On Homeopathy

August 25, 2007 | By | 32 Replies More

I know that numerous chiropractors swear by homeopathy. I even know of a couple MD’s who push homeopathic “remedies.”  It makes me shake my head because A) homeopathic theory (e.g., “the law of infinitesimals” and “the law of similars”) makes no sense and 2) homeopathic remedies and double-blind studies don’t mix.

Homeopathy is a painfully well-known placebo that millions of well-educated people just can’t bear to give up.  They know that it can’t really work according to the theory of its promoters, but they just can’t part from that juicy hit of placebo.

I recently ran across a science website with good energy, lots of engaging stories and commentors chomping at the bit.  It’s called Bad Science.   The post that most recently caught my interest is on homeopathy, more specifically a highly suspicious article in the “British Journal of Homeopathy” that claims that water “has a memory.”  Check out the comments for a rousing tour of the many failings of homeopathy.   One fellow apologizes for peeing in the ocean when he was young, because he didn’t realize the effect that it was going to have on everyone in the future.

For more information on the bad science of homeopathy, including a stab at one of my favorite psuedo scientists, Deepak Chopra, consider this article from the Skeptical Inquirer.  Here’s an excerpt:

Quite apart from the matter of how the water/alcohol mixture remembers, there are obvious questions that cry out to be asked: 1) Why does the water/alcohol mixture remember the healing powers of an active substance, but forget the side effects? 2) What happens when the drop of solution evaporates, as it must, from the lactose tablet? Is the memory transferred to the lactose? 3) Does the water remember other substances as well? Depending on its history, the water might have been in contact with a staggering number of different substances.

Homeopathy is only one of many forms of medical quackery being hawked to a scientifically naive public by researchers and public spokespeople who refuse to allow facts get in the way of their favorite version of snake oil:

The public is spending billions of dollars annually on sugar pills to cure their sniffles, hand waving to speed recovery from operations, and good thoughts to ward off illness, all with assurances that it’s based on science. Society has been set up for this fleecing in part by the media’s sensationalized coverage of modern science. Popular discussions of relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos often leave people with the impression that common sense cannot be relied on — anything is possible. Scientists themselves often feed the public’s appetite for the “weirdness” of modern science in an effort to stimulate interest — or simply because scientists, too, can be beguiled by the mysterious.

I wish there were more of a placebo effect associated with the reading of science done carefully.  Maybe then we wouldn’t waste so much money and energy on all of those other placebo-effect inducers, including homeopathy.

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Category: Fraud, Health, Medicine, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (32)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    A couple whose baby daughter died after they treated her with homeopathic remedies instead of conventional medicine have been found guilty of manslaughter.

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/parents-guilty-of-

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    Here's an undiluted video dose of Brit-snark at homeopathy:

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  3. Erich Vieth says:

    More on the defective foundations of homeopathy from Slate– article is entitled, “Homeopathy is for suckers.”

    “As the NHMRC report has shown, there have been no reasonable scientific studies of homeopathic medicines that have borne out any of its claims. Studies that have been pointed to by homeopaths as proving their effectiveness have invariably been scientifically flawed. The Food and Drug Administration has not recognized any homeopathic medicine as “safe and effective.”

    The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, states on its website: “Most rigorous clinical trials and systematic analyses of the research on homeopathy have concluded that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition.”

    Some people will swear that homeopathy has cured them or in some way improved their particular condition. The brain is a powerful organ, and the placebo effect is a real and often powerful process. If there is any medicinal value in homeopathy, it is that fact. Money spent on sugar pills is money spent to fool your mind into curing you. For real medicine, look to actual science to cure what ails you.”

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