Respectful Insolence

A “personal case” for homeopathy?

The holidays are now upon us, but I can’t resist having a bit of fun before I disappear for this year’s Christmas weekend to visit family and catch a rare bit of relaxation. Nothing too heavy, but, equally important, nothing too fluffy either. One topic that fits the bill is anything to do with homeopathy, and in this case I have a doozy of a “teachable moment relevant to homeopathy. It appeared a couple of days ago in what I like to refer to as that wretched hive of scum and quackery or Arianna’s happy home for quacks. Yes, I’m referring to The Huffington Post, or, as a lot of people abbreviate it, HuffPo.

We’ve already established time and time again that HuffPo isn’t exactly dedicated to scientific rigor. After all, from the very beginning it was a source of antivaccine propaganda, later “graduating” to the quantum woo stylings of Deepak Chopra. Of late, it’s given voice to the quackiest of quacks, people like Dana Ullman, the world’s most annoying (and dim) homeopath, and an ever-expanding lineup of cranks, quacks, and antivaccine loons. Over the last several months, I had come to wonder whether HuffPo was still waging a war on medical science. The reason was that I hadn’t seen anything really egregious at HuffPo for a while.

And then I saw A Personal Case for Classical Homeopathy, which she crossposted to her own blog.

Part I.

Oh, goody.

This post was written by someone I hadn’t heard of before named Judith Acosta, who is described as “a licensed psychotherapist, classical homeopath, and crisis counselor in private practice.” She also advocates something she calls “verbal first aid,” which makes about as much sense as it sounds like; i.e. not a lot. What I gather from Acosta’s website is that she’s a psychotherapist and a classical homeopath. One wonders what the combination of homeopathy and psychotherapy would entail in practice. Would it mean diluting the talking down to silence? Who knows? In any event, let’s see what Acosta says about homeopathy. This first part is her own personal anecdote. Maybe “testimonial” would be a better word. She promises that in part II she will tell the tale of a dog and a patient whose identity she will protect and, as a teaser, tries to draw the reader in by saying, “I have never shared my own story before, but I do so because I believe its dramatic nature will help you to understand what classical homeopathy can do and why some people are so passionate about it.”

After a promise like that, I just had to see what her anecdote. It must have been something pretty dramatic to make her so passionate about her classical homeopathy, no? Well, “no” is exactly the right word. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that this particular testimonial is–shall we say?–underwhelming:

Many years ago, I suddenly developed abdominal pain. I had not been sick in any other way and had no idea what was happening. I went for a gynecological exam and was told I was fine. The pain continued. I went back and after numerous exams was sent from the table to the couch. The psychiatrist sent me right back to the doctor. After about a year of bouncing back and forth with increasingly intense (searing, stabbing) pain, they finally “discovered” a mass several centimeters in width in the area of my left ovary.

At this point, the surgeons were called in. I was scheduled for an emergency laparotomy. As they wheeled me in, the surgeon said to my mother, “It could be cancer.” I was 26.

After surgery, as soon as I stopped vomiting, the doctor told me that it was not cancer. My mother wept. He said it was a streptococcal infection (Strep B) that had created adhesions and that I could forget about having children. He proudly went on to inform us that they had “scraped me clean” and that I’d be on antibiotics for about a month.

I did as I was told. I was raised by a doctor, surrounded by doctors and had complete faith in the system.

Of course, the pain returned. Acosta went to a doctor again without satisfaction. After a year of “being dismissed,” Acosta ended up in the hospital with an ovarian cyst that had burst. Apparently, this happened every few months for a while, and by the fourth repetition, according to Acosta, the doctors were recommending a hysterectomy. This is where the story starts sounding suspiciously off-base. Why on earth would doctors recommend a hysterectomy to treat recurring ovarian cysts? They wouldn’t. They’d recommend one of two things. Either they’d recommend draining the cyst or, in severe cases, they’d recommend removal of the ovary causing the problem, which would not result in infertility. Women with only one ovary are perfectly capable of having children. On the other hand, it’s also possible that she was having endometriosis, which might result in a recommendation for a hysterectomy, but I’m taking her at her word. In any event, I bet you can guess what’s coming up next. that’s right. It was at this point that Acosta discovered homeopathy. Hilariously appropriately, she even entitles the next section of her post “Where the Magic Begins.” Given that homeopathy is nothing but magic, he probably has no idea how ironically appropriate her choice of words was. But I do.

Her description of the encounter with the homeopath can best be described as disgustingly gushing.:

It was the strangest medical experience I’d ever had. He didn’t examine me the way I had expected. He talked to me. Well, actually, he talked very little. He asked me endless questions: Where is the pain? When does it come on? What happened then? What does it feel like? What makes it better? Do you have any food cravings? Do you kick your feet out of the covers? Do you like other people around you? Are you warm? Cold? What makes you afraid? Anxious? Sad?

He was relentless. Two hours of questions that could not seem more unrelated to me or to my ovaries. But honestly, it was such a relief to have someone listen to me without judgment that I suspended my own.

I think you can see where this is going, too. This young homeopath actually took the time to listen to Acosta and ask her all about her life. After all of this, he gave her a few pellets of a homeopathic remedy made out of Pulsatilla, after which her mood lifted but her symptoms didn’t go away. Personally, given that highly diluted and “potentized” homeopathic remedies are nothing more than water, I would tend to conclude that she felt better because she was in a better mood because someone had actually taken some time with her. In fact, it’s rather ironic in that Acosta extols the glories of psychotherapy, the “talking cure,” and right here she appears to have partaken of the very same thing without realizing it. Or maybe not. She next describes her symptoms as “shifting” and getting worse. This went on for a month, and was ascribed to her having gotten a remedy that was “close, but not a bull’s eye.”

