios) are used in communicating in salt water, then the same should be done in human blood: “communicating” in blood, he says, requires low doses, just like how salt water requires low frequencies.

    Low frequencies have long wavelengths (many kilometres for the frequencies used to communicate with submarines) so the dose is actually huge. Also, the lower the frequency, the less information can be obtained. Ulmann’s ignorance is a broad as his understanding of science is shallow.

  73. #73 Krebiozen
    September 16, 2011

    There’s a more accurate account of Stephen Barrett’s libel case against Tedd Koren here.

    To cut a long story short, what Koren wrote about Barrett i.e. that he was a delicensed doctor and was being sued for ten million dollars was not true. The libel suit was thrown out because they could not prove Koren was acting with “reckless disregard for the truth”.

    I wish I had a dollar for every outrageous lie I have read about Dr. Barrett.

  74. #74 Vicki
    September 16, 2011

    Just to play with their analogy: salt water transmits information for significant distances at frequencies between 10^13 and 10^14 m/s, in the form of visible light. Ask any scuba diver. Yes, submarines use very low frequencies to transmit data over long distances, but there just aren’t that kind of distances within the human body.

  75. #75 Dangerous Bacon
    September 16, 2011

    Did Ullman (who has recommended we stop taking (“unplug from”) all prescribed medications, ever respond to questions about what he’d recommend as a homeopathic replacement for, say, anti-hypertensive medication?

    “In my experience those with fractured understanding of basic fundamental scientific principles don’t fare well with legal reasoning either.”

    I don’t quite get certain legal reasoning either.

    People who are upset about Dr. Barrett’s activities on Quackwatch continually spread reports that he was “de-licensed”, or in the case of our anti-Barrett troll in post #63, posting a screed that says “Dr Barrett had his Doctors License revoked”. Barrett has made clear for years that he chose not to renew his medical license when he retired from active medical practice (why pay hundreds of dollars a year when you don’t need the state license anymore?).

    Continuing to claim that Barrett had his license taken away by authorities (for implied wrongdoing) sounds like reckless disregard for the truth to me, but I’m not a lawyer and (as demonstrated by another court case involving Barrett) people get enormous leeway to repost lies on the Internet these days.

  76. #76 Igor
    September 16, 2011

    @76: Don’t worry, chances are if the legal rationale eludes you after reading the actual opinion, then it’s likely the legal professionals involved don’t get it either. Judges can be very fickle and often use their gut feeling rather than applicable law.

    I can only surmise that the judge issued a directed verdict dismissing the case before it reaches the jury. Although “reckless disregard for the truth” is a factual question for the jury to decide, on a motion for directed verdict the judge can determine that the evidence is so overwhelmingly in defendant’s favor that no reasonable jury can decide otherwise. However, it’s hard for me to tell exactly what happened without reading the actual opinion, since the article DC posted is replete with inconsistencies and irrelevant information. In fact, it has very little substantive information about it.

  77. #77 DLC
    September 16, 2011

    It is rather odd that a fellow who wants to deliberately misinform others on homeopathy is calling the real truth a disinformation campaign. Rather like the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it ?

  78. #78 GlaxoPharma Com Orbital
    September 16, 2011

    MESSAGE BEGINS—————————

    Shills and Minions,

    Despite the protestations of our beloved, cybernetic host, please make sure that you fill out your ballot for Homæopath Hæter of the Year, 2011 carefully, remembering exactly who it is that showers all the good little shills and minions with luxury goods, precious metals and cash on a weekly basis.

    On another note, Dr. Ullman, it was so courageous of you to run in, say something akin to “I can make myself invisible and have a robot best friend, but I’m not gonna show you, so there,” and then disappear into the safety of the æther. Big Placebo is so lucky to have your steely nerves and cunning at its beck and call.

    Well, I shall return to my nefarious planetary subjugation activities, having used up all my ligatures for the day. Do continue your evisceration of the good doctor, such marvelous practice.

    Yours in Pure, Nanopathic© Pharma Evil™,

    Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L

    Forward Mavoon of the Great Glaxxon Fleet, Suzerain of V’tar and Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Homæopath Hæter of the Year? (we shall see)

    PharmaCOM Orbital HQ

    0010101101001

    —————————————— MESSAGE ENDS

  79. #79 Prometheus
    September 16, 2011

    DUllman whinges:

    “I could easily deconstruct what you’ve written above…but don’t care to do so.”

    I suspect that Mr. Ullman “doesn’t care to” attempt a deconstruction of Orac’s post because he – DUllman – knows that his “deconstruction” would be, in turn, extensively deconstructed, with a hearty dash of “respectful insolence” added gratis. Mr. Ullman shows his cowardice in this (see: “Brave Sir Robin”).

    “…my reference to a study that was conducted at India’s prestigious Institute of Technology (let alone other basic sciences referenced) that tested SIX different homeopathic medicines using THREE different modern technologies and found NANOPARTICLES of the original medicines even after the 200C potency…(reference below)”

    The claim that Orac han’t addressed this study has already been dealt with above.

    What I’d like to point out is that the study shows that the actual concentrations of zinc, tin, copper, silver gold and platinum in these “200C” solutions ranged from undetectable (appropriate for a 200C concentrtation – the liklihood of a single atom remaining is infinitesimal) to 2743.6 pg/mL (what precision!)- or a homeopathic dilution around 4C (4.3C).

