Respectful Insolence

This is a post about homeopathic quackery. But I repeat myself.

Those of you who’ve been readers here for a while have no doubt encountered Dana Ullman. He’s been popping up from time to time as a topic of this blog for many years now, almost to the very beginning, when he began spewing the most unbelievably silly and pseudoscientific defenses of homeopathy. Darwin had his bulldog in the form of a man named Thomas Huxley. Unfortunately, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, has his very own pit bull 200 years later in the form of Dana Ullman. That is not a compliment, nor is it meant to imply that there’s any equivalence whatsoever between Thomas Huxley and Dana Ullman other than that Ullman is quite the tenacious defender of someone else’s work. Of course, he’s devoted his life to defending quackery, where Huxley defended science.

When last we left Mr. Ullman, he was defending yet another attempt to make homeopathy sound scientific by adding the word “DNA” to it and calling it “homeovitality.” Previous to that, we’ve seen Ullman make a fool of himself advocating “respecting the body’s intelligence,” homeopathy to treat radiation poisoning (in the wake of Fukushima, naturally), not to mention for the idea that homeopathy is actually real medicine. Meanwhile, he claims there is a “disinformation campaign” against homeopathy run by skeptics, particularly James Randi, who, I’m sure, would be flattered that homeopaths view him as such a force against them. Personally, I like to think of it as an “information campaign,” because that’s what it is.

Homeopathy, of course, rests on two principles. First, there is the idea that “like cures like,” which states that to relieve a symptom you should use a substance that causes the symptom in healthy people. The second idea behind homeopathy is that dilution makes the remedy stronger. Well, actually, serial dilution—but only with vigorous shaking between each dilution step, referred to as “succussion.” Absent succussion between each dilution step, the homeopathic remedy will never be “potentized.” In any case, a typical dilution is 30C, which means 30 serial 100-fold dilutions, which, when you figure it out, comes to a final dilution of 1 in 1060. Avogadro’s number, of course, is on the order of 1023, meaning that it’s incredibly unlikely that even a single molecule of the original remedy is left behind, absent, of course, carryover contamination from the serial dilutions. Homeopathy, by many well-established laws of physics and chemistry, is impossible, and there is no convincing evidence, when viewed critically, that homeopathy produces effects greater than placebo.

Of course, if there’s one characteristic of the crank, it’s what I like to call the “I’ll show you!” phenomenon, or, as I’ve sometimes called it, the “vindication of all kooks” principle. Basically, it’s the delusion from which nearly all cranks suffer besides their other delusions, that one day their quackery or pseudoscience will be vindicated. On that day, their enemies will be forced to admit that they were right all along and abase themselves in embarrassment and atonement. On that day, the crankery, whatever it is, becomes mainstream science that everyone appreciates. We see this delusion in antivaccinationists. We see it in Burzynski supporters.

And we see it in homeopathy apologists like Dana Ullman, who has penned what is undoubtedly one of the most epic fantasies of quack vindication I’ve ever seen. I’ll give Dana credit for an imaginative fantasy—or his hubris, not so much. Basically, this is apparently a speech he gave in 1988 at the National Center for Homeopathy’s Annual Conference. It was published—of course!—in that wretched hive of scum and quackery, The Huffington Post, a.k.a. HuffPo in a post entitled, Homeopathy and the Future of Medicine: A Report from the Future. In it, Ullman imagines himself as Captain Dana T. Kirk (I kid you not—OK, there goes any credit for imagination) reporting on the date of the 300th anniversary of Samuel Hahnemann’s discovery of homeopathy and the 200th anniversary of the reestablishment of Hahnemann Homeopathic Hospital in San Francisco. In other words, the “future” to which Ullman refers is the year 2096.

Basically, it’s an orgy of self-congratulation for homeopaths.

Ullman begins by lamenting the renaming of the hospital and the removal of homeopathy in the 1970s. Normally, this would be a good thing, at least to reason- and science-based people. Not to Ullman, who clearly views it as a horrible thing that he thought would be redressed eight years after he gave the speech. Sadly (for Ullman), contrary to his fantasy, this never happened. The Marshall Hale Hospital (which is what the Hahnemann Hospital was renamed to) is now part of the California Pacific Medical Center. No homeopathy there. Apparently sometime after 1988…well, I’ll let Dana tell it:

The power of the mind to heal…and to cause illness too…was finally recognized. And from the integration of what was then segmented medical fields of neurology, psychiatry, and internal medicine grew the beginnings of “psychoneuroimmunology.”

