A Footnote to Darwin and Homeopathy

The homeopaths, like Dana Ullman, treat original scientific works like scripture – as a source of truth. Their own Hahnemannian scriptures trump scientific knowledge and evidence at all turns. This fact exposes their pseudoscience. I bet the majority of practicing biologists have never read Darwin’s Origins.

Homeopaths like the authority of scientists, celebrities and politicians. It gives them a source of validation that is independent of the reality of the world. But in doing so, they abuse truth and Darwin has been roped into this misadventure. Charles Darwin’s letters have been thoroughly abused in an attempt to show that he was a supporter of homeopathy and I have shown how this is utter nonsense.

More manuscripts are now online and we can can see writings about Darwin from his colleagues and families. A biography by his son reveals this snippet and I thought it worth sharing as an insight into the man, his illness, and his mischievous humour.

Besides the holidays which I have mentioned there were his visits to the water cure. He began in 1849 when very ill suffering from constant sickness. He was urged to try to water cure by Fox (or Sulivan) and at last agreed to try Dr. Gully’s establishment.1 — His letters to Fox show how much good the treatment did him: I fancy he thought that he found a cure for his troubles, which but like all other remedies it had only a transient effect on him. However he found it at first so good for him that he built himself a douche when he came home, & Parslow learned to be his bathman. He thought Dr. Gully a clever Dr but I do not think he liked him. He was repelled by all the homeopathy & spiritualism that Dr Gully favoured. — He so far humoured Dr G. as to allow himself to be examined by a medical clairvoyante. who This person who localized the mischief in the stomach, in doing so he followed as my father believed some unconscious hints from Gully or his assistant.” It was I think to this clairvoyante to whom my father offered a £5 note if she could tell him the number. She scornfully refused demean herself in such a way…

Another quack who refused to be objectively tested!

18 Comments on A Footnote to Darwin and Homeopathy

  1. Consistently enjoy your well-researched blog. I can’t imagine how you find the time, but am grateful there are individuals out there still raging against the dying of the light. Suspect many others feel similarly. I intend to have a close look at that homeopathic cancer report, and will revert if I can get the full paper.

  2. During Darwin’s trip to South America in the mid-1830s, he became very ill. Although different historians and physicians have hypothesized on what ailment he had, there is no consensus, except to say that he was seriously ill. Ever since 1837, he suffered from persistent nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, widespread boils, and trembling, and beginning in 1847, he had fainting spells and spots before his eyes…and his symptoms were getting increasingly worse.

    Although Charles Darwin was only 39in March, 1849, Darwin himself acknowledged that he was unable to work one day in every three, and further, he felt that he was dying. He said this specifically,

    “I was not able to do anything one day out of three, & was altogether too dispirited to write to you or to do anything but what I was compelled.­ I thought I was rapidly going the way of all flesh.”

    I think that it is classic that Darwin was skeptical of homeopathy. This verifies that there was no placebo effect here.

    And yet, he was dramatically better within 8 days! He soon called himself “an eating and walking machine.”

    Although Darwin’s indigestion returned some time after spending 2 months at Gully’s clinic, he never again reported having spots before his eyes, fainting spells, or heart palpitations, and further, he never again wrote that he was unable to work one day in every three.

    So, thank you for confirming the significant benefits that Darwin got from Dr. Gully and that clearly these benefits were not the result of a placebo effect.

    For a more detailed history of Darwin’s experiences with Gully as well as some amazing results that Darwin and his sons got from testing extremely extremely small doses of ammonia salts and their effects on the sundew plant, consider reading my book, “The Homeopathic Revolution,” or see a shortened summary at:

  3. Hey Andy,
    You said that you would not post anything that doesn’t relate specifically to Darwin. How does your post that questions my “shame” have to do with this subject? I responded in a responsible manner, and you responded with name-calling. Hmmm.

    Who’s quackier?

  4. Dana – it was shock!

    Shock that you could still come out with the same old stuff, despite the evidence, and still try to plug your book. Incredible!

    This new evidence shows that Darwin’s views on homeopathy were well known by his family. It looks hard to claim that he was ashamed or afraid to say he supported homeopathy, as you have done.

  5. Yeah…it is Darwin’s skepticism of homeopathy (which I have always acknowledged!) that proves that the results of treatment are not dependent upon belief.