At the next visit, Acosta’s homeopath gives her Thuja. After that, she got a bad case of cystitis that lasted a whole month. A normal person would at this point wonder what the heck the homeopath was doing to her. After all, he gave her a homeopathic remedy, and not only did it not make things better but it made things worse. Whether it caused the cystitis or not, who knows. Probably not, given that it’s water. However, if I were given a remedy and immediately after developed a rip roaring case of cystitis, I’d be a bit less confident in the remedy. It might very well be that it didn’t cause the cystitis, but it surely wasn’t making Acosta better. As is so often the case in “alternative medicine,” however, that’s not how the homeopath or his credulous client perceived it:

After the second interview he gave me Thuja. After that I had a frankly rude aggravation (cystitis) which lasted about a month and the cystic pain completely disappeared. An aggravation is what homeopaths hope for as the sign that a cure is beginning. It is also precisely what allopathic doctors find wholly inconsistent with their training. They are supposed to make symptoms go away, not generate others. But because homeopaths see the human organism as a moving, dynamic system, they believe that this discharge is absolutely necessary. Aggravations are like siphons; they allow previously suppressed diseases or eruptions a way out of the system. In homeopathic philosophy, it is part of the cure.

But I didn’t know that at the time. So I called him and complained, and after he ruled out any dangerous infections, he said “Now, we wait.” I’d call him back, still annoyed, uncomfortable, and worried. And he said, again, “WAIT!”

So, I did. After a while, the “rudeness” was gone and so was all the pain. And after a year I realized so were the cysts. None of it — not the cysts or the strep or any of that pain — has ever come back. More important, perhaps, than the physical relief, was that over the next couple of years I became calmer, more centered. Much of the insecurity that had ruled my life up until that point also seemed to just not be there. I didn’t see it leaving. It was just gone when I remembered to look for it.

In reality, what was really happening here was nothing more than what we in the biz call “letting the disease run its course.” Several months passed, Acosta suffered, and eventually the cysts stopped flaring up. Basically, she got better on her own, and the homeopath took credit for it. Certainly there’s no evidence in this story that the homeopath and his nostrums made her better. In fact, quite the contrary; She got worse for a long time under her homeopath’s ministrations and then finally started to get better. In fact, her testimonial isn’t even all that convincing, at least not when looked at with a modicum of skepticism and critical thinking. Yet it’s very, very convincing to Acosta.

Acosta’s anecdote is a cautionary tale to skeptics. It demonstrates, more than anything else, the power of story. Indeed, Acosta even says near the very beginning, “But there is hope, because we do like stories.” And it’s true. We human beings love stories. To us, a single story like that of Acosta is far more compelling than a stack full of negative studies showing that homeopathy can’t work, that it’s nothing more than water. It’s far more convincing than all the physics, chemistry, and biology that demonstrate the extreme implausibility of homeopathy. Story trumps science.

That is what proponents of science-based medicine (and skepticism in general) are up against.

Comments

  1. #1 Clay
    December 23, 2011

    I understand that a single gallon of water, (whether succussed or not), but drunk within an hour, would have solved ALL of her problems. :-)

  2. #2 anthony
    December 23, 2011

    “Classical” homeopath? WTF? Are there also baroque and say jazz-fusion homeopaths?

  3. #3 Lawrence
    December 23, 2011

    There are times when I think I’m in the wrong business – I can’t imagine that homeopathic overhead is all that much (you know, getting water out of the tap and all) – so they probably see a profit margin of something like 100 – 1000%, depending on the client.

    Now, imagine comparing that to real doctors, who go through about, what, 8 years of formal training (including medical school), with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, plus malpractice insurance, and everything else that goes into either private practice or even working at a hospital – I can guarantee you the profit margins aren’t that great (especially with what insurance allows doctors to charge nowadays).

  4. #4 T-reg
    December 23, 2011

    Anthony,
    I’d take mine “Baroque”… A little dilution of the dense polyphony of some of Bach’s fugues might make it a bit more accessible to me… :)

    Merry Christmas to everyone and a very Happy New Year with a lot more fodder for some “Respectful Insolence” but hopefully less overall idiocy in the world.

  5. #5 herr doktor bimler
    December 23, 2011

    An aggravation is what homeopaths hope for as the sign that a cure is beginning.

    I can see the common thread with psychotherapy here.

  6. #6 Alia
    December 23, 2011

    Once I went with my husband-to-be to a homeopath. His mother insisted and well, we were young and impressionable. After an hour with the lady, who asked my future husband a lot of questions, almost started screaming with joy when she saw his dandruff (I kid you not!), gave him a prescription and took his money, we said “Never again!”. Of course, we didn’t buy the prescribed “medicines”, either. Frankly speaking, the homeopath behaved as if she was outright crazy.

  7. #7 anon
    December 23, 2011

    “Classical” homeopath? WTF? Are there also baroque and say jazz-fusion homeopaths?

    Maybe John Cage would be a classical homeopath, in that sense.

  8. #8 Denice Walter
    December 23, 2011

    I wonder what kind of psycho-therapist she is? Funny where when I studied psychology there was always talk about getting people to question unrealistic ideas, understanding others’ points of view, seeking independent sources of information. Oh well. That doesn’t lead to such great stories, I guess.

