Homeopathy And The Skeptics

Spamming QuackGerm theory denialist, spammer and homeopathy shill Ellen Kramer (@EllenKramer), proprietor of the College of Practical Homeopathy (FSVO practical) is fond of spamming her take on “Homeopathy & the Skeptics; a fight for our health freedom and the choice to choose our own healthcare” – or rather, a fight for her freedom to make money from credulous people and the choice to choose her own laws of physics.

It’s clearly spam, the “choice to choose” is a grammatical error faithfully repeated time after time, and the contents of the majority of her tweets is similar copy and paste nonsense.

But what of the article in question, entitled “Homeopathy And The Skeptics“?

Homeopathy And The Skeptics

So the wibble goes:

I am deeply concerned by the current orchestrated campaign against homeopathy, which is led by a self-appointed pressure group, Sense about Science, and a number of bloggers.

We’re delighted to hear that you’re deeply concerned, it means that something is going right, but you are wrong (amazing! a homeopath, wrong!) in your attribution. Skeptical criticism of homeopathy is almost as old as homeopathy itself. The skeptical community is a diverse group encompassing everything from ghost busters to moon landing hoax debunkers, and virtually every skeptic I have ever encountered has commented somewhere on homeopathy.

The reason, Ellen, is that homeopathy is so self-evidently wrong, so trivially disproved by common and well-understood concepts, that it is a useful teaching tool for critical thinking.

There is no conspiracy, just a large number of people who have all spotted that the Emperor is parading naked and who choose to use this example as a lesson in the folly of self-delusion.

These people are funded by the drug companies, so surely their PR science makes them unfit to comment objectively on homeopathy in the national press. With the strong PR campaign by BigPharma to discredit homeopathy, all homeopaths must now, more than ever, unite in their resolve to give patients a truly alternative choice in Medicine.

This is a bald-faced lie. Homeopathy is self-discrediting, and no skeptic I know receives a penny from “big pharma” to engage in skepticism. One of the best known critics of homeopathy is Ben Goldacre, and I suspect Big Pharma rather wish he’d go away.

We are not a complementary medicine, which is trying to be tagged onto allopathy, we offer a genuine alternative to modern chemical therapy.

Half right. Homeopathy is indeed not a complementary therapy, it’s not a therapy at all. It is an alternative to “modern chemical therapy”, or medicine to give a less misleading name, in exactly the same way that flying carpets are an alternative to airliners.

Most Sceptics do not understand how homeopathic remedies work, they exaggerate and misconstrue what homeopathic remedies are and ironically see themselves as the defenders of medical science, but in truth they have an embarrassingly poor scientific attitude when evaluating homeopathy and the remedies. Homeopathy – comes from the place that the power of healing lies within the patient & the remedies stimulate the body to do its own healing – they have no power beyond stimulating self healing and they must be individualised to suite the needs of the patient.

Not only is this a bald-faced lie, it is actually the precise opposite of the truth. Most skeptics know precisely how homeopathic remedies “work” – placebo effects, expectation effects, cognitive biases etc. – whereas homeopaths don’t. At least I’m assuming they don’t, as the alternative is that they are deliberately deceiving people.

This is what makes it difficult to do clinical trials using conventional scientific methods and why sometimes remedies work and sometimes they don’t – this is because the remedies have to be individualised to the patient. They will work if the prescriber understands why the symptoms are there – Cause → effects → and obstacles to cure.

Ah, the good old “we’re special, don’t test us with your science“. No credible reason has ever been advanced why homeopathy, unlike individualised cancer therapy, cannot be tested scientifically, and the objection appears to rest on the fact that the results are not to homeopaths’ liking.

It’s not that difficult to work out a way to test individualised homeopathy. You can even design one the homeopaths might like (the weasel word pragmatic is a litmus test). For example, you can do a three-arm trial, one arm receiving the individualised remedies as prescribed, one arm receiving placebo and one arm receiving a randomly selected remedy, with blinding of all parties through numerical coding. No homeopath is known to have shown any willingness to try such a test.

Without understanding the cause in the long run, you will not be able to remove the effects (symptoms) – the obstacles to self healing need to be addressed if the body is to self heal. So from this place, how can homeopaths discuss health with a lobby group whose main aim is to subvert any real discussion on health and take away people’s rights to health freedom choices?

This is the fallacy of begging the question. Homeopathy is based on refuted doctrines, there is no reason to suppose that it can remove any effects.

