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51 “Facts” About Homeopathy

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

—- Mark Twain

I use a Mac, so I know I think different. I also coexist on an alternative parallel world where people live on the same planet as me, but have such a radically different way of thinking that I wonder if we have the same ability to evaluate reality (1).

The best example of different ways of seeing the same thing is homeopathy. Homeopathy is utterly and completely ridiculous with zero plausibility or efficacy. Only therapeutic touch is its rival. Yet homeopath Louise Mclean can suggest there are 50 facts that validate homeopathy (2). These facts were presented as an attempt to counter criticism that homeopathy is only water with no therapeutic effects.

Lets evaluate each fact. There are two parts to the evaluations: whether the fact is true and what, if any, logical fallacy is being used. Deciding on which logical fallacy is being used is not my strong point, feel free to correct me in the comments, and I will add to the text later.

1) Fact 1 – Hippocrates ‘The Father of Medicine’ of Ancient Greece said there were two Laws of Healing: The Law of Opposites and the Law of Similars. Homeopathy treats the patient with medicines using the Law of Similars, orthodox medicine uses the Law of Opposites, e.g. antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics.

Logical fallacy (3): Argument from authority, argument from antiquity, strawman.

Errors: Hippocrates’ ideas as to disease treatment have no (as in zero) applicability to how we understand medicine. Also, medicine does not treat by the Law of Opposites, and using the ‘anti’ prefix as an understanding of how a process works is just weird. Its like finding significance in assume making an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Antibiotics, for example, work by targeting very specific bacterial chemical pathways to kill the organism. Anti inflammatories block a specific enzymes in the inflammatory pathway to decrease inflammation etc etc. There is no Law of Opposites in modern medicine. That is either a profound misunderstanding or a misrepresentation.

Fact 2 – Homeopathic theories are based on fixed principles of the Laws of Nature which do not change — unlike medical theories which are constantly changing!

Logical Fallacy: Strawman.

Error: Homeopathy is based on nonsense, and there are no fixed “Laws of Nature” upon which it is based (I do like the the capitals, makes it seem so much more authoritative). What “Law” outside the fictions on Hanneman (he pulled his Laws out the his, well, imagination), is homeopathy based on? None. All the Laws of chemistry, physics, physiology, biology etc would suggest that homeopathy is unequivocal nonsense.

That medicine is changing is its strong suit. Ask yourself this (not applicable if you are Amish or a Homeopath) is there any part of your life where you would prefer to operate under the concepts and technology of the mid 1800′s? Modern medicine progresses. Homeopathy is not only nonsense, it is stagnant nonsense.

Fact 3 – Homeopathy is an evidence-based, empirical medicine.

Logical Fallacy: Non-Sequitur, moving goalpost.

Error: none. Unfortunately all the evidence based, empirical data demonstrates that homeopathy is totally useless.

Fact 4 – Homeopathy is both an art and a science.

Logical Fallacy: Non-Sequitur, moving goalpost.

Error: It is an art, like other works of the imagination. As to science, not so much. Homeopaths denies the applicability of all the basic sciences to homeopathy, especially chemistry and physiology. It does occasionally misinterpret quantum mechanics as applicable to its mechanism of action, but misapplying science does not a science make, in this they share a close kinship with the science of intelligent design.

Fact 5 – The Homeopathic provings of medicines are a more scientific method of testing than the orthodox model.

Logical Fallacy: Unstated Major Premise.

Error: This is only true if you think non randomized, uncontrolled, unblinded anecdotes based on unknown or unproven physical principles are more scientific than randomized, controlled, double blind studies based on therapies that have biologic plausibility. This statement is the same as postulating astrology is better science than astronomy.

Fact 6 – Homeopathic medicine awakens and stimulates the body’s own curative powers. The potentized remedy acts as a catalyst to set healing into motion.

Logical Fallacy: Non-Sequitur? There needs to be a logical fallacy for using scientific terminology that seems to make sense, but doesn’t. I call it the “Say What? logical fallacy.

Error: Which curative power and how it is stimulated and what is catalyzed is never said. It sounds impressive until you ask for details. Vague homilies, no meat. Potentized is homeopathy speak for really dilute and shaked/shook/shooken really well.

Fact 7 – Homeopathic medicines work by communicating a current/pattern/frequency of energy via the whole human body to jump start the body’s own inherent healing mechanisms

Logical Fallacy: say what?

Error: This makes no sense as I understand the world. The phase “communicating a current/pattern/frequency of energy via the whole human body” really has no content in reality based medicine. Like Oakland, there is no there there. Much of alt med is often all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Big, impressive words and concepts that when analyzed carefully say nothing.

Fact 8 – Homeopathy assists the body to heal itself, to overcome an illness which brings the patient to a higher level of health. Orthodox medicine suppresses the illness, bringing the patient to a lower level of health.

Logical Fallacy: strawman.

Error: There is a presumption in alt med that the people have a perfect level of health they should be at all the time. Probably not true, as evolution has given us a system that mostly functions reasonably well, but is far from perfection. Next time I cure a heart valve infection, or my cardiology colleague limits the damage of heart attack, or my surgical colleague takes out that cancer, I tell the patient, sorry. I have only suppressed your illness, your level of health is now less.

Fact 9 – The homeopathic practitioner endeavours to search for and treat the cause of the disease in order to heal the effect.

Logical Fallacy: strawman.

Error: this is the big lie (Big Lie to make it more authoritative) of all alt med. This is what “orthodox” medicine excels at, and what alt medicine, because it is grounded in magic, superstition and faulty understanding of the physical world, can never do. Real doctors find and fix the root cause of illness, homeopaths cannot and do not do any such thing.

