New Zealand political spokesperson for GE and more endorses homeopathy for Ebola

By Grant Jacobs 31/10/2014 22


(Opinion on one of stupider things I’ve seen endorsed by a politician in a while and it’s relation to other science-based policy, including genetic engineering.)

Green Party MP Steffan Browning has been widely reported as endorsing a petition to apply homeopathy to Ebola. To be frank this is an idea of rank stupidity.

Homeopathic ‘remedies’ are placebos: they have no active ingredients in them.[1] Ebola is a very serious condition. Offering a placebo for a condition like Ebola is a terrible idea.

I have a rule of thumb: anyone who claims to know science or medicine, or offer advice on it, and who endorses homeopathy has lost the ability to critically think.

The reason I narrow this to those related to science/medicine is simply that I can empathise with those not familiar with science who have come to trust others’ opinion on things like homeopathy. It’s a very human failing, but not a failing you want see in someone with a position of responsibility for strong scientific or medical matters.

Image credit: Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
Image credit: Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

Browning is the Green Party spokesperson for a number of things with strong science components: genetic engineering, organics, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, biosecurity. My judgement is that this gaffe of his isn’t a simple blunder but offers a simpler, and vivid, illustration for those not familiar with science that his approach is not sound for scientific matters like genetic engineering. It tidily reveals how poor his ability to deal with science is, how inappropriate that he offer advice on science matters. More on this below.

I would not be alone in encouraging political parties to use evidence-based approaches where they fit.

The Greens have pledged their health policy to be properly evidence-based (see key principle 8). For them to do that, however, sense would dictate that they will want to move Browning away from a spokesperson role in science-related topics however much they might appeal to him. (The parallel argument applies for other political parties, too. While this will focus on the Green Party of necessity, this aspect itself isn’t about any one party and should be read as illustrative of an issue common to all parties, politics in general.)

Daguerreotype of Samuel Hahnemann, founder of Homeopathy,  taken 1841. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain, artist unknown.
Daguerreotype of Samuel Hahnemann, founder of Homeopathy, taken 1841. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain, artist unknown.

Browning has tried to have it both ways in the media, back-pedalling his support for homeopathy as a treatment for Ebola, but retaining it as a ‘possibilty’. His Party has offered an apology – limited to applying homeopathy to Ebola. If they want to honour their claim to be based on evidence, they are obliged really come out against homeopathy as a treatment for any condition.

I’ve previously written on homeopathy and have offered links to those at the end of this article. In a nutshell homeopathy relies on the notion that long series of dilutions of ingredients thought to induce similar symptoms to the disease would treat the disease.[1] Leaving aside the erroneous selection of the starting ingredients, a key element is that none of the ingredients are left in the resulting mixture offered to patients! – they’re removed in the dilutions.

Mad as that sounds, that’s how homeopathy goes. It is as bunk as any remedy you can imagine. The purest of snake oil of them all, as it were.

How anyone claiming to be a science (or medical) spokesperson offer that for any treatment?

When Browning signed the petition, an endorsement appeared on his Facebook page (since removed; my copy of screenshot taken from this article):

Browning-petition-500px

Similar activism is being put forward by the Homeopaths without Borders group, whose name is a cheap riff off the excellent Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). Well-known skeptical blogger and medic ‘Orac’ has written on this. An important point he makes is that having medically naïve people on the ground (as they are, apparently) ‘treating’ patients is—to be exceptionally polite—not going to help. A related story on the English Guardian newspaper, featuring Browning’s efforts near the end, indicates that this is part of an international effort by homeopaths to target these African nations.[2] (Am I the only thinking that this is itself a small disaster, perhaps not that a small one either.)

Browning was reported as having repeatedly said that “he was not opposed to homeopathy, which he had used himself, and said it had seemingly been effective in treating one of his children in the past.”

This has him advocating for homeopathy. It also has him illustrating, in my opinion, that he is not able to offer sound critical judgement on scientific or medical matters.

Steffan Browning goes on try to have it both ways:

But as the WHO did not “appear to have an instant cure” for the deadly disease, Browning hoped it would keep an open mind on potential treatment options.

“They will be considering, I hope, absolutely every possible option to this very concerning disease.’’

When asked if that included homeopathy as an option, Browning said: “why not?”

“Some people will see it as wacky for sure, they will.

“I think it’s really good for people to not be narrow-minded and to be open to that, and allow those people that choose to use it, to use it.”