And nothing here prevents a randomised test as described above. Nobody’s saying homeopaths have to discuss it only with skeptics, whether or not they are part of a lobby group. They could go to George Lewith, for example.

They need to explain what they base their science on? Medicine or rather Scientism has no principals for healing, no observational tools, no understanding of the evolution from constitutional health to suppression and then pathology. They have done a fine job in mapping the human body, but remain ignorant about how to support self-healing. This is like having a leaking roof – a homeopath would get on the roof and find out where the leak originated and sort it out from there.

Eh? We base our science on empirically verifiable fact. You base your pseudoscience on empirically refuted hypothesis. That’s an end of it.

The term “scientism”, much beloved of those whose beliefs are contradicted by science, seems to have gained its currency in the intelligent design creationism movement. The only belief required in science is that the scientific method is the best way of telling truth from falsehood. So far this has given us electric light, the internet, the internal combustion engine, and the crowning achievement of mankind, the bicycle. The record of homeopathy is less glorious. To date it has given us precisely nothing. It has zero explanatory power. It reveals nothing about the world, provides no predictions that are clinically or physically useful.

Whilst an allopath would simply keep painting over the water stains in the ceiling, as the hole on the roof grows bigger and bigger until the ceiling eventually falls down.

Homeopathy focuses on the patient, because the answer for health lies there; allopaths focus on the symptoms, develop drugs for that symptom and forget that health is more than just symptoms.

This is ridiculous. See my holistic healer for an explanation of why the claim of quacks to be uniquely holistic and “patient-focused” is purest arse gravy. Fraudsters are victim-focused in a way the police aren’t, I suppose, and that’s the limit of it.

Homeopathic remedies are gentle, non toxic and non addictive – if skeptics do not have the science to understand how remedies stimulate self healing, then surely it is up to allopaths to prove that the body cannot heal itself, and that only drugs can do that.

But we do understand, it’s you who doesn’t. The reversal of the burden of proof is noted, but even if it was up to us to disprove honeopathy, we’ve already done it. The doctrines are refuted. The claims conflict with basic physics. Trials ultimately confirm the null hypothesis. We don’t need to prove that a form of energy never observed by science does not affect a vital force never detected by science and with no empirically verifiable basis in fact, to effect a cure that somehow consistently fails to provide a single unambiguous and objectively testable result. We don’t have to prove that unicorn tears don’t cure or that carpets can’t fly. These claims are sufficiently outlandish that if they were true, the world would be fundamentally different.

Allopathy – comes from the place that healing lies outside the patient and all you have to do is find a pill that fixes the symptoms.

False. Medicine recognises many possible causes of disease, a large number of which have no origin outside the body, most autoimmune diseases for example (homeopathy has only vague arm-waving references to imbalance, basically the four humours). Medicine has a range of treatments including surgery, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, genetic therapies and drug therapies (homeopathy has only magic water). Medicine does not claim to be able to treat or cure every condition, because it tries to be honest (homeopathy has no such scruples).

If that doesn’t work, then they must cut, burn, or poison; to make the symptoms go away. They do so-called clinical trials, yet they ignore the feedback from the body and call it a side effect – when it is really a direct affect of the drug. Surely this is bad science, ignoring the evidence!!! .

This is so completely wrong that there’s really no point of contact. I have osteoarthritis. Nobody is offering to cut, poison or burn my knee. It is managed through exercise, and monitored by MRI.

So despite all the clinical trials to make chemical therapy safe up to 40,000 people a year die from adverse drug events in the UK alone – the BMJ Clinical evidence makes very interesting reading? In fact, there are many clinical trials done by homeopaths. The evidence can be found there, as to whether homeopathy works or not.

Really? I don’t accept the figure, but there are a lot of things going on here, for example:

  • Some drugs reduce a large risk from one cause of mortality at the cost of a minor increase in another
  • Some adverse events are not causal (see “gold mine or dumpster dive“)
  • Some people would die without treatment, so higher risk treatments are used

Homeopathy claims it has on adverse events. This is, of course, based on a false premise.

Do remedies work like drugs – no they don’t? It would be like me asking a doctor to prove that drugs stimulate the body to heal itself? When we all know they are designed to override natural bodily processes and the side effects in the clinical trials tell you that, this is what they do.

