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Homeopathic Vaccines.

It is probably of no surprise to anyone who has read my blog entries, I am a proponent of vaccines.  They give the most bang for the infection prevention buck, and many of the childhood illnesses covered by the vaccine are now so rare that many physicians, even in Infectious Diseases, have never taken care of cases of measles or mumps or German measles, etc.  It is  a remarkable triumph of modern medicine.  Of course, the decline of infectious diseases is always multifactorial: good nutrition, understanding of diseases epidemiology, and good hygiene all have contributed to the decline of many diseases, vaccine preventable or not,  The application of science has resulted in an almost inconceivable decline in contagions that have killed and injured millions.

It is always better to prevent an illness than to have to treat it.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Even those who erroneously believe that standard vaccines are not effective and/or dangerous understand that it is better to prevent illness with some sort vaccine.  But rather than use an effective vaccine, they choose, instead, other options.  Like homeopathic vaccines.

Vaccines offer a small, fixed amount of a pathogen (antigen)  to the immune system.  A touch of  bacterial carbohydrate here, a smidgen of viral protein there.  Something that the immune system can recognize and respond to, so that when the patient is exposed to the real infection, with its relatively massive amounts of antigen, the immune system is prepared and can react immediately to minimize the damage, rather than the usual delay it takes before immunity kicks in.  You know, like FEMA and New Orleans.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps my metaphorableness is lacking today.

There has to be something there, a real molecule of some sort, for the immune system to recognize and respond to. There is a threshold below which foreign material will not be recognized.  Tetanus is an interesting example.  An  impressively awful disease in those suffering from it, with every muscle contracting due to the tetanus toxin.  But interestingly, there is sometimes not enough toxin causing the disease to result in  an immune response, and those who get tetanus still need the vaccine after they recover to prevent recurrence.

Homeopathy is the art of giving absolutely nothing and believing that it is something. Kind of like election year promises.  A reader sent me an article on homeopathic vaccinations, which is one of the more bizarro concepts I have yet to discover in my wanderings in SCAMs.  I sometimes feel like someone is pulling an elaborate prank on me.

The first ‘law’ behind vaccines and homeopathy is the same: like cures like. Vaccines are the only medical validation of the first  ‘law’ of homeopathy of which I am aware.  It is the second ‘law’ of homeopathy where medicine, and reality, part company with homeopathy, the ‘law’ of dilutions.  Where vaccines are given with a well characterized concentration of antigen, homeopathic nostrums are often diluted long past the point where anything remains behind.  If a homeopathic nostrum is  20X, then there is no longer even a molecule of the original substance in the mixture.   Which can be a good thing, since homeopaths  use nosodes as their vehicle for imaginary vaccination.

A  nosode “is a homeopathic remedy prepared from a pathological specimen. The specimen is taken from a diseased animal or person and may consist of saliva, pus, urine, blood, or diseased tissue.”

And people complain about the alleged toxins in real vaccines.

Nosodes are cargo cult medicine at its finest. The trappings of real medicine with none of the efficacy. Thank goodness they are diluted to the point of nothingness.  At least with serial dilutions, HIV, Hepatitis B and C are unlikely to be  spread from injecting the patient with concoctions derived from various and sundry body fluids.  At least we left the techniques of Jenner behind with modern medicine.   Fortunately nosodes are used primarily in veterinary homeopathy.

One can purchase nosodes for human use for everything from Anthrax to Variola (smallpox) at either 30 or 200 dilution.  In a rare burst of honesty, one site notes

There are no whole molecules of the actual substance in 30C potency” and another notes “(homeopathic vaccines) do not contain Thimerosal, Aluminum, Borax (used to kill ants) and other chemical elements. Also in the studies that have been able to proceed, no child has had a any severe side effects from the homeopathic vaccines given.

Since they contain nothing, it would seem unlikely that they could have any side effects at all.

And they have a nosode for smallpox?  It is supposedly derived from the ripened pustule of a smallpox patient and I have to wonder about their source.  There has been no smallpox in the world since the mid 1970′s,  either they have a stock of smallpox that they feed like sourdough starter or they are not really selling the real deal.  Although even Twinkies have expiration dates, I guess the ‘energy’ in homeopathic remedies lasts for decades, with the smallpox nostrums maintaining their potency through the ages.

Are there any studies or case reports  to support the use of nosodes? As best I can discover there are two clinical trials in animals of nosodes: one in calves that did not show benefit and one in mice that did, and both are in journals too obscure for my library to have subscriptions. There are two cases of fatal polio after receiving homeopathic vaccinations. That is it in Pubmed.  Not a convincing literature for effectiveness.

One site does recognize that homeopathic vaccinations do not work like standard vaccines: by leading to the development of antibodies

Homeopathic preparations have not been shown to raise antibody levels. Smits tested the titre of antibodies to diphtheria, polio and tetanus in ten children before and one month after giving homeopathic preparations of these three vaccines (DTPol 30K and 200K). He found no rise in antibody levels (Smits, 1995). He speculates that protection afforded by a homeopathic remedy acts on a “deeper” level than that of antibodies. Other homeopaths have stated similar opinions. Golden says, “unlike conventional vaccines, the Homeopathic alternative does not rely on antibody formation.

Of interest, homeopaths argue the validity of the homeopathic vaccinations, since their nostrums are classically supposed to be effective only after symptoms have occurred.  It does make for a curious reading, one group of nonsense arguing that another group of nonsense is, well, nonsense.

The sad thing is parents will be fooled into thinking that their children are protected from infectious diseases, when, in fact, they are not.  Vaccines do not provide perfect protection; neither do seat belts.  But a vaccine is superior to the nothing of homeopathy and I would bet that parents would not rely on a child car restraint made by the same process as homeopathy.

Posted in: Homeopathy, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (116) ↓

116 thoughts on “Homeopathic Vaccines.

  1. kill3rTcell says:

    If the smallpox nosode was indeed prepared from the virus itself I’d be worried. That hardy little virion has been shown to remain viable for over a decade.

  2. Mojo says:

    If a homeopathic nostrum is 20X, then there is no longer even a molecule of the original substance in the mixture.

    Well, there might be a few, although not enough to have any effect, of course. The point of pretty much certain absence is reached at about 23X, or 23 successive 1:10 dilutions (Avogadro’s constant being about 6X10 to the 23rd power). The commonly used 30C potency (30 successive 1:100 dilutions), of course, is way beyond this.

  3. CJane says:

    I have a former friend who ‘vaccinated’ her twin children using homeopathic tinctures. She claimed that they took a while to build up, over time, and then the kids would be safe and sound just like kids using regular vaccines. This is a person who used extreme medical intervention to have kids (IVF) and then watched both of them get stronger in the NICU for 2 months and has nothing but praise for the nurses and doctors that cared for them. Then doesn’t vaccinate them?

    What I need to understand is that if in homeopathy like cures like, how can they possibly vaccinate against future disease?

  4. windriven says:

    @ Dr. Crislip: Thought you might like to know that the link to the mouse study is broken.

    That said, the conclusion to the mouse study was hardly a ringing endorsement:

    “This study found partial protection from a nosode of tularemia in dilutions below those expected to have protective effects,

    How is it that the power of homeopathy has not yet produced an HIV vaccine? Who will be the first homeopath to test this on themselves?

  5. windriven says:

    Damn. I tried to italicize the salient part of the conclusion in the post above. Instead it simply didn’t post:

    “This study found partial protection from a nosode of tularemia in dilutions below those expected to have protective effects, BUT NOT AS GREAT AS THOSE PRODUCED BY STANDARD VACCINATION.”

    Emphasis, mine.

  6. desta says:

    Sweet.
    But sad, because I know it won’t be too far off in the future that I’ll be reading about homeopathic surgery.
    Oh, and I already practice homeopathic exercise.
    In fact, right now, I’m taking a homeopathic approach to my workload. It’s so diluted, it doesn’t exist, yet I feel stronger than ever.

  7. Mojo says:

    @desta

    I’m on a homoeopathic weight loss regime. I take small additional snacks between meals.

  8. CJane,

    I can kind of see that. One of the issues with intervention is that they can beget other interventions. One classic one is:
    Birth control
    > Having babies toward the end of your fertile years
    > Assisted reproduction
    > Twins and other multiples
    > Prematurity and C-section
    > NICU
    > Pumping milk
    > Bottle feeding to the complete exclusion of breastfeeding

    … and that’s when the babies don’t have any long-term consequences from being premature.

    I can see wanting to get out of the way of the cascading technology dominoes at any opportunity.

    Obviously in this case she is just putting herself in the way of infection dominoes. But I can sympathize with the impulse.

  9. Nescio says:

    “(homeopathic vaccines) do not contain Thimerosal, Aluminum, Borax (used to kill ants)”

    Shouldn’t they warn that homeopathic medicines may contain water (used to drown kittens)?

    Malaria prophylaxis is possibly the most dangerous use of homeopathy in common use. At least children in developed countries are protected to some extent by herd immunity. Going to an area of the world where malaria is endemic (un)protected by nothing but a homeopathic nosode has a fairly high possibility of ending very badly indeed.

