Homeopathy made simple

By Phil Plait | July 3, 2010 7:30 am

Darryl Cunningham — the man who did this devastating comic strip about antivaxxers — has turned his sights on homeopathy. In just a few dozen panels he describes this alt-med nonsense, shows why it’s nonsense, shows why it’s dangerous, and then provides a dramatic and emotional example of just how and why belief in homeopathy can kill.

homeopathy_comic

His terse description of the Penelope Dingle case hits like a punch in the throat. Homeopathy is dangerous, mostly because it lures people away from real medicine. But it’s also dangerous because it promotes magical thinking, which eats away at all of reality.


Related posts:

- A comic takedown of antivax icon Andrew Wakefield
- British Medical Association: Homeopathy is witchcraft
- Dear media: Hello, it’s me, science
- Homeopathy and the 10:23 project


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Debunking, Skepticism

Comments (48)

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  1. Deskeption: Stooge Posing « Deskeption | February 6, 2011
  1. Zucchi

    I’m glad Daryl Cunningham’s comic strip explains both wacky aspects of homeopathy — including the basis for its name. The stuff about water’s “memory” is so ludicrous that it gets all the attention, but the very basis for homeopathy is also stupid: the idea that the human body’s healing powers won’t be sufficiently “stimulated” by an actual disease, but will be by taking a substance that happens to cause a symptom similar to that caused by the disease.

    This was a stupid idea even in the 18th century. Essentially a philosophical concept, enacted without regard to whether it makes sense in terms of how the body actually works. I’ve no idea why this nonsense, which should have been forgotten long ago, is still believed in.

  2. Gary Ansorge

    1. zucchi

    To the uninformed, everything is magic. Unfortunately, 90 % of our population are uninformed.

    Our founders understood that a republic could only survive if the population was educated, which is one reason we have free public libraries. Too bad so many people have no use for knowledge.

    Faith; belief w/o evidence. As many acquaintances have noted, often with sadness, I am a man of little faith. But I AM a man who believes in evidence.

    Have fun with that conundrum.

    Gary 7

  3. Shalee

    Phil you do go on about the anti-vax movement and I agree mostly. But Geez, I never hear anything about Big Pharma and its terrible behaviors. I’m not a proponent of homeopathy, but I am skeptical of modern medicine, especially really modern like the last few decades. There’s plenty of great effects of “real medicine” as you call it, but then there are millions of doctors taking kickbacks to prescribe many unnecessary pills or pills that have little more than a placebo effect to the positive, but a multitude of horrible side effects and permanent damage for which you must take more pills. And Big Pharm consistently invests in treatments rather than cures because that’s where the money is. I’m just saying the anti-vax movement isn’t all to blame for skepticism of rampant corporate greed in the medical industry which includes insurance companies, specialist doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies.

  4. Michel

    Water kills!
    That´s why our forefathers and their mothers drank beer.
    QED

  5. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #1 Zucchi, the same could be said for astrology. Yet it survives because people earn money on marketing BS.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    #3 Shalee: And since homeopathy and antivax doesn’t work, this is relevant how?

    More to the point, medicine works. If you can provide a better service for less money, you and everyone else is welcome to do so. Yet it doesn’t happen.

    The reason it doesn’t happen is the same as for homeopathy and antivaxx, conspiracy ideas don’t work. They are always the least likely explanation for a phenomena, constructed to be so because believers want to keep believing in which case evidence is dangerous. For example, what is your evidence behind the massive conspiracy you are describing (“Big Pharma”) and that investment doesn’t go to effective treatment which in some cases will be exactly cures? You present none.

    Instead of letting your brain rot in conspirationism you could start to use skepticism, to great advantage. Did you know that BA is a former president of a famous skeptical organization? They inform among other things about skepticism, what it is, and how it relies on precisely what you lack, evidence. (Click on “James Randi Educational Foundation” in the link library.)

  7. “Millions of doctors taking kickbacks…” The answer to that is to try to be sure that the doctors you rely on are honest and competent. There are even more millions of doctors (I venture to guess) who are not taking kickbacks. (By the way, do you check out the contractors you hire to fix your house?)

    “Big Pharma consistently invests in treatments rather than cures because that’s where the money is.” “Big Pharma” (aka pharmaceutical companies) are, in our capitalist system, unfortunately organizations that seek maximum profit. Until the revolution, we will have to put up with that situation. Again, as the well-known saying puts it: “Trust but verify.” There are many, many drugs, even those produced by Big Pharma, that are very beneficial.

    As an example, as a type II diabetic, I am taking several drugs, including insulin produced by a genetically engineered process, that are made by Big Pharma (who else?). They were prescribed by doctors I believe to be good ones. Are they merely treating, rather than curing, the diabetes? Yes, because, as far as I know, no such cure has yet been discovered.

