NZ Press Council finds against statement saying "Homeopathic remedies have failed every randomised, evidence-based scientific study seeking to verify their claims of healing powers"

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96 Responses to “NZ Press Council finds against statement saying "Homeopathic remedies have failed every randomised, evidence-based scientific study seeking to verify their claims of healing powers"”

  1. Hegelian says:

    As much as I am against homeopathy and other non-scientific non-science, the statement “Homeopathic remedies have failed every randomised, evidence-based scientific study seeking to verify their claims of healing powers” is not true. The larger the study, the better the quality the lower the effect of homeopathy. That is, the success is bias and random noise, but that doesn’t make every study that has had positive results non-evidence based.

    If you do enough studies and declare that statistical significance will be based on a 95% probability that the results would not occur by random chance then at least 5% of studies can be false. And that doesn’t account for all the different kinds of bias, including publication bias because journals like to report positive studies, not negative ones.

    So, sounds to me like North and South made overboard, imprecise claims. What remains, though, is that the largest and best studies show that homeopathy is a placebo.

    • Alex3917 says:

      “The larger the study, the better the quality the lower the effect of homeopathy.”

      For what it’s worth, the exact same thing is true for allopathic medicine. 

      • Hegelian says:

        Your non-scientific credentials and bias are showing by your use of the pejorative “allopathy” created hundreds of years ago by homeopathy inventor Samuel Hahnemann.

        Homeopathy is a form of sympathetic magic, where a substance that supposedly causes a certain kind of symptom in a healthy person, such as nausea, is used to treat the disease. This is called the Law of Similars. It must be true. It’s a law!

        So, based on the Law of Similars if you feel like throwing up, then you need to take Syrup of Ipecac!

        After a while Hahnemann realized that wasn’t quite the thing. So he invented The Law of Infinitesimals, where the more dilute the substance the more powerful effect. If you dilute until none of the original substance is left it becomes magically powerful–literally magically, because actual science says substances become less powerful the more diluted they are.

        This sums it up nicely:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U

        When regular medicine is proven not to work we move on to something different. When homeopathy is proven not to work Homeopaths do the exact same thing.

        • Robert says:

          When regular medicine is proven not to work we move on to something different. When homeopathy is proven not to work Homeopaths do the exact same thing.

          No, they don’t. They dilute it again.

          • Petzl says:

            Well, of course.

            That’s how you increase its potency.

          • Nancy says:

            There are Research Models such as Basophil Degranulation Model (Biological Model for high dilution research) and Quantum Macro Entanglement Model which explains the fundamental working of homeopathy. These models explains how high dilutions in homeopathy can influence the biochemical pathways in human body. The only thing you need to be open minded to see those studies. 
            Ref: http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/research-models-in-homeopathy/

          • Halloween_Jack says:

            “Quantum Macro Entanglement Model”? Somebody just copied that out of Mass Effect.

          • Hegelian says:

             Uh, no. Basophil activation is about allergic reactions to actual, detectable quantities of substances. 

            And Quantum Entanglement? Please. Woo meisters just love to invoke the quantum physics to justify woo that has no factual support. Quantum ergo everything woo. Sorry, wrong. 

            You have it backwards Nancy. Before you explain an effect first you have to prove an effect in the first place, and the science, the *sound* science is that Homeopathy is a placebo.

        • robotmonkeys says:

          “Anyone want to take homeopathic medicine/pure water for that swollen appendix? :p”

          Is it holy water? If it’s holy water, then that’s totally legit.

        • Woody Smith says:

          Rat own! In the words of Tim Minchin, “Alternative medicine is medicine that has either not been proved to work, or has been proved not to work. Do you know what they call alternative medicine that has been proved to work? Medicine.”

        • billstewart says:

          First of all, not all homeopathic medicines are diluted to non-existence; some of them, usually pills rather than liquids, still contain active ingredients (using the term “active” loosely.)  And homeopaths don’t always deal with treatments that don’t work by attacking science; they’ve had 200 years of badly run trial and error experimentation, and sometimes they keep trying new things rather than using the old ones. 

          Since homeopathy didn’t adopt the germ theory of disease, you can’t trust it for actually curing diseases, but if it all you’re trying to do is reduce symptoms, for instance with headaches or allergies, then even placebos are fine if they work for you, and if you remember the older generation of antihistamines like Benadryl, the ones that worked had really annoying side effects.

          You mentioned ipecac; there’s a homeopathic flu treatment called “Alpha CF” that does contain some of it.  It’s not enough to make you vomit, but it’s enough that your stomach tells you that it’s there in non-zero quantities.   Until scientific medicine came up with Tamiflu, there were vaccines, but if you actually caught the flu anyway they didn’t have a way to fight the virus, just to manage symptoms with aspirin or chicken soup or whatever.  I’ve found that Alpha CF fairly consistently reduced my flu symptoms from “horrible” to “bad but tolerable”, which is a big win.  I still get the vaccine every year, because “not sick” is a lot better than “sick but treating symptoms.”

