The “New Fundamentalism”: Why Lionel Milgrom is Plain Wrong (Again)

Bafflegab – the multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation – is word that ought to be familiar to Lionel Milgrom.

Milgrom is a champion apologist for homeopathic ‘science’. As a former director of the Society of Homeopaths, he delights the homeopathic community with his musings on quantum theory, entanglement and its hypothesised role in ‘patient-practitioner interactions’. Since quantum theory is highly specialised and requires advanced mathematical understanding to appreciate, one can be pretty sure there is not a member of the Society of Homeopaths who has the slightest clue what he is on about, or the knowledge to judge if he is speaking sense. But that does not matter. They wallow in his his quantum words like a medieval peasant listening to a Latin sermon. Or if I was being particularly cruel, like a dog, head cocked, listening to its owner describe her day at work. It is comforting, beguiling, but meaningless. But more on quantum homeopathy later.

Milgrom is now accusing critics of homeopathy as being the ‘New Fundamentalists’. Somehow, the likes of Edzard Ernst, Richard Dawkins, David Colquhoun and Ben Goldacre are stuck in some naive philosophical view of science that cannot comprehend the ‘new paradigm’ of homeopathy. I want to show how his arguments are a distraction and just plain wrong; rhetorical devices designed to deflect from the substantive criticisms being made. They are at essence a classic ad hominem attack using the old devices of straw men and misrepresentation. For homeopaths, his arguments are just impenetrable but comforting words that allow them to ignore the serious concerns being expressed about the activities and beliefs of homeopaths.

Milgrom’s accusations that critics of homeopathy are the ‘New Fundamentalists’ have appeared in a number of places. Most prominently, a series of seminars were held recently by Jayney Goddard. The accusations made it (shamefully) onto the pages of the Times Higher Education Supplement. The presentation that Milgrom gave is available from the vitamin pill industry lobby group, the Alliance for Natural Health. But importantly, Milgrom has set forth his ideas in a paper published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, entitled Homeopathy and the New Fundamentalism: A Critique of the Critics.

So what are the accusations that Milgrom makes against Homeopathy’s critics and why are we ‘fundamentalist’ in our outlook? His arguments can be summarised as:

  1. We are ‘economical with the truth’ and we ‘propagate porkies’. Straight up, we are liars.
  2. Modern medicine is ‘deadly’ and we are ignoring this fact.
  3. We lie when we say there is no good evidence for homeopathy. We cling to ‘discredited’ meta-analyses, such as Shang at al.
  4. We ignore ‘developments’ in material science that shows water has a memory.
  5. We are philosophically naive in our demands of ‘proof’ for homeopathy and that we are challenged by ‘Popperian and Kuhnian’ views of science. Hence, we are ‘unscientific’.

In Milgrom’s own words,

New Fundamentalism’s hallmarks include the denial of evidence for the efficacy of any therapeutic modality that cannot be consistently “proven” using double-blind, randomized controlled trials. It excludes explanations of homeopathy’s efficacy; ignores, excoriates, or considers current research data supporting those explanations incomprehensible, particularly from outside biomedicine: it is also not averse to using experimental bias, hearsay, and innuendo in order to discredit homeopathy. Thus, New Fundamentalism is itself unscientific.

Let’s examine these charges.

Liars?

It is not clear what untruths Milgrom is accusing the critics of uttering. He uses the example of Nick Cohen’s article in the Observer where he said that “To its fans, homeopathy is the ultimate cure-all. In fact, its effects can be positively deadly”. Milgrom does not make clear what is a lie here. Cohen’s article argues that if homeopaths pretend they can cure AIDS and other dangerous diseases with magic water then there beliefs are undoubtedly deadly. As with all homeopaths, Milgrom is ignoring the charge and instead labeling those that point out the obvious as just liars. Homeopaths like to pretend that this criticism is a lie. It is easier than policing their own trade.

It is an odd accusation to make since we are now accustomed to high profile homeopaths being ‘economical with the truth’. We have seen Neal’s Yard Remedies misrepresent themselves after being caught out selling illegal homeopathic products and the Society of Homeopaths have never been straightforward over their role in pushing sugar pills for malaria.

Modern medicine is ‘deadly’

This is a common homeopathic trick: to point out how many people are harmed by medical treatments, often using highly suspect figures. The argument is meaningless because homeopaths never put any of their charges in context – that medicine is often about taking risks and that the benefits need to be weighed against the risks.

