Homeopathy slammed by Australian TV news show

By Phil Plait | April 18, 2011 11:17 am

Most of the time, so-called "alternative medicine" is treated very gently by television news. I don’t know if that’s because they don’t want to tick off their viewers, or the reporters don’t look into it properly, or if they believe in it themselves. But no matter the reason, it’s always refreshing to see a show really tear into something like homeopathy. That’s precisely what the Australian program "Today Tonight" did recently:

The report featured such noted skeptics as Simon Singh, Richard Saunders, and James Randi, and made it very clear that homeopathy is just very expensive nonsense. I’m glad they didn’t make the report "balanced" by giving a lot of time to promoters of homeopathy; that’s not balance any more than giving time to someone who believes in storks delivering babies in a segment about infant health care.

But they did give a homeopath a minute or so of time, and in that short period Australian Homeopathy Association’s President Michelle Hookham managed to say a lot of wrong stuff. At 4:10 into the video she invokes quantum physics — a well-known trump card by alt-medders, which is basically code for "magic" in their eyes — but it’s at the 5 minute mark when she really goes off the rails:

It’s very hard to measure homeopathy using the benchmark of the randomized clinical trial, and the reason for that is because of the individualized nature of the treatment.

That is utter baloney. First of all, homeopathy is not individualized; go to a pharmacy and you’ll see row after row of mass-produced sugar pills on the rack. And her point about clinical trials is as wrong as it can be: homeopaths are making claims that their product works, and if that’s true then it should be easy to show in these trials. It’s really as simple as a double-blinded study. She says in the interview that studies have shown homeopathy to be effective, but I’d add the adjective "flawed" (or perhaps "misinterpreted") to the word "study". When studies are done properly, they always show homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo.

And one other point that I think is important: Richard Saunders told me that the reason this story ran on the program was because he contacted a journalist and suggested it! It goes to show you that skeptics can actively take a role in promoting reason, and it can really pay off.


Related posts:

Homeopathy kills
British Medical Association: homeopathy is witchcraft
Homeopathy made simple
Canadian TV slams homeopathy
Homeopathy: there’s nothing to it
Diluting Felicia
Diluting nuclear homeopathy

Comments (130)

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  1. Great news. I love seeing the mainstream media actually get something right about crap like this.

  2. Erik

    +1 for reason, -1 for unicorns.

  3. If water has “memory”, it’s full of cr@p! :D

    Yay for skeptics.

  4. Chris

    Hmmm, according to homeopathy if I sneeze outside, I should be able to cure the common cold.

    When I was teaching organic chemistry, I started with how the synthesis of urea revolutionized chemistry. Before they thought organic chemicals had some “vital force” unique to living things. Then I went on to tell how you may have thought the “vital force” theory died out, but yet some parts live on in homeopathy. If you get vitamin C from an orange or synthesized from oil, it’s exactly the same chemical. Hopefully I saved a few young minds.

  5. Jason

    Basically a copy of a recent show done on CBC’s Marketplace (http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/)

    I’m glad to see this stuff is getting out there, though.

  6. NoAstronomer

    As Larian points out, I for one will be eternally grateful that water does *not* have memory.

    Kudos to Today Tonight for running this story.

  7. Roger

    Every Sunday morning, one of the radio shows in my town has the Robert Scott Bell show. He’s a big antivaxer, doesn’t want people to inject “poison” into their bodies, and promotes homeopathy. I’ve listened to the show a few times. I tried to call in but the screener wouldn’t let me in. I was going to question him about a product he was promoting to help fight the H1N1. I was wondering if anybody here has heard his show.

  8. IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE

    @Larian LeQuella,

    As Archie Bunker said: “You don’t buy beer, you rent it!” :-P

  9. Joseph G

    As an American, I’d like to say “Bravo!” to our Aussie friends when it comes to fighting nonsense as of late. From the PowerBalance burnination to the anti-antivaxxer responses, and now this. I hope we in the ‘States can be inspired to act similarly.

  10. Joseph G

    I love how that company Brauer has that stylized DNA molecule in its logo. As if anything they do has jack-squat to do with genes (or science) in any way, shape, or form.

    Also, Catherine Zeta-Jones? Say it ain’t so!
    Not only is she teh hawtness, she’s actually done some wonderful charity work. I don’t recall what it was offhand, but I remember being impressed by it. Meh. What is it about being famous that turns your brain to mush?

    @#7 CaptTu: Bahaha! I love it. Very to-the-point.

  11. Roger:

    I tried to call in but the screener wouldn’t let me in.

    I don’t suppose it would be ethical to lie to the screener?

  12. Ellen M

    “Quantum Physics” as magic really pisses me off. Apparently the quantum I class at my university a few years back had a final project/contest that was to find the most egregious use of quantum physics in popular culture. I think the person who won proved and disproved God with the same “argument”.

  13. It’s all dinosaur piss.
    Highly diluted dinosaur piss, to be sure…

    Let’s see if we can interest 20/20 or 60 Minutes in taking this on.
    Who should be the lead on this?

  14. Alex Murdoch

    I love how the homeopaths constantly trot out the whole “We’re waiting for Science to catch up with us” chestnut. You don’t need to know HOW something works to be able to test using the scientific method IF it works. If it doesn’t, don’t waste your time.

  15. Andrew W

    “they always show homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo.”

    Can I point out that sometimes placebos do work? In this country (dunno about the US) doctors do sometimes actually prescribe placebos to cure some patients. So, being a bit devils advocate-ish, may I point out that maybe we should be grateful to homeopathy for reducing the congestion in the doctors waiting rooms by all the people who are successfully treated by this form of alternative medicine?

  16. I want to know how the achieve such low solution’s.

    I probably breath in more caffeine by contamination of coffee in my room than you would get in one of those pills.

  17. Yojimbo

    @16 Andrew W

    There is a common confusion about placebos. Saying something is a placebo is never the same as saying it doesn’t do anything. The placebo effect is real and sometimes quite powerful. It just does not rely on the actual content of the remedy – only on the mental processes of the recipient. The point is, the advocates of homeopathy claim that the remedy itself does something for the patient, which is false, even though people who take these “remedies” often actually do feel better.

    As for your devil’s advocate point, I’d guess that the reduction in congestion is probably made up for by the extra crowding from people taking homeopathic products instead of real medicine and ending up sicker.

  18. Daniel J. Andrews

    I thought the advocate had a good reason for why science can’t understand homeopathy. Her argument, paraphrased was, “It’s too hard for scientists to understand”. Ahh, why didn’t you say so in the first place–it’s so hard our brightest inquiring minds can’t get it.

    And random clinical trials don’t show homeopathy working because homeopathic medicine is individualized for each person. Silly me–and I thought all those boxes and bottles of meds on the store shelves were mass produced.

    Perhaps the government agencies should look into how they dispose of their dilutions. E.g. if you’re doing 30C, you have some pretty potent medicine sitting around at 29C, 28C, 27C etc. Are they just dumping that water, I mean medicine, down the drain? I say hold them to the same standards as pharmaceutical companies. On second thought, that could backfire as they’ll claim the government recognizes homeopathy as equivalent to real medicine as they’re held to the same standards.

  19. tardis42

    Worth noting perhaps is that today tonight is not exactly noted for being correct. *ever*.
    its a “current affairs” show, which usually makes no effort at all to fact-check its stories – they have run stories on the usual “miracle” cures & magnets that make water work “better” etc.

    Doesn’t mean this story is bad, of course – just means that it being good is *despite* it being on today tonight, not *because* of it.

  20. Chris L.

    Ken B Says:
    I don’t suppose it would be ethical to lie to the screener?

    So that guy who called into Coast to Coast AM and said he was a time traveler was telling the truth? :)

  21. Roger

    Ken: I really didn’t think of that because I was asking an honest question and didn’t think it would be a problem. My question probably would’ve put him in the corner floundering his way out or he would spin it and give a non-answer. I realize now that he has a very good call screener and absolutely will not take questions that go against his philosophy. I think it was a question about Airborne

  22. Andrew W

    “The point is, the advocates of homeopathy claim that the remedy itself does something for the patient”

    Well obviously if they went around admitting that homeopathy relied on the placebo effect it wouldn’t have even a placebo effect.

    “I’d guess that the reduction in congestion is probably made up for by the extra crowding from people taking homeopathic products instead of real medicine and ending up sicker.”

    It’d be interesting to know how many of those who’re happy with the results they get from homeopathy turned to homeopathy because their regular Doctor admitted being unable to treat their problem.

  23. Yojimbo

    Andrew W – Good point. But most homeopaths wouldn’t consider admitting that anyway, because they appear to really believe there is some magic besides placebo.

    And, I’d be pretty sure that many people do end up with homeopathy for just that reason. They went to their doctor for some condition that would clear up on its own if untreated, and the doctor didn’t have a magic elixer for an instant cure (or a lot of office time to spend with them), so they tried homeopathy. The homeopath spent lots of time and made them feel warm and fuzzy, said “try this, it will cure you, but it will take a while”. They try it and the condition clears up. They now have proof it works and they tell their friends. And so it goes.

  24. Matt B.

    If homeopathy is so hard for scientists to understand, let’s get some of those homeopathists to work figuring out which Calabi-Yau configuration represents our universe’s 11-dimensional space-time. Make them figure out quantum gravity.

  25. amphiox

    In this country (dunno about the US) doctors do sometimes actually prescribe placebos to cure some patients.

    In what country is this? To prescribe a placebo without telling the patient exactly what a placebo is (which would destroy the placebo effect*) is the same as lying to the patient, and is, in every possible interpretation of medical ethics that I know of, unethical, and IS NOT ALLOWED.

    *the part of the placebo effect that comes from the patient’s mind. Another very large and variable part of the placebo effect is simply the variation in the natural history of illnesses and individual responses to them. In short, a significant proportion of what is measured as ‘placebo’ effect in placebo-controlled trials is just some patients getting better, and some illnesses resolving, on their own, regardless of what you do or not do.

  26. Andrew W

    “In what country is this?”
    http://www.macdoctor.co.nz/2009/07/04/in-defense-of-nothing/

    Macdoctor has practiced in South Africa, Uk, and NZ.

  27. ThomM

    Just wanted to echo what tardis42 said — it’s a shame it was broadcast on Today Tonight, which has run 10x as many “How Immigrant Builders Are Taking Our Farmer’s Jobs and Making Our Kids Fat with Germs, and How You Can Fix It By Using This Magnetic Electricity Conditioner” stories. It is *seriously* not where you’d go for actual reporting on… anything.

    That said, most of the people who dismiss stories simply because they’re on Today Tonight probably don’t need convincing about homeopathy anyway. On the other hand, the show’s main demographic probably does. Probably a good tactical choice by Mr. Saunders.

  28. Andrew W

    After a quick google it looks like US doctors regularly prescribe placebos.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/04/idUSN0323176620080104

  29. Andrew W

    Well, I’ve got a couple of comments in moderation because of links, one to macdoctor.co.nz/2009/07/04/in-defense-of-nothing/, and another to a reuters article about a survey that provides evidence that placebo use is widespread amongst US doctors.

    Macdoctor has practiced in South Africa, Uk, and NZ

  30. Cusp

    I agree with Tardis24 – Today Tonight is one of the worst current affair programs around (especially when coupled with its rival, A Current of Air).

    They have attacked mainstream medicine and had lots of magic medical stories – the worst in my opinion was the cancer cure by running a magic wand over the body, and it is still going…

    http://www.hoax-slayer.com/dr-holt-petition.html

  31. Naomi

    Wow, something worthwhile on Today Tonight. Colour me surprised! Now let’s see if we can get this picked up by a legit current affairs program!

