Press Complaints Commission upholds homeopaths complaint

By Siouxsie Wiles 16/04/2013 102


Tauranga homeopath Clive Stuart has had part of his complaint against an article on homeopathy (Homeopathy – Trick or Treatment?) published in the July 2012 edition of North & South, upheld by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC)*. While the PCC did not agree with his complaint that balance needed to be numerically equivalent (there were quotes from two people critical of homeopathy and one defending) or that his letter to the editor should not have been accompanied by a response from a critic of homeopathy (Dr Shaun Holt), they did uphold his complaint that the article was wrong to say that “homeopathic remedies have failed every randomised, evidence-based scientific study seeking to verify their claims of healing powers”.

The article title is a reference to the excellent book ‘Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial’ by Dr Simon Singh and Prof Edzard Ernst. Prof Ernst is a doctor and former homeopath who was the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, at the University of Exeter. This is what they conclude about homeopathy:

“Hundreds of trials have failed to deliver significant or convincing evidence to support the use of homeopathy for the treatment of any particular ailment. On the contrary, it would be fair to say that there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that homeopathic remedies simply do not work. This should not be such a surprising conclusion when we recall that they typically do not contain a single molecule of any active ingredient.”

But lets not take their word for it. In 2009-2010 the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee performed an ‘evidence check‘ on homeopathy, calling defenders and critics alike to present the evidence for and against homeopathy. Their conclusion:

“…the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.”

It would seem from these that the scientific evidence points to homeopathy having no effect beyond placebo, when evaluated using methodologically sound protocols by people without a vested interest in homeopathy. However, the PCC:

“found the article inaccurate in so far as the state of scientific research into homeopathy is not
as conclusive as North & South had suggested.”

If only the article had included the words ‘well-designed’ in that sentence. What a difference a couple of little words would have made. There is certainly an important lesson for journalists in this debacle.

It is interesting to read in the judgement* how the PCC came to their conclusion. They seem to have been swayed by a 7 page letter from a Dr David St George. We’ll get to who he is in a moment. This is what the PCC say:

Dr St George believed the statement in North & South’s article arose from a misunderstanding of the Lancet study, which had compared 110 published placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy with the same number of published placebo-controlled trials of conventional medical drug treatments. He said most of the 110 homeopathy trials in that study were “randomised, evidence-based scientific studies” which demonstrated an effect beyond a placebo effect.

Actually the Lancet study Dr St George is quoting concluded “Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.”

Two disturbing things come to light from this case. The first is that the PCC breached its own rules by accepting Dr St George’s letter which was the third submission in this case (two submissions are allowed by both sides) so it will be interesting to see why this was allowed. The second is finding out who Dr David St George is and what he does for a living. Dr St George has a medical degree from the University of Auckland and a degree in epidemiology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He worked as a consultant clinical epidemiologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London and then as Director of Research and Clinical Effectiveness at Southampton University Hospital. He was also the first Director of Research at the Foundation for Integrated Health, a controversial charity founded in 1993 by the Prince of Wales to promote alternative and complementary medicine, lobbying for its inclusion in the UK’s National Health Service. The charity closed in 2010 after it’s finance director, accountant George Gray, was convicted of theft and sentenced to three years in prison. It is unclear what research, if any, the Foundation undertook.

Dr St George’s other ‘achievements’ include helping Middlesex University set up an undergraduate degree in traditional Chinese medicine**, being research committee chairman of the (now defunct) Scottish School of Herbal Medicine and a former member of the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board***. But now he is back in New Zealand and working for the NZ Ministry of Health as ‘Chief Advisor – Integrative Care’. I wonder if this swayed the PCC at all into accepting his unorthodox, rather lengthy and over technical submission. This is what it says on the Ministry’s website about Dr St George’s role:

Dr David St George’s role is to provide professional leadership, direction and advice on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and on the integration of CAM with conventional health care, particularly in the area of primary care and chronic care conditions.

Oh dear. I think we need to find out exactly what ‘direction and advice’ Dr St George has been giving to the Ministry for Health. Because by his submission to the PCC I’m not entirely confident it will be based on unbiased methodologically sound scientific evidence. Dr Prue Williams, General Manager of Science Investments for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, announced at the recent NZ Association of Scientists annual meeting in Wellington that there are plans for all ministries to have scientific advisors in place. I suggest whoever is appointed for the Ministry of Health starts by looking into Dr David St George.

*It’s case 2320, the judgement for which isn’t up on the PCC website yet.

[Update: 14:20 on 16/04/2013 – judgement now available online here]

***On the subject of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Singh and Ernst conclude: “Some elements may be effective for some conditions, while others (e.g. cupping) are unlikely to offer any benefit above placebo. Many aspects of TCM are potentially harmful. Some individual herbs used in TCM (e.g. liquorice, giner, ginko) undoubtedly have pharmacological effects.. On the other hand, some.. are toxic … may also contain non-herbal ingredients (e.g. endangered animals), contaminants (e.g. heavy metals) or adulterants (e.g. steroids).”

***On the subject of acupuncture Singh and Ernst conclude: “..there is no evidence at all to demonstrate the existence of Ch’i or meridians [the basis for acupuncture points]. There are some high-quality trials that support the use of acupuncture for some types of pain and nausea, but there are also high-quality trials that contradict this conclusion. In short, the evidence is neither consistent nor convincing – it is borderline.”

Reference:
Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, Jüni P, Dörig S, Sterne JA, Pewsner D, Egger M (2005). Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 366(9487):726-32.


102 Responses to “Press Complaints Commission upholds homeopaths complaint”

  • ‘Oh dear’ indeed. I read the editorial in the most recent North and South while waiting to get my flu jab yesterday, and their analysis of the situation is much the same as yours. They are very disappointed in the PCC and their over-reliance on Dr St George.

  • I’ve already nominated the PPC for the Bent Spoon award at the upcoming Skeptics conference. It’ll be interesting to see how they react to the fallout of this.

    Are they accountable to anyone? They broke their own rules on this case. Apart from a (temporary?) loss of credibility will there be any actual consequences to those on the panel that sat in judgement on this?

  • I will be writing to the Press Council to ascertain what their policy is on getting third-party scientific advice on Press Couincil complaints. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. It seems, on this issue, in light of the lengthy St. George submission, it would have made sense to take a bit longer and go out for advice on the issue.

  • This is a terrible decision, and unfortunately the homeopaths will use this as evidence that their witchcraft works. The Press Council said that N&S should have said that it was their opinion of the medical research that homeopathy does not work….that’s like saying that they can’t say that 2+2=4 is a fact but have to say that it is their opinion on mathematics. FYI, here is the letter of mine that was published in N&S….

    Dear editor

    In response to those defending homeopathy, let us be clear what it is – it involves diluting substances until none remains, not a single molecule, and then claiming that these products can remember what was there before it was all diluted away and can treat medical conditions. There is far more arsenic in your morning coffee than there is arnica in a homeopathy product. It is very different to using natural products and herbs for their medical properties – some of these can be effective. Any effects from homeopathy could only be through magical properties and so analogies with witchcraft are appropriate.

    Homeopaths either claim that science does not apply to their practice and that it cannot be tested scientifically (it does, and it easily can) or they try to confuse lay people without the time and skills to check their claims that it is supported by scientific studies. Some facts are debatable in medicine but this is not one of them – there has never been a single, reproduced study, of an acceptable standard, showing any effect whatsoever of homeopathy in people, animals or even in a test tube. I challenge any homeopath to provide just one.