The emptiness of this argument was recently demonstrated by Harriet Hall in a article called ‘Death by Medicine’ where she takes this common homeopathic whine and substitutes ‘medicine’ for ‘food’. It is worth quoting her at length:

Overweight is known to cause hypertension, heart disease and early death, as well as a huge number of other health problems. It is a major factor contributing to diabetes. Attempting to control weight (treating the symptoms instead of the cause) has led to a proliferation of dangerous diets and drugs such as the recent Fen/Phen scandal and the ephedra catastrophe. Unnecessary surgical procedures (again, treating the symptoms instead of the cause) mutilate the gastrointestinal tract of these unfortunate victims of food. Concerns about food lead to anorexia nervosa and bulimia. More money is spent on food than on any other class of products; just think how much more good that money could have done if it were spent instead on valuable research into things like homeopathy, acupuncture, and therapeutic touch! Frequent automobile trips to grocery stores and restaurants cause accidents, depletion of fossil fuels, and contamination of the atmosphere. Thousands suffer from indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea. Certain foods are deadly for those with allergies. Wheat is poison for those with celiac disease. Phenylalanine in foods causes mental retardation in children with undiagnosed PKU. Food may not contain all the vitamins and minerals and trace nutrients required for good health; people who depend on diet and refuse to take supplements can be seriously harmed. If you add up all the years of life lost due to overeating, obesity, allergic reactions, contaminants and toxic chemicals in food, deficiency syndromes, botulism, food-transmitted diseases like hepatitis, salmonella and E. coli, etc. etc. you will quickly come to the conclusion that food is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States. In fact, it is the ONLY cause: no illness has ever developed without previous food ingestion.

Of course, the ultimate parody of this form of thinking was achieved at DHMO.org, the campaign body that has shown that water is a deadly chemical that needs to be banned NOW! Yes, water, food and medicine all carry risks: intrinsic, political, technical and commercial. By only examining risks without balancing benefits, you can condemn any activity in life. And in all cases, delusional alternatives are never the answer.

We lie when we say there is no good evidence for homeopathy.

Over the past two decades there has been a steady increase in the number of trials of homeopathy. In turn, various authors have looked at the accumulation of evidence and performed ‘meta-analyses’ where all the evidence is drawn together to try to come to an overall conclusion. The early meta-analyses tended to show a small but positive effect for homeopathy but acknowledged the poor quality of evidence available. Later and better analyses have shown smaller effects until the latest and most definitive, Shang et al, was able to conclude that homeopathy is just a placebo therapy.

Homeopaths have a number of strategies to cope with this hammer blow:

  1. Only cite the earlier, cruder and more positive studies.
  2. Attack the Shang study as discredited and unscientific.
  3. Make up ad hoc meta-analyses and hope no-one notices what you are doing.

The third trick is interesting and common. You will find homeopaths saying things like, “81% (insert high number here) of clinical trials into homeopathy show a positive effect. Critics ignore these trials.’ Homeopaths are performing their own on-the-hoof metaanalysis – assessing lots of disperate data to come to an overall conclusion.

Now, this is not true that these positive trials are ignored. Science is not a democracy where the majority result wins. What researchers like Shang do is look at all the trials and then weight them by quality. Poor quality trials are either discounted or given low weight. When this is done it is seen that high quality trials show little or no effect. This is truly taking into account all the evidence, including the evidence of quality. What homeopaths are doing is pre-selecting trials on their result (positive) and then drawing conclusions from only those trials regardless of the quality of those trials – cherry picking. It is at best poor meta-analytical technique; at worst, entirely dishonest.

Milgrom chooses to use technique 2 – discredit Shang et al. Now, as with all scientific papers, Shang has flaws. It is publicly published so that other researchers can pick over those flaws and hence give the original researchers and others chances to address the flaws or do more work. If after this criticism, sufficient corrections can be made without the whole work collapsing then we can be sure that the work is solid. Homeopaths pick out the original flaws in the Shang paper, but then completely ignore how those flaws have been dealt with. They then call the paper ‘discredited’. AP Gaylard discusses this in an article – Shang’s secret – the hydra of homoeomythology. In short, the weaknesses of the Shang paper do not invalidate or distract from its conclusion – homeopathy is an inert therapy.

We ignore ‘developments’ in material science that shows water has a memory.

