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January 30, 2006

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I know someone who believes in homeopathic remedies and at first I did not know what they were, so I looked it up. After seeing what an unproven mess of assertions it was, I went on to explain what it meant to this person.

They didn't want to hear it and were wondering why I would try to debunk it. I think they think I'm mean spirited when it comes to certain stuff like homeopathy. You just can't explain to people some things that are objectively flawed.

Why do some people want to make skeptics seem like bad people? I'm open minded, but when I see a fraud, I'm not going "play along" just because you believe it. If you don't like what I have to say don't ask my opinion, cause I'm unmerciful when it comes to these types of things.

Well, Clint, here's an answer to your question of why:

1. Honesty is a sin, nowadays.

2. It's considered the height of virtue to change the subject to the arguer instead of the argument.

There is actually no paradox here, I would even expect to find higher mortalities at normal hospitals. Check out "Microbe Hunters": Of course the really sick will go to a real doctor and of course this leads to a higher mortality rate, but simply because the people at the homeopath weren´t sick to begin with.
I would bet that the best hospitals have the highest mortality rates or where would you go when you are really ill?

This particular entry brings about one of the reasons skeptics get such a bad name. While you rightly and successfully point out that homeopathy is psuedoscience, you also fail to address why homeopathy is so attractive. And without pointing out why it's so attractive, you are presenting a biased, one-sided argument that begs for the reader to ignore you.

I don't know anything about homeopathy. But, I can say that the simple presentations I've seen strike an intuitive chord with the "law of similars". The attraction, I think, comes from the fact that sympathy works in many common, tacit behaviors. For example, lifting weights makes you stronger and immunizations make you more immune. Because these sympathetic treatments actually work and are clearly visible to anyone, the idea of a sympathetic medicine is intuitive and adheres to common sense.

So, a competent skeptic should be able to delineate when the general concept of sympathetic "treatment" will work and when it won't, thereby giving the common man some ammunition against snake-oil salesmen.

I'm faintly reminded of an urban legend: Disney makes sure no one is ever declared dead in the parks. Problem with the myth: EMS people aren't in the business of declaring people dead.

You were expecting high-quality journalism from Alternet?

Glen - you say that an attraction of homeopathy may be in the "law of similars" theory, and point out a couple of cases where it does indeed appear to work. You then say a competent sceptic should be able to delineate when "sympathetic treatment" will work and when it won't.

The thing is, it was pointed out that homeopathic remedies often do not contain a single molecule of the original ingredient left. You are left with pure water, which will not usually mimic the effects of the original malady when taken.

In which case, where does "sympathetic treatment" come into it?

All claims for homeopathic remedies are fraudulent. Selling homeopathic remedies is a fraudulent practise. Here's why:
https://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/homeopathy2.htm

Couldn't get the link to work so here it is again, just in case.

www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/homeopathy2

Thanks, Skeptico, for the post today and for all your patient comments on the Alternet page where the original story was. You were thorough and patient. I am in one of those despairing, banging-head-on-wall moods after reading that give and take. (Ah, just the mood to watch the imperial frat boy's State of the Union speechifying.)

Clint wrote:
'I'm open minded, but when I see a fraud, I'm not going "play along" just because you believe it.'

Yes, Clint, people are terribly fragile these days, it seems, and threaten to decompensate if you "attack" (question) waht they just asked told you about. In this case they are happy with questions that validate their Thing (in this case homeopathy), but are appalled at questions that...um...question. So you may ask: "Oh, did you try that oscillo-stuff?" but you may not ask: "Why do you believe that stuff works?"

Personal experience is sacred evidence and we skeptics are mean, doncha know.

And shills for big pharma. (Tell the drug rep to put my payoff in a brown bag in unmarked bills...)

I am in one of those despairing, banging-head-on-wall moods...

And I'm close. Been arguing with Bernard Marx... I mean Fore Sam/John Best, who seems to think that shouting his conclusion over and over makes it true. And that asking for the basis of said premisclusion is "evasive."

I'm beginning to wonder if going back to the JREF forums and poking at Dr.MAS, the dodgy homeopath, would be more entertaining.

And now, to lighten the mood, and possibly hint at a golden age of news programs that may or may not have existed...

Dude, where's my journalism?

Skeptyk, regarding "personal experience is sacred", "personal delusion" would be more apt.

Hi Y’all –

Here’s what I see: Skeptico’s argument is (essentially) flawless in it’s technical content and leaves something to be desired viz. effectively communicating the worthlessness of homeopathy (i.e. it’s nonexistent efficacy). I am using “communicating” in a specific way, meaning the transmission of new ideas into the thoughts of the listener(s). Actually, I mean something even more profound, which is that “communication” is the causing of a listener to relate to an idea as if it were new to them. In this particular sense, I suggest that Skeptico hardly communicated anything at all. At best, he reminded like-minded readers of the absurdity of homeopathy, and at worst he reminded unlike-minded readers how obnoxious and dismissive he is (and by logic of exemplar, the entire class of skeptics also is).

As (anecdotal) evidence of this assessment, I notice that most of the comments on this posting are of the “Yeah, you said it” type with one (brave) comment by glen e. p. ropella softly pointing to the “You guys are a**holes” camp, although clearly not deep into that camp’s territory himself. (A more delicate sketch of that second camp might be rendered as “You guys sure are difficult to talk with,” but I personally like the edgier characterization…)

BTW, I don’t doubt that those involved in homeopathy are either poor misguided idiots or evil fraudulent bastards. I do doubt, however, that explaining to them that they are idiots or frauds will have much impact.