    Oh, and of course, channel ten did its very best to wade into the nonsense and fear-mongering party last night – they aired ‘2011: 100 days of disaster’, which mentioned the disasters of the past one hundred days (floods and cyclone in Queensland, earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan, the nuclear crisis in the latter, and civil unrest in Libya), and threw it together with a few actual scientists who got little to no time to talk (and were immediately compromised by the narration, which was asking questions after they spoke that… the scientists could have answered), and giving the lion’s share of time to astrologers, conspiracy theorists, and loonies spouting off about the Bible Code, plus the one group of Mayans they could convince to talk about omg apocalypse.

    Give it a rest, honestly! It’s kind of sad that they gave that much attention to people who were obviously mentally ill – some of the conspiracy theorists did not appear to be very sound in the head.

  32. Chris A.

    Surely I can’t be the first to notice the ironic homophony between the last name of the Australian Homeopathy Association’s President (“Hookham”) and “hokum.”

  33. Allen L

    I can’t believe they are still on the ‘quantum mechanics can explain homeopathy’ crap. What’s after that, string theory?

  34. Michael Swanson

    I wonder, if homeopathy is supposed to take a poison and turn magically (by magic I mean “quantum mechanics!”) it into an active antidote by eliminating it, does it work the other way round? Does a 30C dilution of vitamin C then make an active agent that will have the effects of vitamin C deficiency? Would I get scurvy if I drank it? Or would a 30C dilution of vitamin A cause blindness?

    Or is homeopathy only a force for good, so that water would never “remember” something that would have a bad effect?

    Hm, I wonder, I just wonder if homeopathy could be the biggest load of undiluted horse**** I’ve ever heard in my life. So much to ponder.

  35. Saunders knew what he was doing getting these quacks exposed on “TT” It’s shows like this that usually run the pro-pseudoscience anti-“Big Pharma” stuff. It is nice to see that both this show and its rival “A Current Affair” are taking a more pro-active role against quackery and bufoonery lately though.

  36. Dave

    It’s just a pity that the show in Question “Today Tonight” – has about as much credibility as a piece of roadkill.

  37. Harry

    whoa, whoa! WHOA!!

    This is a HUGE turn around for Today Tonight. Other Aussie’s feel free to correct me, but isn’t Today Tonight one of Australia’s most sensationalist (as well as a contender for low journalistic integrity) news sources? Generally everything they do is for shock – as they demonstrated as soon as they switched view from the anchor.

    A win for reason, yes…but be VERY wary with what Today Tonight does….

  38. Gavin Flower

    > 13. Ellen M Says:
    […]
    > I think the person who won proved and disproved God with the same
    > “argument”.
    […]

    Did they prove that Schroedinger’s cat is God???

  39. VinceRN

    Re: #14. Even dinosaur piss would be less than 30C I think.

  40. flip

    Only Aussies will get this: A Current Affairs must have been running a ‘homeopathy is good’ show on the same night.

    ACA and TT are always more interested in showing each other up than providing sound journalism. They are constantly called out on “Media Watch”, a short weekly show that calls journalists out when they do things wrong.

  41. ScepticsBane

    It seems to me that Homeopathy does work.

    Does it really? Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors, instead of a bunch of frustrated lab nitwits up on their statistics and double blinded, randomized, placebo controlled “studies”. The life threatening illnesses, and their cures, don’t happen in those labs, they happen in the real world, which, oh by the way, is not the domain of the lab b0ffins nor their politicized masters.

    Can it possibly work and how? Can a rocket possibly carry men to the moon? How about lasers…are they possible? In the 1930’s that would have been dismissed as nonsense.
    Who knows until scientists and researchers have had a go at it. Could quantum phenomena be inovlved? Again, who knows until its researched. Neither side can be sure of anything till that’s done. Neither side has the edge on deciding and there’s still those doctors and patients insisting that they benefited from it. What are the odds it’s all placebo effect? Zero.

  42. Nobody Important

    How surprising. Today Tonight is usually, along with its rival ‘A Current Affair’, an embarrassment to Australian television journalism. I would have expected it to be peddling homeopathy, not being used as a tool against it. Well, maybe one can use evil against evil to do good?

  43. Joseph G

    @41: Damn, that’s disappointing.
    So you’re saying that a media outlet that’s usually wrong is trying to show up another media outlet that happens in this case to be even wronger, and so in the process is inadvertantly delivering a grain of truth from the abundant bell-end of what would otherwise be a bull**** machine?
    “Even a broken clock” etc etc?

    This makes me sad. The clarity with which I see the process now that you explain it is doubly sad.

    I can see it now –
    “Next up on Fox: These so-called experts have been telling us for years that JFK had to have been assassinated by a sophisticated conspiracy – but what do they really know?
    The shocking truth behind the conspiracy to exonerate Lee Harvey Oswald!”

  44. Joseph G

    @ 42: Away with thee, Troll. The jig is up, move along.

    Unless you’re serious, in which case someone will be along to humiliate you shortly. Please have a seat right over there.

  45. Wow, today tonight got something right for a change. They are not exactly known for quality journalism; they’re usually more interested in doing fat people from the neck down or deer on the loose type stories.

  46. amphiox

    re #29;

    That is, once you think about it, an extremely disturbing report.

    Not only are the physicians violating their doctor-patient relationship by being deceptive, but there aren’t any true placebos out there that one can prescribe as a medication! There isn’t some inert sugar pill on the market called “Placeba” or something.

    Every pharmaceutical that is approved has to have some kind of physiologic effect (they could not be approved if they did not), which of course means they all must also have potential side effects.

    So what are these physicians prescribing when they are aiming solely for a placebo effect?
    And to maintain the placebo fiction it’s going to have to be an actual prescription medication. Which basically means they are using it “off-label”, in a situation where they don’t think that particular medication’s physiological effect will actually be helpful.

    My first guess would be that the majority are antibiotics for patients who have (or likely have) viral illnesses.

    And this is NOT benign.

    If something has a physiologic effect, of any kind, then it also has the potential for physiological adverse events. Patients being given placebo prescriptions are being subject to medical risk for which they have not provided informed consent.

    So count me among the 12% of physicians who feel that this practice is unethical and should never be done.

  47. amphiox

    Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors

    One speaking right here.

    Homeopathy does not work. Period.

  48. Tom

    I wouldn’t be singing Today Tonight’s praises just yet.. they are so dodgy that it’s likely they’ve done this story to whip up a predictable big outraged response, and the next night will be a story full of personal anecdotes about how fantastic homoeopathy is.

    They don’t care about accurate information AT ALL, just what rates.

  49. Muzz

    Today Tonight were the chief carrier of Powerbalance’s (you know those stupid hologram bracelets) marketing-in-the-guise-of-news as well as “miracle water” and pretty much any garbage that comes along.
    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they are taking a swing at homeopathy so someone can say “Don’t believe that garbage! But our orgone accumulator driven bio-organic solution can cure cancer in these highly anecdotal cases from people we make vague reference to.”

    Today Tonight is a hive of scum and villainy, we must be on out guard.

  50. Nigel Depledge

    Ellen M (13) said:

    I think the person who won proved and disproved God with the same “argument”.

    That’s not so hard. Any argument that proves god also perforce disproves god. This is the Babelfish argument, first published by Adams (1979).

    The argument goes something like this:
    “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says god, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

    So, anything that conclusively proves god exists also proves that god does not exist.

    Of course, many leading theologians point out that this argument is a load of dingoes’ kidneys.

  51. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (16) said:

    Can I point out that sometimes placebos do work? In this country (dunno about the US) doctors do sometimes actually prescribe placebos to cure some patients. So, being a bit devils advocate-ish, may I point out that maybe we should be grateful to homeopathy for reducing the congestion in the doctors waiting rooms by all the people who are successfully treated by this form of alternative medicine?

    We know that placebos often work, and the manner in which they are prescribed and administered is key in making them work.

    However, many physicians and scientists consider it unethical to prescribe a treatment that contains no actual medicine.

    Furthermore, homeopaths charge a lot more for their preparations than you need to pay for simple sugar pills. Homeopaths are making a lot of money out of their claims that their stuff is more than a placebo. Often, a homeopathioc treatment is a very good placebo, but it is still a mere placebo. They should be prohibited from calling it medicine.

    As for congestion in waiting rooms – surely treating a condition (with actual medicine) early is better than waiting until it requires hospitalisation?

  52. Like the previous two comments mention, Today Tonight is a tabloid “current affairs” TV program that pushes as much pseudoscience rubbish as they can get away with. Scientology, miracle cures, air time for “psychics”, magnetic water, etc…

  53. Nigel Depledge

    Krikkit (17) said:

    I want to know how the achieve such low solution’s.

    I probably breath in more caffeine by contamination of coffee in my room than you would get in one of those pills.

    They do multiple stepwise dilutions.

    There is a reason they quote so many “C” of dilution. Each C is a 100x dilution of the previous mixture. So, 2C is a 10^4 x dilution. 10C is a 10^20 x dilution. And so on. At each dilution, part of the mystique is to strike the container against a hard surface. They call this “succussing”, and any organic chemist will tell you that it achieves nothing that a good stirrer cannot do better, unless your aim is to make sure that you dissolve plenty of air in the solution.

    (A 1C dilution is a 100x dilution of the “mother tincture”, which is simply an organic solvent extract from the plant in question. Ethyl alcohol is the commonest solvent they use for preparing the “mother tincture”.)

    And, yes, there is almost certainly more caffeine in the air you breathe than in a homeopathic insomnia treatment – though this, of course, depends on the source of the water they use for their dilutions.

  54. csrster

    Actually I think there’s some fairly robust evidence that placebos work even when patients are told that their treatment is a placebo. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0015591)

  55. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel J Andrews (19) said:

    I say hold them to the same standards as pharmaceutical companies. On second thought, that could backfire as they’ll claim the government recognizes homeopathy as equivalent to real medicine as they’re held to the same standards.

    No, seriously, hold them to the same standards.

    Require that they carry out randomised, double-blind clinical trials to demonstrate both safety and efficacy. Safety should not be an issue, since there’s no active ingredient in most homeopathic preparations. Efficacy will be their stumbling block, which is why they do their best to avoid carrying out rigorous tests of their products.

  56. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (23) said:

    “The point is, the advocates of homeopathy claim that the remedy itself does something for the patient”

    Well obviously if they went around admitting that homeopathy relied on the placebo effect it wouldn’t have even a placebo effect.

    Not true, actually.

    A placebo can still have an effect even if the person taking it knows it is a placebo.

    Usually, its effect is lessened by the knowledge, but not eliminated. This is one of the weird things about the placebo effect.

    More seriously, if homeopaths admitted that homeopathy relies on the placebo effect, they wouldn’t be able to charge so much for their prearations. At the end of the day, homeopathy is all about turning a profit and never mind whether or not the customer gets any better.

    “I’d guess that the reduction in congestion is probably made up for by the extra crowding from people taking homeopathic products instead of real medicine and ending up sicker.”

    It’d be interesting to know how many of those who’re happy with the results they get from homeopathy turned to homeopathy because their regular Doctor admitted being unable to treat their problem.

    And quite possibly irrelevant. Just because a person might be satisfied with a homeopathic product does not in any way indicate whether or not that product actually does what is claimed.

    Furthermore, your insinuation that homeopathy thrives because real medicine cannot help for some conditions in no way changes the value of real medicine, nor the lack of value in homeopathy. Homeopathy thrives because homeopaths are permitted to lie to the gullible.

