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New UK Campaign Against Homeopathy

The 1023 Campaign will be launched early in 2010 with the aim of uniting skeptics across the UK in activities to highlight the belief in magic which underlies homeopathy.

Although the organisers haven't yet disclosed the true meaning of the number 1023, those who know something of the bizarre theory behind homeopathy may be able to guess.

Homeopathy, relies on two distinct principles, both of which contradict pretty much everything we know about the natural world. The first principle is that a small quantity of any substance that causes an illness can act to stimulate the body to fight it. In other words, if you have an illness caused by substance X, then a very small quantity of X will be a form of treatment for the illness.

The second principle is that if you put that very small quantity of X in water and then dilute it 1:100 multiple times, commonly 30 or more times, then the resulting liquid will have its curative properties vastly enhanced. In other words, the process of dilution increases the potency.

The first of these principles does not even fit the simplest of poisons. A small quantity of arsenic does not assist someone who has arsenic poisoning – it makes it worse. A small amount of sugar does not help a diabetic suffering from a hyperglycaemic coma, it simply speeds their way towards death.  The principle is quite simply wrong.

The second principle, the notion that you can dilute a substance to such an extent that there is not even a single molecule remaining in the water and yet still have something with curative potency, is contradicted by everything we know about modern chemistry, physics, and biology. It relies on some notion of water having a memory, which has been repeatedly shown to be incorrect. Some supporters of homeopathy get involved in tortuous distortions of quantum theory in a desperate bid to plead for some sort of scientific respectability, but the truth is that the theory is plain rubbish.

It is high time that we left this sort of magic and superstition way behind, but it is still possible in the UK to pick up a B.Phil. degree in Homeopathy in the remarkably short time of just 18 months of home study. Real universities in the UK have now stopped issuing such nonsense degrees but there are still some US universities which issue degrees with a focus on homeopathy, often mixing the courses with botany or some real science.

The result, though, is people claiming degree status based on the study of non-phenomena, claiming to be able to treat people using methods that wouldn't have satisfied even eighteenth-century doctors.

We can only hope that a similar campaign takes off in the US as well as the UK and that people wise up to some simple facts.  Just because people believe something, that doesn't mean it works. Just because there's a market, that doesn't mean the product does what it claims.

It does sometimes seem that the US has plenty of people willing to go along with supernatural causes, magic medicine, and fanciful theories of how the human body works, but we have to hope that those who think rationally will prevail.  Unfortunately the increase in health insurance coverage of alternative medicine techniques calls that into question.  Some folks don't seem to mind premiums being pushed up to pay for consultations with practitioners treating patients with magic.

About Bob Lloyd

  • http://scienceofhomeopathy.com John Benneth

    There have been at least nine metanalyses or reviews of the literature (Scofield, 1984; Kleijnen, 1991; Linde, 1994; Linde, 1997; Cucherat, 2000; Witt, 2003; Shang, 2005, Witt, 2007 and Fisher, 2009 . . and only one (Shang) concludes that the effects of homeopathic medicine are solely due to placebo. But Shang has been thoroughly discredited for failing to name the paltry eight studies it (Egger) claims it used for its conclusion, when there are now hundreds to examine. Shang was pseudoscience, as is the current 1023 movement, and so it is the only “study” that pseudo scientists can quote.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Linde is a good example of the meta-analysis of homeopathy. He studied 186 trials and excluded all but 89 because they either didn’t include controls or weren’t randomised – an essential element if the trial is going to be able to say anything at all. One wonders why those other 97 trials forgot to include controls and randomisation.

    In any case, the 89 trials were analysed statistically to obtain his results. Unfortunately, when his work was analysed following publication in the Lancet in 1997, it was found that 68 of those trials were of poor quality, as measured on the Oxford scale. Removing those poor quality trials and reassessing the data showed that homeopathy had no effect. The startling results he obtained disappeared when you remove the poor quality trials. Remember, of the 186 trials he took, only 21 were of acceptable standard to provide statistically significant results – and that showed homeopathy didn’t work.

    But Linde was a scientist and he cared about accuracy. So he reassessed the data and published another paper in 1999 saying that his evidence, such as it was, was equivocal. From the availale data he said he couldn’t prove anything one way or the other.

    Shang’s study, published in the Lancet in Aug 2005 said, with every justification, “this finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homeopathy are placebo effects”. The homeopaths simply wouldn’t accept Shang’s evidence but couldn’t find anything to argue about. Even the Cochrane Collaboration evidence doesn’t move them. Cochrane’s conclusions are based on 16 rigorous trials involving over 5000 patients and it concludes that there is absolutely no evidence that homeopathy does anything at all. It’s a con!