          • Hegelian says:

            “First of all, not all homeopathic medicines are diluted to
            non-existence; some of them, usually pills rather than liquids, still contain active ingredients (using the term “active” loosely.) “

            True enough, though those aren’t properly homeopathic and are merely examples that the hands off approach to regulation of homeopathic drugs as benign is a dangerous practice, as we saw with “homeopathic” intranasal zinc remedies for colds. There is nothing homeopathic about the “slightly diluted zinc acetate (2X = 1/100 dilution) and zinc gluconate (1X = 1/10 dilution)” (Wikipedia) and the high concentrations led to numerous reports to the FDA of people loosing their sense of smell. And finally, finally a withdraw of the product.

            Rather than having to prove themselves safe, homeopathic drugs are, for no good reason, presumed safe and the FDA practically has to have an epidemic on hand to do anything.

            I’ve found that Alpha CF fairly consistently reduced my flu symptoms
            from “horrible” to “bad but tolerable”, which is a big win.

            Or so you think. A sample size of n=1and a small perceived change in subjective symptoms is a recipe for confirmation bias.

            Since is the tool that separates what is true from what seems to be true. You don’t know if Alpha CF did anything or not, if it is a placebo or not. Only a proper double blind, randomized clinical trial can tell us that.

            Humans are subject to known cognitive biases. If you want to avoid them you have to trust science, and large clinical trials, more than your own flawed sense of intuition.

          • TheOven says:

             “You don’t know if Alpha CF did anything or not, if it is a placebo or
            not. Only a proper double blind, randomized clinical trial can tell us
            that.

            Humans are subject to known cognitive biases. If you want to avoid
            them you have to trust science, and large clinical trials, more than
            your own flawed sense of intuition.”

            So, if I’m suffering from horrible flu symptoms and am tempted to try something that might just make them bad but tolerable, your advice is to wait for a double blind study because if it only works for me, it’s probably just my woo?

            I’m no fan of the homeopathy but I’m even less of a fan of shutting ones mind to possibilities.

          • C W says:

            “First of all, not all homeopathic medicines are diluted to non-existence; some of them, usually pills rather than liquids, still contain active ingredients”

            You’re confusing “holistic” for “homeopathic”.

          • hari prasad says:

             most of the homeopathic medicine is available in the form of capsules and all

          • Humbabella says:

            My father advocates eating some raw garlic if you have a sore throat.  The mother of a friend once told me to put eucalyptus oil in water, boil it and breath in the steam to help with a cough.

            These are folk medicine, but they are not homeopathy.  Homeopathy doesn’t get to just claim all the actual trial-and-error wisdom-of-crowds that people have been doing since the dawn of time to figure out cures for ills.

            If people are using folk medicine that they find effective and they call it homeopathy, I don’t see any reason for the rest of us to be upset.  But homeopathy is a wide open field where people can easily profit off the misery of others by selling them snake oil.  Imagine big pharma in a completely unregulated market.  Without intervention, that’s what homeopathy will become.

          • TheOven says:

            ” …then even placebos are fine if they work for you…”

            Hard to argue with that.

        • alan borky says:

          “When regular medicine is proven not to work we move on to something different.”

          Oh really?

          I happen to’ve studied under a number of industrial pharmacists/chemists and they tell a different story.

          Try researching the TRUE history of Thalidomide all the renames and retrials it’s undergone as well as all the new conditions and diseases it’s been promoted it as a cure for including aids.

          Then look up leaches and worms and bloodletting and find out how use of them is being revived and how those who originally got them dismissed as unscientific did so to remove the competition for their own particular set of quackeries.

          • Hegelian says:

            Oh really?

            I happen to’ve studied under a number of industrial pharmacists/chemists and they tell a different story.

            Try researching the TRUE history of Thalidomide all the renames and retrials it’s undergone as well as all the new conditions and diseases it’s been promoted it as a cure for including aids.

            The true story of Thalidomide is that we don’t use in in pregnant women anymore because it causes birth defects.

            Meanwhile, when homeopathy is proven not to work homeopaths continue to use homeopathy exactly the same way they always have.

            QED.

            Then look up leaches and worms and bloodletting and find out how use of them is being revived and how those who originally got them dismissed as unscientific did so to remove the competition for their own particular set of quackeries.

            Uh, no. Leaches and blood letting were a form of pre-scientific nonsense used to adjust the balance the four humors;  black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood, the imbalance of which caused all disease. This nonsense can still be found in Naturopathic textbooks, taught along side, wait for it, homeopathy.

            http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/naturopathy-embraces-the-four-humors/

            Modern usage of leaches to drain blood build up after reattachment surgery is wholly un-related to the nonsense of Humorism

          • TheOven says:

            Not entirely unrelated is it? Perhaps the understanding behind the treatment has changed but leeches is leeches.

          • Hegelian says:

             

            “Not entirely unrelated is it? Perhaps the understanding behind the treatment has changed but leeches is leeches.”

            Yes, “entirely”, strictly speaking, is overbroad. They both have leeches and blood in common. Other than that they are entirely different. Just because two people use the same tool doesn’t make what they do with it related.