    In an odd way, I believe that many alt med practitioners/ woo-meisters function as surrogate ( albeit awful) psycho-therapists: clients are distressed for various reasons including emotional/ relationship problems that accompany their physical symptoms; many of them are looking for someone who listens to them,takes time, et al. So the Chakra-balancer, homeopathist, energy healer, nutritionist, or reiki-ist serves as listener/ concerned “professional”, always ready to dispense wisdom and sage advice. Thus, we find mutual enable-ment ( I don’t usually like to use that word) for solidifying their roles as healer/ healed one. And grandiosity reigns supreme as the New Age guru “heals” and “cures” physical and mental illnesses that the SB professional can’t affect in the least. Or so they tell us. (continued).

  9. #9 OracIsAQuack
    December 23, 2011

    “Of late, it’s given voice to the quackiest of quacks”

    I didn’t realize you were a HuffPo blogger, Dave…

  10. #10 Dangerous Bacon
    December 23, 2011

    “I’d take mine “Baroque”…”

    They’re the conservative types – if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it.

  11. #11 Denice Walter
    December 23, 2011

    Certainly Acosta may provide an instance where- reversing the usual situation- the “therapist” imparts un-realistic ideas to the client: does homeopathetic psycho-therapy necessitate watering down rationality to infintesimal quantitites to make it stronger?

    If you would survey awe-inspiringly de-corticate blatherings as I do, you might find that our web woo-meisters intrepidly venture into the world of counselling and therapy, sublimely confident of their own superiority to the last 20 years of SB material. Mercola would have clients tap-tap-tap themselves on specific ( and non-existent to most of the sentient population)accupuncture points to deal with emotional issues when he prescribes EFT. Mike Adams tells us that psycho-active meds are as poisonous as non-organic fruit or pasteurised milk while he echoes Scientological tropes. Gary Null spews his own brand of psycho-pompousness when he “counsels” clients on mental health and relationships: it is all an “energy exchange”, he opines- healers like him exchange their purer, advanced energy, thus fixing the clients’ grungier, muckier emissions. SMI, as well as LDs, may be cured through veganism and supplement-loading.

    AoA functions as wildly un-productive therapy for parents of disabled children and adults who are having a hard time coping with the daily issues implicit in care-taking: like the aforementioned this form of therapy involves imparting un-realistic ideas that may result in years of fruitless pursuit of useless treatments ( chelation, HBOT) and impossibly expensive and difficult diets ( GFCF) wasting time as well as money. Unlike conventional therapy, AoA instructs novices in highly evolved usage of projection and externalisation while a certain young man models social interaction as he perfects acting out.

    In short, woo may serve as a way to evade the stigma of needing to talk with a professional who didn’t get his or her degrees and training from an internet ad.

  12. #12 Liz
    December 23, 2011

    In my early 20′s, I had a case of terrible and recurring UTI’s. They came every 3 months, like clockwork. They were intensely painful and I’d start peeing blood within an hour or two. This went on for about a year and a half. My doctors completely dropped the ball, gave me terrible advice, medication I was noted to be allergic to and when they finally referred me to a urologist, while completely ignoring the kidney infection I was in with (nothing 3 sample macrobid can’t handle, right?), it turned out this urologist had been out of practice for two years.

    Long story short, my kidney infection was diagnosed and treated later that night by the great docs in the ER, I finally got a CT a month later (nothing) and had one more round of infection. No one could do anything for me.

    So I turned to homeopathy… JUST KIDDING! I thought this was something I was just going to have to get used to and then, just as suddenly as it came, the UTI’s were gone. No explanation, no mysteries solved.

    Apparently the sheer exhaustion that caused me to drop the issue cured me.

  13. #13 daijiyobu
    December 23, 2011

    Re: “one wonders what the combination of homeopathy and psychotherapy would entail in practice.”

    Sounds like a mindjob.

    -r.c.

  14. #14 daijiyobu
    December 23, 2011

    By the way, coincidentally, ND Jones tells us in a post just put up today regarding homeopathy:

    “I have the utmost respect for science and the scientific method however I also think that clinical, observational, and anecdotal research [aka nonscience] can have powerful results as well. So homeopathic should not be disregarded because of lack of scientific research [except by science!]”

    (see http://www.empowher.com/wellness/content/homeopathy-natural-way-treat-body-and-spirit?page=0,1).

    Naturopathy’s labelings in North America are always “at odds” with its own labelings. ND Jones tells us homeopathy is unsciencable and not scientifically supported. Her licensure exam and schools call it literally “science” and “science-based”.

    I still enjoy Quackwatch’s term for NDs / NMDs: muddleheads.

    -r.c.

  15. #15 Krebiozen
    December 23, 2011

    Off topic Tim Minchin Christmas song those of a religious bent may find this offensive (not safe for church). Merry Winterval!

  16. #16 Edith Prickly
    December 23, 2011

    I’m going to be disappearing for the holiday soon too, but I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to Orac and the RI commentariat for all the education and entertainment you’ve provided for me this year – I am seriously thinking about making a career shift into public health policy next year as a result of all your good work. A very merry KwanzaYuleChrisMukkanalia to you all!

  17. #17 lilady
    December 23, 2011

    Well it is so nice that we have another troll to kick around.

    I posted four times on this psycho quack’s blog and only two of them met their strict criteria and were published.

    I pointed out to Ms. Acosta that she was deplorably deficient in basic anatomy and not wanting to “offend”…I attributed her Group B strep infection in her pelvis to an “ascending infection”.

    I hope you all noticed that in order to increase the number of comments, Acosta replied to each one that praised her practice of combining pseudoscience talk therapy with homeopathy…she didn’t reply to mine.

  18. #18 DuaneBidoux
    December 23, 2011

    I hope none of the posters here are discounting the impact of an overall approach to health. I’m not specifically talking homeopathy here but a generally balanced approach to health.