  57. Nigel Depledge

    Vince RN (40) said:

    Re: #14. Even dinosaur piss would be less than 30C I think.

    Yup.

    A 30C dilution is 10^60.

    By way of comparison, dilution of 100 µL (a drop of water is very roughly 100 µL) in a mass of water equivalent to Neptune is about 10^30.

    So, a direct 10^60 dilution of 100 µL would require 10^30 Neptune masses of water. Good luck with that. ;-)

    OTOH, all of the organic components (such as urea or uric acid) that make dinosaur piss what it is will have been degraded long since.

  58. Nigel Depledge

    Sceptics Bane (42) (aka this week’s Troll) said:

    It seems to me that Homeopathy does work.

    Which means precisely zip.

    Does it really? Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors,

    Why? What qualifies a patient to know whether they are getting better because of what they have taken or for some other reason?

    Are you aware that many illnesses get better all by themselves in many cases?

    instead of a bunch of frustrated lab nitwits up on their statistics and double blinded, randomized, placebo controlled “studies”.

    Do you have any idea what a randomised double-blind trial actually is?

    In short, it is the only way of ruling out extraneous factors, such as regression to the mean.

    The life threatening illnesses, and their cures, don’t happen in those labs, they happen in the real world, which, oh by the way, is not the domain of the lab b0ffins

    And how do you think clinical trials are carried out?

    Do you think they happen in labs?

    Or in clinics maybe?

    I’ll give you a clue – they’re called clinical trials for a reason.

    nor their politicized masters.

    OK, name any scientists whose agendas have been set by a “politicised master” rather than by the pursuit of scientific enquiry.

    Clearly, you know naught of which you speak. Clinical trials involve doctors (you know, those guys whose vocation is to make sick people well). Scientists discover and produce promising drug candidates, and can assist in the design and analysis of clinical trials, but clinical trials are always run by doctors.

    Can it possibly work and how? Can a rocket possibly carry men to the moon? How about lasers…are they possible? In the 1930′s that would have been dismissed as nonsense.

    This is untrue.

    Einstein predicted the phenomenon of lasing in about 1905. It is an outcome of his work on the nature of light.

    An American amateur scientist called Goddard had worked out the principles of rocket propulsion (and the practicalities of making them work) in the 1920s – 1930s. Prior to this, the Russian Tsiolkovsky had predicted that rocket propulsion would allow people to travel to the moon.

    Homeopathy, on the other hand, relies on nonsensical arm-waving instead of having any logical grounding. Moreover, whenever it has been rigorously tested, it has been shown to be no better than a placebo.

    Therefore, homeopathy does not work. This is not a theory, it is a proven fact. You cannot choose not to believe it, because it is true either way. All you can do is pretend otherwise, which is rather sad, because you are only fooling yourself.

    Who knows until scientists and researchers have had a go at it.

    They have. It failed. The end. There is no phenomenon to investigate here. Move along.

    Could quantum phenomena be inovlved?

    No.

    Again, who knows until its researched.

    Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry or biochemistry can tell you that the “theory” of homeopathy is barmy. And anyone with a basic reading ability can go and read the studies of homeopathic preparations and find out that they don’t work.

    Neither side can be sure of anything till that’s done.

    It has been done. We can be sure. Homeopathy does not work.

    Neither side has the edge on deciding and there’s still those doctors and patients insisting that they benefited from it.

    Patients who have not seen the results of a randomised double-blind trial are not in any position to make that judgement.

    Are there really any actual doctors who insist that homeopathy works? If so, who are they? Do they acknowledge that double-blind trials have shown homeopathic preparations to be mere placebo?

    What are the odds it’s all placebo effect?

    100%

    Zero.

    Is your level of understanding of the issue.

  59. Svlad Cjelli

    @35 Michael Swanson: I think that homeopathy is a form of pin-cushion voodoo against the poison.

    @ Nigel Depledge & Daniel J Andrews: Seriously, do it. But that’s not even the only issue. As Nigel says, there’s no active ingredient in MOST of them.
    Some companies label their stuff as homeopathic even though it has active ingredients, even potentially harmful ingredients.
    Add that some honest homeopaths A) handle dangerous substances and B) are incompetent. Only a wellmade homeopathic solution is inactive.

  60. Joseph G

    I knew we could count on Nigel to spank the troll :D

    @42 ScepticsBane: Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors, instead of a bunch of frustrated lab nitwits up on their statistics and double blinded, randomized, placebo controlled “studies”…

    …Who knows until scientists and researchers have had a go at it. … Again, who knows until its researched. Neither side can be sure of anything till that’s done.

    So you’re saying that scientific studies don’t prove anything… and that more scientific studies should be done on homeopathy?
    *head asplode*

    I’m confused – when you say we should listen to Doctors but not “frustrated nitwits and double blinded placebo controlled studies” – what if a doctor is also a researcher performing a clinical study? Is the doctor a nitwit or someone we should listen to?
    Also, you might be interested to know that those studies you call for have been done. There’s nothing there.
    Literally.
    Glad we could clear that up.

  61. Andrew W

    What homeopathy is, is not a secret, it’s public knowledge that it relies on the dilutant (water) supposedly having a memory of the drug it once contained, if people want to accept that as real that’s their choice, I see no more need to ban the practice because science says it’s nonsense, (and I think it’s nonsense) than I think that my view, and the weight of scientific evidence, being that religion is nonsense, is a reason to ban religion.

    If people want to believe crap, that’s their business.

    Nigel Depledge: “they wouldn’t be able to charge so much for their prearations.”

    So what?? If I decide you paid too much for your car, but you’re happy with the price you paid, what business is it of mine? To make things simple for you, the answer is: It’s none of my business.

    Nigel Depledge: “homeopathy is all about turning a profit and never mind whether or not the customer gets any better.”

    Do you run a business? Have you ever run a business? Anyone aiming to establish a clientèle so they can “turn a profit” relies heavily on returning customers, that means at the very least the customer believing that the service/medication is effective.

    Nigel Depledge: “Homeopathy thrives because homeopaths are permitted to lie to the gullible.” I make no judgment about whether or not users of homeopathy are gullible as I don’t live in their bodies and minds, I don’t know the effectiveness of the homeopathy on their bodies/minds, and I’m not arrogant enough to tell other people whats supposed to make them happy customers. If they’re happy they’ll go back, if not, they won’t.

  62. LM

    Homeopathy is amazing. I had an excruciating hip pain and after right remedy, totally cured, all pain gone.

    Big Pharma is TERRIFIED that people will find out how well it cures!

    If pharmaceutical drugs actually cured anything, then why are people having to take them for the rest of their lives?????????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  63. jennyxyzzy

    I can’t stop myself from feeding the troll…

    @42 ScepticsBane:

    OK, here’s how science works:

    1) We observe an unexplained phenomenon.
    2) We come up with a theory that could explain the phenomenon.
    3) Then we create a test that will validate or exclude the theory.

    Do you see at which step homeopathy dies? Stop and think for a moment…

    OK, it actually dies at step 1. Of course, homeopathy hasn’t been developed as a scientific theory, so this is not very easy to see. Homeopaths jumped straight in with Step 2, before they even identified that there was a phenomenon that needed to be explained. When scientists looked at homeopathy, the very first thing they did was go back to Step 1, and verify that a phenomenon actually exists. That’s what those randomised double-blind trials are all about, they’re trying to verify that there is actually an effect to investigate. The result has been a resounding “no”, taking a homeopathic “medicine” has no more effect than taking a placebo, making any homeopathic “theory” redundant, as it has no observation to explain.

    OK, I’ll stop there. I doubt you’ll even be back to read the responses, and even if you did, I doubt that your mind is sufficiently open to hear what I’m saying.

  64. Amadan

    Do homeopaths use sterilised water?

    If so, why?

  65. Joel

    Every time this comes up, I’m reminded of the Terry Pratchett gag about the man who tries to cash in on the homeopathy craze with Homeopathic Whisky – “Every drop diluted 1,000 times!”

    Funnily enough, it doesn’t sell.

  66. Zucchi

    My favorite line from the video: “It’s not even failed science. It’s failed alchemy.”

    Homeopathy has two nonsense parts: the basic premise (that “like treats like”) and the crazy stuff about diluting until every molecule of the substance is gone. It seems to me only the first false premise is necessary (after all, that’s what the word “homeopathy” means); I’m surprised they don’t just drop the stuff about water “remembering” the relevant substance. They’d still be wrong, but it wouldn’t be so obviously crazy.

    It’s odd how, when actual science disproves an idea, usually the idea will fade away, but sometimes it’ll inexplicably stick. Nobody (as far as I know) believes that flies are spontaneously generated in rotting meat, and the theory of bodily humours doesn’t get much respect anymore. Though I’ve heard that “cupping” has come back into use among the idiots who buy “ear candles”.

    Perhaps people will start having themselves bled again. (But will barbers be licensed to do it?)

  67. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (63) said:

    What homeopathy is, is not a secret, it’s public knowledge that it relies on the dilutant (water) supposedly having a memory of the drug it once contained,

    Most people who buy this stuff at a pharmacist’s don’t understand that it contains no active ingredient. Many consumers equate homeopathy with herbal remedies (and, IIUC, many of the manufacturers do little to clarify the situation, claiming “homeopathic” on herbal stuff and vice versa) and don’t bother to investigate.

    if people want to accept that as real that’s their choice, I see no more need to ban the practice because science says it’s nonsense, (and I think it’s nonsense) than I think that my view, and the weight of scientific evidence, being that religion is nonsense, is a reason to ban religion.

    But how many people are trying to sell religion? IIUC, they mostly give it away for free.

    Homeopaths are liars – they sell something that they claim will cure X or Y or Z, when it will do no such thing. In most civilised nations, such a practice has a name. Fraud.

    If people want to believe crap, that’s their business.

    True, provided it does not prevent them from, say, seeking appropriate medical treatment for a sick baby(who is unable to make the choice about whether or not to have real medicine or homeopathy).

  68. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (63) said:

    Nigel Depledge: “they wouldn’t be able to charge so much for their prearations.”

    So what?? If I decide you paid too much for your car, but you’re happy with the price you paid, what business is it of mine? To make things simple for you, the answer is: It’s none of my business.

    Yes it is. Homeopaths perpetrate fraud every time they sell stuff that won’t work on the pretense that it is medicine. For some strange reason they are permitted to get away with this. In a very few cases, it has serious medical implications, and not only for the person who has chosen homeopathy over real medicine.

    I have no problem with homeopaths selling their stuff. I have a problem with them calling it medicine and thereby charging a much higher price for no added value.

    Nigel Depledge: “homeopathy is all about turning a profit and never mind whether or not the customer gets any better.”

    Do you run a business? Have you ever run a business? Anyone aiming to establish a clientèle so they can “turn a profit” relies heavily on returning customers, that means at the very least the customer believing that the service/medication is effective.

    Agreed.

    And how many people in the general populace actually know enough about biology and statistics to understand the difference between an anecdote and the result of a randomised double-blind trial?

    Nigel Depledge: “Homeopathy thrives because homeopaths are permitted to lie to the gullible.” I make no judgment about whether or not users of homeopathy are gullible as I don’t live in their bodies and minds,

    Gullibility is a human trait. All humans are gullible to some extent, it’s just that some are more gullible than others and some will seek out knowledge to overcome that trait and others won’t.

    I don’t know the effectiveness of the homeopathy on their bodies/minds,

    Well, you should read some of the results of the clinical trials that have investigated homeopathy, then.

    It has no effect above that of a plcebo. Homeopathic preparations are a type of placebo.

    and I’m not arrogant enough to tell other people whats supposed to make them happy customers. If they’re happy they’ll go back, if not, they won’t.