    One thing I would say is that trying to cherry pick the papers to justify homeopathy is a very poor way to proceed. Science works by producing an hypothesis and then conducting work to disprove it. Not by adopting a conclusion and then trawling for anything that might give some hope to believers.

    Homeopathy has been tested, very thoroughly, for many decades, and there is absolutely no evidence. Indeed, if anyone has any evidence at all, they can pick up $1 million from the James Randi Foundation but the offer ends in 2010 after a decade of invitations. All you have to do is provide the evidence. Amazingly, if you believe in homeopathy, no-one has yet claimed the prize. But there’s probably a much more mundane reason why it hasn’t been claims: there’s no evidence because it doesn’t work.

  • gajp

    Example, I give a remedy to a 18 month old baby who is in the middle of a severe croup attack in the middle of the night. The baby is gasping for breath, going blue and very distressed, its frightening for a partent. within 30 seconds of taking the remedy the baby is quiet and sleeping in my arms. Do I care that ‘science’ can’t find out how this works? of course I don’t, all I know is that something worked. I also know that it cured my own eczema, you could argue that as a placebo, but you can’t use that as an excuse with a baby in the throws of a croup attack. Go ahead with your campaign, good luck to you, but while more and more people are seeing that Homeopathy works yours is the voice that goes against reason. Remember the earth was flat, electricity and gunpowder were magic, and the sun revolved around the earth.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    gajp, your story is impressive but proves nothing.

    The baby’s reaction could have been due to any number of things, including co-incidence.

    Is there even a process, short of intravenous injection, by which any medication can take effect within 30 seconds? Not that I am aware of.

    Furthermore, if the “remedy” did in fact work, would there not be far more anecdotal evidence than there actually is?

    Your assertion that “more and more people are seeing that Homeopathy works” has nothing to back it up, whilst your follow on remark that the author “is the voice that goes against reason” can only be some kind of lame attempt at comedy.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Childhood croup attacks are often cited as some fantastic evidence that some alternative medicine procedure “worked”. The truth is that croup attacks sound worse than they are, that the symptoms often disappear in a matter of minutes anyway, that calming the child works just as well, and that any homeopathic remedy you use does absolutely nothing.

    You can check the symptoms and treatment for croup online very easily here.

    But the example is excellent – it shows just how a simple association of events (the child crying, and giving some homeopathic remedy) is seen as somehow showing cause. It doesn’t show anything of the kind.

    Perhaps the believer doesn’t care if science knows how it works but they should at least themselves care IF it works. It seems even that is too much to hope for when faced with believers.

  • Irene Wagner

    I thought smelling salts used to work that quickly, Christopher Rose.

    Vix Vaporub always makes me feel instantly happy when I smell it.

    That’s probably because it was what my parents anointed me with when they’d calmed me down and tucked me into bed after holding me over bathtub full of scalding water when I had croup. (More terrifying than the croup itself to me; I later learned as a parent that a sudden blast of cold air works just as well.)

    If homoeopathy calms the PARENTS down so they can calm the baby down, you might be doing more harm than good to the baby to discourage the use of homeopathy. And there are a lot of lonely people in the world who don’t have anyone to calm them down when they feel panicky or ill, or have eczsema or psoriasis (a troubled mind and troubled skin are VERY often related)…but there’s that bottle of homeopathic medicine just like mom used to use on the table…

    It’s a tough one to call, Bob Lloyd. I know there are some people who really get bilked by alt med. And there are others who are helped by nothing else. A quandary here. Maybe a little less ‘positivism’ all round would be advisable.

    The limbic system works, Bob Lloyd. There. There’s your science.

  • Irene Wagner

    PS I have never used homeopathy.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Hi Irene,

    Yes, you’re right, inhalation is fast too. As a non-smoker, it didn’t occur to me.

    Although it doesn’t help as an explanation of how a homeopathic medicine might work of course.

  • Kaviraj

    If there is nothing to the notion of a small dose of a poison to counterfeect the results of large doses then all Australia poison centers are quacks in the eyes of the honourable mr Boyd. For the antivenom used is invariably the same venom of the animal that has caused the probelm in the first place. Moreover, the idea of vaccination is based on the exact same principle so mr Boyd wants to have his cake and eat it too. If he is right all vaccines are quackery. Thus his argumant falls flat on its face and is spurious to boot. Mr. Boyd, what have you got to say to that?

  • Kaviraj

    Christopher, you wrote:

    “The baby’s reaction could have been due to any number of things, including co-incidence.”

    Now that is a real scientific answer is it not? “Could be coincidence,” wow you must have as many degrees as Mr Boyd. Which by itself says nothing and which are no qualifications in homoeopathy nor the qualification to pontificate on a subject you both clearly do not understand.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Kav, I’m not a scientist, so it wasn’t meant to be a scientific answer.