    As an example I do not believe it is correct to facilly label the placebo effect as “all in your head,” or at least not in the way it is usually meant (i.e., it’s bullshit).

    It is indeed in your head but we are now beginning to understand that there is not a one way brain to mind flow of information. The mind does indeed significantly impact the body and brain and thus it is not wise to discount the ways in which meditation or other disciplined practices of the mind (for example) could be useful.

    There is a great deal of empirical research showing the powerful effect of intangible externalities on a patient’s health–as an example: a supportive family structure vs. being alone. We may not yet be able to measure why this is but that doesn’t not mean there is not a real effect.

    The paradigm that says that only science possesses any kind of valid truth is not justified–at least not yet.

    The modern empirical Enlightenment paradigm has indeed carried us far–much farther than the Mythic paradigm gone before. That does not mean however that humans have finished understanding new ways to explain the universe.

    If this is the final time we discover new semiotics to represent the full realities of the universe it will be the first time it has been the final time.

  19. #19 Denice Walter
    December 23, 2011

    Oh Lord! Looks like she’s in New Paltz: home of a SUNY, excellent rock climbing, ancient stone Huguenot buildings, and *beaucoup de woo*.

  20. #20 Carl Rogers
    December 23, 2011

    One wonders what the combination of homeopathy and psychotherapy would entail in practice. Would it mean diluting the talking down to silence?

    Hi.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    How’s the weather?

  21. #21 Christmas Pudding
    December 23, 2011

    The mind boggles. How anyone can believe in Homeopathy?

    Have you seen PMID: 22156045 ?

    Acupuncture!

  22. #22 Chris
    December 23, 2011

    Acupuncture in rats! Oh, and try using the handy dandy search function on the upper left of this page. There are plenty of articles on acupuncture. But you should already know this, Jacob.

  23. #23 lilady
    December 23, 2011

    I think it is wonderful that Acosta who is located in New York State, also offers “internet counseling”, as well.

    Online Counseling
    Special Online Counseling Available Via Phone, Internet, Skype

    “Consultations are now being made available whose lives make regular face-to-face psychotherapy sessions impossible. An initial screening will be conducted so that an ethical standard of care is assured and that your needs are properly met. Personal meetings, however, are strongly encouraged. For more information on our treatment philosophy, please go to our home page.
    $125.00/Hour (plus 7% tax for NM residents only)”

    Hi Chris…we “missed you” last night when we tackled you own personal troll. So, the OIAQ Troll is another sock puppet of the JIAPT (Jacob Is a Pothead Troll), eh?

  24. #24 Christmas Pudding
    December 23, 2011

    Maybe you should check out my blog Chris as it tells you my name.

    Clue: Not Jacob.

  25. #25 Chris
    December 23, 2011

    Yes, it is the website typical of a person Orac has banned. Plus you are posting off topic with a study that involves needling rats.

    Even if you are not Jacob, go away.

  26. #26 Christmas Pudding
    December 23, 2011

    The topic is the same as it always is:

    ‘Making fun of silly people in medicine.’

    I enjoy it Chris :)

  27. #27 Beamup
    December 23, 2011

    Yeah right.

    Julian Pursell maintains this blog. He is incredibly easy to track down in real life. Threatening to track him down will only make you look like you haven’t even bothered to look. He could be locked in my basement for all you care. Regards, Jacob.

    Go away again, stoner troll.

  28. #28 lilady
    December 23, 2011

    Beamup: You beat me to it. Julian Pursell identifies himself as “Jacob”. Other internet “hits” for Julian Pursell reek of the pothead troll. Busted!

  29. #29 Jay Gordon, MD, FAAP
    December 23, 2011

    Just stopping by to wish you all a happy holiday season.

    All My Best,

    Jay

  30. #30 Laura
    December 23, 2011

    But obviously, there can be stories about science.
    It’s always stayed in my mind, how James Herriot described in one of his books, like “All creatures great and small”, “All things wise and wonderful” – what it was like when the first antibiotics were available. He treated a herd of pigs with some awful disease, they were staggering around, and he describes how he came back a day or two later, and the pigs were miraculously gamboling around looking totally pink and healthy!
    Such things stay in your mind. He was a very good storyteller. Then when you hear people talking about antibiotics as a bad idea, you think of them.
    A TV series with a heroic nurse treating awful cases of measles, dramatized and dying, or a series of romance novels set realistically in the days of high child mortality, might do a lot.

  31. #31 Pareidolius
    December 23, 2011

    Jacob, huh? I was hoping for Sean Michael over on the NIO post so we could have all the trolls together for the holidays (they grow up so fas . . . no, wait, they don’t actually seem to grow up at all, do they). Well, anyway of course you enjoy taking your sadly-deficient swipes at SBM Jake, the right pot can make folding towels feel like a ski holiday in Gstaad.

    And speaking of holidays, may our transluscent host and all the RI family enjoy theirs immensely.

    Pareidolius

  32. #32 Christmas Pudding
    December 23, 2011

    I hope you’re never in charge of any science that effects me lilady.

    Only 15% of results in the first two pages are ‘pot-related’ and only 5% were written by me. The other 10% were written about me.

  33. #33 googleisyourfriend
    December 23, 2011

    Different Types of Homeopathy

    Constitutional Homeopathy – One dose is given, usually of a high potency. Then one waits up to six months to see if there is a shift in symptoms. This form of treatment is advantageous for deep-seated, chronic, inherited predispositions, such as allergies, familial asthma, cancer, depression, old vaccination damage or chemical exposures.