Or rather: Do remedies, like drugs, work? No they don’t. I am on Adcal, calcium and vitamin D, for osteoporosis consequent for coeliac. This is “designed to override natural bodily processes”? Bullshit. My gluten free diet isn’t designed to do that, the natural bodily process of attacking my own intestines is idiosyncratic not “natural” and there’s nothing wrong with subverting it, but the Adcal is doing the exact opposite of what Ellen claims all medicine does. Same is true for the iron tablets I was on when I had anaemia. No, Ellen, your model of what medicine does is as benightedly ill-informed as everything else you say.

Here’s a curious thing: I am unable to find any significant debate about whether giving a measurable amount of a pharmacologically active compound could cause an objective effect in the human body. Nobody seems to dispute this. Any dispute is over whether specific therapies work as claimed. With homeopathy, the entire field is unproven (read: disproven).

Hence, most patients end up on long term drugs, adding more and more new ones to cover up the side effects of the original drug, and unless you keep taking the drug, the symptoms keep coming back. In the meantime, all the feedback from the body (side effects) are ignored; so from this perspective, the only real science in modern medicine is the chemical cocktails they create and re-create in the laboratory.

Most people end up on long term drugs because as the body decays we have two choices: patch it up or die. Your choice, Ellen, if you want to die as your body ages then be my guest.

This is not health or healing from a homeopathic paradigm of health. Therefore any discussion about how homeopathic remedies work; their effectiveness; and how they should be labelled – means they need to be placed in the context to which they are used and prescribed.

Well, yes, but only because the “homeopathic paradigm of health” is a fairy story.

The sceptics are looking at remedies as if they are drugs, which they are not and they seem to think that homeopathy is summed up by its remedies – when in fact the remedies are merely the tools homeopaths use to stimulate the body, to do what it does best – which is to heal itself. We need to be clear that the purpose and use of remedies comes from a very different health paradigm to allopathy and pharmaceutical drugs.

Bzzzt! I spotted your error. We don’t look at remedies as if they are drugs. We look at homeopathy to see if it can support the claims made to cure. We accept that, for example, gentle exercise increases mobility in the elderly. No drugs involved, the test methodology is the same. Medical science has tested arthroscopy versus sham surgery for arthritis (arthroscopy turns out not to work). George Lewith took part i a test that included the consultation, and found (unsurprisingly) that the consultation was what had an effect. There’s a systematic review of the effects of consultation variation in clinical practice.

So, Ellen, you accuse us of not understanding homeopathy when we plainly do, but then you demonstrate a total lack of any understanding of medicine, medical science, or the scientific method in general.

In a democracy in which the West prides itself on it is a fundamental right of any citizen living in it, to have ready access to the healthcare options of their choice. It is up to us, as homeopaths, to campaign for the health freedom choices that many patients are seeking; especially when chemical therapy doesn’t work for them.

I see your error. Homeopathy is not a healthcare option, it’s a religion. We do guarantee freedom of religion, but we do not guarantee the freedom of religion to masquerade as medicine.

People find homeopathy in their own way, and we must make sure it is always available to them in the future. People must continue to have the right to the freedom and the availability of health choices; so that they can choose natural alternatives if they wish to – especially when it comes to taking care of their own health.

Substitute $DEITY for homeopathy and faith for health in the above phrase. Its meaning remains identical.

Homeopathy is a health choice in the same way that magic carpets are a transport choice. Your failure to grasp this simple fact is your problem, not that of some shadowy cabal paid by “big pharma”. Though the money would be welcome.

17 thoughts on “Homeopathy And The Skeptics”

  1. Just because skeptics don’t understand homeopathy mechanism doesn’t negate its effectiveness. Are skeptics part of TED’s anonymous scientific advisory board? Robert Sweeney, “Burden of proof has shifted those who question..have more to explain if they disagree with conclusions”

    1. Nancy, there is no “effectiveness” to negate it just doesn’t work.

      Your friend in delusion Sandra thinks homeopathy can cure a broken bone, you have stated it can’t. Who is correct and on what evidence do you base your conclusions?

    2. So you’re illiterate as well as scientifically illiterate. As I pointed out, skeptics understand homeopathy just fine, it’s you quacks who don’t.

    3. Nancy: as I think I showed rather well, skeptics understand homeopathy better than homeopaths do! We understand why it seems to work even though there is no remotely plausible reason to expect it to, and no way it can.

      TED’s scientific advisory board has scientists on it. Unsurprisingly, they support the scientific consensus view that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I believe the comment you note is the result of external criticism of some TEDx events where people with views that are not supported by good science, were given a platform. Rupert Sheldrake springs to mind. Here’s a non-anonymous comment: http://www.ted.com/conversations/16894/rupert_sheldrake_s_tedx_talk.html

      It’s normal in science to place a higher burden on those who argue against the consensus, because the consensus is generally based on a lot of evidence. People can and do successfully challenge consensus, for example when peptic ulcers were shown to be caused by h. pylori.