A knowledgeable (and responsible) minister covering science (or medicine) would know, or check and find, that homeopathy has been investigated by other governments and ruled out. The British House of Commons Science and Advisory Committee offered a very firm ‘No’. Similarly the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (PDF file) concluded: “The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans.” Other reports of similar nature from other nations can also be found.

This would tend to suggest Browning does not know the score, or is ignoring it, and is acting with disregard for the evidence – preferring ‘his experience’ to rule over formal studies. Not what you would want to see from a spokesperson for science-related topics. What is wanted is evidence, not anecdotes.

At the NZ Herald, Browning is reported as doing that thing where a politician says I’m not a scientist (medic, whatever), but offers their ‘advice’ anyway:

“Internationally homeopathy is considered in some places.. I am not an expert but I assume they will look at that as much as a number of other options.”

Actually internationally medical groups ignore homeopathy as it’s widely known to be rank nonsense. The New NZ Herald closed it’s piece with the petition’s aims[4].

His political party has attempted to distance themselves from his actions.

Likewise, Green Party co-leader Russell Norman is reported as offering:

He said he accepted that many New Zealanders did chose to use homeopathy.

“But I think even they would say it’s not the right thing to use for Ebola.”

I can empathise with Norman’s problem,[3] but to my reading he’s avoiding an issue. Using homeopathy for treatment of anything that might cause harm, however slight, is a bad idea as homeopathy essentially by definition cannot offer any treatment beyond a placebo effect (as it is a placebo). Norman says that “The Green Party approach of course is to take an evidence based approach”. A proper evidence-based approach would have him condemn all use of homeopathy aside from where it doesn’t matter either way if the person took a treatment or not.

Kevin Hague, the Green Party spokesperson on health, has written on Facebook

To be clear: the Green Party does not believe that homeopathy has any part to play in combatting the very serious Ebola outbreak currently under way. We support only evidence-based measures. (Actually fluid replacement does turn out to be a very important component of an effective strategy). Countries like Nigeria and Senegal have showed us that routine public health measures like quarantine, contact tracing and infection control in healthcare settings are more than adequate to control the disease. The problem is that grinding poverty and war have severely damaged the capability of countries like Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to mount these basic responses. That is why countries like New Zealand and the wider international community need to help. In the meantime standard scientific method needs to be used to develop both effective antiviral treatments and potential vaccines.

This gaffe, as bad as it is, can be written off. On the other hand poor advice on genetic engineering, forestry, fishery, agriculture and so on cannot as easily be written off and can badly affect New Zealand in a more direct way. Genetic engineering, for example, is potentially very valuable to New Zealand. Browning is their spokesperson for it. My opinion as a biologist is that what he offers on genetic engineering is (very) poorly advised and his wording on it is often muddled. To me Browing’s inappropriate support for use of homeopathic remedies for Ebola offers an accessible illustration of his poor thinking on these other matters.

All this has left some wondering who New Zealand’s least scientific MP is. Whoever you think it might be, Steffan Browning must surely be in the running.

I’d like to see an honest review of GE and GMOs, something others have called for. It would seem timely now that a new term of government is just underway and that a ruling earlier this year (part one of three parts[5]) has illustrated that the current GE-related clauses in the HSNO Act are not up to their task and in any event the underpinnings of these clauses have dated.

To do this we need politicians to allow evidence to be considered soundly.

Footnotes

There is also a brief piece on the TV One News website and fellow sciblogger Siouxsie Wiles has presented the issue to breakfast TV this morning. (If you’re like me and find breakfast TV to early to watch, you can catch it on the link I’ve provided!) As I write there is no statement on Steffan Brownings’ twitter stream. Michael Edmonds has a post up with a nice concise description of homeopathy in the penultimate paragraph. The Guardian newspaper has a related article as does medical blogger ‘Orac’.

I’ve taken material from many sources, but I’d like to thank Mark Hanna in particular for sharing some of the things I’ve linked to.

1. I’m simplifying. If you repeatedly dilute something you repeated reduce the amount of the ingredients (solute) you added to the mixture (solvent). At some point you remove the ingredient entirely.

Homeopathic ingredients are listed as have dilutions in series of ten times or one hundred times, with ‘X’ denoting tenths and ‘C’ denoting hundredths (e.g. 12X = 12 dilutions, each time one tenth of the last and 12C = 12 dilutions, each time one hundredth of the last). If you think about for just a little you’ll realise that’s a lot of diluting.

