Well, I have had two conversations with homeopaths now about taking the challenge. Recap: its a simple challenge to see if a homeopath can determine which remedy is which out of a sample of six when they do not already know which remedy is which. If the claims of homeopaths are correct, it ought to be easy.
First up: Sarah K, who left comments on my blog to say she was up the challenge. Fantastic news. Unfortunately, quite quickly she appeared to get rather defensive and say she would not be rushed into things. And ultimately decided that she did not want to do it. A huge shame.
Some of her excuses were that remedies could take a long time to take effect and might interfere with each other. Fine. But she has the choice to decide which remedies to use. For example, I suggested Nelsons Insomnia remedy. Customers of Nelsons might expect their insomnia to be reduced in a few hours, not over several weeks, and they would expect no lingering side-effects too, which homeopaths claim do not happen. Oh well. So close.
Another homeopath appeared to contradict Sarah K in the most striking terms. Soroush Ebrahimi was up for the challenge, but unfortunately not mine – he had his own ideas. He wanted to give me a remedy and be able to seal an envelope with a prediction of what the remedy would do to me – a ‘reproving’. I think it best to allow the IM chat to speak for itself…
(for explanation, Soroush has already challenged Ben Goldacre to a similar test. This is IM, so spelling and sentence order may be erratic)
SE: Hi – did you want me for something? Welcome to my group of friends
LCN: Just wanted to know if you were prepared to take the quackometer $100 challenge. If you claim you could guess ben g’s symptoms from taking a single remedy, then this test ought to be a walk in the park and great public proof of homeopathic claims.
SE: Hi – I did explain that the quackmaster test involves to elements:
SE: 1- Is the homoeopath any good?
SE: 2- Does a potentised substance work?
LCN: yes i am happy with that – do you think you are good homeopath?
SE: So if the result is a fail you do not know whetehr the homoeopath was poor in his selection or whether potentised substance have no effect
LCN: sure. but if you succeed then you win!
SE: So my ‘reproving’ exercise is better, because it elliminates the uncertainty about the ability of the homoeopath
LCN: no it does not. it relies on both the homeopath to interpret the symptoms correctly and the subject to report them correctly – both subjective and so unlikely to yield a good result for anyone. Eitgher side could cry foul. With my test, no one can cry foul.
SE: Neither with my test – when they are in agony and asking for help, then we will know for sure!
LCN: well frankly – if you are prepared to inflict agony on someone then you are not fit to conduct such tests. and ben was quite right to refuse.
SE: Oh – so dilute potentised substance do have an effect?? Make up your mind
LCN: so, you want to induce agony in someone and then claim that homeopathy is right? I think you do not understand anything about obtaining objective evidence
LCN: you are telling me they do. i think ben was quite right to worry tha tyou might poison him. i would be. my test involves no such risks.
SE: Ben was QUITE wrong – because if you read my post, you would have realised that he would have had the substance tested for himself and my half of the remedy would have been in a safe-box only to be opened with both of us present
SE: You guys have to put your body where your mouth is
SE: Either a potentised highly dilute material has powers or it does not
LCN: i am happy to take homeopathic remedes – but not from someone who promises to have me in agony! it shows a lack of ethics in the trial that you would be prepared to do so.
LCN: i have no doubt that the homeopathy would do nothing. I just would not be prepared to take a pill forom you.
SE: So tell me do potentised highly dilute substance have any power?
SE: if not – you are just taking a sugar pill as you lot claim
LCN: i believe they do not. but can i trust you to give me a potentised highly dilute substance ?
I hope you understand my reluctance to take part. The conversation went on for a while more. Mostly, me repeating a question to ask Soroush to take my test or work out a better protocol for his own.
For the record, I would take such a test, but Soroush needs to think up a protocol to take into account the following:
- S should not be allowed near any pill I would take.
- We need end measures that are not subjective – if the test fails I do not want homeopaths accusing me I was misreporting symptoms.
- We need a quantifiable result. At present, a success for S would not give us any idea of the significance of the result. Could it have been chance? We have no way of quantifying that.
- If it is going to cost more than my proposed test, I want to know why it is a better test and worth the money.
Without these things, Soroush’s test is just a circus stunt. And, if I may say so, a very disconcerting circus stunts. Like a scary clown juggling sheep’s hearts.
It is remarkable than no one else has come forward. This is a basic test of homeopathy. Something that ought to be easy and yet nothing quite like it appears never to have been done. It would show basic evidence that homeopathy is not a delusion. And yet, homeopaths feel no shame in taking on the responsibility for sick people. A responsibility that cannot be grounded in reason or evidence and instead relies on fragile anecdotes. Homeopaths’ preference to counter criticism is to sue people rather than provide argument and evidence.
I am offering the chance for some homeopath to give me a metaphorical bloody nose, humiliate me, and prove me wrong – all for the cost of some postage and and few remedies.
So far, none of them have the courage of their convictions.