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Gerald O'brian


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Should we let homeopathy be?

The biggest dilemma for me is that placebo is proven to work better if the physician also believes he's giving real medecine. In this view, homeopathy is the perfect placebo. Even the people making it, through laborious dilutions, have GOT to believe in it, or their high school knowledge about chemistry would make it tempting to skip the whole process and make more profit selling sugar.
It's even got quantum mechanics watching its back, losing the more curious ones in complexe explanations about just how complexe liquid water is.
And of course, the idea is fun. Like cures like. 1/1000000th of a molecule of ethanol to cure a hangover.
Sure it's tempting to ridicule the whole industry for the billion dollar quackery it is. But one might actually find that it's saving a lot of healthcare money, and that it WORKS! And it works because we let it, because we don't ask for double-blind tests...
So what's your view on this? Is homeopathy a cheap way to heall the credulous? Or has it gone too far and is part of what makes the transition to the age of reason so darn slow?



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  • Oct 27 2013: My reference was not to Schroedinger's cat, which would have been too easy, but to a different experiment. But my knowledge of quantum is as anecdotal as your knowledge of homeopathy, so I cannot give you the full reference. It is about not knowing whether something is a wave or a particle and upon observation finding that it is a particle when you look for a particle but a wave when you look for a wave. But that further illustrates my point. Anything can be trivialised by willful misunderstanding. 500, 000,000 people use homeopathy as their healthcare of choice, (WHO statistic). Whether it is placebo or not, it is obviously doing a lot of good for a lot of people.
    • Oct 27 2013: Popularity does not imply quality or effectiveness. Blood letting was plenty popular for years before someone realized what an idiotic practice it was. And that's with a practice that actively caused damage--think just how long it would have taken to realize it doesn't help if it did nothing at all?

      Seeing as my knowledge of homeopathy is truly anecdotal, perhaps you'd care to explain the mechanics of how it functions?
      I freely admit I'm no doctor, but I do know a thing or two about chemistry and physics, and they say homeopathy isn't supposed to do anything.

      I'm a man of science. When shown proper evidence and have them properly explained, I'm willing to flip my view on a dime, even if its one I've harbored passionately for many years (happened to me with global warming for instance). I'd be embarrassed as hell in the process, but I will change my stance given satisfactory reason.
      • Oct 27 2013: @Nadav

        In the days of blood letting and the like, there was no alternative choice in health care; i.e., medical treatment. So, that talking point can be laid to rest.

        The health care industry is a market driven entity. When faced with an illness that conventional medicine can only palliate, people naturally seek out something that does. It becomes popular. Sex and success sells.

        The intellectually lazy red flag alert pops up when any skeptic tries to counter a supporter of homeopathy by asking that they explain the mechanics of, or how homeopathy functions. I am reminded of college and grad students who ask for and depend on other students’ lecture notes. Why would any rationalizing person expect that they would waste their time sitting in the professors’ lecture halls themselves? Since you claim to be a man of science, I hope that your question does not indicate that scientists no longer do their own independent research.

        The opinions and now dead-on-arrival talking points have failed to turn the health care consumers away from homeopathy. It’s popular because it works. Health care consumers will continue to spend their money where it does the best good. Put the blame for the success of homeopathy where it properly belongs, at the alter of conventional medicine. It’s a proven fact that most homeopathic patients have already tried conventional medicine. It failed them. What platitudes would you offer these patients when faced with an unrelenting painful chronic disease or worse, a life or death decision?
        • Oct 27 2013: When I did my own research, I ended up finding pseduoscientific nonsense that would get you thrown out of a high school chemistry lab, never mind somewhere respectable.
          This "water memory" nonsense doesn't sit well with our understanding of the molecular structure of water specifically, or any other material in general.

          I also came up with how homeopathy was originally conceived. Derived from the concept of trying to fight fire with fire as it were, a researcher (or doctor, or whatever, his credentials aren't the point) tried prescribing patients with various harmful materials that caused the same symptoms they were experiencing. As he throughout his experiments lowered the dosage of these harmful materials, he noted that patients were getting better faster.
          No control group in sight, unfortunately, leading to one rather obvious conclusion--patients improve faster when you lower the dosage of poison you're giving them. Well ****, I could have told you that.

          On an unrelated note concerning the whole success thing, go ahead and compare the amount of money spent on conventional medicine as opposed to homeopathy. Compare the number of clinics, or the number of practitioners, even the amount of each type of treatment sold.
          You'll find conventional medicine is still firmly in the lead, and for good reason.
      • Oct 28 2013: To Nadav, not me. Sorry.

        Believe what you want. Conventional medicine is not still firmly in the lead. Read this editorial from my blog. Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

        Homeopathy, the skeptics. How Effective are They Really?

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        Oct 28 2013: Nadav, if you wait for scientific proof, you might just miss the next wave. Sometimes things are discovered that work, before the science behind them can explain why they work.

        In Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" there is appears to be a well-worn repeating pattern of the existing scientific paradigm dismissing new theories (with limited or no evidence) because the scientific measuring methods are not yet up to it. Also, there are huge vested interests in maintaining the current paradigm in the face of growing evidence otherwise. All this I'm sure you already know.

        You're going to ask me "what's the growing evidence?". Well, there's plenty of info on either side, and how much of it is "evidence" I'm not sure.
        But the point is more that there has to be a way to move on fast with what works, and when eventually science measuring catches up with its own evidence as to why it works, then fair enough - but in the meantime, isn't the truly scientific thing to keep an open mind?
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      Oct 28 2013: "I do not know why the infinitessimal dose seems unaffected by all the other factors you mention"

      Neither do I, nor do I know how it was proven that the infinitessimal dose does seem to affect the body.
      I can't let go of my skepticism until this one is cleared, I'm sure you can understand why. If the argument is that the body can sense the intake of a infinite fraction of a molecule, how would you design the experimental protocol that makes sure the body doesn't react to something else?
      And also, not even asking where the medecine goes once you've taken it and where in the body the like-cures-like process is fired, I'm skeptic about the dillution idea. My ignorance in medecine allows me to accept like cures like if actual molecules end up in a body. But I can't accept that there is such a thing in chemistry as 1/10 to the power 36th of a molecule. Why? Because nothing would make sense anymore.
      If someone tells me everything I know about molecules is false, then yeah, I need a GREAT explanation. Not annecdotes or personnal acounts. And not even tests results.

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