Homeopathy4health

4 December 2007

Concerted campaign against homeopathy by skeptic individuals – confirmed

We homeopaths are not ‘deluded’ or ‘paranoid’ about the recent activism against homeopathy.

James Randi forum: Individual activism against homeopathy

Asolepius:

 ‘Acting alone is very hard work. I managed to pull together a small group of people who have made concrete progress in reducing UK public spending on homeopathy, but it helped a lot that these were prominent scientists and physicians. Small groups have disproportionately increased power – the homeopaths think we are a huge and wealthy organisation!’

Not any more

How come a small group of self-appointed prejudiced individuals can drive health policy in the UK?

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40 Comments »

  1. That’s not much of a revelation. Here’s the letter which the JREF poster is referring to. It was sent to Chief Executives of National Health Service Trusts throughout England over six months ago and was widely covered in the British press.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article1827553.ece

    This is entirely separate to the perceived but actually non-existent ‘bad science cult’ which is merely a lot of individuals, each with their own views.

    Comment by M Simpson — 5 December 2007 @ 10:32 am

  2. Ben Goldacre doesn’t think there is one:

    ‘Time after time, properly conducted scientific studies have proved that homeopathic remedies work no better than simple placebos. So why do so many sensible people swear by them? And why do homeopaths believe they are victims of a smear campaign?’ badscience : The End of Homeopathy?

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 5 December 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  3. I wasn’t aware of any of this (I live in the States) until I read the Goldacre piece in the Guardian. I was floored. I mean, the Guardian. Well, my blood started boiling (couldn’t confirm, don’t own a thermometer) and tried to put it out of my mind.

    But it came back a few weeks ago in another site I go to, Alternet. There was an excerpt from “The Homeopathic Revolution” by Dana Ullman. “How Scientific Is Modern Medicine?” was the headline that barely touched on Homeopathy. It was only when I started reading the comments did my fever (see above) return. The Homeophobes were out in full force. I spent most of my weekend responding to them and pointing out that Homeopathy works in my house.

    I was so outraged that contacted the author. He pointed me to the Homeopathy article on Wikipedia & the discussion page. It seems at Wikipedia, Homeopathy falls under a few projects, first being “Rational Skepticism”. It seems that a few of these activists have put a lot of energy into turning the article (as well as others related to Homeopathy) into a Homeophobia article. There has been so much editing done that Homeopathy rates on the wikirage site.

    Comment by John Clark — 18 December 2007 @ 2:09 am

  4. Dear John,

    Thank you very much for your support.

    Your example of not having a thermometer to confirm the measurement of your boiling blood is a humourous illustration of how little science can actually measure in terms of health.

    Personally, my heart is aching (and that can’t be measured either) over how much vitriol is spent by so-called rational people over a therapy that helps more and more people overcome their symptoms and how this psychologically prevents other people from benefiting.

    Please visit http://www.hmc21.org.uk to add your name to their list of supporters (international support is welcome too) and tell anyone else who has benefited from homeopathy.

    H4H

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 18 December 2007 @ 8:12 am

  5. homeopathy4health, are you involved with hmc21 by any chance? Is this not an organised campaign to promote homeopathy? In what way is this any different from your assertions that there is an organised campaign against homeopathy (of which I am not aware). It seems to me that those who campaign against homeopathy are motivated by (the unethical behaviour of homeopaths/the lack of supporting evidence base/a general worry about public education/other/delete as appropriate). I would argue that the difference is that homeopaths are forming organised lobby groups to promote homeopathy and have been shown to obfuscate and lie when presenting information to the public. While the detractors of homeopathy are unorganised but honest.

    Comment by gimpy — 18 December 2007 @ 10:54 am

  6. Gimpy: I am a supporter of hmc21, it is an organised campaign to support freedom of choice in medicine as provided by homeopathic provision in the NHS.