Cribbing from an earlier article, wikipedia has an entertaining description of a 30C dilution,

on average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.

As a rule of thumb an ingredient with a dilution number of 12C or larger will be exceptionally unlikely to have any molecules of the ingredient left in the ‘remedy’ offered to patients. Dilution numbers smaller than 12 have some small amounts of the ingredient; that only raises dosage issues and that ingredients are selected in an inappropriate way – being based on raising similar symptoms rather ability to treat the disease. (Furthermore, strictly speaking, lower dilution numbers than about 13C are generally not thought of as homeopathic.)

One catch for customers is that the ingredients listed on the bottles or packages of homeopathic ‘remedies’ are not the ingredients in the product a person buys, but the ingredients the homeopathic remedy manufacturers started with before removing them. It’s a reason I’ve previously said I’d like to see sellers of remedies (of any kind) give the amounts in the actual remedy offered, using standard units.

There’s also that weaker dilutions are considered stronger remedies and that knocking on the mixture between each dilution is touted as giving the mixture healing powers. (My reading is that this is thought to be derived from a faith healing angle to Samuel Hahnemann’s sales pitch, where the mixture was knocked on a Bible with the book giving healing powers to the remedy.)

Some homeopaths accept that they dilute out the ingredients entirely and instead argue that the mixture has a ‘memory’ of what was in it. This doesn’t help them, as it’s just as ill-founded as the infinite dilution concept they’re replacing it with.

2. I’m stuck by a parallel here. Governments block their own people making a nuisance of themselves joining Islamic militant groups overseas. Given the strong reaction from politicians on this issue, would they also block homeopaths from intending to make a nuisance of what is a serious situation, with similarly embarrassing consequences if they cause trouble? This initiative by homeopaths is an astonishing bad idea.

3. I thought Norman’s Facebook responses to Browning gaining a late position as an MP interesting, in particular for what was not said. In the first post he doesn’t name his new MP at all, but immediately veered off on a missive about the Internet Mana Party. In his second post that night, Norman does congratulate Browning (perhaps realising his error?), but he doesn’t offer statements supporting roles he make take, what he would offer the party.

4. I’d offer a critique of the petition’s aims, but in the interest of time I’d like to leave the focus on Browning’s suitability as a spokesperson for science-related issues and not distract the reader.

5. See also Peter Deardon’s take on what genetic modification is.


Other articles on homeopathy on Code for Life:

Homeopathy check-up: Not in the health system, disclaimers on labels

Pharmacists to say that homeopathy does not work?

Homeopathy and farming; let’s do better, media

Homeopathy Awareness Week: how do you approve a course for something known not to work?

Homeopathy – practical remedies to address it?

Undiluted humour: If Homeopathy Beats Science

Popularity does not mean effectiveness or sensibility

Message to Otago Daily Times: homeopath is not a sound career option*

Homeopathy in NZ pharmacies revisited: Wartoff and more

Advertising campaigns: homeopathy or a sceptical series?

Alliances of pharmacists & GPs; opportunities to pressure for removal of useless “remedies”?

Time for disclaimers on remedies?, “alternative” or not

Have your say on the development of a Natural Health Products Bill


22 Responses to “New Zealand political spokesperson for GE and more endorses homeopathy for Ebola”

  • Alison has brought to my attention that Steven Novella has written about Browning’s action on his blog, Neurologica: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/homeopathy-for-ebola/

    He concludes:

    Browning and other politicians need to do better. Sometimes they do, as with the UK parliament that reviewed the evidence for homeopathy and concluded that it was “witchcraft” and a complete waste of government resources. Politicians shouldn’t just say they will defer to scientists as a way of dodging a question they perceive as controversial. They should actually listen to scientists.

    Homeopathy is not controversial. It is clearly unscientific and worthless. No politician should be afraid to say so plainly.

  • “Browning is the Green Party spokesperson for a number of things with strong science components: genetic engineering, organics, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, biosecurity.”

    Jesus. I honestly thought they’d tried to distance themselves from this Sue Kedgley era nuttery, but if someone like this can hold those positions, they clearly have not.

  • To widen it a little, Steffan Browning only got his position back after special votes were counted after election day. It’s possible that the Green Party leadership might have been happier without him? (Although you’d think they’d have ranked him lower on the list if that were case).

