The placebo gravy train

I’ve seen some bullshit in my time but this piss-poor attempt at a defence of homoeopathy by Denis MacEoin just about takes the biscuit:

Last week, novelist Jeanette Winterson published an intelligent and lucid account of why she believes homeopathy works. Three days later, along came Ben Goldacre, who gave us a longer piece showing us all the errors of Winterson’s ways. Yesterday, Tom Whipple reiterated several hoary, tired, and inept anti-homeopathy arguments in order to condemn the 206 MPs who signed an early day motion in support of NHS homeopathic hospitals.

Do read all three linked articles to catch up on the background to all this, however it is worth noting that Winterson’s ‘evidence’ in her article consists of a twee tale of how she had cold, obtained a bottle of liquid woo from her homoeopath and felt better afterwards.

Goldacre’s article was laden with his usual sarcasm.

Good.

In it, he paraded his superior knowledge and accused homeopaths of “killing patients” and being “morons”. As a fellow sceptic I understand where he is coming from; I identify with his pro-science stance, and have as little time for unscientific nostrums as he, but I came away from this piece with a feeling of embarrassment, a conviction he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, just like Whipple. I don’t mean all of it. The homeopathy community has its fair share of fools and charlatans, and many practitioners and gurus come from the counter culture. I have as little patience for them and their metaphysical weirdness as does Ben. But I’m also aware of an entirely rational world of doctor homeopaths, and many non-doctors who prefer to work alongside conventional medicine and would sooner die than manufacture a remedy from moonshine and call it “Luna”. By tarring all homeopaths with the same brush, Goldacre does both them and their patients a disservice.

Back when I was studying psychology, one of our favourite methods of winding up the medical students, and especially any would-be psychiatrists, in the SU bar was to start off a loud, and easily, overheard conversation on the subject of ‘white coat syndrome’, the propensity for members of the public to treat even the most egregious idiot as if they were the fount of all knowledge provided that they were wearing a white lab coat. That’s the game that Denis is trying to pull off here

Yes, there are some qualified doctors who believe in homoeopathy, many more who don’t and a far few who’ve cottoned on to the fact that shipping some of their more intractable hypochondriacs off to a homoeopath is a pretty good way of prescribing placebos without the risk of getting stuck with a medical negligence lawsuit- none of which provides any scientific evidence that homoeopathy works in the slightest.

I said he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and I meant it. I am sure he has not acquired any homeopathic qualifications, and I’m confident he has not sat in with an experienced homeopath for a year or so or worked at a homeopathic NHS hospital. He has read a few books and set himself up as the arbiter of things homeopathic. That is not a good basis for critical understanding.

Goldacre rarely refers to his qualifications, as his biography on Bad Science notes:

I do not present myself as a “leading expert”, and I rarely even mention being a doctor, on the grounds that “arguing from authority” is one of the biggest problems in the way that science is misrepresented by the media.

Read on, however, and you’ll discover that:

Ben studied Medicine at Magdalen College Oxford where he also edited Isis, the Oxford University Magazine. He left in 1995 with a First: before going on to clinical medicine at UCL, he was a visiting researcher in cognitive neurosciences at the University of Milan, working on fMRI brain scans of language and executive function, worked at Liberty the human rights organisation, and was also funded by the British Academy to do a Masters degree in Philosophy at King’s.

By way of contrast, MacEoin’s biography on CiF states:

Dr Denis MacEoin is a former lecturer in Islamic Studies, and has written extensively in the field. He recently authored a major report on hate literature in UK mosques, Hijacking British Islam. Writing as Daniel Easterman and Jonathan Aycliffe, he has published 25 novels, translated into over a dozen languages. He is currently the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University.

I know who I consider to be better qualified to talk about the scientific efficacy, or otherwise, of homoeopathy, but its also worth noting what Wikipedia can add to MacEoin’s profile:

[MacEoin] has been married to homoeopath and health writer Beth MacEoin since 1975. Beth is the author of around 20 books on natural health, including the NMS book, Natural Medicine: A practical guide to family Health, which was published by Bloomsbury at the end of 1999, and “Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century” (Kyle Cathie, 2006).