Perhaps, as glen e. p. ropella pointed out, a more “communicative” posting might have explored why homeopathy has had any following at all. Curious about this question yourself? To me, it’s actually more important than discussing the (de)merits of homeopathy. I have an answer, possibly the answer. Just click on https://five-dollar-answers.com/why-im-stoo-ped


Steve, the link doesn't work.
In your view what would a more "communicative" posting have said – one that hasn't already been said a million times elsewhere?

All Y’all –

Well, yes, I know that the “link” doesn’t work. It was meant as a kind of joke (the kind that isn’t really very funny <sigh…>). Even as I posted it I was wondering if I should leave it in (attentive readers already know the answer). To see that even one person clicked on it, however, confirms the rightness of my choice <hoRAY!>

Waiver: I think this comment sub-thread is going off topic. If you are interested in continuing the pros/cons of homeopathy spitting contest just skip to the next loogie.

As I understand things, people remain attached to homeopathy for a variety of surface reasons (e.g. personal experience, rejection of authority, (sub-)cultural identity, untrained critical thinking skills, etc.). Peeling back the surface, however, I suggest there is a common element: a need to know / understand. More accurately, a need to feel that we know / understand. This applies equally to critical thinkers – they are just those who feel that critical thinking is the best way to know / understand things.

To me, the distinction between “I know” and “I feel that I know” is central when considering why people remain so attached to homeopathy (or any other bit of rubbish). For those of us attached to critical thinking, the feeling of knowing is never fully sufficient (although it may be indicative). Critical thinkers require that such “felt knowledge” be well supported by external structures, such randomized controlled studies (blinded trials), peer review, meta-analysis, falsifiability, etc. (If, at this point, you want to ask “Isn’t the acceptance of such structures ‘felt knowledge’ itself?” then I humbly ask you to edumacate yourself elsewhere regarding the emergent basis of systemic idea networks. Otherwise, carry on…)

Non-critical thinkers are, by definition, not critical about their thinking. They accept appeals to authority and feel informed. They conflate message and speaker, thus falling prey to ad hominem. They relate to their own experience (especially their own memory) as being definitive and so are overly influenced by the anecdotes of others. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Is it becoming clear yet? Skeptico’s comments regarding homeopathy were made within a context of critical thinking. User’s of homeopathy listen in a context of what might be called “acceptance” thinking. A classic case of apples and paper clips.

Of course, all the above is just a middle layer of analysis. If you haven’t already mumbled it to yourself, allow me to make it explicit: What is under the layer of “the need to feel knowing?” I assert that this basic human need is supported by something even more fundamental: fear.

The yearning for knowledge is more fundamentally a fear of pain / death. After all, those of our ancestors who weren’t “properly motivated” to understand their environment very well didn’t survive as those who did. Guess which ones we descended from?

Toss all this stuff into a Vita-Mix (blender) and here’s what I get: People accept homeopathy because it provides answers to important questions in their lives, perhaps the most important questions (i.e. how to manage good health and postpone death). The trouble is that at some human mental level, any answer is as good as another, as long it they “fits” into a person’s mental frame. Confronting “acceptance” style people with an argument formulated within a “critical” frame will almost certainly be frustrating for both sides. It’s not that the “acceptance” people don’t understand (or can’t be taught), but that if they let go of their current ideas, even just to do fair inquiry, they are left without any basis for understanding, which is very, very scary, since it is internally understood as “I have no defenses against the threats of the world.” Given that fearful things trigger avoidance behavior (and rightly so), it is not surprising to see a rebound effect where the current thinking is actually reinforced by confrontational critical thinking.

Is this what skeptico et al. are really hoping to achieve? (I don’t feel so.)

One more thing…

I just went back to the original posting and noticed something interesting: Skeptico seems to have done an (unintentional?) bait-and-switch. He first starts out wondering “Where’s the journalism,” as evidenced by the entry’s title. The body of his posting, however, changed the focus to “Why homeopathy is bogoid.”

This kind of focus switch is understandable, since to show how bad the journalism was Skeptico pointed to a well established body of easily available evidence that homeopathy is bunk. Unfortunately, the conclusion left me more with pronouncement about homeopathy rather than the sloppy journalism – even though it explicitly references the poor journalism that triggered the whole thing.

The Alternet report was absolutely the worst article on homeopathy I have ever read in any independent media outlet (ie outside of homeopathic or “Alt.Med” journals and the like). Homeopathy does not work. The authors should be ashamed that they applied no journalistic skepticism to this story.


I wonder if there’s interest enough to comment on the title’s actual question? Where, indeed, is the journalism? What might have been the motivations of the author and/or of Alternet? What are their journalistic habits, in general? How do they impact the readership? How might critical thinking be meaningfully brought into the conversations of the population likely to read (and be influenced by) such publications / outlets? Do skeptics have any obligation to make a real difference in such conversations?

Just came over from the Skeptics' Circle and must say that I really enjoyed your treatment of this subject.

Sadly, the AlterNet article was reprinted from Ode magazine - I ranted about this earlier in the month when I saw that version, but not as completely as you have here.