    It is claimed that homeopathy works for animals and small children and therefore it cannot be just a placebo effect. This is also false and there are a number of reasons as to why homeopathy may appear to be working when it is not, a simple reason being that the conditions being “treated” simply got better on their own, as most mild conditions do.

    Despite homeopathic products not actually containing active ingredient, the practice can still be harmful. A real danger arises when it is used as an alternative to proven medical treatments leading to delays in seeking medical treatment, or even not seeking medical treatment at all. A Sydney husband and wife were rightly jailed in 2009 for the manslaughter of their baby who died after they used homeopathic products rather than conventional medicines for her skin disorder. Many alternative practitioners and most homeopaths give inaccurate or incorrect medical advice, an example being the strong anti-vaccination message that many propagate, and worst still, the dangerous and disgraceful practice of selling homeopathic vaccines (ie. ones that do not and cannot work) for conditions including malaria, leptospirosis and influenza.

    Homeopaths remind me of children who are dressing up and pretending to be doctors. Deep down they know this which is why, when there is a serious medical problem that will not just go away on its own, they usually make sure the person sees a proper doctor.

    Clive Stuart and his homoeopathic colleagues are scientifically illiterate, disseminate false information, sell products that do not contain any active ingredients and claim that they have magical healing properties. I do not doubt that they genuinely believe that their products work, but that does not make it true. There are many complementary therapies that are effective, I have three written books on them, but homeopathy is certainly not one of them and readers are advised not to see homeopaths or use any of their products.

    Shaun Holt, Tauranga

  • thanks Bart, the Press Council has approached us before for advice on science-related complaints – but it seems pretty random – this one was crying out for it…

  • Peter, would it be worth approaching the NZPC with an offer to be put the SMC on retainer? Get them to pass on all scientific challenges to the SMC for a concensus opinion from the members?

  • Shaun Holt does sound dreadfully knowledgeable about homoeopathy but I wonder if he has ever tried it out for himself . . . I mean what’s the harm if there’s nothing in the remedies? And by ‘try it out for himself’ I mean take it as prescribed and not in some allopathic manner which it has never been designed to be used . . . e.g. swallowing a whole bottle at once . . . how ridiculous – anyone with a kindergarten knowledge would know that that was no better than just one dose: and a remedy selected according to symptoms . . . from Shaun’s arrogance and nit-picking and generally mean attitude, and his use of the word ‘witchcraft’ which would suggest fear and insecurity, he may well benefit constitutionally from a high potency of Arsenicum . . . then again I for one wouldn’t argue against him taking the ‘real thing’ if he’s so averse to dilutions . . . :}

    • Hi Tricia
      Thanks for stopping by and enlightening us. A couple of points. Regarding your “what’s the harm if there’s nothing in the remedies?” comment, you might want to check out this website which lists people who have died as a result of homeopathy. People who have used homeopathy to treat bacterial infections or asthma. Using something with no active ingredients in place of real medicine is harmful.

      As for, ” swallowing a whole bottle at once . . . how ridiculous – anyone with a kindergarten knowledge would know that that was no better than just one dose”. What?? In which case why would people be taking homeopathic remedies for more than one day? While I doubt chemistry is taught at kindergarten, I think even children can grasp the concept of dose responses.

  • “then again I for one wouldn’t argue against him taking the ‘real thing’ if he’s so averse to dilutions”

    Wow… You actually went there. You’re an actual, genuine, awful person.

  • This may be a dumb observation but the conclusion of the Lancet…
    ““Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions.”

    …leaves me thinking there is “some” evidence for a specific effect of homeopathic remedies, which is exactly what you would expect if homeopathy had a weak effect while conventional interventions had a strong effect, isn’t it?

    Or is this just another example of scientific conclusions being confusing to the general public, including press complaints authority staff.

  • Peter, I’d like to suggest that anonymous comments be disabled. If people are going to make comments like that let them own it. Force a login via some social network at least so a user profile can be linked back too. I suspect it’ll cause people to think twice about saying stuff like that in public.

  • I would love to check your ‘website’ out sometime Siouxsie, but I’m so busy trying to keep pace with those who have died and / or are being affected by ‘real’ medicine that I doubt I’ll have time until they start making less toxic and harmful drugs and/or stop prescribing the ones already available willy-nilly.
    Furthermore you make the common mistake of confusing quantity with quality . . . with homoeopathic remedies the amount is largely irrelevant, the number of times it is taken is more crucial since, as the most learned and arrogant and insulting Shaun has rightly identified, that past the 12th centissimal potency, there is not one drop of the original substance likely to be present.
    Rather than just dismiss something because no one can explain how it works (which holds true for aspirin and most other ‘real’ medicants) isn’t it better to see if it works (especially since it can do no ‘real ‘ harm) and then investigate why?
    ‘Dose responses’ are obviously relevant when dealing with material doses but where something can have such far reaching effects as the properly selected homoeopathic remedy can have, then quality becomes far more important and the number of times and when it is taken matters far more.
    Dismissing it as witchcraft and adding all the other snooty insults as Shaun and many of you have done is hardly scientific and actually indicates that you are’ genuinely awful’ people.

  • Tricia,

    If “past the 12th centissimal potency, there is not one drop of the original substance likely to be present” then it won’t matter how many times the person takes it — each time they’ll be taking none of the “active” ingredients. (Think of adding a series of zeroes – the sum is zero.)

    which holds true for aspirin – actually, that’s not true. Check the 1982 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Known even down to atomic interactions – the crystal structure of the aspirin complexed with beta-cyclodextran is known too.

  • That is if you are relying on the material dose being the only ‘active’ quality of the remedy . . . you’re taking a preparation of that substance, not the substance itself, and maybe one day conventional ‘science’ will catch up and be able to explain it; but in the meantime why don’t you all just keep swallowing the poisons you are used to and leave others to enjoy the benefits of preparations that won’t harm them in any way and yet have been shown time and again to work beautifully . . . :}
    PS . . . so the structure and atomic interactions explain it all then? . . . and the difference between a live body and a dead body?

  • Hi Tricia,

    It would help if you’d not be combative.

    What I wrote about the repeated “treatments” follows directly from your words: “the number of times it is taken is more crucial since, as the most learned and arrogant and insulting Shaun has rightly identified, that past the 12th centissimal potency, there is not one drop of the original substance likely to be present.”

    What you have written contradicts itself. The latter part points out “there is not one drop of the original substance likely to be present” – fine. Bu that means that “the number of times it is taken is more crucial” cannot be right because taking nothing several times over is still taking nothing.

    You wrote: “so the structure and atomic interactions explain it all then? . . . and the difference between a live body and a dead body?”

    I pointed you to two different things. (1) work from the 1970s that resulted in the Nobel Prize in 1982. If you check this you’d find established the mode of action of action of aspirin. (2) Separately, in addition to that, adding that details of the molecular (atomic, if you will) mechanism of action are known.

  • Tricia

    You asked what is “the difference between a live body and a dead body?”
    It is fairly simple – something (e.g. disease or trauma) has stopped the processes within the body that keep it functioning.
    In the dead body the biochemical or electrochemical processes that occur in a live body have stopped.

    Also, as Grant has pointed out the mechanisms by which most modern drugs work are fairly well understood.

    As you have brought up the topic how are homeopathic “remedies” supposed to work then?

