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Interesting article on homeopathy - from a medical perspective

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If you disagree, you'll have to put up with me talking about the Invisible Pink Unicorns dancing in my walls, not to mention the Flying Spaghetti Monster, because no tests have proven conclusively that these entities do not exist.
-CWuestefeld (November 21, 2007, 11:53 AM)
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:up: well said CW :)

"not scientifically proven = doesnt work" is far too nebulous to address. One could mean at least two things by the "not scientifically proven" part: either "never tested", or "tested but could not find any evidence supporting the claimed effect". Only the first of these is a pathetic argument.-CWuestefeld (November 21, 2007, 11:53 AM)
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my saying that was a response to what I knew would be said - I've read the science bit now & my presumption was correct.

"One could mean at least two things"
actually I didnt mean either (if i understand correctly)
I meant "science" looks at homeopathy "medicine" & says "we cant find anything here because the medicine is diluted too much" (my summary).
Then people like the guy who wrote that article mock it because they cant find anything -

Cant they for gods sake, or should i say for science's sake, just say it in a neutral manner -
which could be something like:
we could find no evidence of anything in this "medicine".
Fair enough! Doesnt mean there's nothing there, just they couldnt find anything.

Re the scientific tests/trials, I have no idea CW
And I in no way want to become an apologist for homeopathy & it's practicioners and what they do or dont do *
The content of that article was disturbing -
unfortunately as I have said the author was on a bit of a rant -
not helpful for getting the message across to neutral people or to the "other" camp.

The most unfortunate thing here is that there has basically been a feud going on between the two camps for centuries probably at this stage :) which again makes it much harder to figure out the "true" truth

and at the end of the day I'm fairly unscientific myself - it just bugs me a lot when the medical or scientific community are too!!
Obviously it bugs the author that the homeopathic community is too (sensibly)

* nor for any other "alternative" or mainstream medicine for that matter
I'm off for me dinner :)

I meant "science" looks at homeopathy "medicine" & says "we cant find anything here because the medicine is diluted too much" (my summary).
-tomos (November 21, 2007, 12:21 PM)
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I'm sorry if this is too blunt, Tomos, but that is not what "science" says. The stuff about the concentrations isn't the reason that scientists say that homeopathy is bunk, they say that because of trials of actual treatments. The concentration stuff is their explanation, their theory, of why it doesn't work.

It would be more accurate to summarize the position as follows:

"We have conducted many trials of homeopathic treatments. None of our tests have revealed any measurable effect from the treatments, and thus we find that homeopathy is ineffective as a medicinal treatment. We have analyzed the chemicals offered as treatment, and believe that we can explain why the treatments have no effect. Chemically the treatment chemicals are pure water, and many studies show that pure water has no medicinal value*"

* Except in cases of dehydration  ;)

It is not fair to say that a feud prevents a quest for the truth. The reported phenomena have been well tested, and the results are clear. One group stonewalls in order to keep its followers from seeing that truth.

What might be a fair criticism is the possibility that such "memory effects" are simply unexplained by our primitive understanding of chemistry. But this is true in the same way that evolution or quantum are "only" theories, and might be disproven. Moreover, since tests have observed no such effect to be investigated, it seems like trying to disprove an effect that cannot be experimentally observed is much like disproving the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn (may her hooves never be shod).

You can follow along with comments at Ben's personal blog:

His blog is very much worth subscribing to.

As someone who has very close friends who believe in homeopathy, I find it an incredibly delicate area to engage in. I think, as Ben has eloquently expressed, that placebo is useful, complex and multi-dimensional. Homeopathy is no better than placebo in well controlled studies, but that still means that it is an effective remedy for minor ailments. By trying to pull the sheet away from the magic of homeopathy, I'm possibly removing a remedy that will work for my friends. I can try to replace that with another placebo, but placebo works fndamentally on misinformation, so why replace one dishonesty with another. So I never engage in conversations over homeopathy with my friends, unless they were going to try to use it for major illness.

nontroppo, I like your final comparison to homeopathy being a valid placebo treatment. If people believe they are taking something which will do them good then for minor ailments as you say it could be considered valid.

But I do think that with people for whom the placebo effect worked they tend to very much develop an entrenched position behind the treatment and also tend to recommend it at every opportunity. (I speak from personal experience here, one side of my family seem to have no faith in any treatment unless they hear about it through word of mouth. As such their first call is always for alternative medicines). CW very correctly made the observation that such attitudes can be dangerous when people avoid proper treatments, at least initially, for more serious conditions which need to be properly dealt with.

Eóin, I agree that people who support it tend to get entrenched and a bit religous about it in terms of converting the masses (always a big mistake!)
You say
"one side of my family seem to have no faith in any treatment unless they hear about it through word of mouth."
I suspect part of the background to that is that the state of medical treatment for illnesses in general isnt very good, but the state of it in Ireland is particularly poor.
Living in Germany now, I see a huge difference in general in the way patients are treated by doctors, also there's much less antibiotics given out here than in Ireland where they are regularly given even when not required - simply "in case".

I don't think you have to worry about being so "delicate"!
I suspect if your friends "believe" in homeopathy they wont be so easily converted -
not by the likes of the above article at any rate -
if he was trying to convert anyone he needs a lesson or two in communication skills.
Which is kind of unfortunate really, cause if he has a worthwhile message it would be nice if it was presented in such a way as to be readable by the "other" camp...
And if your friends are converted from homeopathy? maybe they'll find something better.. :)

Finally CW, I just wanted to give a bit of background to my homeopathic experience.
I did a short evening course in it a few years ago and since then have been using it for minor ailments for myself.
As I've said already I knew nothing about scientific tests/trials done related to homeopathy.
The reason I will continue to use it is this :
in my experience, if I mistakenly choose the wrong remedy it wont work (there are often a few possible remedies for something and what with being no expert myself I guess I often get the wrong one)
If I then choose the correct remedy it will work.
I dont know does this rule out the placebo effect but it certainly gives an angle that hasnt been covered in what I've read so far (from the anti-camp :))

Actually the most interesting thing bout all this for me was the talk about the placebo effect
and the recognition therein of the effects of our thoughts and beliefs
I did a search for this thread & the only other reference here to homeopathy was a thread/link from app listing things unexplainable by science - [FTR according to Wikipedia the reference to homeopathy has been discredited]
First on the list is "The placebo effect"
An interesting read as well ..


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