Kudos - I'll be back.

Stevel:

You raise some good points.

I think your analysis of why people believe in things like homeopathy, is about right. They didn’t arrive at their beliefs through a rational examination of the evidence; they arrived at then via a different route. Certainly they didn’t arrive at them through reason. The trouble is, if someone didn’t arrive at their beliefs through reason, you won’t be able to change those beliefs by reason either – you can’t reason out what wasn’t reasoned in in the first place. Very rarely, anyway. Michael Shermer covers a lot of this in his book, “Why people believe weird things”.

The thing is, if you can’t reason people out of their weird beliefs, how can you ever change their minds? I guess you could somehow to try to use emotion, or appeals to authority etc, but since we agree that’s flawed logic, we’d be hypocrites. And then what’s our basis for saying homeopathy is no good? And it still probably wouldn’t work. If you can think of an actual way to convey the information to these people, I’d like to hear it.

My aim with articles like this is to:

(1) Explain homeopathy to rational people who actually, up until now, have never really heard what it is. Everyone has to hear about it first from someone.

(2) Put the facts on the table for those people on the fence, who are perhaps not sure and are open to rational explanations.

(3) Provide a rebuttal to nonsense media stories like this alternet article. When people who know homeopathy is bunk, are sent links to homeopathy articles by friends, but don’t have the time to write a rebuttal themselves, they can just link to my article. Not everyone has time to research this stuff – I provide ammo for the busy skeptic.

(4) Provide information for the believers group (the non-rationals), in the off-chance I might get just through to one of them. Very rarely, some people do change their minds.

Like I said, if you can think of how to actually get through to these people in point (4) above, please be my guest.

Btw, it wasn’t intended as a bait and switch. I just realized I needed to explain what homeopathy is to those people in group (1) above. Can’t assume everybody has already read about homeopathy’s magic laws.

Abel PharmBoy:

Thanks for your comments. I should have guessed the alternet just copied the article from somewhere else – they do that a lot. You’re right to stress that homeopathy is not the same as herbal remedies – I think a lot of people make that mistake.

Like your blog btw – I’ll put you in the blog roll.

Skeptico -

Oh, I don’t know about changing people’s minds being neigh unto impossible. In fact, there are several well defined techniques I’ve seen which have much better efficacy than homeopathy <smirk>.

Although the mechanisms vary, they all share one basic element: managing the “being” of the speaker. Yeah, I know this may sound “new-agey” and/or “mystico” but bear with me – it’s actually technical. By “being” (or “beingness”) I’m referring to the totality of your emotional and rational mental states, along with your body’s total biochemical state. In this way, I intend “being of the speaker” to mean the entire mental and physical existence of the speaker.

Admittedly, I’ve not yet met anybody with access to this fullest sense of being. Generally, we have to make do with the very narrow slice that we are aware of. We are not aware of all our thoughts simultaneously, thus we are always “incomplete” from this view. Our sense of body state is mediated by our self-feeling / emotional system, thus is not fully expressible in predicate language. Again, we are “incomplete.”

When I put such limitations aside and look at was is available, I see that I can both notice (some of) my being and (partially) influence it. For example, looking now as I write this, I notice that my being could be loosely described as “hopeful, clever, striving, concerned, inquiring.” These point just to what I’m most self aware of right now. Now, here’s the technique part: I can will myself to bring forward or suppress such elements.

To bring something forward, all I do is remember what that mode of being has felt like in the past. I fill my mind with thoughts & feelings of being that way, what it was like, how I responded to others, how others responded to me. All I do is remember what I want to bring forward. This will automatically “push out” those modes of being that I want to suppress. To strengthen this suppression I “accept and ignore” undesired modes that intrude – I don’t struggle with them, but acknowledge them as a possible way I could choose and then choose to return to filling my thoughts with the desired mode(s). In this way, I can create my own being by active choice.

(BTW, this I did not invent this technique, although this way of describing it is my own. It’s very simple, and it’s often not easy. Training helps. Actually, training is critical even though you already know how to do all this. Think about that.)

SO! How is any of this relevant? Good question! (You are soooo smart!)

Believe it or not, this is a direct response to point 4 in Skeptico’s recent comment on this post:

(4) Provide information for the believers group (the non-rationals), in the off-chance I might get just through to one of them. Very rarely, some people do change their minds.

Like I said, if you can think of how to actually get through to these people in point (4) above, please be my guest.


With the context restored, it’s now transparently obvious, right? For those of you who might not have woven it together yet (i.e. the men <snicker>), here’s more:

First, Skeptico, your use of the phrase “get through to these people” indicates to me some ways of being that are typically not effective. My guess is that at least some level of annoyance and frustration are (were) present. One reasonable interpretation a reader might make is that you are being that way because you haven’t figured out how to get “these people” to understand how wrong they are (and how right you are). Regardless of what you (Skeptico) think about your own communication (i.e. whether you were being those ways and if the “I’m right / You’re wrong” interpretation holds), the thing to focus on is how the reader can be expected to interpret it (distinct from how you want them to).

People don’t enjoy being wrong. In fact, most people will exert a great deal of energy to avoid the feeling, mostly by hiding from it. Remember, education is not really an option in the face of being wrong since it depends in large part upon acknowledging being wrong in the first place. Mentally, it’s just much easier to hold the “wrong” thought as true and ignore any discrepancy. This is very human. We all have done it. We all will continue to do it. Some of us are doing right now! It’s just how human minds behave.