Milgrom believes that critics are unduly dismissive of research in material science that shows water has a ‘memory’ and hence there are plausible mechanism for homeopathy. Milgrom highlights several papers that claim such a thing. However, as of yet, there are no repeatable experiments that have been done that can show a consistent difference between two ultramolecular homeopathic remedies. Rao et al, published in Homeopathy (July 2007), is the study that come closest and is often brought up by homeopaths such as Milgrom.

This paper is excoriatingly bad. In the next issue of the journal, a response was published that tore it apart. The major concerns are:

  1. Despite being used as good evidence for the memory of water, all experiments were done on ethanol.
  2. There were no controls to ensure that different samples came from the same stock bottle of ethanol. Hence, different contamination levels could account fo differences seen.
  3. There were no data to show that the differences were consistent.
  4. Graphs presented in the paper were clearly not what they said they were.

They concluded,

It is clear that the data presented are wholly inadequate to support the authors’ assertion that UV spectroscopy can differentiate between the two remedies, and between different potencies of the remedies. If the authors wish to test their assertion so that it can be substantiated it will be necessary to repeat the work from the beginning, ensuring that all samples used in the study are sourced from the same bottle of stock solvent, that all duplicate preparations for precision assessment are separately prepared de novo from the mother tinctures, and that sufficient data are generated to allow robust and valid statistical analysis of the results.

That Milgrom and others have completely ignored this devastating critique speaks for itself. It is noteworthy that it is critics of homeopathy who published this analysis in Homeopathy. Rather than critics ignoring the work in material science, they have fully engaged with it and show how it is lacking. It is the homeopaths who then fail to engage and ignore these arguments. Homeopaths have not published critical appraisals of Rao – instead it used as a tool of propoganda.

The ‘memory of water’ is a holy grail for homeopaths that will be forever out of their grasp. Water does cluster in memory-like ways, but only over picoseconds. Not a good shelf-life. And, has been pointed out numerous times, even if water did have a memory, it is only one of the difficulties amongst many that make homeopathy so implausible.

Milgrom also likes his own work on the ‘quantum theory of homeopathy’ to show that critics are ‘stuck in an old paradigm of science’. Now it is true that Milgrom’s work has almost entirely been ignored by other quantum physicists and that is because it is utter meaningless bafflegab. If Milgrom had wanted to be taken seriously then he would have published in a physics journal. Instead he chooses to play to the gallery and publish in Homeopathy again. It is a thoroughly confused paper that cannot decide whether his ideas are real or just a metaphor. It is just a metaphor then it fails on two levels: firstly, it is not clear what it is a metaphor for; secondly, metaphors are supposed to enable insight into difficult ideas by comparing them with familiar ideas. Does he believe that quantum mechanics is a familiar idea for homeopaths? Pure bafflegab.

It is true that such musing are largely ignored by physicist because they are obvious nonsense. At least one has taken time out to show us why.

We are philosophically naive in our demands of ‘proof’ for homeopathy

Here Milgrom descends into more bafflegab, this time of a philosophical nature. His intention is to show that critics of homeopaths are simplistic in their views of science (people like Richard Dawkins no less) and that our demands for ‘proof’ are naive.

I will not fully deconstruct Milgrom’s views on paradigms and the philosophy of science: the work is done much better by AP Gaylard here.) What I will say is that Milgrom is essentially setting up a straw-man.

To illustrate this, we can see how he treats the recent challenge by Ernst and Singh to homeopaths to show some good evidence for homeopathy. Milgrom uses his sophistry to suggest that Ernst, Singh and indeed Randi will never pay out their prize money because they know full well that science can never provide ‘proof’ of anything. What Milgrom fails to tell his audience is that Ernst and Singh do not use the word ‘proof’ in their challenge. Has Milgrom even read their challenge? It does not look like it. What they ask for is evidence. And they state exactly what sort of evidence they require. I do the same in my own simple challenge. I do not ask for proof. What I am looking for is strong evidence that would be clear and unambiguous to anyone. No sophisticated philosophy required. Ernst and Singh are not naive in their views of science – what they ask for is simple – good evidence, that we can all debate and assess.

Milgrom says that there is evidence, but that it is rejected because people like Ernst are somehow stuck in an ‘old paradigm’ of science and that such evidence does not fit in with their ‘currently held theory’. This is nonsense.