Fact 10 – Outcomes of homeopathic treatment are measured by the long term curative effects of prescribing and complete eradication of the disease state for preventing numerous diseases.

Logical Fallacy: false dichotomy.

Error: none. however, when you diagnose and treat based on magic, you can define cure and prevention in non-verifiable ways.

Fact 11 – The homeopathic practitioner treats the whole person, believing all symptoms are interrelated and seeks to select a medicine which most closely covers them all.

Logical Fallacy: strawman.

Error: Again, being grounded in nonsense and magical thinking, homeopathy can only have an erroneous and faulty understanding of the whole person. See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=137 for an extended rant.

Fact 12 – Homeopathic remedies are cheap.

Logical Fallacy: none.

Error: Yes, water is inexpensive. However, think for a moment what it takes to make a homeopathic preparation. Take a 25 ml (1.7 tablespoons) bottle of 200C homeopathic preparation. To make such a product you need 495 liters (about 130 gallons, or 1040 pints) of water to make the required dilutions for one bottle (4). That is an amazing waste of water. Environmentally maybe not so cheap.

Fact 13 – Pharmaceutical medicines are expensive.

Logical Fallacy: strawman, non sequitur. false dichotomy, which I like to call the, ‘oh yeah, well you are fat’ fallacy.

Error: some real medications are expensive , some are not. Unlike homeopathy, pharmaceutical medicines are proven to work. Whatever the failings of science based medicine, those failings do not validate homeopathy. Homeopathy has to stand or fall on its own, not on the perceived failings of others. It is like declaring you are thin, because I am fat.

Fact 14 – There are more than 4,000 homeopathic medicines.

Logical Fallacy: strawman.

Error: Homeopathy is one ‘medication’: water.

Fact 15 – Homeopathic medicines have no toxic side-effects.

Logical Fallacy: none

Error: tell that to Percy Bysshe Shelley. Medications can only have side effects if first they have an effect. No effect, no side effect. I wonder. Do homeopaths ever misdiagnose? If so, what is the effect of giving the wrong homeopathic treatment?

Fact 16 – Homeopathic medicines are non-addictive.

Logical Fallacy: none.

Error: you try going without water.

Fact 17 – Every true homeopathic medicine is made using one substance — whether plant, mineral, metal, etc. The exact substance is known, unlike most modern drugs where we are rarely informed of the ingredients.

Logical Fallacy: strawman, false dichotomy.

Error: I could be in error, but I did not know that plants were made of one substance. A quick scan of the periodic chart, oh yeah, there it is: foxglove. Right after belladonna. The first mineral in the mineral database (4442 total minerals) is Anorthite,CaAl2Si2O8, made up of 4 substances. Plants and minerals are made up of many many substances. But I am a reductionist. Again it is true in that all homeopathic medications are water and only water.

As to modern drugs, I guess she has not seen a PDR, where the ingredients of medications are freely available, meticulously detailed and strictly controlled, the opposite, at least in the US, of all alt therapies which have zero oversight as to their composition.

Fact 18 – Any remedy up to a 12c or a 24x potency still contains the original molecules of the substance and this is known as Avogadro’s number.

Logical Fallacy: say what?

Error: “Avogadro’s number, is the number of “elementary entities” (usually atoms or molecules) in one mole, that is (from the definition of the mole) the number of atoms in exactly 12 grams of carbon-12 (Wikipedia).”

As it applies to homeopathy, “According to the laws of chemistry, there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, called Avogadro’s number (6.023 x 10-23) corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024). At this dilution there is less than a 50% chance that even one molecule of active material remains (5).”

I thought it was the water that had the potency, not the molecule. BTW: who wants to go to a bartender who serves Cosmopolitans made with the principals of homeopathy? A 12 C martini would have 60% chance (6) of one molecule of alcohol in it, but should be more potent than a normal cosmo. At least if it were a homeopathic cosmo.

Fact 19 – Every Patient is Unique so homeopathic medicines are individualized.

Logical Fallacy: ?

Error: homeopathy appears to postulate 6 billion different treatments for each person in the world who has hypertension. And 6 billion different treatments for fever. And 6 billion unique treatments for…. on and on for each of the diseases out there. It is, of course, like the rest of homeopathy, impossible.

And for each individual treatment there are, by Fact 14, over 4000 homeopathic remedies. And you apply 4000 remedies to 6 billion people and make each treatment individualized how? There are over 13,000 prescription drugs. Who do you think is better able to provide an individualized therapy?

Fact 20 – Homeopaths treat genetic illness, tracing its origins to 6 main genetic causes: Tuberculosis, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Psora (scabies), Cancer, Leprosy.

Logical Fallacy: say what?

Error: Tuberculosis, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Psora (scabies) and Leprosy are infections. Infections not genetic illnesses. Thats just stupid. Cancer, may be considered genetic.

Fact 21 – Epidemics such as cholera and typhoid were treated successfully using homeopathy in the 19th century with very high success rates, compared to orthodox medicine (http://www.whale.to/v/winston.html) .

Logical Fallacy: argument from antiquity.

Error: As best I can tell, in 1854 10 of 61 cases of cholera died in a homeopathic hospital, while 123 of the 231 died of cholera in a regular hospital. I am not able to find the details of the therapy and the rigorousness of the diagnosis. I can find insufficient information to comment on the validity of the information. If it is a valid conclusion it has been the only positive study in the 150 years of homeopathy.

