Tag Archives: Placebo

1023 what on earth was that about?

1023 came and went on a cold Saturday morning at the end of January. Skeptics, denialists and their friends and siblings turned out to take part in a ‘mass overdose’ of homeopathic medicines.

It was a publicity stunt that only served yet again to show how ill-informed this group is about homeopathy, and how it works.  (Yes it works no matter how many bloggers are out there denying it.)

The videos posted online showed small groups around the country doing their ‘bit for science’.  Some were self-consciously earnest, some pathetic, and still others plain embarrassing.  As a mancunian myself I found the effort by the Manchester Skeptics in the Pub particularly cringe making.

But the bigger issue raised is – where do these people get their information?  Who up the chain of command feeds them their lines: “When they make a remedy they dilute it and dilute it until there is nothing left except water and then they put a drop of water on each sugar pill and that’s the remedy”.

What?????  Call yourselves scientists?  Never mind the fundamental confusion about the dilution issue – just think of the manufacturing nightmare of putting a drop of water on each sugar pill –not to mention that sugar dissolves in water….

But they wore the T-Shirts, helped bolster Boot’s sales by buying their medicine of choice.  Continue reading

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Redefining the Quack

When I was sick as a child in working class industrial Manchester, I would be taken to see The Quack, aka the family GP.  He was a stern man but kind, and always looked for the simple solution before reaching for his prescription pad.  He was a dying breed back then and such a doctor nowadays is, sadly, a rare and precious thing.

Having heard my parents use the term all my life, it came with some irony that all these years later I find myself described as a Quack and it’s meant to be an insult.   I’ve been called a wide range of other descriptives as well of course, from a number of less imaginative four letter words, all the way to the whimsical “woo artist”.
The only emotion any of these words elicit in me is one of sadness. If we look to the homeopathic material medica, all the characters are in there. If only they had some good constitutional treatment they would open their minds and debate rather than debunk. Discuss rather than go for the jugular. Exchange ideas rather than employ character assassination. Continue reading

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Homeopathy = Placebo? Politics, politics, politics

Brits are very, very fearful of ridicule – most humans are, but the Brits are especially sensitive to it. For a Brit it ranks right up there at the top of things to avoid at all cost, and much of the population runs its life accordingly. And so we see everyone taking sides and hedging their bets on this issue. Homeopaths are by and large, thank goodness for humanity, immune to it. 200 years of swimming against the tide of closed minds has toughened them up.

The placebo effect is a hot topic in science.  Right now it allows a paternalistic Dr Goldacre to pronounce homeopaths well meaning but delusional – which is somehow nicer than homeopaths deliberately peddling sugar pills and ripping off the public.  It’s the hour long consultation with a caring attentive homeopath that’s responsible for the good effect – the people who see homeopaths are not really ill, and would have got better anyway.  Either way, the result is the same – however nicely it’s couched, it’s a misrepresentation of homeopathy.

The thing is, Dr G may be able to wax lyrical about the placebo effect – which given the cultural power vested in a man, (and occasionally) a woman, in a white coat with a stethoscope hanging round their neck, should be much more powerful in conventional medicine – but at the end of the day it’s all a distraction.

A typical Q and A session about homeopathy = the placebo effect goes something like this: Continue reading

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Evidence Check – honourable members do the honourable thing

I’ve read many more of the submissions now (see previous post) and here’s the thing….

The Neutrals identify the need for more research – the YESes welcome more research.

The NOs state that more research is a waste of time and money because “homeopathy doesn’t work” Q.E.D.

I’m reminded of a quote by Einstein: “Concepts, which have proved useful for ordering things, easily assume so great an authority over us, that we forget their terrestrial origin and accept them as unalterable facts. They then become labeled as ‘conceptual necessities,’ etc. The road of scientific progress is frequently blocked for long periods by such errors.”   That block in the road is where we are right now.

We should be very grateful that researchers in history didn’t give up when their important advances in science were met with derision and ridicule and worse.  Continue reading

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Evidence check – Well done you homeopaths!

Let’s hope the Science and Technology Committee read the written submissions sent in for the Evidence Check on Homeopathy.  I am busy ploughing through them and interesting reading they make.

Is homeopathy effective?  Does the Evidence support that?

Score: YES – 28            NO – 11            Neutral – 7

To be fair, 3 of the YES group are satisfied patients making a plea for keeping homeopathy within the NHS, and – as we are reminded daily by the NOs – anecdotal evidence, however much there is, whether new born babies, herds of cattle, comatose patients or people with intractable conditions not helped by 30 years of conventional medicine (no placebo effect there then)  – does not count.

The remaining 25 in the YES group are well constructed, many of them one might say are academic, papers, fully referenced and carefully laying out the reasons for their conclusions. Continue reading

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Evidence Check on Homeopathy – hey media hang on a minute!

DESPITE THE FACT THAT THE EVIDENCE CHECK IS NOT FINISHED, NOR THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORT WRITTEN predictably the media is all over the oral submissions – having waited hungrily for the sound bites and gobbled them up, they’re now spitting them out all over the place…

Boots is on the carpet for selling medicines they ‘don’t believe work’ – pulling that carpet from under their retail sales, by informing the public that Boots is selling them nothing but ‘sugar pills’ at 5 quid a bottle.

So I have a question myself:  WHY, Mr. Bennett? Continue reading

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Evidence Check on Homeopathy. Can it get any better?

I had a dream not so long ago….and so did they…..

Once upon a time there was a group of materialists who worked hard day and night to bring their myopic vision of life, the universe and everything to the rest of humanity.  Especially the UK.  Many meetings in pubs, and conversions of journalists and politicians and young scientists and bloggers took place, and gradually they gained confidence and power and influence.  One summer’s night they sat around feeling particularly smug, wondering about their next maneuver. Continue reading

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