    Classical Homeopathy: Single remedies used – The homeopathy practitioner takes a detailed history from the patient. From the answers to those questions, as well as through observation, the practitioner attempts to match the pattern of the patient’s symptoms to the pattern of a single remedy as outlined in one or more Materia Medicas, or the scientific and medical documents dealing with the sources, physical characteristics, uses, doses and preparation of drugs. This remedy can be chosen manually or by computer. The potency is usually determined by a number of factors including severity and history of the symptoms. This form of treatment is most similar to the one developed by Hahnemann, the German physician who created homeopathy. It is also the most common form of practice.

    Combination Homeopathy: Remedies contain two to four ingredients – The diagnostic approach may be the same as the classical approach. Other diagnostic styles may include kinesiology or electrodermal biofeedback. This style is heavily used in France, Canada and the U.S.

    Complex Homeopathy: Remedies may contain up to 25 ingredients – The diagnostic approach may be similar to the combination approach. Multiple ingredients are used to encourage what is known as homeopathic or lymphatic drainage. This is best for complex, difficult cases where multiple problems occur simultaneously. Drainage helps drain toxicity from organs or systems that are on overload due to chronic, genetic or environmental factors. This type of approach is used extensively in Germany with electronic diagnostic equipment. Diagnosis may also be determined using kinesiology

    http://www.naturalhealers.com/qa/homeopathy.html

  34. #34 Chris
    December 23, 2011

    So what? You were banned because you were repetitive, boring, morphing, annoying, and really not very bright.

    Go away.

  35. #35 Lawrence
    December 23, 2011

    I didn’t think Jacob would raise his/her head around here again – but then again, stupidity knows no bounds.

  36. #36 Pareidolius
    December 23, 2011

    Duane,

    I hope none of the posters here are discounting the impact of an overall approach to health. I’m not specifically talking homeopathy here but a generally balanced approach to health.

    By “balanced” do you mean including magical-thinking as part of your daily regimen? That’s what it sounds like.

    As an example I do not believe it is correct to facilly label the placebo effect as “all in your head,” or at least not in the way it is usually meant (i.e., it’s bullshit).

    Don’t be cilly, placebo is all in your head. That doesn’t mean it does nothing. As far as we know it is limited to issues of perception (pain, stress, etc.) and self-correcting maladies.

    It is indeed in your head but we are now beginning to understand that there is not a one way brain to mind flow of information. The mind does indeed significantly impact the body and brain and thus it is not wise to discount the ways in which meditation or other disciplined practices of the mind (for example) could be useful.

    A mechanism with citations for that mind to brain flow, please (and not from fringe crackpots).

    There is a great deal of empirical research showing the powerful effect of intangible externalities on a patient’s health–as an example: a supportive family structure vs. being alone. We may not yet be able to measure why this is but that doesn’t not mean there is not a real effect.

    The paradigm that says that only science possesses any kind of valid truth is not justified–at least not yet.

    The modern empirical Enlightenment paradigm has indeed carried us far–much farther than the Mythic paradigm gone before. That does not mean however that humans have finished understanding new ways to explain the universe.

    We discover new facts about the universe on a daily basis. We do this with science, so in a nutshell, no “new ways” just new facts. What new ways of knowing do you propose?

    If this is the final time we discover new semiotics to represent the full realities of the universe it will be the first time it has been the final time.

    Duuude, step away from the postmodernist bong.

  37. #37 Pareidolius
    December 23, 2011

    Blockquote fail:

    The paradigm that says that only science possesses any kind of valid truth is not justified–at least not yet.

    The modern empirical Enlightenment paradigm has indeed carried us far–much farther than the Mythic paradigm gone before. That does not mean however that humans have finished understanding new ways to explain the universe.

    There, that’s better. Now, one might suggest that if I were on homeopathic cold medicine instead of DayQuil with all of its evil, actual . . . ingredients, I wouldn’t have made that mistake. But I also wouldn’t be able to breathe very well either.

  38. #38 Pareidolius
    December 23, 2011

    Okay, no more HTML for me until this cold is over. Note to self: never try to be insolent on DayQuil.

  39. #39 Dangerous Bacon
    December 23, 2011

    It just struck me that the creator of the comic strip “Funky Winkerbean” has to be into homeopathy. Why else would he name his main character “Les Moore”?

    If you’re wondering why Jay Gordon chose this comments section for his holiday greetings, remember that Jay is a self-professed fan of homeopathy. From his website’s section on “alternative” treatments for ear infections:

    “I like to put mullein/garlic oil in the ears hourly for a day or two and give pulsatilla 6X or 12C (homeopathic strength–the range I have given indicates homeopathic ignorance… but it works) or lachesis homeopathically hourly for two days.”

    Lachesis, for those not in the know, comes from the venom of the bushmaster snake. According to the ABC Homeopathy site:

    “Like all snake poisons, Lachesis decomposes the blood, rendering it more fluid; hence a hemorrhagic tendency is marked. Purpura, septic states, diphtheria, and other low forms of disease, when the system is thoroughly poisoned and the prostration is profound. The modalities are most important in guiding to the remedy. Delirium tremens with much trembling and confusion. Very important during the climacteric and for patients of a melancholic disposition. Ill effects of suppressed discharges. Diphtheritic paralysis ( Botulinum.) Diphtheria carriers. Sensation of tension in various parts. Cannot bear anything tight anywhere.”

    Remember kiddies, vaccine “toxins”, no matter how minute the quantity – horrible nasty stuff. Snake venom toxins in minute quantity – therapeutically wonderful.

    “Homeopathic ignorance” strikes me as a redundant phrase.

  40. #40 Orac
    December 23, 2011

    “Christmas Pudding” is without a doubt Jacob, the cannabis troll.

  41. #41 lilady
    December 23, 2011

    I’ve got Pothead Bingo!