Fact 22 – There are thousands of homeopathic books, available at specialist outlets, not sold in the high street.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity.

Error: none. Reading fiction remains a popular pastime.

Fact 23 – There are 5 homeopathic hospitals in the U.K. — in London, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. They cost the NHS under £10 million a year compared to the £100 billion for the total annual NHS budget for 2008!

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity.

Error: I do not doubt it is a true fact. No wonder the sun set long ago on the Empire.

Fact 24 – At one of the earliest debates on the NHS Act of 1948 the Government pledged that homoeopathy would continue to be available on the NHS, as long as there were “patients wishing to receive it and doctors willing to provide it”.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity.

Error: As George Bush II said: “You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.” I bet there are those that wish cocaine had the same criteria for availability from UK doctors: someone wants it and a doctor will sell it.

Fact 25 – There is a campaign by certain U.K. Professors to oust homeopathy completely from the NHS after they wrote on NHS headed paper to all Primary Care Trusts in 2006 telling managers not to refer patients to the homeopathic hospitals.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity.

Error: none. Certain U.K. professors are better at understanding good healthcare than others and much better than politicians pandering to nonsense with a promise of homeopathy forever.

Fact 26 – The Homeopathic Hospitals are clean, with friendly, well informed staff. The patients are generally pleased with their treatment unlike many orthodox National Health Service hospitals.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity, false dichotomy.

Error: none. Con men need to please their clients/victims since they have no real service to offer.

Fact 27 – The chances of contracting MRSA or C. Difficile at a Homeopathic Hospital are extremely rare.

Logical Fallacy: ?

Error: I do not doubt this. MRSA and C. difficile are unfortunate (and perhaps unpreventable) complications of doing interventions that work. MRSA most commonly causes a postoperative wound infection from surgery and C. difficile occurs after receiving antibiotics. SInce homeopathy does nothing, it cannot have these complications.

Fact 28 – Unlike orthodox medicine where two thirds of all conventional hospital admissions are due to the side-effects of pharmaceutical medicines, the bill for negligence claims soaring into billions, one U.K. leading insurance company reported only ‘a couple’ of claims against homeopaths in a ten year period!

Logical Fallacy: say what?

Error: ” two thirds of all conventional hospital admissions are due to the side-effects of pharmaceutical medicines”. Where did this number come from? She appears to making stuff up (I bet someone finds it on the whale). Maybe 6% or so of hospitalitzations are due to adverse drug reactions (7). I somehow operate under the assumption that facts have a correlation with real data that can be evaluated and not, like Hahnemann’s Laws, just made up.

Fact 29 – In the United States in the early 1900s there were 22 homeopathic medical schools and over 100 homeopathic hospitals, 60 orphanages and old people’s homes and 1,000+ homeopathic pharmacies.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity.

Error: And the life expectancy was 48.23 years (8). We abandoned homeopathy and doubled our life expectancy.

Fact 30 – Members of the American Medical Association had great animosity towards homeopathy after its formation in 1847 and it was decided to purge all local medical societies of physicians who were homeopaths.

Logical Fallacy: ?

Error: Curiously, as an MD (but not an AMA member), I have an animosity towards my patients wasting their money and jeopardizing their health on nonsense.

Fact 31 – Big Pharma does not want the Public to find out how well homeopathy works!

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to paranoid delusions (not a standard logical fallacy, but needed here).

Error: its a paranoid delusion.

Fact 32 – In 2005 the World Health Organization brought out a draft report which showed homeopathy was beneficial causing Big Pharma to panic and The Lancet to bring out an editorial entitled ‘The End of Homeopathy’.

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to paranoid delusions.

Error: its a paranoid delusion.

Fact 33 – In 2005 The Lancet tried to destroy homeopathy but were only looking at 8 inconclusive trials out of 110 of which 102 were positive. This was a fraudulent analysis.

“The meta-analysis at the centre of the controversy is based on 110 placebo-controlled clinical trials of homeopathy and 110 clinical trials of allopathy (conventional medicine), which are said to be matched. These were reduced to 21 trials of homeopathy and 9 of conventional medicine of ‘higher quality’ and further reduced to 8 and 6 trials, respectively, which were ‘larger, higher quality’. The final analysis which concluded that ‘the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects’ was based on just the eight ‘larger, higher quality’ clinical trials of homeopathy. The Lancet’s press release did not mention this, instead giving the impression that the conclusions were based on all 110 trials.” (http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articl…)

Logical Fallacy: Appeal to paranoid delusions.

Error: meta analysis of impossible therapies are medical paradolia, seeing patterns were none exist. See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=242 for details. The best quote ever on the topic:

“I see all the homeopathy trials as making up a kind of “model organism” for studying the way science and scientific publishing works. Given that homeopathic remedies are known to be completely inert, any positive conclusions or even suggestions of positive conclusions that homeopathy researchers come up with must be either chance findings, mistakes, or fraud.

So homeopathy lets us look at how a community of researchers can generate a body of published papers and even meta-analyze and re-meta-analyze them in great detail, in the absence of any actual phenomenon at all. It’s a bit like growing bacteria in a petri dish in which you know there is nothing but agar.

The rather sad conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s very easy for intelligent, thoughtful scientists to see signals in random noise. I fear that an awful lot of published work in sensible fields of medicine and biology is probably just that as well. Homeopathy proves that it can happen. (the problem is that we don’t know what’s nonsense and what’s not within any given field.) It’s a warning to scientists everywhere (10).”

