Apr 022014

This page in a nutshell:

Q: How does super-Avogadro dilutions in Homeopathy work?

A: It doesn’t.

I’m told that:

It has been told to you innumerable times how does super-Avogadro dilutions in Homeopathy work? http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/how-homeopathy-works/

Not reliably told, of course – the source is Not-A-Doctor Nancy Malik, of the oxymoronically titled moronic blog “science based homeopathy”. Nancy is a copy-paste comment spammer and serial reality denier. It is almost cruel to mock her facile deluded arguments. But only almost.

When you see a banner like this, you know you’re in for a feast of fatuous fallacious flapdoodle:


This site may be the only time that the word homeopathy has been used together with scientific, modern and evidence based, other than to point out that it is none of these things.

The page is written aping the style of a scientific paper, albeit rather badly. You can even click a Cite button and have it copy this to your clipboard:

Malik Nancy, Dr. Nancy Malik. How does super-Avogadro dilutions in Homeopathy work?: Scientific plausible mechanism of biological action and pathways of ‘potentised high dilutions’ [Internet]. Version 25. Science-based Homeopathy. 2014 Feb 16

Sorry, Nancy, it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat the claim to be a doctor, or that your arguments are scientifically plausible, these remains delusions not facts.

How ‘super-avogadro dilutions’ in homeopathy stimulate the biological activity and restore the homeostatic mechanism?

They don’t. It’s just as well homeopaths can’t manipulate the immune system, given the serious nature of many autoimmune diseases and homeopaths’ complete lack of any understanding of human physiology. Continue reading »

Apr 022014

After a long and tortuous journey through the courts, the story of Westminster Trading Standards v. Errol Denton is finally over. Denton was reported to Westminster by a number of individuals (including me) and information was provided by @JoBrodie, @_JosephineJones and myself, among others.

Denton’s apoplectic response is already recorded here: petitions, complaints to employers and the police, and finally being warned off for harassment by the police. Several court dates came and went. He applied for extensions to allow him to prepare his case, and eventually appeared in December representing himself, when he used a freeman on the land defence, a form of legally vexatious argument that is promoted by paranoid delusional crackpots despite the fact that it is never known to have worked, ever, in any court, in any country. In fact it has resulted in the litigant being sanctioned for contempt of court.

On 20 March Denton’s case was finally heard, in absentia. It’s probably fair to say that he did his case more good by not turning up than he would have done by being there. He was charged under nine counts of the Cancer Act 1939, an act denigrated by quacks as archaic but which charlatans like Denton prove to be as necessary today as it ever was. The Telegraph published the story of a victim, pronounced by Denton to have cancer based on his bogus live blood tests, and told that he could cure her with his bogus alkaline diet. This narrative of the victim of quackery is not often played in a media that loves the human interest story. It’s the flipside to the promotion of believers in Stanislaw Burzynski and other cancer “gurus”. More of this sort of thing, please.

If there’s one thing I could have told Error Denton that might have saved him some time and effort, it’s this: don’t take the piss out of the courts. Following his inevitable conviction, he was given the maximum fine on each of the nine counts, a total of £9,000 plus a bill for costs and other charges in excess of £10,000. It’s the largest fine I can find under the Cancer Act in recent years, but still a trifling sum when you consider the horror of what he was doing.

It remains to be seen whether his victims will pursue a civil case – which could be vastly more expensive for him.

It also remains to be seen whether he will return to his practice at 1 Harley Street, whether the landlords will evict him for trashing the reputation of their prestigious address, and whether he will continue to practice his quackery in the UK, presumably in continued defiance of advertising rules. One thing’s for sure: Trading Standards are watching him.

I became involved with Errol Denton primarily because he was making cowardly, vile and baseless attacks against my friends. I am proud to call Jo and Laura (aka Josephine) my friends, and proud to have been able to help them, and Westminster TS, bring this quack to justice.

