Friday, September 01, 2006

Homeophobia

Brett at Harry’s Place lays into the new regulatory guidelines allowing homeopathic products to claim efficacy at treating specific conditions. I hoped for a moment that this news might – like the ‘remedies’ – have nothing to it, but it seems to be true.

Some people liken homeopathy to snake oil, but snake oil does at least contain real snake.

The BBC’s report has a comments box soliciting opinions: “Do you think homeopathy works? Have you tried it? What are your experiences?”

These questions are of course biased in favour of the ‘personal experiences’ that all placebo cults trade on. Why not ask: “Have you conducted peer-reviewed double-blind clinical trials proving the efficacy of homeopathy?”

I tried to submit this comment… but it didn’t work.

Maybe I should have watered down my criticism.

9 comments:

Tom said...

What I love about homeopaths is that they reject the legitimacy of peer-reviewed double-blind clinical trials, and then conduct their own anecdotal research which they say proves that homeopathy is more effective than conventional medicine. And yet all of their comparative data about the efficacy of conventional medicine comes from peer-reviewed double-blind clinical trials which they claim are methodologically flawed.

Anecdotally, though, conventional medicine is even better than the clinical trials suggest. I mean, I use it whenever I'm ill, and I've always got better.

Matt M said...

I look at it as natural selection in action: People who rely on homeopathic remedies are more likely to stay ill, or even die - thereby removing them from the gene pool.

Homeopathy may not be great for the individuals who use it, but it might work wonders for the rest of the species...

Tom Freeman said...

I've just had a horrible thought reading Matt's comment about natural selection: maybe the increased use of homeopathy is going to result in selection in favour of gullible people. The rest of us will find it harder and harder to get hold of proper medicine, and we won't even be able to get the placebo benefits of the 'alternative' crap because we know it's crap.

A world of credulous, uncritical dupes. Does anyone else smell a government/big business conspiracy?

Tom said...

If I were a homeopath, which I'm not, I'd point to the following study in response to Matt's "users of homeopathy die earlier and don't reproduce as much" hypothesis. Homeopathic/ayurvedic medicines are widely used in India. India is the world's second most populous country, with over a billion people. There.

And don't come crying to me with your fancy educated talk about complex, unpredictable variables, other factors which cause population growth, and the lack of a control group. I'm not listening.

mooney said...

Talking of 'snake oil' and 'substance'...

My Mum always vote Labour.

It was that homeopathic 'New Labour Snake Oil' that finally made her see sense.

IMPEACH RAMSEY McBLAIR NOW!

chris said...

We should ask: what is the origin of the bias towards personal experience rather than rigorous evidence? Is it due to the MSM's bias towards anecdote and "human interest" and its ignorance of statistics? Is it a reflection of society's lack of interest in rationality? Or what?
I fear Matt's too optimistic - natural selection's seems very slow at killing off irrationality.

Tom Freeman said...

"what is the origin of the bias towards personal experience rather than rigorous evidence?"

I think part of this is probably the love for 'outsider against the system' stories, which surely accounts for the massive scale of the MMR scare.

Matt M said...

I fear Matt's too optimistic - natural selection's seems very slow at killing off irrationality.

It's a rather slow process, I'll admit. But, should the Earth ever suffer some catastrophic event - such as a meteor strike - who do you think will do best: the rational and scientific or the people eating daisies?

Courtney Hamilton said...

"I tried to submit this comment… but it didn’t work.

Maybe I should have watered down my criticism."

According to conventional homoeopathic wisdom, you should have watered it down by x10, in order to make it more powerful than before.

I must admit, my eyes did close and rolled to the back of my head when I heard about this new hairbrained scheme to legitimise 21century witchcraft... well... they'll be giving that a license soon no doubt.

You can just hear them saying 'they do provide customers with an appointment within 24 hrs', 'their place of practice meets the required health and safety standards', 'and, they have proven that the potions used will harm no-one' - 'that's why we sold them the license to trade', all in the name of consumer 'choice'.

Funny thing is, this story just caught the corner of my eye - it would be interesting to see how other people react to this scheme. To me, the issues involves seem quite profound, the blatant lowering of scientific standards for one, and, what real effect it will have on peoples health in the future.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5178488.stm

I wrote a couple of words on this over at my blog (no-apologies for the shameless plug).

http://neo-jacobins.blogspot.com/2006/09/uk-to-license-witches-brew-sorry-i.html