  • Hi Grant . . . you simply didn’t consider what I said at all . . . it’s not a matter of taking nothing at all . . . there may be not a single molecule of the original substance in the remedy but what it has done to the liquid in the process of dilution and succussion, which can subject the liquid to 30 atmosphere of pressure, is what is having the effect; and so it’s not the effect of quantity but the action of the QUALITY of the remedy that impacts on the person.
    As for being ‘combative’ I take exception to being described as ‘scientifically illiterate’ and other derogatory labels that Shaun and others fling around, especially since i believe they have probably never tried it for themselves:
    AND as I was lead to believe for many years, by similarly dismissive and ignorant members of the medical profession, that homoeopathy couldn’t possibly work because there was ‘nothing’ in the remedies, I never tried it when it could have been of great use to me for my children and saved them being exposed to nasty and dangerous drugs.
    And Michael . . . if your mechanistic view of what happens at death was so simple then it should be able to be reversed fairly easily? So the processes stop . . . how and why?
    No one has given a satisfactory explanation of what drives the biochemical reactions – the life force?
    If the mechanisms by which most modern drugs work are fairly well understood why are there so many disasters with them? . . . why did the mortality rate drop in New York when the doctors went on strike and presumably stopped prescribing them?

  • Tricia,

    “if your mechanistic view of what happens at death was so simple then it should be able to be reversed fairly easily? So the processes stop . . . how and why?”

    That is an interesting question which requires drawing on several areas of science to explain. But let’s first make sure we are on the same page regarding terminology.
    A mechanistic view of the universe takes the position that there is no evidence for “vitalism”, i.e that there is nothing beyond the physical world. Therefore everything in the world operates according to the physical “rules” of the universe – the sorts of rules that science attempts to reveal in order to better understand the world around us.
    For example, the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that the universe naturally tends towards disorder, something that can only be reversed if you put energy into a system. So a dead body will eventually break down and decay, because no energy is being put into the system to maintain the ordered structure of our bodies.
    In a living body the food we eat is used to provide energy and raw materials in order to maintain the structure of our body.
    Death occurs when the processes which keep our bodies working no longer function properly. This could be the result of trauma, for example, interfering with the brains ability to tell the heart to keep functioning will result in death, as will a massive loss of blood, or depriving someone of oxygen.
    Death can also result if processes in the body start malfunctioning, for example, excessive cell growth (cancer), anaphylactic shock (overreactive immune response) etc. Sometimes these malfunctions arise from the fact that because our body is continuously renewing itself, sometimes the instructions guiding this renewal go wrong. Or in the case of old age, our systems might just wear out and cannot maintain the fight against disorder. In terms of how this might happen in the cell there is evidence that telomeres, which play a key role in cell division, get slightly shorter each time the cell divides and once they become too short our cells can no longer divide properly.
    You state that “no one has given a satisfactory explanation of what drives the biochemical reactions – the life force?” What you are doing here is suggesting because the details on how this all works are not clear to you then is it reasonable to insert an idea that has no evidence to support it (i.e. a life force). Its a bit like someone suggesting that a computer works by magic if they cannot are not familiar with the science of how it works.

    I’ve seen some people suggest that a mechanistic view of the universe takes away some of the wonder, however, I’ve only ever found it to enhance the wonder.
    Also viewing our bodies as functioning mechanistically does not take away from the wonder of what it is to be human nor from the fact that we are sentient beings able to rationalise, empathise with each other, and do many wonderous things. The ability of incredibly complex living organisms to work together to create an even more complex social and technological environment has always amazed and excited me.

  • Tricia

    “why did the mortality rate drop in New York when the doctors went on strike and presumably stopped prescribing them?”

    Could you provide some evidence to support your claim about the doctors going on strike and mortality? It sounds like a very unlikely claim and I’d like to find out more about it.

    “If the mechanisms by which most modern drugs work are fairly well understood why are there so many disasters with them? .”
    Because many drugs work by affecting our internal biochemical processes there is the possibility of side-effects and occasionally bad reactions to them, but I don’t think it is reasonable to suggest that “there are so many disasters with them?”
    Also you completely ignore the fact the drugs have saved the lives of millions of people – penicillin, antimalarials, anaesthetics, treatments for asthma, diabetes, HIV, the list goes on.

  • Tricia

    I found a paper referring to doctors strikes a five hospitals.

    “Doctors’ strikes and mortality: A review
    Social Science & Medicine, Volume 67, Issue 11, Pages 1784-1788”

    Two experienced no significant change in mortality, three showed a decrease which, according to the authors

    “The paradoxical finding that physician strikes are associated with reduced mortality may be explained by several factors. Most importantly, elective surgeries are curtailed during strikes. Further, hospitals often re-assign scarce staff and emergency care was available during all of the strikes. Finally, none of the strikes may have lasted long enough to assess the effects of long-term reduced access to a physician.”

    So the authors suggest the key factor is related to elective surgery and not drugs.

  • Hi Tricia,

    “you simply didn’t consider what I said at all . . .” — as I was trying to suggest it’d be helpful not to be combative, eh?

    If you read back you’ll find there is a contradiction within your statement as it was written. I can’t really respond to more than what was written, eh? You’ve added other stuff since.

    Earlier you said “the number of times” matters. Now you say it’s “not the effect of quantity” (and therefore not the number of times either) but “the quality” or “the action of the quality” that matters. (Not sure what the last is meant to mean.)

    I note you haven’t said what has been done to the liquid. You will want to fill this in – it’s a bit hard to engage with some thing that’s not stated.

    “As for being ‘combative’ I take exception to being described as ‘scientifically illiterate’ and other derogatory labels that Shaun and others fling around, especially since i believe they have probably never tried it for themselves”

    Maybe the way they’ve put it has annoyed you, but a belief in homeopathy does require that you ‘break’ some basic chemistry.

    “And Michael . . . if your mechanistic view of what happens at death was so simple then it should be able to be reversed fairly easily? So the processes stop . . . how and why?”

    Entropy isn’t reversible like that – but we probably all wish it were possible! (You could cite the second law of thermodynamics on this, too—believing in these sort of things requires you to ‘break’ some basic chemistry too.)

    “No one has given a satisfactory explanation of what drives the biochemical reactions – the life force?”

    I beg to differ. Biochemical reactions are very well understood, right down to their chemistry, the atomic structures and actions of the enzymes involved and so on.

    “If the mechanisms by which most modern drugs work are fairly well understood why are there so many disasters with them? . . . ”

    There aren’t “so many disasters with them” as you are implying. (There are some.)

    While you can figure out what happens for most people, we’re all different and there are many different circumstances – it’s difficult to cover every possible combination, no matter how rare the combination, setting, environment, etc.

    “why did the mortality rate drop in New York when the doctors went on strike and presumably stopped prescribing them?”

    Details might help here. I’ve no idea what this refers to.

  • Correction, the paper I mentioned has three strikes with no evidence of an increase in mortality and two strikes with a decrease in mortality.
    I can find no mention of New York as Tricia mentions, or any mention of drugs, but the doctor strikes were in
    Los Angeles 1976
    Jerusalem 1983
    Spain 1999
    Jerusalem 2000
    Croatia 2003

  • So Grant you ‘beg to differ. Biochemical reactions are very well understood, right down to their chemistry, the atomic structures and actions of the enzymes involved and so on.’
    So how do they start to work against entropy in the first place then?

    You’re like the Hounds of Baskerville aren’t you? . . . :}

  • > I take exception to being described as ‘scientifically illiterate’ and other derogatory labels that Shaun and others fling around, especially since i believe they have probably never tried it for themselves:

    If it looks like shit, and it smells like shit, you don’t have to taste it.

  • Homeopathy has been demonstrated to be no more effective than a placebo in every single double blind test. That’s more than enough for me to say “if it doesn’t work for anyone else, it’s not going to work for me either”.

    It’s only a shame that people are not more aware of this lack of efficacy, so they don’t miss out on treatments that have proven efficacy, not to mention how much money they throw away.

