When homeopaths attack medicine and physics

I must admit, it is possible that our fearless leader Steve has a more robust constitution than I do. I say this because he actually managed to sit through an entire video full of the most bizarre pseudoscience and mangling of physics and medicine that I’ve seen in quite some time.

And that’s saying a lot.

So, behold, Dr. Charlene Werner, an optometrist (apparently) and a homeopath. I warn you, however. If you have any understanding of physics or chemistry whatsoever or if you’ve ever read (and liked) Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time (or anything else he’s ever written), sit down now. Take a deep breath. Heck, crack open a bottle of wine and down at least half of it before you watch this video. I’m serious. You’ll need it. You might need to lie down, too. In fact, you might need to lie down with a cool washcloth across your eyes.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

Truly, the woo doth flow. Like a river. Like the energy from a supernova. From Bozeman, Montana, where, apparently they don’t have enough woo and have to import it from Texas. I haven’t seen such a massive pseudoscientific abuse of physics and chemistry in quite a long time.

I really like how Werner starts out by asking the audience if they’ve all had chemistry or physics classes. Truly, if anyone there said yes and didn’t immediately see her talk for the hilariously rank pseudoscience that it is, he should demand his money back from whatever school or schools he attended. Either that, or he should go back for remedial physics classes; obviously whatever he or shelearned didn’t stick.

Be that as it may, Werner then asks everyone if they know what H2O is and who Einstein is. Now, I know why a homeopath would mention water. After all, homeopathic remedies are nothing but water. But what did poor Albert Einstein do to deserve this posthumous desecration of his monumental contribution to physics? (I know, I know, what did any physicist do to deserve such abuse of science and his good name by homeopaths?) Get a load of this:

You know that when light is energy, right? OK. And he [Einstein] gave us the theory that energy equals mass times the speed of light. E=mc2. OK. If we take that formula, and we think that there’s a lot of mass, right? OK. If you collapse all the mass down into the universe, so that there is no space between the mass, do you know how much mass there is in the entire universe? You think you’re a lot of mass, right?… Well, the whole universal mass can be consolidated down into the size of a bowling ball. That’s all there is in the whole universe. So, how much mass are you? That’s right, an infinitessimal amount.

I bet you’re wondering where Werner is going with this. So was I. But I was afraid. Very afraid. Yes, I wasn’t sure whether she was right about being able to collapse the entire mass of the universe into the size of a bowling ball. My memory of my physics doesn’t tell me if it’s a bowling ball, a softball, or something the size of a house. I get the point. The vast majority of matter is the empty space between atoms and between electrons and nuclei. For purposes of this discussion it doesn’t really matter, anyway. What matters is the mind-numbing ignorance of what Werner says next:

So if you take that formula, E=mc2, you can almost cross out mass. So the formula ends up being “energy = the speeed of light.”

Arrrrghhhh! Help, help, I’m being made more scientifically stupid just by looking at this video! Talk about a math FAIL. First off, if you remove the mass term, what are you left with? Zero! No mass, no energy! Even if you could legitimately just drop the mass term as an approximation, you wouldn’t be left with “energy = the speed of light.” What happened to the squared term? Moreover, Werner completely misunderstands the nature of the equation. c2 is the proportionality constant for how much energy is present within a given mass. It’s a huge number, meaning that a small amount of mass contains a lot of energy, if that mass can be completely converted to energy. The point of the equation is not that mass is unimportant, rather that mass is very important indeed! That’s why I have a new equation:

I = mair2 * c4

where I = ignorance; mair = the mass of the air necessary to speak a Werner sentence about science; and c = the speed of light.

That’s right. Werner’s ignorance could power the universe. (Yes, I know that the units don’t quite work out. Either that, or the units of ignorance are in fact energy squared. Just go with me on this.)

But it gets better. Look at what Werner says next:

That’s why the visual system is so important, because we have lots of photorecptors that receive light. But when Hahnemann died, the scientists didn’t fall in his camp. OK. And, um, the pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit well together.

Actually, the pieces of homeopathy never fit together when Samuel Hahnemann was alive. It was woo then, it’s woo now. The only difference is the science-y gloss that its practitioners try to put on it with quantum mechanics and mangling of physics and chemistry. But wait, there’s more:

So God in his infinite wisdom sent us another Einstein called Stephen Hawkings. Stephen Hawkings gave us the string theory. And what he discovered is that there are other “energetic particles” in the universe, and they’re shaped like little U-eys, and what they do is they work by vibration. So our body is so wonderfully designed. We have light receivers, and we have ears. Vibratory–they pick up vibration. So if we added to that theory–Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=mc2, but mass is crossed out–and strings, vibration. But that still doesn’t tell us the whole picture, because what is a cell, right.

Alright, now stop right there. How much technobabble can one woman fit into a single talk? How much mangling of physics can one woman accomplish? Truly, I fear to know the answer. It was at this point that I started to wonder whether I should back out now. Just say no. Stop watching. the mind-destroying horror was too great. I could feel my neurons crying out in pain. But, no. The things I do for SBM! So I looked at what Werner said next:

The cell has a cell wall, a cell membrane, cytoplasm. Is that mass? Not very much, really. So what are they? You can break down the cells into tiny pieces of energy called electrons, protons, neutrons, right? So the whole body has an infinitessimal amount of mass, but what is the remainder? Energy. So, I am energy; you are energy.

You’ll have to excuse me if I can’t follow that logic. Maybe it’s because I understand biology and a bit of physics! Come on! She completely misunderstands Einstein’s equations. The concept that the body is a small amount of mass does not mean that it’s all energy. True, there’s a whole lot of energy in the body’s mass, but, unfortunatey, to turn that mass into all the energy described by Einstein’s classic equation would not be pleasant for the person whose energy was being–shall we say?–released. That doesn’t stop Werner’s monumental misunderstanding of physics from leading her to try to use this line of “reasoning” to argue that homeopathy is real and scientifically supported:

Now if you go to study physics, we do not know how to create energy. But we don’t know how to destroy it, either. That is not humanly possible. So what we do is we take energy and we transform it from one state to another. That’s all we do. So if that’s all we do guess what the definition of disease is. It’s not mass. We have transformed our energy state into something different. That’s what the definition of disease is.