    Either way that he’s made a huge fool of himself so soon after getting his position back will be a blow to the Green Party’s wish to present themselves as using evidence-based policy.

    Also, it would be interesting to see if governments (internationally) will step up and condemn these homeopaths that aim to push their remedies on Ebola patients, in a similar way that governments condemn those that join Islamic militant groups or do similar counterproductive activities. I suspect they’ll simply say nothing despite the obvious trouble this may cause. (See the Guardian article for some background on this. The Homeopathy Without Borders group also took some members to Haiti after the earthquake, aiming the treat cholera…)

  • I’m a green party member, and I’ll be blunt and say that internal reception to his blunder was probably even angrier than most of the outside reception to it. This is Steffan Brownings’ personal opinion, and NOT party policy, and people were pretty upset he had expressed this view as a representative, on all levels of the party. Myself included.

    But there are internal mechanisms for dealing with this; for instance, members choose the list ranking of candidates in the party. If you compare the 2011 list to the 2013 list, most people in the top 14 stay relatively close to where they are, but Steffan goes from number 5 (I think) to number 14. Which is a pretty clear signal that he lost a significant amount of support from the membership, which he will have to work hard if he wants to get back.

    I joined the Greens because of their principles, as well as their use of scientific research in creating policy, and having seen the internal reaction to this facebook post I’m happy I’m still in the right place. I have no confidence in Steffan, but the Green MPs vote on every issue as a party bloc based on member policy – any Green candidates that disagree with a particular policy have to sign a declaration saying they won’t vote for it any why before list ranking. So in reality he can’t do any damage by himself vote-wise. This was also a facebook post late at night that he didn’t intend to share. I just hope he learns from the experience, and if he doesn’t change his views to be in line with the scientific consensus, at least focuses on areas of policy where unscientific opinions he may hold are not an issue.

    “You know what the call alternative medicine that’s proven to work? Medicine.” – Tim Minchin (Storm)

  • “This was also a facebook post late at night that he didn’t intend to share. I just hope he learns from the experience, and if he doesn’t change his views to be in line with the scientific consensus, at least focuses on areas of policy where unscientific opinions he may hold are not an issue.”

    My deeper interest was less on the “blunder”—which is self-evidently stupid—but the underlying thinking his endorsement and his defense of it reveals and what that says of the spokesperson roles Steffan Browning carries, the party as a whole, and politics aiming to be evidence-based in general.

    Browning’s defense, for example, shows he prefers personal anecdote over evidence & scientific understanding.

    Browning’s anti-GMO briefs have problems, too. They’re less obvious than this gaffe, and likely will only be fully recognised by those familiar with the science, but the same general flaws in thinking exposed in this fuss are at play.

    In my opinion the Greens should think very carefully about Browning having a spokesperson role any science-based material if they want to he honest to an evident-based approach.

    This, in my opinion, Greens ought to be attending to the wider issue rather than narrowly focusing on this “blunder”. Limiting the response to the immediate looks somewhat evasive to me. If they wish to be evidence-based, they will need to address the wider underlying issues, too.

    On that note, I’m aware of a number of people who have said they didn’t vote for the Greens because of Steffan Browning’s stance on GMOs.

  • There’s been a lot of ink wasted on addressing homeopathy on evidential grounds. If you don’t understand the logical fallacy of homeopathy you just don’t get it.

    • You’ll see my article isn’t mainly about homeopathy per se but the lack of critical thinking involved and what than means for evidence-based policy, and the spokesperson roles Browning has. (See also my previous comment.)

      There’s been a lot of ink wasted

      Depends on who you’re addressing, I think. You’ll see examples of it shifting policy in my article – I don’t think that entirely wasted.

      Trying to convert ‘converted’ on pretty much anything (chiropractic, creationism, etc) can be a real time-waster, but most people aim to address the those who would buy it, rather than the sellers as such. A lot of those people aren’t converted as such but just taking other’s word for things.

      If you don’t understand the logical fallacy of homeopathy

      Nitpick warning 😉 It isn’t really a logical fallacy, but wrong on basic chemistry (or physics if you prefer) and a basic understanding of drugs. There once was a concept that things got increasingly smaller. Today essential everyone knows that matter is made of atoms and so now it’s not hard to explain it why repeated dilution removes the starting ingredients. (FWIW, the idea of infinite dilutions was already wrong in Hahnemann’s day and he was criticised for it.)