So our self-professed sceptic has a wife who makes a [presumably] tidy living selling books on this particular brand of woo – bit of a vested interest, then, which really should have been disclosed. Although perhaps he thinks that Ben’s read one of his wife’s books, which is why he’s so pissed off.

His ignorance is most grossly displayed in the preface to his piece:

“Time after time, properly conducted scientific studies have proved that homeopathic remedies work no better than simple placebos.”

What utter hooey. There has never been a proper trial of homeopathy. There have been countless trials based on the methodology applied to orthodox medicines, as if homeopathy is a form of orthodox medicine. Some have been positive, most negative. This proves nothing, because what they have tested was never homeopathy in the first place.

You see! That’s where all us real sceptics are going wrong – you just can’t test homoeopathy using the same methods used to test conventional medicines, i.e. using the scientific method.

In which case, of course, homoeopathy is not scientific in the slightest – which seems to be the bit of basic logic that’s escaping MacEoin here.

In orthodox trials, all patients in the “real” group are given the same drug for the same length of time. Homeopaths do not work like that. For one condition, they may select one of a dozen or more remedies, chosen after long and detailed interviews. They see patients repeatedly over the course of months or years, refining and changing prescriptions, and watching a steady development that follows a strong internal logic. It is a long process.

Ah, I see… So that’s how homoeopathy ‘works’.

You give the patient a bottle of liquid woo to take for a couple of months, and if they don’t feel any better after that you ‘refine’ the ‘treatment’ by giving them different types of woo until you hit on something does manage to convince them that they feel a bit better, all using a ‘strong internal logic’…

…called trial and error.

Actually in certain specific contexts, such as stress, anxiety and maybe even mild depression, I can see exactly how homoeopathy ‘works’ and may even ‘work’ reasonably well.

There is a wonderful story that the late R D Laing used to tell of his days in practice as a psychiatrist, in which he was treating a patient for depression and during one consultation, rather than give the patient the usual psychoanalysis routine, Laing simply struck up a conversation with them and spent the whole hour chatting and engaging in small talk. By the end of the hour, the patient was happily chatting away, cracking jokes, etc. at which point Laing told him that his time was up, to which the patient responded by complaining that they hadn’t talked about his problems.

Laing responded by asking the guy why the hell he wanted to talk about his ‘problems’ when he’d clearly cheered up and was feeling much better for having had a good conversation.

When it comes to some of the milder psychological ailments a trip to the homoeopath may well be rather more beneficial to some patients than visiting a GP. Homoeopaths will typically spend an hour or so talking to their ‘patients’ during a consultation, where an NHS General Practitioner has, as I recall, something like 6-8 minutes allotted to each consultation, and as with the patient in Laing’s anecdote, its the attention they receive and the opportunity to talk and have someone listen to them that has the beneficial effect.

All of which still means that the bottled woo they leave the room with at the end of it all is entirely irrelevant – a placebo is a placebo is a placebo.

But this is how homeopathy works: mangling it for the chance to jump on the clinical trial bandwagon is not science. No scientist of repute carries out tests of A by running trials of B. All the vaunted meta-analyses that proclaim the ineffectiveness of homeopathy are scientifically illiterate, as Ben Goldacre seems to be in this instance.

Nonsense.

The orthodox scientific approach to testing homoeopathy is to take each specific ‘remedy’ in turn and test it against a placebo in a standard double-blind study, and there have been any number of studies carried out in this way in which, uniformly, those that turn out to be methodologically valid and free from bias show that the specific ‘remedy’ being tested doesn’t work – i.e. the results are no better than those of the placebo.

MacEoin argues that this approach is invalid when testing homoeopathy because a homoeopath will periodically ‘refine’ the treatment given to a patient – instead of sticking for six or twelve months months with a potion that can be shown scientifically to have no effect, they’ll periodically move the patient on to a different potion…

…one that can be also shown, scientifically, to have no effect either.