Feb 052014

A certain teapot has just eviscerated the whackloons at Freedom4Health (whose batshit crazy prose is almost certainly the work of William Alderson and his merry band of delusional homeopathists).

But there is so much comedy gold in such a small webshite that I feel another potshot is merited, especially since so few articles by reality denialist cretins actually permit of a one word rebuttal.

What’s wrong with the ASA

Nothing. Thanks for asking.

Oh, it was rhetorical. Carry on then, if you must.

    1.    The ASA is acting beyond its remit and effectively attempting to act as a regulator of what constitutes medical practice.

False. They are ruling on the claims you make, which fall squarely within their remit. They don’t cover doctors, but you’re not doctors, you are medically unqualified quacks selling fake medicines with claims to cure real disease. In a just world you would be prosecuted for fraud and practising medicine without a license. You get off very lightly.

2.    The ASA is not basing its decisions on “the available scientific knowledge” (CAP Code 12.1), or even on the dominant paradigm of evidence based medicine (EBM).

False. They are basing their conclusions on the best scientific evidence – to summarise:

  • There is no reason to suppose homeopathy should work
  • There is no way it can work
  • There is no proof it does work

We understand you are in denial about this. the problem is your end. We’ve seen your version of the “best available evidence” – it includes fraudulently claiming that a “case study in research misconduct” is an official Health Technology Assessment by the Swiss Government. You wouldn’t know a fact if it bit you on the arse, which is in fact pretty much what has happened here.

And please spare us your Kuhnian special pleading. EBM is not a “paradigm”, it’s a way of improving the practise of medicine.

3.    The ASA is adopting the radical view that only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are ‘objective’ and have validity, and that patients’ reports on their own health are ‘subjective’ and invalid, even when backed by other evidence. This position is not only unscientific but is extremely hazardous to the health of patients. 85% of the information required for diagnosis comes from what the patient says. In addition, about 50% of RCTs of medicine as a whole are inconclusive. The MHRA ‘yellow card scheme’ exists precisely because ‘objective’ trial results are not reliable guides to the reality of clinical practice.

False. The ASA is adopting the entirely reasonable approach that if you want to make extravagant claims to cure disease, then you have to prove them to the same standard that anyone selling an actual medicine would have to (and bear in mind that if homeopathy was medicine it would be illegal to advertise to consumers anyway).

The MHRA yellow card scheme exists because any medicine that has an effect, can have a side-effect. Homeopathy is exempt because in the “potencies” normally used it has no effect, side or otherwise.

4.    The ASA is refusing to permit publication of evidence of effectiveness in clinical practice, even when the evidence is gathered by national health services from thousands or millions of people, and even when nature of the evidence is clearly identified.

False. They permit the use of credible evidence. You have none. The problem is your end.

5.    The ASA has admitted that it does not have the competence to assess evidence relating to holistic/natural/integrative medical practice.

Red herring. This only became an issue because you tried to snow them with bollocks like the “Swizz report”; they therefore retained an expert, who saw right through you. Sucks to be you.

6.    When the ASA does employ the services of ‘experts’, their qualifications, career path and financial interests have previously been almost entirely allied to conventional medical pharmacology, with no evidence of any training or qualifications relating to the subject therapy.

Red herring. Nobody advertising homeopathy is free of a much more serious conflict of interest. Your entire livelihood depends on asserting the legitimacy of something that lacks any plausible basis in reality.

7.    Faced by evidence which contradicts its arguments, the ASA has redrafted the arguments, ignored the evidence, or even redrafted the complaint(!) in order to retain the same conclusion. One complaint was radically redrafted after seven months of correspondence, despite the fact that the ASA requires that “Complaints must be made within three months of the marketing communication’s appearance”.

False. The ASA were merely unswayed by your Gish gallop. Sucks to be you.

8.    The ASA makes claims without producing any evidence to support them, and then bases its conclusions on such unsupported claims.

False. That’s homeopaths you’re thinking of.