You might be wondering: How does this lead to a resurgence of homeopathy, even if it were to happen sometime in the next 82 years? Hang on. It’s coming:

This research area and therapeutic approach recognized the inherent connection between psyche and soma. What is so obvious to us now in 2096 was obfuscated in much of the 20th century due to the then popular Newtonian mechanistic, reductionist thinking. Though this approach to science certainly has its place by helping us to understand how the parts of the whole work, it too often ignored the integrity of the whole, thereby decreasing the precision that the scientific method deserves.

That’s right! Damn that Newtonian, reductionistic thinking that keeps medicine from embracing the woo that Ullman “knows” to be the One True Medicine. Obviously, one must embrace the quantum. Or something. Ullman doesn’t really explain. He rarely does. On the other hand, he can’t help but spin a yarn of homeopathic redemption. Never mind what that means. I’m not even sure myself. Probably something about how persecution makes homeopathy stronger. Actually, that’s exactly it, because, you see, those horrible, nasty skeptics and practitioners of science-based medicine did their damnedest to crush homeopathy, but in Ullman’s homeopathic fantasy world they couldn’t. Ullman prefaces the “redemption phase” of his story with—of course!—a rant against conventional science-based medicine, under the subtitle of “The Age of Iatrogenic Medicine,” as opposed, I suppose, to the age of magic.

Apparently AIDS had an effect, too, leading people to question conventional medicine. If Ullman had the slightest lick of sense about him, he would have deleted this part of his post. Back in 1988, AIDS was still a scourge, although medications were becoming available that could actually arrest the progression of HIV to AIDS. Of course, if there’s any example of a disease that truly demonstrates the power of science-based medicine, it’s AIDS. It went from a mystery immunodeficiency that was killing gay men in San Francisco and New York (primarily) in the early 1980s to having its causative retrovirus identified in 1984. A mere 10 years later, effective antiretroviral cocktails had been validated, and from that point on, HIV infection was no longer a death sentence. That’s record time. Now, three decades after the discovery of HIV, AIDS can be effectively treated. Now, no one’s denying that the antiretroviral cocktails that keep the virus in check in HIV(+) patients in industrialized countries don’t have significant side effects. Worse, they have to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life. On the other hand, that’s better than death, and certainly Ullman’s magic water can’t do diddly against HIV.

Of course, what “saved” homeopathy from those evil reductionist skeptics in Ullman’s fantasy was this:

To the rescue came the Homeopathic Anti-Defamation League. This organization played an instrumental role in correcting individual’s and the media’s misconceptions of homeopathy. This organization also served as the primary defender in legal actions against homeopathic practice.

Because criticizing pseudoscience is exactly like anti-Semitism.

And, of course, the problems with homeopathy (namely that it doesn’t work and is a pseudoscientific medical system rooted in prescientific vitalism) are due to incompetent physicians glomming onto the wonder that is homeopathy and Doing It Wrong:

The rapidly acquired recognition of homeopathy created serious problems. Even before all the publicity, many good homeopaths were popular enough that they either had a long waiting list or simply were not accepting new patients. After the publicity, virtually every homeopath had to stop accepting new patients, due to the demand for homeopathic care. Here is where the major problem began. Many physicians and other health professionals who knew little or nothing about homeopathy began calling themselves homeopaths and started practicing it. Needless to say, the results that their patients experienced were not up to the standards that homeopathic care normally obtains. Some patients were turned off to homeopathic care, thinking that it didn’t work and that the whole movement was overrated. The lack of a nationally recognized certification of properly educated homeopaths exacerbated the problem. In time, however, the media exposed this problem, and with the aid of government agencies and public health officials, a national homeopathic certification procedure was established for all health professionals.

Yes, you read that right. A national homeopathic certification procedure saved the day! Never mind that medical certifications are not within the purview of the federal government. The licensing of medical specialties has always been a function of state governments, and there’s no reason to expect that it will be otherwise anytime between now and 2096.

So what’s supposedly ahead of us in the remainder of the 21st century? Whatever it is, I surely hope that it bears no resemblance to Ullman’s homeopathic fantasy. He envisons this:

A

s has been the tradition in homeopathy from its inception, there are a variety of ways to prescribe the medicines. The primary schools of homeopathic practice in the 21st century have been:

–the classical homeopaths who utilize the single medicine;

–the pluralists who utilize more than one medicine at a time;

–the techno-homeopaths who utilize electronic and energetic technologies to help find the correct medicine and potency;

–the intuitive or spiritual homeopaths who prescribe primarily from their own psychic abilities.