Don’t despair! This is not a “problem” with humans. It’s just the nature of the game. Besides, it actually makes things more interesting…

Let me cut to the chase [And the choir sang: “Finally! Hallelujah! Amen.”]

Hold in your mind the beingness of communication rather than convincing, of generosity rather than condescension, of inquiry rather than lecture. Then write your post. Review it for any language that your audience could interpret in ways that work against communication, generosity, and inquiry. Clean them up.

Naturally, there’s refinement that comes from practice, but pretty much, that’s the technique.

Oh, one major caveat: If you try to actually use this as a technique it will probably fail. You can learn it as technique, but if you apply it that way the audience will sense the manipulation and resist your communication. One way to cope with this paradox is how Miles Davis reportedly did his thing:

I practice, practice, practice. Then I just wail


PS: Not so sure about the attribution to M.D. Anyone know better?


Perhaps you could give us an example of what you would have written.

I see that you want me to do the work - nice try... and don't give me that "I learn best by example" stuff <snort>.

Actually, I’ve anticipated your request. For a “how to do it” example, simply re-read my previous comment. I’ll even go so far as to say that your request itself is evidence that I did a fair job of it. “How’s that?” you ask. Here’s how:

The main thrust of my previous comment (how to achieve point 4) was actually to share with you, Skeptico (et al.), some other approaches to effective communication. That you’ve actually asked for an example of how I might do it indicates you are in authentic inquiry about it. Quite honestly, I’m inspired by that! (Unless you are being snide and cynical and hoping for something concrete of mine to shoot down, in which case you can just bugger off <thhpt!>)

To be fair about it, I can’t really give you an authentic example of how I might achieve point 4. First, as I mentioned previously, I have trouble with point 4 as you’ve articulated it. For me, it lands too much in the “I’m right / You’re wrong” territory. Always a difficult place to have dialogue.

Second, I’m not sure that I have enough of a background to bring the relevant points to bear. I could always do more reading, but I’m not that interested at the moment. If I were to try it, my prediction is that the result would mostly be plagiaristic, even if cut into little bits and recombined with appropriate attribution. I would not be mine, and so would ring false.

Finally, to be fully honest, I don’t really care about the “other side” of the conversation right now. I really don’t care if alties prefer magic over medicine. I’m not (currently) passionate about sharing the values of critical thinking to those that have already chosen their path of “acceptance knowledge.” (See an https://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2006/01/wheres_the_jour.html#comment-13577570>earlier comment of mine posted February 02, 2006 at 11:11 AM this topic for an idea of what I mean by this.)

Verily, this is not very generous of me. I have other conversations that I prefer working on – like this meta one. If you are serious about this inquiry (how to create effective communication beyond rational argument) then we should figure out some other channel for the conversation. Of course, since this is a public channel I wont be giving out my email, phone, address, social security, or hat size (sorry). I’ll send you an email.

Before I go, here’s one more bit of the technique tool box: actually be interested in what the alties have to say. Let yourself be curious about their mindset, their thinking, their logic. Yes, “logic,” even though it’s wackoid. Wouldn’t that be a fascinating inquiry? Have do they relate to the world?

And once you’ve learned their logic / language, even modestly, you will have opened new channels for communication. Both “sides” win, whatever the ultimate outcome of “who thinks / believes what” game.

If it seems like a waste of good mental energy to try to understand their batty ill-logical thinking, I ask you to consider the following:

I am only fluent in one spoken language, English. If I wanted to speak with some other person who, for example, was only fluent in Korean, I had better learn Korean. When applying this metaphor, don’t be confused that you and the alties both seem to speak English. Given that you relate to the world differently, you must think differently. Since you think differently, your use of language, as a medium of thought, is different.

Fortunately, the two “Englishes” are very similar and are, to some degree, malleable.

Unfortunately, it takes work.

Fortunately, you have the capacity for it.

Unfortunately, it takes the hardest kind of work.

Fortunately, I’ve already simplified it for you.

Unfortunately, I’m not gonna tell you again…

.
.
.

Fine, okay, here it is: Speak less. Listen more. Communication grows.

The reason I asked is because I really don’t fully understand what you mean. I think you’re saying I should be less confrontational, but if I want to explain that homeopathy doesn’t work, I have to explain why not and I should explain why they think it does work and why they are wrong – and by definition that is confrontational. If I dilute what I say, the message will be lost (unlike the claims for homeopathy, ironically).

I understand your foreign languages analogy, but (to continue with the analogy) if I speak back to them in Korean I will be appealing to authority, to anecdote etc – ie their language, that we both agree is fallacious. By that language any idea can be right and so my message will be lost. And it will be lost for my objectives 1-3 as well as objective 4.

And as for your final advice to “Speak less. Listen more” - Yes, but when I’m writing my blog, I am by definition speaking. I have listened, but writing is one way.

That’s why I asked you for an example. Because I find a hard time imagining what you are asking me to do. I know that some of my writing can turn out a little snarky. I’m not ashamed of that – I’m trying to keep the articles interesting and not too dry, and a little sarcastic humor can be entertaining and more memorable. But I agree that sometimes that doesn’t help get the message over to some. But I thought this article was fairly calm and patient. I presented the facts in as clear and straightforward a way as possible so that they would be understandable and unambiguous.