Image that your partner rushes into the room and says there is a tiger in the garden. Do you believe them? Probably not – despite them being normally truthful. If your partner had said nothing, the chances of there being a tiger in the garden are near zero. What does this new information add to the probability of their being a large carnivorous cat there? The chances are still near zero as it is far more likely that your partner is mistaken, playing a joke or had one too many margaritas. If however, you partner rushed in with pictures on the digital camera and half the street were running down the road screaming, you may wish to re-assess you beliefs about garden-feline interactions. There is a mathematical formulation for assessing the importance of new evidence like this – Bayesean analysis of prior probabilities. It can be summed up as ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’.

Such is the same for homeopathy. Weak evidence will not change the ‘scientific paradigm’ when the new theory is so highly implausible. There is nothing ‘unscientific’ about this and nothing ‘subjective’ in the rejection of such evidence that does exist for homeopathy.

Will the real fundamentalists please stand up

So, has Milgrom convinced anyone apart from the cock-headed homeopaths that critics are the ‘new fundamentalists’? No. What Milgrom is doing is best summed up by Steven Poole in his book, Unspeak. Poole tells us that ‘words are weapons’. The idea is to stop thought and make dissent impossible – to shut down debate before it happens. Anti-abortionists are ‘pro-life’. How can you be against them? Are you ‘against life’? Friends of the Earth – how can you criticize them? Are you an enemy of the Earth? Bush has been a master of using upspeak. The War on Terror – are you with us or not? His administration describes the beating to death of Iraqi prisoners as ‘ the repeated administration of legitimate force’. Bafflegab. Milgrom is using upspeak to allow homeopaths to ignore the serious criticisms being made of them by allowing them to dismiss their critics as just simple minded fundamentalists who are not open to new ideas.

Milgrom has failed to prove his point, not least because he fails to consider what a fundamentalist is. Usually, fundamentalism is used in a religious context and means,

a deep and totalistic commitment to a belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of holy scriptures, absolute religious authority, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (fundamentals), away from doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life.

And of course, you only have to look to homeopathy for similar views. Another prominent homeopath George Vithoulkas confronts a similar question to Milgrom in the journal Homeopathy again, and comes to a thoroughly fundamentalist conclusion.

Vithoulkas asks “British media attacks on homeopathy: Are they justified?”. His response is to blame ‘progressive’ homeopaths from straying from the teachings of Hahnemmann in his ‘bible’ the Organon. He condemns new homeopaths for having new ‘dangerous ideas’ on vaccination and provings.

He attacks the heretical homeopaths and blames them for the critical onslaught. He says,

With all these irrational and arbitrary ‘‘new ideas’’ the ‘‘modern teachers’’ are defaming homeopathy and demolishing the corner stones that constitute its scientific edifice. So it is not without reason that scientists reacted badly, that the media launched a war against homeopathy and the opponents of homeopathy are at this moment celebrating.

His call is for homeopaths to fall back to the ‘rational’ teachings of Hahnemann. He concludes,

There are today enough sane homeopaths who can turn the [homeopathic] craziness, disorder and confusion into order and sanity, but they must speak out. This journal should be part of such a proactive movement defending the essence and substance of the theories and principles bequeathed to us by Samuel Hahnemann.

The parallels with religious fundamentalists are obvious. Substitute Jesus or Mohammad for Hahnemann and you see a call to a strict interpretation of the scriptures and a rejection of progressive thought. The reasons for Homeopathic fundamentalism and religious fundamentalism may be similar: the feeling of being under attack from a powerful degenerate hegemony and a strong belief in holding the keys to the truth of the universe.

So, Lionel Milgrom. Who are the new fundamentalists? Those that seek evidence and insight? Or those that want to hide in their beliefs and sacred texts and are too afraid to allow them to be subject to criticism and enquiry?

*******************************************************************************

An analysis of another presentation made at Jayney Goddard’s fun day by Dr Alex Tournier has now been taken to bits by gimpy.

48 comments for “The “New Fundamentalism”: Why Lionel Milgrom is Plain Wrong (Again)

  1. gimpyblog
    July 5, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Great stuff LCN. However, the cynic is me thinks that these people care not that they lie, only that they can keep their followers happier by upping the rhetoric and ignoring reality.