Naturally, Ullman still thinks classical homeopathy is da bomb, The One True Woo that will supplant science-based medicine, absorb all other woo, and Rule Over All Medicine, but he does concede:

The techno-homeopaths have developed numerous sensors over the decades that seek to find one or more homeopathic medicines for the sick person. The first such technology called the Voll machine, also called the Model V (named after the car) spawned various other electronic technologies similar to itself. The Model V placed an electrode on an acupuncture point and sought to evaluate how homeopathic medicines might balance that particular point. Over time, researchers learned that measuring an individual acupuncture point primarily measured the effect of a medicine on that specific meridian, not to the whole person. Other machines measured the energies coming from the hands, and likewise, these machines too primarily detected hand energy. Some machines measure the person’s blood, urine, semen, or other fluids, but it was discovered that each fluid primarily represented its own idiosyncratic aspect of the person. In 2070, however, new technologies were developed which evaluate the whole body field and how to individualize medicines and specific potencies.

Yes, you read that right. Ullman foresees a time when homeopathy will fuse with all manner of quackery, including acupuncture.

Of course, if you want to see just how delusional Ullman is, just check out this paragraph:

The future is always full of more changes than one can ever imagine. Over a century ago, some people thought that homeopathy was dead. At one conference in 1988, it was formally announced that reports on the death of homeopathy had been greatly exaggerated. 

And today, as we look throughout this auditorium at our fellow colleagues from the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades, we can feel a sense of real accomplishment that we Earthlings have made some contributions to homeopathy, even though they have utilized the homeopathic principle for centuries longer than we have. 

Seriously? Ullman seriously believed that we would be traveling to other galaxies a mere 108 years after his talk? That could only be possible if everything we know about physics is wrong and not only is faster-than-light travel possible, but much faster-than-light travel will become routine. Now, I’m as optimistic as the next guy that someday human beings will travel to the planets and then to the stars, but I surely don’t expect us to be traveling to Andromeda and the Pleiades by 2096. Of course, I won’t be alive then, as much as I wish I might be. Being a middle aged male, I probably have, at best, 20-40 years left in me, depending upon luck, my body holding out, and my family tendency to cardiovascular disease not cutting that time short. Even so, it seems incredibly unlikely that science will find that the Theory of Relativity is so incredibly wrong and will be able to exploit that discovery to travel to other galaxies.

Of course, given that homeopathy is magic, it’s not surprising that Ullman would have imagined that to be possible 26 years ago. After all, fantasizing is what he does best. Sadly, for him at least, homeopathy was quackery in 1796. It was quackery in 1988. It is quackery today in 2014. It will still be quackery in 2096.

Comments

  1. #1 Dangerous Bacon
    July 3, 2014

    In the glorious future, Captain Dana T. Kirk will eliminate a troublesome tribble infestation with psycho-homeopathy.*

    *with the unfortunate side effect of causing a massive matter-antimatter explosion that destroys the universe.

  2. #2 LW
    July 3, 2014

    “I surely don’t expect us to be traveling to Andromeda and the Pleiades by 2096.”

    No, no, no. We will not go *there* by 2096; they will come *here* to greet us when they see that we have understood and accepted the universal (literally!) principles of homeopathy. They’ve been hanging around our planet for millennia now, watching and wistfully hoping that we’d figure out those principled and accept them. Now Dana is here to show them that we are worthy to join that great homeopathy group in the sky.

  3. #3 palindrom
    July 3, 2014

    This is really funny.

    I remember arguing some years ago with a physics grad student who actually thought homeopathy worked — people have an amazing capacity for compartmentalizing thought, and I suspect that this particular student was one of those that had gotten where they were by learning how to “turn the crank”. Also, the person was from Europe, where homeopathy is more mainstream than the US.

  4. #4 palindrom
    July 3, 2014

    LW@2 — I have to admit I’ve never heard that particular suggested solution to the Fermi paradox.

  5. #5 Renate
    July 3, 2014

    Apparently AIDS had an effect, too, leading people to question conventional medicine. If Ullman had the slightest lick of sense about him, he would have deleted this part of his post. Back in 1988, AIDS was still a scourge, although medications were becoming available that could actually arrest the progression of HIV to AIDS. Of course, if there’s any example of a disease that truly demonstrates the power of science-based medicine, it’s AIDS. It went from a mystery immunodeficiency that was killing gay men in San Francisco and New York (primarily) in the early 1980s to having its causative retrovirus identified in 1984. A mere 10 years later, effective antiretroviral cocktails had been validated, and from that point on, HIV infection was no longer a death sentence. That’s record time. Now, three decades after the discovery of HIV, AIDS can be effectively treated. Now, no one’s denying that the antiretroviral cocktails that keep the virus in check in HIV(+) patients in industrialized countries don’t have significant side effects. Worse, they have to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life. On the other hand, that’s better than death, and certainly Ullman’s magic water can’t do diddly against HIV.

    Well, a Dutch homeopath, who has developed a homeopathic cure for AIDS, named Iquilai, is decorated, which has caused some anger in anti-quackery circles.
    The man spreads his cure in Africa and today a Dutch newspaper had an interview with him, in which he stated that: “AIDS often has a sense of inferiority as an underllying cause. The idea not being good. Being very bad. Being a bad person, That is at least part of it.”
    Perhaps he is also influenced by German New Medicine.