What MacEoin claims isn’t being tested here is the homoeopaths’s claim that nothing plus nothing plus nothing plus no effect plus fuck all happened equals something – that you can improve people’s health by giving them a whole bunch of nothing in sequence.

It doesn’t take a scientific experiment to figure out that adding together a series of zeros will give you another big fat zero – a bit of basic mathematics will take care of that.

He must know something as elementary as this about homeopathy, yet he puts up an Aunt Sally, “proves” homeopathy does not work, and calls all homeopaths “morons”. This is not science, and as someone who believes strongly in science, I would challenge the good doctor to prove that his vaunted trials had anything to do with homeopathy at all.

No, no, no, no, no… In science it’s not the job of sceptics to prove that things don’t work, its the job of those who support and believe in a particular hypothesis to prove that hypothesis to be correct, with the obvious caution that one of key conclusions of the meta-analysis studies of homoeopathy that I’ve read is that the only studies that claim to demonstrate that homoeopathy does ‘work’ and produces effects that cannot be accounted for by simple placebo effects are those that uniformly flawed in their methodology and biased in their results and conclusions.

That’s the bit that really unscientific here, the bit where those who do believe in homoeopathy appear to routinely present biased and methodologically unsound ‘studies’ as ‘proof’ that it works and then accuse others of unscientific behaviour when they point out that such studies don’t stand up to the scrutiny of peer review.

It would be to his credit to come clean on this and to help design trials that would match the homeopathic way of prescribing. If he isn’t willing to do that in collaboration with homeopathic doctors who know as much as he does about the science and are not morons, he is demeaning the very notion of scientific medicine.

Actually such a trial is relatively easy to conceive, you simply do a double blind study in which you exchange placebos in your trial group in much the same way that homoeopaths exchange their bottles of woo with the patients who’re getting the ‘treatment’ for ‘real’ – in fact the question that should be asked is why no homoeopath has yet to conduct such a simple and straightforward study themselves?

My own hypothesis would be that its because there are some questions to which homoeopaths would rather science didn’t provide definitive answers – anyone out there care to put that to the test?

It’s worth remembering that at the unspoken heart of this particular dispute lies a gravy train of public funding for homoeopathy via the NHS – homoeopaths not only want us sceptics to prove them wrong but they want to keep coughing up public funds to pay for homoeopathic treatments (i.e. placebos) until we do. That’s the real reason why supporters of homoeopathy are getting antsy about us sceptics popping up to announce that they’ve got no ‘scientific’ clothes on.

No one is suggesting that homoeopathy should be banned – frankly, if people want to piss their own money away on such things then that’s up to them – it when they also want the government to piss away tax revenues on this kind of thing that a line needs to be drawn.

  • I spent a long time scrolling through the responses to McEoin’s warblings, chuckling each time a new hole was punched into his ‘argument’.

    The main one is that he clearly didn’t read Goldacre’s piece properly, because Dr Ben actually proposed a pretty simple way to design a test which would allow for homoeopathy’s quirks and still be a double-blind test against a placebo.

    If a proper test hasn’t been run, the homoeopaths are hardly too poor to haev financed it. The question is, are they too stupid to, do they fear the results, or have they already done it and hushed up the negative results?

    Who knows, because the SoH are too busy trying to avoid applying their own weak code of conduct.

  • Kent man

    I am a 75 year old chemist (retired of course). I am perfectly well aware that homoeopathy cannot possibly work. It is impossible for it to work due to its being totally outside the “laws of chemistry”.
    Never-the-less I have used homoeopathy on myself, my wife, my family and very many friends for over fifty years with a remarkable number of extremely favourable results. Results which themselves are totally outside the “laws of chemistry”.
    Just because homoeopathy is inexplicable by logical modern scientific knowledge does not mean that it is an impossibility. In fact there are several “first aid” remedies which are certain “cures” despite their falling outside the “laws of chemistry”.
    A very wise old friend of mine once said that it was impossible to describe to someone the taste of an apple, and the only way to find out what the apple tastes like is to taste it for ones self.
    In fact there are more people who believe in homeoepathy through “taste” than believe in god through “taste”, and no one would dare to try to close churches or test the hocus pocus scientifically.