    Coincidence remains a possibility however, despite your mangling of language, logic and Mr Lloyd’s name.

  • Irene Wagner

    I dreamed a dream that woo was gone…

  • Irene Wagner

    Oh ,that was Boyle. Yeah I meant it as a conflation.

  • Irene Wagner

    #8—I never said I was proving homeopathy that way; I was merely pointing out that your remark did not disprove it. Taking medicine sublingually is another fast method of tranfer.

    But I don’t have time to argue for homeopathy, which I’ve never tried anyway. I just don’t think either side has any financial motivation to conduct blind trials etc. THEN there’s the matter of getting them peer reviewed so the results are taken seriously…

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    [The limbic system works, Bob Lloyd. There. There's your science.]

    The limbic system is very apposite since it is involved in emotions, expectations and anticipations, which are at the heart of the placebo response. Whenever a patient expects to receive help, the brain releases endorphins and other opioids, and that makes people feel better, children included.

    In the case of croup, even picking up the child and calming it down will have that same placebo effect. No mystery there at all, and no involvement of any homeopathic remedies.

    [If there is nothing to the notion of a small dose of a poison to counterfeect the results of large doses then all Australia poison centers are quacks in the eyes of the honourable mr Boyd. For the antivenom used is invariably the same venom of the animal that has caused the probelm in the first place.]

    No, this is a mistake. Antivenom is not the same as venom. The small amount of venom is used to get another animal (sheep, rabbit or horse) to get THEM to produce antibodies which are then extracted and administered to the victim of the snakebite. This is completely contrary to the principle involved in homeopathy. Administering more of the snake venom directly to the patient would make them worse.

    The difference between the homeopathic “small quantities” theory and vaccination is very important. The vaccination technique deactivates the venom first (by chemical treatment), to make it inactive, and then uses the animal’s sensitivity to the foreign body to get it to produce antibodies – the animal itself is not suffering from the poisoning. It is the antibodies which are then introduced into the patient that effect the cure, not expecting the body to somehow recover after being administered yet more of the venom.

    Kaviraj, there are no genuine qualifications in homeopathy because none of them are evidence-based. None of them are based on information gained from controlled, double-blind clinical trials. All there is is a theory, which has been disproved over and over. The believers just won’t accept the evidence. So having a qualification which is not interested in how the real world works, is a travesty.

    The other crucial point, is that you can pick up a pseudo-qualification in homeopathy by buying it. You don’t have to demonstrate any evidence of any clinical expertise at all.

  • kevin morris

    I wish you lot would get a life. Of course homoeopathy works. I have used it for years and it was central to my recovery from cancer when all conventional treatment could offer was palliation and a fairly unpleasant death.

    The thing that really angers me about campaigns like this is that conventional medicine does so poorly in treating the vast majority of illnesses whilst deaths from iatrogenic causes- ie doctor caused- are massively on the increase.

    A correspondent above mentions how homoeopathy helped in a childhood croup and a skeptic responds by saying that croup often looks far worse than it really is. I would define this as a totally head in the sand response. If we come up with examples of homoeopathy’s success, you tell they aren’t successes at all- shallow and frankly pathetic reasoning.

    When Jacques Benveniste came up with convincing research on the way by which homoeopathic potencies work,(repeated several times by the way and at several universities despite propaganda to the contrary) he was subjected to a campaign of unethical bullying that probably led to the shortening of his life.

    By all means carry on with this nonsenical tirade but in the meantime, I’ll carry on keeping well thanks to homoeopathic potencies. Thankfully, I won’t be on my own

    Kevin Morris (declared terminally ill by conventional medicine January 1999)

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    [The thing that really angers me about campaigns like this is that conventional medicine does so poorly in treating the vast majority of illnesses whilst deaths from iatrogenic causes- ie doctor caused- are massively on the increase.]

    Whatever the problems associated with clinical medicine, and there are lots, none of them support the contention that homeopathy works. You are right that big pharma makes a lot of mistakes, but drugs do provide treatment for very many conditions and without them the death toll from illnesses would be very much higher. Without homeopathy, nothing would be affected except the profits of those selling it.

    [When Jacques Benveniste came up with convincing research on the way by which homoeopathic potencies work,(repeated several times by the way and at several universities despite propaganda to the contrary) he was subjected to a campaign of unethical bullying that probably led to the shortening of his life.]

    Benaviste’s paper in 1988 attracted a lot of attention because when it was published in Nature, it appeared to provide evidence of water having a memory. It was investigated by Maddox, the then editor of Nature, along with a chemist, Walter Stewart, and James Randi, the magician. They observed the trials being repeated, with Elisabeth Davinas, Beneviste’s assistant, analysing the test tubes containing basophil blood cells.