        • TheOven says:

           I do wish people would stop explaining Homeopathy and how it “works” as a way to disprove it.

          We get it. We know. If one is still not convinced, explaining it again isn’t going to change anybody’s mind one way or the other.

          • Hegelian says:

             

            I do wish people would stop explaining Homeopathy and how it “works” as a way to disprove it.

            Not so. I number of people I know thought homeopathy was herbalism. When told of how Like cures like means taking Syrup of Ipecac for nausea and that when that didn’t work the inventor added it is diluting it to nothingness the changed their minds.

            Most people don’t know what homeopathy is. The bottles look like medicine, have fancy Latin names in the ingredients and obscure dilution notations that fail to mention that zero molecules of “active” ingredient are present (when that is the case). Educating people about what homeopathy is works, just not with true believers.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        You were able to parse that sentence?

      • Marja Erwin says:

        Almost every medical tradition in the entire world embraces allopathy, and the use of small-to-moderate doses of ingredients which counter the symptoms, over the use of nonexistant doses of ingredients which would worsen the symptoms. This just might be because allopathy works and homeopathy doesn’t.

        Herbal medicine? allopathic in most traditions.

        Humoral medicine? purely allopathic.

        Methodist medicine? purely allopathic.

        Modern scientific medicine? allopathic alongside the germ theory.

        • kjh says:

           “Almost every medical tradition in the entire world embraces allopathy” 

          It’s generalisations like that that caused the newspaper to lose.  You’ve missed a lot of medical traditions.

          • Guy Chapman says:

            Indeed, especially since it could be claimed that chiropractic is a “medical tradition” despite the rather strong evidence to the contrary.

        • billstewart says:

          Allergy shots?  A lot more like homeopathy than like allopathy.
          Vaccination?  Also a lot more like homeopathy than like allopathy, except that we kept doing Actual Science to understand the immune system, but you’ll notice that with live-virus vaccines, you use really small doses because larger doses will give you the disease while small ones give your immune system practice fighting off a small dose that it can overcome.  AFAICT, homeopathy seems to have been an attempt to explain and generalize vaccination back before science had the tools to do that.
          Barber-surgeons?  “Hey, your leg/arm/ugly growth is really messed up, and I’ve got sharp knives, let’s cut it off!”  Not homeopathic at all :-)

          Methodist medicine? Don’t know what you mean; I grew up Methodist, and the closest to medicine was “we use grape juice instead of wine because alcohol causes drunkenness, which is bad.”  Yes, they run hospitals, originally as charity as well as caring for their own people, but lots of groups did that before the government and capitalism took over medicine.
          Christian Science?  Not allopathic at all :-)  (And any amount of actual Christianity in Christian Science is also homeopathically diluted.)

          Osteopathy?  Unlike the homeopaths, they also started with bogus quack theories, but around 1900 they junked them and replaced them with modern scientific medicine, plus they do extra specialization in bone and joint problems.  So yeah, allopaths and some massage.

          • cjporkchop says:

             “Allergy shots?  A lot more like homeopathy than like allopathy.
            Vaccination? 
            Also a lot more like homeopathy than like allopathy”

            Allergy shots and vaccinations are ‘teaching’ our immune systems to how to handle actual allergens or diseases through exposure to those same things in small and/or weakened or dead doses.

            With homeopathy, our immune systems are not ‘learning’ how to fight off the flu by being exposed to magic water’s memory of a molecule of goose liver.

          • C W says:

            “Allergy shots?  A lot more like homeopathy than like allopathy.

            Vaccination?  Also a lot more like homeopathy than like allopathy”Sounds like you don’t understand the definition of either word.

      • “For what it’s worth, the exact same thing is true for allopathic medicine.”

        You know what they call alternative medicine that works? “Medicine.”

      • Nancy says:

        Lancet
        Are clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? (1997)
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589
        74 out of 89 RCT (1966-1995) showed homeopathy statistically significantly superior (2.45 times more effective and positive at 95% confidence interval) to placebo, 26 out of 89 studies were of high quality for which odds ratio reduces to 1.66, still significant.

    • shutz says:

       “The larger the study, the better the quality the lower the effect of homeopathy.”

      So what you’re saying, essentially, is that the larger your sample is, the more diluted the positive results become.  So, according to homeopathic logic (which is almost as big an oxymoron as, say religious logic) there should be more trials, with a larger sampling of people.  They’re going to keep doing that until they get the one positive result they need.

      • ldobe says:

        Careful, that single positive result hiding in the sea of negatives might be so potent it could invalidate all of science. (According to homeopathic logic)

        • Hegelian says:

           No, no. The complete lack of large and rigorous positive studies is actually an **ultra-dilution** of positive studies just like the most powerful homeopathic remedies have zero molecules of the “substance” in them. Clearly meta-study with zero active ingredient of large and rigorous positive studies, is the most powerful proof possible that homeopathy is true… :-o

    • Stephen Rice says:

      Also, the studies that actually sought to show it worked often do so. That’s why you shouldn’t prejudge the outcome of your study.