    This is not about happy customers, it is about the ethic of the situation. Most civilised people deem it unethical to sell something as medicine when it demonstrably is not. You, apparently, do not.

  69. Nigel Depledge

    LM (64) said:

    Homeopathy is amazing. I had an excruciating hip pain and after right remedy, totally cured, all pain gone.

    OK, prove to me that the homeopathic remedy cured your hip pain. As opposed to some other possible cause.

    Big Pharma is TERRIFIED that people will find out how well it cures!

    Utter tosh!

    If homeopathy worked, Big Pharma would be buying up homeopathy companies left, right and centre, to get a piece of the action.

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Zucchi (68) said:

    Homeopathy has two nonsense parts: the basic premise (that “like treats like”) and the crazy stuff about diluting until every molecule of the substance is gone. It seems to me only the first false premise is necessary (after all, that’s what the word “homeopathy” means); I’m surprised they don’t just drop the stuff about water “remembering” the relevant substance. They’d still be wrong, but it wouldn’t be so obviously crazy.

    Except that most undiluted homeopathic preparations are actually toxic.

  71. Steve Metzler

    48. amphiox Says:

    Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors

    One speaking right here.

    Homeopathy does not work. Period.

    Ah, but you’re a real doctor. The original poster was obviously talking about homeopathic ‘Doctors’ (an oxymoron, I know, but there you go)

  72. ScepticsBane

    Re: Comments of Nigel DePledge (:) in response to ScepticsBane (>)
    >It seems to me that Homeopathy does work.
    :Which means precisely zip.

    Exactly the same as your opinion.

    >Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors,
    :Why? What qualifies a patient to know whether they are getting better because of what they have taken or for some other reason?

    Do we detect a bit of denial of personal freedom of medical choice here? Shall we have a caste of politicized scientism monkeys deciding for us then? Perhaps Edzard Ernst can be made final arbiter of medical decisions. No? How about Simon Singh or the “amazing” Randi??

    :Are you aware that many illnesses get better all by themselves in many cases?

    Are YOU aware that some don’t??

    Do you have any idea what a randomised double-blind trial actually is?

    Do YOU have any idea that a system of testing which was designed for pharmaceutical testing might be totally inappropriate for testing Homeopathy? We have no idea of the mechanism of Homeopathy, if any to begin with.

    :In short, it is the only way of ruling out extraneous factors, such as regression to the mean.
    Oh NO, it most certainly is NOT the ONLY method.

    >The life threatening illnesses, and their cures, don’t happen in those labs, they happen in the real world, which, oh by the way, is not the domain of the lab b0ffins

    :And how do you think clinical trials are carried out?
    You mean like the ones for the hundreds of withdrawn drugs that proved dangerous?

    :Do you think they happen in labs?
    :Or in clinics maybe?
    :I’ll give you a clue – they’re called clinical trials for a reason.

    Taken any Fen-phen lately?

    nor their politicized masters.

    :OK, name any scientists whose agendas have been set by a “politicised master” rather than by the pursuit of scientific enquiry.

    Surely you jest, you DON’T know about the research scientists whose names are used on papers written by others or who have been PAID to produce favorable research.
    You’ve NOT heard of the “research” denying that smoking causes cancer, produced by perfectly respectable research “scientists” for DECADES.

    :Clearly, you know naught of which you speak. Clinical trials involve doctors (you know, those guys whose vocation is to make sick people well).

    Oh believe me I KNOW more than you could imagine….

    :Scientists discover and produce promising drug candidates, and can assist in the design and analysis of clinical trials, but clinical trials are always run by doctors.

    And the clinical trials produce dangerous drugs that kill people. Clearly you know not enough about which you speak.

    >Can it possibly work and how? Can a rocket possibly carry men to the moon? How about lasers…are they possible? In the 1930′s that would have been dismissed as nonsense.

    :This is untrue.
    >Einstein predicted the phenomenon of lasing in about 1905. It is an outcome of his work on the nature of light.
    :And yet his work was still the subject of controversy until the 1919 confirmation by astronomers of the predicted bending of light.

    :Homeopathy, on the other hand, relies on nonsensical arm-waving instead of having any logical grounding. Moreover, whenever it has been rigorously tested, it has been shown to be no better than a placebo.

    Wrong on both counts. Pretending such will NOT refute Homeopathy nor make it “go away”. Why not CONFRONT the evidence, admit some sort of curative effect is happening way above “placebo” and talk rationally about it instead of these childish denunciations?
    Experiments by Dr. Iris Bell, for example, using randomized double blinded placebo controlled testing clearly showed efficacy above placebo despite it being the wrong method of testing for something like Homeopathy.

    And pharmaceutical researcher M. Ennis clearly showed that high dilutions with no molecules remaining of the diluent STILL had biological effects as though the missing molecules were still there (Inflammation Research vol 53, p181). These experiments were repeated and confirmed in several labs and the famous (and unpublished) BBC “documentary” that claimed to repeat it with “negative” results, in fact, did not as Ennis herself pointed out after talking to their researcher.

    :Therefore, homeopathy does not work. This is not a theory, it is a proven fact.

    Excuse me? It most certainly does work and your “proven fact” depends on ignoring massive evidence which is disallowed because they are not double blinded tests, ignoring those confirmatory double blinded tests that were positive (even though that is probably an incorrect method of testing it) and then foisting your pseudo-scientific “scientism” on us as determinative fact.

    :You cannot choose not to believe it, because it is true either way. All you can do is pretend otherwise, which is rather sad, because you are only fooling yourself.
    My opinion, exactly, of YOUR position on it.

    >Who knows until scientists and researchers have had a go at it.

    :They have. It failed. The end. There is no phenomenon to investigate here. Move along.

    There is, there have been many successes for unknown reasons, there is a major curative phenomenon here that could prove to be one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the century and GENUINE scientists, such as Nobel prize winner Luc Montagnier are investigating. Other GENUINE scientists, for example another Nobel prize winner, Brian Josephson, indicates the possibility that Homeopathy is genuine – go to his home page and read his comments “Is Homeopathy Nonsense and Why it May Not Be”.

    >Could quantum phenomena be inovlved?

    :No.

    >Again, who knows until its researched.

    :Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry or biochemistry can tell you that the “theory” of homeopathy is barmy.

    Oh? Like Lionel Milgrom CHEMIST AND HOMEOPATH ? You need to read his article “Beware Scientism’s Onward March” HERE is the link, else google for it:
    http://www.anh-europe.org/news/anh-feature-beware-scientism%E2%80%99s-onward-march

    :Are there really any actual doctors who insist that homeopathy works? If so, who are they?

    Try doing some reading – here….the works of Dr. Dorothy Shepherd, conventionally trained Doctor who was totally skeptical of Homeopathy until she tried it and began replacing the conventional treatments, even in serious injury, with Homeopathy, successfully. She left behind several books documenting her experiences. Dr. M. Blackie, former physician to the Queen of England; Dr. Blackie also left several detailed books. And there are many many Doctors, in the thousands, in many countries, now using it. You need to do some reading before making wild condemnations, and absolutist denunciations or allowing scientism’s over reliance on a single method of testing to dominate your thinking!

    :Do they acknowledge that double-blind trials have shown homeopathic preparations to be mere placebo?

    Do YOU acknowledge that this might be an invalid testing method for a system of medicine with an unknown mechanism? And that when it is appropriate it is NOT relied on, exclusively, by conventional doctors for conventional drugs.

    What are the odds it’s all placebo effect?

    The odds are OVERWHELMING if you bother to inform yourself of the Homeopathic literature and not let your thinking be short circuited by pseudo scientific pretensions, 1930’s era mental models of chemistry and the audacity to tell everyone that your opinion and that of the lab boffins should be allowed to overrule doctors and patients and to dominate public health policies.

  73. Richard Wolford

    Homeopathy is amazing. I had an excruciating hip pain and after right remedy, totally cured, all pain gone.

    How did they find the “right” treatment? Hip pain isn’t a diagnosis, it’s a symptom, so please do tell what the underlying cause is and why traditional (aka “real”) medicine didn’t work? And I have a lot of experience here, I have ankylosing spondylitis, so I’m well aware of pain and the treatments for it. Homeopathy isn’t one of them. There’s a reason why.

  74. Andrew W

    “I have no problem with homeopaths selling their stuff. I have a problem with them calling it medicine and thereby charging a much higher price for no added value.”
    “Most people who buy this stuff at a pharmacist’s don’t understand that it contains no active ingredient.”
    “Homeopaths are liars – they sell something that they claim will cure X or Y or Z, when it will do no such thing. In most civilised nations, such a practice has a name. Fraud.”

    Your arguments all boil down to your belief that homeopaths are acting fraudulently; they call their products “medicine” when you don’t think they are, and you accuse them of offering guarantees that their products are effective.

    “medicine” is the art/science of healing, I think that it’s debatable whether it’s an appropriate term to use to describe a product that relies on the placebo effect. If they call their product “drugs” though, I think you’ve got em!

    I doubt they offer the guarantee you claim that they do, just as doctors usually use phrases like “this should…, if it doesn’t, come back and see me” not “this will…” in neither case is a guarantee offered.

  75. Andrew W

    If LM is feeling better why are you people so strongly motivated to knock the result he got? If s/he told you that believing in God gave him/her happiness, would you feel the need to destroy his/her belief in God, because that would make you happier?
    Your hostility to homeopathy has everything to do with knocking a belief you don’t agree with, and nothing to do with what’s better for the users of that treatment.

  76. Muzz

    There are people who believe that the truth trumps whatever makes you ‘feel good’, you know. One can a make a pretty solid case that, generally speaking, that’s always better.

  77. Roger

    So if water does indeed have memory and according to homeopaths, it seems to have a great memory then I don’t need to add 2GB chips to my liquid cooled processor, the liquid should be able to handle all my memory needs…..how cool is that?!? I think we’re on to something here. I could patent it and make millions. I am currently seeking investors for a, I don’t know, 10% or even a 20% stake in my new company. If interested, I’ll give my email and a bank account so you can deposit the funds….LOL. I’ll put intel out of business. The new Mac power book with DL (dynamic liquid) memory and processing. It’s based on Avagrados number. You can get the 10 N or the 15 N solution processor….of course the 15 N will be substantially more but hey, you have to pay for the type of memory we are talking about.

  78. Joel

    A thought occured to me, while I was on the toilet. Namely, not everything in medicine is about profit for Big Pharma. I live in the UK, and the NHS is pretty damn strapped for cash right now. It’s got to the point where they are denying patients access to the more expensive medicines in some circumstances.

    Thus, if homeopathy actually had anything to do with it, and it was possible to treat disease with infinitesimal amounts of active ingredient (the expensive bit of medicine), and a lot of water (really really cheap), they’d be all over it as soon as possible. However, seeing as they’re continuing to treat patients with those boring old scientifically proven methods, I conclude that the various scientists and doctors at the NHS still think it’s a load of old crock, even though it would be in their best interests for it to be true.

    “NHS saves country billions whilst still saving lives” is a headline that pretty much everyone in the service would like to be able to produce. If they could use 1ml of active ingredient to produce enough medicine to fill the worlds oceans millions of times over (at 30C) they would.

  79. amphiox

    The placebo effect has been measured in some instances to be over 40% effective. Which is pretty impressive. It tends to be the most impressive in conditions that are chronic, non-life threatening, have a variable time course and fluctuate in severity over time, and whose severity is primarily measured (or can only be measured) by patient self-reporting. Many chronic pain conditions fit into this category.