    The interesting thing about her trial was that she already knew which ones were which, which had the homeopathic treatment and which did not. The trial was not double-blind, indicating that she could have biased the results.

    So the Nature team asked her to repeat the trial with double-blinding so she couldn’t tell in advance which was which. This time, and every time since that the trial has been repeated, the trial showed that homeopathy had no effect whatsoever. Apparently Beneviste’s colleagues burst into tears at the news. It was later revealed that Beneviste himself never did any of the trials himself – he left it to his trusty assistants to generate the positive results for him.

    It also turned out that Beneviste’s research had been funded by a French homeopathic company. Beneviste did not commit fraud, just very poor science.

    This is far from a nonsensical tirade, Kevin. It’s based on making sure the claims are substantiated. In the case of homeopathy, they’re not. I remind you, no-one has claimed the prize from the Randi Foundation so if homeopathy is so obviously working, why is that? The answer is that all of the evidence demonstrates that it doesn’t work.

    The belief in homeopathy is completely irrational and nonsensical.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    [A correspondent above mentions how homoeopathy helped in a childhood croup and a skeptic responds by saying that croup often looks far worse than it really is.]

    Kevin, you seemed to miss the bit where I also said “that the symptoms often disappear in a matter of minutes anyway, that calming the child works just as well”. That’s the important part. With or without any homeopathic or indeed any remedy, the child will get better.

    And it really is a fact that croup looks worse than it is.

    Cancer too, sometimes goes into remission, a characteristic that is undergoing intensive research to understand how and why. I am really glad that in your case, you were able to recover, but that in no way provides an evidentiary basis to support homeopathy. Presumably you were also swallowing all kinds of other things as well, any one of which has as much claim to success as homeopathic remedies. It’s the process of clinical trials that enables us to detect which, if any, remedy is working. Homeopathy keeps failing any and every trial, over and over again. In more than 100 years of looking, no-one has produced anything remotely approaching evidence. Why is that?

  • Priyank Chandra

    It is always hard to convince the believers otherwise.

    Let me give add another tenet to homoeopathic medicine – If you observe it then it will not work. There is some quantum mechanics phenomena which vaguely sounds like this.

    Thus it impossible for anyone to conduct any trials to test this medicine. And hence proved.

    Anyway, for the sake of science, I do hope this campaign works.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    [Let me give add another tenet to homoeopathic medicine - If you observe it then it will not work. There is some quantum mechanics phenomena which vaguely sounds like this.]
    That’s a popular misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. QM simply says that as you increase the accuracy of measuring the momentum, you lose the resolution on the position. It doesn’t at all say that when you observe it, it doesn’t work. Quite the contrary, it’s precisely because it still works that the quantum indeterminacy is seen at all.

  • Priyank Chandra

    Bob: I was just attempting to make up some gibberish which might assist the pro-homoeopathic brigade.

    I fully understand Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is only about a tradeoff between position and momentum.

    I just couldn’t resist getting QM in the picture after reading the bullshit explanations that many homoeopathic experts give.

    Apologies if I have insulted QM with that vague statement. I do love physics.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Priyank, you’ve judged their approach to explanations perfectly :)

    I’ve come across crazy interpretations of QM in so-called explanations of Reiki, crystal healing, magnet therapy, acupuncture, and of course the water treatment, homeopathy. They seem to think that the uncertainty principle means the same thing as anything I say is true :)

    If only they had actually listened when they were in school!

  • James Pannozzi

    One cannot help but notice that the pseudo scientific sceptics keep using the words “woo”, “crazy”, “impossible” etc.. Those are fairly UNSCIENTIFIC assessments.

    Now HERE is what I find totally “crazy” – that the so called “scientific” sceptics can somehow ignore two centuries worth of observations, clinical reports and case studies by the some of the finest medical minds of their era, including the present, people who are fully qualified MD’s and other health professionals, that clearly show Homeopathy efficacy well above placebo again and again, from babies to centenarians.

    In order for the sceptics to be correct, we would have to assume the greatest case of medical self delusion across continents and time in the history of science, assume that MD’s don’t know a placebo cure from a real one, and then accept a piece of statistical slop called the Shang analysis, based on a grand total of 8 (EIGHT!!) studies as “proof” that Homeopathy is not real.

    The only “woo” in this entire situation is the WOOd inside the sceptics’ heads that causes them to foist that kind of irrational and unscientific knee jerk response in a vain attempt to somehow convince us that alternative medicine, and Homeopathy in particular, is not real. The sceptics repeat this nonsense over and over, and the “message” is picked up and repeated by junk journalists, third rate book authors and blog authors who keep mentioning “science” in between their use of misrepresentation, innuendo, and denunciations of Homeopathy.