  10. Josie says:

    hmm, they are claiming dilutions from the real pathogens. As far as I know a private citizen can’t legally maintain such things –labs need to be licensed, have regular inspections etc in order to maintain cultures of things like Variola. Maybe the the FDA should call their bluff.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      Josie said “labs need to be licensed, have regular inspections etc in order to maintain cultures of things like Variola. Maybe the the FDA should call their bluff.”

      A while back I read that a homeopath was selling vaccines for smallpox, anthrax, etc. allegedly prepared from the real thing. I reported him to Homeland Security because his source of those organisms would also be available to terrorists. Never heard anything back.

  11. ConspicuousCarl says:

    So does dilution make the substance stronger or weaker?

    Homeopaths normally claim that diluted substances are stronger, and yet they are trying to play the vaccine game and claim that their diluted pathogen is weaker and functions as a harmless prod to the immune system.

    Of course, if “like cures like”, you have to wonder why every infection doesn’t immediately cure itself. If the claims of homeopaths are true, then a single bacterial cell in your blood is a powerful cure for the other million of its siblings.

  12. Joe says:

    Mark Crislip wrote “You know, like FEMA and New Orleans. … Perhaps my metaphorableness is lacking today.”

    No- you are doing a heck of a job, Crisly.

  13. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was freaked out that someone who probably has no understanding of science was storing and handling materials containing anthrax or small pox bacteria.

  14. I wished my credit card company believed in homeopathy.

  15. windriven says:

    Apparently the Federal Reserve believes in homeopathy. They’re going to cure what ails us by diluting the dollar :-)

  16. Oy, I’ve been listening to politics all week. But, I thought I’d be safe here. :)

  17. windriven says:

    You know what they say: all politics is loco. ;-)

    I know, I’m sick to death of politics too. But I saw that as a comment on economics not politics. The Fed is independent. For now, anyway.

  18. Bogeymama says:

    Great review! Inevitably after I read an article here, I end up having the same issue come up with a patient within a week. Hopefully, by sending them to this article, I can reach them.

    In the spirit of vaccine awareness week – this is some of the worst drivel I’ve read in a long time. A pharmacist sent me to this website a while ago, and I sometimes go to it for laughs. Luckily, she’s the only pharmacist I know who actually believes this nonsense.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/030299_vaccination_flu_shots.html

    If you want to get even angrier, search Michael Douglas on the same site – they’re trying to compare Suzanne Somers and Michael Douglas photos to prove that the natural way is better. I posted a relatively innocent comment about how you can’t really compare them fairly unless they both have the same cancer, and guess what … it was deleted.

  19. colm o k says:

    dont know if any of you have seen this but it is an absolutely hilarious skit taking the mick out of homeopathy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0&feature=related

  20. windriven “But I saw that as a comment on economics not politics. The Fed is independent. For now, anyway.”

    Oh well, one can’t order a cup of tea without sounding political these days.

  21. Oh, I like this one:
    http://www.facebook.com/thetruthaboutvaccines/posts/153321901378200

    “Can anyone tell me if the Celvapan vaccine for swine flu does contain the nanochip or not? I can’t find anything concrete about it, apart from that it is the only thimerosal and squalene free one.”

  22. Th1Th2 says:

    Mark Crislip,

    “Vaccines do not provide perfect protection,”

    It never did and it never will. Should children supposed to be “protected” from “small, fixed amount of a pathogen”?

    “neither do seat belts.”

    Why don’t school buses have seat belts?

  23. Robin says:

    @Th1Th2 school buses do have seat belts!

    Regarding homeopathic prevention, why is there no homeopathic birth control?

  24. Danio says:

    @ Robin:

    Oh, but there is
    :)

    (seriously, there really is, but I can’t bear to link to the non-satirical sites)

  25. hippiehunter says:

    All Homeopaths should by law publish a list of the diseases that they will treat and they should be banned from seeking real treatment for those illnesses should they ever get one themselves.

    I live in an area where watereopathy is unfortunately popular and find it funny that people who use it say ‘of course I wouldnt rely on it for something really serious’ Talk about not putting your money where your mouth is.

    These watereopaths harm children for profit, they deserve no better treatment than others who harm children for profit, they are the moral equivalent of child pornographers.
    Our politicians have failed our children in not protecting them from these snake oil (water) salesmen who are really just impersonating a medical officer in a sly way. I need to go hit something !

  26. Happy Camper says:

    “I need to go hit something !”

    Like a Homeopath?

  27. Zetetic says:

    Where’s the DUllman?

  28. wales says:

    Regarding school bus seat belts, only six states require seat belts for school buses, and those only for buses weighing under 10,000 pounds (about 20% of all school buses) and/or buses built after a specific date (2005 or so). The vast majority of school buses in the US do not have seat belts.

  29. Khym Chanur says:

    I thought that homeopathy’s “like cures like” derived from the idea that two different causes of the same set of symptoms can’t simultaneously exist in the same body. If that’s the case, then according to homeopathic theory, nosodes shouldn’t work because they’re using the exact same thing as the cause of the disease (nevermind whether or not you can apply a homeopathic remedy before the symptoms appear).

    @Mark Crislip:

    Your link to the page where homeopaths argue about nosodes (http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-papers/homeoprophylaxis-in-support-of-isaac-golden/) is broken.

  30. There has also been a study on a nosode for prevention of parvoviral enteritis in dogs. Shockingly, also no evidence of benefit.

    Larson L., Wynn S., and Schultz R.D. A Canine Parvovirus Nosode Study. Proceedings of the Second Annual Midwest Holistic Veterinary Conference 1996.

  31. DanaUllman says:

    You folks are so cute when you pretend to be smart, even though Crislip “found” two studies but didn’t read them. And even though he gave a broken link as his reference to the mouse study, no one (!) here noticed it because no one here even wants to hear about the study. Heck, only one person seemed to find that study…

    This one person, Windriven, quoted from its conclusion: “This study found partial protection from a nosode of tularemia in dilutions below those expected to have protective effects,” and yet, seemingly because it did not provide “perfect” protection, he believes that it should be ignored.

    Hmmmm.

    The fact that this study showed that a homeopathic medicine had SOME protective effect is ignored by all. How clever.

    So, when a man proves to you that he can fly, you will all criticize him because he is not flying as high OR as fast as a jet. Yeah…you folks are that lame in your illogic.

    And of course, Crislip does such a poor review of the research, it seems that he chose to close both eyes as his own double-blind method.

    Jeeez…do some homework…and make certain to ignore any study that reviews 2.4 million Cubans. Whooops.

    And it is interesting how you folks LOVE to reference any and all negative study on homeopathy WITHOUT providing any critique of the methodology…while any positive study is criticized the way “Faux News” reports on news…misinformation rules.

    Ohhh…you’re so cute when you get mad when people show yoru cherry-picking ways, your poor homework skills, and your propensity to spread misinformation.

  32. Reductionist Nurse says:

    I tried to conduct my own homeopathic placebo controlled flu vaccine trial, but when the placebo beat out the homeopathic treatment, the co-researchers claimed the “quantum energy properties of their remedies were depotenized by succession in the their active control children’s cerebrospinal fluid.”

    CSF depotenization you might ask? Well, the indicated route of administration was listed as oral, but apparently the homeopath insisted on injecting the nosodes directly into the “vital brain miasm” via a transsphenoidal approach (using a large plastic dental syringe) to “protect the child’s neuron energization” from the “toxic mercuries” in future forced vaccinations. The placebo group received normal PO administration as planned.

    In the nosode group, all recipient children seized up immediately upon administration and then according to the homeopath they “most rudely ignored further instructions, rolled their eyes, and began throwing violent jerking tantrums, which were not unlike those experienced by most of my patients who are in the acute detoxification phase of their recovery.” After the “detoxification” phase ceased, the children remained listless which the homeopath referred to as the “healing arc.”

    By the end of the 4 week trial, clinical and serological evidence of influenza infection in the placebo group was only found in 6 of the 24 children (I, 0.25; 1000% CI, 0.25-0.75; P<10^-32) in contrast to the incidence of 9 out of 22 (I, 0.90%; 1.234 CI, 0.102-0.00201; P< itsgood) of the children treated with the homeopathic vaccine. The authors must remark that these children were allow to "detox" on the unswept floor of the shared homeopathic/acupuncturist office.

    POST ANALYSIS

    It was noted that in a post-study follow up, all 22 of the homeopathic controls were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder with severe impairment, but only once they were admitted to the care of a licensed medical professional.

    In response to post-study questioning, the homeopathic practitioner asserted that:

    “it is within plausibility that all the children had coincidental dormant cases of latent-dilutional-hypermiasmosis related to the vaccination schedule their parents received as children when their own vital energy was still in fragile development. As such, in accordance with the fundamentals of the applied science of homeopathy, the waning vaccine immunity dilution in the children’s parents triggered an ultra toxin neurogenic overload attack in their offspring, which manifested just prior to the homeopathic practitioner’s timely nosodial intervention which litigated the hypermiasmosis and saved the children’s lives.