    • alan borky says:

       If you take the placebo effect into account especially now it seems to’ve quite astonishingly risen from 33% to 50% plus then if you’re honest you’re forced to wonder just how much we’re told about REAL medicine really IS science especially when it add in the revelation the testers of these products keep tossing aside their failed programs and only submit the programs which appear successful.

      Then there’s the nocebo results to factor  in where due to mistaken identity people who’re told they have cancer go on contract it and now we have the placebo tests where people’re actually told they’re only receiving an inert substance which should have no effect whatsoever but their conditions respond anyway.

      The laugh of it is people who’re hostile to things like homeopathy attack the explanations while ignoring the actual effects much like the 19th Century surgeons who while killing their patients through an unwillingness to wash their hands between operations spluttered “What is this the Dark Ages when people believed tiny little gremlins could be breathed in or absorbed through the bodily fluids to do perform their devilish little deeds of destructiveness?”

      I’m all for rousting quacks though if that also includes the criminal pharmas who deliberately mislead or downright lie in the full knowledge they’re causing deaths or iatrogenic diseases and develop treatments rather than cures because cures aren’t profitable in between of course bankrolling organisations that go after the likes of homeopaths to direct the heat away from them.

      • Hegelian says:

        “The laugh of it is people who’re hostile to things like homeopathy
        attack the explanations while ignoring the actual effects much like the
        19th Century surgeons who while killing their patients through an
        unwillingness to wash their hands between “

        Ahem. Thanks to scientific **evidence**, surgeons now use scrupulous sterilization techniques. Antisepsis is one of the greatest scientific medical discoveries.

        Science learns from the evidence and changes. Homeopathy ignores evidence and stays the same.

        I love how you keep bringing up things western medicine did wrong as if A) it proved homeopathy true (it doesn’t) or B) they haven’t changed (they have).

        These are classic crank tatics. Your stuff doesn’t work so “Look! Over there, something shiny!!!!”

    • Nancy says:

      Homeopathy is evidence of experience, gathered from a real-world observation in a real-world setting (not in an ideal artificial laboratory test conditions) giving real-world solutions. Ref: http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/research-database-in-homeopathy-2/

      • Hegelian says:

        “Homeopathy is evidence of experience, gathered from a real-world
        observation in a real-world setting (not in an ideal artificial
        laboratory test conditions)”

        Do you not get what bias is? And why it is bad?

        ” [E]vidence of experience, gathered from a real-world
        observation in a real-world setting” is how we get all nonsense, like Humorism, Iridology, Homeopathy, Reki and dowsing for auras. Lots of things seem true thanks to human bias. We are pattern seeking machines with a tendency to over match.

        Scientific placebo controlled randomized clinical trials are how we separate what seems to be true from what is true. Homeopathy can **seem** true, but when put to proper tests we find that it isn’t.

  2. Patrick Boehner says:

    The joys of winning? by technicality. Though the counsels conclusions and the Dr. review do not greatly change the conclusion of the article. Sorry snake oil pedalers. 

    • heng says:

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hou0lU8WMgo

    • billstewart says:

      Peddlers.  Not pedalers.  Snake oil pedalers are people who think that rendered reptile fat makes their bicycle gears turn better than petroleum-based lubricants or silicones. 

      And most of the traditional medicine-show remedies weren’t actually made of dead snakes, they were alcohol extracts of various opiates or sometimes Indian hemp.  Might not be good for everything what ails you, but you won’t really care.

  3. schmaltastic says:

    The peer review process, especially when applied to clinical studies, is hopelessly broken:http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124
    This paper shows that given a handful of conservative statistical assumptions (too conservative, some would say), the bulk of published, peer reviewed, scientific studies are just plain wrong.  The evidence that this is not just a theory is that most peer reviewed, scientific studies are later shown to be absolutely wrong by subsequent peer reviewed scientific studies.  The set of all studies in other words, largely consists of mutually exclusive findings. In other, other words, when you hear “scientific peer reviewed study shows X”, you are much better off thinking “X is wrong” than otherwise.  That’s just a fact of life.

    But: Medicine is not science.  If Placebo, infinite dilution of compounds, or waving dead chickens has a better outcome on patients than doing nothing, or the recommendations of mostly-wrong studies, then by god, bring on the chickens.  To do otherwise (because, “science!”) is medical malpractice.

    I know for sure, that if my doctor/shaman told me to sit in a circle with my tribesmen/neighbors/fellow inmates, chanting around a campfire with a cauldron of simmering willow bark, then, at the climax of the chanting drink the potion while performing the prescribed dances, I would feel a hell of a lot better in the morning (I just know it!) than if I took a couple aspirin, even though pharmacologically, the two would be equivalent.

    Science is very very far from providing a rational treatment strategy or even a decent explanation for most of what ails us, and yet medicine can’t afford to wait while science laboriously puts all its ducks in a row.  And why should it?
     