9.    The ASA uses slanted language. The investigation team consistently slants its presentation of marketers’ cases negatively by stating that they ‘believe’ that their evidence supports their statements, and ‘believe’ their conclusions to be true. On the other hand, the investigation team positively slants its own opinions by ‘considering’ its own statements to be the case, even when these are opinions unsupported by any evidence, and by ‘concluding’ from these opinions as though they were based on sound evidence.

False. The ASA uses reality-based descriptions in plain language. Not blunt language (they don’t actually come right out and say you’re a bunch of weasels) but the language used is accurate and fair.

10.    The ASA investigation team presents the ‘prosecution’ case to the ASA Council; the investigation team has complete control over the presentation of the ‘defence’ case; and the investigation team also recommends the judgement. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to justice, especially in the context of the other issues outlined above.

Red herring. This is not a quasi-judicial process. The council exists to oversee the work of the ASA staff, the staff do their job, the Council checks their working. That siad, I don’t think you’d do any better with the council: you only seem to get any traction when you can leverage an insider who shares your delusions, such as David Tredinnick (Holland & Barrett, Con).

11.    The ASA intimidates advertisers, who are mainly self-employed therapists, with language that makes the ASA sound like a government agency, when in fact they are a private limited company created by the advertising industry.

False. The ASA mainly rules against large faceless companies. If you want to put yourself in the firing line by making quack claims, don’t expect to be given special treatment because you profit personally and individually from the quack claims.

Ham On Nye

 Science  Comments Off
Feb 052014

The much anticipated “Ham On Nye” debate is over. According to science fans, Nye won. According to creationists, Ham won. This was entirely predictable in advance, barring a really stupid mistake by one of two highly experienced public communicators.

Seriously, the chances of a Babel fish moment were slim to none: if Ham was of a mind to be persuaded by evidence, he would have changed his mind years ago.

However, there is fun to be had in mocking the ridiculous creationist “slam dunks” that have been aimed Nye’s way. Here’s a set of them.

Q: Bill Nye: Are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

A: Hell yes. Bill Nye, The Science Guy is the most widely recognised science communicator in the US since Carl Sagan. He makes science fun. How is that not positive?

Q: Are you scared of a divine creator?

A: This is an asinine question. If Nye does believe in a divine creator, then he’s clearly not scared, and if he doesn’t, then there’s nothing he would be scared of. Science is not intimidated by the idea of God. Spirituality may be a guiding force for scientific inquiry (as with Jesuit astronomers) or a personal belief that does not intrude into objective inquiry. Science and religion are only mutually antagonistic when religion claims as fact, things that science says clearly are not true, like the biblical creation myth. It’s not just scientists who don’t believe in a young earth and special creation: many Christians don’t either, and the Catholic Church’s doctrinal position explicitly does not endorse young earth creationism.

Q: Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature (i.e. trees created with rings, Adam created as an adult)?

A: Yes, completely illogical. Anybody who presents these as logical ideas rather than religious beliefs is an idiot. What would be logical about asserting that although every tree ring we have ever seen can be shown to be the product of a year in the tree’s life, these ones going beyond an arbitrary date, were necessarily created thus?

Q: Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?

A: No. This is a point refuted a thousand times. The second law would refute evolution only if the earth and every individual creature on it were closed systems. They aren’t. Order can increase over time because of the input of energy, in large quantities, thanks to the immense fusion reactor that sits a little under 150,000km away.

Q: How do you explain a sunset if their [soc] is no God?

A: If only there were a scientific explanation of the physics of sunsets! As Carl Sagan said, “It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.”

Q: If the big bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?

A: They don’t. In fact the laws of thermodynamics are integral to our understanding of the big bang: the entire history of time is one of increasing entropy.

Q: What about noetics?

A: Noetics is a branch of metaphysical philosophy. It is not especially concerned with reality. The suborning of the term by new age hippy dippy consciousness writers like Lynne McTaggart damages your point rather than making it.

Q: Where do you derive objective meaning in life?