As a physician, I can most definitely say that Werner’s definition of “disease” is related to the real definition of disease only by her own delusions. Actually, it’s not related to the real definition of disease at all. What we’re really seeing is a form of primitive vitalism, where there is some sort of “life energy” that, when its flows are disordered, blocked, or otherwise messed with magically, then you have disease, all gussied up with science-y sounding mish-mash of physics-y sounding psuedoscience. Let’s put it this way. Werner keeps using that word (energy). I do not think it means what she thinks it means. In any case, never mind those nasty microbes. After all, they’re just “mass,” and they’re far less mass than a human body or even a single mammalian cell. It’s the same with those proteins whose function becomes disordered; that DNA that has abnormalities; or those cellular functions that go awry. All mass. So, by Werner’s logic, they must not be able to cause disease, or so it would seem. Instead, she thinks she can use light, sound, and homeopathy to fix these energy “imbalances.” But what is homeopathy?

Alas, Werner is too happy to tell us:

OK, so what is homeopathy? If nothing is really mass or an infinitessimal amount of it, and everything is energy, that means everything has a vibration to it. So what if I could encase some sort of energy for later use? So if I wanted to make a bomb and I took all these chemicals and I encased it in a bomb, and tonight my neighber let his dog poop in my yard literally, and I’m mad at that dog and my neighbor. I’m going to take this bomb and I’m going to get back at him. And I threw that bomb at his house, would he be happy about it? Because what happens now when that energy is released? It destroys something. It changes it…It changes its energetic state. Well, that’s what we can do with homeopathy. We take substances. And we put ‘em in solution and we succuss it just like a bomb, we threw the bomb, to release its energy into this liquid. And then we take these little white pellets. We sprinkle them with that solution, and guess what we have just made? An energetic substance to be used when we choose to use it. So, how homeopathy works is, whatever your disease process is, it’s an energetic change. And if I can find the remedy that matches your state and give it to you when we so choose, what can we do with your energy system? Transform it to a previous better state. That’s how it works.

How simple.

Actually, Werner is right about one thing. Homeopathy is kind of like a response to a dog pooping on your lawn. Not only is it a major stinker, but one could use homeopathy to clean off the residue of dog crap from the lawn, if you use enough of it. It is, after all, water. In case anyone doesn’t know what succussion is, too, it’s what homeopaths do with their remedies between each step on the way of diluting them into nonexistence. Basically, it’s vigorous shaking. Hahnemann used to do it by smacking the vial containing his concoction against a Bible; modern day homeopaths have machines that do it. Whatever method they use, though, since Hahnemann’s time, the way homepaths prepare their remedies is that they dilute them 1:100, succuss them, dilute them 1:100 again, and so on and so forth for however many “C” the remedy is ultimately to be. If the remedy is a typical 30C remedy, that’s 30 dilutions of 1:100, or a total dilution of 10-60, or roughly 36 to 37 orders of magnitude greater than Avagadro’s number, which guarantees that there almost certainly isn’t a single molecule left of the substance used for the homeopathy remedy. Of course, in general, it’s not a good idea to succuss bomb components. Bombmakers who do that tend to lose body parts or the physical integrity of their entire body. Now, there‘s some vibration!

After I had picked up my brain off the floor, its having oozed out of my ears as I watched this, and forced it back into my skull, I wondered just who Charlene Werner is. Apparently, in addition to homeopathy, she is a practitioner of a therapy that I’ve never heard of, namely behavioral or developmental optometry. If you wnat a flavor of what developmental optometry is, I’ll refer you to Dr. Werner’s own website:

We are a holistic based optometric practice dedicated to the highest quliaty vision care for your entire family. We believe that 70% of how you physically function is through the vision system. Therefore, when the vision system is improved or enhanced it also increases overall physical wellness and performance. Don’t take our word for it … ask our patients.

70% of how we physically function is due to our vision? Where did that number come from? Why not 100%? I do understand one thing that puzzled me before. Remember how at the very beginning she mentioned how our eyes can see light and vibration? Obviously, she was combining the woo that is homeopathy with her other favored treatment modalities, which–surprise, surprise–do not appear to be evidence-based, as Steve pointed out.

In any case Werner’s website emphasizes testimonials over science and is full of claims that “behavioral optometry” can treat ADHD, dyslexia, and a wide variety of other conditions. Indeed, it can even treat problems associated with autism! Now, I know that it could be very difficult to do a vision evaluation in an autistic child and that correcting poor vision is a good thing in any child, but the results reported on Dr. Werner’s website seem rather more glowing than seems plausible. Be that as it may, why not treat autism with “visual therapy”? Dubious practitioners of all stripes have tried everything else. No doubt Werner combines homeopathy with visual therapy to produce a one-two punch of woo. All she needs is chelation therapy to complete the triad. In any case, if vision is 70% of our “physical functioning,” then what can’t it help? Of course, I do notice a disconnect between Werner’s claims that we are “all energy” and “infinitesimal mass,” then why does she even care about the physical functioning of everything in our bodies? Just make one of those homeopathic energy bombs and fix whatever’s ailing the patient! We’re all energy, anyway, and disease is energy. Isn’t that what Werner just told us?

The really sad thing about the video above is that it’s not the worst of arguments that homeopaths make. (For that, you need Dana Ullman.) Rather, Werner’s arguments for homeopathy are pretty much standard fare, although they are not nearly as entertaining as those of, say, Lionel Milgrom. What they do show is a perfect case of crank magnetism.

Just don’t let your dog poop on Werner’s lawn. You might find yourself at the receiving end of a homeopathic energetic bomb, and you know that the more she dilutes it the stronger it gets.