  • It looks like at least two logical fallacies to me.
    1. If the dilution results in no effective component remaining how can it have any effect? That is a logical issue.
    2. Selective memory. Considering the ubiquity of H, O2 and H2O, in our universe, why does the water (or molecules thereof) “remember” or retain some desirable effective principles but not possibly undesirable others? Logically, additional undisclosed discriminating factors are required for any effect to result.

  • 3. Homeopathy seems to be reasoning involving analogy. That seems to be the fallacy of equivocation. The equivocation between slight exposure to a pathogen (which from the modern scientific standpoint might strengthen the immune system) and volumetric considerations, which is not necessarily the same thing.

  • Homeopathy is a claim, an argument that superficially sounds plausible. But on examination we see the conclusion does not follow from the premises. People are so desperate for the conclusion (the cure) they do not notice the premises ( the treatment) do not entail the conclusion because they are meaningless and irrelevant. If a cure transpires its got nothing to do with the treatment. That’s a matter of logic.

    • Maggy –

      Sorry I missed your comment earlier. Now that your first comment has been approved you should be able to comment without having to wait for approval.

      On his Facebook page Browning wrote this, part of it referring to the swedes –

      “FSANZ used Langridge among other things, to cahir a panel to consider if some new technologies should be considered GE or not so as to potentially exclude them from food safety testing and regulation. A bit like PGG-Wrightson’s HT swede seed getting clearance from our EPA from the hurdles of the HSNO Act because ostensibly the cowboy GE scientists involved used chemical mutating to damage the DNA to achieve herbicide tolerance before crossing with brassicas… Oh and then some cows dies after eating it. A bit like the pigs that have poor health from eating GE soy.”

      It’s a mess. There’s a conspiracy theory angle (FSANZ is out to deceive righteous people like himself), wild strawman representations of scientists (‘cowboys’), and drawing false connections (trying to link GE to the death of the cows – and speaking before evidence – the evidence as to just what the issue there isn’t in yet!).

      The HSNO Act actually accepts chemical mutagenesis essentially by fait: it’s one of the older techniques on a list it excludes from consideration. (My reading is that it’s evoking a ‘test of time’ concept that considers anything already established as by fait ‘OK’, rather than look to each product made.)

      Ironically, Browning is playing the Act both ways. In the first paragraph he’s referring to ZFN-1 court case that I covered on the blog earlier in the year. ZFN-1 is a mutagenesis technique, but owing to that the Act does not explicitly refer to the EPA the judge was led to consider anything new as forbidden, despite being on the list of techniques that are considered acceptable.

      Later in his paragraph he plays this the other way (as you pointed out) wanting to exclude a mutagenesis technique – but the Act explicitly accepts these.

      I think it’s fair to suggest that he’s pushing a (personal) barrow with no regard to either the reality of the Act or the science.

  • Stuart M. – Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning – if the underlying facts are wrong, you don’t have to evoke a error in reasoning. The basic notions in homeopathy are wrong-headed, irrespective of what people reason or not. (An easy way to see this is logical fallacies exist when the individual facts are correct; it’s the reasoning applied to them that are in error.)

    I’d like to end this sideline as it is driving away from what I want this to be about.

    It’s very disappointing to see media and commentary in general limited to a narrow focus on the ‘blunder’. (Low-hanging fruit, etc…)

    I’ve yet to see a single article point to the wider issue, that it illustrates how inappropriate Browning is for the spokesperson briefs he holds and how poorly his approach & thinking sits with the Green’s pledge to use an evidence-based approach.

    You only have to look at his Facebook page,* especially his argumentative responses (some would say, rants) in response to those raising points. Just my opinion, but he looks to be out of control and is offering material he doesn’t understand properly. Admittedly it helps to know the science to see this more clearly – his gaffe is just an example that most people can see readily as that error was so bluntly obvious, but he makes equally invalid statements on the topic of GE, too.

    When reading (senior) politicians statements, or from the parties, I find it useful to look to what is not being said. It seems noticeable to me that the main Green Party page makes no mention of Browning’s GMO “briefs”. (You can pull the party page down to July and not once does ‘GMO’, ‘GE ’, or ‘genetic’ come up.) Likewise, the Green leadership seems, to me, to be ducking that Browning has illustrated just how inappropriate he is for the spokesperson briefs he has.