    Meanwhile, real scientists keep showing that high dilutions with all the molecules of the stimulant diluted away are STILL able to cause biological effects as though the missing molecules were still present (Ennis, Inflammation Research, vol 53, p181) and keep refining and repeating these experiment which are promptly ignored or dismissed by the “scientific” sceptics – who would rather resort to ridicule than face the reality AND the implications of the Homeopathic curative effect. These scientific studies have NOT been discredited, they HAVE been repeated, successfully, even with refined controls and the BBC most certainly did NOT disprove anything about Ennis’ experiment in their documentary which they later privately admitted to her did NOT follow the protocols she established and DID add Ammonium chloride which killed the cells to be tested thus invalidating their TV experiment from the outset.

    For an excellent overview of recent Homeopathy research, google for Dr. Iris Bell’s presentation at a debate between Homeopathy researchers and sceptics at the Univ. of Connecticut.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    James, you make some interesting points but you are factually incorrect on some.

    [real scientists keep showing that high dilutions with all the molecules of the stimulant diluted away are STILL able to cause biological effects as though the missing molecules were still present (Ennis, Inflammation Research, vol 53, p181)]

    [BBC most certainly did NOT disprove anything about Ennis' experiment in their documentary ]

    Ennis herself was skeptical about her own results and they have never been confirmed by controlled, double-blind trials. All attempts have shown demonstrated bias. Ennis’ results were originally submitted as part of the James Randi Challenge but failed to meet the standards required. No-one has ever been able to reproduce those results under controlled conditions.

    The BBC failed to reproduce the results, just like everyone else has failed to reproduce the results.

    [the so called "scientific" sceptics can somehow ignore two centuries worth of observations, clinical reports and case studies by the some of the finest medical minds of their era, including the present, people who are fully qualified MD's and other health professionals, that clearly show Homeopathy efficacy well above placebo again and again, from babies to centenarians.]

    Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence is not enough. Far from ignoring these accounts, they have been taken very seriously by the finest medical minds, and tested. And that’s the problem. The evidence does not support the claim that homeopathy has an effect.

    Just because a large number of people believe that something works, that is no guarantee that it does work. In the nineteenth century, people believed that disease was carried by a miasma. It wasn’t. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was completely believed by the finest medical minds that bleeding patients with a fever would cure them. It killed them more often than not.

    The uncomfortable fact is that there is no evidence that homeopathy works. Ennis failed the Randi challenge, and didn’t expect her results to pass anyway.

    [a piece of statistical slop called the Shang analysis, based on a grand total of 8 (EIGHT!!) studies as "proof" that Homeopathy is not real.]

    You are right that he considered only eight trials. He was ruthless in weeding out those vast numbers of trials that were conducted by homeopathic companies where they were not controlled, not double-blinded, based only on anecdote, and had unacceptably poor methodology and procedure. It is an indictment of the appallingly sloppy attitude to evidence shown by these so-called trials, that only eight remained of sufficient quality to be considered “scientific”. Had there been more research conducted to even a reasonable standard, more could have been included in the study. But he didn’t cherry-pick the trials – he set out his criteria before any trials had been put forward, but there were depressingly few of any quality. Nevertheless, the trials considered were statistically significant and the conclusions were consistent with the Cochrane Collaboration who studied 5000 patients in sixteen trials. There is a detailed analysis of Shang’s work and conclusions in Singh & Ernst’s book.

    The use of words like “Woo”, “crazy” and “impossible”, and not scientific assessments – that’s been done with the controlled, double-blind trials in abundance. But based on the very clear evidence that homeopathy doesn’t work, the use of critical words like “woo”, “crazy” and “impossible”, is entirely justified.

    If homeopaths could come up with any credible evidence at all, the medical world would be astonished and delighted – it would herald a revolution in medical care. It hasn’t happened in over 100 years, and when homeopaths can’t use their biased anecdotal accounts, the cupboard is bare. No evidence. Homeopaths should stop making ridiculous claims of cures unless and until they can produce credible evidence that stands up to scrutiny. If they don’t like the criticism, they should get to work and produce credible clinical trials and generate some reproducible, controlled, results.

    That’s by far the best way to silence criticism and it’s the way clinical researchers do it. Homeopathy is a cult scam, deluding large numbers of people who don’t understand basic science, and making fortunes for those who exploit the fact. It’s a shameful business and those homeopaths who don’t like such descriptions should get to work on showing why such a judgement isn’t fair. What makes their business different from fraud?

  • James Pannozzi

    Bob you’re comments are interesting but the conclusions are based on assumptions and factual error.