Posted in: Homeopathy, Humor

Leave a Comment (74) ↓

74 thoughts on “When homeopaths attack medicine and physics

  1. squirrelelite says:

    No kidding!

    I tried watching it and could only stand about 3 1/2 minutes before I totally gave up.

    But then, I only have a B.S. in Physics and an M.S. in Nuclear Effects, so what could I know?

    (Not to argue from authority that is.)

    I think she takes the prize for total mangling, at least for now.

  2. Tony61 says:

    NOt surprisingly, the type of optometry, viz, “behavioral vision therapy”, that Dr. Werner practices is the least accepted as scientific. In effect, the therapy entails eye exercises to remediate dyslexia, ADHD and other neurologic and behavioral disorders.

    The Amer Acad Pediatrics and other specialty organizations issued a statement a few years ago stating:

    “No scientific evidence exists for the efficacy of eye exercises (‘vision therapy’)… in the remediation of these complex pediatric neurological conditions.”

  3. DrBadger says:

    You, sir, are brave to not only endure through that, but actually respond to it. I can only sit through one instance of butchering of science before I’m forced to run away as far as I can.

  4. Joe says:

    “70% of how we physically function is due to our vision?” Why yes, groupcaptain Mandrake, and the world is 70% water, even you are 70% water. So, homeopathy makes perfect sense.

  5. daijiyobu says:

    I can’t stand homeopathy so much so that I want to shoot one!

    But, only in song.

    That’s why “I Shot the Homeopath”

    (see ).


  6. JerryM says:

    Initially I thought this was a parody…

    After searching her name, this video popped up on a number of blogs, unsurprisingly calling it and her epic fail all around.
    It seems to have made the rounds at least twice before.

    I wonder what sparked this round?

  7. clammy says:

    thanks, i appreciate your suffering! i’ve been seeing this video as it’s made the rounds, but couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

  8. alison says:

    She doesn’t know a lot about biology either. Our cells don’t have cell walls. It’s plant cells that have walls.

    And if 70% of our physical functioning is related to vision, how come all the blind people in the world are functioning apparently normally (apart form their sight, obviously) and not lying on the floor helpless?

  9. clem says:

    For a Moron , she really knows how to patronize !

  10. zeno says:

    For sheer entertainment value, she just has to get an award from someone! We should even create one just to honour her name. Just look how her fame has spread over teh Interwebs this last week. She’s a star. She should be imortalised.

    How about the Werner Award for Woo?

  11. David Gorski says:

    I wonder what sparked this round?

    PZ Myers linked to it in Pharyngula about a week ago.

  12. DanaUllman says:

    Because people here consider evidence based medicine to be so important, please help me stop or slow doctors from prescribing drugs for infants and children for which they have not been proven to be safe or effective. There are a tremendous number of “off-label” prescription of drugs for infants and children, as I have detailed in my Huffingtonpost blog:

    And please help us stop and slow down the common practice of polypharmacy where doctors give more than ONE drug to a sick person, except for a handful of exceptions. Because there are so few studies that prove the safety or efficacy of the concurrent use of multiple drugs, I’m sure that people here will work to stop the common unscientific practice of doctors today.

    Will you lead this movement for science based medicine or do you prefer to only use evidence based medicine when it supports your own limited worldview? Curious mind do want to know…

  13. David Gorski says:

    Uh, Dana, we have written about polypharmacy off-label prescribing before, both here and on our personal blogs, and I personally have written about the misadventures and depredations of big pharma on this very blog. You don’t have to look too far to find such posts.

    Nice try at a distraction, though.

  14. shadowmouse says:

    Awww, Dana stomps those big feet in a nice tantrum. Dropped your binky again, along with dropping the usual load.

    Here, have some nice Benadryl to jumpstart your nap.

  15. Harriet Hall says:


    1) Off-label prescribing is usually based on evidence – evidence that is published in the peer-reviewed literature. The reason it is off-label is that the manufacturer has not yet gone through the lengthy and complicated FDA approval process to get the new indication listed on the label.

    (2) I wrote about polypharmacy on this blog over a year ago. It is not unscientific per se, and often is life-saving, although overprescribing is a problem that we are well aware of and are trying to change.

    (3) You said the Montagnier study supported homeopathy. I wrote about it, quoting you and showing why you were wrong. I’m still waiting for your response.

  16. corin123 says:

    So here’s the thing. Most of what you write makes sense, except one piece. Before you start making fun of developmental optometry, you should find out a bit more. Just because the woo-woo practitioner describes it a particular way does not mean she’s right about that either. The link you posted for developmental optometry is also an example of cherry-picking to prove your point.

    Developmental optometry is *supposed* to be based on vision processing – not how the eyeball functions, but how it “talks” to the brain and how the brain interprets the information it receives. Vision perception therapy, when done properly, is basically a bunch of exercises that retrain the neurological processes to work better. There’s no homeopathy or other woo-woo stuff involved. It’s just like physical therapy, occupational therapy, auditory processing therapies, etc. There is quite a bit of research on this from the neurological side, and more is underway because it is part of a relatively new field (no, I don’t have cites offhand, I’m a little busy recovering from H1N1+asthma, which really stinks, but I have seen them because it is related to my own work).

    The link to autism is likely based on the sensory processing piece. More and more research is showing that autism is linked to sensory processing issues. Will vision processing therapy cure autism? Hardly. If a vision perception problem is *misdiagnosed* as autism, then, astonishingly enough, it will appear to help the autism. There is a lot of overlap in symptoms among atypical neurological conditions including sensory perception, autism, giftedness (asynchronous development), and so on. Your “source” got it all tangled up, but that doesn’t mean you should toss the baby out with the bathwater.

    Just because one homeopath mischaracterizes something does not mean the whole area is suspect; it just means she messed that up, too. Most of the time SBM has excellent information, but maybe don’t be so quick to jump on a field just because you’re not familiar with it.