  6. #6 LW
    July 3, 2014

    It’s skeptics like Orac and commenters on this site that have prevented our colleagues from Andromeda and the Pleiades from giving us the secret of FTL travel decades, nay centuries, ago. I hope you’re all suitably ashamed of yourselves. Now that the scales have fallen from my eyes (thanks to homeopathic tincture of rattlesnake), I certainly am.

  7. #7 Eric Lund
    July 3, 2014

    Ullman seems to think science progresses in underpants gnomes fashion:
    1. Propose radical theory
    2. ???
    3. Theory confirmed!

    Oh, and he doesn’t seem to have kept up with some of the trends in science. Quite a few researchers, and not just in biomedical fields, have gotten into systems research. By which I mean systematic approaches, not just, “What happens if I push this but–.”

  8. #8 Mu
    July 3, 2014

    According to my proofing, the reason we can’t travel fast is we slow down to early. The strongest way of slowing down is running into a brick wall. Therefore, a sufficient dilution of brick wall will enable personal FTL travel. QED.

  9. #9 StrangerInAStrangeLand
    July 3, 2014

    @LW (#6)
    So THAT is why our alien Overlord Draconis Zeneca pays us evil Pharma shills to discredit homeopathy: To keep all the other alien powers away from Earth! Mankind is involved in an interstellar, nay, intergalactic war! It all makes sense now…no wait, it still doesn´t…

  10. #10 Glaxxon PharmaCOM Selene
    Darkside Complex 7
    July 3, 2014

    MESSAGE BEGINS————————–

    Minion Stranger,

    As the hatchlings say, “no duh.”

    They do still say that, don’t they?

    LDZ, VH7ihL
    Ultra Uber Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Monkey Master of Mars, Grand Vitara of Poughkeepsie

    Glaxxon PharmaCOM Selene
    00101110100101000010000111110010101010100101

    ——————————————MESSAGE ENDS

  11. #11 Badger
    Wisconsin
    July 3, 2014

    Well, if you’re going to believe in magic, might as well go all in.

  12. #12 Denice Walter
    July 3, 2014

    My late Uncle Alec always taught me that watering down cocktails was absolutely forbidden and wasted perfectly good gin or Scotch.

    A homosexual’s rule wins over a homeopath’s EVERY time.

  13. #13 Todd W.
    http://www.harpocratesspeaks.com
    July 3, 2014

    I hope Dana delivered the speech in a suitably Shatneresque fashion, with lots…of dramatic pauses…for…effect.

  14. #14 Eric Lund
    July 3, 2014

    Todd @13: That sounds potentially hi. la. ri. ous. A bit like Shatner’s so-bad-it’s-wonderful recording of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”[1]: “Suddenly! Someone! Is there! At the turnstile!”

    [1]For anyone who has not actually heard this recording: Shatner doesn’t even try to sing the song. And as you might infer from the quoted snippet, he displays no sense of rhythm, either.

  15. #15 Charlie
    July 3, 2014

    But surely it only becomes more powerful the more its weak premises are diluted with BS?

  16. #16 Narad
    July 3, 2014

    What is so obvious to us now in 2096 was obfuscated in much of the 20th century due to the then popular Newtonian mechanistic, reductionist thinking.

    I’m sure a probabilistic reformulation of the Laws of Homeopathy will be forthcoming real soon now. (Hint, Dana: QFT looks awfully “reductionist” from where I’m sitting.)

  17. #17 BobFromLI
    July 3, 2014

    Soooo, he’s saying that his woo will allow him to live to 2096 or did I miss something? (By gosh, I hope so!)

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    July 3, 2014

    As if Ullman’s pathetic effort at scifi weren’t bad enough-
    Don’t worry, there’s always worse in altie world-

    Kent Heckenlievly ( @ AoA) talks up his new book, *Plague*, which will soon descend upon the unsuspecting public like a… rampant infectious disease**.

    ” I feel as if I uncovered a lot of villiany in the scientific world” he notes and then asks what his fave supernatural detective hero would do in his present position…
    well, he would OBVIOUSLY attempt to confabu… I mean, *reconstruct* how the “forces which created his enemies” operate and then offer his enemies a “last chance” to surrender.***

    He discusses scientists’ motivations and internal emotional states in the context of the pressures of modern living..

    He KNOWS that they allowed the autism epidemic to happen and persist, now they should come clean, ‘fess up and face the music …..****

    ** it’s already nearly a best seller!
    *** and then what?
    **** I swear, I didn’t make any of this up and THERE’S MORE ( see his co-author) but I’m on my way out the door

  19. #19 Eric Lund
    July 3, 2014

    it’s already nearly a best seller!