    Frankly, there are at present numerous diseases for which no cures are known, either “scientific” or “alternative.” That’s just another one of many sad facts about the world that we just have to put up with. Personally, I have enough confidence in scientific researchers to believe that when a cure for diabetes, and cures for other presently incurable diseases, are discovered, it will be those researchers who discover them.

  8. Maldoror

    These things are all about framing (“death panels” anyone?). With that in mind, I think it is a mistake to chalk homeopathy up to “faith”. Yes, we shudder when we hear the F-word, but for many people it has mostly positive connotations. Call it superstition, stupidity, or simplistic medicine. But not “faith”.

  9. Zucchi

    Let’s stipulate that huge pharmaceutical corporations are amoral moneygrubbing bastards. But they show it in ways that at least make sense, e.g., slightly altering an effective drug so that they can re-market it without it going generic. Bastards.

    But, they don’t suppress cures. If a “Big Pharma” company’s research found a cure for, say, Type I Diabetes, I think the Nobel and prestige would be of great benefit to their bottom line. Also, once the knowledge existed, it’d be practically impossible to suppress it, unless they started assassinating people right and left, like in a silly movie. (And a LOT of people are involved in that kind of research.)

  10. # 9 said “Let’s stipulate that huge pharmaceutical corporations are amoral moneygrubbing bastards.”

    I think we can also stipulate that the same is true of Big Placebo (the alt-med business)

  11. Patrick

    I always notice that any article against homeopathy that can be commented on seems to have a commenter eventually asking “Why are you afraid of homeopathy?”

    You know what people are afraid of?

    Being given water instead of actual treatment, and then dying. That is what people are scared of.

  12. jcm

    Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In it!

  13. Scottynuke

    One could say there’s a small percentage of Big Placebo that honestly believes in its treatments, but that would only make them delusional moneygrubbing bastards.

  14. So are there two “schools” of homeopathy?

    When I first heard of it, it was described as attempting to treat the cause instead of treating the symptoms. EG: When you have a cold, your nose is runny and you have a fever; the runny nose is your body trying to clean out its air filter, and the fever is trying to burn off the virus. Non-homeopathy’s answer in the cold treatment department is to stop the runny nose and lower the fever; homeopathy’s answer is to promote the runny nose and to (within safe levels) promote the fever, so it helps your body do what it is “meant” to do to attend to the problem.

    I only first heard of this absurd dilution idea when folks were warning folks against homeopathy (previously, I would have presumed the homeopathic suggestion for water-drinking would be to deal with being thirsty), which makes me wonder if the term is being applied to two different schools of thought.

  15. Dr. H G Ludwig

    This is poor science as its best. The evidence the dump is talking about is pharma oriented evidence and no scientific evidence at all. By true scientific evidence all pharma belongs to jail as their methods and academic promotors in front of Den Haag! Know you please that homeopathy has been evidenced on molecular science already 2 years ago. Well useless to talk to society misbuilded robots spitting on 250 years of clinical evidence. Sure, we kept investigating and became across bioelectricity and biomagnetism, so get ready to download on that tomorrow because we do heal and not treat anymore close to no cost on top of this.
    Probably you are a brick layer and must laugh when it becomes to energies and sutile stuff you do not understand or have a serious word with that university where you suposed got brain washed by the protocol serving to the financial sense of all.

  16. Dr. H G Ludwig

    My former comment was related to the content of D.C. scribbles, no one else. Phil is just disapointing me representing another utmost surpressed part of human capability (astronomy) by himself and obviously not informed about homeopathy at all. Nor do I enter in a show case of one false diagnosis having to face millions of deaths of chemotherapies and drug loads EVERY SINGLE YEAR coming out of the industry of occidential medicine treatment circle. Your aclaimed bunch of doctors do the slow motion killing while they would put you on a cross by saying that some can see deep space by bending space or gravity use 20 years back.
    Think young man because I do like your articles related to your own field of science misused since thousands of years in name of power play! Thank you

  17. Allen

    @William Young 14:

    Homeopathy deals strictly with water. The other one you gave is probably folk medicine or some other kind of alternative medicine that isn’t homeopathic.

    @Maldoror 8:

    It’s entirely appropriate to call this “faith-based medicine.” You’re taking it on faith that it works, not evidence. Calling it any of those other things would probably insult the homeopath or other alt-med practitioner, and shut them out to debate before it even begins.

  18. TheBlackCat

    @ William Young:

    So are there two “schools” of homeopathy?”