  • David Eyles

    Kent Man has hit the nail on the head. Science, even modern science, cannot always explain every phenomenon.

    I am a sheep and beef farmer. My wife is a chiropractor, so there is my interest declared straight away. We use homoeopathy on the farm for the animals, not because we are a pair of weirdos in sandals and beads, but because the homoeopathy works. It is not a panacea and there are times when I still use antibiotics or other conventional medicines. Friends of ours, who lamb 600 to 800 ewes three times a year, use homoeopathy totally at lambing time. Theirs is a highly successful and commercial operation, but they use homoeopathy because (a) it is cheaper than antibiotics; (b) it is often more effective; (c) there are no “withdrawal periods” i.e. an animal cannot go into the food chain until the drug residues are deemed to be a very low risk – this is an important consideration for livestock farmers.

    To give you an example from our own farm:

    New Forest Eye is a nasty, painful and virulent form of conjunctivitis contracted by cattle. A similar disease afflicts sheep, in which case it is known as Pink Eye. It is contracted in the summer months and is transmitted by flies. The standard antibiotic treatment is aureomycin, which means that the cattle have to be brought in to a handling area (easy if they are lactating dairy cows, very difficult if they are a beef suckler herd out on the hill). Once brought in, the animal has to be brought into a crush to restrain it whilst you shove a thick ointment into it’s eye. This has to be done for each affected eye and for each affected animal. Just imagine doing that for a horned bull weighing the best part of a tonne and asking it to keep still whilst you fiddle with it’s painful eye. Each time a new animal is affected, the process has to be repeated. It also has to be repeated if the animal has not completely recovered from the first treatment. Clearly, this is a time consuming and stressful excercise. If the affected animals are not treated, they often go blind. The time taken for the disease to progress from a streaming eye to bloodshot and then opaque is about 7 to 14 days.

    Four years ago, and again this summer, some of our beef cattle started to go down with this disease – it’s usually the young stock which are affected. The treament I used was to put a few drops of a homoeopathic remedy into their drinking water every day. The result was an immediate halt on the spread of the disease, as well as recovery over the next week or so of all of the animals. As you would expect, even with conventional drugs, the animals who had been affected first and where the disease was most advanced, were the last to clear up. The total number of animals affected were 10 in the first instance four years ago, and seven this year.

    There are a few important things to note from this little homily:

    (a) There was no actual handling of the cattle and therefore no stress.
    (b) Time taken to treat was seconds instead of hours.
    (c) Cost was about

  • Ian James

    David Eyles and Kent Man, you seem to have observable cases of how homoepathy has worked. Prove it scientifically! Hell, James Randi has $1,000,000 up for grabs if you can prove it. (http://www.randi.org/joom/content/view/38/31/)

    Really, both of you are talking utter bollocks and are basically advocating a public fraud on a massive scale.

  • Katherine

    Of course, another big point that Ben makes again and again in his writing, and that is often downplayed or ignored, is that the placebo effect is real and important. If homeopathy “works” via the placebo effect, then it works. In a sort of way.

    Please don’t misunderstand – I think homeopathy is bollocks, scientifically. But I do think it is a pity that an awful lot more money and time isn’t put into investigating the placebo effect, since it could have profound consequences for our understanding of human physiology.

  • Kent man

    Here is a way of testing out for yourself the effectiveness of homoeopathy. Go to a chemist and get a little box of Arnica 6 pillules. Most chemists sell them these days.
    One of the first aid uses of Arnica is in connection with mechanical bodily damage. It cures bruising and if taken soon enough it also prevents it. It also lessens pains associated with sprains and bruising.
    It is an easy enough test. If you are going to the dentist’s suck a couple of pillules just before you go, and then another after returning.
    There are lots of other everyday first aid remedies, but until the proverbial apple has been tasted there is not much point in posting details.
    Just try Arnica.