    Which doesn’t make it any good. See Crichton, Michael, or Bulwer-Lytton, Edward. Or the perpetrators of the Left Behind series, who make Bulwer-Lytton look like a literary genius.

    and then what?

    And then comes the penultimate step in his underpants gnomes scheme.

    I’m sure a probabilistic reformulation of the Laws of Homeopathy will be forthcoming real soon now.

    Oh, it already exists. It goes something like this: The probability of finding even one molecule of active ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is vanishingly small, and if a person believes otherwise, you can probably get this person to give you money for your quack remedy.

  20. #20 Narad
    July 3, 2014

    Oh, it already exists. It goes something like this: The probability of finding even one molecule of active ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is vanishingly small, and if a person believes otherwise, you can probably get this person to give you money for your quack remedy.

    Nonono. Dullman either has to admit that there’s a probability that homeopathic nostrums will do something completely unexpected, violating the reductionism of Like Cures Like, or concede that homeopathy as a system is depends on only being meaningful in the classical limit, which makes it as Newtonian as the circus ringmaster’s hat he wore for the birthday party he had to throw for himself.

  21. #21 palindrom
    July 3, 2014

    Molecules? We don’ need to cho you no steenkin’ molecules!

    Unfortunately, a large part of the population — even the among the so-called “educated” classes — has no idea whatsoever of how the physical world works.

    Also, a vast majority of people apparently continue to believe that there’s some kind of woo-ish supernatural “plane” outside the material world — they have no conception of what “mere matter” might be capable of.

    No wonder this crapola gets so much traction.

    [Eric -- you're in fine form today. Any mention of the underpants gnomes kind of automatically makes me laugh.]

  22. #22 coffeehound
    July 3, 2014

    “the intuitive or spiritual homeopaths who prescribe primarily from their own psychic abilities.”
    You know, I just started Dragon Age-Origins and I found the mage classes; is this, like a subclass because I’m not finding it on the profile menu……

  23. #23 Chemmomo
    Ready to celebrate "the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried"
    July 3, 2014

    From Dana Ullman

    our fellow colleagues from the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades

    Exactly why are we expecting someone who cannot grasp the basics of dilution, a relatively simple concept in chemistry, to have any understanding of more complex physics?

    I’d wonder if that statement in his essay suggests he is actually aware that his treatment modality is based on fantasy, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve read the comments he’s left on over on SBM, and it’s clear he does take himself seriously.

  24. #24 Narad
    July 3, 2014

    I’ll bet my bottom dollar the Pleiadeans are straight out of the High Council of the Emerald Planet (in all its glory here; I have not for a moment regretted buying the DVDs).

  25. #25 Gef Flimlin
    NJ
    July 3, 2014

    I read this article from a link on a friend’s FB page. Just out of curiosity, how many of the people who commented here have ever tried a homeopathic remedy? I will not get into a discussion or argument about this subject, but I have used them periodically and have some that work extremely well, especially arnica montana for soft tissue damage. I truly believe in science but I also realize that science is only as good as what we know now. As the realm of science increases, then we might realize that things we didn’t understand before is revealed by new science. And again, I’m just asking about how many have tried any remedy. I will not try to change your mind, just as you won’t change my experiences. Have a great 4th of July!

  26. […] This can be a submit about homeopathic quackery. However I repeat myself. These of you who’ve been readers right here for some time have little question encountered Dana Ullman. He’s been popping up every now and then as a subject of this weblog for a few years now, virtually to the very starting, when he started spewing the… Respectful Insolence […]

  27. #27 Jpmccurdy
    July 4, 2014

    Obviously, we have not been diluting our rocket fuel enough.

  28. #28 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 4, 2014

    @Gef Flimlin – Out of curiosity, what concentration of arnica montana did you use? I don’t think that anyone would be surprised that a concentration of, in the terms used by homeopaths, 1X or even 3C might well have some effect. On the other hand, in the terms typically used by homeopaths, such a concentration is pretty weak as it hasn’t been diluted very much.

  29. #29 JCL
    July 4, 2014

    @Gef Flimlin Isn’t soft tissue damage the kind of thing that generally gets better anyway? And so I wonder if the other remedies that you say work extremely well are also for conditions that generally get better anyway. You have to realize that your experience is that you got an injury, you bought and used a ‘remedy’, the condition got better. Your experience is not that it was the remedy that made it better – that would require a bit of science to prove. Generally speaking one cannot really ‘experience’ causality, this has to be inferred, and as far as medicine goes this means experiment, theory and all the rest of that science stuff, which has in fact spent a lot of time and resources investigating about homeopathy and has found no evidence at all of any effect.
    Current theory – which as you say often changes (to our renewed enlightment) – may well change and new things will in the future be known and discovered, but homeopathic remedies have no significant observable effects – putting in place new ‘theory’ (a favourite pastime of homeopaths) – will not change that observation.