    As I said, I don’t have any good technical cites offhand, but I can point you to COVD and the Eide Neurolearning blog

  17. pmoran says:

    And Dana, sometimes homeopathy gets looked at as medicine, i.e. “what does it do?”. At other times it is about the science and the i.e. “WTF?”.

  18. pmoran says:

    That should read “the question becomes “WTF?”

  19. Grimreapor says:

    My hat goes off to Dr Novella…

    I (unfortunately) watched it all stone sober… Should have got both bottles of vodka out before hand.

    Also had to put the ear phones in just to make sure no one heard it (Safety for my family) and to make sure I heard it all. I think I’m going to need some psychiatric help for a while now.

    On a side note doesn’t watching this make us sadomasochists though?

    I really don’t know what was worse to watch Jenny MacCarthy talking nonsense, or this woman try and destroy every law of science….

  20. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    Force (F)= mass (m) x acceleration (a).

    Since Dr. Werner has proven that mass is negligible, then this formula for mechanical force basically degrades to Force = 0.

    I guess she wouldn’t mind if we test this idea by dropping a cannon ball on her head from, say, 50 ft. This should do no harm because the force of the impact would be 0.

    With that reasoning, E=mc2 would degenerate into E=0 because variables with negligible quantities cause both sides of the equation to drop out in a multiplication problem. So the speed of light and the little U-ee things would be irrelevant.

    There must be no energy in the homeopathic universe. This could explain a lot.

  21. Nerdista says:

    After much consideration, and finally after seeing Dana broadcast her article here, I have decided to break up with HuffPo. They are just too woo woo for me. Sniff.

  22. John says:

    I couldn’t get past the string theory part before my brain exploded and i had to go and lie down in the dark to recover.

    I did find it odd that of all people a homeopath would think that because something was so infinitesimably small it could be ignored. Though that works for me – she has at least confirmed for me that I can ignore homeopathy.

  23. stargazer9915 says:

    My head hurts. Can I have the bowling ball from 50 ft?

  24. stargazer9915 says:

    Oh, and Corin123, no matter how YOU say it, it’s still a bunch of fluffy, whacked out woo that makes 0 sense. All of this nonsense has killed more people than it has cured. You should be ashamed of yourself.


  25. John Snyder says:

    I must say, I laughed out loud reading this post, which helped me recover somewhat from the crying and screaming that ensued after watching the video. I don’t understand how the audience sat through it without a single individual screaming, vomiting, or hurling a chair.

    That said, I will reiterate the comment I made on Steven Novella’s earlier post. While relatively young fields like developmental optometry are natural magnets for the woo-inclined, there seems to be a growing cadre of optometrists who attempt to steer clear of wholly unsupported claims and treatments. There is also a small but growing body of science to support at least some aspects of vision therapy. Again, this is mainly for the treatment of convergence insufficiency, but there is growing evidence that other visual system disorders may be amenable to such therapy. I agree with corin123 that we should be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Although this particular bathwater is about as rank as it gets.

  26. storkdok says:

    It’s kind of like watching a train wreck, such horror at the mangling but you can’t take your eyes off it/her.

  27. corin123 says:

    Stargazer9915 – why should I be ashamed of myself? I did not defend psuedoscience nor woo-woo. I am very much in favor of vaccines, good science (as opposed to junk science), and in fact have two spectrum children with major medical problems, as well. I spend a lot of time and effort advocating for non-quackery. I merely pointed out that while I agree with much of what was posted here, there *is* a problem with jumping to conclusions about all of it. Last I checked, science =/= dogmatism.

    I did not claim that vision therapy cures autism, etc etc. Either you didn’t read what I actually wrote, or you are just as guilty of false assumptions and attacking blindly as those you would accuse. Good science means that if someone comments on something they don’t know much about (even if it’s tangential), it’s ok to explain it. I do know something about vision therapy, and what I know is that the author of this post used insufficient data.

    There is a population for whom vision therapy can be extremely useful, even if that does not necessarily fit your argument. I work with many children who are highly gifted, on the autistic spectrum, or otherwise neurologically atypical, and for whom this has been hugely helpful. It’s not a cure-all, but until there is one I think it’s quite reasonable to work on the individual pieces to give these kids whatever help they can get. It’s unfortunate that you can’t see past your ideology to understand that.

    No, vaccines do not cause autism. However, knowing about immunology and vaccines does not make one an expert on the neurology of autism. It would be to everyone’s benefit if the folks working on each of these issues came together. That would also be a whole lot more effective at helping parents of autistic kids — they would have less need to find a target to blame (vaccines) if there was a better understanding all the way around about what autism is (and isn’t) and what does and does not actually help.

  28. Dr Benway says:

    Couple days ago Dr. Jay Gordon stopped by to pimp his HuffPoo production. Now Dullman is here for same.

    What gives? If a HuffPooer gets over a million page views, does Arianna start handing out prizes?

  29. tortorific says:

    One thing, mass does not equal area, how many kilograms are there in a meter? The question makes no sense.

    The first problem with her analysis is that there is no such thing as actual particles, actual balls of matter. When we think of particles we are actually talking about wave functions, when a wave function is spiky, i.e. it has a well defined position then it acts like we think matter should act, when it’s wavy it has a well defined momentum and acts more like a wave.

    We could fit all the matter in the universe inside a sphere with a radius of the plank length, because mass doesn’t take up space. The only reason we are limited by this size is the uncertainty principle, any smaller and the wavelength becomes too uncertain.

    Alternatively take an electron, the electron exists as a cloud around the nucleus, it is in a very real sense existing all around the atom at the same time, when we talk about how big something is we talking about the distances at which it exerts a force, generally a strong repulsive force although when we talk about the nucleus it can absorb incoming particles as well as scatter, so we talk about its size relative to absorption and scattering. These sizes can be easily altered by interactions with other particles and would be if you took all the mass in the universe and jammed it together. For example the size of an atom is really the size of the electron orbitals, that size is just as valid as taking on the particles separately and waiting for the strong nuclear force to become strongly repulsive which is in tern just as valid as breaking the particles up into quarks etc.