    No, homeopathy, as its name implies, strictly deals with “like cures like”, and with dilution (which is not in the name)

    When I first heard of it, it was described as attempting to treat the cause instead of treating the symptoms. EG: When you have a cold, your nose is runny and you have a fever; the runny nose is your body trying to clean out its air filter, and the fever is trying to burn off the virus. Non-homeopathy’s answer in the cold treatment department is to stop the runny nose and lower the fever; homeopathy’s answer is to promote the runny nose and to (within safe levels) promote the fever, so it helps your body do what it is “meant” to do to attend to the problem.

    I am not sure what that is, but it isn’t homeopathy.

    Also, that is not how a could works. Your body does try to “clean out its filter”, but the filter isn’t really clogged so to speak, the cold tricks it into doing this because it is the best way to spread the cold to other people. The reason we treat to stop the symptoms of the cold rather than destroy the virus, which is the real cause of the cold, is because there isn’t a known way to kill the virus (or, rather, the ways we have to kill the virus would not take affect until after the cold is already over).

    So currently in that particular case treating the symptoms is all we can do. But whenever it has better results science-based medicine does try to cure the causes.

  19. Daffy

    Why isn’t there homeopathic chlorine for swimming pools? Oh, right; it’s just water.

  20. Jean-Denis

    Here in France, home country of homeopathy leader Boiron, homeopathy is not even questioned: it takes front places in pharmacies, it’s prescribed by about every doctor, it’s reimbursed by our health insurances – public and private alike.

    Worse, there is no skeptic movement fighting it. Or at least I haven’t heard its voice.

    I once challenged a doctor with it, and he shut me off with “you don’t know what you are talking about”. The fact is, I knew what I was talking about, but I was not armed enough.

    It’s easy to point out that the basis of homeopathy is ridiculous, that it doesn’t have a plausible mechanism. The answer I get is usually: “who cares so long as it works?”. Horror stories such as the Penelope Dingle case don’t help at all, because first we get accused of playing on fear rather than reason, and second homeopathy is not used for such diseases anyway.

    So the real fight is over whether it actually works or not. And the fight becomes *a lot* harder. Because the only way to argue that homeopathy doesn’t work is to look at studies.

    And pointing out several, or many studies that show that homeopathy doesn’t work better than placebo is not good enough. Because I then get accused of cherry picking the studies. And of course cherry picking is exactly what I *don’t* want to do as a skeptic. And then, in return the homeopathophiles quote studies that did show that it worked. Boiron quotes a few on their web site.

    So the argument then quickly becomes a game of “my evidence is better than yours”. And at that game, the skeptic loses, for several reasons:

    1- That kind of exchange becomes tiring and homeopathy wins because the reasonable conclusion seems to be that it works “at least sometimes”.
    2- Showing why such or such studies is a bad one is tedious and time-consuming, and thus often too late. And that’s WHEN it can be done, because it’s often behind a pay wall.
    3- When fighting at that level, homeopathy is already in a position of credibility. In essence, it has already won the most important.
    4- The ridicule of what homeopathy is, is now totally defused, diluted away (!) in the argument.

    The only way to avoid this trap is to compile *in advance* the studies that show homeopathy working, and analyze them *in advance* to show why they are flawed.

    I think such an exhaustive list of studies about homeopathy is absolutely needed to fight it here in France, and possibly elsewhere. With such a list, I could go back to my doctor and tell him “not only do I know what I’m talking about, but here is what can be found in the research literature about it”. Unfortunately I could not find such a list.

    If anyone knows about this or something similar, a bit like the list of studies about acupuncture that I remember seeing a few months ago (and which I unfortunately couldn’t find again), I would be interested.

    I already posted a similar request here. I didn’t get a positive answer. So I had a try at compiling such a list myself. Using Pubmed, I could find a list of studies which I suppose is reasonably complete. I could even get the full text of a subset of those papers. But many of them are behind a pay wall. Also, even if I could get them all, I’m not sure I am competent nor experienced enough to effectively detect all the flaws that could occur.

    So at this point, I don’t think I can fight homeopathy better than in the very informal way I have always been doing among my family and friends. That one weakness makes me powerless.

    Any suggestion welcome, as always.

  21. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    Jean-Denis:

    I once challenged a doctor [about homeopathy], and he shut me off with “you don’t know what you are talking about”. The fact is, I knew what I was talking about, but I was not armed enough.

    Then the next time you meet that quack ‘doctor’, arm yourself with this question: if water has ‘memory’, then how is it possible for astronauts to drink recycled urine on aboard the International Space Station?

  22. James

    I could even get the full text of a subset of those papers. But many of them are behind a pay wall.

    Personally, I’m of the belief that if a scientific paper isn’t freely available for public criticism, it’s accuracy is immediately in doubt.