A: Why must there be objective meaning in life? That’s entirely arbitrary.

Q: If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?

A: Short answer: Probably, yes. Long answer: Evolution is a process of chance mutations which persist when they have fitness advantages. It does not actually address the question of origins of life, only of development and speciation, and the conditions of primordial earth are rather difficult to replicate experimentally, but it seems likely that life on Earth evolved from a single-celled organism about 3.5 billion years ago, and that this was in turn the result of combinations of proteins combining randomly.

Q: I believe in the big bang theory: God said it, and BANG, it happened!

A: And others believe that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe after drinking heavily. This tells us about people’s beliefs, but not about what actually happened.

Q: Why do evolutionists / secularists / humanists / non-God-believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

A: The Flying Spaghetti Monster is A JOKE! Sheesh, you people are stupid. To clarify further: there is no such ting as an “evolutionist” (evolution is a conclusion form evidence, not a belief system), secular humanists usually believe in evolution but many people who believe in evolution are also religious, and I have never encountered any secularist or scientist who sincerely believes in intelligent design form any source.

Q: There is no in-between. The only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “official proof”

A: Rubbish. The timeline of human evolution embodies an immense amount of data (fossil record and DNA especially) supporting the evolution of h. sapiens from earlier hominds, and even branch species that became extinct. We have evidence of interbreeding with h. neanderthalensis,  which is now extinct, we have transitional fossils at multiple stages of evolution.

Q: Does metamorphosis help support evolution?

A: Evolution plausibly explains the development of metamorphosis, not the other way round, but this is like asking if helium balloons refute gravity. Metamorphosis is an interesting case for study, but does not refute evolution or even call it into question, we simply don’t have all the data yet, because it evolved a very long time ago in creatures that are not readily preserved as fossils.

Q: If evolution is a theory (like creationism or the bible), why is it taught as fact?

A: Evolution is not a theory like creationism or the bible, it is a scientific theory, which has a different meaning. A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation. Theories such as creationism or the bible are instead rhetorical theories, they are rationalisations or accounts of belief, they are not conclusions from experiment, though in some cases pseudoscientific experiments may be made to try to “prove” them.

Q: Because science by definition is a “theory” – not testable, observable nor repeatable, why do you object to intelligent design being taught in school?

A: If incontrovertible evidence arrived tomorrow that life on earth is driven by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, scientists would immediately begin teaching that. Creationists would not, because while science adapts to new facts, religion is primarily concerned with its core beliefs. If a fact is not consistent with belief, the fact is denied. That is the entire problem. Children should be taught that fact is more important than belief, because in the end however firmly you believe that angels will catch you, throwing yourself off a building will end up with you hitting the floor hard.  Science is a process, not a theory. Evolution is a theory,  and as new facts emerge the theory is confirmed or adjusted. That is what science does. Creationism does not self-correct: it is religious in conception, has no origin outside fundamentalist religion, and is based on asserting the literal truth of a set of doctrines which are not even internally consistent.

Q: What mechanism has science found that evidences an increase in genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

A: The mechanism is random mutation and natural selection. The evolution of different, in some case much more complex, beaks in finches on the Galapagos islands was one of the things that famously tipped Darwin off to evolution by natural selection. The mutation is random, and may increase complexity; natural selection preserves the mutation or not.

Q: What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?

A: Why is a purpose necessary? Buddhists don’t believe in salvation, they don’t seem to have a problem.

Q: Why have we found only 1 Lucy when we have found more than 1 of everything else?

A: There are two errors in this question. The first is the error of believing that Lucy is the uniquely necessary ancestor species, rather than (as is actually the case) just one of many different transitional forms in the development of h. sapiens; the other is the idea that Lucy is the only species for which only one fossilised example exists. In fact, there are several fossil species which have been identified as separate species from one partial skeleton.

Q: Can you believe in the “big bang” without faith?