    • Hegelian says:

      So, if you were dying of an infected appendix you’d refuse surgery and anti-biotics? The scientific process isn’t perfect, but it is the best method we have for separating what is true from what merely appears to be true.

      Medicine “can’t afford to wait”? Heck, why look left and right before running across the street if you are in a hurry? Just run blindly and hope for the best. And if you make it, you’ll attribute your success to your lucky magic socks rather than random chance, and you’ll sell similar socks to other people and tell them they make it safe to run acrross busy streets. Anyone who dies, well they didn’t believe enough, didn’t have a positive attitude, weren’t wearing them right, were too near a Skeptic Field, etc. (Or you’d claim that “Complementary and Alternative Pedestrian Crossing” deaths are not subject to reductionist mortality statistics and their paradigm can’t be reliably tested by science…) That is what you propose for medicine.

      Alternative medicine isn’t medicine, it is a hodge podge of unproven and disprove modalities, which practitioners never abandon no matter what the evidence is against them. You act as if alternative medicine can’t have side effects or kill people. It can and does. Not sure why you are in such a hurry for people to die.

      If you want **effective** medicine then you do have to wait. Medicine can only advance through science, not through blind assertion.

    • TheOven says:

       But who has the time – or the cauldron?

      Aspirin’s a real time-saver but I miss the camaraderie.

  4. nachoproblem says:

    I am totally confused as to (and probably too drunk to understand) what this verdict is, but I will offer the following statement:

    Having never used any homeopathic remedies at all, I have been exposed to the highest possible dose of every homeopathic remedy there can be. And I have never been able to determine any effects whatsoever.

    • Hegelian says:

       So true. If more diluted is stronger, then pure water is already the ultimate homeopathic remedy for all ailments. No need for a homeopahtic doctor to muck things up :-) Adding stuff to water just reduces the dilution!!!

    • heng says:

      On the contrary; the fact you are not dead is a testament to its efficacy.

      • nachoproblem says:

        False. That will be a complete failure within 40 years, at most.

      • billstewart says:

        Nonsense – the oceans have lots of rotting dead bodies in them, and ocean water evaporates, becomes rain, and passes through rivers and springs into our water supplies, filling them with DISTILLED DILUTED DEATH!  It’s only the mystical energies you’re getting from the food you eat that prevent all that water from killing you! 

        And this can be proven scientifically – dilute all the water you drink 99% with other non-water-based liquids, and you’ll be dead in days!

  5. kjh says:

    Surgery has not passed randomised double blind trials.  There have been many surgical procedures that we now look back on and say “that was rubbish”. 

    When you look at some of the so-called “scientific” testing of modern medicines, the funding and the pressure and lobbying from large companies to get results much of it doesn’t look that good. (Bad Pharma)

    Much criticism of homeopathy is the pot calling the kettle black.  At least get it right.

  6. Boundegar says:

    In randomized, double-blind trials, prayer was found to have real medical effects beyond placebo – even when the patients had no idea they were being prayed for. This makes no sense of course, but it has been reproduced in independent studies. And prayer is even less “scientific” than homeopathy.

    If the data contradict current theory, some scientists will consider revising the theory. Others will simply throw out the data.

    • Hanglyman says:

       [citation needed]

    • Paul Renault says:

      See here:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer#Literature_reviews

      “In all three [studies which had sufficient rigour for review], “the strongest findings were for the variables that were evaluated most subjectively. This raises concerns about the possible inadvertent unmasking of the outcomes assessors.”
      ….
      “The review noted that the most methodologically rigorous studies failed to produce significant findings.”

      Is there a “no” missing from the phrase “prayer was found to have real medical effects”?

      • Boundegar says:

        Nope.  But I hadn’t heard the critique of the methodology. Perhaps those data should be thrown out.

        • Humbabella says:

          Prayer for yourself is effective.  Other people praying for you when you are unaware is not.  Prayer is somewhere between a placebo and meditation.

          • Hegelian says:

             Citation needed.

            If prayer for yourself was effective people who believed in praying would have better health outcomes, **much** better than people who don’t, say, atheists, deists and people who have religions that don’t use prayer. Got sound data?

          • Humbabella says:

            Citation needed.

            Alternatively you could say, “I don’t believe that,” or “I’ve never seen any evidence of that,” or “I think that studies showing that were refuted.”  I don’t sit around with a stack of medical journals, but nor do I refrain from saying something unless I can provide p=0.05 proof of it.  I’ve never seen one study that says that eating a dozen donuts a day will make me fat but I’m pretty sure it would.

            So I’ll instead explain to you why I believe that prayer can have positive outcomes and the mechanism I think that works through.  Stress has an negative impact on how our bodies cope with illness (source: a friend of mine who did studies on rats for a living told me about how they have to handle and inject the rats in the control group to make sure they are just as stressed as the other rats, otherwise the data aren’t worthwhile – I think people are like rats); for many people who do believe in God, prayer reduces stress (source: anecdotes, some books I read sometime).