    I don’t personally know of any research scientists who don’t want their published research available to any interested parties – if the only copies of particular research are locked up behind payment-demanding gatekeepers, that suggests the authors might not want free discussion and criticism of their work. Whereas real science welcomes criticism and discussion.

  23. sophia8

    Phil might like to know, if he doesn’t already, that Daryl’s next strip is going to be on the Moon Hoax. No word yet as to whether he’ll depict Aldrin punching Seibrel.

  24. squirrelelite

    @18-Jean-Denis,

    Science-Based Medicine is compiling resource references for several medical issues. These are all works in progress and are proceeding slowly due to lack of time and funding, but they are a good starting point.

    Here is their reference for homeopathy.

    http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/homeopathy/

    This has links to several of their blog postings and other relevant sites.

    Dr Kimball Atwood wrote a series of five articles which are referenced here that are a good starting point.

    You might also try to peruse the few good meta analyses of the broader homeopathic literature.

    I would also emphasize two key parts of the scientific process, repeatability and replicability.

    These are why one individual study by itself is not proof that homeopathy “works”.

    Can the results be repeated? That is, when the same treatment/medicine/procedure is tested again in different groups of people, do they get the same positive results? That would suggest there might be a real effect. Or, do the results show up some times but not others? That would indicate the results are probably a statistical fluke.

    Can the results be replicated by other experimenters in other locations? If so, they may be real. If not, then the one group that gets good results may be fooling themselves or there may be some systematic problem with their test procedure that makes the results look better than they really are.

    Most of this will probably go right over the heads of the general public and won’t convince the true believers either. But, it may help you give a more convincing explanation to someone who is sincerely looking for understanding.

    And, if any doctor of mine prescribed a homeopathic “remedy”, I would get a different doctor.

  25. Gary Ansorge

    19. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    “astronauts to drink recycled urine”

    Also remember, that water you’re drinking, a short time ago, had fish fraking in it(and peeing and pooping).

    Fortunately. distillation( as rainfall) removes all crap.

    The only memory water has, is the memory of the person drinking it, which is why, when describing the recycled urine astronauts drink, many people go “Eyew!!!”

    It’s their memory that’s the problem.

    Gary 7
    Gee, if water could actually accrue data, wouldn’t there be an entrepreneur drumming up investments to turn that into a molecular data storage system??? Talk about high density storage.

  26. TheBlackCat

    Personally, I’m of the belief that if a scientific paper isn’t freely available for public criticism, it’s accuracy is immediately in doubt.

    I don’t personally know of any research scientists who don’t want their published research available to any interested parties – if the only copies of particular research are locked up behind payment-demanding gatekeepers, that suggests the authors might not want free discussion and criticism of their work. Whereas real science welcomes criticism and discussion.

    Wow, you really have no clue about how peer-reviewed scientific publishing works at all. Essentially every peer-reviewed article is “locked up behind payment-demanding gatekeepers”. You would need to throw out basically all science of the last 50 years or so if you actually applied that rule consistently.

    It is not that scientists want it that way, it is how journals stay in business. And there are no other options if scientists want their work to be taken seriously by other scientists (there have been a few other options within the last couple of years, but those are far from established in the scientific community). There have been efforts to change that, to make articles free after 1 year, but during that 1 year period you still need to pay or else the journals will go out of business.

  27. Ivor Morgan

    It’s getting worse – now we have Nobel-prize winners getting sloppy and providing the snake-oil sellers with “proof” and “credibility”.
    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2009/10/why-i-am-nominating-luc-montagnier-for.html

  28. tesstricks

    First thought: What exactly do homeopaths put in the potion to cure a yeast infection? Ewwwwwwwwww

  29. Jean-Denis

    Thanks for your answers,

    - “how is it possible for astronauts to drink recycled urine on aboard the International Space Station?”
    This plays out on the plausibility aspect of homeopathy. That one is easily won. The problem is that it is met with “who cares we don’t know how it works, so long as it works?”.

    I should also have pointed out that here in France, nobody claims anymore that water has memory. Benveniste is thoroughly discredited here too. Instead, homepathophiles don’t even try to explain how it could work.

    - “And, if any doctor of mine prescribed a homeopathic “remedy”, I would get a different doctor.”

    Good luck with that in France, as about every GP doctor will prescribes homeopathy. It’s even taught in med school.

    Thanks for the link in Science-Based Medicine, I’ll have a serious look at it.

  30. Nigel Depledge

    Before I address this comment, I’ll issue this disclaimer: I am an employee of a big pharmaceuitical company. The company I work for was recently bought by a Big Pharma company as a going concern.