    Other than that all I want to say is that energy is the potential to do work, and is only valid when you take two points and look at the difference between them, energy by itself is a meaningless concept.

  30. Dr Benway says:

    LOL, shoulda googled first. HuffPoo are seeking to cash in on recent reports regarding their increasing web traffic, which now surpasses “old media” like the Washington Post. HuffPoo want investors to help expand their business. A pagehit graph that shows continued growth is their strongest selling point.

    HuffPoo bloggers, time to rally! Every Web 2.0 friend, enemy, and/or frenemy is a potential link-back and thus a potential booster of HuffPoo’s site rank.

    I wonder… will Dr. Gordon and the dullman soon be cranking the horsesh*t to eleven? Will they shock us with ever more outrageous failings of our failed healthcare system of fail????!!!! Will Fonz jump the shark?????1!!!

    For myself, I’m afraid I won’t be clicking anything HuffPoo until the management makes an effort to kick the fear-mongering, anti-science attention whoring habit.

  31. Owahay says:

    I actually enjoyed watching her body movements: the stumbling, the air quotes, facial contortions, the gestures that didn’t match up with her verbiage, everything physical that screamed “I don’t really know what I’m talking about and am nervous others know it, too”.

    Oh, the side splitting action! So funny till someone gets an eye poked out…wait, can behavioural therapy fix that by reversing the eye’s energy to a previous, better functioning energy state?

    Can I walk through walls and fly?

  32. Dr Benway says:

    Seeing as we’re milking this bit of quantum quackery… I just emailed Larry Krauss and invited him to comment on the bowling ball issue. No doubt he’s got better things to do. But if we’re extremely lucky and he does stop by… woo-hoo! That will so totally rock!

  33. DanaUllman says:

    Corin123…I hope that you now see that the vast majority of people here may read but do not understand what you wrote, nor do they understand much from their hyper-reductionism and black-and-white worldview. I’m glad that you got a taste of their fanaticism…and perhaps you’ll now see your own.

    Steve Novella mentions above that this site HAS covered the problem with polypharmacy of off-label drugs. Actually, there is not a single statement about this common problem, though there are two references to polypharmacy:

    Harriet Hall discusses it at:

    Harriet asserted:
    “Sometimes we have no recourse but to accept a less perfect kind of evidence.”
    It is interesting how she choose to give some tolerance to inadequate SBM to this EXTREMELY common medical practice. I hope that she reiterates this point in future articles and comments that she writes about CAM, though I cannot help but sense that she won’t.

    Steve himself once wrote about polypharmacy:
    “Physicians should practice rational pharmacotherapy and need to be very cautious about polypharmacy and overprescribing.”

    And there are several discussions of off-label drugs…

    Steve wrote about off-label use of drugs, however, while he alerts people that despite this common practice, it is misleading and “not constructive” to take it seriously:
    “Focusing too myopically on the issue of off-label use, however, is misleading and not constructive.”

    At another blog he says:
    “The off-label use of medications is not illegal, nor is it even considered unethical or bad medicine. Rather it is up to the discretion of the prescribing physician.”

    “The core dilemma stems from the conflict between freedom and regulation for quality control.”

    “Whether a treatment is on-label or off label is a matter of FDA regulation only, not best medical practice” (This is a classic. Doctors do not seem to need to follow SBM when they are prescribing drugs…but they DO need to do so when they are using some other treatment modalities.)

    So, what is it going to be? Are you going to hold ALL of medicines to the standards of SBM or just certain drug therapies (in certain limited ways)?

    My underlining point is that we ALL need to try a little tolerance. We ALL need a little humility. My own additional bias is that we ALL should try safer methods first before resorting to higher risky treatment methods.

  34. Dr Benway says:


    Doctors weigh the risks and benefits of proposed therapies using all relevant evidence available. FDA approval itself is not evidence but merely a conclusion based upon evidence presented during the novel drug approval process.

    Sources of evidence include: physics, chemistry, biology, the published medical literature including case reports, formal and informal peer review and the patient’s own prior experiences.

    The reasoned sifting and weighing of evidence is a complex cognitive process that cannot be captured in a simple formula like “FDA approved.”

  35. Dr Benway says:

    Oh, and homeopathy is still water.

  36. weing says:


    You do realize that ALL the junk you peddle is off label.

  37. Scott says:

    I can’t help but notice that Dana still hasn’t made any attempt to address the systematic evisceration of the Montagnier garbage.

  38. Joe says:


    I took the challenge concerning all of the matter in the Universe fitting in a basketball and did a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Going with the diameter of an atom ca. 100 picometers and the diameter of the nucleus as 1 femtometer, I calculate that condensing the Earth would make a sphere a few hundred feet across. Now, I have not been very good at math since I surrendered my slide-rule for a calculator; but I doubt any mistake I made is sufficiently big to make her statement anywhere near correct.

  39. Harriet Hall says:

    Dana admits he was wrong!

    I’m not surprised that he hasn’t attempted to respond to my critique of the Montagnier article. I doubt if any credible defense is possible. I will take his non-response as an admission on his part that he was wrong and that the Montagnier study has no relevance to homeopathy.

  40. corin123 says:

    DanaUllman wrote:
    “Corin123… I hope that you now see that the vast majority of people here may read but do not understand what you wrote, nor do they understand much from their hyper-reductionism and black-and-white worldview. I’m glad that you got a taste of their fanaticism…and perhaps you’ll now see your own.”

    Um, excuse me? I cannot imagine what you are basing that last bit on. Until these posts, I have only ever been a lurker here, so it’s not like you have anything to base ‘my own fanaticism’ on. Unsubstantiated judging of others does not become you.