Fact 34 – There have been many clinical trials that prove homeopathy works. In the past 24 years there have been more than 180 controlled, and 118 randomized, trials into homeopathy, which were analyzed by four separate meta-analyses. In each case, the researchers concluded that the benefits of homeopathy went far beyond that which could be explained purely by the placebo effect.

Logical Fallacy: none.

Error: The question is are there quality trials that show homeopathy works. Nope. And fact 5 dismisses these scientific trials as inferior to the homeopathic proving, so which is it? It is a case of having your cake and eating it too, which should be a logical fallacy.

Fact 35 – The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital carried out a study published in November 2005 of 6500 patients receiving homeopathic treatment. There was an overall improvement in health of 70% of them.

Logical Fallacy:

Error: association is not causation. They improved and received homeopathic treatment NOT They improved because they received homeopathic treatment. Causality is a tricky thing to prove, at least outside of homeopathy.

Fact 36 – Homeopathy can never be properly tested through double blind randomized trials because each prescription is individualized as every patient is unique. Therefore 10 people with arthritis, for example, may all need a different homeopathic medicine.

Logical Fallacy: the cake and eat it too fallacy.

Error: facts 33 and 34 depend on their validity from double blind randomized trial, which are denied in fact 36 and fact 5. And if 4001 people have arthritis, that 4000 and first is out of luck. See fact 19. She sure isn’t one for consistency in her facts.

Fact 37 – Homeopathic medicines are not tested on animals.

Logical Fallacy: false dichotomy.

Error: If homeopathic medications are more effective on animals (fact 38) and have no toxic side effects (fact 15), then why is this a good thing? It is bad to test on animals because it harms them. If homeopathy is harmless, then there is no moral high ground to be gained from not testing on animals. We know water is safe for animals, especially for fish, who are subject to all the increasingly dilute, and therefore more powerful, homeopathic medications sent down the drain. Is that why the fish stocks are crashing?

Fact 38 – Homeopathic medicines work even better on animals and babies than on adults, proving this cannot be placebo.

Logical Fallacy: say what?

Error: huh? The efficacy of the medication depends on age and species? How is this supposed to work? And if homeopathic medicines are not tested on animals (fact 37), then how do we know they are more effective?

Fact 39 – Scientists agree that if and when homeopathy is accepted by the scientific community it will turn established science on its head.

Logical Fallacy: strawman.

Error: absolutely true. If homeopathy is accepted because to experimental proof, then 500 years of progress in all the sciences have been in error. If homeopathy is accepted without scientific proof, then its back to the dark ages for western civilization, and only the morticians and homeopaths will profit.

Fact 40 – Homeopathic Practitioners train for 4 years in Anatomy and Physiology, as well as Pathology and Disease, Materia Medica, Homeopathic Philosophy and study of the Homeopathic Repertory.

Logical Fallacy: non sequiter.

Error: no argument here. Four years to learn anatomy, pathology and physiology just so you can ignore it later. I wonder if they study chemistry.

Fact 41 – Most homeopaths treat patients who have been referred to them by word of mouth. Most patients seek out homeopathy because conventional treatment has not benefited them or because it poses too great a risk of side-effects.

Logical Fallacy: appeal to popularity.

Error: none.

Fact 42 – The homeopathic community has thousands, even millions, of written case notes that demonstrate the positive benefits of their treatment. Some homeopaths have video proof of their patients before and after treatment.

Logical Fallacy: appeal to popularity.

Error: the plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.

Fact 43 – Homeopaths charge patients an average of £50 an hour. Specialist Doctors can charge up to £200 or more.

Logical Fallacy: strawman

Error: one gets what they pay for. You can spend thousands of dollars on a car for transportation, but I bet a unicorn would cost less for the same purpose.

Fact 44 – The popularity of homeopathy has grown in the past 30 years, its revival entirely through word of mouth and estimated to be growing at more than 20% a year the world over.

Logical Fallacy: appeal to popularity.

Error: see George Bush quote above.

Fact 45 – Hundreds of famous people throughout the past 200 years have enjoyed the benefits of homeopathic medicine (www.homeopathicrevolution.com) .

Logical Fallacy: appeal to authority and popularity.

Error: being famous does not make your knowledge of medicine more (or less) valid (9).

Fact 46 – The aristocratic patronage of homeopathy in the U.K. extended well into the 1940s and beyond can be easily demonstrated. In the Homeopathic Medical Directories there are lists of patrons of the dispensaries and hospitals. They read like an extract from Burke’s or Debrett’s.

Logical Fallacy: appeal to authority and popularity.

Error: Like being famous, being an aristocrat does not make your knowledge of medicine more (or less) valid.

Fact 47 – The Royal Families of Europe use homeopathic medicine and Queen Elizabeth II of England never travels anywhere without her homeopathic vials of medicine.

Logical Fallacy: appeal to authority.

Error: since the Queen is a medical authority, as a medical doctor I am an authority on constitutional monarchy.

Fact 48 – Homeopathy is practised nowadays in countries all over the world. In India there are 100 homeopathic medical schools and around 250,000 homeopathic doctors.

Logical Fallacy: appeal to popularity.

Error: none. But Indians have a life expectancy 20 years less than the US. Cause and effect?

Fact 49 – In a recent Global TGI survey where people were asked whether they trust homeopathy the following percentages of people living in urban areas said YES: 62% in India, 58% Brazil, 53% Saudi Arabia, Chile 49%, United Arab Emirates 49%, France 40%, South Africa 35%, Russia 28%, Germany 27%, Argentina 25%, Hungary 25%, USA 18%, UK 15% (http://www.tgisurveys.com/documents/TGI…)

Logical Fallacy: appeal to popularity.