    My own background is in biochemistry, and after getting my PhD (focussing on enzymology) I worked two contracts (one for the MRC doing work on enzyme kinetics and the second at a university working on protein purification) before starting work in my present position. My work is in the division of biopharmaceuticals, and I mainly focus on the development and scale-up of protein purification processes, although I have a substantial involvement (mainly as tech support) with production of materials for clinical trials.

    Shalee (3) said:

    Phil you do go on about the anti-vax movement and I agree mostly.

    I agree entirely with Phil’s stance on the anti-vax movement.

    But Geez, I never hear anything about Big Pharma and its terrible behaviors.

    It is true that some big pharma companies have indeed behaved unethically. There are many criticisms that can be levelled at some of the companies in this market. The most prominent examples are discussed beautifully in the book Bad Science.

    However, the environment in which these companies operate is very tightly regulated. For any substance to be licensed as a new drug product it must undergo four stages of testing: pre-clinical toxicology studies, which (in the US, Australia, Japan, most of Europe and probably most other technological societies) must by law be performed before the substance may be tested on people. Assuming the substance shows no sign of toxicity, it may then proceed to clinical trials. Phase I is to demonstrate safety in a small number of healthy volunteers. Some of you may recall the failure of the company TeGenera a couple of years ago, because their trial drug behaved unexpectedly in these volunteers and caused some of them to suffer severe immune reactions, including organ failure. However, they all survived because the trial was conducted according to the regulations. Phase II requires a larger number of people (to give it some statistical power), and is to demonstrate efficacy in patients (i.e. that the drug does what the company says it does). Phase III requires a larger number of people still, and is to seek out adverse reactions (side effects). However, since very few trials ever manage to recruit more than about 1000 volunteers, any reactions that may occur in fewer than 1 in 1000 patients are unlikely to be discovered. Phase III trials are required to be longer than Phase I or Phase II (of the order of months).

    There are exceptions. New treatments for what the FDA calls “orphan” conditions (i.e. those for which there is no treatment at all at present) may be fast-tracked through this process. Similarly, new treatments for terminal diseases (such as the more aggressive forms of cancer) may also be fast-tracked. This does not mean that the pharma company gets off lightly, as they have do do most of the same stuff in less time. There’s just a bit less paperwork involved.

    After a substance reaches Phase III, the process for its production must be validated – in other words, controls must be set up to ensure that what was produced in one batch is the same (as near as can be determined) as any other batch. Any changes to the process or raw materials (or even to anything that comes into contact with the product during production) are tightly controlled and must be assessed in detail for any potential impact.

    Different companies have different approaches to this process. For example, a large company with several candidate substances in the works will be as thorough as they can in pre-clinical and Phase I trials to work out if the molecule is likely to succeed or fail, because it’s far cheaper to stop a project at this stage than if the drug candidate fails at Phase III. Conversely, a small company will often do the minimum required to meet regulations at this stage because they cannot afford to do more than is required. What sometimes happens is that a small comany will take a candidate substance through pre-clinical and Pahse I trials and then license it (or sell it outright) to a big pharmaceutical company.

    Whichever, taking a drug candidate through this process costs hundreds of millions of dollars.

    I’m not a proponent of homeopathy, but I am skeptical of modern medicine, especially really modern like the last few decades.

    Interestingly, new medicines and surgical procedures that have been developed in the last 30 or 40 years will have been subjected to more rigorous and intensive study and testing than anything that went before. The requirement for clinical trials was only introduced in the 1960s (or maybe very late 1950s?). Look up “thalidomide” on wikipedia.

    There’s plenty of great effects of “real medicine” as you call it, but then there are millions of doctors taking kickbacks to prescribe many unnecessary pills or pills that have little more than a placebo effect to the positive, but a multitude of horrible side effects and permanent damage for which you must take more pills.

    As I understand it, any doctors that take bribes from pharmaceutical companies are behaving unethically, and can be struck off. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies that offer bribes are also behaving unethically and (in many countries) can be prosecuted for doing so. If you have evidence that this occurs, I suggest you seek the opinion of a lawyer. If you are merely repeating heresay, I suggest you question the source.

    What does happen far too often is that a patient will pressure their physician for a prescription even if the best advice is to let the disease run its course. Hence, we find many GPs prescribing antibiotics for viral infections in the full knowledge that they will do nothing – and in the process accelerating the emergence of resistance to that antibiotic.

    And Big Pharm consistently invests in treatments rather than cures because that’s where the money is.

    This is a myth.

    Medicine is far more complicated than many people give credit for. My own personal experience has been that companies are trying to develop cures for cancer (for example) but end up with drugs that don’t wipe it out completely and therefore need to be administered repeatedly.