    The quote above proves that there is a concerted campaign against homeopathy in the NHS despite its reported effectiveness. It has been organised by ‘Asolepius’ who is a clinical scientist (not hard to find out who he is if you search on ‘Asolepius’ on the internet) associated with others – he says he has organised it. Just because you are not aware of it does not make it not true, you appear to be acting alone and not part of the organisation.

    I believe you are honest in your concerns, but uninformed, inexperienced and determined to remain so.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 18 December 2007 @ 11:56 am

  7. homeopathy4health, if you don’t mind could you provide evidence for the ‘reported effectiveness’ of homeopathy. I was under the impression that when the same standards of proof are applied to it and conventional medicine homeopathy is found wanting. As far as I can make out from that JREF thread Asolepius has merely banded together with some like minded individuals and as M Simpson has pointed out merely invovled letter writing and the odd public engagement.
    Also perhaps you would like to explain how I am uninformed and inexperienced. I have every desire to dispel your perception of me as such. Can you give me some information and tell me what I should gain experience in?

    Comment by gimpy — 18 December 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  8. Reported effectiveness: many people report the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment.

    Some trials have shown effectiveness of homeopathy above placebo effect, see http://www.laughingmysocksoff.wordpress.com which you are already aware of.

    ‘merely’: Asolepius does not think it is ‘merely’.

    Who is M Simpson? I do not recognise his authority in this matter. Neither yours.

    You are inexperienced in health matters either medical or alternative, being able to read and understand scientific papers only qualifies you to comment on scientific papers. Only one (junior) doctor is defaming homeopathy – Ben Goldacre, where are the rest?

    I am considering suitable books for you….

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 19 December 2007 @ 9:19 am

  9. homeopathy4health, I have criticised those papers on laughingmysocksoff’s blog. Feel free to comment on my criticisms there. A good argument would survive such a challenge, a poor one fail. Evidently you think my arguments are poor, as I always seek to improve my analytical skills a courteous counter-argument would be appreciated. I hope to learn from your rebuttal.
    Btw I’m assuming Dr. Goldacre knows a great deal more about medicine than either you or me so do you accept his criticisms? But I’ve always argued that academic qualifications aren’t necessary to provide strength to an argument, do you disagree? What would you consider the minimum academic qualification required to comment on health matters?

    Comment by gimpy — 19 December 2007 @ 9:55 am

  10. re criticism of papers etc: laughingmysocksoff is better qualified than I to argue about them. I just reiterate that scientific medical trials are not always a good indicator of real world experience either for conventional medicine or homeopathic.

    Your arguments about a concerted campaign against homeopathy are poor and appear to stem from a need to deny rather than examine truth.

    I accept that Dr Goldacre probably knows more than I about the conventional medical understanding of disease and medicine. I understand his criticisms but he also lacks experience of the homeopathic approach and is also determined to remain ignorant, despite invitation.

    Argument is not an approach that I usually use in real life as it is unnecessarily stressful and can degenerate into point scoring and ego-boosting behaviours based on a fixed linear position (‘I argue this…’). I prefer to take an enquiring experiential approach and consider the truth from all angles: there is validity to the scientific approach but there is also validity to real world experience. I don’t exclude one from the other or buy only into one side of the argument.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 19 December 2007 @ 10:30 am

  11. By your criteria I am qualified to comment on scientific papers so why won’t you attempt to understand my criticisms? Passing the buck to somebody else is a bit unfair considering you clearly believe in evidence supporting homeopathy. Also, how can you claim that you don’t exclude one from the other when you wantonly ignore the criticism of homeopathy that if it were to work then everything we know about physics, chemistry and biology would have to be rethought. Are you educated in any of these subjects? Why won’t you accept criticisms from those who are? Real world experience as you describe it is subject too all manner of subjective biases which is why science has developed an impartial toolkit for investigating the world. Once you strip these subjective biases from the study of homeopathy you are left with nothing but the placebo effect. Homeopathy stands naked and exposed in the gaze of science.