  • Ian James

    Arnica is technically a herbal medicine, moron. It’s not Homeopathy, though is used as part of the CAM spectrum. Incidentally, it contains helenalin, which is an active ingredient in some anti inflammatories, and thus is effectively part of regular medicine (‘Alternative’ medicine becomes real medicine when it’s proven to work!)

    There is no way that you’re a real chemist, and have not know this.

  • Kent man

    I rather fear your extremely rude reply exhibits your lack of knowledge of the difference between Homoeopathic, Herbal and Alopathic etc.medecines.
    To help you out of your trough of ignorance let me tell you that it is not so much WHAT is used as HOW it is used. It is also HOW it is used that puts Homoeopathy outside the realms of conventional (for now) science.

  • Kent man

    I have a feeling that the work being done at CERN on particle physics could well lead eventually to an eventual understanding of how Homoeopathy works.
    It may also lead to the acceptance of Quark Doctors.

  • Kent Man said “A very wise old friend of mine once said that it was impossible to describe to someone the taste of an apple, and the only way to find out what the apple tastes like is to taste it for ones self.
    In fact there are more people who believe in homeoepathy through

  • David Chappell

    Homeoepathy is the Intelligent Design of medicine.

  • Ian James

    Allopathic, as in the derogatory term used for real medicine as opposed to mumbo jumbo you peddle?

    How it’s used? What, substance so diluted that there is a high probability that none of the original substance is actually there. By the logic used in homeopathy, I could probably go swimming in my local river and get all the so called benefits of any sugar based substance labeled as homeopathic.

    It is not outside the realms of science, it’s bollocks. No plausible double blind scientific study has ever found homeopathy to work.

    As for CERN, I’m assuming that’s a joke. Because if it isn’t, you need be committed pretty soon.

    You are a weak minded fool who believes that sugar pills help cure disease. Think how much money it’s cost you! You could have just gone to church, and got healed that way (for all the good that would have done) and it probably would have been cheaper.

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  • Kent man

    I was as sceptical as you, Ian (though no where near as rude) when I first came across it. However I was prepared to investigate it and much to my surprise there is “something” in it. The sad fact that it does not always work as expected is not entirely due to the remedy being used. It is quite often due to either the patient giving the practitioner a wrong description of the symptoms, or the practitioner not being sufficiently conversant with homoeopathic practice. There are many practitioners who expect it to work like allopathic drugs where one size fits all, but that is not the case generally, other than in “first aid” remedies. Every human being is different. DNA is one proof of that and thus every patient needs to be looked at as an individual and not treated as one of a herd, unless the “illness” is of the “first aid/epidemic” type.
    I suggest you read a little (or a lot even) about Hahnemann, Allen, Kent and others, who worked on developing homoeopathy, before throwing the baby out with the water.
    Incidentally your quick intellectual instinct was quite correct about Quark Doctors. ….Wonderful observation.

  • James Pannozzi

    I have never tried Homeopathy and have no knowledge if it works,
    works by accident (placebo) or is useless.
    What I DO know is that I did NOT appoint Ben Goldacre
    to be my thought control agent, informing me what I may
    and may not do or think. Several of his arguments
    are good but the tone of his entire article, seems a part of the effort
    to shut down ALL research in a controversial field.
    And YES, I am sure that Homeopathy has plenty of quick
    buck artists and scammers just as allopathic medicine and
    the pharmaceutical industry does.

    I notice that Goldacre, a rather well educated chap,
    is allowed to attack the comments of a novelist
    who made some statements affirming Homeopathy.
    I would much rather see the comments
    and responses of a real Homeopathic Doctor
    or researcher to Goldarcre, this might have proven
    more interesting to us, and perhaps a wee
    bit more challenging for Mr. Goldarcre.

    As I’ve posted elsewhere, modern science is full of counter
    intuitive things. Split atoms that release enormous
    energy, electrons that vanish and then reappear on the
    other side of barriers, entangled electrons that, once separated,
    somehow communicate instantaneously a change of spin
    applied to one of them, to the other, no matter HOW FAR the
    distance between them.

