Double-blimey!

Guardian: What's wrong with homeopathy

Time after time, properly conducted scientific studies have proved that homeopathic remedies work no better than simple placebos. So why do so many sensible people swear by them? And why do homeopaths believe they are victims of a smear campaign? Ben Goldacre follows a trail of fudged statistics, bogus surveys and widespread self-deception.

I find it incredible that people like Ben Goldacre still need to write articles describing the concept of double-blind trials, which show that so-called homeopathic remedies are indistinguishable from placebos.

Goldacre is too polite to point out that the homeopathic concept (I won't dignify it by calling it a theory) of almost infinitely dilute solutions' being able to cure people is pseudoscientific bullshit. Every glass of water we drink contains almost infinitely dilute solutions (and less) of pretty much anything you care to mention. They also contain far, far greater amounts of many other things you might prefer to gloss over—such as Napoleon's last piss.


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5 thoughts on “Double-blimey!

  1. I think you will find there are much greater general ignorances than the concept of double-blind trials.

    This is a splendid article, not only in saying that homeopathy is no better than placebo, but in saying why that doesn't mean it is not valuable.I do fear that only the converted will read past the first few lines.

    Homeopathy is a difficult subject - not because it is better than palcebo, but because it is a very effective way in which the placebo effect can be utilised. Unfortunately,to be effective both the patients and the practitioners must believe in it, and thatinevitably results in some rejection of "real" medicine. My main concern isthe idea that "alternative medics" are putting people off real essentials like MMR.Richard probably disagrees, but I think there is probably a place forhomeopaty, but it mustbe in a situation where the practitioner also has "real" medical training enough to at least refer you to a real doctor for something that needs serious medical attention, and knows enough not to rubbish objective medicine.

    Sorry. Rant over.

  2. Ben Goldacre is consistent in saying that homeopathy probably has its place. I don't agree that there is a place for the mumbo-jumbo surrounding homeopathy, but I do think there is a place for placebos. Especially when there is nothing really wrong with the person in the first place. Having said that, I do accept that the mumbo-jumbo contributes an awful lot to the Placebo Effect.

    The Placebo Effect is a fascinating subject. Fitz and I often talk about it down the pub - which just goes to show how utterly boring we find each other's company. Fitz is a psychologist by training, and I often pull his leg that it can't be a science as there is no overarching theory behind it. In fact, I have gone so far as to start expounding my own overarching hypothesis (I won't dignify it by calling it a theory) that the Placebo Effect, psychological compliance (as used to explain hypnosis and Milgram's famous 'electrocution' experiments) and classical conditioning (Pavlov's dogs, etc.) are one and the same thing. It's a cool hypothesis. Even Fitz thinks it has legs.

    What I won't have, though, is people telling me "well, conventional medicine isn't working, and my auntie/friend/hairdresser swears that homeopathy will sort it out"... IF YOU'VE GOT SOMETHING SERIOUS, GO AND SEE A PROPER DOCTOR!

  3. I see life as a maze, with a placebo at every turn. Without them, manywould merely reach the first corner & falter. We all need a reason to play this silly game & some need more reasons than others.

    Simply put.......life = donkey

    placebo = carrot

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