        1. The Wikipedia article is less flattering than the hagiographic article you linked:

          Sheldrake’s work in this area is widely rejected by the scientific community due to the lack of reproducible evidence, criticism of Sheldrake’s experimental and analytical methods, and the perceived over-generality of the “morphic resonance” hypothesis, with some calling it pseudoscience.

          In other words, Sheldrake is a crank. He asserts that science is wrong because his ideas fail scientific inquiry. That is a reversal of the truth. Naturally for hoemopaths (whose beliefs also fail the test of science) it is a seductive delusion, but it is a delusion nonetheless.

  2. Be educated about homeopathic Sympytum (link below) and its ability to hasten the healing of broken bones. Two family members were facing surgery to place screws in fractures (i.e., broken bones). Two casts over an 8 week period, and x-rays showed non-healing with casting alone. Surgery was recommended. Both family members were prescribed Symphytum. Surgery was avoided in both cases. Before and after x-rays confirmed the adequate healing with homeopathy alone. To be fair (which you may find repulsive), you might want to stop misrepresenting what I have posted in the past. [spam link elided]

    1. Be educated about the atomic nature of matter, the laws of thermodynamics, the nature of the null hypothesis in hoemopathy, and the fact that no observation has ever refuted this.

      No cases over 200+ years show any unambiguous objective proof of a cure by homeopathy. If any such case existed, the debate would be over.

      As to misrepresenting what you have said, feel free to point out any case where I have done this. I have, of course, interpreted what you have said, in the light of the reality you so steadfastly deny. I have also pointed out the lies you have told. Oh, and mocked you a bit.

    2. And as you could clearly read if you could be bothered, Nancy says homeopathy can’t cure broken bones.
      Who is correct, you or Nancy, and based on what evidence?

          1. Science is ever changing. Sticking to fixed notions is like clinging to a past. Let it be any branch of science, we have to be open minded to analyze the evidence and accept the good things in it and discard the illogical things from it.

            Research has now shown that homeopathy plays an important role in orthopaedic care.

            Your comment has helped me to find out this study. I will add it to my database. Thank You.

          2. Ha ha ha
            Science indeed moves forward. Do you really think a single poor quality oral report is good evidence?
            ” The treatment group received homoeopathic medicine on the basis of totality of symptoms and individualisation”

            That’s not science it’s mystical gibberish.

            Even if you believed it, which would be insane, it doesn’t prove homeopathy cures broken bones, conventional treatment was used. Taking things out of context, exaggerating, all the usual blatant errors I expect from you.
            “Research has now shown that homeopathy plays an important role in orthopaedic care”

            What research? Sugar pills play no part in orthopaedic care.

          3. Yes, Nancy, science is ever changing. That’s one of the many ways it differs from homeopathy. Scientific knowledge builds on multiple different sources of information and fields of inquiry, whereas homeopathy is basically a religion and has its sole basis in the word of Hahnemann; it cannot develop in any meaningful way because there is no objective basis on which competing opinions can be judged.

            Science changes, and over the 200 years since Hahnemann plucked hoemopathjy out of his arse thin air, ever dveelopment in scientific knowledge has made it more and more obvious that homeopathy is simply wrong.

        1. Nancy, this does not refute the null hypothesis. You need to learn whjat the null hypothesis is, and what refutation means. “Unicorn tears definitely cured X” will always fail to persuade, because unicorn tears are only slightly more plausible than homeopathy.

    3. Be educated about the atomic nature of matter, the laws of thermodynamics, the nature of the null hypothesis in hoemopathy, and the fact that no observation has ever refuted this.

      No cases over 200+ years show any unambiguous objective proof of a cure by homeopathy. If any such case existed, the debate would be over.

      As to misrepresenting what you have said, feel free to point out any case where I have done this. I have, of course, interpreted what you have said, in the light of the reality you so steadfastly deny.

    4. “To be fair (which you may find repulsive), you might want to stop misrepresenting what I have posted in the past.”

      Sandra, from someone who spams blogs and insults people, while denying them the right to reply on you own blog, that’s pretty bloody rich. Especially as you deliberately misrepresent replies as ” offensive personal comments directed toward (you)”. Misrepresent much?

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