    Expect my post on Alex Tournier’s presentation tomorrow (trouble uploading pictures)

  2. Derrik
    July 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve always had problems with the word fundamentalist. I don’t think we should use it about religious zealots partly because the word zealot is already there but mainly because we need to encourage the idea that it is the peaceful tolerant religious majority who are observing the fundamental tenants of their faith.
    In science the fundamental principles across all disciplines are firstly that we should test and re-test our ideas using well designed experiments examined by correctly applied statistical analysis and secondly that we should report what we have done candidly in pier reviewed journals permitting the examination of our methods and conclusions by other experts in the field. This is the embodiment of intellectual integrity and honesty.
    So I want to say; yes, I’m fundamentalist about that, yes, I think people who fall short of these ideals are pariahs who should be condemned and, yes, when people who fall short of these ideals and either try to play at being doctors or sell products to the public off the back of their pseudoscience the scientific community has a duty to put the case against the charlatans before people who might otherwise be duped.
    So whilst your wonderful blog is right to expose Milgrom’s mendacity in calling us liars, ignoring evidence for memory of water etc, I think we should have no hesitation in agreeing with him that the sceptic movement is indeed fundamentalist about its values of intellectual integrity and honesty, that these values are indeed incompatible with those of the homeopathic community and that if he wants to fight about it he’s to bring it on.

  3. Anonymous
    July 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Dispassionate observers today would classify homeopathy as a system of faith rather than science, and therefore immune to scientific analysis and criticism. Milgrom may use all the right science terms, but to quote the great Eric Morecambe, not necessarily in the right order. Milgrom is actually a clerical figure, and shpalman et al are starting at quantum shadows – although it’s still worth doing, I suppose. Sam Harris is very good on this, so here’s a plug for anyone who hasn’t already experienced his excellent book The End of Faith.
    http://www.samharris.org
    paulC

  4. pvandck
    July 6, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    It is well established there is no science in homeopathy, and that such effects that it does have are either psychosomatic in nature or illusion. It’s not the science that should bother anyone but the incessant lying, dishonesty, that homeopthy’s pricipal proponents regularly (in fact always) indulge in.
    There’s money to be made fleecing the ignorant, hence the doublespeak and dishonesty. There’s also the empowerment of quacks, both those who lie and those dimwits who actually believe in the fantasies.
    The scientific issue was settled a long time ago – homeopathy belongs with with phrenology and phlogiston. It’s a moral issue and, I hope, before too long a legal one. It will eventually be settled, like many things, in a court of law.

  5. Anonymous
    July 7, 2008 at 2:35 am

    I love your blog, but please get rid of those fucking snapshot links. They’re REALLY fucking irritating.

  6. Le Canard Blanc
    July 7, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Another illiterate bum.Please can LCN prevent the quite unnecessary obscenities from despoiling his excellent site.

  7. Le Canard Noir
    July 7, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Anonymous. I could not have put it better myself. They will go.

  8. Paul Wilson
    July 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Good job to LCN, AP Gaylard and Gimpy for taking the time to wade through the “evidence”…

  9. jdc325
    July 7, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Milgrom is hilarious. I’ve followed his adventures via Shpalman for a while now. ‘Tis good stuff.

  10. Svetlana
    July 8, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Hilarious…
    It is bad hilarity…
    The quacks are not hilarious, they are detestable.

  11. ChilledoutChemist
    July 9, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    pvandck thinks that homeopathy will be settled in a court of law. I am not sure if he/she knows that there is an EU directive for homeopathy and it has quite a power base in europe.
    It would be settled all right but not how you might think.

  12. Svetlana
    July 12, 2008 at 10:02 pm
  13. Mojo
    July 13, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Chilledoutchemist wrote, “there is an EU directive for homeopathy…”

    Perhaps you mean directive 2005/29/EC, which includes “falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illnesses, dysfunction or malformations” in its list of proscribed “misleading commercial practices”, and which was recently implemented in the UK.

  14. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 3:18 am

    The lampooning in this article is essentially meaningless and tiresome.

    If you want to discuss the validity of the meta-analysis published in the Lancet (Aug 2005), highlighted in one of Dawkins’ documentaries, that ‘proved’ the ineffectiveness of homeopathy, I will gladly engage.

    If you want to discuss the morality behind US medical doctors in 2007 receiving $19 billion in gifts from pharmaceutical companies (and the figure rises significantly each year), again I will discuss.

    If you want to discuss an Australian peer reviewed science-based study that demonstrated the ineffectiveness of cytotoxic chemotherapy on 18 out of 20 cancers, and where the researchers recommended their use be further evaluated in light of the results, we can talk.

    • le canard noir
      October 22, 2011 at 7:39 am

      “Dont talk abour that. Talk about this”

      Tiresome.

