Posts Tagged 'Homeopathy'

I Had a Chance to Exercise my Skeptical Chops in Real Life the Other Night

It’s not often (in real life) that I get to use all of these skeptical tools and pearls of wisdom that I spend so much time learning about, so when I do get into this type of conversation my heart will start racing and I’ll get excited to where I have to concentrate on keeping a calm demeanor so that I don’t end up coming across as a crazed denialist!

The other night my husband had his friend over, who also happened to be one of my former high school teachers, so we sat around chatting for hours and touched on a lot of different topics. At one point in the conversation Dr. Oz (one of Oprah’s spin-off shows) came up, I guess because teachers get to watch lots of daytime TV during the summer!

I’m in no way a fan of Dr. Oz. I’ve tuned  into a few of his episodes when there’s been nothing else on, and my main reason for disliking him is the way that he talks down to the audience, as if he’s addressing a room full of kindergartners. He gives these ridiculous demonstrations that add nothing to the conversation and dumb down already easy to understand things. Medicine is such an interesting field, and the human body is so diverse and complex that it just makes him look ridiculous to me when he talks to grown adults in a way that would have bored me when I was 10.

But obviously enough people enjoy it, so to each his/her own. What also gets me goat about Dr. Oz is how he lends his credibility to alternative medicines that don’t have supporting evidence (Reiki, for example). I brought this up and that’s what sparked a discussion with my old teacher on alternative medicine.

I wouldn’t say that Teacher (that’s what I’ll call him from now on) was full on into alt med or anything, but he came across as neutral on the subject. He seems like one of those people “in the middle”, who believes in the value of using herbs to treat minor ailments but would turn to actual medicine for big things like cancer. We touched on a lot of things that seem to pop up in every online discussion on alternative medicine, so I think I’ll break it down into some of the areas we hit and what was said.

I’ll just mention that everything I was responding to Teacher with was from memory, and I’m going to write it here as it was said so it’s possible, actually it’s likely, that I was wrong about many things and welcome criticisms and feedback.

1. “The placebo effect is strong, so alternative medicine helps even if it shouldn’t really work” There is a common misconception that the placebo effect is some kind of mind over matter thing, where your brain is actually healing your body, and so doing something like acupuncture is therefore helpful, even though there’s no such thing as “chi” or “meridians” in the body. I was three glasses of wine in, so I wasn’t going to try explaining the placebo effect in detail, especially since I don’t fully understand it sober.

Instead, I talked about how things like acupuncture can be helpful for issues like infertility or back pain because just going to a practitioner, having them pay attention to you and validate your problem, and having something physical done to you can alleviate the stress that might be causing the problem. But relying on these things can get dangerous if you start relying on alt med for problems that need proper medication.

2. Confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine. There are some types of alternative medicine that are so ridiculous that they can’t possibly work, and homeopathy is one of them, but people don’t understand what it actually is and so trust that it must work for whatever reason. Teacher was definitely confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine.  I explained that homeopathy means that the active substance is diluted until there’s not even a molecule of the original substance in the solution, so there’s nothing actually in it that would have an effect.

3. Confusing proper diet with alternative medicine. I’m not really sure that this was what was happening, but at one point when we were having the discussion about using herbal medicine he brought up how cutting milk out of his diet helped him to feel better. Lots of people think of diet and nutrition as alternative medicine, maybe because pretty much every diet book out there will recommend taking some type of supplement. In fact, though, diet and the effect of different foods on the body are studied by science, and therefore perfectly in line with medicine.

4. Pharmaceutical companies are out to make a buck and want you to take medicines you don’t need, so turning to herbs is preferable. Pharmaceutical companies do plenty of shady business, but at least the drugs that they put out have standards for evidence, and will be pulled from the shelves if the drug is shown to be dangerous. With the various herbal supplements out there, they have no standards for evidence if it’s called a supplement, and there aren’t nearly as many strict controls, so you really don’t know how much of the active ingredient is contained in each pill. Not to mention many pharmaceutical companies have gotten into the supplement business, so you’re not necessarily circumventing “big pharma” when you decide to go for alternative remedies. The companies that sell those supplements and natural remedies are in the profit business too!

5. Lots of drugs were developed out of traditional healing substances, so herbal medicine must work. Sure, a lot of drugs came about because the substance used in them was traditionally used in healing the ailment. But the reason why they’re drugs now is because they were subjected to scientific testing and found to work, so the active substance was isolated or synthesized, and put into pills with specific dosages in a bottle that lays out the possible side effects. This doesn’t mean that all traditional herbal medicines work, though. Some are tested and found to do no better than placebo. There may be some out there that will be shown to work once they’re adequately tested, but I wouldn’t rely on those to medicate myself because a) possible side effects are unknown, and b) how would you know how much you need or how long you need to  take  it for if the substance has never been properly tested?

 

That was pretty much it, it was a fantastic discussion and I hope I gave Teacher (and you?) something to think about.

Sorry about the scatter-brained posting!

Enlightning Bolts – 02.02.2010

Here is an amazing video of life in the water in the Antarctic. Carnivorous seastars. So. Freaking. Cool.