    Comment by gimpy — 19 December 2007 @ 11:04 am

  12. And what is wrong with considering that something about physics, chemistry and biology needs to be rethought? It doesn’t have all the answers. I refer you to the Guardian today: Homeophobia must not be tolerated.

    You may be right that I am less scientifically qualified than you and therefore I can not have the type of scientific discussion you would like. This is why I refer you to laughing who is better qualified than I. We may have to agree to disagree, I don’t consider you qualified to talk about health, you don’t consider me qualified to talk about science.

    It worries me that science excludes so much from its measurements, in fact it is considerably limited by what can be objectively measured.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 19 December 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  13. homeopathy4health, there is nothing wrong with considering that aspects of science have to be rethought. Indeed this is how science progresses. Theories are created and challenged. Should a theory be successfully challenged it is cast aside and a new one created. Successful theories are those that survive repeated challenge. Science demands a high degree of proof for its conclusions. Homeopathy does not. This why the balance of evidence supports current scientific theories and results in homeopathy being discarded.
    Also, I’m not big on people asserting their qualifications in support of their argument. Whether or not I am better qualified than you in science or health is immaterial to the strength of our respective arguments.

    However, you are making glib statements like ‘science excludes so much from its measurements’, but what does it exclude? What do you think the limits of science are? You don’t have to be qualified in science to answer these questions but you will have to be informed about science. I consider myself informed about homeopathy which is why I consider myself capable of criticising it. My lack of qualifications has no bearing on the questions I ask.

    Comment by gimpy — 19 December 2007 @ 2:33 pm

  14. Gimpy: I do believe you love arguing and being opinionated and science for science’s sake, making up rules of debating and then not sticking by them. It’s very clever but not very constructive. I suspect you have few qualifications and little experience. This argument is going nowhere and ending here.

    At the end of the day sceptic scientism scientists with little health-related experience are undermining a therapy with real world effectiveness.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 19 December 2007 @ 4:33 pm

  15. “It worries me that science excludes so much from its measurements, in fact it is considerably limited by what can be objectively measured.”

    Science is an understanding of the world around us (and inside us!) and which bits affect which other bits in what way. The only way that you can determine whether or not something has been affected in any situation is by measuring it (at the most basic level, you measure whether it’s still there or not). Science does not deny the existence of things that can’t be measured – there are many of them. But what pseudoscience does is it claims to measure these things which cannot be measured. Homeopathy claims that there is a qualitative difference between a homeopathic sugar pill and an ordinary sugar pill – but if this is anything other than completely abstract and unprovable guesswork then there must be some way, somewhere, somehow to show a difference between the two.

    Yet whenever this is measured, very, very carefully with all outside influences either eliminated or evened out – there is no sign of any difference. Homeopathy, like any other pseudoscience, is not limited by what can be measured and yet seeks the respectability of science by claiming that it can in fact measure the unmeasurable. And when challenged, when it is demonstrated that there is no measurable difference, instead of accepting that they might be wrong, homeopaths simply repeat the dogma of “You’re not measuring it in the right way.”

    Comment by M Simpson — 20 December 2007 @ 12:01 am

  16. As far as I can tell, science is an approximation of the world around us as far as it has been able to objectively measure it. Where there isn’t a machine to measure it there is no measurement. It’s a small subset of the whole.

    Bits: I observe conventional medical science looking very hard at the bits and not making sense of the whole. Medicine to treat some bits then affects other bits. Homeopaths prescribe on the whole person, all their symptoms together, it’s surprising but it works.

    As with all pseudosciencers you trot out all the same statements.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 20 December 2007 @ 8:33 am

  17. homeopathy4health, could you explain more of the differentiation between medical science and homeopathy. I thought that medical science encompassed everything from the instructions encoded in the DNA of every cell in your body, to the complex web of interactions between cells and tissue types during development, to understanding how different organs in the body work at every conceivable level from the gene, through protein interactions to the organ as a whole, how signals from one part of the body can effect another through hormonal signalling, to the effect the outside environment has on health. All homoeopathy seems to offer is a pleasant chat and some un-testable theories. How is this holistic? How does this offer more than medical science? Medical science spends billions and employs some of the brightest minds on the planet to research health. Homeopathy spends almost nothing on research and most of its practitioners are ignorant of science. How can it be better?