    Further, I would rather not roll everyone here into one label of any sort. I disagreed with one particular point in the OP; that does not mean it’s all bad. I was misunderstood by a rather obnoxious poster, but at least two others did understand what I had said.

    Honestly, you (and others, I’m afraid) sound like a bunch of schoolchildren.

    You wrote: “My underlining point is that we ALL need to try a little tolerance. We ALL need a little humility. My own additional bias is that we ALL should try safer methods first before resorting to higher risky treatment methods.”

    I completely agree with this statement — although I suspect you and I would interpret it quite differently. That said, if you want tolerance, I’m afraid you’re going to have to meet ‘the other side’ halfway, too. It’s very difficult to hear what is actually being said when the emotions are running so high.

  41. Joe says:

    So, Corin123, can you point us to legitimate literature on “behavioral optometry”?

  42. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    I know I won’t be able to watch this, so I am passing.

    I have a side question about homeopathy, though. (Not sure where else to post it.) I was at Walgreens today, and predominantly displayed at the checkout counter was some kind of homeopathic medicine supposedly to treat cold and flu symptoms from Boiron. (Can’t remember the name of this remedy, it was very long.) Anyway, in bold letters on the front of the package it said “No Side Effects”. I was shocked. Is this legal? I understand they don’t have to test for side effects or list them out, but to state outright that their product has absolutely no side effects seems unethical at best.

  43. Calli Arcale says:

    Yes, it is legal. Homeopathic remedies are *specifically* exempt from FDA regulations, unless the FDA can actually prove them to be harmful. This loophole is not accidental. Some homepaths with powerful political connections pushed it when the Pure Food Act was written, creating the FDA.

    Basically, if something is listed on the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States, and the FDA has no clear evidence linking the product to definite harm, there is nothing whatsoever that the FDA can do. The claims just have to be consistent witht the Pharmacopeia.

    Oh, and how, you might ask, does a remedy get put on that list? Surely there’s *some* kind of testing. Well, no, actually. Well, the homeopaths will tell you that it is tested. But the only entity responsible for ensuring that is the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia Convention of the United States, and they don’t appear to have very high standards. (Note: they *do* appear to have been active in editing the Wikipedia article on the regulation of homeopathic drugs, though.) The argument is that only homeopaths are qualified to validate the safety, purity, and efficacy of homeopathic drugs, which is of course balderdash — if they work, there should be an observable effect, and in essence, the homeopaths are arguing that there isn’t one. Can’t say I can argue with that.

    So yes. That is legal. But only for homeopathic drugs. No other product can legally make that claim.

  44. DanaUllman says:

    I want to apologize to Corin123. He is right. I should not have made that assumption about him…and I apologize (it was speculation…and I should have noted that).

    Harriet, however, has chosen to make an assumption that I “admitted that I was wrong” about Montagnier’s research. That is not true (she loves to make things up out of thin air and still claim to advocate for “science based medicine”!). More than a tad ironic, eh?

    If Harriet or anyone here has any real critique of Montaginer’s work, he or she should submit it to the journal in which it was published so that Montagnier could response to it.

  45. weing says:


    Isn’t that special? So homeopathic crap works because Dana says it works and nothing else needs to be said about it. No ifs, ands, or buts. They have to avoid polypharmacy, I presume, because the patient may drown.

  46. Harriet Hall says:


    That’s a cop-out if I ever saw one. You have not responded to my critique of the Montagnier study. My critique involved two main issues: the validity of the study itself and its implications for homeopathy. The study itself does not even mention homeopathy. You are the one who claimed it supported homeopathy and it is up to you to respond.

    If you won’t even try to justify what you said, I can only assume you have realized you were wrong. Don’t try to weasel out of answering. Either admit you were wrong or “try” to justify how you can still think you were right after reading my critique.

  47. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    Calli, thank you for the response.

    I am always amazed when I hear people make comments like “big pharma controls the government.” When you look at the regulations, it seems that the homeopaths are more powerful.

  48. DanaUllman says:

    Harriet Harriet Harriet…you are too harried.

    You are really saying that this experiment does not have anything to do with homeopathy? Come on, say it!

    What I didn’t say is that a majority (!) of homeopathic medicines sold in health food stores are in the potency range (3X or 3C to 18X or 9C) in which these studies evaluated.

    And yet, you and others of the ill-informed ilk refuse to acknowledge that homeopathy is not just post-Avogadro number doses but also does in the range that thousands (!) of studies in hormesis have verified.

    It is quite humorous that people here still say that there is “no research” blah blah blah testing homeopathic doses…. You all do prove that when you close your eyes, you do not and cannot see anything, except your own personal hallucinations…

    Here’s part of what I wrote:

    Although homeopathy is not mentioned in the article, the researchers used aqueous solutions that were agitated and serially diluted (the researchers note that the solutions were “strongly agitated” and that this step was “critical for the generation of signals”). The researchers also note that they used a device made by French immunologist Jacques Benveniste (the famous physician/scientist who conducted studies testing homeopathic doses and whose work was initially published in NATURE, and then, it was “debunked” in that same journal a month later).

    The researchers found that pathogenic bacteria and viruses show a distinct EM signature at dilutions ranging from 10-5 to 10-12 (corresponding to 5X to 12X) and that small DNA fragments (responsible for pathogenicity) were solely accountable for the EM signal. The researchers also noted that one experiment found significant effects from dilutions as high as 10-18 (equivalent to 18X). The EM signature changed with dilution levels but was unaffected by the initial concentration and remained even after the remaining DNA fragments were destroyed by chemical agents. Of additional interest was the researchers’ observation that they observed the SAME results whether their initial concentration of cells were just 10 or 109.

    They observed that the EM signal was destroyed by heating or freezing the sample (a common observation that homeopaths have also found in their medicines). Also, a ‘cross-talk’ effect was found whereby a negative sample inhibits the positive signal in another sample if they are left together overnight in a shielded container. The researchers propose that specific aqueous nanostructures form in the samples during the dilution process and are responsible for the EM effects measured.