    However, one has to remember that these studies aren’t designed to measure any specific placebo effect, but the aggregate of all contributing components to the total effect. So a part of it might be real physiological effects resulting from the patient believing that an inert treatment is effective, but part of it can come from the psychological comfort of just doing something actively about the problem, or having a good patient-physician relationship with the care provider. And another part of it is simply luck – some chronic conditions that normally fluctuate over time just happen to get better on their own.

    Another interesting observation about placebo effects is that they seem to be most strongly activated by rituals. And the act of visiting a doctor, waiting in a waiting room, being seen, having a physical exam, obtaining a prescription, going to a pharmacy to fill out the prescription, waiting again, paying for it, and then taking the medication at the specified time, is a stereotyped ritual.

  80. amphiox

    >Could quantum phenomena be inovlved?

    :No.

    >Again, who knows until its researched.

    IF there is a quantum phenomenon involved, then that quantum phenomenon could ONLY exist IF EVERYTHING we currently believe about quantum phenomenon, how they work, over what distance and temperature ranges, etc, etc, etc, IS COMPLETELY WRONG.

    In short, if there is a quantum effect that makes homeopathy work as described by its advocates, it’s mere existence, if real, would instantly overthrow so much of quantum theory that we cannot, in fact, honestly even call it a quantum effect.

  81. Old Muley

    Isn’t the “appeal to quantum physics” a logical fallacy?

  82. Calli Arcale

    Several people have brought up the placebo effect, and I think some clarification is needed.

    The placebo effect isn’t just “mind over matter” — it’s actually several things put together. What everybody thinks of as the placebo effect is the person getting better because they think they should get better — perhaps it made them calm down enough to rest and heal properly, or perhaps the mind has actual power over the body. But this is not most of what the placebo effect is about. There is also the fact that placebos are not always inert, and in fact some placebos are formulated specifically to trigger side effects. This is done to avoid tipping off the patients. (Sometimes double-blinds are compromised when patients figure out what they’re getting. A famous example is in sildenafil, being studied as a treatment for certain heart conditions. Male patients discovered a rather interesting side effect that nobody had anticipated. It compromised the blind, but Pfizer didn’t mind — they’d found a goldmine, which they named Viagra.) Again, this isn’t that common of a placebo effect.

    The most common placebo effects are actually not real effects at all. They’re examples of observer bias. That is to say, the placebo is not actually affecting the patient’s condition — it’s affecting the measurement of it. A physiological example is blood pressure. If the person thinks they’re being treated, they will be calmer and their blood pressure will be a bit lower for the duration of the exam. The problem is particularly significant with subjective measures, and worst with subjective measures reported by a third party. (You wouldn’t expect that, would you? You’d think a third party would be *more* objective. But this turns out not to be the case, and that’s why the placebo effect even works in animals. Heck — it even works in inanimate objects. Just look at how many people *swore* that green ink improved the sound quality on their CDs. It’s not the subject being affected; it’s the observer’s expectations influencing their observations.)

    Take pain. This is about as subjective as it gets. “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst you can imagine, how much does it hurt?” That’s the best anyone’s been able to do in coming up with a standard pain scale, and it’s barely useful. My 10 probably isn’t your 10. in fact, most people probably have no real conception of 10. Just look at the recent waterboarding study. It found that people who had never experienced it were unlikely to call it torture, but people who had experienced it universally called it torture. Pain is different from person to person, and your perception of it can change. So this is very vulnerable to observer bias, which in turn will be highly influenced by your expectations.

    amphiox brought up the observation that placebo effects seem to be increased by ritual. On study found that the more expensive the patient thinks the drug is, the more effective it will appear to be, and another study found that the more complicated a treatment, the more effective it seemed to be — and this extends right up to surgery, which is a disturbing thought. What if some surgeries are nothing more than placebos? That’s a hell of a costly placebo (in money and in personal risk), and there is evidence that some surgeries really are just that. *shivers*

    Oh, and to those who plead for “caveat emptor” — there is room for regulation. Lying to people to get them to invest in nonexistant deals is considered fraud and is illegal. Why should medicine be treated more lightly than finance? What’s more, there is the potential for real harm. Some people who go for homeopathy are the “worried well”, and the only harm is to their pocketbooks. But others go to it for real ailments, and they can be seriously hurt by delaying effective treatment. Worse still, the idea of ODing on homeopathic sleeping pills to prove a point may not be wise. As they are not well regulated, it is entirely possible for the drugs to be either insufficiently diluted or cut with actual medicines. Recently, there were cases of infants admitted to ERs with symptoms of deadly nightshade poisoning which was traced to insufficiently diluted belladonna drops sold as a remedy for teething pain. All survived, but is harm to an infant really justifiable under “caveat emptor”?

  83. Andrew W

    Thanks for those interesting and informative comments amphiox and Calli Arcale

    Calli Arcale said: “Why should medicine be treated more lightly than finance?”

    I don’t think it is, my point above (#76) was that I think those selling homeopathy aren’t often prosecuted for fraud because they usually manage to stay on the right side of the law, I’ll add that I think their behavior also, in most cases, is morally acceptable to most people.

    “is harm to an infant really justifiable under “caveat emptor”?”

    The error rate in the hospital system in most countries is significant, and harm results from errors in any field.

  84. Steve Metzler

    74. ScepticsBane Says:

    Experiments by Dr. Iris Bell, for example, using randomized double blinded placebo controlled testing clearly showed efficacy above placebo despite it being the wrong method of testing for something like Homeopathy.

    Presumably, there was a paper published as a result of these tests. Can we have a cite for it please?

    Despite all your inane blathering to the contrary, there has not been a single study published in a reputable journal that has shown homeopathy to be an effective treatment for anything. Every study that has been published to date was demonstrated to be full of methodological holes.

    Anecdotes and testimonials (which is all homeopathy has, to be honest) do not constitute medical evidence of efficacy.

  85. Grumps

    Dr Ben Goldacre on Homeopathy

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

    Dr Goldacre has much more to say about the placebo effect (must see)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1Q3jZw4FGs&feature=related

  86. Cass

    I have been a skeptic in the past of homepathics, but what I can say (and can’t explain) is that recently I’ve had cause to use a Brauer IBS treatment and their Sleep Treatment, and was surprised to find they worked…so for me, the jury is still out….

    Of everyone who’s slamming the modality (and yes, I used to be one) has anyone actually tried it?

  87. Clint

    This story was not balanced at all. The newscasters last comment nullified, in my mind, the whole point of the story! There is indeed danger involved when you have an illness that requires actual medicine. Homeopathy is all about profit. Selling water and sugar to ignorant consumers is not illegal, and until there is no market for it or is regulated why should they not sell it? Corporations do not care if someones children are killed by the mumps due to a parents ignorance. They only care if there is money to be made. Until the money runs dry or it becomes more of a public hazard this cash cow will will keep on munching away at ignorant consumers bank accounts. Why should Braer or any homeopathy company ever attempt to claim Randi’s 1 million dollars when it is raking in 100’s of millions from ignorant consumers. You can never shame a corporation, they will just change the name.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    Sceptics Bane (74) said:

    Re: Comments of Nigel DePledge (:) in response to ScepticsBane (>)

    >It seems to me that Homeopathy does work.

    :Which means precisely zip.

    Exactly the same as your opinion.

    Apart from the PhD in biochemistry and nearly 10 years’ experience in the biopharm sector (most of that independent of Big Pharma companies).

    So, unless you are a pharmacologist, your opinion is of less value in this context than mine. I judge from your post that you are not, because you have no clue what you are talking about.

    >Maybe the people to ask are the patients and their Doctors,

    :Why? What qualifies a patient to know whether they are getting better because of what they have taken or for some other reason?

    Do we detect a bit of denial of personal freedom of medical choice here?

    No, but I detect evasion of the question.

    Ante up: what qualifies a patient to judge why they got better?

    Shall we have a caste of politicized scientism monkeys deciding for us then?

    Duh, no.

    Stop trying to create a strawman or a false dichotomy. The facts must guide any decision.

    Perhaps Edzard Ernst can be made final arbiter of medical decisions. No? How about Simon Singh or the “amazing” Randi??

    Strawman, strawman and … yep, another strawman. Contrary to what you are trying to insinuate, I have not made any argument from authority.

    The facts decide whether or not medicine is effective. The only means we have of obtaining those facts is from a properly-designed randomised double-blind trial. Irrespective of who participates and who runs it, provided they all stick to their protocols, such a trial will give us the answer we need about whether a particular pill is or is not effective.

    :Are you aware that many illnesses get better all by themselves in many cases?

    Are YOU aware that some don’t??

    Yes, but how is that relevant? You are avoiding the point, which was that, without a proper trial, a patient can never know what caused their disease to go away.

    Do you have any idea what a randomised double-blind trial actually is?

    Do YOU have any idea that a system of testing which was designed for pharmaceutical testing might be totally inappropriate for testing Homeopathy?

    So, I’ll take that as a “no”.

    In answer to your shift of the goalposts: in case you had not noticed, many homeopathic preparations are available off-the-shelf in any number of high-street stores throughout the world. People read what it says on the box, buy it and administer it without any intervention from a professional charlatan (read: homeopath).

    We have no idea of the mechanism of Homeopathy, if any to begin with.

    Yes we do. It does nothing (beyond activating the placebo effect). That’s it. Homeopathic pills are inert sugar pills that get subsumed into the body’s carbohydrate metabolism. Ultimately, they are excreted as CO2 and water.

    :In short, it is the only way of ruling out extraneous factors, such as regression to the mean.

    Oh NO, it most certainly is NOT the ONLY method.

    Oh, yes? This should be good.

    >The life threatening illnesses, and their cures, don’t happen in those labs, they happen in the real world, which, oh by the way, is not the domain of the lab b0ffins

    :And how do you think clinical trials are carried out?

    You mean like the ones for the hundreds of withdrawn drugs that proved dangerous?

    Wait, what? What are these other methods to which you so briefly alluded?

    Addressing your latest sentence: ah, here we have another shift of the goalposts.

    I’ll interpret your evasion as another “I have no clue, Nigel,”

    Oh, and, BTW, I’d be interested to hear the names of these “hundreds” of drugs that have been withdrawn. By my estimate, there are a mere handful (Vioxx, for example) but they certainly draw in a lot of publicity. Far more than the drugs that work without excessively harmful adverse effects.

    o you think they happen in labs?
    :Or in clinics maybe?
    :I’ll give you a clue – they’re called clinical trials for a reason.

    Taken any Fen-phen lately?

    No. And you are evading my question yet again. Therefore, I’ll assume, once more, that you really have not the slightest idea of the way in which the pharma industry actually works. Neither do you have any idea of how we discern a cause-effect relationship from a mixture of several possible causes.

    Now, to answer, your new goalpost-shift : well, that’s at least one that you’ve named. Only another 199 to go to get to the smallest number that can be considered “hundreds”.

    nor their politicized masters.

    :OK, name any scientists whose agendas have been set by a “politicised master” rather than by the pursuit of scientific enquiry.

    Surely you jest, you DON’T know about the research scientists whose names are used on papers written by others or who have been PAID to produce favorable research.

    Doctors, not scientists.

    You’ve NOT heard of the “research” denying that smoking causes cancer, produced by perfectly respectable research “scientists” for DECADES.

    Actually, no. All of that stuff was going on 50 years ago and has no bearing on modern medical practice. If that’s your best example of a “politicised master” (and, incidentally, that’s actually a vested interest, not anything to do with any specific political philosophy), then you have no argument.

    Additionally, even if some of the clinicians conducting clinical trials are paid to subvert the results (and I very much doubt that such heinous malpractice really occurs), you have yet to explain what better method there is to test a medical treatment than a randomised double-blind trial.