I’m not trying to be argumentative here, but it seems to me that you if can’t write in this proposed way of yours either, and if as you say, you’ve “not yet met anybody with access to this fullest sense of being”, maybe this better way doesn’t really exist.

Didn't say I can't, just that I wont (about this issue, at this time). I know this leaves you without an example, which obviously weakens my claim. So be it.

As for my not having (yet) met a person with perfect & complete mental & somatic awareness, please don't over interpret me. The conversation techniques I was referring to don't require such perfection. Remember, I said "When I put such limitations aside and look at was is available," meaning what self awareness is available, despite being both inaccurate and incomplete.

I'm sure this topic (effective communication) will recur on other posts. In the meantime, I respectfully disagree with your suggestion that “maybe this better way doesn’t really exist.” I’ve found that there are ways of remaining true to my message, values, and principles while effectively communicating with people who are organized around significantly different ways of thinking. For now, I will end merely with such an assertion. I don’t expect you to believe me. I don’t even want you to believe me. I do ask that you remain in an enquiry about communication and see what shows up for you.

Cheers!

PS: I didn’t say it was easy…

Another thought about homeopathy.

Howcome people who believe a lot in allopathy and doesn't believe in homeopathy when convinced to at least give it a try are cured by the latter and not by the earlier?

For example, a woman had migrain and no doctor was able to cure her, they just didn't know (her husband was a doctor and had plenty of friends in the medical community), rhinos, neurologist, their best shot was to give drugs that had a partial effect.

A friend of her took her (more like dragged her) to the homeopath and he asked her a lot of questions until he found thatshe had a slight LIVER malfunction that was causing her to have such horrible migrains, he gave her medicine for that and 15 days later she was much better and 2 months later the migraine was gone (with several other non-sever but irritating simptoms caused by the liver malfunctuion) after living more than 15 years with migraine.

If that was a placebo effect (which was not because the drugs against migraine are always tested against placebo) then the whole research against migraine with all the "scientific method support" is worthless against a simple placebo.

later i asked the doctor how se cured her and how come she couldn be cured by the neurologist. He told me that the Alopaths are always trying to find a cure for the disease rather than investigating the true cause, and that several sources can cause the same symptoms. So trying to attack the symptoms (aka using drugs) will never get rid of the real problem.

My wife had a cesarea and she didn't take any alopath medicine, the giny reviewed her one week later and was astonished to the speed of her recovery, much faster than she had ever seen. When we told her that we didn't follow the prescription she was totally surprised. for she had warned us against it when my wife was at the hospital.

From my first son (she followed the prescription dilligently) she took like 4 weeks to be able to return to full activity (not completely recovered) from the second it was 3 days to a similar state.

You'll say it's my testimony and I have no proof (double blinded and so on) but when I see that something works and other thing doesn't (me and my family use only homeopathy, and have quitted alopathy for 4 years now with excellent results now, vs. acceptable results but a lot of side effects before).

What works for me and for other must be good whether the scientists can explain it or not. Perhaps if you wait until it's completely proven and universally accepted you'll be missing years of benefits just for refusing to try somethng not scientifically proven.

i use what works for me and for others, and let the skeptics debate and search for proof. When you find something that completely proves it let me know.

Maybe it will turn out that the placebo effect medicine will replace the alopathy for good. Or that the alopathy and it's pure water do really record the substance it had, or any other thing that proves, why it has worked for me and for millons of patients around the globe.

I know for the skeptic the testimony of millions is unworthy of consideration against the (several times unconclusive) proof of a few.

But I dare any skeptic to give it a try the next time you're ill. TRY IT YOURSELF.

For me I'm skeptic of something until I try it myself. Not others. I guess that make more sense than trusting in the 'scientific proof' of others.

I hope to hear from you.

Skeptico replies to Chris Maldonado

Re: Howcome people who believe a lot in allopathy and doesn't believe in homeopathy when convinced to at least give it a try are cured by the latter and not by the earlier?

First, can you please try to comment in just one thread? That makes it easier for anyone to keep track of the discussion. Thanks.

As I wrote in the other thread, alternative therapies such as homeopathy often appear to work for a number of reasons, namely:

• Placebo
• The cyclical nature of the illness (it goes away by itself)
• Incorrect diagnosis to start with
• Temporary mood improvements due to the personal nature of the treatment
• Psychological investment of the patient in the success of the therapy
• Other medicines the patient is taking.

People get fooled – only double-blind studies are really of any use.

The rest of your post is just “anecdotes”. Unfortunately, anecdotes are worthless in determining whether or not a therapy works.

Allopathy's been dead for at least a century, unless you know someone still treating people by bleeding to adjust humors, or some such nonsense.

We trust in evidence-based medicine because it gets verifiable results in double-blind control studies. It also features lots of error-correction methods.

Thanks for your prompt answer.
Sorry for posting in two threads.

My observation (worthless) shows that people gets benefit from homeopathy that does not receive from regular medicine. So to keept true to myself I'll try to defend homeopathy considering the following

IF
Premise a. Homeopathy is placebo
Premise b. Placebo Works and has no side effects

THEN
Result c. Homeopathy works and has no side effects


IF
Premise a. Homeopathy works and has no side effects.
Premise b. Regular medicine works and has side effects

Condition c. Side effects are undesirable.