    Here, let’s start with THIS:

    “The BBC failed to reproduce the results, just like everyone else has failed to reproduce the results.”

    There has been a plethora of misinformation about Ennis’ experiment and the fact that the BBC documentary was seen by millions, and that the announcer stated in the documentary that the results of their “repetition” (sic) of her experiment was negative. Likewise, to no surprise, wikipedia, in their entry on Ennis, incorrectly repeats this falsehood.

    The facts are that Ennis was curious about the test protocol used in the BBC version of her experiment and spent some weeks attempting to contact them. Once she did, she learned that their experimenter, Wayne Turnbull, had significantly altered the test protocol by adding Ammonium Chloride … AND he failed to tell the monitor of the experiment, a chap from the Royal Society, about the change. This alone, invalidates the BBC experiment because that chemical KILLS the basophil cells that were under test, thus ruining their experiment. Apparently once informed of this, the producers of the documentary sheepishly admitted that they had never intended to do an exact replication of her experiment, despite what the announcer said.

    Google for “Wayne Turbull” and “Ennis” and you should easily find article from several sites on the whole story.

    Did you say “everyone” else failed to reproduce her results”??? Would you like to research that in google a little or else I can give you the links. Her results were and continue to be reproduced, even with improved controls, as recently as 2008 and 2009. The results are the same, the biologic effects are produced as though the missing molecules were still present.

    And PLEASE don’t ever quote the “million dollar challenge” as evidence of anything more than a clever publicity stunt. Search for Greek Homeopath George Vitoulkas’ report on his 5 year attempt to set up an experiment with Randi and how the “negotiations” went nowhere, slowly.

    Now, one other point, a fundamental one, regarding your request for double blinded tests.
    They are indeed important but NOT quite as important as the lab scientists make them out to be. Be advised that standard, not alternative medicine, is NOT based entirely on such tests but rather, in the final analysis, on the skill and expertise of their MD’s, surgeons, and other professionals and their clinical reports, case histories and journal articles – it is exactly the same with Homeopathy, some of whose journals have a continuity of over a century.

    Up until a few decades ago, the mechanism of action of aspirin was unknown and it took a Nobel prize winning discovery to reveal it. Were the standard medical doctors who prescribed aspirin for 70 or 80 years before the mechanism became known, quacks? I don’t think so. NEITHER are the Homeopaths, even while the exact mechanism of the Homeopathic curative effect remains unknown.

    You’re position, then, is resting on a foundation of incorrect assumptions, invalidations of Ennis’ experiment that never happened, refusal to admit research that might, JUST might, confirm Homeopathy and the repetition of other obvious logically inconsistent statements or misrepresentations.

    But the attempt to characterize modern standard medicine as “evidence” based, as though it were some sort of mathematical science deduced from obvious lab tests, is backfiring. People are starting to ask for the real statistics and the real evidence and when they do that they discover that the touted benefits of modern medical science, though significant, are not the be all and end all that they were made out to be, particularly in chronic long term diseases like cancer. Likewise, when people start investigating and using alternative medicine rather than letting the pontificating dicta of the lab scientists do their thinking for them, they discover that alternative medicine can and does often provide improvements, even cures, superiour to, faster than and often at a far cheaper cost than the standard approach, for some conditions, and WITHOUT any of the “side” effects.

    Read some books by real Homeopaths, see that video I suggested by Dr. Iris Bell MD Phd,
    and try seeing the other side of the argument instead of blindly criticizing, dismissing and condemning Homeopathy based on non-existent repetitions of an experiment in a TV documentary and your certainty that a high dilution with all the molecules of the stimulant diluted away cannot possibly have a biological effect.

    And put aside, for a moment your claims about double blinded research and Homeopathy (ignoring for example, an entry even in the Cochrane database showing efficacy of Homeopathy in lessening the severity of the flu, though it had no effect on prevention) and take a look at what real MD’s have to say who use it on REAL patients, who have REAL illnesses and diseases.

    Finally you make no reference to the point regarding the fact that if you are correct in your preremptory dismissal of Homeopathy, then the observations, case studies, journal articles and combined experience of THOUSANDS of professional MD’s and other health professionals, as well as the satisfied praise and thanks of cured patients, is somehow an illusion caused by “placebo” effect, a known phenomena for which NO explanation exists, or else the greatest mass delusion in the history of science – something I find totally absurd. In the end, until real scientists have given us the conclusions of real research, we have nothing more than opinions.

    Attempt to re-examine your premises and regain some modicum of objectivity and please don’t tell us that lab science, which insisted for decades that no bacterial cause of pyloric ulcers was possible because of the acidic environment in the stomach, though important, somehow trumps every other form of human knowledge and discovery.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Again some interesting points James but again you are missing some important aspects.