    How in the hell can we possibly write off an entire branch of medicine
    based on people’s high school chemistry knowledge of Avogadro’s law
    or some speculation on an unknown and unmeasured “placebo” effect.
    What arrogance and what stupidity. There is more going
    on in a thimblefull of water than will be known in the next
    100 years.

    Are we to assume that Goldacre, had he appeared in the 1970’s would have
    asked that all funding be stopped for the researcher who
    proposed the preposterous idea that some types of stomach
    ulcers might, just might be caused by a bacterium, which went
    against the then prevailing theory of “stress” and “diet”??

    Kent man’s attitude and comments are the best.
    We must remain skeptical, but if the baby is crying
    and the colic is keeping him awake and a homeopathic
    remedy solves it, as has been happening for generations
    of use by wise parents (and YES that’s anecdotal)
    then so be it. And if that is so, then it could
    not possibly have been placebo effect
    and thus something happened and
    that something needs to be researched.

    Is it not time that researchers devised real experiments
    on real people, not double blind meta analyses
    whose conclusions, on the basis of 8 experiments,
    are somehow extrapolated to KILL OFF
    an entire field of medicine? We all want
    to know, once and for all, if there
    is something to this.

    Although skeptical, I believe there is and
    Goldacre’s sabotage does not impress me
    because his entire approach typifies exactly
    what is wrong with standard medicine –
    a focus on test tubes and meta analyses,
    more fit for the pharmaceutical nostrums
    whose frequent recalls underly their
    fallacy, rather than a focus on real
    live human beings, their diseases
    and the stimulation of cures thereof.

  • James, do you know what a meta analysis is? It is a study of studies. Each of those studies will have been carried out on ‘real live human beings’, and the combination of a large number of studies does indicate the likelihood of cures (or not).

    And Goldacre is not telling you what to think, although he is showing you a way to think which is not quite the same thing. Again, you attack a straw man – that GOldacre wants to shut down all research. Not true. If you read his article, you’ll see that he proposes a way to perform that research, no test-tubes, no meta analysis. He also questions why no proper trials have been done despite the existence of Homoeopathy for quite some time, and the fairly lucrative industry built around it.

    It’s quite simple – proper drugs have to go through rigorous trials before they are licensed and even then the NHS won’t use them until NICE approves their use. Yet no such thing has happened for Homoeopathy and the NHS is funding it.

    All that we ‘sceptics’ are saying is that it should be demonstrated to work, on the same basis as any other therapy (and not all modern medicine is ‘allopathic’, far from it). Until then, I resent my tax being spent on it when there are problems getting proven treatment to the people who need it.

  • The NHS is funding homoeopathy because it’s useful. That’s not to say it ‘works’ per se, but it does have it’s uses. Some people need a placebo, like Unity says, and it’s useful for that. Homoeopathic doctors and other members of staff have more time to spend with patients which – shock! horror! – is actually good for their moods and recovery.

    So no, it is not scientifically tested. In that way you could say it has a quite unfair start to the race with ‘proper’ medicines. But it is useful. And until someone does a cost-to-effective analysis on it, nobody can really say if it’s a waste of NHS money.

  • So why aren’t there proper Cost-Benefit studies? Because for one, there isn’t a clear message as to what the actual benefits are.

    If, as you suggest, having longer to spend with patients is the cause of much of the placebo effect, why spend money on training up homoeopaths or on a special hospital to keep them in. We just need more GPs and doctors so that they have more time on their hands. Or fewer patients, I suppose.

    I am not saying that it IS a waste of money, but I am saying that it is likely to be, and that it is not right for the NHS to spend money on such therapies without any real evidence in favour of them. It is for proponents of such spending to justify it, not for those who have doubts to prove that it doesn’t work. Otherwise we could argue that any crackpot theory should be indulged because no-one can prove that it doesn’t work, and some people claim that it does some good.