Error: The data is accurate, but does not validate homeopathy. In the USA, 18% was the percentage who trusted Wall Street in 2007 (11).

Fact 50 – The media as a whole has been unwilling to air a defence of the efficacy of homeopathy and the validity of this 250 year old profession.

Logical Fallacy: paranoid strawman.

Error: from my perspective, the opposite is true with the media all too willing to perpetuate nonsense like homeopathy.

Fact 51: I think Ronald Reagan was practicing homeopathy when he said “Facts are stupid things”.

Logical Fallacy: I like a good quote.

Error: none.

————–

1) Note: I said different, not better, he says in a feeble attempt to forestall comments.

2) http://www.naturalnews.com/024512.html

3) http://www.theskepticsguide.org/logicalfallacies.asp.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy

I am often uncertain re: which logical fallacy applies, feel free to correct of add to them. And I am sure I will hear about my own.

4) http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/homeopathy2.htm

5) http://www.skepticfiles.org/skmag/homeo.htm

6) http://www.ukskeptics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=67

7) http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/329/7456/15

8) http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005140.html

9) Unless you are a famous scientologist. Then you have expertise in psychiatry.

10) http://hawk-handsaw.blogspot.com/2008/10/shang-study-remains-firmly-in-water.html?showComment=1223476080000#c612742695616522486)

11) http://www.usnews.com/blogs/small-biz-scene/2007/3/6/small-business-tops-poll-on-trust.html

Posted in: Health Fraud, Homeopathy

Leave a Comment (32) ↓

32 thoughts on “51 “Facts” About Homeopathy

  1. Meadon says:

    While I am no expert, the claim the Hippocrates introduced the laws of similars and opposites doesn’t pass my smell test. A quick Google (and Google Scholar) search reveals that the only people who say he introduced these ‘laws’ are alt med nuts. I certainly might be wrong, but it seems “Fact 1″ is straightforwardly false in addition to being fallacious.

  2. jaap says:

    Re: Fact 12 – Homeopathic remedies are cheap.

    You say one needs 495 litres of water to make up 25 ml of 200C homeopathic stuff. I don’t see where that comes from. It is possible to work with very small amounts (e.g. diluting 1 drop in a volume of 99 drops of water, 200 times) until the last step. And even then you can make large amounts of this stuff at once, not just one bottle of 25ml.

    Re: Fact 16 – Homeopathic medicines are non-addictive.
    Error: you try going without water.

    That’s a bit disingenuous of you. Water is not habit-forming.

    A few typo’s:
    strong suite -> strong suit
    physical principals -> physical principles

    Where is fact 10?
    Fact 11 is not in quote style.

  3. adina says:

    I’m kind of torn. You do a very impressive job of debunking her ridiculous claims. On the other hand, we can’t be goaded to respond to everyone who thinks the world is flat or the earth revolves around the sun or that “original molecules of a substance” are “retained” (do they disappear afterwards?) up until a preperation reaches a certain potency (Does she mean concentration? Or does she really think that if you have a greater therapeutic effect per given dosage, that’s when molecules start disappearing? Either way it wouldn’t make sense, but at least I would understand her error if she mistook amount for concentration), or that Avogadro’s number has anything to do with what she’s talking about ? (Even if assumed that it made sense to say that the number of molecules decrease or the number of moles decrease, I don’t understand how the Avogadro’s pre-defined number molecules per mol has any relevance).

    It could take years to argue against every single person who makes an inane statement. That is because, while you’re writing, people keep talking. You can never catch up. I wouldn’t bother with people who clearly don’t have the wherewithal to understand 8th grade chemistry (and yet are brazen enough to refer to it- you do have to admire her courage! I don’t argue with astro-physicists, since I know enough to know that I wouldn’t know what the hell I’m talking about). Some people do not have the capacity to fully understand the concept of “evidence,” or why it is even important. And there is no way to convince them otherwise.

    You can make yourself crazy if you keep noting every fallacy and falsehood propogated on the internet. Some people sincerely believe that they are Jesus or Mary or George Clooney’s secret lover, (and that if they followed him around enough, he would “remember” this). Some people have equally ridiculous delusions that they are making scientific or logical sense. Maybe they have poor insight. Maybe they were blessed with high confidence, coupled with low intelligence. Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of people who think they’re Jesus show up at the ER. Similarly, there are a lot of people who have fixed false delusional beliefs about the efficacy of the their “medical” recommendations. We try to stabilize the man who thinks he’s Jesus, rule out medical causes, refer him to psych, and make sure he has the care he needs. We don’t refute his claims with evidence; it just won’t help. I don’t see this woman’s claims as any different. Therefore, in a similar vain, I question the usefulness of refuting all the statements of her and the endless stream of counterparts, all united by their commitment to belligerent ignorance.

  4. daijiyobu says:

    MC wrote:

    “if homeopathy is accepted without scientific proof, then its back to the dark ages for western civilization, and only the morticians and homeopaths will profit.”

    Welcome to the dark ages

    (see http://www.nabne.org/nabne_page_23.php ).

    -r.c.

  5. Harriet Hall says:

    adina is right that we can’t debunk every false claim. And no amount of debunking will change the mind of the true believer. Still, I see great value in this kind of exercise:

    (1) It gets a rational answer documented where it can be found by people who have not yet become true believers but are at risk.
    (2) It teaches by example: showing how critical thinking skills can be applied to any claim.