  30. #30 Skeptical Canadian
    Somewhere in the Andromeda Galaxy.
    July 4, 2014

    First and foremost, I wish of all of my American friends here a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

    I’m surprised Captain Ullman of the USS Homeopathy hasn’t showed up here and spewed his usual science-y sounding BS. He does show up on Dr, Steven Novella’s Blog Neurologica when the subject comes up. Typically, his arguments are always obfuscating the fundamental problems with homeopathy. Forgetting for the moment, p-values or regression towards the means, he blatantly avoids the basics. Homeopathy has no prior plausibility. If in fact it works, wouldn’t the following be true?

    – Beer could be made quite cheaply by using the same techniques as Homeopaths use in making their so-called remedies.

    – Aren’t all of the homeopathic solutions which are sent down the drain then cluttering up our oceans and rivers with every possible ‘remedy’ made my every Homeopath? One would simply need to dump their head into any nearby ocean, suck in some water and BING, you’re cured of everything. Have all of the sea life in the world been cured of everything?

    Notwithstanding countless other simple arguments against Homeopathy, Ullman can’t explain away the above.

    Homeopaths employ zero science, they guess at the conditions, the remedies and results. They employ no hypothesis – test – measure – verification loops in what they do. They make it up as they go.

    Homeopathy – The truly perfect Quackery in it’s purest form.

  31. #31 Orac
    July 4, 2014

    I’m surprised Captain Ullman of the USS Homeopathy hasn’t showed up here and spewed his usual science-y sounding BS.

    I know he did see it, because he Tweeted about it:

  32. #32 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 4, 2014

    Nice of him to forward traffic your way…

  33. #33 rs
    July 4, 2014

    JCL says “You have to realize that your experience is that you got an injury, you bought and used a ‘remedy’, the condition got better.”

    They may be receiving old television broadcasts about now in Pleiades so this may be timely. Long long ago there was an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies in which Granny claimed to have a cure for the common cold.

    The excited Mr. Drysdale, seeing the profit potential, asks Granny to whip up one of her “pills” to cure his nasty cold. (Considering the size of the pill it was probably not a homeopathic remedy.)

    (Spoiler alert!!)
    After somehow managing to swallow the pill he asks what happens next. Granny tells him to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and inside of a week he’ll be feeling better.

  34. #34 Narad
    July 4, 2014

    Just out of curiosity, how many of the people who commented here have ever tried a homeopathic remedy?

    If you count Bach (they seem to), a friend once gave me a bottle of Rescue Remedy. It did nothing. Well, until I just drank the rest of the 54 proof, 20 ml bottle.

  35. #35 Krebiozen
    July 4, 2014

    Just out of curiosity, how many of the people who commented here have ever tried a homeopathic remedy?

    I have been given homeopathic remedies on occasion, including a little plastic bottle of arnica sugar pills which I still have somewhere, and which had no effect I could discern. I have a bottle of ‘homeopathic’ arnica tincture (which is not at all homeopathic since it’s brown and tastes decidedly bitter so there is something dissolved in the 45% alcohol it mostly consists of), which I accepted from a neighbor out of politeness and have never used. I have also used various homeopathic remedies for sinusitis, again out of politeness, none of which did anything at all. I was hoping for some sort of placebo effect, but was disappointed.

    Some years ago I temporarily suspended my considerable disbelief and experimented with making my own homeopathic remedies for the same persistent sinus infection, using infected gunk from my nose (called a ‘nosode’, amusingly a nose nosode in this case) and diluting and succussing with distilled water (as I recall I used a Koran instead of a Bible, but that’s just my perverse sense of humor) to what should have been extreme potencies.

    Predictably it had no effect at all. Since I had a water distiller and several bottles to hand, it cost me nothing but some time, energy, and a little self-respect, but at least on occasions such as this I can say I tried it and it did diddly-squat.

  36. #36 janerella
    July 4, 2014

    Back 16 years ago as a first time Mum – before I actually knew what homeopathy even was – I used the homeopathic teething tablets on a couple of my babies. Yes, the ones recalled some years back due to them actually containing a little too much of one of the ingredients – belladonna.
    http://www.hylands.com/news/hylands-teething-recall.php
    Naive old me I figured if they were being sold in the pharmacy they’d be safe at least, and I always suspected it was the taste of the dissolving sweet lactose that cured bubby’s grumbles.

  37. #37 NumberWang
    July 5, 2014

    I think we have a while yet before the Pleiades get any of our old radio broadcasts.

