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The Quackery of Homeopathy


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I have often noticed that many (maybe not ALL) of my friends who profess a belief in homeopathy, ALSO tend believe in other "pseudologies". [if I may be allowed to coin a new word]. The most common pseudologies that I have seen associated with homeopathy are "healing crystals", "aura manipulation", "essential oils", "irisology", "numerology", "alien visitations", "ancient arcane technology beyond our modern understanding", "telepathy", "seeing the future", "astral projection", and other sundry esoterica.


I've said this before. EVERYBODY wants to believe that they are in some way "special"--and I DON'T mean riding the short bus. Many folks who are not blessed with a good mind or a good education, latch on to anything that THEY can understand that sets them apart from the norm. It gives them stature in their own eyes, and often a "purpose". We all want this, one way or another. We are all desparate to find some "meaning" for our lives.


For some, defending the existence of Bigfoot, or the value of homeopathy is the best they can do under their circumstances.

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Hate to see a bunch of intelligent people waste their time like this.


People, Dana Ullman is what they call a "troll" on these here tubes. Whether she does her trolling consciously or not (that is to say, whether she actually believes the stuff she says or not), arguing with her is a waste of time. No matter what you say, how you engage with her, you're not going to change her mind.


It's recommendable that some of you have been looking at studies, but even if there was a way to convince the likes of her with science, it's still a rigged game. Academics at this kind of level are very difficult to understand for a lay-person; going through research and papers and finding "evidence" for either side of this discussion is immensely time-consuming. The most you can hope to achieve is to waste some of your time, in which case the troll wins. There are people whose job it is to sight this kind of material and come to conclusions, and they have, time and again. If all the peer reviewed magazines in the world won't convince the belief-in-quackery population, how can you hope to do so?


Accept that there will always be an element of stupidity in a sufficiently large population, and unless you actually enjoy arguing with them, don't waste your time.


If you need a final indicator that the troll is not likely to react to anything you dig up, look at her ignoring InfiniteNow's request for method of action and concentration thresholds five times in a row. Obviously it's much easier to point at wildly complicated statistics that even the scientists who produced them have difficulty interpreting than engage in a simple bit of "this is how we think our tinctures work".


There are more productive uses for your time! (not that this was a particularly productive use from my side since my guess is you all were aware of this to begin with, but hey)

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Perhaps what I am about to say is a bit politically incorrect, but I have never been one to censor myself.


Homeopathy is quackery, no doubt about that. Plenty of people have died because they relied solely on homeopathy or faith healing. It is tragic when it is a child that suffers for their parents beliefs, but in the case of the adults, isn't this a good thing? It is pure evolution at work. Those who are gullible enough to buy into this crap are the weaker of the species. Eventually we will see them cull themselves out of existence as disease ravages their population and they refuse to take a simple penicillin shot.


Let them orchestrate their own extinction. Eventually the species will be stronger.


This could be our answer to the Idiocracy prophecy!

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Here is a wonderful quote from Boerseun's second link: Wikipedia--Confirmation Bias

Morton's Demon

Morton's Demon was devised by Glenn R. Morton in 2002[10] as part of a thought experiment to explain his own experience of confirmation bias. By analogy with Maxwell's demon, Morton's demon stands at the gateway of a person's senses and lets in facts that agree with that person's beliefs while deflecting those that do not.


Morton was at one time a Young Earth creationist who later disavowed this belief. The demon was his way of referring to his own bias and that which he continued to observe in other Young Earth creationists. With time it has become a common shorthand for confirmation bias in a variety of situations.

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Since this thread has been rife with accusations of not understanding key ideas of homeopathy, it might be useful to all to summarize them, and place them in a very abbreviated historic context.


Homeopathic medicine appeared in the West (England, Europe, America, etc) in the late 18th century, around the time that inoculation and vaccination were gaining widespread acceptance. Although in their early days, inoculation and homeopathic medicine appear very similar (the active medicinal ingredient in early homeopathic medicines were much less dilute than in present day ones), homeopathy would eventually distinguish itself from the vaccination mainly, I think, in that it did not use actual pathogens (eg: live Vaccinia virus), but uses substances with various similarities to the disease to be treated (eg: cinchona bark, which in high doses produces malaria-like symptoms such as shivering and vomiting)


It appears that early homeopaths believed that some amount of the active ingredient must be present in a medicine for it to work. However, because it was unknown until around the mid 19th century that successive dilutions of a substance could result in it containing no molecules of the diluted ingredient, early homeopaths were almost certainly unaware that the very high dilutions many of them favored ([math]1 : 10^{60}[/math], AKA “30C” or more) resulted in a solution that almost certainly contained no molecules of the ingredient.


With the discovery and widespread acceptance of the size of atoms and molecules in the mid to late 19th century, it became apparent that an explanation for how homeopathic medicines worked in the absence of any of their active ingredient was necessary. Because much homeopathic writing already referred to and distinguished between the physical and “spiritual” presence of substances, 19th century homeopaths appear to have favored the explanation that, even if all the molecules of a substance were removed, the substances spirit (or “vital force”) could remain and have an effect.


