John Walker's Electronic House

Homeopathy Again – Ultra Sigh

by on Nov.23, 2007, under Rants

Tim pointed me to this fantastically stupid article in the Guardian.

It’s a response from hippy charlatan Denis MacEoin to Ben Goldacre’s extended piece providing all the arguments and evidence one needs for dealing with the murderous witchdoctors in the homeopathic practice. And it’s a supremely silly and wonderfully idiotic attack.

Lines accusing Goldacre like, “he paraded his superior knowledge,” are a thing of joy. How dare he! How dare he prove he is an expert in a subject?! These people with their superior knowledge, pointing out that my pile of lies practise is a pile of lies! He must be stopped!

He then goes on to announce that Goldacre clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he is, “sure he has not acquired any homeopathic qualifications, and I’m confident he has not sat in with an experienced homeopath for a year or so or worked at a homeopathic NHS hospital.” Excellent work Dr MacEmptyhead! It’s impossible to criticise homeopathy unless you are a homeopath, working for a homeopathic “hospital”. Brilliant. So doing massive amounts of research into the subject, following the studies, and most of all, recognising that A BOTTLE OF WATER DOESN’T CURE ANYTHING BUT A SLIGHT THIRST, cannot be enough. You have to be entrenched within the subject of your doubt before you will be heard by these stubborn morons.

And of course MacEoin then trots out that homeopath favourite: it’s impossible to test homeopathy by scientific means. Regular tests for medicine can’t work on homeopathic snake oil, because homeopathic snake oil isn’t like other medicines! Even though a homeopath will state that a bottle of their expensive tap water, taken five times a day for a week, will cure you of your ailments, at the moment someone wants to test this, it’s suddenly something that takes months and years to work, and requires thousands of different bottles of tap water. Oddly the follow-up to this is never, “So we’ll have to devise a double-blind, peer-reviewed test based on these criteria.” It is instead to just sort of stop, in the cute belief that if they obfuscate the rules enough, it will bewilder those sciency nerds and their “superior knowledge”, and they’ll just have to accept it works.

He then spits in disgust that Goldacre would be so stupid as to think scientific rationale is appropriate for homeopathy.

He must know something as elementary as this about homeopathy, yet he puts up an Aunt Sally, “proves” homeopathy does not work, and calls all homeopaths “morons”. This is not science, and as someone who believes strongly in science, I would challenge the good doctor to prove that his vaunted trials had anything to do with homeopathy at all.

Yeah Ben! It’s elementary, you big old thicko! Don’t you even know that?! Duhhhh! Cor Ben, I bet you feel a bit stupid now, madly treating homeopathy with the dignity that it could be scientifically measured. MacMoron continues,

“It would be to his credit to come clean on this and to help design trials that would match the homeopathic way of prescribing. If he isn’t willing to do that in collaboration with homeopathic doctors who know as much as he does about the science and are not morons, he is demeaning the very notion of scientific medicine.”

That’s right – the one thing Ben Goldacre has refused to do is offer a rational scientific process for fairly measuring the efficacy of homeopathy by homeopathy’s own rules. Oh no wait. He did exactly that in the piece to which MacEieio was so angrily replying. Goldacre devised criteria for a test that would take into account the ridiculous charade of months of homeopathic consultations, and twelfty different potions. How very, very odd that MacBlind missed this bit, and wasn’t able to recognise it in his response. A more cynical person would suggest that he’s a deceitful conman, purporting his witchcraft bullshit for financial gain, terrified when someone writes a rational and reasoned piece demonstrating how his “medicine” is an utter fabrication.

When these are the people who puff their chests out and declare, “I’m a sceptic too! I believe in the importance of science too!”, when these are the best and most scientific that homeopathy has to offer, the ridiculous charade becomes only more apparent. Or at least you’d think it would. But instead the NHS is investing vast sums of UK tax payers’ money into researching this utter drivel. In fact, I find it frankly insulting that money is being spent on tests for the idiotic parade when it’s literally BOTTLES OF WATER being sold. What has happened? How has the NHS of all things reached this point of giving even vague credence, let along swathes of money and dedicated hospitals, to the most obvious and blatent of con tricks?

Hello, the NHS please. Hi, I’ve invented a cure for all diseases. It involves having me kiss the person better. It definitely works, because I say so really very firmly. Could you spent millions of pounds wasting money on investigating this please, rather than spending it on your collapsing hospital infrastructure? Thanks!

PS. This tragic story from Australia should shed some perspective for those in any doubt.

10 Comments for this entry

  • Nick Mailer

    Nick’s Law: the likely efficacy of a treatment is inversely proportional to the volume of protests against a proposed placebo-controlled double-blind test thereof.

  • Robin

    Thanks for sharing this homeopathy stuff. It’s scandalous that NHS money is being wasted on it. It’s heartening that the comments on the Denis MacEoin article are almost unanimously on the side of common sense. Maybe this particular brand of quackery is becoming less fashionable.

  • ImperialCreed

    I knew this man was talking out of his arse from the first line of his article, describing Jeanette Winterson’s previous article as “intelligent and lucid”. Oh was it really?

    The first comment on his piece at the Guardian is ace too…

    QuestionThat: This is a spoof intended to prove Goldacre’s points, right?

  • Janek

    Your new method of treating illness sounds remarkably similar to the revolutionary Truszkowski Method, in which ailments are cured by the power of blackjack and hookers.

    Are you interested in going into business together? We’d be rich! RICH! And also surrounded by hookers.

  • Paul Black

    I think you’re BRILLIANT.

  • Andrew F

    You probably realise this, but many homoeopaths treat it almost like a religion, with all the reverence that entails. To question their practice is to question them and their lives. I have a very close family member who is a qualified homoeopath. In all other regards they are fit and rational, but when it comes to homoeopathy they fall for all the usual logical fallacies and don’t see a problem with it.

    So calling MacEoin a con-man may be a little wide of the mark. He’s fanatical. He’s still wrong to a dangerous degree, if his piece persuades people to use homoeopathy for malaria protection and the like, but possibly not (and maybe this makes it worse?) consciously so.

  • Andrew F

    …And of course now I’ve read your latest post, which deals with this point exactly. :(

  • The Crack Emcee

    It’s a very large and powerful “cult” (say it) and the sooner it’s dealt with, as such, the better:

    People are being killed.

  • AlexE

    The problem with scientific tests of homeopathy is that far too often only low potency remedies are used. To really test the effectiveness of Homeopathy you need something a little stronger.

    p.s. we’d appreciate any additional information to help construct / improve our website

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  • Respectful Insolence

    Post-holiday “The stupid, it burns,” part 2: Denis MacEoin…

    I’ve never been able to understand advocates of homeopathy. I just have difficulty understanding how otherwise intelligent people can fall for the bad science, the logical fallacies, and the magical thinking necessary to believe that homeopathy is any…