            That’s it, and I don’t think it’s terribly unbelievable but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was false.  As for your claim that if prayer improved health effects then praying people would have *much* better health outcomes than non-praying people, that is nonsense.  First of all, you inserted (and even emphasized) the word “much” when it might instead by “very slightly.”  More importantly, you forgot “other things being equal,” at the end of your statement.  Clearly other things are not equal.  Atheists are, on average, more educated, richer, less likely to be in prison, and in many other ways better off than religious people.  All of those things affect your health too.  Plus atheists my have equally effective or even more effective ways of reducing stress in their lives, or may just have less stress in their lives to begin with – maybe having a religion stresses people out and praying just mitigates that a bit.

          • Hegelian says:

             

            “Alternatively you could say, “I don’t believe that,” or “I’ve never seen
            any evidence of that,” or “I think that studies showing that were
            refuted.”  I don’t sit around with a stack of medical journals, but nor
            do I refrain from saying something unless I can provide p=0.05 proof of
            it.

            Or you could have not stated a claim you have no proof of as fact.

            You don’t know if prayer for yourself for health is effective or not.

            The short hand for “I believe prayer is effective” isn’t “prayer is effective.” They are two different things. One is opinion clearly stated, the other is a false claim of fact.

          • Humbabella says:

            I understand you that you care about false claims about the efficacy of non-scientific medicine, and I think for good reason.  As you note elsewhere on this page, false medical claims have almost surely lead to many ill health effects (although you left out the “almost surely” part and didn’t cite your source to show the causal relationship).

            That being said, I don’t know what point you are trying to make.  At first it seemed you wanted to dispute the idea that prayer has positive health effects – rightly so since my somewhat overstated claim really should be something like, “it is entirely believable that prayer has positive health effects for people who take comfort in it.”  But here, instead of trying to argue with my description of a reasonable mechanism through which prayer would benefit the health of people who honestly believe in it – instead of backing up your own assertion that such a claim would surely lead to easily observable results in the public – you decide to go after my phrasing.

            If there is genuine confusion that I believe that if you pray for yourself a magical god will intercede, then it’s probably a good thing you called me out for a correction (although the idea that I believe a magical god will intercede if you pray for yourself but not for others seems a somewhat uncharitable reading).  But I think it demeans the whole discussion to suggest that everyone should start every expression of an opinion with “my opinion is…”  No one does that, including you.  The only reason to argue about that is to pick a fight (or at least that’s my opinion, I don’t have a study). 

  7. oasisob1 says:

    You’re all discussing the wrong thing. The issue here is not whether or not homeopathy is effective.

    •  What parallel, more important issue is there than whether a Roman Catholic Hell for Homeopathic Advocates exists and whether it can be appeased by human sacrifice providers (Dear 03-3561367398413-MO; your sacrifice has been refused in part because of…)?

  8. Petzl says:

    What I like about homeopathy is its so evidently a placebo, you can use it as a litmus test when you meet people to quickly find out whether they’re rational or not.

    Also great when interviewing job applicants.

    • winkybb says:

      My wife has occassionally asked me what would have been a “deal breaker” back when we were dating. Support for homeopathy or an anti-vaccination stance would have had me heading for the door. 

      Yes, I agree with you that people’s views on this are informative with respect to their rationality.

    • Boundegar says:

      Does this imply that all those studies that find placebo can be effective are irrational?  Or is it only placebo plus woo that all rational people believe must be useless?

      • Hegelian says:

        Homeopaths claim homeopathy isn’t a placebo but a real and powerful modality that treats underlying disease rather than symptoms. The reality is that in larger, rigeourous studies it performs eactly the same as a placebo, because that is what it is.

        Placebo effect is a complicated issue because it isn’t just one thing. However, generally speaking, placebo effect only affects a certain portion of the population , and it only affects subjective measures not the organic progression of disease. That is, someone might think Sal Palmeto makes their prostate symptoms fell reduced but an actual measure of the size of the prostate will show no reduction. Thus, directly contrary to the false assertions of homeopaths, homeopathy does not treat underlying disease but rather, only symptoms, and only subjective ones, and only in certain people suseptible to them, and no more so than an “honest” placebo that isn’t full nof non-science.

        Just because a BS modality can exhibit a placebo effect isn’t a valid reason to pretend it is real medicine. Much of the placebo effect is from the consultation, the clinical environment and ritual, not the water “medicine”. If we mistakingly think the fake medicine is what works then people might try giving that to people instead of the warm and friendly consultation–a consultation that real doctors can do in conjunction with real medicine and get the benefit of both. Thus it is important to test what the actual mechanism is for any placebo effect since blind faith in alt medicine leads to misunderstandings that lead to ill health effects.

      • Humbabella says:

        I agree with Petzl and winkybb above, I would have to think twice about hiring or marrying someone who believed in homeopathy.  

        Now, if instead of “homeopathy works,” someone said “I’ve read studies that said that the placebo effect can happen even if you are aware it a placebo, and that placebos can be very effective against anxiety disorders so I decided to get find a basically inert homeopathic substance to take to treat my anxiety.  It makes me feel a lot better and helps me with acute anxiety attacks, even though I am almost certain it has no special properties that relate to those symptoms,” then I would think differently.