As acceptance of the objective reality of spirits has decreased, some homeopaths have explained how homeopathic medicines work without containing any of their active ingredient by suggesting that the liquid (usually water) used to dilute them is chemically altered by contact with the active ingredient, and in turn chemically alters water that comes in contact with it.


In my experience, very few clinicians accept either the spirit of the “contact impression” explanations. However, because typical homeopathic medicines, being chemically indistinguishable from pure water, can’t hurt patients, they feel it is at worst harmless and possibly helpful to condone or recommend them. Understanding that patient morale can be an important factor in recovering from disease, clinicians are reluctant to discourage patients’ belief in the efficacy of remedies that can do no harm, and may improve their morale. The role of a clinician is, IMHO, to treat disease, not promote science, so I’m sympathetic to this approach.

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Is this really a forum for people who are interested in science? It certainly doesn't seem that way. Some people discourage others from reviewing research or assume that people here won't understand it.


I assume that few people here are familiar with the thousands (!) of studies on hormesis (low-dose effects). The vast majority of homeopathic medicines sold in health food stores today are in the range of doses that are commonly tested in the hormesis literature.


But heck, I'm not clear if the people here really want to understand scientific issues. Instead, they have their "beliefs," and they do not want to change them (let us not confuse ourselves with the fact or with research).


I simply hope that some of you consider doing some homework. To do this, avoid simply reading the quackbuster sites and look at the research yourself. I too am for ignoring the poorly done research, but there is a good body of basic science work as well as clinical trials.


Do a google for COPD homeopathy Chest...and you will find a good study published in the leading pulmonary medicine journal. Do a google for Oscillococcinum influenza Cochrane, and you'll find a Cochrane review of 4 large studies on the treatment of the flu (you'll also find that several studies found that this medicine is not effective in the prevention of the flu...but no homeopathic company ever claimed that it was effective in its PREVENTION, just its TREATMENT.


As for basic science work, Claudia Witt and other workers found a couple hundred (or so) laboratory trials, of which something like 75% were replicated by other workers.


Please avoid "beliefs" and simply follow the research.


Ironically, one writer here refers to me as a "troll." If a troll is someone who references research and encourages others to evaluate high quality research, sure, I'm that kind of troll. You can judge for yourself if people who call me names are maintaining a scientific attitude or not.

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I hate to rain on the parade here, but since you folks seem to appreciate double-blind placebo controlled randomized studies, I'm curious why no one has made reference to the four large clinical trials showing efficacy of Oscillococcinum in the treatment of people with the flu.
Speaking for myself, I’ve not made such a reference, because I don’t know of the four large clinical trials to which you, Dana, refer.


Can you provide direct references, ideally links?


In an effort not to be lazy, I tried following the several references you previously provided

Vickers AJ, Smith C, Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes (Cochrane Review) The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2005.
From the summary of the cited article:

... It is claimed that Oscillococcinum (or similar homeopathic medicines) can be taken either regularly over the winter months to prevent influenza or as a treatment. Trials do not show that homoeopathic Oscillococcinum can prevent influenza. However, taking homoeopathic Oscillococcinum once you have influenza might shorten the illness, but more research is needed.

The reference explicitly refutes the claim that taking homoeopathic Oscillococcinum can prevent the flu, and does not support the claim that it can shorten the illness, but calls for additional research.taking homoeopathic Oscillococcinum

For further basic science and clinical evidence, there are numerous reviews of research at: European Committee for Homeopathy
The first reference cited in the ”research” page of the referenced website is [benson K, Hartz AJ (2000). A comparison of observational studies and randomized, controlled trials. New England Journal of Medicine, 342:1878-1886]. The abstract of this article states:

BACKGROUND: For many years it has been claimed that observational studies find stronger treatment effects than randomized, controlled trials. We compared the results of observational studies with those of randomized, controlled trials.

CONCLUSIONS: We found little evidence that estimates of treatment effects in observational studies reported after 1984 are either consistently larger than or qualitatively different from those obtained in randomized, controlled trials.

From the available abstract, it is not clear that this citation is about homeopathic remedies at all.


It appears to me that I, and other hypography readers, could spend a lot of time and effort pursuing bad leads in attempting to find the data and studies you say support homeopathic claims, Dana. It would be a great help if you could provide at links to at least the “four large clinical trials”, and any other high-quality data that support your claims. More, “backing up your claims with links and references” is actually required by hypography’s rules, and should be done even when it is not difficult for the reader to find them independently.


:phones: A final note, speaking as a moderator of the medical science forum:

This thread contains a lot of inflammatory statements, ad hominem attacks, and straw men (eg: “homeopathy is crap”, “Dana Ullman is what they call a "troll" on these here tubes”, “Is this really a forum for people who are interested in science? It certainly doesn't seem that way.”). This should not be. Please, everyone, follow the site rules, and keep the conversation scientific and cordial.