    Comment by gimpy — 20 December 2007 @ 10:20 am

  18. Homeopathy spends almost nothing on research because new remedy provings are hugely less expensive and dangerous than clinical trials AND patients get better, how much better can that be?

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 22 December 2007 @ 9:17 am

  19. I am preparing a blog on holistic health.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 22 December 2007 @ 9:17 am

  20. How do you know patients get better, compared to not doing anything, if you don’t carry out trials?

    Comment by gimpy — 22 December 2007 @ 10:36 am

  21. The patients report that they are better and don’t need to come back for more.

    I think you probably mean, how do you know that homeopathy made the patients get better…

    I understand that this is open to question but when patients have suffered for years with a condition and come for a consultation (‘nice chat’ I know) and still suffer from the condition until they receive the relevant remedy (because I am thinking about the most relevant one in the mean time) and then symptoms start to change when they start taking the remedy several days later I feel it is reasonable to attribute the cause in the change to taking the remedy.

    Each prescription is a trial in itself but unfortunately we can’t split the patient in half and give one half placebo and the other half the remedy.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 23 December 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  22. Perhaps I should have rephrased my question as ‘How can you prove it is homeopathy making the patients get better?’.
    There could be any number of secondary factors influencing the change in the patients condition, not least the fact that self-limiting illnesses are, well, self-limiting. In fact such an explanation is entirely consistent with your observations that you prescribe different remedies until you see an effect. How would you show that prescribing the correct remedy had a greater healing effect than treating the patient exactly the same way but giving them a sugar pill instead? Go on design an experiment to test your hypothesis that homeopathy has a greater healing effect than a placebo.

    Comment by gimpy — 24 December 2007 @ 8:52 am

  23. If a person has had a condition for several years it is hardly self-limiting.

    I have strong ethical concerns about giving an unknowing patient a blank sugar pill instead of a medicated pill and I feel that asking patients to take part in a placebo based trial where there is uncertainty about whether they would get placebo or medicated would change the healing dynamic.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 24 December 2007 @ 9:34 am

  24. Ahh but if you arguing that homeopathy can cure non-self-limiting conditions then we are back to pv’s question

    Do you think that homeopathy can be used to cure non-self limiting conditions, if so could you provide an example of one, you only need one, incontrovertible example, with references, of homeopathy curing a non-self-limiting condition?

    I understand your ethical concerns about withholding treatment from patients, but don’t you think it is even more unethical to use a treatment with no proof of its efficacy? Nevertheless a reasonable way round your ethical concerns would be to use a self-limiting illness. You could infect patients with a common cold virus and treat one group with homeopathic remedies and the other with sugar pills in a double blinded trial. Nobody fit and healthy dies from a common cold so there is no risk to the patients, just mild discomfort. Surely no worse than a ‘proving’?

    Comment by gimpy — 24 December 2007 @ 10:29 am

  25. There are a couple of things that caught my attention in this discussion

    The last comment seems to be in direct conflict with one made by Kate Chatfield of the Society of Homeopaths

    “Q538 Lord Broers: I have a simple, technical question about homeopathy and drugs. Is it possible to distinguish between homeopathic drugs after they have been diluted? Is there any means of distinguishing one from the other?

    Ms Chatfield: Only by the label.”

    What makes homeopathy so delightfully simple to deal with is that (in most cases) the medicine contains no medicine. Well not at least if you feel at all constrained by the laws of chemistry and physics. That brings us to the last post, where H4H says

    “And what is wrong with considering that something about physics, chemistry and biology needs to be rethought? It doesn’t have all the answers.”