    In other situations, such as viral infections, often the pathogen evolves too quickly for a drug to kill it off. This is especially true of HIV, where resistance can emerge even with four different antiretroviral agents being administered simultaneously. As I understand it, the recent widespread use of Tamiflu in Europe has led to the emergence of Tamiflu-resistant strains of influenza virus.

    There are other situations where all we know how to do is to treat the symptoms, so that is what we do because it is better than the alternative. But a lot of clever people are investigating the root causes of many ailments in the hope of finding ways to combat these illnesses permanently.

    Suffice it to say that I have never encountered an instance of researchers deliberately ignoring an option to cure a disease in favour of merely serving up a palliative.

  31. Nigel Depledge

    William Young (14) said:

    So are there two “schools” of homeopathy?

    Not as far as I know.

    When I first heard of it, it was described as attempting to treat the cause instead of treating the symptoms. EG: When you have a cold, your nose is runny and you have a fever; the runny nose is your body trying to clean out its air filter, and the fever is trying to burn off the virus. Non-homeopathy’s answer in the cold treatment department is to stop the runny nose and lower the fever; homeopathy’s answer is to promote the runny nose and to (within safe levels) promote the fever, so it helps your body do what it is “meant” to do to attend to the problem.

    Unfortunately, this is what many people seem to think, and it makes a kind of sense on the surface.

    However, the truth is more complex.

    Fevers were once thought to be the body’s way of dealing with viruses, but it is now known that they are a side effect of other processes in the immune system.

    In the case of colds and flu, the stuffy nose is actually a consequence of the virus having killed off all of the ciliated epithelium cells lining your airways (so that mucus is no longer smoothly transported from your lungs to your oesophagus).

    Also in the case of colds and flu, cures have been attempted. The “common cold” does not submit to a cure because it is not a single infection. There are about 30 or 40 different viruses that can cause colds or cold-like symptoms. At present, there seems to be no avenue of attack to deal witth all of these in one treatment.

    Flu can be cured (or at least, treated in such a way that the infection is less severe), but it evolves very rapidly. Already there are signs that Tamiflu-resistance is emerging.

    Finally, if the symptoms really were a part of the body’s way of fighting an infection, what is the supposed function of toxic shock? Unless treated immediately, this is often fatal.

  32. TheBlackCat

    There are about 30 or 40 different viruses that can cause colds or cold-like symptoms.

    Are you sure? I was under the impression it was about an order of magnitude larger.

  33. Damon

    Nice fear-mongering.

    As far as I’m concerned, a few deaths here and there is a small price to pay for freedom of personal belief.

    If anything, death at the hands of homeopathy/non-vaccination will teach people to take better care of themselves. Worried about your kids catching something from someone who hasn’t been poked? Well, teach them not to touch unclean surfaces and to wash their hands. Stop breathing into other people’s mouths. Cover your mouth when you cough.

    The problem isn’t anti-vaxxers, it’s bad parenting. Nice strawman, though.

  34. Keith (the first one)

    Damon. Teaching people that things are dangerous is not taking away freedom of personal belief.

    So far there are loads of such deaths, which the proponents of such woo just ignore anyway. The problem is the proponents of such woo. Good parenting has it’s place, but if the parents don’t know any better, then it makes no difference. There is no strawman there apart from your own.

  35. bri

    What about Freudian Psychoanalysis? nobody talk about it…

  36. Nigel Depledge

    The black cat (32) said:

    Are you sure? I was under the impression it was about an order of magnitude larger.

    Erm … I could be a bit out of date there.

    Also, it depends on how you define one virus as being different from another. Perhaps I should have said 30 or 40 different genuses of virus …

  37. Nigel Depledge

    Damon (33) blathered:

    Nice fear-mongering.

    Wrong. Fear-mongering is when the threat is untrue.

    Like, for instance the scare stories about GM foods or vaccinations.

    As far as I’m concerned, a few deaths here and there is a small price to pay for freedom of personal belief.

    Well, first off: you callous, uncaring b*****d.

    Second: you are entitled to freedom of personal belief, but you are not entitled to freely choose your own facts. That vaccinations prevent the spread of disease is a fact. That homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo is a fact. These things have been demonstrated empirically.

    If anything, death at the hands of homeopathy/non-vaccination will teach people to take better care of themselves.

    Erm … how, if they’re dead?

    Worried about your kids catching something from someone who hasn’t been poked? Well, teach them not to touch unclean surfaces and to wash their hands. Stop breathing into other people’s mouths. Cover your mouth when you cough.

    Do you really, honestly believe that these behaviours can prevent the spread of disease? When compared against viruses that have been evolving infection strategies for billions of years?

    Seriously, your precautions would work against protozoan infections and some bacterial infections, but would be essentially useless against viruses.