  42. #42 Militant Agnostic
    December 23, 2011

    lilady – dont’t smoke your prize all at once eh.

  43. #43 lilady
    December 23, 2011

    @ Militant Agnostic: The “bingo” I have is the pothead’s name and address…in case Jacob or any of his sock puppets threaten or libel me again.

    I have contacts/litigators in London and I won’t hesitate to sue the troll.

  44. #44 Orac
    December 23, 2011

    Yes, the troll’s IP addresses resolve to London.

  45. #45 Denice Walter
    December 23, 2011

    I wonder why the fellow calls himself “Christmas Pudding”?…
    ( I shall keep my own speculation to myself)

  46. #46 Narad
    December 23, 2011

    Gives cannabis a bad name, really. From the bombardment and annihilation of the planet Saturn to this. Just sad.

  47. #47 Matthew Cline
    December 23, 2011

    I have the utmost respect for science and the scientific method however I also think that clinical, observational, and anecdotal research …

    Gave us a thousand years of bloodletting as a medical treatment.

  48. #48 Roadstergal
    December 23, 2011

    @Krebiozen #15: You just made my secular work holiday.

  49. #49 herr doktor bimler
    December 23, 2011

    From the bombardment and annihilation of the planet Saturn
    as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

    Sorry, synaptic malfunction.

  50. #50 Tom Herling
    December 23, 2011

    # 19 “Oh Lord! Looks like she’s in New Paltz: home of a SUNY, excellent rock climbing, ancient stone Huguenot buildings, and *beaucoup de woo*.”

    I live near there, and I have to frequently hold my tongue at dinner parties, since I realize that I’m far outnumbered by woo-sters who recommend acupuncture, TCM, homeopathy, etc., and it’s just not worth the effort to attempt to counter that kind of stuff, because I find it much like, to paraphrase Barney Frank, “debating a kitchen table.”

  51. #51 Skepticat
    December 24, 2011

    “Do you kick your feet out of the covers?”

    A very insightful and relevant question to ask someone with ovarian cysts. No wonder she got better.

  52. #52 Denice Walter
    December 24, 2011

    @ Tom Herling:

    New Paltz is rife with woo, ranking high up there amongst Hudson Valley towns, rivalling Woodstock and Nyack- and I know my woo-infested hipster-havens: I have been to Boulder and Sebastopol. And that’s just American woo!

    But seriously, here @ RI, we have been known to debate dining room tables, address brick walls, and try to educate the occasional credenza. We do this- not because we like to engage in meaningless activities doomed to failure- but because *others are listening*- i.e. lurkers, many of whom seek out information and SB direction. Some of our tricks might work in RL, so stick around.

  53. #53 evilDoug
    December 24, 2011

    “Purpura … prostration”

    Marat, you lie prostrate.
    Marat, you lie prostrate.

    Oh, Herr Doktor Bimler! He could have been cured with homeopathic Lachesis. If only they had known.

    (Anyone but the Doktor trying to make sense of this is likely to fail utterly.)

    TOTALLY off topic: Doktor – do you happen to know if there is a good quality release of M/S on DVD? I have a rather expensive VHS copy that has very poor video and audio quality, but it has been so long since I’ve seen it in a theatre that I don’t remember if it was “always” bad.

  54. #54 JacQueso SexTobillo
    December 24, 2011

    Do (the majority of) people believe in things like homeopathy because they think everyone is conspiring against them…or because they’re lazy and it seems like an easy fix?

    I still want to believe this isn’t just a case of stupidity. I’m naive, I know.

  55. #55 Denice Walter
    December 24, 2011

    @ JacQueso SexTobillo:

    In the case of homeopathy, it’s possible that many folk don’t realise that it is dilution beyond all reason but might think that it’s a sort of herbal or natural medicine ( that would be concentrated enough to provide effects in the realworld- like something an ancient Magick Lady might have given you in a medaevial village c.1650). However, I wouldn’t entirely throw out the stupidity/ laziness hypotheses.

    I think that the addition of conspiracy to woo-ful claims is necessary not because would-be marks object to the scientific impossibility of claims or the recitation of bad studies ( which they might not pick up) but because of their common sense questions like, ” Why isn’t everyone using this? Why aren’t you recognised for your discovery?” Woo-meisters need to explain why they are not phenomenally successful. -btw- I have heard conspiracy tales that will staighten/ curl your hair ( as the case might be).

    Conspiracy rants are necessary when you have no data, evidence, or acceptance by the mainstream. Also people like a good story to go along with their over-priced supplements so they’ll get their money’s worth.

  56. #56 JacQueso SexTobillo
    December 24, 2011

    @ Denice Walter

    Makes sense. I’m all for a good conspiracy theory… but not if it doesn’t have good science to support it. Homeopathy just just seems like something that should have run its course already.

    Denial.

  57. #57 Narad
    December 24, 2011

    I have a rather expensive VHS copy that has very poor video and audio quality, but it has been so long since I’ve seen it in a theatre that I don’t remember if it was “always” bad.

    The Brook is on YouTube. I presume it’s a rip from the MGM DVD. No Criterion, although it has occurred to people.

  58. #58 herr doktor bimler
    December 24, 2011

    What Narad said — Brook’s 1967 production, with Patrick Magee & Glenda Jackson & the Royal Shakespeare Company.
    I can’t speak to the technical qualities of the MGM DVD; it looked good enough, is all I can say.

  59. #59 evilDoug
    December 24, 2011

    Thanks, Narad & Dok.
    The VHS I have is of the Brooks production.
    I’m a little surprised Criterion hasn’t released it, but perhaps it is just too obscure (or some other company still owns the rights).