  15. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    How about the 2 studies 1 year apart in the BMJ, one that showed a link between grapefruit and breast cancer, and the other a year later that showed nothing of the kind.

    Two peer reviewed, evidenced based, scientific studies and one was completely wrong. And we don’t know which one, nor why.

    You’re right. I wouldn’t talk about this stuff either. Let’s instead talk about this author’s unlearned, meaningless opinion, an author who hasn’t taken the time to apply one dash of evidence to his views. and who can’t even bring himself to put his real name on the article.

    • le canard noir
      October 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Well clinical research can be messy and contradictory. It is hard stuff. But homeopaths cherry pick only the positive studies and ignore the far more compelling contradictory studies. That is the road to delusion and health fraud.

      You will find my name in my About Me section. I make no attempt to conceal my identity. I would also challenge you to find anything that I say cannot be evidenced or is not fair opinion. I find quacks tend to do what you do: start off by trying to change the subject – and then when this is pointed out to them – try to insult me. Well done.

  16. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Read what I say, not what you think I say. Most authors attach their name directly to an article. You don’t do that.

    As for cherry-picking, both sides do it. The Australian study that demonstrated that chemo-therapy was mostly ineffective has been accepted by western doctors but is simply ignored. On the sciencebasedmedicine.org (a website set up by Dr. Steven Novella, clinical neurologist, assistant professor and Director of General Neurology at Yale University School of Medicine) not one doctor on the board questioned the legitimacy of the study. They just don’t talk about it. They only use the positive studies that support their views.

    Neither do they discuss the grapefruit/breast cancer link. Nor are they that crazy about the AMA study that demonstrated that the gifting of US doctors ($19 billion) by drug companies results in “non-rational prescribing”. Actually their response was quite humorous: they claim the gifts don’t affect the prescribing, based solely on their own practices, ignoring the fact that according to the study in every case where “non-rational prescribing” took place, the doctor was convinced that the gifting did not influence them. It’s funny. All of a sudden testimonial evidence supplants a genuine fact.

    Nor are they interested in the work in Cuba with homeopathy that is fully integrated into their health system. The fact is most US and Western doctors know very little about what goes on in Cuban health care, and don’t seem interested.

    You talk of “far more compelling contradictory studies”. Now I brought up THE most important study on the topic, analyzing 110 studies on homeopathy (Lancet Aug 2005) and used by Dawkins in a documentary of his. It apparently was the one used to support the withdrawal of government-funded homeopathy in England. Dawkins described it as the “meta-analysis of meta-analyses” and that it was the final word on the subject. So I imagined, incorrectly as it appears, that you were acquainted with it.

    If you prefer not to discuss the actual material and prefer to express the uninformed lexicon of opinion on the topic, say so, and I will move on.

    Lancet 2005; 366: 726–32
    Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects?
    Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of
    homoeopathy and allopathy
    Aijing Shang, Karin Huwiler-Müntener, Linda Nartey, Peter Jüni, Stephan Dörig, Jonathan A C Sterne, Daniel Pewsner, Matthias Egger

  17. Le Canard Noir
    October 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    OK. Hit me with Shang. What are you going to say about it?

  18. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Give me the title (not the source or anything else, only the title) of just one of the 110 studies they looked at on homeopathy.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Why do you ask? All the studies are available as an appendix to the article in the online Lancet?

      For example, the highest quality study in the homeopathy group was: Rottey EE, Verleye GB, Liagre RL. Het effect van een homeopathische bereiding van micro-organismen bij de preventie van griepsymptomen. Een gerandomiseerd dubbelblind onderzoek in de huisartspraktijk. Tijdschrift voor Integrale Geneeskunde 1995;11(1):54-58

      Will that do?

  19. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Good. Now take that study and explain to me the protocol. You don’t have to be too detailed. What I’m after is to find out in what context the homeopathic remedies were administered.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 22, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Libby – this may be fun for you. But, I am not doing your leg work for you. If you have a criticism of Shang, perhaps you had better just come out with it?

  20. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    You are not doing my legwork. YOU are doing YOUR legwork, something you should have done already if you are intent on vilifying an entire field.

    This is a simple task. Check the study you selected and find out how they administered the remedies (3 to 4 minutes tops).

    • Lecanardnoir
      October 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Libby. Last chance. Make your point. You have a very arrogant stance. I hope you are not going to suffer hubris.