A: The “big bang” is not a belief, it’s an understanding based on rigorous mathematics and vast volumes of scientific data. It is not necessary to believe in it any more than it’s necessary to believe that 2+2=4.

Q: How can you look at the world and not believe someone thought of / created it? It’s amazing!

A: Perfectly easily. But at what point does that break down for you? Do you believe botulism was created? Typhoid? Ebola? What about the many terrible features of the human body? The human back is atrociously conceived for erect posture. Only an idiot would design this, but it is identical in form to the spine of an ape. To paraphrase Randi, if God created the earth like this, he did it the hard way (and got a lot of it wrong).

Q: Relating to the big bang theory: where did the exploding star come form?

A: It wasn’t a star, it was a singularity, and we cannot know because time (as defined by our frame of reference) does not go back beyond the big bang. This is both an eternal mystery and a complete irrelevance.  It is not necessary to explain the first millisecond in order for our painstakingly assembled scientific understanding of every subsequent millisecond to be correct.

Q: If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

A: You really don’t understand this do you? We evolved from a common ancestor with apes. That common ancestor is, to the best of our knowledge, extinct. As with a branch in a road, the existence of one branch does not preclude the viability of the other. A population subject to an evolutionary pressure may mutate in more than one way, and these mutations might survive by more than one mechanism (faster breeding or migration, for example). The tree of life has many branches and we are not on exactly the same branch as monkeys.

And now a bonus question:

Q: If creationism is a valid field of inquiry, why do creationists still rely on refuted or fallacious arguments to support it?

A: Beats me.

Jan 302014

During my travels I found the following quote in respect of alternative cancer “cure” curcumin:

No cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin,

It is attributed to the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center. The quote appeared to be sourced from that wretched hive of scum and quackery, CANCERactive. Here’s their full quote:

Professor Bharat Aggarwal Ph. D. in MD Anderson´s Department of Therapeutics has conducted a large number of studies, for example showing that in pancreatic cancer with patients having no chemotherapy, it reduced tumour size on its own. He believes it is effective against many types of cancer because it suppresses angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels essential to a tumour).

Indeed he goes further: “No cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin,” Aggarwal says. “The reason curcumin is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signalling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer.”

(Ed: No doubt our UK Oncologists will be suggesting you take it sometime soon.)

Well, as Chris Woollams is the UK’s No. 1 cancer researcher this must surely be accurate. Still, just out of curiosity I employed the advanced technological methods known only to the secret cabal of sceptics (i.e. searched for “contact us” on the MD Anderson website) and asked them if this was true.

I was shocked (i.e. not in the least bit surprised) when the kind email respondent checked with Dr. Aggarwal and told me that this was not true.

Imagine.Fact checking: it’s hard (i.e. trivial).

Jan 262014

Live blood analysis is a form of quackery which owes much to its inventor, Robert O. Young, and very little to science or reality more generally. In theory, you can take a drop of someone’s blood from a finger, look at it with a powerful dark field moicroscope, and diagnose cancer, acid blood and other diseases. Blood cells turn into bacteria or yeast if you are ill, but there’s a cure, which is (funnily enough) always exactly the same: an “alkalising diet”.

This is, of course, hilarious nonsense and we could take innocent pleasure in mocking it if it weren’t for the fact that these people apparently sincerely believe it, and try to transmit that belief to others. Young claims that his methods have cured 72 cancers around the world. At least one of those is likely to be one of Errol Denton’s victims patients. customers.

Errol Denton is up before the beak on chanrges under the Cancer Act 1939. So, as I understand it, is “Dr” Stephen Ferguson, another live blood quack. Both are on the ASA’s list of non-compliant advertisers. Both are, I understand, about to experience adilution of their Google “juice”, with paid advertisements by the ASA warning of the misleading claims they make.

Errol Denton chose to use a freeman on the land defence, also known as Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA). Precedent defines OPCA litigants as a class of vexatious litigant. Put simply, if you rely on this defence you lose, and you also risk being found guilty of contempt of court. Like the Dull-Man Law, only in real life: it loses you the argument and gets you laughed into jail.