THEN
Result d. Homeopathy is not undesirable
Resulr e. Regular medicie is undesirable.

Believing only in "the proof". For example that placebo desn't work for difficult diseases.

Given that why use drugs and antibiotics (which while effective cause side effects) instead of placebo in diseases placebo can cure?

Best regards (it's always nice talking to someone intelligent)
Chris

For BronzeDog:
Steadman's Illustrated Medical Dictionary defines homeopathy as "regular medicine, the traditional form of medical practice" I'm not quainted in the use you have for the word.
sorry for posting twice I don't know hot to edit a post.

Chris Maldonado

Re: IF
Premise a. Homeopathy is placebo
Premise b. Placebo Works

The trouble is, I think you may have started with incorrect assumptions.

As I said before, alternative therapies such as homeopathy often appear to work for a number of reasons, including the cyclical nature of the illness (it goes away by itself), incorrect diagnosis to start with, temporary mood improvements due to the personal nature of the treatment, psychological investment of the patient in the success of the therapy and other medicines the patient is taking. You have perhaps been lucky in that taking the magic water instead of medicine didn’t cause any problems. Someone else with a more serious condition that needs real medicine might not be so lucky. Nor might you next time.

Steadman's Illustrated Medical Dictionary defines homeopathy as "regular medicine, the traditional form of medical practice" I'm not quainted in the use you have for the word.

Well, I have yet to see any evidence of it working.

Stuff about placebo "working":

You don't understand what the placebo "effect" is. It's dumb luck (coincidental, natural recovery) mixed with psychological tricks us humans use to ignore problems or misattribute causes. It's the same as doing nothing except encouraging people to misinterpret their senses. These tricks come into play whenever human beings do something they think will help.

"No side effects" can only occur if there are no effects of any sort.

Evidence-based medicine plus psychological tricks does produce effects greater than nothing (placebo) plus psychological tricks.

Math form:

EBM + Tricks > Zero + Tricks. ==> EBM > Zero.

Homeopathy + Tricks = Zero + Tricks. ==> Homeopathy = Zero.

We'll lucky me, my wife and my son -and plenty other people I know- for not having a disease worthy of regular medicine for 4 years (coincidentally starting when starting taking homeopathy) while the years befores we has so much the need of regular medicine.

Again my worthless experience has seen a child with rotavirus (diagnosed by laboratiy analisys) get well only with "magical water" aka homepoathy.

Perhaps the question is why do we use so much regular medicine, perhaps human being are much more healthy than the doctors and laboratories want us to believe.

And perhaps the diseases aren't as deadly as the laboratories diplay with great panicking screams.

Thanks for your time gentleman, should I ever really need a regular doctor I'll let you know, trust me.

Sorry again I forgot to answer bronze dog.
Your logic statemensts seem right to me.

I wrote it wrong:
Steadman's Illustrated Medical Dictionary defines Allopathy as "regular medicine, the traditional form of medical practice" I'm not quainted in the use you have for the word.

What i wanted to tell with this is that allopathy is alive is not the humors of the blood or that stuff you were explaining.

I wave farewell Saying: "What does it matter if its fake, as long as it keeps me healthy and Wnat does it matter if it's true if it keeps me unhealthy?"

I'll check back for answers of SKPETICO and BONZE DOG, should my comments be worthy of them.

Chris
DEFENDER OF THE REALM OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Chris:

Re: We'll lucky me, my wife and my son -and plenty other people I know- for not having a disease worthy of regular medicine for 4 years (coincidentally starting when starting taking homeopathy) while the years befores we has so much the need of regular medicine.

Lucky? Yes, you probably were. Same with me, coincidentally – I haven’t been sick either in over six years. But if I do get sick I’ll go to a real doctor, not a homeoquack.

Re: Thanks for your time gentleman, should I ever really need a regular doctor I'll let you know, trust me.

No! If you get sick don’t bother with us – go see a doctor.

Re: I wave farewell Saying: "What does it matter if its fake, as long as it keeps me healthy and Wnat does it matter if it's true if it keeps me unhealthy?"

It doesn’t matter - until you are really sick and need real medicine.

Re: Chris
DEFENDER OF THE REALM OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

What a hero. Your personal experience overrides this review of 110 homeopathy trials. We’re all impressed.

[Sarcasm]

Personal experience: A realm that couldn't possibly be influenced by confirmation bias, the regressive fallacy, retrospective falsification, and other forms of misinterpretation, and is therefore completely objective, not being subject to such mortal foibles.

[/Sarcasm]

I was planning on not commenting anymore, but i read the paper you linked, and it only SUGGESTS that homeopathy studies might be biased. Nothing like you say, and I thought I was speaking with true skeptics rather than "believers of the Skepitc".
You sound too much like a religion follower.
At least i try to be coherent with my observation.
While you jump and defend suppositions and suggestions as if they were absolute truth.
I lost my time.

Ah, by the way and folllowing my tradition of double posts, using peyorative adjectives such as "quack" and "woo" deprive your posts of seriousness even if they make you popular with you "skeptic" friends.
Shame

Skeptico replies to Chris Maldonado

Re: i read the paper you linked, and it only SUGGESTS that homeopathy studies might be biased

Oh give me a break. The link states:

When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.