    Furthermore, the homeopaths have published their own interpretation of this study the and in their conclusions they appear to have made yet another ground breaking disease discovery that “vaccine associated autism can skip generations, stipulating the need for the vaccinated parents of unvaccinated children to receive necessary chelation therapy or homeopathic vaccination prophylaxis.

    Their interpretation was published as “Homeopathic vaccines for the for treatment of idiopathic mortality” in the monthly journals of the Organization of Homeopathic Bulletins of Study (OH-BS), peer review was completed by a (1) Weandrew Achefield, Rtrd.GE Dr. 2010 Nov 5; TK:421-8675309

    God help us.

  33. relativitydrive says:

    @ Reductionist Nurse

    Holy Moly!

    Who can save us from such psycho babel? Dr M. Crislip?

  34. relativitydrive says:

    And there’s a whole month’s worth of posts in the last paragraph alone.

  35. Happy Camper says:

    @ DUllman

    Project much?

  36. Mojo says:

    @Dana

    Jeeez…do some homework…and make certain to ignore any study that reviews 2.4 million Cubans. Whooops.

    If you had done your homework, you might have spotted that, far from being ignored, the study in question has already been discussed here (and elsewhere). If you read those links you might be able to figure out why it isn’t taken seriously.

    Whooops.

    Ohhh…you’re so cute when you get mad when people show yoru cherry-picking ways, your poor homework skills, and your propensity to spread misinformation.

    You owe me a new irony meter.

  37. Mark Crislip says:

    Links fixed.
    I had forgotten about the Lepto study and it does not appear in the pubmed search of homeopathic vaccines or nosodes.

  38. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    School buses may not have seatbelts because the transfer of energy from a super-heavy bus hitting/getting hit by a relatively smaller car isn’t so bad. Bus hits even an SUV, the SUV isn’t going to slow it down much, ergo no large change in velocity.

    On the other hand, a school bus falls off a cliff into some water, you want kids to get out as soon as possible, so no seatbelts.

    Plus, you hit something, kids move forward to conserve velocity, they hit the flat, padded wall of the next seat in front of them, with minimal space to build up a lot of acceleration. They’re also short, so they’re unlikely to project over the top of the seat. Plus, large differences in height and weight of kids, and you probably can’t put the same seatbelt on all of them.

    But really, you’d have to look into the risk assessment that went into designing school buses not to have seatbelts – there’s going to be a reason, and chances are it will be a good one.

    Nice to see Dana is back, I have some questions that he didn’t answer the last time. Questions like, how is information stored in the water? How does it survive transfer to a sugar pill and dessication? What in the body “reads” that information and converts this into a biological response that prevents infection? Delightful, I think I’ll put on a smoking jacket, get a pipe and maybe a glass of wine. This should be entertaining.

  39. DanaUllman says:

    Oh…and that critique of the tuleremia study was devastating, though, whoooops, no one here has read it. Now, THAT is impressive scientific thinking.

    Just because someone writes a critique of the Cuban study does not mean that critique is worthy. So, just throw the baby out with the bath water and continue to stick your heads in the sand.

    And if we were going to throw out every study that had some type of flaw, I guess we would throw out ALL of medicines, especially because how many patients today are prescribed just one drug.

    As for research on the flu vaccine, please read the reviews of it by Tom Jefferson, MD, in the BMJ and the Cochrane…and the LITTLE good research that exists on flu vaccinations is when Big Pharma only makes tens of billions of dollars on this treatment. I think that you’re pointing your guns in the wrong direction. No surprise considering what side your bread is buttered.

  40. DanaUllman says:

    Further evidence of Crislip’s deaf, dumb, and blindness is his assertion that his library does not have a subscription to that experiment on mice and vaccination to tuleremia.

    THAT is so sad that your library does not have access to the internet.

    It is further sad how little time and energy you folks put into finding studies, except those that fit your own worldview.

    How convenient.

    And now, you’ll assert that the US Naval Academy is really a homeopathic organization…and therefore, this study on tuleremia should simply be ignored.

    Let’s file this one under DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE (again).

  41. weing says:

    Are you saying they are the men staring at goats?

  42. Reductionist Nurse says:

    Oh look. A homeopath defending homeopathy. Watch out. He might start teaching us about electrovibramorphic quantothermatics.

    All kidding aside, does fear of getting the fake treatment in a placebo-controlled trial make me a homeophobe?

  43. sheldon101 says:

    Dullman has been schooled about the Cuban lepto experience before. It never takes.

    To summarize. There are diseases where environment doesn’t matter — such as measles before vaccination. There are diseases where environment matters — such as cholera of typhus where the environment (contaminated water) matters. Lepto is a disease transmitted to humans through contact with water contaminated with animal urine such as rat urine. No contact, no lepto. So the incidence of lepto will vary depending on the weather and public and private health measures. For example, wearing rubber boots in wet weather.

    The Findlay institute in Cuba created a regular lepto vaccine. They did proper double blinded placebo testing and wrote it up in a Cuban medical journal.Unfortunately, it is expensive. So some homeos also working at Findlay made up a huge batch of water and at a cost of $200,000 using lots and lots of public health workers vaccinated almost all the population in a Cuban province of a couple of million. And then the rate of lepto dropped greatly compared to what was expected???

    And therefore homeos proclaim that homeo lepto vaccine works. One of the sadder aspects is the hypocrisy and confirmation bias of homeos when discussing the Cuban experience. Dullman has no problem criticizing the specifics of influenza vaccination research relying on Tom Jefferson of the Cochrane Collaboration. But when it comes to a study with a conclusion Dullman loves, the Cuban homeo lepto paper, minor details such as no controls and a disease which responds to public and private health changes is totally ignored.

  44. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Ah, Dana, such fun…

    You know why most of us don’t care about that mouse study? Because it’s a single study, with less than 10 subjects in each cell. That’s an experimental pilot. A scientists will look at it and think “OK, that’s a middling-promising start, we could test something based on the hypotheses generated here.” You don’t say “great, let’s implement a multi-million dollar test/roll-out a nation-wide treatment program”. Nothing has been proven and it’s barely promising, particularly given the improbability of homeopathic preparations working. This is one of the fundamental failings of that ridiculous literature review you tout (Ullman & Frass, 2010, which you have pimped here before) – pilot studies are not conclusive proof. While you proclaim, based on a series of single studies, that homeopathy “works”, others look at those single studies and dismiss them as just that – single studies. Publication bias can easily produce single studies that appear to be significant due to chance. That is why scientists require programs of research before considering a question resolved or even tentatively answered. And that answer is always tentative, with sufficient evidence the answer may be discarded or modified. Contrast this with homeopathy again, where the discipline hasn’t significantly changed in more than two centuries, and never due to new information. Even note here – when Dr. Crislip pointed to the two studies and had an erroneous link, he noted his mistake and corrected the link.

    People aren’t ignoring the study, they’re noting that a single study of a small population of mice, unreplicated and with such small numbers in each cell. We don’t think it’s a big deal (particularly when there’s another study with the opposite conclusion) for the very reason this blog exists – science based medicine incorporates prior probability and homeopathy lacks that probability.

    So here’s a critique of the methodology – it’s a small number of “subjects”, which are mice. They are split across 15 groups, making it virtually impossible to conclude on any one cell. With that many cross-comparisons, it’s easy to find spurious positive correlations. It is unreplicated.

    You should read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science which gives an amusing and simple review of basic research methodologies. Then, you should undertake a program of research in which you do your best, using high-quality methodology (large n in each group, adequate blinding, objective measures, low drop-out rates, placebos, randomized enrolment, and strive for publication in a high-quality journal) to test your hypothesis rather than assuming it’s true. If there is merit to your beliefs, particularly given one belief is homeopathy is incredibly powerful and effective at treating nearly anything, you should be able to demonstrate a consistent effect that’s been been missing in the scientific literature to date.

    So, Dana, you missed one of the major points of this article – Dr. Crislip was saying there’s only one study of homeopathic nosodes that was positive, and only one other one that was negative. Therefore there’s no reason to believe they are effective (and considerable reason to believe they’re not based on prior probability). And, naturally, the fact that one intervention may or may not work has absolutely no bearing on whether homeopathy works. But they do have the advantage of prior probability, and on top of that they will be adopted or rejected on the basis of empirical studies. Not dogma.

  45. daijiyobu says:

    Here’s a web page of an ‘ND oncologist big into Iscador’ [a big-wig in their orgs, too] in British Columbia who blatantly states that he uses a homeopathic flu vaccine made by Heel

    (see http://www.drneilmckinney.ca/vital_victoria_008.htm ).

    BTW, he is spotlighted in this video, which talks about NDs new BC prescriptive abilities,

    (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdQ-mLvlWRo ).

    -r.c.