    The researchers also quote Italian physicist, E. Del Guidice, the same scientist who Benveniste cited, for positing that water molecules can form long polymers of dipoles associated by hydrogen bonds and that electromagnetic radiations that the emit enable them to avoid decay.

    With this initial paper Prof Montagnier and his team have started a very promising line of enquiry, which has direct relevance to homeopathy as they continue to investigate the characteristic physico-chemical properties found in high-dilutions of biological material.

  49. Dr Benway says:

    SF Mom,

    Sounds like oscillococcinum –named for a microscope artifact mistaken for a critter many years ago. Allegedly taken from a duck liver.

    But that is neither here nor there as none of the above can be found in the Boiron little white tabs , comprised of sucrose and lactose. Tasty if you’ve got a sweet tooth.

  50. Harriet Hall says:


    Yes, I am saying the Montagnier experiment has nothing to do with homeopathy. I thought I had already made that abundantly clear.

    (1) Homeopathy employs some low dilutions but it also claims effects for high dilutions where no molecules are left. Any proposed mechanism for homeopathy has to account for those post-Avogadro remedies too.
    (2) Homeopathy claims increasing effects as dilutions increase, which was not true of Montagnier’s data.
    (3) The potency of homeopathic remedies does not disappear within 48 hours of their preparation as Montagnier’s findings did.
    (4) In vitro properties do not indicate in vivo therapeutic effects on human physiology.
    (5) Properties of biological materials are irrelevant to the effects of nonbiological materials used in homeopathy such as lava and eclipsed moonlight.

    Even if the results of this experiment were valid (which I and several commenters found serious reasons to doubt), it would tend to invalidate several of homeopathy’s basic tenets.
    You are really grasping at straws here!

  51. DanaUllman says:

    SF Mom…Benway neglected to tell you that the FOUR double-blind and placebo controlled trials (each conducted by independent researchers) consistently found statistically significant results showing benefits from Oscillococcinum.

    Oh…and the fact that it is made from the heart and liver of a duck shows that homeopaths have been hip to avian sources of influenza viruses (and their antibodies) since the 1920s when it was first used.

    Hey Benway, you’ve proven (again) that a little knowledge and a little misinformation shows…and verifies how little you know…and how little you care to provide accurate information.

    “Science based medicine” carries new meaning when people choose to only use when it fits their worldview…and ignore it when it doesn’t. Busted.

  52. weing says:

    ““Science based medicine” carries new meaning when people choose to only use when it fits their worldview…and ignore it when it doesn’t. Busted.”

    Yes you are.

  53. Calli Arcale says:

    Oh…and the fact that it is made from the heart and liver of a duck shows that homeopaths have been hip to avian sources of influenza viruses (and their antibodies) since the 1920s when it was first used.

    Um . . . you *are* aware, aren’t you, that most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans, and vice versa? It is only a few rare strains which cross the species barrier. And what do duck antibodies have to do with anything? Not only would injected duck antibodies fail to induce true immunity (at best, they could provide a short-lived passive immunity), but duck antibodies against specific influenza strains aren’t even relevant to your vaunted “Oscillococcinum”, the bacterium that is only detectable to homeopaths.

    I think you’ve read in the news about avian influenza and then concluded that *all* influenza must be avian in origin. What was it you told Dr Benway about how a little knowledge and a little misinformation shows?

    “Science based medicine” carries new meaning when people choose to only use when it fits their worldview…and ignore it when it doesn’t. Busted.

    Funny you should say that. Pot, meet kettle.

  54. Dr Benway says:


    200C means the duck was diluted right out. Nothing but the quack left in there.

    Now off with you to the physicists. Get them on board with your magic water notions and perhaps I’ll take a look at your controlled trials.

    Do you understand why the laws of physics trump your controlled trials?

  55. Oroboros says:

    I’m really getting all this entertainment for free?!?!? I didn’t know the digital TV transition meant great PPV fights too!

    The WSJ just published a piece on H1N1-inspired quack cures and it doesn’t spare homeopathy.

  56. DanaUllman says:

    Melinda Beck (or her editors at the Wall St. Journal) may have benefited from some simple fact-checking in her article “Home Flu Cures.” She claims that homeopathy was developed in the 18th century, when, in fact, the word was only first used in 1807, and Hahnemann wrote his first book about it in 1810. She quotes statistics from “homeopaths” who claim that 28% of people who caught the flu in 1918 died, when, in fact, the accurate claim from homeopaths is that 28% of people with the flu who were HOSPITALIZED died from the flu (as compared to 1 to 2% of those people with the flu who were hospitalized in one of the 100+ homeopathic hospitals). It is an historical fact that homeopathy developed its greatest popularity in the 19th century in Europe and the US because of its outstanding successes in treating various infectious disease epidemics of that era, including cholera, yellow fever, scarlet fever, and influenza. Homeopathy’s impressive results with the 1918 flu epidemic were also shown in New York City, which had the lowest mortality rate of a major city in the US primarily because its health commissioner was Royal Copeland, MD, a highly respected homeopathic doctor who was later elected to the U.S. Senate three times and who also authored the famous Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938.

    Beck acknowledged that there have been “small studies” in the late 1980s that showed that a homeopathic medicine, as compared with those given a placebo, was effective in reducing the time in which people suffered from the flu. Some simply fact-checking would have discovered that two studies were conducted in the 1980s and two in the 1990s (the last in 1998). In total, 1,194 patients were in these studies (how or why a journalist would consider this number to be small suggests that some strong bias in this reporting).

  57. SF Mom and Scientist says:

    DanaUllman – could you provide links to these studies?

    In any case, it is still impossible that there are no side effects. Anything in life has a potential side effect.

  58. shadowmouse says:

    Dana the ULLtimiteDrip – links to these trials? Yeah…

    Ironic how you can puke up the same, tired canards (heh) but always fail to provide actual facts.