    I notice that the people who ask that sort of question continue to believe in those bits of chemistry and physics that underlie the internet, their mobile phone, their aircaft trips, their television set, their car, their electric cooker and the paint on their house. The only bits they reject are those that apply to homeopathic dilutions. I can’t help feeling that this is a bit like having your cake an eating it.

    Comment by David Colquhoun — 24 December 2007 @ 7:24 pm

  26. “And what is wrong with considering that something about physics, chemistry and biology needs to be rethought? It doesn’t have all the answers.”

    You can’t disagree with this though David, science will never have all the answers, it’s only a subset of the whole which does get bigger over time, but there’s always something else to investigate. I agree it does do a good job though with technology but not with people who are not machines unfortunately for scientists.

    And YOU can’t deal with homeopathy because you feel ‘constrained by the laws of chemistry and physics’. I don’t.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 24 December 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  27. Gimpy: I don’t have an ethical problem with prescribing homeopathy despite lack of scientific proof because the flawed Lancet report is not conclusive. I’m waiting for science to catch up, as it did with Aspirin eventually.

    Here’s a thought for Christmas: the common cold can be good for you: the theory is that it is an opportunity for the body to release toxins as a cold is often observed after treatment before significant improvement in symptoms. I would however treat a cold acutely if it was prolonged, and constitutionally if it was a frequent occurence.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 24 December 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  28. Gimpy: excellent book list at hmc21.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 25 December 2007 @ 6:38 pm

  29. homeopathy4health, your display the weaknesses of most homeopaths in your arguing. You cannot accept the possibility that homeopathy does not work. You make the assumption that homeopathy does work therefore the laws of chemistry and physics are wrong, negative evidence is flawed and that science will come round to your point of view. What you have is faith, faith that you are right, absolutely right, and there is no other possibility than that you are right. If you don’t mind me saying so, scary. What if criminal trials were conducted to the same standard. Evidence would not be important, only the opinion of a judge. Imagine if all the evidence suggested that you were not guilty of a crime but the judge decided you looked guilty, so guilty you were. Imagine if all decisions in society were decided purely by the prejudices and whims of the decision makers, certain in their beliefs? Scary.
    Oh and as regards the common cold, could you tell me what the toxins are, where they are released from, and why you this is good? Could you also explain why a virus would be drawn to those who have just had homeopathic treatment? Surely this could be dangerous?

    Comment by gimpy — 26 December 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  30. Gimpy: health is not about arguing.

    I accept the possibility that my prescriptions may not work but I am convinced by real world evidence that the principle of homeopathy – administering a dose of something which causes symptoms similar to your symptoms and your counter-reaction to that – does work. It’s homeostasis, your body tries always to maintain a balance, it’s not hard.

    Science will come round eventually.

    Anecodotal evidence is acceptable in courts of law. I don’t get your drift about judges etc you are scaremongering.

    Decisions in health are definitely decided on the prejudices and whims of decision makers i.e. sceptic scientists, pharma.

    I don’t accept the viral explanation of colds as the only cause, there has to be susceptibility first. Not everyone who is infected by a cold virus in an experiminent will develop cold symptoms. You might increase your susceptibility (i.e. lower your level of health) by being out in the cold wind or stressing yourself in some way and then develop a ‘cold’ to rebalance.

    It’s good to get rid of toxins don’t you think?

    Calm down! I note that sceptics suffer from strong fear motivations.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 27 December 2007 @ 11:54 pm

  31. Yes, of course I agree that science does not have all the answers. In particular there are huge areas of medicine where it is still possible to do very little.

    One reason for my saying that is that scientists do not feel free to substitute wishful thinking for evidence. Homeopaths, in contrast, seem to feel that if something is unknown they can just invent an answer out of thin air. This seems to me to show breathtaking arrogance. Fortunately most people are too sensible to believe that the less you take the bigger the effect, and that is why homeopathy has lost. Sorry, but the age of magic is over.