    Take influenza as an example. It can survive on hard, dry surfaces for several days. It can travel many tens of metres through the air after a sneeze. Even if one sneezes into a tissue or handkerchief, at least 10% of the viable virus will pass through such a porous barrier (and reducing virus load by a single order of magnitude is rather pathetic, when there could be anything up to about 1011 virions in a single sneeze). Influenza is a very large virus, being of the order of 100 nm in diameter. Some viruses are in the range of 10 nm. How could you stop yourself from either breathing these out in the vicinity of other people, or prevent yourself from breathing them in if you went somewhere where an infected person had been breathing?

    And what about people who wish to be vaccinated but cannot, for medical reasons? Why should they have to suffer your nineteenth-century philosophy just because other people have chosen to not be vaccinated?

    The problem isn’t anti-vaxxers, it’s bad parenting. Nice strawman, though.

    Wrong again. Refusing vaccination is irresponsible, unless you choose to quarantine yourself from all human contact. The technology exists to eradicate some viruses altogether. Smallpox has been eradicated by a concerted programme of vaccination. Polio would have been eradicated had it not been for the efforts of anti-vax campaigners in Nigeria.

    For viruses where eradication is an unrealistic goal, widespread vaccination programmes severely limit the spread of infections. And these only work if everyone accepts that they have a responsibility to not infect the people that they encounter.

    Would you adopt the same attitude if a person could sue someone else for infecting them if that other person had refused vaccination? Because refusing vaccination without specific medical grounds for refusal is not all that different from deliberately setting out to harm people.

  38. Nigel Depledge

    Dr HG Ludwig (15) said:

    This is poor science as its best. The evidence the dump is talking about is pharma oriented evidence and no scientific evidence at all.

    Even assuming that English is not your first language, this is incoherent.

    By true scientific evidence all pharma belongs to jail as their methods and academic promotors in front of Den Haag!

    As I said to another commenter, if you have evidence to support this, take it to your District Attorney, or Public Presecution Service, or whatever.

    If, OTOH, you’re just making it up (or repeating stuff that other people have made up), you should ask yourself why you need to lie to support homeopathy.

    Know you please that homeopathy has been evidenced on molecular science already 2 years ago.

    Go on, then. Supply a reference to the published paper.

    Y’see, if you are right, that’s really big news. OTOH, if you’re wrong, then that would explain why magazines such as New Scientist and Nature Methods have been silent on the topic.

    Well useless to talk to society misbuilded robots spitting on 250 years of clinical evidence. Sure, we kept investigating and became across bioelectricity and biomagnetism, so get ready to download on that tomorrow because we do heal and not treat anymore close to no cost on top of this.

    I cannot parse any meaning out of this at all.

    Probably you are a brick layer and must laugh when it becomes to energies and sutile stuff

    Biochemist, in fact, but bricklayer was close. And I know how to spell “subtle”.

    you do not understand or have a serious word with that university where you suposed got brain washed by the protocol serving to the financial sense of all.

    [sarcasm]Yes, that’s right, I got brainwashed by two universities and the UK’s MRC who had no idea I would end up employed by Big Pharma, and I’m just a mindless shill for the party line, which is why they pay me such big … hey! Where’s my big-bucks kickbacks?![/sarcasm]

  39. Nigel Depledge

    Daffy (19) said:

    Why isn’t there homeopathic chlorine for swimming pools? Oh, right; it’s just water.

    But after only a few hours in the pool, it would no longer be just water. It would be teeming with protozoa and bacteria. ;-)

  40. Nigel Depledge

    Tesstricks (28) said:

    First thought: What exactly do homeopaths put in the potion to cure a yeast infection? Ewwwwwwwwww

    Don’t forget that a yeast (commonly Saccharomyces cerevisiae) is a component of all the following things:
    Wine
    Beer
    Bread
    Vinegar (except spirit vinegar)
    Marmite / Vegemite
    Anything made or cooked with breadcrumbs (so, most sausages and any breadcrumbed seafood)
    Anything made with vinegar (other than spirit vinegar; so, this includes most salad dressings)
    Most processed foods (yeast extract is a very common flavour enhancer)

  41. Bill Stewart

    Homeopathy was a bogus theory, followed by 200 years of not very scientific trial and error. Its less scientific practitioners came up with silliness like water having memory, but sometimes people have found treatments that can help cure symptoms, and they do make pills that have actual materia medica in them as opposed to just sugar coated in memory water. They don’t have the Germ Theory of Disease, so they’re not going to cure actual diseases, but sometimes you only care about the symptoms, such as with allergies. I’m surprised I don’t hear homeopaths bragging about allergy desensitization shots; they’re annoying and often work, and are close enough to homeopathy.