    :Clearly, you know naught of which you speak. Clinical trials involve doctors (you know, those guys whose vocation is to make sick people well).

    Oh believe me I KNOW more than you could imagine….

    You have yet to demonstrate any knowledge that connects with reality in any way.

    Perhaps, rather than brag about your secret knowledge, you could actually use it to construct an argument. Thus far in your response, all you have done is evade and divert. Your reply looks exactly as if it were written by someone with no knowledge at all of modern medical practice.

    :Scientists discover and produce promising drug candidates, and can assist in the design and analysis of clinical trials, but clinical trials are always run by doctors.

    And the clinical trials produce dangerous drugs that kill people. Clearly you know not enough about which you speak.

    This is rubbish.

    Clinical trials ensure that the only drugs to reach the market are the safest ones.

    Phase III trials will typically use of the order of 1000 participants. This is a big deal, but its statistical power is limited if the drug is to be applied to a population of millions. This is precisely why the FDA and other regulators insist on continued monitoring.

    For instance, have you ever heard of TeGenera?

    They carried out a Phase I trial (Phase I trials test safety in a small number of healthy volunteers) in a hospital in London about 4 years ago. All 6 volunteers suffered a large autoimmune response, and one of them nearly died. Needless to say, the drug will never make it to market. The Phase I trial did what it was designed to do. That’s of scant comfort to the 6 volunteers, of course, but their suffering may have saved the lives of many more people.

    In the case of Vioxx, for instance, it was the continued monitoring after launch that picked up the issue. It later turned out that the company making the stuff (I forget which one it was) had conducted several Phase III trials, but only published the most favourable result. There are plans afoot – initiated within the pharma industry – to register all trials with the regulatory authority before they begin, so that unfavourable results will also be published. But, if the risk from Vioxx had been larger than it was, it would have shown up in every Phase III trial. Thus, although the drug poses an unacceptable risk, it is still a small risk.

    >Can it possibly work and how? Can a rocket possibly carry men to the moon? How about lasers…are they possible? In the 1930′s that would have been dismissed as nonsense.

    :This is untrue.
    >Einstein predicted the phenomenon of lasing in about 1905. It is an outcome of his work on the nature of light.

    :And yet his work was still the subject of controversy until the 1919 confirmation by astronomers of the predicted bending of light.

    No, that was general relativity. You really do know nothing about this stuff.

    :Homeopathy, on the other hand, relies on nonsensical arm-waving instead of having any logical grounding. Moreover, whenever it has been rigorously tested, it has been shown to be no better than a placebo.

    Wrong on both counts.

    Go on, then.

    Explain to me the logical basis on which homeopathy operates (even though, further up your post, you claim that its mode of operation is not understood).

    First, explain how like cures like. Devise an experiment to test this. Alternatively, refer me to the primary literature where such a test has been performed and published.

    Second, explain how greater dilution lead to greater potency.

    Third, explain how water retains a “memory” of the components of the mother tincture.

    Fourth, explain how the water “chooses” what to remember and what not to remember.

    In each step, please refer me to the primary literature where the experiments have been done to test each postulate. Alternatively, devise an experiment that could be done to test the postulate. I am sure that at least some homeopaths would love to have hard evidence to support their vocation.

    Pretending such will NOT refute Homeopathy nor make it “go away”.

    I am not pretending anything – you are.

    Why not CONFRONT the evidence,

    What evidence?

    Every trial of homeopathy has either shown no effect above that of a placebo or has been flawed (often deeply flawed). The only evidence worth considering is that from properly-designed randomised double-blind trials.

    Anecdotes are not data.

    Or are you unaware of humanity’s susceptibility to the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy?

    admit some sort of curative effect is happening way above “placebo” and talk rationally about it instead of these childish denunciations?

    You’re the one making “childish denunciations”.

    Every time homeopathy has been tested rigorously, it has failed to show any better than a placebo effect. Why are you denying this?

    Alternatively, can you refer me to a suitable review (in the pruimary literature, naturally) of the evidence for homeopathy? Better still, summarise some of it for me, including methodological details. After all, you’re the one arguing against the scientific consensus, not I.

    Experiments by Dr. Iris Bell, for example, using randomized double blinded placebo controlled testing clearly showed efficacy above placebo despite it being the wrong method of testing for something like Homeopathy.

    OK, first off – where was that study published?

    Second, this is your second allusion to something “better” than a correct clinical trial as a test of homeopathy, but you have yet to share any details of what such a “better” test might be.

    Third, in what way does Dr Bell address the large body of evidence that shows homeopathy performing no better than a placebo? Or were those all done “wrong” too?

    If homeopathy does not work when it is done “wrong”, how does that help the millions of people who buy homeopathic pills from their local health-food store? Surely someone needs to make some noise that homeopathy “does not work” when you merely take a course of the pills?

    Or are the manufacturers of these homeopathic preparations all too busy counting their money?

    And pharmaceutical researcher M. Ennis clearly showed that high dilutions with no molecules remaining of the diluent STILL had biological effects as though the missing molecules were still there (Inflammation Research vol 53, p181). These experiments were repeated and confirmed in several labs and the famous (and unpublished) BBC “documentary” that claimed to repeat it with “negative” results, in fact, did not as Ennis herself pointed out after talking to their researcher.

    I remember watching that. It had me fooled for a while. They did mention, at the end of the broadcast, that other labs had tried to replicate that result and failed. I’d be interested to look up the publications of the “several labs” that repeated and confirmed Ennis’s work. Do you have any reference for that?

    If a result is not reproducible, then it is not real. The laws of physics, chemistry and biology are the same everywhere on Earth. There was some trick or quirk of what Ennis’s team was doing that caused the cells to respond, not the homeopathically-diluted test solution. Mammalian cells in culture are notoriously sensitive to minor changes in the way they are treated.

    All this detail aside, in what way does it bear on homeopathy? Assuming that this particular component is not a mere fairy-story, how does this translate from cell culture into treatments? How does it bear on the question of like curing like? How come preparations get stronger with more dilution?

    I would have expected, had Ennis’s result really been confirmed by other labs, that pharma would be buying into this in a big way. After all, if this works, you can devise a medicine for which the preparation is as cheap as chips, requires no clinical trial, and easily can be produced on a massive scale. If it works, it’s a licence to print money. As the pharma industry currently exists, it has the highest up-front cost of any industry anywhere on the planet, by a large margin.

    (Not that I would have it any other way. Clinical trials of medicines are quite clearly necessary.)

    :Therefore, homeopathy does not work. This is not a theory, it is a proven fact.

    Excuse me? It most certainly does work

    You have not demostrated any such thing.

    and your “proven fact” depends on ignoring massive evidence

    Well? So does yours.

    which is disallowed because they are not double blinded tests,

    Correctly so. How can you test a preparation reliably when the test subjects or those administering the preparation know whether they get the test prearation or a placebo? Whereas you seem to be ignoring the vast majority of such trials because they were “not the right test”, yet failed to explain yourself.

    ignoring those confirmatory double blinded tests that were positive

    What double-blind tests that were positive? You have not shown that these exist at all.

    (even though that is probably an incorrect method of testing it)

    This makes no sense at all.

    If a homeopathic preparation has any merit above being a placebo, a randomised double-blind trial will show this. Anything else is smoke and mirrors. Unless, of course, you care to explain what the “better” method to which you have several times alluded actually is.

    and then foisting your pseudo-scientific “scientism” on us as determinative fact.

    Not so. For a homeopathic preparation to be taken seriously, it has to stand on its merits, not on any special pleading. The hype behind homeopathy violates what is known of the laws of chemistry. Therefore, it is up to you to deliver the goods. As far as I can tell, all the rigorous (i.e. not flawed) trials of homeopathic preparations show it performing the same as a placebo.

    If you know differently, let’s have references, facts that can be corroborated, and details that can be scrutinised. Not your dismissive arm-waving.

    :You cannot choose not to believe it, because it is true either way. All you can do is pretend otherwise, which is rather sad, because you are only fooling yourself.

    My opinion, exactly, of YOUR position on it.

    So prove me wrong. All you have done in the above comment is evasion, misdirection and more arm-waving around unsupported assertions.

    Where are these randomised double-blind trials that confirm some non-placebo effect of homeopathy, but are not flawed? I would expect that, if such published trials existed, all homeopaths would be referring all of their critics to them left, right and centre. This ain’t happening. Therefore, I doubt that these trials exist.

    >Who knows until scientists and researchers have had a go at it.

    :They have. It failed. The end. There is no phenomenon to investigate here. Move along.

    There is,

    You have not shown this. All you have done is whine and repeat your assertions.

    there have been many successes for unknown reasons,

    You have not shown this.

    there is a major curative phenomenon here

    No-one has shown this.

    that could prove to be one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the century

    Yes, but the preponderance of evidence suggests it is a mere fantasy.

    and GENUINE scientists, such as Nobel prize winner Luc Montagnier are investigating.

    Argument from authority.

    If Montangier has published hard data, let’s have the reference.

    Otherwise, he could be as deluded as Linus Pauling (who supported megadoses of vitamin C as a treatment for cancer, despite never being able to prove it).

    Other GENUINE scientists, for example another Nobel prize winner, Brian Josephson, indicates the possibility that Homeopathy is genuine – go to his home page and read his comments “Is Homeopathy Nonsense and Why it May Not Be”.

    And is it too much trouble to merely summarise his words here? As it happens, I cannot access that page from work.

    <blockquote

    >Could quantum phenomena be inovlved?

    :No.

    >Again, who knows until its researched.

    :Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry or biochemistry can tell you that the “theory” of homeopathy is barmy.

    Oh? Like Lionel Milgrom CHEMIST AND HOMEOPATH ? You need to read his article “Beware Scientism’s Onward March” HERE is the link, else google for it:
    [url omitted]

    Actually, I am deeply sceptical of anyone using the word “scientism”, because it is a rhetoric trick that implies an inability to form a proper argument.

    And Milgrom can call himself a chemist until the cows come home, but if he doesn’t publish hard, reproducible data then he has no case.

    :Are there really any actual doctors who insist that homeopathy works? If so, who are they?

    Try doing some reading – here….the works of Dr. Dorothy Shepherd, conventionally trained Doctor who was totally skeptical of Homeopathy until she tried it and began replacing the conventional treatments, even in serious injury, with Homeopathy, successfully. She left behind several books documenting her experiences. Dr. M. Blackie, former physician to the Queen of England; Dr. Blackie also left several detailed books. And there are many many Doctors, in the thousands, in many countries, now using it.

    Heh. That’s no recommendation. Certain parts of the Royal Family are notoriously into their quackery.

    You need to do some reading before making wild condemnations, and absolutist denunciations

    Or perhaps I should have remembered that very few GPs keep up with actual science, so it probably is not hard for that point to be disproved.

    This, however, does not change the remainder of my comments.

    or allowing scientism’s over reliance on a single method of testing to dominate your thinking!

    Here you go again.

    What method of testing a potential medicine is better than a randomised double-blind trial?

    [D]o they acknowledge that double-blind trials have shown homeopathic preparations to be mere placebo?

    Do YOU acknowledge that this might be an invalid testing method for a system of medicine with an unknown mechanism?

    Absolutely not.

    If the preparation has a biological effect independent of the practitioner, then it will show up in a double-blind trial.

    If it has no such effect, this will be demonstrated by such a trial.