  46. pmoran says:

    If a study of homeopathic method or principle gives positive results, AND it is not obviously fatally flawed, that is surely a bit of evidence to put on homeopathy’s side of the scale of probabilities. It should bring the field of homeopathy a bit closer to general acceptability within the scientific community.

    That is how science normally works, yet with homeopathy the scale hardly budges. Why?

    Well of course, the other side is still being weighted down by well-established scientific principles, as well as a lot of everyday experience.

    Also, and as Dana seems to be overlooking, the impact of occasional reasonable quality studies (such as Reilly’s) is seriously undermined by bitter pills that mainstream science has had to swallow in recent times, those revealing the many reasons why our own supposedly carefully performed studies can provide untrustworthy conclusions.

    That is the real reason why we may appear to be too dismissive of “alternative” studies, despite having at one time, with insufficient foresight, advised homeopaths and their ilk to produce “proper” studies if they want to be taken seriously.

    The true problem for homeopathy is its lack of a “killer application’”, an easily replicable and unmistakable finding that cannot be readily explained by non-homeopathic mechanisms.

    Pharmacology has many present limitations, but it can be so reliable that we can perform surgery under it and or manipulate human physiology in many obvious ways ( diarrhoea, anyone?).

    Surely, if it were a valid system of therapeutics, homeopathic methods can do something equally unequivocal, not needing the post hoc lashing on of ever more unsupported conjectures to explain why it doesn’t seem to work consistently, or better than placebo under controlled conditions.

    Those who have unwarily invested themselves heavily in such “alternative” medical modalities will inevitably see this as bias. But it is the only sound approach.

  47. daedalus2u says:

    I had an idea, since homeopathic preparations can be made from anything, why not write “all possible diseases” on a piece of paper and make a homeopathic vaccine out of that? Or perhaps even better, write “all possible adverse symptoms” and use that.

    If you wrote “all possible adverse symptoms” on a piece of transparent plastic, and wrapped it around a glass bottle, ambient light would transport the “information” from the printing into the inside of the bottle. The principle that the surface of a volume can represent all information inside that volume is known as the holographic principle.

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

    If the message were encoded in a hologram, no doubt that would work even better.

    If you wrote “all possible causes of death”, presumably that would turn the contents of the bottle into a potion of immortality, provided it was made strong enough by sufficient dilution and succussion.

    The only difficulty would be do you have the message face inside, or outside? Since one is the mirror image of the other, presumably with one orientation you will get a potion of immortality and in the other orientation a poison with no possible antidote.

    Perhaps Dana could tell us which orientation to use?

  48. Mojo says:

    @daedalus2u

    That sounds rather like what homoeopaths call a “paper remedy”. They usually seem to be made by writing the name of a remedy on the paper. I understand that they are just as effective as homoeopathic remedies produced by dilution with succussion. ;)

    There has recently been a major experiment with paper remedies in India:

    “The team seized around 1500 bottles, each containing 100ml of rectified spirit, said Maj Harun-ur-Rashid, deputy director of the Rab unit.

    “They also seized 18 drums of this highly concentrated ethanol, each containing 60 litres.

    “The team found the workers putting labels of different homeopathy medicines of foreign and local brands on the bottles. Huge numbers of labels were also recovered from the site, added Maj Harun.”

  49. DanaUllman says:

    Thanx, Pmoran, for verifying that Crislip’s blog above is so intellectually disengenuous. Rather than acknowledging that one study was HIGH QUALITY or provide ANY details about the study, Crislip just mentions it without a single detail. How convenient.

    Even though Crislip and others love to provide details when they reflect badly on homeopathy, you all do your best to avoid details that might be more objective. Isn’t it curious that no one here mentioned that the tuleremia experiment was co-authored by a scientist at the US Naval Academy (that wildly radical pro-homeopathy organization).

    But you, Pmoran, really impress me. You actually seem to believe that mice can create antibodies to tuleremia randomly in a laboratory from a “placebo.” You “skeptics” are much much more metaphysical than I am. You believe in such power of a placebo that it can create so many changes in all types of life forms…and you squirm and fit your (il)logic into your limited boxes of worldview in order to disbelieve in homeopathy (how convenient).

  50. pmoran says:

    Dana, no, not placebo.

    There is no onus upon me to even specify what might have gone wrong in studies that have not yet been consistently replicated under rigorous conditions.

    However, I’ll wager contamination of reagents is one reason behind some of the lab results from homoepathy in sensitive biological systems — Benveniste’s occasional positives, for example.

    You don’t seem to have quite gotten the meaning of what I said–

    – bitter pills that mainstream science has had to swallow in recent times, those revealing the many reasons why our own supposedly carefully performed studies can provide untrustworthy conclusions.

  51. David Gorski says:

    Indeed, Peter. A good example is this study:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/03/a_homeopathic_bit_of_breast_cancer_scien.php
    http://scepticsbook.com/2010/02/14/a-giant-leap-in-logic-from-a-piece-of-bad-science/

    Basically, what the authors appeared to have show is nothing more than that ethanol can be toxic to cultured cells. Well, maybe not. There were no statistics to show their effects to be statistically significant, and the way the data were presented make it pretty much impossible to say much of anything. Yet this study was being touted by homeopaths as evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy against breast cancer. The mind boggles.

  52. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    Ah, I see Dana Ullman has turned up here playing with you nice people.

    Perhaps, someone should remind him that he’s long overdue here,

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2010/10/the-curious-case-of-oxford-university-press-homeopathy-and-charles-darwin.html

    He was last seen running away with his pants on fire.

  53. windriven says:

    Thing and DanaUllman, is this tag team stupidity or what? Has this space become the WWF of ignorance?

    @ DanaUllman

    I dismissed the mouse study because the results were clearly equivocal. Further, even if the results were more positive it is just one single study. You can find one study that finds the moon to be made of fine aged Gruyere.

    @michele
    I’m more of a coffee drinker myself. Sorry to lump my response to you in with the above invective.

  54. Donna B. says:

    “The first ‘law’ behind vaccines and homeopathy is the same: like cures like. Vaccines are the only medical validation of the first ‘law’ of homeopathy of which I am aware.”

    Um, no. Way back in the early 80s when I first read a book on homeopathy given to me by a co-worker, I thought it did sound a bit like the idea behind vaccines.

    But then I realized that “a little bit of like leads to a potent future reaction against a whole lot of like” isn’t even close to “like cures like”.

    Vaccines do not cure disease, nor have I ever heard it claimed that they do. Even when used as immunotherapy (such as BCG for bladder cancer) they are not called a cure. And such as use certainly cannot be considered “like cures like”.

    I completely disagree that vaccines validate the first ‘law’ of homeopathy.

  55. Mojo says:

    The crucial difference between vaccination and the “like cures like” dogma of homoeopathy is that vaccines work by provoking an immune response to specific antigens of the disease-causing organism, while homoeopathy is claimed to work by producing symptoms similar to those exhibited by the patient.

    Vaccines produce an immune response by carrying the specific antigens. The intention is to produce the immune response, not to generate symptoms. Homoeopathy attempts to produce similar symptoms. It usually does this not by using the same substance or entity that caused the disease, but by administering a remedy that is claimed to cause similar symptoms. This will almost never be anything to do with the actual cause, and will thus be incapable of provoking the specific immune response, even at dilutions at which there is still some of the alleged active ingredient present.

    The case of “nosodes” is slightly different from usual homoeopathic practice, and is what is termed “isopathy”, in which the remedy is made from what is thought to be the cause of the disease. It should be noted, however, that (for example) the “Malaria Officianalis” nosode, which I have seen described by a homoeopath as recently as 2006 as “one of our most frequently used anti-malarials” is in fact made from swamp water, since it was invented before the discovery of the malarial parasite. It seems to work just as wel as any other nosode. Similarly “Oscillococcinum” was so named because it was thought to be a preparation made from a bacterium called “Oscillococcus”, which was thought to be the cause of flu and to have been detected in duck liver. The original observations of “Oscillococcus” back in the 1920s have never been confirmed, but the remedy is still used to prevent and treat flu.

  56. Scott says:

    It’s also worth noting that the operation of vaccines is completely against the dilutions aspect of homeopathy. It’s true that a small amount of antigen suffices to do the job. But, a smaller amount of antigen reduces the response, and a larger amount of antigen increases the response. “Small amounts can be enough” is a completely different – almost entirely unrelated, in fact – statement than “smaller amounts are more potent than larger.”

  57. DanaUllman says:

    Ok…smarty pants…consider the words (and wisdom) of the “father of immunology”:

    Emil Adolf von Behring (1854–1917) won the first Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology for his discovery of the diphtheria antitoxin. Later, he discovered the tetanus antitoxin.

    In 1892 Behring actually experimented with serial (homeopathic) dilutions and found paradoxically enhanced immunogenic activity, but he was advised to suppress this experiment due to the aid and comfort it would provide to homeopaths. Only after he won the Nobel Prize did he feel comfortable in making public these experiments (Behring, 1905; Coulter, 1994, 97).