    I think this kind of thing really can do some good. When you google for “Amen Clinics” two of the top ten hits are for articles that I wrote, for Quackwatch and for this blog, critiquing Amen’s claims. An undecided potential client will have a chance to hear both sides of the story. My Quackwatch article is also referenced in the Wikipedia article on the Amen Clinic.

    Quacks are very vocal in spreading their misinformation. We need to be just as vocal in setting the record straight.

  6. daedalus2u says:

    When you combine the law of similars with the law of opposites don’t you get the complete set? The union of the A set and the not-A set results in the complete set.

    If something isn’t working because it is similar, then it should work because it is opposite.

  7. Vaklam says:

    Harriet Hall said: Quacks are very vocal in spreading their misinformation. We need to be just as vocal in setting the record straight.

    Amen! (All puns intended)

    This article along with Orac’s over on Respectful Insolence have given me a couple of good places to direct people who think this stuff works. In fact, I sent someone a link to this article a few minutes ago. Let’s hope it pushes him that much closer to reason.

  8. aleahey says:

    Hey Mark, nicely done. I actually wrote a similar post on my blog, though it was quite a bit less exhaustive.

    http://www.leahey.org/2008/10/17/what-is-homeopathy/

  9. stavros says:

    Fact 12 – Homeopathic remedies are cheap

    well that is simply not true!

    In London they sell a £25ml solution for more than £4 – £5! And don’t get me started on the consultation costs! And what do they need to prepare the remedies? Very cheap water and herb supplies, no expertise, no regulation costs, no manufacturing costs! So, no, I am sorry but this is the opposite of cheap. If you consider the years of research, trials, production, licensing, regulation, and “maintenance” costs, Big Pharma drugs are way cheaper than homeopathic water!

  10. Fifi says:

    stavros – The general rule is that expensive placebos work better – they’re not ripping people off their just selling them MORE placebo ;-)

  11. stavros says:

    Fact 38 – Homeopathic medicines work even better on animals and babies than on adults, proving this cannot be placebo.

    Oh dear God… This is a self-destructing argument for homeopaths and they don’t seem to be able to understand it. (Quackometer has done a piece on this)

    For a homeopathic treatment to be prepared, a proving has to be done where the symptoms the original substance causes are documented. How the hell do they do provings on animals?!? How do they document their symptoms?!? Same for babies…

    Plus, the same old misconception that the placebo effect is something one understands, hence babies or animals cannot experience it!

  12. daedalus2u says:

    Babies most certainly can experience a placebo effect.

    When a baby is crying and in pain, and is picked up by mom and soothed and then stops crying, what caused the crying to stop? A pharmacological effect of being picked up? No, a placebo effect of being picked up.

  13. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    “That’s a bit disingenuous of you. Water is not habit-forming.”

    Uh, I think Dr. C was making a,… how-you-say,…. JOKE?

  14. Jurjen S. says:

    There is an association between

    Fact 48 – Homeopathy is practised nowadays in countries all over the world. In India there are 100 homeopathic medical schools and around 250,000 homeopathic doctors.

    and

    Fact 32 – In 2005 the World Health Organization brought out a draft report which showed homeopathy was beneficial [...]

    The WHO is, most of the time, an organization that does valuable work. Unfortunately, like many (probably most) organizations that fall under the UN umbrella, it is subject at times to political pressure from donor states. If the governments of one or more member states decide that they derive a measure of national prestige from their alt med communities, they may put pressure on the WHO to publish material that speaks positively of that particular branch of alt med, or refrain from publishing material containing negative findings. Thus, when the WTO publishes a report on TCM which makes mealy-mouthed pronouncements about how there have been some noteworthy results and at the very least more research is needed because there may very well be something to it, you can bet the government of the People’s Republic of China had a hand in getting it published. Ditto with India, Pakistan and others where reports on homeopathy are concerned.

    Note that this does not invalidate the role of the WHO, any more than the existence of the NCCAM invalidates the role of the NIH overall. Nor does it reflect upon the integrity of the bulk of people who work there, most of whom are gnashing their teeth at the indignity of being forced to let such garbage through. Compare the plight of the International Maritime Organization (another UN agency). The IMO serves to set international standards (for safety, working conditions, emissions, etc.) for shipping on the high seas. Unfortunately, voting power is assigned to countries based on registered shipping tonnage, which means that the two most powerful national delegations at conferences are those of Liberia and Panama, the two countries most notorious for being “Flag of Convenience” countries due to their lax standards. This is a serious source of frustration to IMO personnel.

  15. Fifi says:

    Daedalus – With all due respect, I think you’re reaching to equate picking up a baby with a placebo effect. Babies cry because they want something – whether it’s food, love, pain relief or having their nappy changed. Picking them up lets them know their cries have been heard – crying has served its purpose so, unless the discomfort continues (such as an earache or teething) they’ll stop crying. Sometimes they’re not crying because they’re in pain, they just need to locate their mother and crying is the way they do this. Babies stop crying when they get what they need – you can sometimes temporarily distract a baby so they forget their needs but that doesn’t resolve the need, it merely overrides it for a while.

    In a lot of situatins related to CAM treatments I don’t think there’s actually a placebo effect going on per se. A lot of CAM is about “wellness” – which isn’t really about being physically healthy (or even psychologically for that matter) but about how happy you are with the life, the universe and everything combined with the belief that there really should be more. You know, your basic existential angst aka a midlife crisis (which is why there’s also such an emphasis on longevity and ideas of immortality in the “wellness” industry, they’re aimed at people starting to get older who are having issues grappling with their mortality).