  • Funny that Possum . . . but you would have those of us who feel that way about many of the poisons masquerading as ‘medicines’ and ‘vaccines’ made to eat it anyway?
    You are quite entitled to your views, as I am, but Shaun Holt for one, doesn’t appear to be content to allow people to live their lives as they see fit without making derogatory comments, which in fact are not even based on his own personal experience, just merely prejudice from an elementary misunderstanding of the difference between a live body and a dead one.

  • Grant Jacobs . . . I don’t think so . . . but that’s your opinion and since you are unable to grasp the difference between quantity and quality there is little oint in my trying to enlighten you further . . . :}

  • Andrea . . . I’m not going to waste my time coming up with double blind test that have shown the efficacy of homoeopathy because with your prejudice and mindset you will always find a way of dismissing them anyway.
    However I am more than happy with the efficacy of homoeopathic remedies and since you bring up cost not only have they saved me from numerous unnecessary visits to my GP, and the attendant risks of being given something that will actually make me worse, I have never had to buy a remedy more than once because I know how to look after them and remake them if they run out.
    Don’t you think that may have something to do with why the big chemical &/or drug companies are happy that they have stoolies such as yourself to try to stamp out the competition?
    Are you aware that there were homoeopathic hospitals right across USA right up to the advent of penicillin which, surprise surprise, turns a far better profit than the humble homoeopathic remedy.
    In fact the Homeopathic hospital in Auckland had a far better reputation than anywhere else during the ‘flu epidemic early in the 20th century.
    And I don’t think that Queen Elizabeth II has suffered at all from the 60 – 80 homoeopathic remedies she always carries on her travels . . . quite the reverse . . . I’m sure that’s part of why she is in far better shape that the pope that has just resigned despite having twice the number of engagements that he had . . . or so I am told . . . I’m sure one of your hounds will be able to hunt up all the relevant statistics and turn it around to support your arguments so you can still stay in your comfort zone.
    So why don’t you all just stay in your comfort zones? No one is trying to force you to believe in or try homoeopathy so why try to stop people from living as they see fit when it’s not doing you any harm . . . you can all swallow as much poison as you choose as far as I’m concerned . . . :}

  • Oops meant to comment that the above link claims that most research findings are false . . . that they may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias . . . not much scope for great leaps in understanding and knowledge here . . . :}

  • Tricia,

    “that’s your opinion” – it’s more than opinion—mine or anyone else’s—it’s what basic chemistry has established. It isn’t what ‘I say’ as such, but what science has found (by many people over many years). It’s your choice to believe in something that is contrary to basic chemistry, but if you do that you’ll have to accept people pointing that out if they feel so inclined.

    ”since you are unable to grasp the difference between quantity and quality” – excuse me, but that’s not true – I elaborated on the difference myself.

    (Pretty much everyone knows the difference between quantity and quality, eh? However, you didn’t define what ‘quality’ you refer to. I get the impression you offer that because someone else said that or you read it somewhere. As it stands it’s an empty statement – it’s not actually saying anything.)

    “doesn’t appear to be content to allow people to live their lives as they see fit without making derogatory comments” – you point this at Shaun Holt, but do you recognise that you’ve done your share of making derogatory comments here?

    Issuing dismissive remarks, calling others as incapable, trying to dismiss all research, etc. (as a troll might) isn’t helpful or meaningful. I don’t feel the need to engage with someone writing like that, esp. after I’ve tried to encourage you not to be combative.

  • (Weird bug/glitch in WordPress – it’s showing the last few comments as having been submitted 23 hours ago, but they were sent in only a few minutes ago!)

  • Tricia, how does accepting the evidence of multiple, consistent, peer-reviewed studies exhibit “prejudice”?

    As far as your second point goes, it is not cheaper to get a homeopathic consult than see the doctor (not that that is a good reason in my opinion to get second rate “healthcare” anyway) and the Queen is only an example of someone who has money to burn without worrying about it anyway! Likewise, it’s not unusual for the exceptionally privileged to enjoy higher standards of health.

    I’m quite happy not taking homeopathic remedies, but I am most unhappy about the myths of homeopathic efficacies being propagated people who don’t know better, through biased information. The fact that it is repeatedly demonstrated to be no better than placebo deserves to be widely known to anyone who might consider taking such a remedy. Anything else is an exploitation of the weak and vulnerable.

  • Tricia,
    “Are you aware that there were homoeopathic hospitals right across USA right up to the advent of penicillin which, surprise surprise, turns a far better profit than the humble homoeopathic remedy.”

    Or a more rational explanation might be that because penicillin saved millions of lives by treating diseases homeopathy can not treat (septicaemia, pneumonia etc) people decided they want hospitals capable of treating real diseases.

    “Don’t you think that may have something to do with why the big chemical &/or drug companies are happy that they have stoolies such as yourself to try to stamp out the competition?”

    Ah, the sign of desperation – claiming conspiracy. I think you will find most bloggers here have no connections to drug companies but a commitment to fact and rational thinking.

    “And I don’t think that Queen Elizabeth II has suffered at all from the 60 – 80 homoeopathic remedies she always carries on her travels”

    Yet when the Queen or members of her family suffer from major diseases (i.e. ones that will not come right by themselves with time) they use real medicine. For example, Prince Philip’s recent bladder infection was treated with antibiotics.

    “So why don’t you all just stay in your comfort zones? No one is trying to force you to believe in or try homoeopathy so why try to stop people from living as they see fit when it’s not doing you any harm . . . you can all swallow as much poison as you choose as far as I’m concerned . . . :}”

    Some of us have read quite extensively about homeopathy including the many studies purported to show it works – only to find they have been misrepresented. It seems to me that you are the one not wanting to venture outside your comfort zone – all you have done is repeat information and erroneous homeopathic propaganda sound bites which support your position, and then cry conspiracy when you find yourself challenged for evidence.

    And I notice that while you continue to criticise conventional medicine you have not yet provided any information to support your belief that homeopathy works or what mechanism it may work by.
    Kind of a one sided conversation don’t you think? If you have evidence that homeopathy works or how it works why not provide it?

  • While I’m ‘at it’ I may as well answer Michael Edmonds as well . . :}
    I’m not claiming ‘conspiracy’ just offering the very rational thought that if big business can turn a profit they will and the advent of penicillin provided them with such an opportunity that they have exploited it for all it’s worth and in the process think nothing of trying to eliminate any competition.
    It wasn’t for big business penicillin may have taken it’s rightful place in the homoeopathic materia medica and been used more rationally than it has been to date which has seen more and more resistant bugs emerge as people, such as yourself by the sounds of it, clamour for the ‘real’ thing at every sniffle.
    You may be interested to know that when mercury was first introduced as a treatment for syphilis it probably killed more than it cured and it was Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy who made it far less toxic by his method of trituration.
    Without big business busting in penicillin may also have been brought into the business of curing people without the bugs developing resistance.
    As for how it works I think your analogy with the computer is spot on . . . “Its a bit like someone suggesting that a computer works by magic if they cannot are not familiar with the science of how it works.”

    Samuel Hahnemann was smart enough to recognise a natural law, like cures like, (just like Newton’s law – a dropped apple always falls to the centre of the earth unless you apply a counter force) and develop it into a system of medicine that works beautifully without the toxic side effects so common in material doses, so why dismiss it as ‘magic’ just because no one can explain it . . . yet . . . :}
    You still haven’t explained what starts the life processes in any particular organism but merely how they operate once there is a driving force to organise them all and source the energy needed to keep them going.