    And by the way, you still haven’t told us what all these “toxins” are.

    Comment by David Colquhoun — 28 December 2007 @ 6:14 am

  32. But homeopathy4health, what if there were other explanations for the perceived effect of homeopathy, what if these other explanations did not require the laws of the universe to be rewritten? This is what I, and others, would argue, that homeopathy can be explained by one or any of the following, placebo effect, cognitive biases or fraud. Why should it be science that comes round to your beliefs, why can’t your beliefs fit the science?

    Anecdotal evidence, widely recognised as being inferior to scientific evidence, is permissible in a court of law but that evidence will come under intense scrutiny and it will be ignored as evidence if it cannot be corroborated or substantiated. There has to be evidence consistent with the anecdotal evidence and the anecdotal evidence must be consistent with the known facts. My point is that if you accept all forms of evidence as being equal then you inevitably base conclusions on prejudice and opinion rather than facts. Homeopathy is not consistent with the known facts so anecdotes supporting its efficacy are doubtful in the extreme.

    As for the cold, I’ll repeat my questions, what are the toxins, where do they come from and why is their release a good thing? I want factual answers backed up by evidence. Oh and don’t you think that the susceptibility to colds by cold or stressed individuals might be better explained by a depressed immune system allowing rapid proliferation of a virus rather than the body ‘rebalancing’? After all there is thousands of pieces of evidence supporting the former and nothing supporting the latter.

    You are playing at healthcare. You don’t understand physics, chemistry, biology, physiology or medicine. You use words you do not understand and cannot define. And you wonder why scientists and health care professionals get annoyed at homeopaths?

    Comment by gimpy — 28 December 2007 @ 9:34 am

  33. David: there are indeed huge areas of medical science where nothing can be done. Some of the fortunate then come to homeopathy: ‘tried everything else try homeopathy’ TEETH.

    All I am saying is that I and many others have noticed an effect. We don’t have the science to explain the effect, the effect still exists. It’s a bit like the ancients observing a rainbow but not knowing how to explain it. When was it explained btw?

    Gimpy:
    I’m not sure that all the laws of the universe would have to be rewritten, you’re still scaremongering.

    I knew you would both take the bait of the ‘toxins’! I do feel that science gets so lost in the details that it loses sight of the whole – can’t see the wood for the trees?

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 29 December 2007 @ 7:37 pm

  34. homeopath4health, how am I scaremongering? Why can’t homeopathy be wholly explained by placebo effect, cognitive biases or fraud?

    OK we’ve taken your bait about toxins. Explain the joke.

    Comment by gimpy — 29 December 2007 @ 7:50 pm

  35. So, these toxins, what are they, where do they come from, how does a cold get rid of them?

    Comment by gimpy — 2 January 2008 @ 9:52 am

  36. *Taps screen*
    Hello?

    Comment by gimpy — 3 January 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  37. This blog is not a free homepath-interrogation service.

    This post is now closed. Any further comments will be deleted.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 3 January 2008 @ 6:44 pm

  38. Is homeopathy scientific? To know more check out this blog and the links it contains: http://homeopathicure.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/save-homeopathy-in-the-uk/

    Comment by Dr. Vijay Vaishnav — 1 January 2010 @ 4:51 am

  39. ‘A document entitled “Homoeopathic Services” which was distributed to Directors of Commissioning earlier this year has caused some confusion because it carried the NHS logo. We would like to clarify that this document was not issued with the knowledge or approval of the Department of Health and that the use of the National Health Service logo was inappropriate in this instance.

    The document does not represent any central policy on the commissioning of homoeopathy and PCTs continue to be responsible for making the decisions on what services or treatments to commission to meet their community’s health needs.’

    http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Bulletins/theweek/DH_079859

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 26 August 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  40. Text of Baum letter on SAS site:

    http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/pdf/Baum%20letter.pdf

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 26 August 2010 @ 5:36 pm


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