    And that when it is appropriate it is NOT relied on, exclusively, by conventional doctors for conventional drugs.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. Most GPs follow established practice, and what those bits of the medical literature that they follow tell them. In the UK, there is NICE (the national centre for clinical excellence), which serves as a vetting service for new treatments under the NHS, and (in theory at least) disseminates best practice.

    What are the odds it’s all placebo effect?

    Judging from what you have added in this comment to your preceding comment, still 100%.

    The odds are OVERWHELMING if you bother to inform yourself of the Homeopathic literature

    And why would I read the self-publications of snake-oil salesmen?

    and not let your thinking be short circuited by pseudo scientific pretensions,

    What, like every single homeopath on the planet?

    1930′s era mental models of chemistry

    1990s, actually.

    And you have yet to demonstrate even a 1930s understanding of chemistry, so you’re hardly in a position to judge mine.

    and the audacity to tell everyone that your opinion and that of the lab boffins should be allowed to overrule doctors and patients and to dominate public health policies.

    I do no such thing. The facts – yes, as obtained from randomised double-blind trials – speak for themselves. Homeopathic pills are a form of placebo. Homeopathy relies on activating the placebo effect, and it is very good at doing this, but it has no magical power despite your repeated assertions to the contrary. Maybe if people like you supported your assertions with – oh, I don’t know – logical argument and hard facts, maybe, then I would pay more attention.

    In your response, you have repeatedly dodged the issue, making several transparent efforts to divert me from the questions I asked or the points I raised. How about you actually treat honestly with me and answer those points?

    Additionally, you have asserted many times that randomised double-blind trials are not a fair test of homeopathy, but you have failed to suggest what actually would be.

    You have claimed that homeopathy actually works but have cited no supporting data.

    You have asserted several times that there are published double-blind studies that support homeopathy, without any references to these alleged studies.

    And so on.

    In short, your post here is very like that of a creationist or a “UFOs are alien spaceships” believer, in terms of tactics and approach. You seem to be approaching this whole thing with the unswerving belief that homeopathy works, and then using that belief as your starting point.

    OTOH, as far as I can tell, every study that has looked at homeopathy is either flawed or shows that homeopathic preparations are the same as a placebo. If you can direct me to a set of studies that shows otherwise, I will take you more seriously. You allude to some, but you have not delivered the goods.

    Homeopathy defies logic, and you have done nothing to suggest otherwise. If water has a memory, how does it choose what to remember? How come it remembers the mother tincture instead of impurities in the water used for serial dilutions? How does a homeopath erase the existing memory the water has before adding that drop of mother tincture? Etc. The principals of homeopathy are unsupported by any real evidence (that one publication you cite hinted at something interesting, but is not conclusive and is certainly not a sufficient basis for throwing out everything else we know about chemistry or biology).

    Finally, what is most telling for me is this:

    If homeopathy were real, several homeopaths and manufacturers of homeopathic preparations would be falling over each other to be the first to put it on a secure, evidence-based footing. Instead, we find the opposite. Many homeopaths are happy with the seeming magic of homeopathy. “Like cures like” makes no sense at all (except in thaumaturgy), yet no-one seems to be investigating it. The increasing potency of a preparation with increased dilution makes no sense at all, yet no-one seems to be looking into it. Finally, homeopaths are selling their stuff without any substantial body of evidence behind them that it does anything, which is harking back to the state of medicine 100 years ago.

  89. Nigel Depledge

    Aw, nuts. I messed up a blockquote tag, and the comment editor fails to load that comment.

  90. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (77) said:

    If LM is feeling better why are you people so strongly motivated to knock the result he got? If s/he told you that believing in God gave him/her happiness, would you feel the need to destroy his/her belief in God, because that would make you happier?

    Irrelevant.

    That commenter claimed to know what caused the pain to cease, yet had no way of genuinely knowing this.

    If LM had stated “I had this pain. I took a homeopathic treatment. The pain went away, but I don’t know if it was the treatment I took or something else”, most of us would probably be affirming this as a good example of critical thinking.

    Your hostility to homeopathy has everything to do with knocking a belief you don’t agree with, and nothing to do with what’s better for the users of that treatment.

    You are wrong here.

    I object to liars posing as real medical practitioners. If you look into homeopathy and the mystique behind it, it might as well be a load of black-magic mumbo-jumbo for all the logic to it.

    For all I know, most homeopaths say the same thing as real doctors “try this – if it doesn’t get better come back and see me again”. The biggest difference is that real medicines (i.e. those licensed by the appropriate regulatory authority) have to have shown both safety and efficacy to reach the market. Homeopathic preparations have no such requirement.

    Taking your comment in a slightly different direction, what is your opinion of a parent that denies real medicine to their child because they are feeding that child a homeopathic preparation?

  91. Nigel Depledge

    Muzz (78) said:

    There are people who believe that the truth trumps whatever makes you ‘feel good’, you know. One can a make a pretty solid case that, generally speaking, that’s always better.

    Good point.

    If ever you get cancer, don’t go and see a doctor. Listen to some bloody loud music instead.

    [/snark]

  92. Nigel Depledge

    Cass (88) said:

    I have been a skeptic in the past of homepathics, but what I can say (and can’t explain) is that recently I’ve had cause to use a Brauer IBS treatment and their Sleep Treatment, and was surprised to find they worked…so for me, the jury is still out….

    So, how did you know it was the treatment itself and not the mere fact that you were using something to address that problem?

    Do you have an objective measure the condition improving, or is it simply self-reporting?

  93. Steve Metzler

    Wow, Nigel! You have much more patience than I could ever have with the likes of ScepticsBane. It’s pretty obvious just from the moniker that they are a crank. And a drive-by at that. He/she/it won’t be back.

    I realise that you do these comprehensive rebuttals for the sake of the fence sitters/lurkers. Fair deuce to you.

  94. Andrew W

    “Irrelevant.”

    To you obviously, not irrelevant to everyone else.

    “You are wrong here.
    I object to liars..”

    Your use of the word “liars” demonstrates your emotional rather than logical view of the matter, you know what a lie is? So provide evidence that homeopaths are liars rather than just scientifically challenged people selling a product they believe in.

    “posing as real medical practitioners.”

    If we define “real medical practitioners” as practitioners of conventional medicine, I’ve never known this to happen, for some reason homeopaths are proud of being homeopaths and have no desire to be confused with “real medical practitioners”.

    “The biggest difference …have to have shown both safety and efficacy to reach the market. Homeopathic preparations have no such requirement.”

    There are plenty of regulations that apply to homeopathic remedies, how about food safety? And if homeopaths are claiming to be doctors, they could be done for practicing medicine without a license.

    “what is your opinion of a parent that denies real medicine to their child because they are feeding that child a homeopathic preparation?”

    If it endangers the child’s welfare they’re foolish.

    What’s your opinion of a parent who picks up a young child that’s fallen over and kisses the injury better? They’ve deceived the child into believing they’ve done something to the injury, when all they’ve done is reassure the child. Is the child worse off or better off for this deception?

  95. PayasYouStargaze

    I was going to get into this argument but then I realised that there is as much semantics as real arguments.

    I know homeopathy doesn’t work. Hopefully in the future more people will, eventually leading to a general public that is educated on the matter. Homeopathy can then be rightfully classified as fraud and we can be rid of this nonsense once and for all.

  96. Andrew W

    #97, do you think religion should be dealt with in the same way? If not, why not?

  97. PayasYouStargaze

    @97 Andrew W

    Your question implies that religion is fraud. Not all religions commit fraud. I think it would be nice to educate people on what parts of religion are irrational or nonsensical but as long as personal beliefs are kept personal it doesn’t really matter.

    I’m not sure why you are drawing this parallel. Yes there are religious organisations that commit fraud, like Peter Popoff’s ministry sellling “holy water” and such. But for example when I grew up with the Catholic church, at no point did the church sell me something that wasn’t. I was lied to, sure, but it wasn’t criminal.

    Homeopathy is criminal. It is claiming to sell medical treatments when it does not. Frankly I’m amazed that the homeopaths get away with it.

  98. Joseph G

    Woot Nigel :) Ownage. And as was alluded to before, the patience of a saint.

    @Andrew @: There are plenty of regulations that apply to homeopathic remedies, how about food safety?
    Considering the kind of food that’s legal, this is something to be proud of? All food safety regulations demand is that the food doesn’t kill you (and in the case of fast food, this itself is a gray area in the long term). There’s a big difference between the standards that foods are held to and the standard that medicines are held to, and for good reason. Food just has to taste good – medicine has to work.
    And if homeopaths are claiming to be doctors, they could be done for practicing medicine without a license.
    So Homeopaths admit that what they practice is not actually medicine?

  99. Andrew W

    PayasYouStargaze, under the definition of fraud that you’re applying to homeopaths, I think religions would also qualify as being fraudulent, they are supported by financial contributions of their members for a service with promised future benefits that have no scientific foundation.

    Joseph: “Homeopaths admit that what they practice is not actually medicine?”

    Yeah, :-) that line of argument occurred to me too, so why aren’t they prosecuted? I guess the legal definition of practicing medicine is perhaps fairly restricted to stop people falling foul if it through normal day-to-day care? Perhaps the legal definition is more about the practitioner claiming to be a legally recognized health professional than the actual administering of medical care?

  100. PayasYouStargaze

    @101 Andrew W

    It depends on the religion’s organisation doesn’t it? Take my former religion, the Catholic church. It does not charge people to get into heaven. It does not charge people for anything supernatural. It only asks for donations for tangible benefits like upkeep of the church and holding services and giving to charity. That is not fraudulent.

    I see you are trying to get me to excuse homeopathy by equating it to something different. It won’t work Andy. Not all religions are the same. Some commit fraud and some do not.

    Homeopaths claim to sell medicine (even if they do not call it that). What they sell is not medicine. That is what makes it fraud, under any definition.

    A final point. The religion’s promised future benefits may be unprovable either way. If you were in a church that charged you to get into paradise (Scientology maybe?) no one can prove whether it worked or not. It’s not very ethical but there is no evidence to apply the rule of law to. The claim isn’t testable, so the money can be said to go towards providing the service. Homeopathy is different. They claim to offer a product with testable effects. Those products have been tested and failed the tests. Do you see the difference?

  101. Andrew W

    “That is what makes it fraud, under any definition.”

    Great! So it should be easy for you to win a civil action against homeopaths, or to get the police to prosecute them.

    And if you can’t, you’ve just libeled them.

  102. Andrew W

    “They claim to offer a product with testable effects. Those products have been tested and failed the tests. Do you see the difference?”

    Now we’re going round in circles, actual consumer surveys would show widespread satisfaction, in the market place, that’s the test that’s most important.

  103. PayasYouStargaze

    @103 & 104 Andrew W

    Can you define fraud in such a way that selling something under a claim that it does something it cannot do is exempt from it?

    Hmm. Libel. Simon Singh has shown how difficult that can get, and he was right too.

    As an aside, I find it funny that in the wikipedia entry for fraud, a certain Andrew Wakefield is listed as an example. Bit of a fan of him are you?

    No, consumer surveys are not the test that’s most important. They just show that the fraudsters are very effective. Nigel has explained that double blind clinical trials are the tests that matter.

    Lastly, shame on me for getting into this argument. I should have known better.

  104. Andrew W

    “Can you define fraud in such a way that selling something under a claim that it does something it cannot do is exempt from it?’

    I don’t know, but you apparently believe it’s legal fraud, assuming “under any definition” means “under any definition” so I look forward to reading about your legal action.

    “Bit of a fan of him are you?” Never heard of him.

    “Nigel has explained …” Oh, well, that proves it then. /sarc.