    Maybe the way water transmits the healing energy from the original substance is through a crytalline structure created by the potentisation method – unique for every substance just as a snow crystal is – and could explain why only those people with a correspondence in their own energy fields will respond while it will have no effect on those who don’t need it.
    And this is the brilliance of homoeopathy, that even 200 years ago the method of determining what a particular person’s susceptiblities are – their correspondences with a particular remedy – was arrived at by considering their own personal symptoms and matched to a set of symptoms known to be produced by that remedy from the ‘provings’ and other sources.
    Until modern medicine takes into account that the total overall health of the individual is the paramount concern of any practitioner then it will continue to do more harm than good . . . hopefllly WHO is catching on?

  • Tricia,
    Did you realise that homeopathic remedies are a billion+ dollar business worldwide? By your own reasoning then it would make sense that they will try to protect themselves by attacking conventional medicine.

    “Like cures like” is not a natural (or any other sort of) law as there is no evidence to prove it. Whereas the law of gravity is supported by an abundance of evidence.

    And your interpretation of the “laws” of homeopathy is incorrect. It is not “like cures like”. Hahnemann believed that you take something which creates the same symptoms of the disease, the dilute it down and then use it to treat the disease. This is not “like curing like”.

    Penicillin works by a known mechanism to kill bacteria at a certain dose. To attempt to use a homeopathic dilution of penicillin not only makes no sense scientifically, it does not even make sense according to the “laws” of homeopathy. You are defending homeopathy when you do not even understand how it is supposed to work.

    “Maybe the way water transmits the healing energy from the original substance is through a crytalline structure created by the potentisation method”

    Water in it’s liquid form is dynamic – the water molecules are rapidly moving amongst each each. Water is only crystalline in its sold form. So a crystalline structure is not possible in the way you describe.
    (If you want to see that water molecules are continuously moving take a still glass of water and add a single drop of food colouring. Over time the molecules of food colouring move throughout the water as the water molecules move around each other and the food colouring molecules.

    You claim that modern medicine is doing harm to people, but it has helped extend our average live span from around 45 years 100 years ago to around 80 years now.
    Several years ago WHO specifically stated that homeopathy is not a via treatment in response to all of the charlatans who were making money by selling homeopathic remedies to AIDS sufferers in Africa. Suffice to so no cure was observed.

    “people, such as yourself by the sounds of it, clamour for the ‘real’ thing at every sniffle.”

    Give it a rest with your snide comments. For your information I avoid taking any medication unless I have to and would be quite angry if my doctor prescribed penicillin to me for anything other than a bacterial infection.

    The one thing I will agree with you on, is at the time it was first developed 200 years ago, homeopathy was a better option than the toxic substances like mercury that they used to “treat” disease. Consuming harmless (but ineffective) water is certainly better than using mercury.
    Modern medicine has since moved on, developing effective and safe treatments for many diseases. Homeopathy has not moved on, and remains as ineffective as it was when it was first developed – with no explanation for how it might “work”.

    “You may be interested to know that when mercury was first introduced as a treatment for syphilis it probably killed more than it cured and it was Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy who made it far less toxic by his method of trituration.”

    I am aware of this historical use of mercury to treat syphilis, but what you overlook is that Hahnemann’s treatments for syphilis didn’t work either. If he had then there wouldn’t have been the need to develop drugs that effectively treat syphilis in the early 20th century.

  • Tricia,

    If homeopathy worked as effectively as conventional medicine then conventional medicine would never have developed as it has.
    As you point out it has been around for 2 centuries, long before what we know as conventional medicine. Also at several times throughout history homeopathic medicine has strong support.

    So where were the homeopathic remedies to treat the millions of soldiers and civilians who died of sepsis prior to the development of penicillin, or the cases of pneumonia that prevented half of children from reaching adulthood, around 100 years ago? Where are the homeopathic cures for AIDS? What about the homeopathic cures for chronic diseases such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease …?

    Why is it that the only homeopathic remedies that “work”, “work” for self limiting conditions such as colds, flu, etc??

  • Tricia,

    Penicillin, about 70 years old, found to work within a year of its discovery. Since then we’ve found how it works.

    Aspirin, about 120 years old, found to work within a year of its discovery. Since then we’ve found out how it works.

    Homeopathy, about 200 years old, still awaiting proof that it works. Unless someone proves it works there is no “how” to be worked out.

  • Wow… I have a little to catch up on.

    “maybe one day conventional ‘science’ will catch up”

    Science is about finding out the best explanation for how things work by coming up with a hypothesis and testing the hell out of it.

    The scientific method isn’t about finding out *how* something works (although it is used for for that.) It’s about finding out *if* something works. It takes the hypothesis, removes as much bias as possible and the results establish if the claimed effect is still present. If it is you’re on to something. At this point, you repeat the process. A lot if possible. Then you put your hypothesis out there for others to test. If the majority of those testing are able to repeat it and no one can point out a valid hole in the protocol then we promote the hypothesis to a Theory. This will be attacked again and again and it only takes one alternative hypothesis that makes it through a similar process to over turn the old theory.

    What is it about this process that prevents homeopathy from being testable by the scientific method?

    What would you propose replace the scientific method?

    “Rather than just dismiss something because no one can explain how it works (which holds true for aspirin and most other ‘real’ medicants) isn’t it better to see if it works (especially since it can do no ‘real ‘ harm) and then investigate why?”

    Taking the above into account, science doesn’t care *how* homeopathy works, just *if* it works. It has been tested. Throughly. And the better the tests are at removing experimentor bias the less of an effect it appears to have. Once it’s established that it does work, and the evidence to date does not support that, *then* we take the time to figure out *if* it works.

  • Tricia: “You are quite entitled to your views, as I am”

    But you’re not entitiled to your own facts and that is what is working against your position on this topic.

  • Tricia : “Shaun Holt for one, doesn’t appear to be content to allow people to live their lives as they see fit without making derogatory comments”

    Shaun wasn’t the one who “wouldn’t argue against him taking the ‘real thing’” in reference to taking Arsenicum*.

    *Not a real word

  • Tricia: “Don’t you think that may have something to do with why the big chemical &/or drug companies are happy that they have stoolies such as yourself to try to stamp out the competition?”

    You are aware that the homeopathic industry is a multi billion dollar* industry, right?

    *extrapolated from the financial statements of *one* homeopathic manufacturer

  • Tricia: “I’m not claiming ‘conspiracy’ just offering the very rational thought that if big business can turn a profit they will and the advent of penicillin provided them with such an opportunity that they have exploited it for all it’s worth and in the process think nothing of trying to eliminate any competition.”

    The dive into conspiracy was in reference to the claim that the posters here are stoolies;

    “Don’t you think that may have something to do with why the big chemical &/or drug companies are happy that they have stoolies such as yourself to try to stamp out the competition?”

    BTW, the term is “shills”. 😉

  • Nuts. Comments need the ability to be edited for a brief period.

    I said: “Taking the above into account, science doesn’t care *how* homeopathy works, just *if* it works. It has been tested. Throughly. And the better the tests are at removing experimentor bias the less of an effect it appears to have. Once it’s established that it does work, and the evidence to date does not support that, *then* we take the time to figure out *if* it works.”

    I meant to say: “Once it’s established that it does work, and the evidence to date does not support that, *then* we take the time to figure out *how* it works.”

  • I do have to laugh at claims of Big Pharma uber-profits.

    Take a look at Weleda’s annual report. Not bad of a company that sells shaken water.