    It is irrelevant whether or not the BBC reproduced Ennis’ results. They have not been reproduced under controlled conditions by anyone and that’s a crucial weakness. The American channel ABC also tried to reproduce the results and again came up negative. Ennis was trying to reproduce Benaviste’s results and despite her claims, no-one can repeat them. If that really is the case, and no-one has been able to do so under controlled conditions, then either she had some flaw in the experiment, or the phenomenon is so rare as to be unavailable for experimental investigation. If the latter is the case, it can’t form the basis of any treatment. The former is still by far the most rational interpretation of the data.

    Of course double-blind, controlled, randomised trials are not the only evidentiary basis for clinical medicine but they are by far the most important in assessing causal claims. In the case of aspirin, it could be shown to work in clinical trials before an explanatory mechanism had been identified. But the fact is that its efficacy could be demonstrated using the clinical trials mechanism. Homeopathy, despite being admirably suited to testing by double-blind clinical trials, cannot do this and it’s a crucial difference. Aspirin, even in the absence of an explanatory mechanism, can be shown to be effective. In the case of the homeopaths, they are declaring a proposed mechanism in the absence of the evidence of efficacy.

    This of course is the wrong way round: first you need to demonstrate the real effect, then you find the explanation based on the evidence. You don’t declare a mechanism which is unevidenced, then simply state that you are effecting a cure. Nor, as I’m sure you realise, depend on positive anecdotes from a self-selecting group of customers who have just spent money buying the “cure”.

    [an entry even in the Cochrane database showing efficacy of Homeopathy in lessening the severity of the flu]
    The Cochrane Collaboration actually listed the papers, one of which claimed efficacy in reducing symptoms. But it concluded that homeopathy was nothing more than placebo. In other words, the paper didn’t prove what it claimed.

    [somehow an illusion caused by "placebo" effect, a known phenomena for which NO explanation exists]
    Again, that simply isn’t true. It is well-known how the placebo effect works, by the release of endorphins and other opioids in the brain as a consequence of the expectation and anticipation reaction. It’s the basis of empathy as well. It can be produced in the lab on demand. I have written elsewhere about it.

    It remains the case that despite the blustering and complaints about bias, homeopathy fails to offer evidence which stands up to scientific scrutiny. Clinical science offers the best unbiased test available, overcoming the bias inherent in anecdotal accounts, and letting the evidence speak for itself. Homeopathy, based on nonsense theory, consistently fails to show any supporting evidence.

  • http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Homeopathy Puja

    Real (homeopathic) medicine cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    [Real (homeopathic) medicine cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails]

    It would be really nice if this could be demonstrated, or even if there was any evidence that homeopathy did anything at all. Unfortunately it can’t be shown to affect anything at all, and despite some people saying it works, the evidence says otherwise.

    One interesting question is how would you tell the difference between fake and genuine homeopathy. You couldn’t tell by the results because both would are identical.

    Incidentally, the initials CAM usually stand for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The word “allopathic” was coined by homeopaths as an insult word meaning “any kind of medicine that doesn’t accept homeopathy”. It doesn’t have any other meaning.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/Dr.NancyMalik Dr. Nancy Malik

    Evidence-based modern homeopathy is the scientific revolution (fastest growing medicine in the world) in the 21st century

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    [Evidence-based modern homeopathy]
    Bit of an oxymoron, but hey, let’s see the evidence. A controlled, double-blind, randomised trial with a reasonable sample size should do it. Ah, but that’s been done lots of time and… no evidence at all!

    An assertion that it works is no substitute for the evidence that it works. People used to believe in witchcraft and magic. Homeopathy is just a modern variant. If it worked, we’d be calling it medicine not some kind of alternative.

  • http://osuki.net Leo

    Not to bad to use homeopathic medicine. Sometimes it’s better than Conventional Allopathic Medicine failure

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Leo:
    Surely it would only be better than a failure if it worked – and it doesn’t! If conventional medicine fails, it’s important to understand why and find something that does work. Homeopathy is just saying the other guy didn’t work so try something for which there is no evidence?

    Why not simply stand on one foot and whistle? There’s just as much evidence of efficacy?

  • http://delibernation.com Silas Kain

    Is homeopathy like gay medicine? The Conservatives won’t go for that. How about heteropathy?

  • http://knol.google.com/k/dr-nancy-malik-bhms/homeopathy-explained/pocy7w49ru14/1 Dr. Nancy Malik

    130+ studies in support of homeopathy medicine published in 45+ peer-reviewed international journals

    Medicines for specific disease conditions, Ultra-molecular dilutions, Structure & Memory of Water, Animal Studies, Plant Studies

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    Dr Malik:

    I am surprised by the comments on the link against each of these papers. I have checked around ten of the links and in each case the conclusions do not support the claims made on the page of the links.