  38. #38 NumberWang
    July 5, 2014

    Unless they use quantum spiritual entanglement crystal receivers.

  39. #39 Andy
    July 5, 2014

    Ullman is right. Homeopathy was vindicated in 2096.

    What he doesn’t mention, presumably because he didn’t travel far enough ahead, is that the error was discovered less than five years later when open-minded scientists realised the real answer to all ailments was…drum-roll…lint.

    The Lint Anti-Defmation Caucus (because “Leagues” are so yesteryear) was not formed until 2092 but the case it put was so self-evident, even the homeopaths found it hard to deny its truths.

    Lint, people. You heard it here first.

  40. #40 flip
    July 5, 2014

    The power of the mind to heal…and to cause illness too…was finally recognized. And from the integration of what was then segmented medical fields of neurology, psychiatry, and internal medicine grew the beginnings of “psychoneuroimmunology.”

    Ah yes… it’s funny how it always ends up involving victim blaming. Why do you have cancer? You’re just not thinking right! Why are you mentally ill? You just need to think positive. Why do you have a broken leg? You just have to heal it with your mind.

    … grumblefrigginshifferfragger…

    Wait-no-

    If it’s all the power of the mind, then why do we need diluted succussed potions in the first place?

    Also…

    This research area and therapeutic approach recognized the inherent connection between psyche and soma.

    He’s a bit behind. We’ve already had a Descartes.

    To the rescue came the Homeopathic Anti-Defamation League. This organization played an instrumental role in correcting individual’s and the media’s misconceptions of homeopathy. This organization also served as the primary defender in legal actions against homeopathic practice.

    In other words, the only way they could get any traction was by suing their way in – not because it works, mind you, but because people said nasty things about homeopathy!

    In time, however, the media exposed this problem, and with the aid of government agencies and public health officials, a national homeopathic certification procedure was established for all health professionals.

    It’s odd that the ‘conspiracy’ and the proponents of it keep homeopathy out of the public, but in this fantasy somehow all those mean government officials either disappear or suddenly see the light – for no apparent reason.

    Seriously? Ullman seriously believed that we would be traveling to other galaxies a mere 108 years after his talk?

    Orac, you could be misreading that. I read it as the aliens coming to us, not the other way around. (LW got there first, darn it!)

    Also, a snickerdoodle to LW for comment #6 and one to Mu for #8!

  41. #41 Bronze Dog
    July 5, 2014

    On the intergalactic travel being thrown in, it seems necessary for woos to believe in radical paradigm shifts where everything we know is suddenly wrong. That was probably true in science’s infancy when one suddenly discovers the world is round, for example, but I think we’re past that point. We’ve tested our current theories and built so much technology premised on that understanding that, even if we got something wrong, our successes mean we got enough right to get by. The scientific frontiers these days are usually about understanding what happens under extraordinary circumstances (like in the LHC), understanding the subtle nuances of complex systems (like in medicine), and reconstructing history with finer detail (paleontology and forensics).

    @flip:
    Funny you should mention snickerdoodles. This morning I had a dream that involved an arena deathmatch with a package of snickerdoodles as the grand prize. Apparently snacks were serious business.

  42. #42 dusonfnp
    July 5, 2014

    I was trying to explain homeopathy to someone, as we were sitting by a lake having a couple of ales: “So, if I rinse out my nearly empty bottle in water from the lake, shaking thoroughly and re-rinsing about 100 times, then anyone who drinks water from the lake will get drunk.” It’s harder to believe that someone could believe that to be true, then it is to believe that to be true.

  43. #43 palindrom
    July 5, 2014

    NumberWang @ 37 — You’re right. The exact distance to the Pleiades is famously controversial, but it’s likely to be over 300 light years — interested readers (both of them) can follow references from Floor van Leeuwen’s Hipparcos re-reduction —
    http://arxiv.org/abs/0902.1039.

  44. #44 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    July 5, 2014

    @dusonfp – according to the rule that “like cures like”, a homeopathic preparation of ale should provide a cure for hangover, disorientation, mood swings, and the urge to sing “Danny Boy”.

  45. #45 Denice Walter
    July 5, 2014

    One of my droogs, who has a brilliant mind for business, when yours truly explained the basis of homeopathy, quipped that we could make billions if it were true by selling dilutions of high priced liquids – Scotch, perfume, motor oil, whatever- as being stronger.

    As an aside, I might add, we could probably also make a fortune by selling dilutions of pricey liquids to those who _believe_ that homeopathy is true. I envision a whole new career for myself as a homeopathic perfumier. In the real world, the watered down product is cheaper

  46. #46 Johnny
    127.0.0.1
    July 5, 2014

    What he doesn’t mention, presumably because he didn’t travel far enough ahead, is that the error was discovered less than five years later when open-minded scientists realised the real answer to all ailments was…drum-roll…lint.