    Behring broke from orthodox medical tradition by recognizing the value of the homeopathic law of similars:
    “In spite of all scientific speculations and experiments regarding smallpox vaccination, Jenner’s discovery remained an erratic blocking medicine, till the biochemically thinking Pasteur, devoid of all medical classroom knowledge, traced the origin of this therapeutic block to a principle which cannot better be characterized than by Hahnemann’s word: homeopathic. Indeed, what else causes the epidemiological immunity in sheep, vaccinated against anthrax than the influence previously exerted by a virus, similar in character to that of the fatal anthrax virus? And by what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence, exerted by a similar virus than by Hahnemann’s word “homeopathy”? I am touching here upon a subject anathematized till very recently by medical penalty: but if I am to present these problems in historical illumination, dogmatic imprecations must not deter me.” (Behring, 1905)

  58. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    Dana,

    Just as an aside, do you know the difference between tetanus antitoxin, where its immunogenicity might be unhelpful, and tetanus toxoid, where immunogenicity is essential?

    From your post it would seem you do not.

    Anyway, you’ve got lots of lovely loose ends to pick up from the shreds of your Charles Darwin article. So, be a good chap and go an tell us whether Darwin’s description of a dilution is acceptable in homeopathic terms.

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2010/10/the-curious-case-of-oxford-university-press-homeopathy-and-charles-darwin.html

  59. Mojo says:

    In 1892 Behring actually experimented with serial (homeopathic) dilutions and found paradoxically enhanced immunogenic activity, but he was advised to suppress this experiment due to the aid and comfort it would provide to homeopaths. Only after he won the Nobel Prize did he feel comfortable in making public these experiments (Behring, 1905; Coulter, 1994, 97).

    Behring broke from orthodox medical tradition by recognizing the value of the homeopathic law of similars:
    “In spite of all scientific speculations and experiments regarding smallpox vaccination, Jenner’s discovery remained an erratic blocking medicine, till the biochemically thinking Pasteur, devoid of all medical classroom knowledge, traced the origin of this therapeutic block to a principle which cannot better be characterized than by Hahnemann’s word: homeopathic. Indeed, what else causes the epidemiological immunity in sheep, vaccinated against anthrax than the influence previously exerted by a virus, similar in character to that of the fatal anthrax virus? And by what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence, exerted by a similar virus than by Hahnemann’s word “homeopathy”? I am touching here upon a subject anathematized till very recently by medical penalty: but if I am to present these problems in historical illumination, dogmatic imprecations must not deter me.” (Behring, 1905)

    Could you let us know where you copied and pasted that from (you pasted the identical text here, by the way), so that we can identify your references? Just giving an author’s surname and a year is not really adequate, and having seen the references you used to try to support your claims about Darwin I’d like to see them myself.

    The actual quotation you have posted, written at a time when not much detail was yet known about the immune system, says nothing about serially diluted remedies, but simply seems to be drawing a parallel between “like cures like” and vaccination. He’s just saying that using the same infectious agent as causes the disease looks like the homoeopathic principle (which he would therefore appear to have misunderstood, because it addresses symptoms, not causes).

  60. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Again Dana, you seem to be missing the point of Dr. Crislip’s post – there’s only ONE such study. Doctors don’t make their decisions on the basis of ONE study, they do so on the basis of a program of research. It doesn’t matter if that ONE study is perfect (which it’s not – as I mentioned, it has a very low number of subjects in each cell) as it is only a single study and given a p of .05, you’re still facing the possibility that it’s the one-in-twenty accident giving positive results. So the number of details Dr. Crislip gives is less important than the fact that it’s unreplicated and represents the total body of pubmed-indexed research on homeopathic nosodes. As I mentioned before, and you failed to respond to my point, you treat single studies as if they were bodies of reliable research. They’re not, they’re just single studies. In this case, of mice. Mice generally have little applicability when it comes to human study research, so why waste the time taking them apart?

    Behring’s discoveries in 1892 were certainly useful and excellent in 1892. But I’m not sure what benefit there is in citing research that’s now 118 years old. The knowledge base has changed so much between now and then, the only real comparable features are the fact that bacteria cause illness. Behring didn’t know about viruses beyond they were smaller than bacteria, or that some bacteria are beneficial, that many are neutral, that the human body produces antigens, and so on. The applicability of knowledge from the 19th century to modern scientific research is, put mildly, questionable. Biologists have acknowledged that Darwin was right in some areas, wrong in others, and now his work is if merely historical interest, it’s not guiding cutting-edge research.

    So again, I ask you to acknowledge two things – first, doctors and scientific medicine base decisions, in an ideal world, on the results of programs of research rather than single studies. Single articles with surprising, and in particular dramatic findings, are suggestive of further research – they are not conclusive. Second, knowledge has changed over the past century, both in qualitative content and quantitative amount. What someone said more than 100 years ago is far, far less interesting than what can be replicated and extended based on what has been discovered in the past five years. The reason homeopathy is called a religion is because it still considers Hahnemann’s principles (from what, 200 years ago when they still blamed miasmas for disease rather than bacteria and in fact hadn’t even given bacteria a proper name?) to have more merit than the knowledge of biology, chemistry and physics which tells us that homeopathy is unlikely to be effective (and the clinical trials which suggest there is little benefit to homeopathy even in field research).

  61. pmoran says:

    Well, I suppose immune effects are a bit reminiscent of just one of the highly dubious principles upon which homeopathy relies, but have you heard of confirmation bias, Dana?

    What about the innumerable instances where the “law of similars” is not remotely applicable? A “law of opposites” has at least as much going for it.

  62. Mojo says:

    @pmoran:

    A “law of opposites” has at least as much going for it.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaahrgh! Allopathy!

  63. DanaUllman says:

    Oh…cool, so, now everyone agrees that there IS some high quality research that shows benefits from homeopathic doses…and that independent repetition should be encouraged.

    And I also assume that we agree that this blogger, Crislip, showed intellectual disengenuousness and simple dishonesty by pretending that the tuleremia study was unavailable (the alternative explanation is that he was intellectually lazy and just did not even look for it). Wow…which is worse?

    Double cool…so, do you now recommend REPLICATION…and does this really mean that you’re no longer on a witchhunt?

    Does this mean that you want homeopathy to be tested?

    Nah…I didn’t think so…you, medical fundamentalists are so predictable. You’ll need to close your eyes more tightly.

    As for my quotes above, that info was cut and pasted from my last book, “The Homeopathic Revolution.” You may actually learn something from it…

    And as for Darwin, Mojo, was he OR was he not surprised by the action of the exceedingly small doses he used on the Drosera plants? Did he have one or both of his sons try to replicate his results…and what were these results? And what did Darwin say about having to publish these extraordinary results? Case closed…you lose again…and yet, you have the sheer audacity to think you’re fooling anybody by your pomposity. Heck, come out of the closet already, Mr. Big Pharma.

  64. Mojo says:

    @Dana

    …and what were these results?

    The results were that Drosera was sensitive to dilute solutions of ammonium salts, and that this sensitivity decreased with decreasing concentration, eventually reaching a concentration that showed no response (remember Darwin’s comment that “the spectroscope has altogether beaten Drosera”?) This would not appear to have anything to do with homoeopathy, since it has nothing to do with the “law of similars”, and fails to support the “law of infinitesimals”. You have failed to provide any reference to any of Darwin’s writings that shows that these experiments had anything to do with homoeopathy. I suspect, though, that this is off-topic for this thread, so if you do have any such reference it might be better to post it here.

  65. Mojo says:

    As for my quotes above, that info was cut and pasted from my last book, “The Homeopathic Revolution.” You may actually learn something from it…

    For some reason none of the libraries I have access to has bothered to buy a copy, and the relevant page is not available on the Google Books preview. Can you provide the references here?

    I’m glad to hear it was your last book, though.

  66. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    Of course, Mojo, you’re right, Dana should hurry over to that Quackometer thread from which he fled.

    I still want to hear him square his bleating about how to describe homeopathic dilutions with the way Darwin describes his dilutions.

    It’s strange, generally if you mention homeopathy on the internet you couldn’t fight him off with a shitty stick, but he disappeared pretty quickly from that discussion.

  67. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Good Lord Dana, you really must learn that simply proclaiming your belief doesn’t make it true. The point made repeatedly in this blog and in the comments on individual postings is that there is not good evidence showing homeopathy works and it should not have more money on it. A point I’ve made a third time now – single studies are suggestive, not proof. If homeopathy were truly effective, particularly as it is proclaimed by homeopaths, it would be easy to demonstrate. Instead, the whole body of literature when examined, demonstrates equivocal, borderline responses that just look like statistical noise. Some positive, some negative, on average, nothing. That’s why there are no Cochrane reviews proclaiming homeopathy to be effective for any condition, and why no reasonable scientist believes any of the claims made for homeopathy. Particularly coupled with the placebo-enhancing factors that accompany it (lengthy consultation, compassionate practitioner, dosing with a pill that requires a ritual to take, mild symptoms that are cyclical, etc.)