They use cautious scientific language. In layman’s terms they are saying homeopathy is bunk.

Re: using peyorative adjectives such as "quack" and "woo" deprive your posts of seriousness

Well I, unlike the authors of the scientific paper I linked, am writing a journal not a scientific paper. I try not to put my readers to sleep and I call homeopathy for what it is. Whining that I am using words you don’t like is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that you have nothing but anecdotes.

You're right about I have only anecdotes, I can't deny, I've never tried to. And I don't see how could my true assertion about your language could ever be a smoke screen.

And I acutally like thse words for they are so non-specific thus easy to use.

Since you disqualify in several other threads the circumstancial evidence when used for topics the skeptic disagree with, it's ilogical or at least dishones to use circumstancial evidence such as

"This finding is COMPATIBLE WITH THE NOTION that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects."

It doesnt say

"This finding is PROOF THAT the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects."

Such as you state.

This is circumstancial evidence and if you admit it as proof, to be coherent you have to admit circumstancial evidence as proof of subjects you disagree with.

Breaking my tradition I remebered before posting.

Another thing. What entitles you to use such terms and still demand recognition of seriousness of your work, the one that's gained through the use of correct language?

More over I see no "cautious scientific language" in the paragraph you quoted, I just see plain english with the most scientific-use word being "placebo", which is common anyway.

Should you ever want seriousness added to your work use proper language, otherwise if all you care for is popularity nevermind it.

Please note I'm not saying your statements are wrong. Only that they show a tendency and thus, no objectivity (which you claim).

Regards

Re: Since you disqualify in several other threads the circumstancial evidence when used for topics the skeptic disagree with, it's ilogical or at least dishones to use circumstancial evidence such as

"This finding is COMPATIBLE WITH THE NOTION that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects."

You must have some problem with reading comprehension, or at least not understand English very well. The evidence presented in the study I linked not circumstantial. The evidence from these studies is clear – homeopathy is bunk.

Re: "This finding is PROOF THAT the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects."

Such as you state.

Please show me where I stated this was “proof” of anything. In fact, please show me where I even used the word “proof”.

Re: More over I see no "cautious scientific language" in the paragraph you quoted

And yet that is what it is.

You are getting tiresome. If you want to drone on at length about the supposed benefits of homeopathy, get your own blog.

"This finding is COMPATIBLE WITH THE NOTION that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects."

Which means it's compatible with the notion that homeopathy is bunk, since the placebo effect is only marginally different from doing nothing.

Of course, such a finding seems to me to be incompatible with the notion that homeopathy works.

is circumstancial, if you doubt, email the authors of the paper.

That paragraph has just plain english ask any lingüist.

Taking a comment off context just shows that you lack seriousness.

And no you didn't use the word "proof", but in a sentence such as "Homeopathy is bunk" or several others you make an imlied statemnt of proof.

"If you want to drone on at length about the supposed benefits of homeopathy, get your own blog"
I don't want to do either. I'm just defending what I've tested as I stated long ago.

There's no point in following the discussion, you are getting tired. And answering only what you find convenient to answer and yet sometimes with falacy others with disqualification only few times with reason, which prevents from a truly competitive debate. You're out.

So long now
Chris

Skeptico replies to Chris Maldonado

Re: is circumstancial, if you doubt, email the authors of the paper

It was your claim – you do it.

Re: That paragraph has just plain english ask any lingüist.

The sentence:

This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects

Also means the finding is incompatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are not placebo effects.

It was also cautious scientific language for “homeopathy doesn’t work”.

What is your definition of circumstantial then?

Re: Taking a comment off context just shows that you lack seriousness

What comment did I take “off context”?

Re: And no you didn't use the word "proof", but in a sentence such as "Homeopathy is bunk" or several others you make an imlied statemnt of proof.

I’m afraid this just shows your naiveté. Scientists rarely if ever talk about “proof”. The evidence shows homeopathy works no better than placebo. Homeopathy is therefore bunk. Putting words in my mouth won’t make your case for you.

Re: There's no point in following the discussion, you are getting tired.

I’m not getting tired. You are getting tiresome. Ask a linguist to explain the difference. And don’t misquote me again please.

Re: And answering only what you find convenient to answer and yet sometimes with falacy others with disqualification

1) What didn’t I answer?

2) What did I answer with fallacy?

3) What did I answer with “disqualification”?

4) What is your definition of circumstantial?

5) What comment did I take “off context”?

Five questions. Answer them please before you post anything else here.

1) What didn’t I answer?
For example:
"Another thing. What entitles you to use such terms and still demand recognition of seriousness of your work, the one that's gained through the use of correct language?"

2) What did I answer with fallacy?
Re: More over I see no "cautious scientific language" in the paragraph you quoted
"And yet that is what it is." -->Falacy

3) What did I answer with “disqualification”?
These are examples of disqualification:
"Whining that I am using words you don’t like is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that you have nothing but anecdotes."
"What a hero. Your personal experience overrides this review of 110 homeopathy trials. We’re all impressed."