    In fact, the majority of the “200C” samples showed “dilutions” from 5.3C to 4.3C and the comparisons made between “6C” dilutions and “200C” dilutions showed no more than a 2.5-fold difference in concentration. Strangely enough, some of the “200C” dilutions were more concentrated (by measurement) than the “6C” dilutions.

    In short, Mr. Ullman’s favorite study shows that the homeopathic dilution process can – on occasion – actually increase the concentration of the “active ingredient”. Either that, or the sample homeopathic remedies were poorly prepared or the measurements were hopelessly flawed.

    “Therefore, you those who engage in disinformation on homeopathy say that there is “nothing” in homeopathic medicines, they are either misinformed or are lying (which is it?).”

    Mr. Ullman, it would be better i you just stuck to “It’s magic!” as your explanation of homeopathy.

    “When you consider the large body of work in hormesis, we know that small doses of certain substances have powerful effects on certain systems.”

    “Small doses”, yes. Non-existent doses? Not so much. So, as Mr. Ullman has shown so eloquently, homeopathic remedies are either highly dilute or – as his favorite study seems to indicate – they are not. Even so, I can’t see how even 2.7 ng/mL of zinc (the highest measured concentration of the “200C” samples) is going to have a physiological effect, given the amount of zinc present in the average diet (and tap water).

    Even evoking the “magic” of hormesis (the “quantum physics” of homeopaths) doesn’t explain how homeopathy “works”, since hormesis still requires physiologically relevant amounts.

    Sad to say, but it’s taken me less than 15 minutes to completely “deconstruct” Mr. Ullman’s argument. Better luck next time, DUllman!

    Prometheus

  80. #80 evilDoug
    September 16, 2011

    Regarding Prometheus’s deconstruction @80

    The fact that the nominally more dilute preparations weren’t much more dilute suggests to me that perhaps the manufacturer knew full well that the whole game is nonsense, or possibly believed that the water spanking was more important. If “proper” dilution really doesn’t matter much, why go to the bother of cleaning the measuring vessels, presumably pipettes at least in the early stages, properly? Why go to the expense of using disposables? I’d be quite surprised to find that ANY homeopathic goop vendor actually does quantitative analysis of their end product.

  81. #81 Mojo
    September 16, 2011

    @Prometheus

    Even evoking the “magic” of hormesis (the “quantum physics” of homeopaths)

    Actually, the “quantum physics” of homoeopathy is, er, quantum physics, albeit a bit weak.

  82. #82 Timberwoof
    September 16, 2011

    Dana Ullman, it is reasonable to assume that you wash your dishes in detergent. I’d like to know how, if diluting a substance makes its effect stronger, you can ever possibly dilute the soap off your dishes.

    And if diluting a substance increases its biological effect, then how can you possibly drink water from a spigot? After all, it has been in contact with untold amounts of poo.

    If I empty a packet of Kool-Aid into a quarter cup of water, I get a pretty strong and bitter drink. If I were to dilute that with homeopathic methods, would it get stronger or weaker? (Not a fair question. I’ve done it before. It gets weaker.)

    I hope you don’t take it personally that if we ever meet, I will not shake your hand. I am frightened of the claimed effects of homeopathy on certain things you’ve done with your hand.

  83. #83 David N. Brown
    September 17, 2011

    “disinformation campaign against homeopathy” = fighting fire with fire?

    David N. Brown
    Mesa, Arizona

  84. #84 Hannah
    September 17, 2011

    I have a terrible cold right now that has provided me with a lovely dry, hacking cough. It is very persistant, and refuses to leave me. My boyfriend bought me some ‘homeopathic’ cold remedy. I immediately told hin to take it back. My lungs require science. Perhaps he could homepathically pray for me, though. :/ Great article. I feel better just reading it. :)

  85. #85 Mojo
    September 17, 2011

    @David N. Brown

    “disinformation campaign against homeopathy” = fighting fire with fire?

    It’s homeopathy, innit?

  86. #86 Midnight Rambler
    September 19, 2011

    Late to the thread, but FWIW:

    1km3 = 100000x100000x100000 cm = 1e15 ml
    volume of the Atlantic: 3.55e8 km3* = 3.55e23 ml

    12C is about equivalent to 350 ul (1/3 ml) in the Atlantic Ocean, or about four good-sized drops.

    * Yes it’s from Wikipedia, but it looks to be pretty close, and it only needs to be within an order of magnitude.

  87. #87 Ken
    September 19, 2011

    illady @43: Just what would be the “cure” for epilepsy or for heart arrhythmias…maybe swallowing a diluted battery acid?

    MikeMa @44: What, pray tell, would Mr Ullman proscribe for type 1 diabetes? Sugar or insulin?

    Tsk, tsk. You are both looking at the actual causes of the illnesses (misrouted electricity in nerves, or bad levels of sugar or insulin) and working out how to stop those causes. That is not at all the right approach.

    Beamup @26 gave the correct homeopathic methodology – you have to examine the symptoms and prescribe a toxin that produces the same symptoms. Epilepsy requires something that causes convulsions; heart arrhythmia, chest pain and dizziness; diabetes, unusual hunger, thirst, and fatigue. So all three can be homeopathically treated with arsenic and strychnine, I think.

  88. #88 ConspicuousCarl
    September 25, 2011

    Well, if it isn’t Dana Ullman having a fit of the old dummy wummies. Go and give him one on the noggin, if he’s got a noggin, that roofless bag of mushythoughts.

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