    Everyone agrees that there is some research that shows benefits from homeopathy, but mostly we agree that the benefits are not dramatic or apparent and certainly not worth investing the time and money comparable to even a single drug trial. Oh, and often the research is shoddy. And again, the one study linked to here isn’t actually that high quality. The real point is, after over two centuries, homeopathy should be as, or more developed than scientific medicine if a) it was actually effective and b) practitioners were intellectually honest. Instead, there is anecdote and, in your case, endless bleating and gloating without an apparent ability to even read the valid objections of others. Either that or you have read them and are biologically incapable of understanding. I’ll repeat:

    One positive study does not validate an entire field, particularly when there are many studies that are not positive.

    And no, we don’t agree Dr. Crislip showed intellectual dishonesty anywhere. You have, but he hasn’t. Dr. Crislip’s point was that there are few pubmed-indexed studies on homeopathic nosides. Really, there are two – one positive (which you keep gurgling over) and one negative (which you have consistently ignored). Your reaction is again instructive, and actually dishonest since you resist any attempt to correct your misunderstanding. Dr. Crislip included a bad link, and later corrected it. But he still found the article and included it in the posting. How is that in any way dishonest? As far as I can tell, he never pretended it didn’t exist – he just pasted in the wrong url.

    Seriously, you criticize “medical orthodoxy” and “Big Pharma” but your actions really, really demonstrate questionable integrity and virtually no ability to learn from or correct your mistakes – not to mention a complete failure to respond substantively to any points. Simply repeating “read my book” doesn’t address flaws in your initial arguments. Citing studies more than a century old doesn’t address the fact that recent studies of high quality consistently fail to validate homeopathy. Recent research and publications reference Pasteur, but they don’t treat his word as gospel. Your comments continue to reinforce the idea that homeopathy is a religion, certainly not medicine.

  68. DanaUllman says:

    Mr. Monkey…I did not run away from that discussion on Darwin…heck, I schooled ya many times…and I’m done there for now.

    William…I certainly know the limitations of a single study…but I am surprised that all of you have chosen to ignore the fact that Crislip showed intellectually laziness or lack of integrity (or just purposeful providing of misinformation) about that one study.

    Further, although there are also limitations to the Cuba study, it too should not be dismissed completely. It is so so interesting that you folks love to tear apart the studies that have a positive effect from the homeopathic medicine but you go deaf-dumb-blind and plain stupid when a study has a negative result.

    And yeah, I do need to repeat about reading my book and about reading research ’cause you folks feign knowledge while spouting ignorance and showing arrogance (repeatedly and with strange pride). Yikes and yuck…

    My quotes from the “father of immunology” stand…and there is actually more you can learn about him and his thoughts on homeopathy, but heck, you’d prefer to stick your head in the sand. Too too transparent.

  69. DanaUllman says:

    William…which religion conducts randomized placebo controlled research…and basic sciences experimentation? C’mon…put up or STFU…that simple. Which one?

  70. windriven says:

    @DanaUllman

    What is your problem? Utridge has taken his time to give you a thoughtful and reasonable response. You tell him to STFU unless he validates your crippled view of reality? Did your mother raise you to be a cretin? I honestly don’t understand why he spends the time.

    pmoran makes the excellent point that it is often worthwhile to engage commenters who come to this conversation from a completely alien vantage point. But you and Thing and a few others are not here for dialogue, nor for reasoned give and take. You are wild-eyed zealots who simply believe what you believe. Hahnemann said it, you believe it, that settles it. At least in one small mind.

    This space is about SCIENCE based medicine. Homeopathy DOES NOT conduct randomized placebo controlled research studies, it has been the SUBJECT of a few RCTs and the results have been ambivalent at best; hardly a ringing endorsement.

    Homeopathy is, objectively, a scam. If you think otherwise, build a body of studies that will withstand critical review and that prove the efficacy of homeopathy and that elucidate the scientific principles by which it works. Then gather up your documentation and ankle on over to JREF and collect $1 million. It’s better than a game of Monopoly ’cause the money is real!

    Or, faced with the challenge of replacing bullshit with proof, you can just STFU and slither away.

  71. sheldon101 says:

    I thought that Oscillococcinum was an aberration as it wasn’t a case of finding something that caused similar symptoms to the actual condition — influenza, but rather was intended as a incredible dilution of the causative factor– a bacteria. AND something that later science has proven to be wrong. influenza is caused by a virus.

    But a malaria remedy based on swamp water and peat? That’s the grand miasma theory of bad air/bad water as a cause of malaria. Yes, in some cases, draining swamps made a difference to malaria and yellow fever, but that wasn’t because there was something inherently evil or wrong in the swamps. It was because mosquitoes that carried these diseases bred in the swamps.

    As to Darwin and homeopaths, I guess it is an example of a journal publishing a paper that is outside of its area of specialization. Any Darwin scholar who reviewed it would have thought that it was a bad joke.

    For example, at one point Dullman makes a big deal about Darwin’s comments on a letter from a German homeopath as if Darwin took seriously what had been written to him.

    The German homeopath tells Darwin he almost figured out evolution in homeopathich terms in a book he published in German. Would Darwin translate and publish his book in England?

    Dullman cheated by not quoting from the Darwin Correspondence project but rather from more of a summary in book by Darwin’s son.

    The actual comments by Darwin sounded to me like Darwin making fun of someone who, out of the blue, wants Darwin to not only take seriously homeopathy, which Darwin trashes over and over again, but wants Darwin to do a lot of work.

    So I emailed the Darwin project. Guess what? They agreed with me.

  72. Chris says:

    I thought “Oscillococcinum” was named because under a microscope some guy saw the vibration, or oscillations thinking it was the bacteria. Turns out he was observing Brownian motion.

  73. Mojo says:

    My quotes from the “father of immunology” stand…and there is actually more you can learn about him and his thoughts on homeopathy…

    Not at present, simply because you have failed to provide an adequate citation here for either the quotations or any other relevant information. It should be a simple matter for you to do this.

  74. daedalus2u says:

    Dana, it is called cargo cult science. Anyone who is going through the motions of doing science but without the intellectual honesty to be a scientist.

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

    That is the cult that is homeopathy. No homeopath actually does science, they go through the motions and then cherry pick the results.

  75. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Think the comments section will tick over 100 like they usually do when we’ve got Dullman or Thing on board?

    Dana – as far as I can tell, the totality of Dr. Crislip’s comments on homeopathic nosode research can be found in this paragraph:

    Are there any studies or case reports to support the use of nosodes? As best I can discover there are two clinical trials in animals of nosodes: one in calves that did not show benefit and one in mice that did, and both are in journals too obscure for my library to have subscriptions. There are two cases of fatal polio after receiving homeopathic vaccinations. That is it in Pubmed. Not a convincing literature for effectiveness.

    So, he found two studies. One was positive, one negative. Both are linked to (one erroneously but corrected) and neither could be found in his library.

    My God, that’s criminal! How could he not have done an exhaustive search for one study and taken the time to dissect it? Yeah, you’re still missing the point. Like many pseudoscientists, the fact that there might be one tiny improbable sliver of chance is taken as absolute proof that homeopathy/acupuncture/naturopathy/N-rays could still work.

    Homeopathy might do randomized, double-blind trials and basic experimentation, but those trials are far outweighed by the anecdotes, poorly-designed trials, cherry-picked studies and unreplicable results. Also, homeopathy tends to ignore and cherry-pick negative and positive results, and fail to acknowledge what the body of literature as a whole states. For instance, my comment about the Cochrane reviews, which methodically analyzes as much of the body as possible, was ignored. Yes, you’re still advocating for a religion and pseudoscience because like creationism, homeopathy picks only the results it wants, ignores later developments, harkens back to a sacred text that can’t be questioned, ignores evidence, ignores the summation of the evidence, engage in special pleading, does not acknowledge criticisms, does not keep attempting to increase the quality and variety of trials like actual science does, and does not attempt to integrate or align itself with basic science, particularly as it changes. Do you know what you call something that adopts only the appearance of, or single aspects of actual science but ignores the rest in order to co-opt its social prestige?

    Pseudoscience.

    Cargo cult science is more about adopting the appearance in order to get the results, without understanding the process. Perhaps it’s both, depending on how ignorant and/or dishonest the practitioner.

  76. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Windriven:

    I spend the time with Dullman for the same reason I spend the time with Thing – to demonstrate that despite dropping a lot of text on a page, their arguments are quite specious. They ignore both basic science and common sense. This can be demonstrated with only a small amount of basic knowledge, much available in a standard anatomy textbook and the occasional supplementary source (for instance, much of my critique of homeopathy is cribbed shamelessly from Jay Shelton’s excellent book Homeopathy: How it Really Works, ISBN 159102109X, Prometheus Books, 2004). Most of my commentary of Th1Th2 comes from the sections of Elaine Marieb’s Human Anatomy & Physiology, published by Benjamin Cummings, ISBN 0805359095 (and a shamefully old edition whose year I will not disclose!) that deal with the immune system.