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For more information, Dana Ullman owns this site which contains the list of books he has authored and co-authored.


This site credits Mr. Ullman as being the lead proponent of homeopathy in the USA.


It's prolly been mentioned before in this thread, but I thought I would remind everyone that given his credentials, Mr. Ullman is obviously not your common, garden-variety troll. He is something different. He is a professional advocate who has invested his entire career and life into the field of homeopathy.


On the other hand, if he does not appear to be forthcoming with technical answers, that (maybe) should raise some eyebrows, as he is (by everything I can find by Googling his name) one of the (if not THE) authority on Homeopathy in America.


Just to be "fair and balanced", there are other skeptics who are discussing Mr. Ullman.


Ladies and gentlemen, you are locked in a room with a Bengal Tiger. Under your seats you will find a box containing disassembled parts from: a Model-T Ford, a Waring blender, a jack-hammer, a laboratory vaccuum pump, and a Winchester carbine. There are no instructions. Be prepared to be accountable for your actions. :hihi:

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  • 2 weeks later...
As a Scientist myself, I hate when people claim unscientific ideas and proclaim them to have some medical benefit when infact there is unsupporting evidence for them, thus Pseudoscience best describes these practices. The example touched upon here is Homeopathy, which has to be the most unsupported piece of medical crap ever unleashed onto the public.


They believe that diluting a particular drug/disease molecule with alcohol, water or sugar and administrating this to the patient has some medical benefit. Although this might sound plausible for you, the factor of dilution is the implausible part. The remedy Oscillococcinum has a factor of dilution of 1 molecule in 10 to the power of 400, so in essence there would be no benefit and all there would be is pure Water, Alcohol or Sugar??


How can this possibly be accepted in todays age? It's 19th Century claptrap.


I recently debated a student of Homeopathy, and she said it wasn't so much the drug that helps the patient but rather the ENERGY got from the drug. I exclaimed "Is this a different form of energy, outside of science knowledge at the moment?"...She said "No"...so I said if the energy is the same why can't you create a standard model where you use say the same drug at different concentrations to get the "same" energy out of it...She said "You're right!"...I said "Even if you did create this as homeopaths, it's still a ludicrous thing to study and believe in"...


What do you make of this quackery claptrap?


Homeopathy is a rational Science. There is lots of evidence in its support. General Public supports it.


Though ultra diluted, it carries the imprints of the medicine.


Life force/Vital Force is nothing but what you call as energy or chi in Chinese medicine, or prana in ayurveda, or ki in oriental medicine.

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I have to agree with you, it's pseudoscience in it's worst form. If someone wants to believe in something that is either not true or has no supporting evidence it's really their business until it affects their health or the health of others. When people promote this type of thing someone could get hurt or even loose their life because if this stuff. I see it all the time being hawked on TV as a cure for this or that. I even had a friend who treated her kids when they were sick with this stuff. Her kinds didn't die but when they really got sick it almost always resulted in a trip to the hospital. They were often treated by homeopathy as a preventative but no thought was given to the fact that it didn't work anywhere but in her mind.


Contrary, thousands lose their life every year due to side effects of allopathy.

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Homeopathy takes advantage of the innate human talent for finding patterns in our world. Sometimes we even find patterns that aren't there. We get sick, and usually, within a week, we get better (unless we're seriously ill).


So, we get sick and four days later, we take Magic Cure. Three days later, we get better. Aha! See the pattern?! We got better three days after taking Magic Cure, so obviously, it was the Magic Cure that made us well! Hallelujah!


This anecdotal experience eventually becomes set in the mind as a fact, especially if it is repeated just one or two more times. The devotion of this fraction of the original group is such that they persuade others to try the experiment. Eventually, you wind up with an equilibrium fraction of people who swear by Magic Cure--new believers just balancing out those who finally realize that the stuff is worthless.


You mean to say anecdotal evedince of millions and millions of people who have been benefitted by homeopathy carries no weight.

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Homeopathy is a rational Science. There is lots of evidence in its support. General Public supports it.


Though ultra diluted, it carries the imprints of the medicine.


Life force/Vital Force is nothing but what you call as energy or chi in Chinese medicine, or prana in ayurveda, or ki in oriental medicine.


Please be specific then and cite specific studies so the rest of us can review them and ensure they are not riddled with the same methodological flaws the previous studies shared had. Also, it would be nice to see what data you are using to form your conclusion "homeopathy is rational science," and "it carries imprints of the medicine" and "life force/vital force."


I know in your introduction you stated that you are a physician, but that does not allow you to simply state something and expect it to go without challenge.


Now, let's see those citations, as you've made some rather bold claims.

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I suppose like Moonman said it's their own business if they want to believe in this quackery, but it becomes everyones business when they try and divert people who are genuinely sick into this alternative medicine, who should be seeking evidence based medicine that exists today. That's probably the biggest reason I'm against it.


Homeopathy is an evidence based medicine. Millions of patients of homeopathy world wide who have been benefited by it are the best evidence.

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