  • James Pannozzi

    Danivon, everyone keeps mentioning the controlled trials
    testing and claims it has never been done.
    I am checking into this right now. I first of all
    must question the validity of using these
    kinds of trials, which have approved many
    drugs which later proved to not perform
    as expected or else to have deleterious effects
    including the death of the patients… in the thousands.

    Next we have the curious results of the pharmacological researcher M. Ennis, an admitted skeptic who finds results she cannot explain one day while repeating an experiment that she thought would fail:
    (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) “We are unable to explain our findings”… “New Scientist, March 19,2005, page 30.

    Lastly, we have nearly 200 years of reports of people being cured from cholera epidemics, babies being quieted from colic (placebo effect, eh?), people getting dramatic cures and improvements from mastitis, asthma, influenza. YES, these are only anecdotal reports, but MANY of them come from M.D.’s who tried the homeopathic remedies, sometimes in desperation when all else fails.

    Were you to tell me that many of these reports where placebo effect, or just natural or accidental results not attributable to the homeopathic remedy, I might agree. But ALL of them? That really strains the credulity and cries out for research.

    Or is it the radically different approach of the homeopaths, the suggestion, the very idea that human being is MORE than a collection of diseased machine parts and may possess thoughts, feelings, emotions, and (god forbid) some sort of soul or spirit (how unscientific, eh?)
    that troubles these rabid anti-homeopaths who do NOT get upset when a “new” conventional drug fails miserably, after passing its super duper double blind placebo clinical trials, and suffers an ignominious withdrawal from the market, but go on the warpath when some harmless homeopathic nostrum is suggested.

    Is that part of the problem, the suggestion that the homeopathic remedy DOES NOT cure anything, does NOT combat a disease or attack a microbe, but instead, somehow acts as a catalyst to stimulate the patient’s own immune system?

    It is as though a bunch of mathematicians were exclaiming ALL IS GEOMETRY and these charlatan algebraists must not be trusted, eh?

    I find such an attitude as the anti-homeopaths seem to evince just a little
    curious and NOT AT ALL as scientifically based as they seem to claim.
    Likewise many pro homeopathists do seem to be lacking more research
    but then, since its causative effect and modus operandi are unknown,
    that could be a bit of a problem and NO, you can replicate conventional
    tests and still not prove anything.

    I believe fundamental research, in physics and chemistry is what
    is needed to confirm or deny the homeopathic effects.

    But their theories, the individuation of the patient,
    seems rather attractive. Many M.D.’s seem to think so too!

  • James: I first of all
    must question the validity of using these
    kinds of trials, which have approved many
    drugs which later proved to not perform
    as expected or else to have deleterious effects
    including the death of the patients

    Well, that’s because they are often tests of effectiveness, not of side-effects. If the drug performs better than a placebo in an RCT, it won’t automatically be approved (but if it fails, it certainly won’t).

    James:
    Next we have the curious results of the pharmacological researcher M. Ennis, an admitted skeptic who finds results she cannot explain one day while repeating an experiment that she thought would fail

    Yes, and still no-one can explain them. They can’t even repeat them – and that has been tried. Of course, the test was not of the effectiveness of homoeopathy, but of one aspect of one of the claimed ways it might work. A single test that has failed to be repeated is indeed mysterious, but you can’t use it to base a theory upon.

    James: But ALL of them? That really strains the credulity and cries out for research.

    Ok, let’s research it. Properly.

    James:Or is it the radically different approach of the homeopaths, the suggestion, the very idea that human being is MORE than a collection of diseased machine parts and may possess thoughts, feelings, emotions, and (god forbid) some sort of soul or spirit (how unscientific, eh?)
    that troubles these rabid anti-homeopaths who do NOT get upset when a

  • James Pannozzi

    James Pannozzi wrote: (quoted from dec. 5, 2007 above).
    “Next we have the curious results of the
    pharmacological researcher M. Ennis,
    an admitted skeptic who finds results
    she cannot explain one day while
    repeating an experiment that she thought would fail”

    To which Danivon replied:
    “Yes, and still no-one can explain them.
    They can