    If the Green Party are sincere about an evidence-based approach, I honestly can’t see what else they can do other than remove these briefs from Browning. I’m actually a little surprised they haven’t taken the opportunity to do this and it makes me wonder what it would take for them to move the briefs. I can’t see how his briefs help their cause & they’ve undermining their pledge to take an evidence-based approach.

    I’d like to see evidence-based approaches in politics and to see sound discussion over GMOs, but Browning isn’t doing that; his gaffe with homeopathy and Ebola just illustrates how far he is from doing that.

    (* To comment on his page you have to “like” his page – a form a control over commenters I’d don’t particularly like, esp. from a politician. Contrast that to how the party runs it’s page – it’s excellent to see open commenting there. I’m also left wondering if he closes off comments fairly quickly as conversations on his page persist for more than a small number of days. [I’ve only looked at the most recent dozen or so at the time of writing.])

  • I’m not saying your article isn’t relevant.
    Some claims are contingent claims. Their truth depends on the evidence supporting them.
    Some claims purport to be necessarily true. If in fact they are necessarily false, e.g contain contradictions, an appeal to evidence is irrelevant. Homeopathy contradicts itself.

  • Chris Lewis, the Federated Farmers Waikato provincial president, has written a NZ Farmer opinion piece that appears on the Stuff news website titled, More than one ‘drongo’ on the loose.

    In it he writes,

    So Browning remains free to rant about whatever in agriculture and with the Green Party’s full connivance.

    What a super message for World Farmers Organisation farming leaders from Poland, Canada and Argentina to take back home, since we’re jointly hosting them with the Ministry for Primary Industries.

    If they accept evidence for health why not for the primary industries?

    For the full article, see:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/opinion/63082314/More-than-one-drongo-on-the-loose

    (See also my follow-on post.)

  • From the article above: [quote] Homeopathic ‘remedies’ are placebos: they have no active ingredients in them.[1] Ebola is a very serious condition. Offering a placebo for a condition like Ebola is a terrible idea.

    I have a rule of thumb: anyone who claims to know science or medicine, or offer advice on it, and who endorses homeopathy has lost the ability to critically think. [unquote]

    If homeopathy were being offered as an alternative to conventional medicine, then it would indeed be a terrible idea. But, if there is no alternative, due to the prohibitive cost/logistics of getting conventional medicine to where it is needed, then homeopathy may be better than nothing? Even if just one in a million people survive due to the placebo effect tipping the balance, then it would be worthwhile, would it not? Is there any proof that the placebo effect never has *any* effect on serious conditions like Ebola?

    Also, it seems to me that the basic idea behind homeopathy is somehow related to that behind inoculation, i.e. building up immunity to something by way of small amounts of the causative agent. The details seem to have gone whacky though, I agree.

    • I’ll explain more fully later when I’ve time (jobs to do, etc), but your suggestions are incorrect. Just one point very briefly for now: homeopathy is not related to innoculation, but it’s easy to see how some get mislead into thinking that it might be. The ingredients are not chosen because they very closely physically resemble the outer surface of the disease-causing organism (and hence trigger an immune response), but because they raise similar symptoms. The starting ingredients are usually completely unrelated things that trigger related symptoms (when taken in substantial amounts). In any event, the remedies as given to patients don’t have any of the starting ingredients and are thus by definition placebos, and would be even if they did choose to use a sample of the Ebola virus as a starting ingredient. I hope I can elaborate later, but in the meantime I wrote a little about homeopathy in Footnote 1 and in earlier posts (see those listed at the end). You might also want to read Michael Edmond’s post that I linked to as it focuses on describing what homeopathy is. I’d also encourage you to question where you’re getting your information from. It’s more than “the details” that are “whacky” (your word); the basic notions have long been known to be wrong-headed.

  • My “suggestions are incorrect” ? I made two suggestions, and you refute only the second one, viz. “the basic idea behind homeopathy is somehow related to that behind inoculation”. Given that this is a vague suggestion, i.e., “somehow related”, you have tried to refute a vague suggestion with precise counterpoints, which doesn’t really work. My first, and primary, suggestion was that homeopathy might be better than nothing (given that a placebo group can fare better than a no treatment/no placebo group). You haven’t commented on that…

  • Don’t be argumentative like that, please: I said I was only briefly dealing with for now as I’ve work things to do. I can’t do more until the evening.

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