    Until Tamiflu came out, the only thing Real Medicine could offer if you caught the flu was treating symptoms so it didn’t kill you before you got better. Of course I get my flu vaccination shots – the flu is really annoying even if you don’t die – but sometimes I still get the flu. “Alpha CF” is a homeopathic cold/flu medicine that I’ve found consistently helps me go from feeling really horrible when I have the flu to merely feeling bad, and with the flu, that’s a win. One of the ingredients in it is ipecac, in enough quantity that you know it hasn’t been diluted into highly energetic nonexistence. Maybe that just improves the placebo effect, but if so I’m fine with that.

    (And Nigel@43, you’re saying “Marmite” as if that’s a *good* thing, and not some evil substance foisted upon the public by breweries disposing of their leftovers…)

  42. Nigel Depledge

    Bill Stewart (41) said:

    Homeopathy was a bogus theory, followed by 200 years of not very scientific trial and error.

    Well, it has been scientifically tested . . . and found to be no better than a placebo.

    Its less scientific practitioners came up with silliness like water having memory, but sometimes people have found treatments that can help cure symptoms, and they do make pills that have actual materia medica in them as opposed to just sugar coated in memory water.

    If it has been diluted by any factor less than about 1060, then it ain’t homeopathic. Maybe you’re thinking of herbal remedies, some of which really do contain active pharmaceutical ingredients.

    They don’t have the Germ Theory of Disease, so they’re not going to cure actual diseases, but sometimes you only care about the symptoms, such as with allergies.

    The only way homeopathic treatments work on allergies is by activating the placebo effect.

    I’m surprised I don’t hear homeopaths bragging about allergy desensitization shots; they’re annoying and often work, and are close enough to homeopathy.

    The whoole point of homeopathy is that more dilution makes the “medicine” stronger. Allergy desensitisation shots, OTOH, obey the laws of chemistry and physics (AFAICT).

    Until Tamiflu came out, the only thing Real Medicine could offer if you caught the flu was treating symptoms so it didn’t kill you before you got better.

    Nearly. Flu vaccines have been around for a while, but, of course, don’t really achieve very much if you have already caught the flu.

    Of course I get my flu vaccination shots – the flu is really annoying even if you don’t die – but sometimes I still get the flu.

    Of course. The flu shots will only be effective against the predominant serotype (because they have been manufactured against that serotype) of flu. It is quite rare that one serotype replaces all the others in circulation (in fact this is one of the criteria for a pandemic).

    “Alpha CF” is a homeopathic cold/flu medicine that I’ve found consistently helps me go from feeling really horrible when I have the flu to merely feeling bad, and with the flu, that’s a win. One of the ingredients in it is ipecac, in enough quantity that you know it hasn’t been diluted into highly energetic nonexistence. Maybe that just improves the placebo effect, but if so I’m fine with that.

    If it contains an active ingredient, it’s not homeopathic. Although why a low dose of an emetic helps you to feel better is beyond me.

    (And Nigel@43, you’re saying “Marmite” as if that’s a *good* thing, and not some evil substance foisted upon the public by breweries disposing of their leftovers…)

    Yes, Marmite is most excellent. It’s Vegemite that is evil.

  43. ddwivedi

    Zucchi,
    Re. your comment
    ” the very basis for homeopathy is also stupid: the idea that the human body’s healing powers won’t be sufficiently “stimulated” by an actual disease, but will be by taking a substance that happens to cause a symptom similar to that caused by the disease.”
    Have you not heard of Counter Irritants in modern medicine ??

  44. Nigel Depledge

    Ddwivedi (43) said:

    Zucchi,
    Re. your comment
    ” the very basis for homeopathy is also stupid: the idea that the human body’s healing powers won’t be sufficiently “stimulated” by an actual disease, but will be by taking a substance that happens to cause a symptom similar to that caused by the disease.”
    Have you not heard of Counter Irritants in modern medicine ??

    And the relevance to homeopathy is what, exactly?

  45. Stan March

    Hey Phil,
    I just want to let you know that now there is a Spanish version of the comic, with permission of the author. I know that you have a big impact on the Spanish-speaking community so you might want to let them know. Here is the link: http://perarduaadastra.eu/2010/07/homeopatia-un-comic-de-darryl-cunningham/

    Kind regards.

    Stan

  46. Utkarsh Sharma

    Hey Phil, i am your huge fan but this time you are wrong!
    I am sorry to say that but you need to have a look on this link ( http://www.ircc.iitb.ac.in/IRCC-Webpage/Homeopathy-Nanoparticle-Note.pdf ). Some recent research on Homeopathy from one of the worlds most important institute, The Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay (Mumbai),
    Thnks.

  47. bottom-up

    I’ll have my water shaken, not stirred.

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