        Yes, the woo makes it worse.

        • TheOven says:

          Semantics.

          You have wooties.

          • Humbabella says:

            I really don’t understand how that is a question of semantics.

          • TheOven says:

            I think this is a semantics argument because: “homeopathy works,”

            Is the same as:

            “I’ve read studies that said that the placebo effect can happen even if you are aware it a placebo, and that placebos can be very effective against anxiety disorders so I decided to get find a basically inert homeopathic substance to take to treat my anxiety.  It makes me feel a lot better and helps me with acute anxiety attacks, even though I am almost certain it has no special properties that relate to those symptoms,”

            One is just a longer, more complicated route to the same conclusion: “X works for me and I don’t know why.”

            I used the word wooties to imply cooties, which, as we all know, exists (in a much more diluted, and thus powerful, form in boys). Perhaps this last bit was a misguided attempt to be funny… or something.

          • Humbabella says:

            Okay, I still think there is a big difference between “X works” and “X works for me but I don’t know why.”  More than semantics.

    • TheOven says:

       Job Applicants? in what way? (I mean, I assume you’re not interviewing surgeons.)

  9. Joe Maynard says:

    while homeopathy is obviously a crock of poo, I take exception to the “alternative medicine that has been proven to work is called medicine” quote that is always thrown around regarding things like this. Generally the most accepted/promoted remedy to any ailment in for-profit medical establishment will be the one that makes the most money using the least amount of payroll/time to diagnose. Lots of doctors will prescribe painkillers to treat a condition that could be permanently remedied by a change in diet, for example, because it is more profitable to diagnose someone quickly and sell them a quick fix than it is to take some time to find out the real problem. A lot of people consider chiropractors ‘alternative medicine’ and some are certainly quacks, but my wife went to one after six ‘traditional’ doctors tried to put her on oxycontin and recommended surgery for her back pain ($$$ from her insurance company), and one session with the chiro sorted out the misaligned tendon that was causing her nerve issue… 

    • Hegelian says:

      “Lots of doctors will prescribe painkillers to treat a condition that could be permanently remedied by a change in diet, for example,”

      Proper nutrition is part of scientific medicine. Science is how we know about proteins, carobohydrates, saturated fats and vitamins. Nutrition is not alternative medicine.

      Do some doctors try to give patients the easy answers they want rather than the hard things like proper diet and exercise? Sure, but nutrition and exercise are both part of scientific medicine.  And don’t think homeopaths with their magic water are doing anything less than giving people the easy answers they want.  Science hard? Real medicine hard to understand? No problem. Made up sympathetic magic like the Law of Similars is intutitively appealing, and easy to understand–and utterly and demonstrably false BS.

      “Lots of doctors will prescribe painkillers to treat a condition that could be permanently remedied by a change in diet, for example,”

      Chiropractic for certain kinds of back pain can work as well as PT. That isn’t real chiropractic. Real chiropractors believe in the vitalism “discovered” by the inventor of chiropractic ,Daniel Palmer. Palmer believe that impingement on the spine affected the flow of vital energy to the bodies organs. He claimed to have cured deafness by spinal manipulation, and that all disease is caused by impingement of the spine, in the form of “subluxations” which can’t be found on X-Rays. Chiropractic is a close relative of Chinese vitalism.

      Needless to say the vitalism and subluxations claimed by Palmer are un-detectable non-science. Yet even today chiropractors claim to cure organic disease by manipulating spines.

      Chiropractic is BS based on BS. Use at your own risk.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        That isn’t real chiropractic.

        You’re not a true Scotsman, are you?

        • Hegelian says:

          :-)

          Sometimes a “Scotsman” really isn’t a true “Scotsman”. Takes more than plaid to be a true Scotsman and it takes more than just cracking backs to be an authentic Chiropractor. Chiropractic is **founded** on the principle of vital forces and “adjusting” the subluxions that impinge them. Anything else is just a faint image of the real thing.

  10. Joe Maynard says:

    shorter version: assuming that acceptance by the medical establishment is the only indicator of the effectiveness of a method of treatment hinges on the assumption that the primary goal of the medical industry is to find the most efficient and effective ways of treating illness, which is sometimes the case but often not.

    • Hegelian says:

      Even shorter version: none of what you just wrote, true or not, has anything to do with whether homeopathy is non-scientific, magical thinking BS.

  11. pharmavixen says:

    The complainant might actually have a point because there are randomized controlled trials of homeopathy that find weakly positive results. Since homeopathy could only work if  the laws of physics were completely different – if water had memory and dilutions made substances stronger, for instance – the positive results found in some RCTs only show the weaknesses of RCTs rather than the effectiveness of homeopathy.

    It doesn’t matter how many RCTs of homeopathy are done – it can’t work because its basic premises violate the physical laws of the universe.So well-meaning journos who criticise alternative medicine need to have some scientific literacy or can end up shooting themselves in the foot.