  • OMG . . . am I dealing with a cult here . . . or what?
    I go right back to that original ( or hardly original really) snide comment by Shaun Holt calling homoeopaths scientifically illiterate and imagining them dressed up playing doctors . . . you should all blow your noses very hard and wash your hands thoroughly before you touch your keyboards . . .and then we may be able to have a fruitful discussion.
    Gold – (otherwise known as Aurum in the same circles where everyone knows what Arsenicum is) obviously hadn’t rubbed the stardust out of his eyes or scratched himself enough before he took to the keyboard this morning . . . but his arrogance in saying that I’m not entitled to my own facts is still quite breathtaking . . .but I guess to be expected from a ‘material scientist’ still in short pants?
    And Ashton . . . glad you’ve had a laugh . . .it’s just I wasn’t aware that Weleda only sold ‘shaken water’ and the Annual Report Aurum gave was for Boiron . . . neither of these companies base their products on Classical Homoeopathy . . . however even if they did it’s hardly a valid comment if you don’t compare the total overall income and advertising budgets of companies producing true homoeopathic remedies and those peddling poisons like Douglas, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Mercke-Sharp & Dome, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Bayer, Eli Lily, Wyeth etc. . . . did I miss any of your buddies out? . . . see The Truth About Drug Companies:

    http://www.wanttoknow.info/truthaboutdrugcompanies

    “The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion) [in 2002]. Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original high purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself.”

    . . . Amen.

    PS Ashton that wasn’t very nice to call Aurum’s early morning ravings ‘Troll frenzy’ . . . he obviously hadn’t quite collected his thoughts for the day . . . :}

  • Tricia,

    You object to being described as “scientifically illiterate” yet in all of your posts you show no basic understanding of science.
    Your last post is just a series of insults and dubious quotes, the last resort of someone incapable of reasonable debate.
    You ask if you are dealing with a cult here, when what in fact you are dealing with is a group of scientifically literate people who are tired of other scientifically illiterate people promoting erroneous, dangerous and anti-science information.

  • Serious question – does sun spot activity increase the number and intensity of irrational actors in a population?

    Tricia – you completely lost it when you claim the right to have your own facts. Unfortch, individuals don’t have that “right”. You have a right to your own opinion, but not facts.

    If you truly believe that you can make or choose facts to suit your belief system, you have bigger problems that your choice of a demonstrably ineffective health product.

    I have no problem with Gold’s thinking process – it is logical, precise and internally and externally consistent. Moreover, he gives a nicely simplified explanation of the logic behind scientific method. He gets trapped by the bane of many posters and bloggers – inability to touch type.

    The troll frenzy refers to you – a troll being an individual who comes into a thread with the express purpose of disrupting it, and with no intention (nor it would often seem, capability) to listen to and engage with the discussion being had.

    The mistake here so far (of which I am also guilty) is in continuing the conversation. My short experience in this group is that they hold dear to their hearts the concept that people can, over time, be won over by logic and education.

    On the face of it, this is one of very few areas where they fail to correctly assess the evidence presented.

    • Hi everyone

      Apologies for being MIA – been busy with my day job :) Thanks everyone for holding the fort. As Ashton says, I think enough is enough.

      Tricia – you have exceeded our tolerance for your rude and abusive behaviour. Being rude about Gold’s name, combined with your claim to have the right to your own facts says it all really. I will block any further comments if they continue in the same manner.

      Please everyone stop engaging with Tricia. I think we have plenty of material in the comments for any people who were sitting on the fence.

      • Tricia, one last question. Are you merely a homeopathic enthusiast or do you have some link to homeopathy that you would like to declare? Are you trained as a homeopath or know someone who is?

  • Ashton Dempsey,

    “My short experience in this group is that they hold dear to their hearts the concept that people can, over time, be won over by logic and education.”

    Quite a few of us are aware that the (ideologically) committed are rarely converted (that’s not hard to figure out, after all!), but respond to them with the intention the response reaches those who are reading but not commenting. Some of those people are less committed but have been confused in the more ordinary way by on-line chatter, “marketing” spiels, the presence of these products in pharmacies* and so on.

    ——
    * Something I would still like to see the end of.

  • Good to see you people feel ‘under siege’ as you deserve.
    Grant comments on my being ‘combative’ and yet his last post reveals his aim is to see homoeopathic remedies removed from pharmacies – that’s like declaring war – pretty aggressive if you ask me:
    and Soiuxsie (does that great warrior nation know how you are bringing disgrace to their name I wonder?) – also reveals her combat-ready stance with ‘MIA’ and ‘holding the fort’ – let alone her ‘name’:
    BUT she’s obviously rattled because despite asking everyone to ‘stop engaging with Tricia’ she then posts another couple of questions for me!
    DUH?
    I never went to kindergarten but can imagine this is pretty much like it would have been – so I really didn’t miss a thing did I?

    If Souixsie was so keen to block ‘rude and abusive’ comments she would never have allowed Shaun Holt to post the rubbish he did which began my response . . . in fact she thanked him!

    I thought maybe if I attempted to match his derogatory comments for rudeness and abusiveness it may have a homoeopathic effect and cure him . . . but I probably should have potentised them first!

    I hope Clive Stuart does him for slander . . . I’ll certainly contribute to his legal fees if he does . . . it’s about time you would -be ‘scientists’ faced ‘facts’ i.e. the fact for some people was that light is a wavelength and and for others it was particles – the resolution of 2 seemingly opposing ‘facts’ can result in great advances in understanding – but your attitudes will never allow that because you cling so tightly to the few you know there is no way for any opposing views to be examined and resolved – very sad . . . :{

    • Tricia

      Please rest assured I am not rattled or feeling under siege. I am however feeling insulted but that is just because you sunk so low as to insult my name, a clear sign that you are on the defensive.

      My questions were just to determine if you have any undisclosed conflicts of interest, such as benefiting financially from homeopathy. If not, might I inquire as to your training and profession? I would just like to understand where you are coming from to have been able to form the opinions you have. You may be surprised to hear that I am not in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry, so I have no conflicts of interest to declare.

  • Tricia,
    Homeopathy often point out, as you have, that homeopathic remedies need to be tailored to the customer, something which is not possible when they are purchased from a pharmacy.
    So I would have thought most homeopaths would agree that pharmacies shouldn’t sell remedies that need to be tailored to the customer?
    And regarding rudeness, you might want to reflect a little more on your own behaviour and less on others.

  • Just a clarification (addressed to all readers, not Tricia specifically): My wish to see homeopathy out of pharmacies is not ‘combative’ in the sense of how someone might treat others; it’s not even about others as such, but because homeopathy does not work beyond a placebo effect I feel it should not be in pharmacies. It’s about the ‘remedy’, it’s (non-)effectiveness, etc.

  • I’ve just re-read Shaun’s original comment here – it would be helpful if Tricia would point out just where he’s been ‘rude and abusive’. For example, I don’t see any ad hominems in Shaun’s statements – but I’m certainly seeing them in Tricia’s.

    And Tricia, as Michael says – if homeopathic ‘remedies’ are supposed to be personalised, something that’s not possible when sold over the counter in a pharmacy, then logically you should be agreeing with Grant’s wish to see them removed from pharmacy shelves?

  • Maybe the other gender readers might like to consider their buying of “anti aging” cream.

    Callaghan Innovation it’s previous guise put in money to a company that purported to “innovate” this wonder cream.

    They had been in business less than five years…….I wonder how they tested the efficacy of it????? Who was the guinea pig who underwent “accelerated aging” to convince themselves it might work. Brave girl.

  • So you feel insulted Siouxsie . . . I wonder how the real Sioux feel having their name trivialised?