    What do you suppose is the probabilty that three people in a thread on homeopathy have ever even heard of this play/movie?

    Ah, well, on with the revolution.
    What’s the point of a revolution without general …

  60. #60 Denice Walter
    December 24, 2011

    @ evilDoug: Make that four. Chances are, given the clientele around these parts, even more.
    Despite the lovely company, I must be off to holiday doings and goings on.

  61. #61 frostieb
    December 25, 2011

    Make that five. Not only have heard of it but saw it in England (either Stratford or London can’t remember which) in 1973. I was a young and impressionable college student and was completely enchanted and mesmerized. I’ve never forgotten it, and when I just googled it, wasn’t surprised to learn that it’s considered such a landmark.

  62. #62 herr doktor bimler
    December 25, 2011

    It would make a good election-year bumper sticker: Marat / Sade 2012!

  63. #63 Why Xmas Pudding?
    December 26, 2011

    If I use my real name, Christ, you will think I am mad. If I use the abbreviated version, Chris, you will think I am impersonating a regular poster called Chris.

    So I call myself Christmas Pudding so you will think of how much lilady loves food and how her fat bum wobbles when she gets all excited about litigating bums like Jake!

    Very Merry Xmas to all and Orac can you tell me where lilady’s IP resolves plz?

  64. #64 Why Xmas Pudding?
    December 26, 2011

    If I use my real name, Christ, you will think I am mad. If I use the abbreviated version, Chris, you will think I am impersonating a regular poster called Chris.

    So I call myself Christmas Pudding so you will think of how much lilady loves food and how her fat bum wobbles when she gets all excited about litigating bums like Jake!

    Very Merry Xmas to all and Orac can you tell me where lilady’s IP resolves plz?

  65. #65 Harbo
    December 27, 2011

    If a Quack wishes you well and you then feel sick, is this inverse homeopathy?

  66. #66 Laura
    December 27, 2011

    @JacQueso One thing that happens is that there are real remedies, then there are homeopathic remedies that call themselves the same thing. People take the real remedy and they think it’s homeopathic and they go around saying that homeopathy works.
    For example there’s an herbal cream you rub on that’s good for muscle aches. I don’t remember the name.
    This herb is also used in homeopathic remedies. In an utterly tiny (or zero!) concentration. A guy in the comments section of an article on alt-med was posting – repeatedly – “if homeopathy is a sham, why does this cream work so well for me?”

  67. #67 Laura
    December 27, 2011

    I used to be on a mailing list for celiac disease, and people sometimes mailed me suggesting homeopathic remedies for delayed reactions to gluten and other foods.
    The main symptom of the reaction was for me what I described as a groggy stupor, like being drunk and hung-over at the same time. When it came on I would go and lie down. I was basically sick at home and not able to do much of anything, even read anything complicated, for about 4 days.
    I could never understand how anybody would find that a homeopathic remedy helped them with such an intense reaction. I never found anything that helped – I tried alkali salts.
    Maybe the people who were helped by homeopathic remedies had reactions that were less intense.

  68. #68 Just Sayin'
    December 28, 2011

    “Classical” homeopath? WTF? Are there also baroque and say jazz-fusion homeopaths?

    I prefer a heavy metal homeopath myself–one who makes sure his “cures” contain lots of lead, plutonium and mercury.

    Along with a Metallica CD, of course.

  69. #69 Novae
    December 29, 2011

    I just have to vent here, because I think I’m going to explode if I don’t. I tried to post something on this article at the Huffington Post, and tried to post the same thing later on a similar article. Both times, my post was blocked. Took me until tonight to get a reason.

    First, I tried to post a story on more than one article. Second, I called homeopathy ‘magic’ and ‘snake-oil’ (these were considered too pejoritave to post). Finally, I told a story about how I thought I had asthma, so I went to a doctor and found out that I had congestive heart failure due to a virus I had earlier that year. I said that I would have died if I had gone to a homeopath (my BP was roughly 215/180, which I understand is bad…also something called an EF was 15%. My doctor told me to add that.), who would have given me a sugar pill.

    So, my post was blocked.

    Wish I could have posted this back when it would’ve been relevant, but I only got a response today. At least I feel better after typing this…

  70. #70 lilady
    December 29, 2011

    @ novae: I just posted, again, on this Ho-Po article. This is the fifth time I posted and only two comments appeared.

    I suspect that this latest post of mine will be stuck in moderation and then “just disappear”.

    Why not come back here to RI to post again…where you are most welcome to join us for lively discussions.

  71. #71 Mojo
    December 29, 2011

    Part II is up now.

  72. #72 lilady
    December 29, 2011

    @ mojo: Part II is up now.

    I know, I posted a (relatively) non-snarky comment and got past Acosta’s moderation…mine is the first comment.

  73. #73 g724
    December 29, 2011

    I wonder about this: What would happen if HuffPoo’s editors thought that their audience was changing from a preference for wooful BS to a preference for SBM? Would they subtly start changing their party line?

    Now I’m going to be a hypocrite and suggest y’all do something that I’m not going to do: Everyone here sign on to HuffPoo and start posting innocuous comments in their other sections, and testimonials to SBM in their medical section. The reason I’m not going to join the fun is that HuffPoo is so full of animated graphical crap that it jams my browser, and I really don’t want to deal with force-quitting the browser every time I’m done over there.

    Make your SBM testimonials short, sweet, non-antagonistic, and upbeat. “When I went to see my relatives over the holidays, some of them were sick with the flu. I’m sure glad I got my flu shot this year.” That kind of thing.