    The Lint Anti-Defmation Caucus (because “Leagues” are so yesteryear) was not formed until 2092 but the case it put was so self-evident, even the homeopaths found it hard to deny its truths.

    Lint, people. You heard it here first.

    For a guy I worked with, yeah, it was.

    He was cleaning out his dryer vent and associated connections, and decided to blow the lint away. However, before you can blow air out, you need to suck air in. So he did. Along with the air came a lot of dislodged lint, straight into his lungs.

    After an ambulance ride, he was in the hospital for a coupla days, and out of work a few more.

    Lint. Not even once.

  47. #47 Andreas Johansson
    July 6, 2014

    The juxtaposition “the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades” is odd, isn’t it? I mean the latter is ‘merely’ a star cluster a few hundred light years away, the former a major galaxy, thousands of times further away and mindbogglingly larger. It’s rather like he’d speak of “our fellow colleagues from China and Santa Monica”.

  48. #48 Narad
    July 6, 2014

    The juxtaposition “the Andromeda Galaxy and the Pleiades” is odd, isn’t it?

    Among his target audience, he seems to have snubbed the Sirians, at very least.

    Remember: “YOU are the ones you have been waiting for.”

  49. #49 LW
    July 6, 2014

    @Andreas Johansson, I was reminded of bad early science fiction, where the authors seem unclear on the distinction between solar systems and galaxies, and appear to be under the impression that neither is much further away than Jupiter.

  50. #50 flip
    July 6, 2014

    @Bronze Dog

    Funny you should mention snickerdoodles. This morning I had a dream that involved an arena deathmatch with a package of snickerdoodles as the grand prize. Apparently snacks were serious business.

    One or both of us are psychic! :)

  51. #51 Uselesstwit
    July 6, 2014

    Or you’re both paid shills in the pocket of big snickerdoodle. And we all know psychics aren’t real.

  52. #52 flip
    July 7, 2014

    @Uselesstwit

    Big Snickerdoodle… is that anything like a giant gingerbread man? ;)

  53. #53 Gordie Cavill
    United Kingdom
    July 7, 2014

    The dilution of your solution makes no sense to the logical mind The ingredient that was active once has no molecules left behind You peddle it as medicine a natural cure for all your ills but there’s really fuck all in it, all they are, are sugar pills
    A little poem I wrote last year

  54. #54 Lurker
    July 7, 2014

    How the Pleiadians and Andromedans (sp?) got there:

    A homeopathic dilution of ergot alkaloids was prepared as a beverage and consumed by all persons present. Each full glass contained about 30 microgrammes of lysergic acid diethylamide, which, in combination with mutual suggestion, was sufficient to bring forth the extragalactic visitors (and their pets).

    What Ullman doesn’t tell you is the part about sex. But rest assured, there is always a part about sex.

  55. #55 rdmacgregor
    Canada
    July 9, 2014

    No need to diagnose an ill and try to prescribe a specific homeopathic remedy…just, take sea water, which already has a diluted representation of just about every element and molecule in the world, then dilute it further until you have a cure-all tonic.
    Also, consider diluted water as a cure for drowning…

  56. #56 jacy
    July 10, 2014

    Homeopathy was never quackery and will never be. I was successfully treated with homeopathic remedies for nerve pain. Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine supported by research, see http://adidarwinian.com/father-of-human-pharmacology/ My son also always take homeopathic treatment.

  57. #57 Chris,
    July 10, 2014

    Jacy, you seem to be a slow learner. That is not a research paper, it is a short blog post that just asserts that homeopathy works.

    So to repeat myself: Where is the actual randomly controlled test on rats that proves Andre Saine’s assertion that homeopathy works for rabies better than real medicine? Where is the actual scientific proof that homeopathy works for other non-self-limiting conditions like type 1 diabetes and bacterial diseases such as syphilis?

    A true scientist would want the true evidence, not a short random blog post.

    Again to repeat: until you prove actual scientific evidence that homeopathy works, then it will be quackery.

  58. #58 rob
    July 11, 2014

    i did a calculation similar to “Ceasar’s Last Breath” only I calculated the probability of getting a water molecule from Ceasar’s last pee in a homeopathic preparation. As Orac points out it is highly unlikely to have even a single molecule of the homeopathic remedy in the preparation. Conversely, it is about 99.999% probable to have a water molecule that went through Ceasar’s bladder in your preparation.

  59. #59 Jim Demers
    NYC
    July 12, 2014

    Homeopathy is pure science, intelligence, and reason . . . diluted by a factor of 10^60.

  60. #60 DLC
    July 15, 2014

    “. . . to make sure the mixture isn’t inferior, dilute it first with lake superior. . . “

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