    If Alison can’t spot the ad hominems in the comments below from Shaun’s original post then maybe you can all have a whip around and get her some new glasses?

    ‘This is a terrible decision, and unfortunately the homeopaths will use this as evidence that their witchcraft works.
    Homeopaths remind me of children who are dressing up and pretending to be doctors.
    Clive Stuart and his homoeopathic colleagues are scientifically illiterate, disseminate false information, sell products that do not contain any active ingredients and claim that they have magical healing properties.’

    Furthermore it’s not the remedies that are personalised, (they’re not made up specially for a particular person) but the choice of the remedy is for a particular person with particular symptoms and not just for a particular complaint.
    If toxic drugs such as aspirin, paracetamol, nurofen etc can be freely purchased then so should homoeopathic remedies be freely available.
    At least a person will come to no more harm than taking just one dose of a homoeopathic remedy if they should decide to swallow the whole bottle at once: while a whole bottle of the others can kill.
    Grant pretends to be oh so civilised and well mannered but still persists in putting his ever-so well polished boot in:
    ‘homeopathy does not work beyond a placebo effect’ etc:
    I will once again offer the link for pages of abstracts of studies that show it does:

    http://hpathy.com/scientific-research/research-in-homoeopathy/

    AND again the audio of Dr Rustum Roy giving a very plausible explanation of how it may work:

    If your credentials can match his I’d be very surprised.

    Your determination to have homoeopathic remedies banished from pharmacies sounds very like the Flat Earth Society wanting to see anything round destroyed so it won’t threaten their dearly held beliefs . . . you pretend to want to engage in rational discussion but actually don’t . . . you have an entrenched attitude that ‘a belief in homeopathy does require that you ‘break’ some basic chemistry’ so you’re not even prepared to consider that the method of potentisation may alter a quality of the water or liquid the substance is succussed in and that serial dilution actually enhances this effect making the remedy more and more active, the more it is diluted and succussed . . . funny that Dr Rustum Roy can suggest a possible plausible explanation but you are still stuck on material substance and quantity rather than the quality of the preparation.

    You may not want to benefit from these gentle, safe, effective, inexpensive and amazing remedies but others do and your continued derogatory and inaccurate proclamations will be energetically counteracted wherever I find them:
    if you want a truly civilised discussion then get Shaun to retract his rubbish and apologise and I will withdraw anything that is similarly rude and derogatory . . . :}

    • Ok, Tricia this is your last chance. Please answer the following question: have you undisclosed conflicts of interest, such as benefiting financially from homeopathy? I am still also interested in knowing what your training and profession is.

      Here, I’ll start. I have a BSc(Hons) First Class degree in Medical Microbiology and a PhD in Molecular Microbiology. I have 20 years training in the scientific method and run a group researching infectious diseases. I sell no medical products. I also receive no funding or other perks from the pharmaceutical industry or the so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) industry.

      I will take your lack of answer to my questions to suggest that you have:
      1. an undisclosed conflict of interest, such as that you are financially benefiting from from SCAM, which may be biasing your viewpoint here.
      2. no training in how the scientific method works.

  • “Gold – (otherwise known as Aurum in the same circles where everyone knows what Arsenicum is)”

    Aurum – *latin* for gold
    Arsenicum – latin sounding thing that is still a made up word.

    Arsenicum, when you get down to it, is the supposed memory of arsenic trioxide. It’s an unfortunate name though. Just sounds arse to me…

    “Gold – (otherwise known as Aurum in the same circles where everyone knows what Arsenicum is) obviously hadn’t rubbed the stardust out of his eyes or scratched himself enough before he took to the keyboard this morning . . . but his arrogance in saying that I’m not entitled to my own facts is still quite breathtaking . . .but I guess to be expected from a ‘material scientist’ still in short pants?”

    1) *None* of us are entitled to our own facts. Facts just are. If you’re picking and chooseing them then you’re doing it wrong.

    2) You still didn’t actually address my question. Given the simplistic description of the scientific method above:

    2a) What is it about this process that prevents homeopathy from being testable by the scientific method?

    2b) What would you propose replace the scientific method?

    Before you respond to the 2 points above please consider this. I’m not going to bother responding to you any further until you address these questions. Responding in any way that doesn’t answer these questions will result in 2 things:

    1) You will get the last word
    2) That last word, by extension, shall be considered as an admittance that you have no good answer.

  • Tricia,

    If you’re bothered by ad hominem, best not to give it out to others, I’d have thought.

    Also: playing on others’ names is always poor form, no matter the forum. Siouxsie has explained that her name comes from the band, not the people. You’d do well to apologise, I think.

    “pretends to be oh so civilised and well mannered”

    No pretense. Some people just prefer to be polite. For that matter, see the commenting rules for my blog 😉 (At the end of the ‘About’ page.)

    My credentials are just fine and freely available on-line. I’d happily give them here, but I prefer to focus on evidence rather than ‘authority’. A belief in homeopathy would would require breaks in basic chemistry, most notably Avogadro’s Law, but also how molecules behave. As I mentioned earlier this is not a matter of what I believe (or not), but what science (i.e. many people over a long time) has found with substantial amounts of evidence behind them. A point here is that this is not lead by my opinion, but what evidence has found about how chemistry and natural systems work.

    I’ve written previously on my reasoning for removing homeopathy from pharmacies on my blog. If you check for yourself you’ll see I cite investigations into its use in the UK, etc.

  • Tricia, your comments about homeopathy don’t match what I have been told by homeopaths (particularly regarding personalisation of treatments) – are you sure you understand what homeopathy is?
    And don’t you think it is hypocritical of you to complaint about others being rude and insulting when you have made the rudest comments on here?

  • Clive Stuart and his homoeopathic colleagues are scientifically illiterate, disseminate false information, sell products that do not contain any active ingredients and claim that they have magical healing properties.

    A belief in homeopathy is completely inconsistent with claims to scientific literacy, since (as several commenters have pointed out), for homeopathy to actually do what’s claimed for it would mean overturning all we currently know (ie established, verifiable, scientific fact) about how chemistry & physics work.

    Claims that, for example, homeopathic vaccines will protect against pertussis or measles are false: there is no evidence that they provoke any sort of immune response.

    Most homeopathic products do not – by your own admission – contain any active ingredients whatsoever.

    And saying that someone claims something is not an ad hominem argument either.

  • …safe, effective, inexpensive…

    Safe? The ‘homeopathic’ zinc-based cold remedy Zicam was hardly that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zicam). Similarly homeopathic ‘vaccines’ for serious diseases are not a safe option.

    Effective? Good-quality studies suggest an effectiveness no better than placebo (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20402610).

    Inexpensive? A children’s flu ‘remedy’ supposedly derived from the decaying liver of a duck sells on this website (http://www.ritecare.com/cgi-bin/cart.pl?db=product_db.dat&category=Homeopathic&search=Oscillo) at $9.99 for about 250ml. That’s awfully expensive water.

  • Siouxsie,

    I know the MoH website says, “Dr St George has a medical degree from the University of Auckland and a degree in epidemiology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada”, but has anyone actually checked this out. What sort of degrees are they (Bachelors etc.)? Is he a “Dr”? Can the MoH confirm they have asked for academic transcripts when employing Dr St George? It is probably all kosher, but given the spate of frauds NZ has suffered it might be worth checking out.