    Emotional narratives are particularly useful because they’re compelling and they tend to go viral, especially where life & death are concerned. Heroic surgical interventions, putting up with the annoying side-effects of chemo and getting cleared of cancer, close encounters of the MRSA kind, etc., liberally sprinkled with “tears and sobbing” at the beginning and “joyful embraces” at the end.

    Sugar-water may be a placebo, but it works better than vinegar for attracting bees.

  74. #74 Novae
    December 31, 2011

    @lilady – Yeah, I’m definately coming back here. I always need a sane haven when I get myself into controversies of any kind, which is a hobby of mine. I get stuck in a permanent bad mood otherwise.

    I like your post on HP. Dunno how you get away with it, but I’m glad you do. Are you familiar with the regulars on these things? There are three people who are seemingly able to post in opposition to the magic nonsense on a regular basis. Two of them in particular tend to cite or criticize studies a lot, and I’ve been taking them at their word.

    Do you (or does anyone else here) know of some place on the internet I could learn a bit more about understanding studies like this? How to judge their quality, or accuracy? I’d feel a little better if I could back up *all* of my own arguments instead of just pointing to internet people I happen to trust.

    @g724 – I can post in other sections of HP with no trouble at all, even things critical of their moderation. Well, there’s one other section I can’t post in, but it’s unrelated to this stuff. I’ve been critical of anti-vaccination posts in the past with no trouble. It seems that each section of HP is moderated by a different team, but I have had the same moderater manager respond to my complaints (in one case taking over from someone else) ever since I started getting loud about my displeasure. I’ve been blocked from posting in those areas as well. I don’t think it’s an overall HP thing, I think there are biased managers, and I have no idea how to contact their bosses. If I could find someone higher up and point them to all the criticism HP is getting for their magical thinking, I would. Any idea how to find someone like that?

    Also, bees make me nervous and vinegar attracts fruit-flies. Can’t we just set off a bug-bomb?

  75. #75 g724
    January 13, 2012

    Novae – Sorry for the late reply. What to do about HuffPoo: look on their contact page and see about an editor in chief or an advertising manager. Write to them and let them know that promoting wooful BS is costing them the loss of a significant and desirable audience share. Also let them know that you’ll be glad to defend them in forums where others are dumping on them, if and when they change their tune, but until then, you can’t defend them.

    I’ve read that they just opened up a science section or page or whatever. OK, great!, drop in and comment on stuff. Again, keep it upbeat and positive, keep the criticisms constructive, steer clear of going to war on them even if they’re occasionally promoting nonsense.

    The key to my method is subtle incremental feedback. Don’t go after them head-on. Do it a little at a time, by small degrees. That’s how to get people to change their minds.

    Alternately (heh), if they are trying specifically to lure an audience of idiots, that’s their business, and the best we can do at that point is call them out for it in every possible other forum. Thanks largely to Orac et. al., I’ve become “immunized” against HuffPoo, and happily spread the meme that HuffPoo is a zero-credibility news source that isn’t worth wasting time to read. If enough of us do that, they may end up having to re-think their desire to lure an audience of idiots.

    Where we need to put our efforts is toward repealing “conscience exceptions” for anti-vaxers. If someone has a specific diagnosis that makes vaccination personally risky, they can have an exemption. But no more “religious” exemptions, specifically because vaccination is not a religious issue, and bacteria & viruses could give a hoot what people “believe.” So let the idiots howl at the Moon for all I care, but force them to get their shots unless they have a proper medical diagnosis that contraindicates vaccinations. That makes the Moon-howling meaningless and gets us the result we need to protect public health.

  76. #76 lilady
    January 13, 2012

    @ g724: I just got two more comments through on Seth Mnookin’s blog (January 12 19:00 and January 13 1:34).

    There are many people that do post frequently about science-based medicine, including some of “our” regulars at RI. * “white and nerdy” and “Dyson” are some of the others that post with some great information about vaccines.

    (hint) type in my ‘nym “lilady” in the “Search the Huffington Post” field at the top of the Ho-Po page to see my many postings.

    *white and nerdy, was my co-conspirator when Anne Dachel deluged a New York local newspaper’s article on the vaccine-autism “link”. I don’t know who he/she is, but we readily took the Media Director of AoA on…rather spectacularly, IMHO.

  77. #77 Katerina
    February 3, 2012

    I am not in favour or against any kind of medical treatment. I have tried most of them and I have seen good and bad results.
    Triggered by some posts I have the following to say: There are doctors that have gone through all the years of medical studies, but offer their patients, besides the classic medicines the alternative of homeopathic remedies.
    I would say that most of the times the right treatment is a matter of finding the right doctor. I have been treated for a chronic disease for 18 years with classic medicines and only 1 year with homeopathic remedy, and I have seen better results with the homeopathic remedy.
    Patients do not choose their diseases, but they can choose their doctor and treatment.
    P.S. I love when people call ‘magic’ and ‘mideavalistic’ things that don’t understand, have never tried nor experienced! It reminds me the story of a guy that was convicted because he claimed that earth moved around the sun… He was proven right…RIGHT?

  78. #78 Beamup
    February 3, 2012

    Ah, the Galileo gambit. Here’s the problem – in order to be a Galileo, you don’t simply need your ideas to be rejected. You also must be right. There isn’t even a tiny fraction of the evidence for homeopathy that would be needed to overturn the huge mountains of evidence that it does not and cannot work.

    Personal experience is worse than useless as a guide for answering such questions. All humans are far too subject to various biases to do that. Only careful science can reliably answer the question, and the science says that homeopathy does not work. I’m glad you’re feeling better, but whatever the reason for that is (and there are dozens if not hundreds of possibilities) it’s not the homeopathy.

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