    The basic reality is, if someone isn’t actually sick there’s no actual healing or medicine to be done. Feeling dissatisfied – uncomfortable though it may be at times – is hardly being “unwell”, it’s merely being dissatisfied. A lot of CAM functions as pseudo-psychotherapy (with the CAM practioner having no true understanding or ability to navigate transference and countertransference, or in the worst cases the CAM practitioner is consciously using someone’s emotional vulnerability to manipulate or con the patient). The very process of a homeopathic consultation, where someone has to report their daily lives and feelings in detail, can be like freeform cognitive therapy in some ways – at the very least it’s being attentively listened to. On a psychological level this validates an individual and their suffering – for someone who doesn’t really want to resolve an issue but wants sympathy it’s perfect (whether it’s a mild or intense manifestation of hypochondria, it fits their desires if not their ultimate good or needs), or for someone who just wants a sympathetic ear. However, it’s not nearly as good as therapy with a trained therapist and can even be very damaging – particularly if the CAM practitioner has their own neurotic issues or is subtly recruiting for some cult or religion (which is one of the reasons I find the links between Big Vita/Supp, CAM and Scientology to be particularly disturbing, especially since people who are engaged in CAM obviously can’t tell the difference between science and pseudoscience and simply have faith that what they were taught is true).

  16. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    “Fact 35 – The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital carried out a study published in November 2005 of 6500 patients receiving homeopathic treatment. There was an overall improvement in health of 70% of them.

    Logical Fallacy:”

    The fallacy is post hoc ergo propter hoc (which you have effectively stated in the subsequent paragraph)

  17. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    “Fact 27 – The chances of contracting MRSA or C. Difficile at a Homeopathic Hospital are extremely rare.

    Logical Fallacy: ?”

    Strawman? No one has accused homeopathic clinics of being hotbeds of nosocomial infection, so their claim not to be so is effectively a strawman.

    (It’s also bad grammar, the chances are extremely “low”, cases at those institutions are extremely “rare”)

  18. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    “”Fact 23 – There are 5 homeopathic hospitals in the U.K. — in London, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. They cost the NHS under £10 million a year compared to the £100 billion for the total annual NHS budget for 2008!

    Logical Fallacy: Appeal to popularity.

    Error: I do not doubt it is a true fact. No wonder the sun set long ago on the Empire.”

    NHS support carries slightly less rhetorical weight for the homs with the impending closure of the Tunbridge Wells hospital.

    http://dcscience.net/?p=167

    I have to say I don’t know whether they have locked the doors for the last time as of this posting.

  19. daedalus2u says:

    Fifi, with all due respect, I wasn’t meaning to suggest that every instance of a baby stopping crying when picked up by mom is due to a placebo effect, only that some instances are. To me, a mother’s “kiss it and make it better” is the archetypal placebo.

    The physiology that supports an infant being comforted and made to feel better by mom is the same physiology that supports the placebo effect in adults.

    Some of the examples you give for babies might be appropriate for adults as well and in a medical setting would be called a placebo effect if a pharmacologically active agent was not administered.

    Because there is such a thing as the placebo effect, there has to be physiology that causes it to happen. Being able to trigger that physiology at the appropriate time would be a great adjunct to any therapy.

  20. Fifi says:

    Well actually it’s interesting you bring up the “kiss and make it better” idea since I wouldn’t classify that as a placebo effect either. You seem to consider all comforting and loving interactions as placebo effects, do you?

  21. daedalus2u says:

    If you wouldn’t classify it as a placebo effect, what would you classify it as?

    I don’t consider all comforting and loving interactions to be placebos, but any therapeutic effects that a mother’s “kiss it and make it better” has are not pharmacological. If they are not pharmacological, either there are no effects, or the effects are mediated by the same physiology as the placebo effect.

    I think to some degree loving and comforting interactions and the placebo effect are indistinguishable. I think that is part of why people in loving relationships tend to live longer than those who are not.

  22. Fifi says:

    It seems to me that you’re making lots of leaps here to try to fit this into your overarching theory about NO, there are a lot of neurochemicals involved in the various experiences we call love. Just because something’s not a pill involved (which is what I assume you mean by pharmacological) doesn’t mean that it’s a placebo effect! Not all human experience is a placebo effect and the brain is full of neurochemicals. A natural triggering of a neurochemical isn’t a placebo effect in my understanding (otherwise everything’s just a placebo effect and their is no real effect to be the basic of placebo effect).

    One of my all time favorite neuroscience books is A General Theory of Love by Lewis, Amini and Lannon. You may find it an interesting read about the neurobiology of love. It’s also beautifully written.

    http://www.amazon.com/General-Theory-Love-Thomas-Lewis/dp/0375709223

    Kissing to make it better only works with older children, it doesn’t work on babies to get them to stop crying. The only way to really stop a baby from crying is to resolve their discomfort – change the nappy, feed them, etc. Particularly when talking about the experience of pain there are a whole variety of psychosocial factors that have to do with reward and attention.

  23. daedalus2u says:

    There are a lot of neurochemicals involved, and they all tie back to and are coupled to NO. Physiology has to be that way to modulate such things under different states of metabolic and other types of stress.

    You should read some of Stefano’s work. He and I are on exactly the same page. It is his hypothesis that the placebo effect is mediated through NO.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11245883

    This paper isn’t available online, but if you send me your email I can send it to you. I have my email on my Nitroceutic dot com website. I think you will appreciate his work, he does a lot of mind/body stuff. I think I am much more “hard core” physiology, but I don’t think there is anything we disagree about.