Last Thursday, things got even worse for the live blood quacks when Robert O. Young appeared in court accused of practising medicine without a license. That cas eis sub judice, but considering that he was administering injections and conducting diagnosis and treatment, it’s not at all improbable that he will be convicted.

Sadly very few cancer quacks are actually stopped by prosecution. They may move state (where a neighbouring Medical Board would have to go through the entire rigmarole again), or they may simply move to Tijuana. Even the execrable charlatan Kevin Trudeau wasn’t jailed for his multiple frauds, but for refusing to pay the fines, pleading poverty while living the high life and refusing to disclose his income.

If you want to defraud people, forget Ponzi schemes or Herbalife, become a cancer quack. You bury your failures, claim success for any survival beyond the gloomiest predictions of real doctors, and the worst that happens when you’re found out is that you get to play the martyr, as Burzynski has been doing for ages.

In the UK, though, I think live blood’s days are numbered. The ASA is just about the only regulator prepared to take on fraudulent fake medical practices, and they now have a direct line ot Trading Standards. As you read the special pleading of Rob Verkerk and other profiteering ignoscenti, remember that the ASA is the front line in the war on medical fraud in the UK. And I think they are winning.

Jan 192014

Along with the perennial skeptic bugbears of zombie arguments and logical fallacies, there are a few behaviours that specifically get my goat, some because that’s what they are supposed to do and some because they just do. Projection is probably the worst of these.

Projection is where you portray others in terms of your own worst faults. It’s partly due to cognitive bias (if you are a True Believer, you will tend to assume others are also motivated by strong beliefs rather than rational argument), and partly down to parroting criticism aimed at you because you are too stupid or unoriginal to come up with an argument of your own.

Consider for example the Burzynski Clinic’s current travails. Burzynski fans say that the Wikipedia article on the clinic has been “astroturfed”. So they are soliciting emails to the Wikimedia Foundation demanding its removal or unlocking. It’s not locked, but I’ll come to that in a moment.

The Wikipedia article is not astroturfed

Here’s the text, also emailed round their supporters in December (more on that later as well).

Email Wikipedia at;  [email protected] and demand removal of the “Burzynski Clinic” webpage, since it has been high jacked by a paid group who identify themselves as “The Skeptics”, and is no longer open for public contribution. The Wikipedia page on “Burzynski Clinic” is filled with untrue statements, statements taken entirely out of context, cherry-picked information, sources that do not qualify as sources under Wikipedia rules, fake sources—you name it.

This demand is made on a site called the “ANP coalition” (anpcoalition.org). There are several domains registered including:

The first of these has WHOIS privacy. The other two do not. They are registered by Laura Schiff, of ANPC Coalition. Laura is the wife of Ric Schiff, who is listed as a director of the Burzynski Clinic.

The Wikipedia editors are not paid

I know for a fact that I don’t make any money out of editing Wikipedia, and I am pretty confident that Susan Gerbic, Alexbrn amd Arthur Rubin aren’t either. It is pretty likely that Ric Schiff is paid by the clinic, though. And running a website pretending to be an independent grass roots campaign, run by the wife of a director? That is pretty much the dictionary definition of astroturfing.

As indeed is having one of your directors tweeting as @BurzynskiSaves, claiming to be independent. That account is now allegedly shared around, but we have very solid information that it was controlled at least for a time by Azad Rastegar.

The Alliance for Natural Health have removed their page claiming that the FDA leaked confidential patient details. I am pretty sure I know why, because I am pretty sure I know where the leak came from, and it wasn’t the FDA. Not that it’s hard to track Burzynski patients: the fundraisers for the vast sums he screws them for, are all over the web.

The Wikipedia article is not locked

The article is “semi-protected” due to vandalism, mainly (but not all) by Burzynski supporters. To be able to edit you do need to jump through extraordinary hoops though.