  105. Skepticsbane wrote @74: Taken any Fen-phen lately?

    No one has, because it was taken off the market by the very clinical trial mechanisms (in this case post marketing surveillance) that you disparage. Fen-Phen produces rare, but serious side effects (around 1 in 50,000 people will have serious side effects from Fen-Phen) that will not be picked up in clinical trials (typically of less than 10,000 people in a trial). In this case the risk of the rare side effects (heart valve disease, pulmonary hypertension) outweighed the benefits of the drug (mild weight loss) and the drug was removed.

    (respectfully applauds Nigel Depledge)

  106. Andrew W wrote at @104 Now we’re going round in circles, actual consumer surveys would show widespread satisfaction, in the market place, that’s the test that’s most important.

    Not in medicine, where effectiveness is the test. Consumer satisfaction can be very misleading, a couple of years ago Asthmatics were surveyed for their use of herbal medicines, they reported that they were very satisfied with their herbals, but they also reported that they did not think the herbals helped!

  107. ginckgo

    “Real” homeopathy is indeed supposed to be personalized (a friend of ours actually became a ‘qualified homeopath, and she said the same), which make one wonder why they don’t protest against the mass-produced bottles of water on sale over the counter.

    But really, this supposed fine tuning to the individual’s biology and circumstance should make the effects even more pronounced because it’s so targeted. So all that needs to be done is a clinical trial with a ‘real’ homeopath doing ‘real’ homeopathy. Oh that’s right, ain’t gonna happen because of Big Pharma (imagine the profits they could make by selling pure water as medicine).

  108. PayasYouStargaze

    Well another day and I might as well continue.

    @106 Andrew W

    I guess you can’t find me that definition that excused homeopaths. Shame, I was looking forward to that. Anyway, if I had the time and the money I’d consider legal action. What I’m hoping is that with a little education in the general population that somewhere it’ll happen. A point I made in my first post and you ignored, preferring to go off on a tangent about religion. So that’s what I prefer to do. Remind people that they do not sell what they claim to.

    OK. It’s just that you have the same name and initial and seem to support bogus medicine.

    Yes Nigel explained it further up the page. He did it better than I could and I’d just be repeating him. Also Ian (108) has backed us up on this too.

  109. Andrew W

    PayasYouStargaze, Homeopathy is not fraud unless the courts say it is fraud, end of story. That’s the way the legal system works.

    “Remind people that they do not sell what they claim to.” What is it that are they supposedly claiming that they sell? They’re not claiming to sell conventional medicines, there’s no secret about what’s in the bottles they’re selling, it’s entirely up to the consumer to make the judgment as to whether or not the offered remedies are what they want to buy.

    The scientific explaination about the effectiveness or otherwise of homeopathic treatments is irrelevant to whether or not its sale should be legal or not , in the human world many things are not determined by science.

    Ian was correct in what he said, and most of what Nigel said I wouldn’t dispute. Where we differ is the suggestion that because something is scientifically unsound, it should be made illegal, or seen as fraudulent. While I, like many others, am no fan of lawyers, I think a justice system run by scientists would be far, far worse (and that’s from someone with a solid science based perspective on most issues).

    (This whole debate is starting to remind me of the arguments on The Big Bang Theory between Lionel and Sheldon, Sheldon just isn’t equipped to understand the world outside of his narrow science based perspective).

  110. ND

    “Where we differ is the suggestion that because something is scientifically unsound, it should be made illegal, or seen as fraudulent.”

    In the case of homeopathy, selling a product for medical purposes without showing solid evidence of efficacy is part of the long history of selling medical products that don’t work. If you’re making the claim, they you should back it up with evidence, otherwise you have no right to demand that your claim be taken seriously.

    You’re trying to shirk away from the responsibility of backing up claims by pushing it on the consumer (“it’s up to the consumer to make the judgement”) , or trying to represent science as a narrow minded endeavor .

  111. PayasYouStargaze

    @111 Andrew W

    My position is not that because something is scientifically unsound it should be illegal. My comments on religion further up show that. Neither am I suggesting a justice system run by scientists.

    My position is echoed by ND above. Homeopathic remedies are not medical treatments, therefore they should not be sold as such. That is why I believe it is fraud when they are.

  112. The thing that gets me when Homeopaths claim that science just hasn’t caught up with their “cures” is this: Just how can they prove their cures work?

    Let’s put the whole “does water have memory/does Quantum Mechanics support this” to the side for a moment. Let’s even assume for the moment that water does somehow have memory and like cures like. (Big assumptions, I know, but I’m going somewhere with this.) How do I know whether Homeopathic Treatment 1 by Company A is better/worse/the same as Homeopathic Treatment 2 by Company B? How do I know that Company A isn’t just packaging plain water (or plain sugar tablets) and billing it as homeopathic medicine?

    With mainstream medicine, it is easy to test. Grab a bottle of Advil and head to your local lab. They can examine the pills and tell just what chemicals are in it. If a container of Advil turned out to be nothing but gel-coated sugar pills, the company’s fraud would be found out quickly and stopped.

    According to homeopathy’s supporters, though, a vial of homeopathy cure looks the same as a vial of plain water when examined in the lab. (“Science just needs to catch up.”) Therefore there is no mechanism for preventing fraud. Companies could release products billed as homeopathic cures without following any kind of homeopathic procedures and they would have no risk of being caught (unless the CEO was caught bragging or something).

    To the homeopathy supporters, I pose this question: How do you propose ensuring that consumers receive products that are actually homeopathically-prepared solutions and not fraudulent products piggybacking on the “trendiness” of the name “homeopathic”?

    To everyone else, you may now stop your suspension of disbelief regarding water memory and like cures like.

  113. ND

    “How do you know that?”
    “How did you come to that conclusion?”

    Some of the most important questions to be asked.

  114. Andrew W

    My position remains that if people are going to homeopaths, and the homeopaths are honest about the lack of scientific backing, the dealings between the customer and the homeopath is their business and not something the state or the medical and science communities need to poke their nose into.

  115. Mark Hansen

    Andrew W, in 116, you have provided the best argument against homeopathy. Show me a homeopath that is honest about the lack of scientific backing. Here is a sample group of some that aren’t:
    http://www.homeopathiccentre.com.au/
    http://www.cottnat.com.au/
    http://www.homeopathyoz.org/
    Ironically, the first centre has a retraction on their web page because they claimed that a preparation would do something it wouldn’t.

  116. Andrew W

    Thanks Mark, I didn’t see anything that would be classed as false advertising. In fact, it all looks like the sort of BS you can expect from real estate agents and car salesmen.
    Hey, maybe they should ban real estate agents and car salesmen!

    Probably all Western countries have laws against false and misleading advertising and laws that enforce fair trading practices, when homeopaths cross those laws they should be stepped on.

  117. ND

    Andrew W: “My position remains that if people are going to homeopaths, and the homeopaths are honest about the lack of scientific backing, the dealings between the customer and the homeopath is their business and not something the state or the medical and science communities need to poke their nose into.”

    So should the scientific community investigate homeopathy or not?!

  118. Andrew W

    Why does it need scientific investigation when it has no scientific basis?

  119. Andrew W

    To expand on the above comment.
    I’ve no doubt that people get a response to homeopathy through the placebo effect, the placebo effect can be enhanced through the use of rituals, as described in my link to macdoctor above (#27). Mark Hansen’s links usefully cover the rituals used in homeopathy, the “treating the whole person”, even “the whole family” sort of stuff. If scientists want to study the preparations to prove there’s no active ingredient they’ll find there’s no active ingredient. (heh, writing that reminds me of the “secret ingredient” of Kungfu Panda, which is pretty much the same thing, the self belief, mind over body stuff).

  120. Mark Hansen

    Andrew, your position in 116 was if the homeopaths were honest about the lack of scientific backing, it would be ok. Did you look for any homeopaths that were honest about the lack of scientific backing? Did you find any? I suspect not as you haven’t posted a link to any. They evade the issue by not saying whether homeopathy is backed up by science or not.

    And as far as real estate agents and used car salesmen go, if they get caught making false claims, they are dealt with. As were the homeopaths in that first link of mine.

  121. Andrew W

    “And as far as real estate agents and used car salesmen go, if they get caught making false claims, they are dealt with. As were the homeopaths in that first link of mine.”

    yep.

    I’ll leave it to you to find homeopaths who lie about scientific backing, then you can have the pleasure of reporting their fraud to the appropriate authorities.

  122. ND

    Andrew W,

    The description of homeopathy implies a natural phenomenon that can be investigated critically. It’s supposed to be a repeatable and reproducible phenomenon, which is something that can be scientifically investigated.

    @121, you’re admitting that homeopathy is simply placebo. This moves away from the water memory and quantum mechanics jibberish used to try and explain homeopathy.

  123. Andrew W

    ND, go back to the start of the thread, I’m not claiming any effects for homeopathy outside of the placebo effect, and yes, the placebo effect is real and testable.

  124. Andrew W

    People keep trying to build strawmen so they can rationalize that my very simple position is actually something other than it is so that they’ll have something nice and simple to argue with.

  125. ND

    Andrew W,

    I think i mixed you up with ScepticsBane there with regard to quantum mechanics. But there are issues with what you have been arguing, particularly with people buying these products. The evidence for or against homeopathy is important when these products are pitched to customers.

  126. nancy baker

    I am amazed that Austrailians seem to be so backward, Do you know there are Dr.s of Homeopathy
    that know how to stop cancer, they know sugar feeds cancer, but when they treat people and it works,
    the Medical societys and the pharmasuiticals lobbys even cause them to lose their medical license,
    they are so afraid of losing money themselves, now do you see how it works and why they are discredited. I personally handle my own high blood pressure, by taking combinations of different herbs and vitamins, and YES I am doing great, people who are on prescription drugs, are the ones with the problems, of all the side effects, what do you think Aspirin is, ? It is an old remady from long ago and has proven to be a great remady for pain, inflammation. Homeopathy can help people with M.S.and it teaches eating of the proper foods that will help any condiction you have. So get real people and stop being afraid of everything, you are probably related to the people who burned witches because they didnot understand or lisen to all the nay-sayers . donot be afraid of something that can help you. Nancy

  127. Mark Hansen

    Nancy, Australians may seem backward to you because we don’t like the sound of unadulterated BS. Such as…

    “…Do you know there are Dr.s of Homeopathy that know how to stop cancer, they know sugar feeds cancer, but when they treat people and it works, the Medical societys and the pharmasuiticals lobbys even cause them to lose their medical license…
    Citations please, not “I heard it from a friend” or “I read it on whale.to”

    …what do you think Aspirin is, ? It is an old remady from long ago and has proven to be a great remady for pain, inflammation…
    Amazing! I really must ask my doctor about this. Oh wait, he probably already knows this as do most people that take anywhere up to 5 minutes to look this old fact up. Not something that homeopaths actually discovered though. There may have been a scientist or two involved. Here’s another one; vitamin C cures scurvy. Just wait until Big Pharma learns about that!

    …Homeopathy can help people with M.S.and it teaches eating of the proper foods that will help any condiction you have…

    Homeopaths may well teach people the benefits of a proper diet. Oddly enough, doctors aren’t afraid to dispense the same information. Doctors do not, however, claim that eating a proper diet will help every condition. Homeopaths may do so; if they do, they are wrong. Oh, and the M.S. being helped with homeopathy; citations please.

    Simply put, if homeopaths could do all of the marvellous things you claim, they would not have any need to claim that properly controlled, double-blind studies don’t let homepathy show its true benefits. And they’re not afraid to make a s***-load of money out of nothing either. Look up en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscillococcinum . So much for the Davidian struggle of homeopathy against the Goliathean Big Pharma.

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