    As I said, Dr. Gully’s treatment provided invaluable short-term benefits for ALL of his symptoms, but his nausea and indigestion returned, though his other much more serious symptoms disappeared.

    How can you spin THESE results away from Dr. Gully’s treatments? Curious minds do want to know…

    And if you continue to spread misinformation about Darwin and Dr. Gully, I will continue to respond with the facts…even according to Darwin’s own letters.

  6. But, Dana. If Darwin had believed in homeopathy you would have claimed homeopathies success. He did not believe in homeopathy and so you claim success nonetheless.

    All we know is that Darwin suffered a long term illness that was cyclical in nature and that at a specific point in his life he took homeopathic pills against his best instincts. As the page above says, his remissions were short lived. There is just no way you can make any claims whatsoever. it is just idle and silly speclation. It is post hoc reasoning about a historical case and all we see is your wishful thinking overlayed with your vast investement in your beliefs.

  7. I’m still a little confused how you can say (with a straight face) that all of the benefits that Darwin got from Dr. Gully were “temporary.”

    Please show me where in his letters he complains about fainting spells or spots before his eyes (two conditions that he had had for 2 years)…or how about heart palpitations and severe boils (which had had for 12 years).

    Admittedly, Darwin still had serious digestive problems…but to ignore the significant benefits that Darwin got “coincidentally” just 8 days after visiting Gully is remarkable.

  8. Not me. The biog above says ” which but like all other remedies it had only a transient effect on him.” Straight face.

  9. LCM all that in much more detail is retailed in Rebecca Stott’s excellent Darwin And The Barnacles. I thoroughly reccomend it as a wonderfully readable book. Our local library has it, yours might too.

  10. Hey Mr. Duck…
    I simply challenge you to cite one letter from Darwin after 1849 (after his treatments by Dr. James Manby Gully) where he complained about spots before his eyes or fainting spells, both of which he had experienced regularly for TWO years (that is, IF you believe Darwin’s own letters).

    If you cannot cite these letters, then, simply admit that Darwin experienced some long-term benefits from Gully’s hydrotherapy and homeopathic treatments.

    Who’s quacking now?

  11. DU,

    If Darwin was treated with “the water treatment” and homoeopathy, how do you determine to which one did he “temporarily” responded.

    Although we do not know the diagnosis of Darwin’s illness, all his symptoms are consistent with an anxiety neurosis or panic disorder. If that is the case, a relaxing “water treatment” would be expected to help, especially if he believed that it would.

    If that is the case, why would you think it was the homoeopathy? Especially since we now know that there is no evidence of effect for homoeopathy above placebo. And especially since we know that Darwin had absolutely no belief in homoeopathy hence arguing against even a placebo effect.


  12. He obviously doesn’t, despite having had it explained to him numerous times.

    Dana is said to be “homeopathy’s foremost spokesman”. I hate to imagine what the others must be like.

  13. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. not available at RSM library; but the Kuttans have published over 100 papers in the cancer field (mostly cytochemistry); including some quite good journals. Puzzling. Does anyone know more about this paper?

  14. Billyjoe! Anxiety neurosis or panic disorder? If you think that water-cure allowed him to “relax,” you have NO understanding of water-cure, but heck, don’t let ignorance get in the way of your beliefs.

    Once again, please show me where Darwin complained about spots before his eyes or fainting spells after seeing Dr. Gully…or perhaps it was just an amazing “coincidence” that these symptoms disappeared just after seeing Gully.

    And Darwin didn’t initially “believe” in water-cure at all. Only later did he develop respect for it…and he never believed in homeopathy, which verifies that the benefits that he got were not from placebo.

    And people who say that there is no good research that verifies that biological activity and clinical efficacy of homeopathy are practicing ostrich research, sticking their head in a hole (the real “double-blind” method where you close both of your eyes).

    Your quacking is getting loud.

  15. Dullman, Darwin’s letters, and it seems his family, are not on your side. However the Rev Darwin isn’t here to speak for himself. Even if the Rev Darwin did believe in the efficacy of homeopathy, it’s neither here nor there – it’s an anecdote (and wrong as it happens). Isaac Newton did alchemy. So what? Alchemy is still superstitious nonsense, just like homeopathy.

    When are you going to provide one incontrovertible example, with properly documented evidence, of a non-self-limiting ailment being cured by homeopathy?
    When are you going to stop defrauding the vulnerable and gullible?

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