  • FACTS
    You all need to read the simple little story of the blind men and the elephant and maybe start to realise that the basic chemistry and physics that you cling to is only part of the whole truth:
    that my facts and your facts are all important parts of the same reality and maybe respect them as such;
    rather than constantly dismiss and derogate what you don’t understand.
    Do you truly think that I will tell you anything that you so imperiously request when you refer to alternative medicine – where you no doubt toss homoeopathy to – as SCAM!
    Dream on.
    All of the ‘evidence’ you offer is not even based on true homoeopathy.
    Wrapping someone in a cold wet sheet when they have been for a swim in cold water is not a homoeopathic treatment for pneumonia . . . it’s simply stupidity!
    I don’t think you will find a single case where homoeopathy has killed anyone – there may be many where such stupidity has – which is no different from someone giving someone with a compound fracture an aspirin rather than getting their leg set properly.
    As for your zinc ointment – again not homoeopathy.
    Neither are the Boiron concoctions – just because they may incorporate homoeopathic potencies they are not being applied according to homeopathic principles.
    I will once again leave you with a link to 62 studies that have shown the efficacy of homoeopathic remedies which obviously lends itself to scientific research – but only where the principles of homoeopathy are applied and not bastardised by a researcher who is simply trying to demonstrate they don’t work like ‘normal’ medicines do and therefore wants to simply discredit homoeopathy rather than truly investigate. . . . or are simply ignorant:

    http://hpathy.com/scientific-research/research-in-homoeopathy/

    I will leave you again with the recording of Dr Rustum Roy who will explain that the argument that since, according to Avogadro’s Law, there is not a molecule of the original substance still remaining in the solution once it has passed the 12c dilution, and therefore it cannot contain any active ingredient or that it is ‘just water’ – IS WRONG!
    AND I reiterate that Dr Roy says we’re too naive about water / liquids in general – that it has been shown that the different potencies e.g. 10x, 30x etc are different from one another and different from the starting solvent:
    i.e. the process of potentisation – dilution and succussion – can change the solution because water has structure:
    substances can leave their individual imprints in a liquid:
    and that changes can be brought about by the pressures of 10 – 15,000 atmospheres that succussion can produce.
    This may be a plausible explanation of how homoeopathy works – i.e. there is an active property created in the liquid that grows more active the more it is diluted and succussed . . . maybe the oligomers, or ‘clusters’, they have found.
    This doesn’t overturn any accepted, proven ‘facts’ of chemistry or physics bet merely expands and enlarges them and I find it quite sad that none of you are even prepared to entertain that possibility.
    Dr Rustum Roy.

    [Video link removed as Tricia has already posted it -Siouxsie]

    So Allison I have never claimed that ‘most homeopathic products do not contain any active ingredients whatsoever’:
    but have said they may not contain a single molecule of the original substance – quite different – it is you who has misinterpreted what I’ve said.
    In the same way that Michael has claimed that remedies need to be tailored to the customer and I explained that the remedies in fact are standard but the choice of remedy is for a particular person with particular symptoms, not just for a particular complaint . . . and then he comes back with ‘personalisation of treatments’ and queries whether I understand what homoeopathy is – DUH!
    I think my language has been exemplary – I certainly haven’t resorted to the potty language of Gold and others:
    I’ve just tried to be as scathing and derogatory as you have been – as you deserve.
    Rather than blindly just try to destroy something you don’t understand why not let the people who appreciate it use it in peace?
    Siouxsie – I find it hard to believe that after training in Medical Microbiology and Molecular Microbiology as well as 20 years training in the ‘scientific’ method and researching infectious diseases that you haven’t ‘benefitted’ from the ‘generosity’ of any pharmaceutical enterprise ever?
    Alison may find her circular argument concerning scientific illiteracy highly amusing but it is based on a fallacy and doesn’t get past the fact that it is intended to attack homoeopaths and is therefore ad hominem.
    Oscillinococcin is a very good remedy for ‘flu, when the symptoms match, and $9.99 is certainly cheaper than a visit to the GP . . . but it’s not Classical Homoeopathy to be mixed with a whole lot of other stuff as well.

    • Ok everyone. Tricia has had her last word and didn’t answer my questions so I guess that means she is benefiting financially from homeopathy and has an undeclared conflict of interest.

      Tricia: you are right, apologies. I have been back through all my funding over the last 20 years and have benefited once from Big Pharma – I won a prize in 2005 that was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The prize was UKP10,000 which was spent on my research into a gut bacterium called Citrobacter rodentium. GSK had no part in the study design. And the research was not into drugs or anything. I have had no other benefits.

      You have had all your warnings. I will now be blocking any future comments that do not address specific questions.

  • Tricia,
    Just to clarify, I did not claim that remedies need to be tailored to the customer, I just pointed out that this is an argument I have heard homeopaths use, so I found it interesting that you held a different belief. It would have been interesting to find out if you were trained as a homeopath, but as you did not answer Siouxsie’s question about this, although she repeatedly asked you, we don’t know.
    With regards to your attempts to explain how water might be potentiated, it is just a muddle of pseudoscientific terminology – do you even understand how dynamic the structure of water is or what the term oligomer means?
    If you a going to continue to attempt to argue for homeopathy at least try and grasp some basic science so that you understand what does not make sense. What you have said DOES contradict chemistry and physics.
    You also suggest that we should let people who want to use homeopathy do so in peace. They can if they want to – all Siouxsie and Shaun have done is comment on the scientific absurdity of homeopathy – they are simply providing people with information about homeopathy, which they can choose to ignore if they want to and use their bottles of magic water. If homeopaths are so confident in their treatments then why should they fear such comments?

  • Unfortunately, I don’t think it is so simple as to let people use homeopathy in peace. I think it is important that those who consider it’s use, be aware that it has the same efficacy as a placebo (as well as that it is scientifically absurd!), lest they forego effective medical attention.

    It would be good if homeopathic treatments were required to have a disclaimer that would disclose that.

  • Stacey Anyon is an excellent writer (and a wonderful person). She and Margo White did an amazing job with that North and South piece. I think we all need to be asking Tony Ryall some very searching questions in relation to this so-called integrative medicine advisor, Dr St George. I for one, do not want my tax dollars wasted this way!

  • Agreed, I expect they are a bit on the defensive over there at the moment what with the enquiry going against then a couple of years back and the negative public attention after that.

  • The ignorance on this forum is absolutely astounding. If this is a representation of the ‘scientific’ community then God help us. Really. Also, if there is nothing in the remedies why do surgeons advise patients NOT to take arnica before their surgery? Could it be because untrained pharmacy staff have incorrectly advised patients to take arnica every day for a month (before the operation) and it has caused people to bleed-out on the operating table? But that wouldn’t even happen if the remedy was just a sugar pill right? Come on ‘guys’ – get you stories straight.

  • “Could it be because untrained pharmacy staff have incorrectly advised patients to take arnica every day for a month (before the operation) and it has caused people to bleed-out on the operating table?’

    Citation, please.

  • Grant (the other one, not me talking to myself!) –

    Leaving aside the advice about not taking arnica before surgery (i.e. regardless of if that’s right or not), I’d say you’re confusing herbal remedies and homeopathic ‘remedies’. There’s a difference between arnica (the plant substance / herbal) and homeopathic preparations of arnica (which, if diluted beyond ~12C, will have nothing of arnica in them).

  • Second Grant Jacobs above, and recognising that there are many bioactive compounds; think it is especially important that people are not “misled” into buying homeopathic products where the distinction may not be clear or well understood.

  • This article is highly biased and professes a dogmatic “pseudosciencific” approach which claims to be unbiased but selectively looks at evidence and studies that have taken a biased view. It also clearly demonstrates a Ad hominem approach where by she attempts personal attacks instead of logical “objective’ thinking. I wonder when will people who called themselves scientists begin behaving like one and see both sides of the coin.

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