  21. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    It’s very unconvincing to vilify something and then be unable to answer the most basic questions about it

    Perhaps you should have selected a study in a language you understand.

    Cheers

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 22, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      Ihre Annahmen über meine Sprachkenntnisse sagen mehr über Sie als mich.

      It is a common quack trait I see that they expect their critics to do their donkey work.

      If you are not brave enough to make your own points about Shang, then perhaps your points are not strong enough to bother with.

      Come on. What ridiculous nonsense are you gearing up to?

  22. libby
    October 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    The study you selected is in Dutch not German.

    If nothing else you’re entertaining.

    • Lecanardnoir
      October 22, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      Ha. Do you have a serious point, or are you here just to be entertained.

      Come on Libby. Piss, or get off the pot.

      You’re not one of those homeopaths that are all bluster and no substance, are you?

      • libby
        October 22, 2011 at 10:11 pm

        So to you critical thinking is never answering a question.

        According to Wikipedia, the origins of critical thinking in Western thought started with the Socratic method. The basis of this method is a series of questions.

        I don’t see, given this, how you can claim to be a critical thinker.

      • Le Canard Noir
        October 22, 2011 at 10:17 pm

        One last chance Libby. Make a substantive point or be blocked.

        I block very rarely. Please do not be an exception.

    • Vicky
      October 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      Yes it is, libby. So what? If you’re speaking both German and English, you’ll understand written Dutch fairly well.

  23. libby
    October 23, 2011 at 12:38 am

    I need the answer to the question to be able to make my point.

    On the other hand, it would be funny to be blocked for not speaking Dutch.

    • Vicky
      October 23, 2011 at 7:54 am

      What is really funny is that you think you’d be blocked for not speaking Dutch when lecanardnoir has made perfectly clear why he considers blocking you – you’re trying to make a point but don’t want to do your homework. If you didn’t investigate the studies Shang and his co-workers used, it wasn’t a good idea to let lecanardnoir pick the one you were going to make your argument about. So why did you do that?

      • Mojo
        October 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm

        “…you’re trying to make a point…”

        I disagree. In the thread so far Libby has been trying very hard not to make a point.

  24. libby
    October 23, 2011 at 5:42 am

    OK I abandon my attempts since you can’t bring yourself to actually look at the study you selected.

    Something substantive. OK. How about your bullshit statement “…medicine is often about taking risks and that the benefits need to be weighed against the risks.”

    Now this is a fairy tale that would be nice if it were even close to reality.

    Let’s look at the pain killer Zomax, nothing that anyone would take if there were serious side effects (well anyone who wasn’t insane, that is). Zomax, a product made by McNeil Pharmaceuticals, ran into serious side effect issues early in its history. BUT the company was able to hide the problem from the public and even federal health regulators by asking the courts for a concealment order to protect their investment and a gag order on anyone involved in the payouts from numerous lawsuits. The order was authorized and the company continued to sell the product knowing full well the unsuspecting consumer, I being one, were being put needlessly at serious risk.

    Some people died, some had serious life threatening reactions, and many were unaffected. Luckily I was in the 3rd group.

    The situation has gotten so bad among the pharma industry that the The New York Trial Lawyers Assoc has been trying to convince politicians to support the Sunshine in Litigation Act that would prevent companies from using the courts as a duck blind for risky products. I have been trying to convince doctors on sciencebasedmedicine.org to organize support for the bill in the interests of protecting their patients’ health but they are uninterested (possibly it would cut into the gifting, I’m not sure). Harriet Hall, one of your references in the article, was one who had no problem keeping quiet on the issue.

    To repeat, the only people that would know how often this happens is, well, no one, because it is legally concealed information.

    So if this site is all about debunking quackery, why don’t you ever set your sights on the quackery within conventional medicine? Why don’t you ever discuss for instance the conclusions of an Australian study (peer reviewed, double blind, science based) that deemed chemo-therapy as almost ineffective. Actually the figures on the major cancers were appalling.

  25. Lecanardnoir
    October 23, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Libby. You are indeed tiresome. I asked you to stick to the topic of this blog and post. You then got in a huff because I would not play your game about Shang. You then go off on one about a pharmaceutical company.

    I am sure there are many bad things that happen in the world of corporate drug companies. This blog,however, is about quackery – pseudoscientific and superstitious health beliefs such as homeopathy. If you do not want to talk about that, then there are many other forums for your thoughts. Perhaps you could even set up a blog of your own from the perspective of someone in the ‘third category’ of people unaffected by side effects of a drug.