The new hosts of the Point of Inquiry podcast have been announced. Karen Stollznow I don’t know too much about, Robert Price I love (I’m currently reading one of his books), but the person who is going to be the main host is Chris Mooney. Mooney is a pretty controversial choice, as he is critical of many of the anti-accommodationist views that many regular Point of Inquiry guests hold, so I’m worried that he won’t be as impartial as DJ Grothe. Here are Russell Blackford’s concerns. I’m going to try to keep an open mind and judge for myself once the new episodes are released.

The 10:23 Campaign to protest the sale of homeopathy in pharmacies “forced the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit openly that their products do not contain any ‘material substances’. Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that ‘there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining’ in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.” Win!

Mark Twain wrote a hilarious response to a snake-oil salesman who tried to sell him something called “The Elixer of Life”: “The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link.”

10:23 – Bringing Awareness to Homeopathy

Homeopathy is: “a form of alternative medicine, first proposed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, that treats patients with heavily diluted preparations which are thought to cause effects similar to the symptoms presented.” In other words, if I’m sick, a homeopath would dilute something that caused the symptoms I presented, with the belief that water has a memory.

In reality, homeopathic preparations are just water. Substances are diluted to the point where it’s unlikely that even a single molecule of the original amount remains. Yet homeopathy is a multi-million dollar industry in spite f its utter lack of plausibility or supporting evidence.

The 10:23 campaign is an effort to bring awareness to these facts about homeopathy, with the hopes that informing the public about what homeopathy actually is will help people realize that it’s silly quackery.

There is nothing in homeopathic remidies, and it will do nothing for you (no risks, side effects, or effects. So what’s the harm? Simon Singh explains here, and this is why it’s important to bring awareness to the problem that is homeopathy.

The 10:23 campaign was started by the Merseyside Skeptics (they have an excellent pocast), a UK-based skeptics society, in response to the Boots pharmacies there continuing to sell homeopathic “remidies” to a public that trusts them to sell medicine that works

On January 30th at 10:23 am, they’re having a demonstration that will effectively show how homeopathy really does nothing at all: “more than three hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in protest at Boots’ continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.” I think it’s a great idea!

If you want to get involved with the 10:23 campaign, you can fill out this form.

Homeopathy for Emergencies???

Homeopathy is the process by which a tiny drop of an active ingredient is diluted in water until there isn’t even a molecule of the substance left, and then calling that medicine. It’s laughable, it’s pre-scientific magical thinking, it’s completely without evidence, and yet the idea that it works persists.

I recently came across this article, in which the author, who apparantly works at a hospital in India that incorporates homeopathy with traditional medicine, believes that homeopathy is useful in emergency medicine:

I have been hospital-based and practically living on campuses of various hospitals for the last ten years. I can assure you that this is not exactly pleasant; nor has it been a necessity forced on me by circumstances; I have done it only to experience firsthand and at close quarters the power of homeopathy in critical moments of life and death. The experiences have destroyed the last vestiges of doubt about whether homoeopathy works in critical situations. I believed that the Law of Similars of the chronic conditions should work in acute situations too. If it did not, then there were only two conclusions. Either we do not know the way of practicing homeopathy in critical situations or the science of homeopathy was incomplete and had a serious limitation.

Uh-huh…

Homeopathy

Perhaps homeopathy appears to work when used alongside conventional medicine, but IT’S JUST WATER!!! Sometimes satire is the best way to make a point, so have a look at this video to see what would really happen in a homeopathic ER.

Homeopaths Curing Autism

Yeah, right. If a homeopathic preparation ever does anything more than quench someone’s thirst I’ll eat my foot.

Homeopathy is the ridiculous idea that the more you dilute something the more effective it becomes. It’s pure pre-scientific magical thinking, and it should have been laughed into distant memory decades ago. But clever marketing and the draw of making money selling water and sugar pills to an unsuspecting public has made homeopathy a booming industry.

Now, homeopaths are claiming to be able to cure autism. Assholes.

They currently have a film in production: “The first film about the potential of homeopathy to reverse autism is well under way and production is starting this summer on the second – the potential of homeopathy in epidemic diseases.” THERE IS NO POTENTIAL!!! IT’S WATER!!! The film looks to be about families with autistic children who have been treated by homeopaths.

It looks like a crap film though, you can watch the clip here, so hopefully nobody will see it.

But on the website they have a couple telling bits of information that make me think that they must know that they’re being deceitful.

Parents have been reluctant to film their children’s  struggle prior to treatment, so the film lacks good ‘before’ footage of the children filmed so far.

They’re asking you to just trust them. Because someone who peddles snake oil for a living is soooo trustworthy.

Complementary medicine and homeopathy in particular is under increasing pressure to ‘prove’ itself efficacious.

Making a film that tells the story from the homeopathic perspective means that we need to retain final editorial control and therefore we need to raise the funding to make the film.

In other words, “we need your money so we can say whatever we want without the constraints of evidence.”

Isn’t autism hard enough without kooks like Carol Boyce (the filmmaker & a homeopath) peddling false hope?

Westminster University Comes to its Senses, Scraps Homeopathy Degree

 

It’s fantastic that this university is eliminating their bachelor degree program in homeopathy, but what’s shocking to me is that any self-respecting university would offer a degree in something so implausible and unsupported by any kind of evidence in the first place.

diploma


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