    The papers published in the Lancet even make clear that such conclusions can’t be drawn:

    “At the moment the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias. This indicates that there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homoeopathy, but only by means of well performed trials. ”

    Even that claim that it is legitimate to look for evidence when it has been shown there is none, is questionable.

    One link to a Lancet paper makes the claim that the paper found it significantly more effective than placebo. What it actually said was: “However, we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition.” In which case, how can it be claimed to be more effective? If there is no evidence of efficacy, it cannot be judged to be better than placebo.

    In the Lancet 1996 paper reference, there is no statement of methodology, no evidence of blinding nor real control. So there is no way of drawing any conclusions about the trial. You can’t claim anything at all with any confidence. The researchers themselves said: “Is the reproducibility of evidence in favour of homoeopathy proof of its activity or proof of the clinical trial’s capacity to produce false-positive results?” Precisely, the trial is so poor you can’t tell. They themselves have acknowledged that such a weak methodology can’t identify false results. What kind of trial is that?

    The Ear, Nose and Throat paper reports a self-selecting group of homeopathic patients with no controls, no double blinding and no results except self-description of perceived symptoms. The conclusion of the paper itself says: “The extent to which the observed effects are due to the life-style regulation and placebo or context effects associated with the treatment needs clarification in future explanatory studies.” Again this isn’t any evidence of efficacy.

    Perhaps your intention in providing this rather biased link was to demonstrate that some people have conducted what they consider to be trials, but the actual papers themselves show that the evidence isn’t there. The page hosting the links makes unfounded claims which the cited papers themselves do not support. I would say that is pretty dishonest, wouldn’t you?

    There are better sources of clinical studies on homeopathy which adhere to high methodological standards. One such is the Cochrane Collaboration and an example, in the case of homeopathy and it can be found here.

    You can use the Cochrane Collaboration library of reviews to check on the quality of the trials and the validity of their conclusions. The link you have provided is an excellent source for situations when supporters of homeopathy misrepresent the work that has been done and make spurious claims unsupported by their own references.

    One interesting observation is that where researchers claim there is no evidence, they frequently argue that therefore more research is needed, as if looking for something that is not there somehow validates the suggestion that there is something there. In science, you start with the evidenced phenomenon before trying to theorise about mechanisms of action. No-one has yet been able to demonstrate in the case of homeopathy that there is anything there to investigate.

  • D Johson

    Sounds like the docs in the UK are afraid of the potential of lost business. Homeopathy and fix the problem, or an anuity in the form of writing Prozac prescriptions.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    It’s common for people to present an either-or, either homeopathy and nonsense therapies OR big pharma. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort. Big Pharma has a lot to answer for, especially in the prescription of psychoactive pharmaceuticals – it’s worth reading Peter Breggin’s work on that. But Big Pharma is not the same thing as clinical medicine, although the drug companies are very greedy for profits and this often corrupts medical practice.

    You have to assess medical treatments on the basis of the evidence of efficacy. And just as there is zero evidence for homeopathy so we should reject it, there is also a paucity of evidence in support of drugs like Prozac – in fact, according to Breggin, there’s enough evidence to get it banned. It’s the corrupting commercial interests of the drug companies that pushes doctors into prescribing it so those corrupting business strategies should be the target, not the clinical science. For example, the ghost-writing of favourable scientific papers, the selective presentation of trials data, the sponsorship and financing of academic institutions, these are the corrupting influences that deserve attention.

    The argument about either-or, either homeopathy or big pharma is a complete red herring. You have to apply the same reasoning to both. And that means questioning the evidence. Drug companies, just like alt-med peddlars, have a vested interest in presenting partial or even false evidence in a favourable light – that vested interest is the profits they can make.

    I suspect that where patients repeatedly present with trivial and intractable problems (non-specific minor gut disorders, stress-related skin complaints, attention-seeking, etc), with the best will in the world, doctors want to shift them off their list and sending them to a Woo merchant will allow them to pay for the attention they want. It won’t affect their condition but it will make them feel better and clear some space for other patients.

    Those doctors who resist doing this don’t want to waste the patient’s time and fill their patients’ heads with nonsense. It’s understandable that many doctors give in under the pressure from commercial interests to over-prescribe but that’s a consequence of the profit base of the drug industry. It isn’t in any way an argument in favour of nonsense Woo therapies.

  • http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article Dr. Nancy Malik

    Evidence-based modern homeopathy is the scientific revolution

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    Evidence-based modern homeopathy

    An early entry for Oxymoron of the Day.