4) What is your definition of circumstantial?
Something that does not proof directly something, but rather indirectly.
Useful definitions:

Evidence from which a fact is reasonably inferred, although not directly proven. Evidence that tends to prove a fact by proving other events which afford a basis for reasonable inference of the occurrence of the fact at issue.
www.aapa.org/manual/judicial/glossary.html

Evidence of some circumstance(s) which provide indirect evidence of some fact where direct evidence is absent.
hjem.get2net.dk/safsaf/glossary.html

evidence providing only a basis for inference about the fact in dispute
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

5) What comment did I take “off context”?
"More over I see no "cautious scientific language" in the paragraph you quoted"
This alone is an opinion, with the rest of the paragraph is a reason.

I'm sorry i misunderstood tiresome. You are right. But Why keep answering if I'm so?.

Dont' worry I won't be consuming your precious space or time any longer.

I just didn't want to leave questions in the air.

Be well.

Skeptico replies to Chris Maldonado

Re: Another thing. What entitles you to use such terms and still demand recognition of seriousness of your work, the one that's gained through the use of correct language?

What is incorrect about my language?

Why is referring to homeopathy as quackery, not serious?

Re: More over I see no "cautious scientific language" in the paragraph you quoted
"And yet that is what it is." -->Falacy

Why is that a fallacy?

Re: These are examples of disqualification:
"Whining that I am using words you don’t like is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that you have nothing but anecdotes."
"What a hero. Your personal experience overrides this review of 110 homeopathy trials. We’re all impressed."

Why is this “disqualification”? What does “disqualification” even mean in this context?

Re: Something that does not proof directly something, but rather indirectly.

What was “indirect” about the evidence in the study?

Re: What comment did I take “off context”?
"More over I see no "cautious scientific language" in the paragraph you quoted"

You directly contradicted something I had said, and were wrong. Why is pointing that out “off context”?

Quick and last reply
Quack=charlatan=Person who earns money by cheating on others.
While there are a lot of quack homeopaths, many others have studied their careers in serious schools. They're not cheaters, even conceding they are wrong. They're honest people who believe in ehat they do and are healing people through a method they know and that is effective for whatever reason it might be.

Scientific laguage is the words and sentences paticular to science use, that specific paragraph is just plain common english, should you get somethingh scientific there would be the style, and not even that it's just too general.

Disqualification is to take value off a statement by discrediting the author rather that the statement itself.

The study does not prove the homeopathy doesn't work direclty as with a direct experiment, but rather indirectly as using reasoning. In a court to make it clearer a direct evidence would be a fingerprint on a weapon and an indirect evidence would be an argument based on reasoning.

As i stated before you cut the paragraph I wrote leaving it in the context of an opinion intead of a reason.

Thanks

Skeptico replies to Chris Maldonado

Re: Quick and last reply
Quack=charlatan=Person who earns money by cheating on others.
While there are a lot of quack homeopaths, many others have studied their careers in serious schools.

A quack is:

An untrained person who pretends to be a physician and dispenses medical advice and treatment.

Homeopaths are not trained in medicine – real medicine that is - they are trained in fake medicine that does nothing. Quack is a perfectly acceptable if slightly combative and insulting colloquial term. I will continue to call homeopaths quacks – that’s what they are.

Re: Scientific laguage is the words and sentences paticular to science use, that specific paragraph is just plain common english

No. Your mistake is to think that “scientific language” means using just scientific words (like “placebo” or perhaps “test tube”). Wrong. It refers to a cautious way of writing. Yes, it is written in plain English – no scientific words. But it was scientific language. There is a subtle difference. What I said was:

"cautious scientific language"


“This finding is compatible with the notion…” is cautious scientific language that means “it doesn’t work”. I’m sorry you are so resistant to accepting this. Scientific papers are cautious in their conclusions – it’s just the way they are worded. Go and read some scientific papers, you’ll see they are always hesitant to declare anything with total certainty (and they never declare anything is “proof”, either).

The paper (if you read it all) shows that the good studies show no difference between homeopathy and placebo. In what way is that not showing that homeopathy doesn’t work?

Re: Disqualification is to take value off a statement by discrediting the author rather that the statement itself.

That is ad hominem, not disqualification, and ad hominem is a fallacy. But I was attacking your arguments, not you personally:

"Whining that I am using words you don’t like is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that you have nothing but anecdotes."

I was criticizing your arguments as being nothing but smokescreen and anecdotes.

“What a hero. Your personal experience overrides this review of 110 homeopathy trials. We’re all impressed."

I was criticizing your arguments as being nothing but personal experience compared with actual studies. Agreed “what a hero” was a bit sarcastic. But I was still criticizing your arguments, not you personally.

Re: The study does not prove the homeopathy doesn't work direclty as with a direct experiment, but rather indirectly as using reasoning.

Bullshit! It was a review of 110 actual homeopathy studies. These were actual large scale trials – real experiments. Trials are experiments. What do you think a trial is? This is how real medicine is studied – randomized placebo trials. That’s how virtually all of them are done. This was a review of 110 such studies. You can’t get much more “direct” than that.

Sorry, but nothing you have said shows that homeopathy is real, or that the trial I cited says anything but homeopathy doesn’t work.

I’m closing this post to comments.

As you can see from the above exchange, all the proponents of homeopathy have to offer are:

(a) Anecdotes, and
(b) The claim that the numerous well designed double-blind studies that show homeopathy doesn’t work, are somehow invalid.

I have better things to do than continually respond to this junk from believers in homeopathy. See the detailed explanation in the original post for an explanation of what homeopathy is and why it is nonsense.

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