Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

The Homeopaths are Coming!

Posted by Ethan Clow on January 13, 2011

Yes, they will not be cowed! In light of the upcoming episode of CBC’s Marketplace which is set to air tomorrow at 8pm, the Conscious Health Natural Therapy website is encouraging its supporters to spam the Marketplace comment section immediately after it airs!

At least they’re going to wait until after it airs to reserve judgment.

Don’t let their creative use of Capitalization and disinterest in the comma fool you. They mean business.

“There is a concerted effort World Wide to denounce all forms of Natural Medicine
as being worthless or dangerous.”

Okay, first, no one is saying its worthless. Second, homeopathy isn’t “natural” medicine. Third, any medicine not based on science that hasn’t been rigorously tested, proven and subjected to ruthless skeptical scrutiny is dangerous.

“Skeptics belittle Homeopathy as worthless yet the pharmaceutica giant Merck sell homeopathic products. They own Seven Seas who own the New Era brand, who do biochemic salts.  Do I need to say more??”

So according to this, skeptics aren’t in the pocket of “big pharma”, homeopathy is. Actually, that’s very apt. Since most homeopathic medicines are about 10 to 15 percent more expensive than normal drugs, many pharmaceuticals have jumped on the band wagon, producing their own homeopathic or natural medicines and charging more than their science-based medicines.

The Canadian Society of Homeopaths Board is quoted, presenting ways that supporters can counter this attack of skepticism.

“Be prepared to leave a comment on the CBC and Marketplace website immediately after the programme airs. Go to http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/blog/ and check out the comment function right now. Sign up now to create a user’s account so that there will be no delay when you are ready to send your comments. Once the programme has aired, you can leave a comment by clicking on the title, which will take you to a summary page concluding with a link “Share your comment”. This leads to a comment box, which requires that you sign in. CBC monitors and reviews all messages so you may want to read the Submission Guidelines page before planning to send your comments.”

and

“Know what you are going to say so that you can post a response without delay. Choose to focus on a single point per comment, elaborate on it, and conclude with a strong, affirming statement. Often the most effective messages are short, concise, and to the point. Send as many of these as you can.”

Hopefully some Canadian skeptics and post a few comments of their own and if I can make a suggestion, since most of the pro-homeopathy comments will be something like “I took homeopathy and it cured my cold right away and I’ve been using it ever since!” Try to stress how one data point does not equal a scientific study. There are people to have driven without a seat-belt and not gotten into an accident, but that doesn’t mean seat-belts are worthless.

Another good point to mention is how bogus treatments seem to work. Consider how when you get a flu it advances in stages. You start off getting some symptoms, they get worse, and then really bad, and then a bit better, and then they go way and you feel fine. When most of us reach the really bad phase, that’s when we take medication. What happens? We get better! My point being, we’d get better no matter what we did. You can substitute medication for homeopathy or a cheese sandwich and the result would be the same.

Of course this is one of those counter-intuitive critical thinking observations that not everyone will notice. We naturally associate the healing with what we took at that time of illness.

Since news of the upcoming episode of Marketplace broke, I’ve received a number of emails from homeopathic supporters, some well argued and very reasonable. Others, not so much.  One of the common strings running through most of them is that homeopathy worked for them. And again to that I would say one data point doesn’t make science. When dealing with cyclical conditions like the flu or vague non-permanent conditions like headaches, muscle pain, something like homeopathy is bound to look effective. Why? Because those things go away on their own! If you have a headache and eat a sandwich and your headache goes away in an hour, does that mean the sandwich cured you?

Another common theme was people trying to rationalize the Law of Similars or like cures like.

There really is no other way for me to say it except, you’re wrong. Not only is the theory of like cures like demonstrably wrong, it would require us to throw out huge swaths of proven and established sciences like chemistry, biology and physics. You simply can’t dilute a substance and make it more potent. Water, no matter how much you shake it, can’t remember a substance.

There is this notion of extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and proportioning beliefs to the evidence available. If homeopathy says that science has got it completely wrong and the fields of chemistry, biology and physics need to be rewritten so be it. But no one is going to take them seriously until they back up what they say with hard evidence. And so far, they haven’t. The evidence is firmly saying it doesn’t work.

As many skeptics know, there is a world-wide educational effort coming up to explain to the public what homeopathy is and how it doesn’t work. In Canada, the Centre for Inquiry’s Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism is co-ordinating efforts across the country with different groups and organizations.

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