    You succeed only in your constant failure.

    You still need a nap…and a fresh nappy considering all the shit you produce.

  59. Harriet Hall says:


    Please respond to my 10:44 comment showing that the Montagnier study tends to invalidate homeopathic tenets.

  60. pmoran says:

    Ullman “1,194 patients were in these studies (how or why a journalist would consider this number to be small suggests that some strong bias in this reporting).”

    Not really. The overall results of the review you quote were consistent with .28 days reduction in length of illness with a 95% confidence interval of .06 to .50. So the true benefit could have been as little as 1.33 hours. That comes close enough to no effect for the reviewers to say:

    “Though promising, the data were not strong enough to make a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum for first-line treatment of influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Further research is warranted but the *required sample sizes are large*.”

    So the reviewers, not the journalist, felt that larger samples were need.

    I suggest that your other claims in relation to treating infectious illnesses derive from homeopathic lore with about the credibility of myth. In those days no one collected data of the quality required.

  61. storkdok says:

    @ Dr Benway

    “200C means the duck was diluted right out. Nothing but the quack left in there.”

    Best Quotable Quote I’ve read all week! Hat is off to Dr. Benway!

  62. Jurjen S. says:

    All I can say with certainty after watching that load of twaddle is that I’m not going to accept any “scientific” explanation from someone who doesn’t know the difference between a cell and an atom.

  63. Scott says:

    If Harriet or anyone here has any real critique of Montaginer’s work, he or she should submit it to the journal in which it was published so that Montagnier could response to it.

    You’re actually calling that a journal? And what makes you thing Montagnier would bother printing the utter destruction of his complete incompetence, when the only point of the supposed “journal” was to publish that one article without any form of meaningful peer review?

    Bottom line – I and several others have explained why the supposed “study” was so grossly incompetent that a freshman physics student should have been embarrassed by it, and why it’s quite clear that it was just measuring background.

    Either address the detailed critiques, admit that they are correct, or admit that you have no clue what you’re talking about. There is no other honest option?

  64. shadowmouse says:

    “200C means the duck was diluted right out. Nothing but the quack left in there.”

    Best Quotable Quote I’ve read all week! Hat is off to Dr. Benway!


    Remember, it’s homeoquackery! ;)

    It’s just the essence of the memory of the quack’s echo…

  65. Harriet Hall says:


    Great minds think alike, but I said it first. In my SkepDoc column in Skeptic magazine on “Curing the Common Cold” in 2007 I wrote:

    “Homeopathy uses occilococcinum: start with duck liver, dilute the duck out of it, and hope the water remembers the duck. In my opinion, all that leaves is a quack.”

  66. Chris says:

    A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Novella and his Skeptical Rogues interviewed James Randi for their podcast. James Randi had some quite choice words about Dana Ullman:

  67. Dr Benway says:

    LOL on bad puns.

    All credit to Dr. Hall who has been standing up for good science for a long time. No doubt she saw the quack in that unpronouncible remedy first and I caught the meme from her. And now you all have been primed to make the joke when the moment suits.

    How can homeopathy survive the evolution of the memeplex?

  68. Mojo says:


    Melinda Beck (or her editors at the Wall St. Journal) may have benefited from some simple fact-checking in her article “Home Flu Cures.” She claims that homeopathy was developed in the 18th century, when, in fact, the word was only first used in 1807, and Hahnemann wrote his first book about it in 1810.

    Note, Dana, that she doesn’t claim that the word “homoeopathy” was coined in the 18th century, or that Hahnemann wrote books about it then – merely that he developed the idea in the 18th century. Hardly an unreasonable claim given that his “Essay on a new principle for ascertaining the curative powers of drugs” was published in 1796. Here’s a passage from a translation of that essay: “We should imitate nature, which sometimes cures a chronic disease by superadding another, and employ in the (especially chronic) disease we wish to cure, that medicine which is able to produce another very similar artificial disease, and the former will be cured ; similia similibus.”

    Are you claiming that he invented time travel as well as homoeopathy?

  69. yeahsurewhatever says:

    Force (F)= mass (m) x acceleration (a).

    It may interest you to know that:

    a) Newton did not actually write that, but rather, in his not-wonderful Latin, that F = dp/dt. Classically, it amounts to the same thing, but the distinction is important because…

    b) Special relativity only works with the latter, unless you want to invent spurious conceptions of mass that are not Lorentz invariant. This is why photons, while massless, can exert a force. They still have momentum: E = pc = hf. This is reflected by the generalized form of the equation that Einstein is famous for: E² = (mc²)² + (pc)².

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

  70. provaxmom says:

    High school science teachers everywhere watch that video clip then cry themselves to sleep.

  71. Dr Benway says:


    Dear Dr. Krauss:

    Collapsed mass of the universe: bowling ball sized or not?

    Given that nothing really isn’t nothing, I’m placing my bet on “not.” I concede that anything from softball-sized to house-sized is close enough to bowling ball-sized to count as a win for the other side.

    The Tufted Titmouse

    Dr. Krauss replies:

    if we collapsed the sun down so the nuclear constituents were touching.. one big atomic nucleus, it would be about 10 km across.. there are 10^11 suns in our galaxy alone.
    Lawrence M. Krauss
    Foundation Professor
    Director, Origins Initiative
    Co-Director, Cosmology Initiative
    College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
    School of Earth and Space Exploration

    Can you believe it? That homeopath was WAY off.

    And now it has been established that Lawrence Krauss, PhD, is the the most rockin’ physicist of teh URFS!! Please pass along this tidbit of news to Bob of SGU. He will find it cool. kthxbai.

  72. Chris says:

    Dear Dr. Tufted Titmouse Benway,

    You are so full of win!

    By the way, you should listen to the interview he did in Australia for the Cosmic Tea Party, he is very funny! See:

  73. exo says:

    The whole time I was watching this video, I couldn’t get the Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s duck typing out of my head…

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