    I don’t do it for Dullman or Thing. They’re probably a lost cause. I do it for people who are on the fence about whether Dullman and Thing might just have a point. So yeah – as long as Dullman and Thing keep bringing up novel points, I keep politely addressing them. When their posts reach the point of repetition or simple ad hominen, I’m pretty much done and start just implying they’re stupid. I got to do it twice this week alone! It’s kinda fun, and a great way to brush up on your basic anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biology. Takes very little time too, because the depth of thought exhibited is so shallow, you can do it between breakfast and your morning shower.

    So thank you Dullman and Thing, for being zealous enough to keep trying, but neither smart enough to really understand the issues involved or do a good enough job of hiding your real beliefs. You make my day a little bit funnier.

  77. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    OK, we’ve already drifted off-topic, so let me go a little further.

    Dana, you failed to answer this at Quackometer, let’s pose you the questions here.

    1. Does Charles Darwin describe the dilutions used in his Drosera experiments in the manner you require for them to be homeopathic.

    Charles Darwin said;

    “The solution, moreover, in these experiments was diluted in the proportion of one part of the salt to 2,187,500 of water, or one grain to 5000 oz. The reader will perhaps best realise this degree of dilution by remembering that 5000 oz. would more than fill a 31-gallon cask; and that to this large body of water one grain of the salt was added”

    Dana Ullman says;

    What I now want to know is how did you come to believe your statement above: “After 12 times the container would be 100^12 (1000000000000000000000000) times bigger than your test tubes. If your test tube holds a decilitre, then the equivalent test tube size to get the same concentration in, from the same starting amount, is 10^23 litres.” In NO homeopathic literature has it ever said or implied that a larger container is needed for each stage of the potentization process. FINALLY…you’re realizing how much you (and others) have misconstrued homeopathy.

    2. Were Darwin’s dilutions succussed appropriately as is essential for homeopathic solutions?

    3. Were molecules of the test material present in Darwin’s dilutions?

  78. windriven says:

    @WLU

    I had given up on Thing and friends. But your point about engaging them for the sake of others who may be on the fence is well taken.

    Without going too far off path, it says a good deal about SBM that comments by even the most wild-eyed are allowed and, to the best of my knowledge, not even the most obnoxious troll has ever been banned. Yet post a comment that even mildly questions the tenets of magical thinking on most of the sCAM sites and that comment has the life expectancy of a mayfly.

  79. pmoran says:

    While they dominate discussion, studies on homeopathy have little to do with anything. Those with a good general understanding of the relevant sciences and various quirks of scientific study will guess that the occasional moderate quality positive ones bob around upon a veritable sea of negative ones that never get to be published. There is some evidence that this is so.

    And, believe it or not, they actually mean little to the supporter of homeopathy. He believes in its various odd and archaic premises for quite different reasons.

    For him the positive studies merely provide some vindication of prior belief, and something with which to keep debate upon homeopathic “science” simmering away, when that should have been finalised as soon as modern understandings of the placebo and other non-specific influences within medical interactions explained away everything that there is to be understood about homeopathy.

    This is what homeopaths don’t want to talk about. They believe in it because they believe THEY SEE IT WORKING, and for no other reason.

    The problem for the skeptic is that at the present level of scientific understanding of such “paramedical” influences, the homeopaths may well be right, within certain limitations, although not as much as they think.

    I don’t think I am biased in this. In fact, until persuaded otherwise, I would rather have a compulsively self-medicating public using relatively safe homeopathic remedies than some other CAM methods and even perhaps, on occasions, unnecessarily powerful and side effect-prone drugs.

  80. Michiel says:

    An experience: About 2 years ago I was suffering from a bunch of chigger bites, very itchy. I went to a store to get a remedy, and a customer recommended a homeopathic remedy, Apis. I did not know what it was made with, but tried it. After taking it a few times that day, my hands started feeling hot and itchy, and before long they felt like they were on fire. I had to sleep with my hands raised in the air, it felt like they had been stung by lots of bees! As it turns out, the remdy is made of diluted bees.

    I went to a homeopath who prescribed an homeopathic antidote. The burning went away very quickly. It was like magic, both the onset of the response to apis, and the counter measure.

    An explanation based on the “placebo” effect would not work, as I expected release from itch, not aggravation in this specific manner.

    Many consider it impossible that such a highly diluted solution would have any effect, but this experience shows it can. I have had another one where I just tried a homeopathic remedy that resulted in accute nausea, and stomach flue symptoms.

    The lesson I learned is, it is not as safe as you think, you better go to a homeopath who knows what he is doing.

  81. Mojo says:

    Many consider it impossible that such a highly diluted solution would have any effect, but this experience shows it can

    No, it doesn’t. It is a single anecdotal account. To show that the remedy caused the symptoms, you would need to repeat the observation in a properly conducted double-blind trial with a placebo control group.

    you better go to a homeopath who knows what he is doing.

    Good luck finding one of those!

  82. Joe says:

    @pmoran on 11 Nov 2010 at 4:28 pm wrote “… I would rather have a compulsively self-medicating public using relatively safe homeopathic remedies …”

    Some “homeopathic” remedies are not so dilute as to be harmless, and others are adulterated with drugs.

  83. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    Has Dana gone away?

  84. Harriet Hall says:

    Dana is following his usual hit-and-run practice. He attacks, and when he encounters a serious challenge he just fades away.

  85. Michiel says:

    Mojo, technically you are right of course that to be sure that the effect of Apis in such diluted form caused the reaction, one can do a proper scientific study. But we can’t live our lives like that as individuals. We have to be practical and learn lessons that apply to us individually, even when a scientific study to supply the most reliable information would be ideal.

    BTW, even “scientific” studies are not actually scientific in the sense that they do not reveal knowledge that can be relied on 100%. Studies can contradict and researchers attitude and motives effect the research.

    Anyways, so it happened that my experience with Apis is not the only time I noticed a dramatic, instantaneous effect of a homeopatic remedy. In another case I got stomach flue like symptoms from a remedy. It could not be explained from a placebo effect as I took it for quit a different effect and with different expectation. If you do not want homeopathy to work, if in your heart you want it to be disproven, than you shrug this of as another anecdotal account. For me. the odds of both of these being coincidence, while I never had such symptoms before or after I took these remedies, is very small.

    Other than that, I have seen homeopathy work well so many times. I am actually amazed to find some of the contributors of this blog to consider it unscientific.

    In my experience, many doctors make great diagnosis, but offer little for cure. My 10 year old son had a strange looking something on his knee. It was colorful and was spreading. The doctor told us it was an infection he would not recover from without antibiotics. We got a bag full…. Back home we decided not to rush the antibiotics, and try what we know helps to fight bacterial infections. We kept him off sugar, put garlic in every meal, and made sure he got plenty of rest to keep the immune system up. The infection did not grow, and was gone within a week. Can I prove that we cured the infection? No I can’t. Not without a double blind bla bla bla. In practical life you gain wisdom and experience in a different way. You intelligently apply what you know to an individual, at the right time, under the right circumstances. I am not aware of formal studies proving the antibacterial properties of garlic, but whether such studies exist or not does not change the effect of the garlic!

    My point: I would rather not reject everything that has not yet been proven scientifically, and I would rather not use everything that has not yet been proven harmful. For a long time smoking was not proven harmful, and many who smoked shielded themselves behind “no proof it’s bad”. Similarly, we can take advantage of alternative medicine as long as it does not put us into danger.

  86. Harriet Hall says:

    @Michiel

    Some people get headaches from aspartame. They have experienced this over and over. They even developed headaches on occasions when they didn’t realize until afterwards that they had ingested aspartame.

    People who are absolutely convinced they get adverse effects from aspartame have been proven wrong. For instance, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of people who reported having headaches repeatedly after consuming aspartame. When they knew what they were consuming, 100% of them had headaches. In a double blind crossover trial, when they didn’t know what they were getting, 35% had headaches after aspartame, and 45% had headaches after placebo.

    We think we are good observers, but sometimes we get it wrong. Please see http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=729

  87. weing says:

    Right. Because scientific studies aren’t 100% reliable, my anecdotes are just as good, if not better.

  88. pmoran says:

    If you do not want homeopathy to work, if in your heart you want it to be disproven, than you shrug this of as another anecdotal account..

    Well, yours is even at the weak end for anecdotal evidence. It is light on detail, lacks documentation, is mostly subjective, and it doesn’t help that you have now offered three separate stories suggesting a pre-existent bias towards “alternatives”.

    You are thus not the neutral observer that good science attempts to create for itself when trying to decide if this kind of association is real, and causal.

    I know that sounds like a put-down, but medical practitioners have proved as bad at anyone at seeing things that aren’t there and selecting that which supports belief while suppressing that which doesn’t. This is precisely why clinical trials evolved.

    Speaking of which, an N=1 blinded study would be possible with you. You would be randomly given plain water or homeopathic Apis or whatever. We could then determine whether your experience can be replicated under controlled conditions. If positive, the preparations involved would have to be examined further to exclude non-homeopathic effects.