    So your Shang game was a dead end? Again, the rules of this blog are simple : on topic, reasonably polite.

  26. libby
    October 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Cuban research on homeopathy:

    I just had a short meeting with Dr. Gustavo Bracho from Cuba who was visiting my city. He is a medical researcher and they have been experimenting with vaccines for leptospirosis, a serious disease that invades the island during the hurricane season.

    They used 3 study groups of mice. The 1st were unvaccinated, the 2nd vaccinated with a pharmaceutical vaccine developed by Findlay Vacuna, and 3rd vaccinated with a homeopathic medicine made by Findlay Naturals. All 3 groups were exposed to a massive dose of the leptospirosis bacteria. The untreated group all died, 100%. The vaccine group all lived, 100%. The homeopathic group had a 20% failure rate, 80% lived.

    One of the reasons they now vaccinate with homeopathy for this disease is because of cost. The pharma vaccine costs $25US for each dose, where a homeopathic remedy costs 5-10 cents. That means they cannot vaccinate everyone with the pharma drug because they just can’t afford it. Secondly, they consider the pharma vaccine unsafe for anyone under 20 years of age. Thirdly, the doses they administered in the study were lethal, not anything that would occur in nature. So the homeopathic remedy gives enough protection in the field.

    In fact from the 2007 and 2008 figures, not one person died from leptospirosis in Cuba using homeopathy in the provinces most at risk where they were treated. The experiment was repeated as you can see.

  27. October 23, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    libby

    For a clinical dissection of this ‘evidence’ for homeopathy, see AP Gaylard’s Much ado about nothing. Of course, if you spot something wrong with his analysis, I see that comments are still open there.

  28. Le Canard Noir
    October 23, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I look forward to Bracho’s paper on the mice experiment. Let’s hope it is not as bad as his paper on the so-called mass vaccination.

    • libby
      October 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      The leptospirosis field studies in Cuba are documented. Could you point me in the direction of his paper on mass vaccination. Thanks.

      One other thing. Our views on antibody titers related to protection is not always the case according to Gustavo. For Hep B it works well, but for some other diseases it doesn’t. Absence of antibodies does not always mean absence of protection, but of course it is difficult to measure. As well, having antibodies does not always mean protection. His research is trying to figure out why this is the case.

      The immune system is more complex than we think.

      The advantage of the Cuban system is that there is no friction between homeopathy and conventional medicine. They share information freely and support each other. Unfortunately here we have drawn battle lines and nobody wins those scenarios.

  29. Le Canard Noir
    October 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Libby – this is not a general forum where you can ramble on about whatever you want. This space is to discuss the above blog post. I have been far too tolerant of you, and now it ends. Any off topic postings will be removed. Your posts are now moderated.

    I have written about the Cuban leptospirosis trial. If you wish to discuss that, then you can find it here.

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2009/01/hasta-el-absurdo-siempre.html

    • Badly Shaved Monkey
      October 25, 2011 at 7:03 pm

      Q: Has Libby contributed to the Lepto blog?
      A: No she has not.

      Q: Has she stuck to the issues and followed a disciplined analysis of her opinions?
      A: No she has not.

      Q: Is this unusual behaviour among sugar pill fans?
      A: No it is not.

  30. Will
    October 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

    This latest flurry of correspondence is quite revealing to me. Libby is determined to engage with PEOPLE but on no account with DATA. It’s a nice approach to push them to make a clear point and see them flail about. It really hammers home the message that they have nothing new to contribute, trot out the same old tactics and then when the debate doesn’t go their way (and I mean in terms of focus rather than result) they accuse you of refusing to debate with them. They are then completely satisfied that that you are closed-minded and don’t want to see the “evidence” they believe they have. It’s such a tidy and self sustaining delusion… I really don’t see how one combats this, as it’s the closed-minded not listening to the open-minded and accusing them of being closed-minded. How do you move forward?

    They think that we’re anti homeopathy because we love main-stream medicine and are blind to its down-sides. Like animal rights people who think that scientists don’t love animals and don’t care about the suffering they inflict.

    It’s like thinking that someone in a third-world country drinking cholera infected water is doing so because they think it’s good for them and that’s what they prefer. Not that it’s all they have and it’s take that risk or die from thirst; or drink imaginary water because only then can you be sure that it’s free from disease.

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