  1. Register a free account in any name you choose
  2. Wait four days, or
  3. Make ten edits to other articles.

It’s pretty minimal, and it’s only designed to stop drive-by attacks, not sustained abuse. Sustained abuse is handled by blocking accounts and/or banning people. As we did with Didymus Judas Thomas.

Wikipedia is not in the pay of the FDA

Wikipedia’s policy on reliable sources for medical articles follows our policy on most other things: where a supermajority view exists, we tend to follow it. That means we consider the FDA to be a credible source. That doesn’t mean we’re uncritical (read the article), but it does mean that we accept the entirely mainstream view that the FDA is a credible source of information. Ditto, to a much greater extent, the National Cancer Institute and the American cancer Society. Again, we are not uncritical, but we recognise that these are widely respected sources of information.

To suggest, as Burzynski followers do, that taking the FDA’s view over theirs is a bias towards the FDA’s view, is entirely correct. We are indeed biased towards material published by sources like the FDA. This is a feature, not a bug, and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the founding ethos of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is smart, quacks are stupid


Wikipedia is, for all its faults, primarily intended as a scholarly endeavour. We aspire to be accurate. We show our working. We self-correct when we are wrong. We aim to reflect all legitimate views in proportion to their acceptance.

In short, Wikipedia is founded on the same principles that drive the scientific method.

We do care about reflecting those views accurately and with the proper weight. We get hundreds of mails a day pointing out perceived problems, and we try to help people. We also get a lot of emails about images of Muhammad, the cover of Virgin Killer and so on. We reply individually to every single one.

I say individually, we have a canned response. Because it’s important to be consistent. But we read every  one.

Just one thing, though: if you’re going to mount an email campaign to get Wikipedia to change something, (a) it won’t work and (b) if you include the Wikimedia Foundation on your mailing list, we work out what’s going on even more quickly than we would if we just got a rapid flood of suspiciously similar emails.

So yes, means that “alternative” medicine proponents, per Minchin’s Law, are doomed to disappointment at Wikipedia. We understand that, and there’s not a damned thing we are going to do to change it because it’s a foundational principle.

If Wikipedia ever becomes supportive of creationism, astrology, psychic phenomena or homeopathy, it will no longer be Wikipedia. And Burzynski is in the same list, I reckon.

Jan 172014

Kleptospirosis, also known as Weil’s disease,  is an infectious disease caused by the water-borne bacterium Kleptospira homeopathica. Its main symptom is stealing the work of others to promote your own delusions.

If you’re thinking of helping Parliament, you might consider the case of kleptospirosis in your submission.

Of course we know that homeopaths are pathologically dishonest. We know that. But in his submission to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, Paul Burnett (a member of the Society of Homeopaths, which is seeking registration as an Accredited Voluntary registrar) says this:

Following the success of homeopathic treatment of epidemic diseases in the past, Cholera, Typhus, Yellow Fever and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918 included [i], enormous success has been seen in homeopathic treatment of Leptospirosis in Cuba, spear-headed by Dr Braco of the WHO [ii]. Within two weeks of beginning homeopathic treatment in 2007 in a high-risk area of Cuba, a 90% decrease of Leptospirosis was observed in the homeopathic intervention area (over 2 million people), whereas in other low-risk areas which did not receive any treatment the disease rates continued to rise. Homeopathic prophylaxis has since then been extended to the entire Cuban population (11 million plus), and Leptospirosis is reported to be now almost eradicated. [emphasis added]

The Alliance of Registered Homeopaths go further:

In 2008, a groundbreaking research study was conducted in Cuba, where homeopathy was used to prevent an outbreak of leptospirosis in 2.4 million people during the hurricane season. The results of this remarkable experiment were first presented at a conference in Havana in December 2008. The Cuban based Finlay Institute, responsible for the production of allopathic vaccines, is also involved in the research and development of homeopathic products. They were responsible for the manufacture of a homeopathic Leptospira nosode, which was rapidly made available to populations in the three areas most affected by the hurricanes. The result was that following the intervention, a dramatic decrease in
mortality was observed, with confirmed cases of Leptospirosis at lower levels than normally expected.5
Furthermore, there were no fatalities in hospitalized cases. This compared to several thousand confirmed cases of Leptospirosis in previous years, including some fatalities, even in populations where the allopathic vaccine had been used. Another feature of this study was its cost efficiency. The Leptospirosis nosode programme had been delivered at a total cost of around US$200,000, whereas a ‘normal’ vaccination programme, which would only be delivered to the most ‘at risk’ population, would be expected to cost in the region of US$3,000,000. The implications of these findings to third world
countries, struggling to provide effective health interventions at a price they can afford, are massive.

The Finlay Institute has continued to use a homeopathic prophylaxis against Leptospirosis for the last five years, and the results have shown a significant reduction in the occurrence of this disease. The publication of much of this data is anticipated in early 2014. This study demonstrates the potential effectiveness of homeopathic prophylaxis in reducing the spread of an infectious disease which would normally be widespread, and would probably require antimicrobial drugs to be used as part of a treatment routine.

You might be forgiven for concluding from this that it is homeopathy that has “virtually eradicated” leptospirosis in Cuba. Especially since the Society of Homeopaths say:

homeoprophylaxis is being used for the on-going management of leptospirosis in Cuba (Bracho et al 2010)

In other papers we’re told that homeopathy only got a look-in because the newly developed vax-SPIRAL vaccine was not ready in sufficient volumes, so I asked an independent (of the Cuban government) journal specialising in the Cuban health service what the status of leptospirosis was. We don’t get to hear a lot about it in the UK due to politics and because virtually all material out of Cuba is in Spanish, but the nice people were ale to send me details of the vax-SPIRAL vaccine and it seems not only is vax-SPIRAL in widespread use, t’s also being tested against other strains of leptospirosis.

Is vax-SPIRAL the much-vaunted homeopathic product? No it is not.

Each 0.5 ml contains:

Inactivated Canicola canicola whole cells 50-80 x 106 células
Inactivated  Icterohaemorrhagiae copenhageni whole cells 50-80 x 106 células
InactivatedPomona mozdok  whole cells 50-80 x 106 células
Aluminum Hydroxide gel 1,0 mg
Thiomersal 0,05 mg
Saline phosphate buffer s.q.

So it seems that the reduction of leptospirosis in Cuba is not down to homeopathy’s unique ability to trigger regression to the mean, but due to a highly effective vaccine developed in the country.

I have looked at the claims around homeopathy, leptospirosis and the Finlay Institute. They all seem to trace back to one man: Dr. Gustavo Bracho, of the Institute. Inexplicably (or not) the Institute shows little sign of being on the cusp of a major announcement about this. Dr. Bracho seems mainly to be working on real medicines. Only two documents on the entire site mention homeopathy, and both are from 2008. Nosode instead of homeopathy adds one hit, the Spanish version of one of the others. Using the Spanish homeopatía yields the same hits.

There is no evidence whatsoever on the Finlay Institute website of any current homeopathic product. No new primary publications have appeared since the 2010 paper by Bracho et. al., which is also Bracho’s last PubMed indexed paper. Other co-authors have published since, but I did not find any papers by other authors from the Institute on homeopathy since the single paper whihc appears to be the homeopaths’ sole basis for making these extraordinary claims.

There are two possible explanations for this:

  1. The Finlay Institute have finally developed a homeopathic remedy that is conclusively proven to work, within the minority homeopathic sect of isopathy and showing that all the homeopaths, including Hahnemann, who say that homeopathy can only work if it is individualised to a patient’s symptoms are conclusively wrong – and they are doing this in deep stealth mode;
  2. The homeopaths are lying.

In deciding which is more likely, prior record may be taken into account <cough>Swiss “HTA”</cough>.

Site last updated April 13, 2014 @ 6:19 pm