    I consider something to have a “placebo effect” if it improves health and is mediated via communication rather than chemistry or surgery. One can have a self-induced placebo effect which is mediated through communication with oneself.

  24. Charon says:

    Fact 18: You say “12C or 24X (1 part in 1024)” when you mean “12C or 24X (1 part in 10^24)”. Big difference :)

    Fact 35: The logical fallacy is post hoc ergo propter hoc.

  25. Dr H says:

    I appreciate what you’ve done here; in my opinion there are few aspects of pseudoscience more egregious than medical quackery, which can so drastically and adversely affect people’s lives. I agree with most of the errors you’ve found in the list of 50 alleged “facts”; I did find some things wanting in the “fallacies” you list, however.

    Picking apart a list of separate items like this for logical fallacies can be a tricky business. You point out that this is not your strong suit: I note that most of what you’ve flagged as “strawman” arguments, aren’t really strawmen; also most flagged “non-sequiturs” aren’t (it’s hard to justify a statement in a -list- as being a “non-sequitur”). On the other hand, I found a number of fallacies that you missed. For example, note that _errors of fact_ and outright _lies_ can be considered logical fallacies.

    The main problem is that a lot of statements may not be fallacious when taken on their own; however, when evaluated in the context of an overall position or argument they may be fallacious in that context. If we assume that the overall position of the original list is “Homeopathy is a valid and proven effective medical treatment,” and further assume that the 50 alleged facts are all intended to support that position, then the list can be treated as a single argument, and the following logical fallacies emerge:

    *Error of Fact: #1, #2, #5, #8, #10, #18, #20, #28, #34, #43

    *Naturalistic Fallacy: #2

    *Stolen Concept: #3

    *Non-sequitur: #4 (possibly); it is also an error of relevance.

    *Argument from Prestigious Jargon: #6, #7
    (This is the fallacy of “using scientific terminology that seems to
    make sense, but doesn’t” which you were looking for.)

    *Lie: #8, #9

    *Fallacy of the General Rule: #12, #13

    *False dichotomy: /implied/ by #13, but not really anywhere else.

    *Argument from Irrelevance (or ‘false relevance’; ‘so what’ fallacy) –
    #14, #18, #37
    (example from #14: -so what- if there are 4000 listed
    homeopathic remedies? I have a book which depicts
    over 200 different kinds of unicorn– that’s not an
    argument that unicorns are real.)

    *Difference that makes no difference: #15
    – not really a fallacy so much as rhetorical filler

    *Truism: #16 – also not really a fallacy – similar to #15

    *Ambiguous Assertion: #17, 37, 38.
    (Example: in #17, we don’t really know how “substance” is
    being defined)

    *Hasty Generalization: #19

    *Post hoc ergo propter hoc (‘correlation is not causality’): #21, #27,
    #35
    (#35 may or may not fit in this category – it depends on how
    well the alleged studies were designed and conducted.)

    *Appeal to Popularity: #22-24, #26, #29, #41, #42, #44-49
    (Apparently one of the most ‘popular’ quack fallacies :-)

    *Appeal to Authority: #22, #40, #45-47

    *Appeal to False Authority: #32

    *Appeal to Emotion (Fear): #25, #30-32
    (this is your “paranoid delusion” category)

    *Tu Quoque (‘you’re one too’): #33 (maybe)

    *Special Pleading: #33, #36
    (it is essentially being argued that Homeopathy should be
    exempted from the sort of evaluation required of every other
    medical claim and procedure.)

    *Contradiction: #36 (your “have the cake and eat it, too”)

    When considered with claims #2 and #3, it is being argued that:

    a) Homeopathy is based on the “Laws of Nature” (which certainly
    /can/ be scientifically tested);
    b) Homeopathy /has been scientifically tested/ and proven
    efficacious; and
    c) Homeopathy /cannot be scientifically tested/ and evaluated.

    Clearly claim ‘c’ is incompatible with claims ‘a’ and ‘b’.

    #38 is also a contradiction when taken broadly with #37
    – e.g., if Homeopathic medicines are “not tested
    on animals,” then how is it possible to assert that
    homeopathy “works even better on animals” ?

    *Argument from Ignorance: #39, #50

    *Strawman: #39 may actually also be a strawman argument, in
    that it suggests drawing conclusions from a position
    which scientists may not have actually taken.

    Hope this is helpful to you.

  26. Prometheus says:

    Brilliant! My favorite was:

    “A 12 C martini would have 60% chance (6) of one molecule of alcohol in it, but should be more potent than a normal cosmo. At least if it were a homeopathic cosmo.”

    Of course, it goes without saying that a homeopathic martini should be shaken, not stirred.

    Prometheus

  27. Mark Crislip says:

    “Of course, it goes without saying that a homeopathic martini should be shaken, not stirred”

    I am going to steal that line and use it in lectures. It will help me bond with the audience.

  28. David Gorski says:

    Actually, a homeopathic James Bond would ask for his martini to be “succussed, not stirred.” :-)

  29. Mojo says:

    Well, “shaking” sounds so less sciency than “succussion”, doesn’t it?

    They also like to translate the names of their medicines into Latin, or something like it, for similar reasons.

    Who would want to take “Excrementum Can. 6C”, for example, if it was labelled in English?

    You can scroll down this list to find it:

    https://www.helios.co.uk/cgi-bin/store.cgi?action=list_remedies

  30. David Gorski says:

    Come to think of it, would a homeopathic James Bond have even more kick-ass gadgets and beat the bad guys even more roundly the more dilute he becomes?

    Sorry, couldn’t help it.

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