    • Hegelian says:

       Yes, this is an example of why prior probability is important when examining certain kinds of studies. If you run enough RCTs on **anything** you’ll get positive results. Throw in file drawer effect and publication bias and you get an even higher, and misleading, percentage of positive studies.

      The fact that noise and bias can give misleading, positive results for absolute nonsense is why “evidence-based” isn’t enough, medicine has to be *scientifically* based, based on the preponderance of sound evidence, not merely on “evidence”.

    • Guy Chapman says:

      Yes, it has only failed *almost* every test.

      • Humbabella says:

        Unfortunately that’s not what the article said.  The complainant was using a sinister form of argument where you find one untrue sentence in the thing you want to argue against and argue against that, no matter how much it affects the overall argument.  It’s also the primary form of argument you find on online forums.  I think the only proper response is, “Oh, you’re right, now back to the point we were actually discussing.”

  12. Upto the end of year 2010, there have been 275 studies published in 108 medical journals including 11 meta-analysis, 8 systematic reviews including 1 cochrane review (out of approximately 20 systematic reviews published) and 94 DBRPCT (out of approximately 225 RCT published) in evidence of homeopathy. Ref: http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/scientific-research-in-homeopathy/

    • Mazoola says:

      I’m sorry, but I fail to see how several questionable studies claiming that ultra-high dilutions change the structure of the solvent used (and I’d be interested in what the researchers’ raw measures were, before they ‘corrected’ for contaminants from the mixing vessels) can be said to ‘support’ homeopathy. Neither does a study showing homeopathic trials and traditional medical trials both display comparable levels of the placebo effect. (Now, if you were a doctor of *placebo* medicine, I could understand your selecting that study.) And, no, a study from a homeopathic journal investigating whether low-temperature thermoluminesence might aid in the study of the highly suspect physical changes allegedly wrought by ultra-high dilutions is Tooth Fairy science, pure and simple.

      Those were the first four studies I read at random; I don’t think I’ll bother with any more.

      • Upto the end of year 2010, there have been 11 meta-analysis and 8 systematic reviews including 1 cochrane review (out of approximately 20 systematic reviews published) published in 14 medical journals in evidence of homeopathy. Out of 11 meta analysis, 5 are comprehensive, 5 on specific medical condition and 1 on super-avogadro dilution effect. Ref: http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/meta-analysis-and-systematic-reviews/

        • Guy Chapman says:

          The scientific consensus, based on systematic reviews, is that homeopathy is a placebo only.

          This is also the conclusion of the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/45.pdf).

          It’s telling that nobody other than homeopaths and believers appears to be able to isolate these elusive effects. They appear to be the medical equivalent of n-rays.

          Comments in the Cochrane reviews include “this result may be due to bias” and “There is no convincing evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic medicines for other adverse effects of cancer treatments.”

          The 2012 analysis of Oscillo by Peter Fisher says it best: “There is insufficient good evidence to enable robust conclusions to be made about Oscillococcinum® in the prevention or treatment of influenza and influenza-like illness. Our findings do not rule out the possibility that Oscillococcinum® could have a clinically useful treatment effect but, given the low quality of the eligible studies, the evidence is not compelling. ”

          He is right: none of these studies is capable of refuting the null hypothesis, because all are based on P=0.05 threshold, which will yield a false positive result for one experiment in 20 out of simple statistical fluctuation. Therefore you can’t rule it out, it’s just extremely improbable. Science, unlike homeopathy, does not make absolute statements based on data that do not support them.

          What science does note is that no credible mechanism of operation exists, and even homeopaths have been known to prove that homeopathy is a placebo (http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/11/08/rheumatology.keq234.full).

          There is no such thing as a “super-Avogadro dilution”. ISO3696 defines purity standards for water used in laboratory experiments, a 4C preparation would pass the test as pure water at the highest grade.

          No known test exists which can distinguish between remedies at the “potencies” normally used. No part of the doctrines of homeopathy is empirically verifiable.

    • Guy Chapman says:

      And, as I tell you every time you say this, the consensus of systematic reviews of those studies is as follows:

      1. There is no credible evidence of any effect beyond placebo.
      2. Badly designed trials are more likely to be positive, well designed trials are more likely to be negative.
      3. Positive trials, of whatever quality, are more likely to be published in the SCAM-specific press which is where most pro homeopathy studies appear. 

      The scientific consensus is that homeopathy is a placebo treatment only. Any other conclusion would be extraordinary as it would contradict multiple well established laws of physics. 

      There is no reason to suppose homeopathy should work, no way it can work, and no proof it does work beyond placebo.

    • Guy Chapman says:

      And the consensus of systematic reviews of those studies is as follows:

      1. There is no credible evidence of effect beyond placebo.
      2. Poor quality trials are more likely to be positive, more robust trials are more likely to be negative.
      3. The “alternative” journals in which most homeopathy research is published, are more likely to accept positive results.

      There is no reason to think homeopathy should work, no way it can work, and no proof it does work beyond placebo.

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