  89. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    @Harriet Hall

    Dana is following his usual hit-and-run practice. He attacks, and when he encounters a serious challenge he just fades away.

    Of course, the thing about a page like this is that the comments don’t fade away and can be cited again later, assuming that certain people reappear to promote their silliness and nonsense again.

  90. daedalus2u says:

    It is quite possible for homeopathic preparations to become contaminated with bacteria or fungi and what you are seeing is the response to those bacteria and/or bacterial toxins.

    The allergic response to penicillin is often inflammation of the hands. Could the first homeopathic preparation have been contaminated with something you are allergic to and the second wasn’t? I consider that to be more likely than the idea that shaking stuff turns it into magic water.

    Often antibiotics are given not because the infection has a 100% chance of not clearing by itself but because there is a 1% chance of the infection spreading and becoming fatal. Fortunately that did not happen in the case you mention.

    Some infections (for example Lyme disease) have an acute phase where they have symptoms and are easily treated, but after the acute phase they become cryptic, not exhibiting over symptoms but still causing damage. Syphilis is another disease that acts like that.

    Your “anecdote” isn’t very compelling because the causative agent was not identified, and it was not verified that the infection was actually cleared, and it may simply be that luck prevented something worse from happening (sepsis and death).

  91. I just mentioned this on another article, but I think it’s good to remember that some remedies sold as homeopathic are actually not high dilutions. I believe Anica gel, sold as homeopathic, is usually about 1/10th Arnica (herb).

  92. Joe says:

    @Michiel on 14 Nov 2010 at 9:37 pm “… My 10 year old son had a strange looking something on his knee. It was colorful and was spreading. The doctor told us it was an infection he would not recover from without antibiotics. …. Back home we decided not to rush the antibiotics, and try what we know helps to fight bacterial infections. We kept him off sugar, put garlic in every meal …”

    1) Did the doctor really say that the infection would not resolve without antibiotics? I doubt that.

    2) It is despicable that you would experiment on a child (yours or any other).

    3) Where is the evidence that avoiding sugar and eating garlic fights bacterial infections?

  93. Michiel says:

    Harriet: yes, I don’t question that effect. But very likely these people expected headaches. I did not expect burning hands because I did not even know what the remedy was. The placebo explanation doe not seem to apply. Same with the stomach flue experience. With the garlic, it is different. We told our child the garlic would get him better, so that could have been a placebo.

    weing: I did not say that. a scientic study is better than anecdotal evidence. But without an available study, it is anecdotal evidence that we learn from.

    pmoran: I acknowledge a strong interest in the alternative, while at the same time I am very skeptical. The experience with apis was a big disappointment to me. I considered homeopathy to be without sideeffects until that point. The experience is not supportive of homeopathy at all, except that, if repeatable, could be proof of dilutions still having an effect. So I don’t see how my bias toward alternatives makes this observation less relevant. For details, I will give you the full story if you wish, there were not other factors at play that could have been the cause. No other medications or treatments. The only thing I took was Apis, and within several hours I developed an itch on my fingers like I had been bitten by insects, which worsened to a fire like sensation all over my hand and lower forearms. (the chigger bites were on my ankles). Next morning it was still burning and I saw the homeopath right away. After I took that remedy, it went away within 1-2 hours (and that could have been a placebo effect as I had some specific expectation).

    daedalus2u: I saw this mentioned before about homeopathic remedies not being pure sometimes. Any proof/references? The infection was not identified by the doctor as lyme disease or any other underlying condition. The child was not behaving in any unusual way, not sick, tired or anything else unusual. He appeared perfectly healthy except that spot on his knee. Theoretically, there could have been some other problem, but even antibiotics would have been limited to fighting bacteries. It was the doctor’s conclusion it was a local infection that his body could not win over [without antibiotics], and that is what we went by.

    Joe:
    1. Yes the doctor said exactly that, the infection would not cure without antibiotics. She was very clear. And she gave us the antibiotics, a bag full.

    2. It is kind of insulting to use the word “despicable”. No doctor can guarantee success of a remedy with absolute certainty. We did something safe, and were ready to give the antibiotics the very moment the infection would grow. I wonder if you are a parent? My parents had my tonsils cut out, that used to be routine preventative medicine! That I call experimentation, and a failed one as it is now understood tonsils are good to keep. We know our children and their bodies, and we can tell if they do better or worse. Keeping a child off sugar, and putting garlic in the diet is not a risky experimentation. The infection was not an acute threat, and there was plenty of time to see if the condition could be enhanced.

    My 84 year old mother in law was in the hospital last week, with a bad bacterie in her stomach. The doctor prescribed her 4 different antibiotics at once. She responded well, but several days later, another doctor saw her case and immediately took her off 2 of them, because the dose was much too strong for her at that age. The doctors, two completely different opinions. Is there a research that answers how many doses an 84 year old frail woman can have? Who is experimenting?

    3. Where is the evidence that eating stills hunger? Do you have a scientific study for that? I have seen garlic effective against bacterial infections many times. The original idea is not from me, I read it. Knowing (with a reasonable degree of certainty) it works does not come from the reading, it comes from the trying. Some thing work, some don’t. I am a skeptic, and I do not believe these things unless I see them work. I don’t believe them just because someone wrote a book, or said so. I had an oral infection once that would not go away. I ate some garlic, and it almost went away within a day. I stopped, it came back, I tried it again, it almost fully went away, I stopped and it came back. Then I ate garlic for a few days and it was gone completely. Anyways, here is a reference to a study: http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/archive/mdd/v05/i04/html/04news4.html

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      Michiel said “I did not expect burning hands because I did not even know what the remedy was. The placebo explanation doe not seem to apply.”

      The placebo explanation does not apply. The coincidence explanation does. The fallacy is the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. The fact that the symptoms followed the treatment doesn’t mean that they were caused by the treatment. Correlation doesn’t equal causation.

  94. Mojo says:

    The experience with apis was a big disappointment to me. I considered homeopathy to be without sideeffects until that point.

    Would you like to buy a tiger-repelling rock?

  95. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    @Michiel

    “So I don’t see how my bias toward alternatives makes this observation less relevant.”

    No, the fact that it is an uncontrolled personal anecdote is what makes it irrelevant.

    Describing more detail about any individual medical situation you have experienced adds nothing. The fact that you think it would help tells us that you do not understand that you simply cannot draw meaningful inferences from single case stories such as yours.

  96. Mojo says:

    @Michiel

    Anyways, here is a reference to a study: http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/archive/mdd/v05/i04/html/04news4.html

    It is not really a reference to a study, since it is a news report and doesn’t say where the study was published (searching pubmed for the name of the author and “allicin” doesn’t find anything).

    Did you notice that it refers to an in vitro study, and says “it is too early to say how much allicin intake will reap intestinal rewards against VRE. In vitro activity does not correlate to in vivo activity”?

    Do you eat your garlic cooked or raw?

  97. Michiel says:

    Mojo: if I were about to be eaten by a tiger, and I had no gun, and no other means of defending myself, I may go for that rock so I had something to throw with!
    Yes, I noticed it was in vitro. I just did a quick google for garlic and antibacterial and sent you a link I found to show that research is being done. I don’t have a database with studies like some of you seem to have access to.
    Do I eat garlic raw or cooked? I think raw is more potent, and cooked is more palatable. We’ve used both.

    Monkey, so if my bias doesn’t make it less relevant, than why mention it in the forst place? (you said it does not help, so just leave it out next time if it is not an argument against).

    Harriet, ok glad we agree on that. It MAY have been coincidence. Neither of us can say for sure. My opinion is it is unlikely to be coincidence, given the severity of it and the specific match with the remedy’s characteristics. I have done a lot of technical support in my life, and I had to diagnose remotely many problems. A nice example is some cases of people who experience system crashes right when they installed a certain software. They swear the system crashed due to the software installation, which is technical highly improbable. But what happened is they only use their computer for that particular software, so if the system has to break down, it would be while used. If the only use is installing software, well… you get it, no correlation. I am very used to that kind of thinking. I learned that understanding the person’s state of mind is more important than their computer when solving technical problems. Human psychology can play amazing tricks. I can’t see the loophole here though. Apis -> burning hands. The odds that this one and only instance in my life of such symptoms would follow immediately after this remedy by chance seems very small.

  98. Joe says:

    Michiel on 15 Nov 2010 at 11:28 am wrote “2. It is kind of insulting to use the word “despicable”.

    I intended it to be harsh. You took a chance on your child getting worse while you withheld proven treatment.

    Your anecdotes are not getting any better. And the press release to which you linked cites quack researchers and nothing about clinical use.

  99. Harriet Hall says:

    Michiel said
    “I don’t have a database with studies like some of you seem to have access to.”

    Yes you do. PubMed. Searching there for garlic and antibacterial promptly locates this review article showing that the evidence shows that garlic doesn’t work.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12562687

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