2007 December

Editorial December '07

by Sally Williams
Much to the dismay of many people cured by homeopathy around the world, a recent wave of strong opinion held by a very few asserts that homeopathy is not scientific, or, at the very least, is “bad science”. Unfortunately those writing articles and internet blogs claiming that Homeopathy is bad science have a very closed view of what science truly is and what the future of science may look like. Much of their postulating is borne out of fear. Fear of what they do not understand, and fear of a perceived threat to the scientific status quo from which they derive security. Hence, they vehemently attack a form of health care that has profoundly helped thousands of people all over the world.


These recent attacks on homeopathy rely heavily on misunderstanding and selective misinformation. A consistent criticism is that homeopathic remedies are placebo and can therefore do nothing. When homeopaths assert that remedies work on animals and therefore cannot be the placebo effect, they blame the biased observer. Tell that to my sister who was able to cure her entire herd of sheep sick with highly contagious pinkeye with the use of a homeopathic remedy.


Another oft-raised issue is that homeopathy cannot stand up to conventional medical trials, and that homeopathic studies fail meta-analysis. It is suggested that homeopaths “cherry pick” the results of studies to confirm positive results. Iris Bell MD Phd, director of research at the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, stated the following in response to a negatively biased article in the British medical journal “The Lancet” in August of 2005: “The researchers started with 110 homeopathy studies and 110 conventional medicine studies, but drew their main conclusions from 8 homeopathy and 6 conventional studies. And in an odd decision by the journal and the researchers, those 14 studies were not identified. This makes it impossible for others to challenge or confirm their conclusions. Given the tiny number left, they really were under an obligation to tell the reader which they used.”


Regardless of your point of view about this issue, everyone should agree that the selective use of available studies to substantiate a conclusion-while omitting those that are unfavorable- serves no one’s best interests in the long term. That the Lancet relied on only 14 of 220 studies -all unidentified- on which to base it’s attack on Homeopathy completely destroys all credibility their researchers had hoped to muster. This comes from a medical paradigm that allows “scientifically tested” drugs like Vioxx to be used well beyond the time when there was substantial evidence of it being lethal.
Many attacks on homeopathy are in reference to it being a “faith based” science. Modern scientific thought recognizes that science is inherently based on faith in often unprovable laws and assumptions. In his recent editorial in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/24/opinion), Paul Davies, a research physicist states:
“It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe that govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.
In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.”



Our understanding of the true science of our universe is very limited.
To think that we can prove something is real and true with our limited, parochial understanding undermines our quest for scientific knowledge.
Homeopathy is frontier medicine.
Because it works it shows us we are lacking in true understanding of how the universe works.
That the current system of scientific verification labels homeopathy’s demonstrated efficacy as “placebo” only underscores how absurdly faulty and inadequate this verification system is.
Instead of denying homeopathy works and limiting our choices and possibilities we should embrace this knowledge and let it take us forward to open new possibilities.


Sally Williams
sawrshom@msn.com

Categories: Editorials
Keywords: editorial
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Reply #5 on : Sat December 01, 2007, 17:28:50
David, the point is that Sally Williams repetition of the criticism that the trials were not identified was dealt with two years ago when they were identified.

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Reply #4 on : Sat December 01, 2007, 17:16:07
gimpy,

The Shang et al. studies identified in the links you provided are the 110 + 100 original studies from which the 14 (8 homeopathy + 6 conventional medicine) on which the statistical analysis was based were selected. The latter 14 were revealed only 4 months after publication of the original paper, following heavy pressure from many sources, but by then the damage of this paper was already done. I discuss its fatal flaws in the Bad Science link I provide above.

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Reply #3 on : Sat December 01, 2007, 16:25:25
Hi Sally,

Here are some links identifying the various trials looked at in the Lancet paper. I wouldn't want your readers to assume that there was a deliberate deception involved. These studies have been identified for a number of years now and it's a shame you didn't realise this.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T1B-4GYH5HK-12&_user=152381&_coverDate=09%2F02%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000012638&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=152381&md5=dface4dbfc736e4083d282c1bb0ebfc7
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/MiamiMultiMediaURL/B6T1B-4GYH5HK-12/B6T1B-4GYH5HK-12-6/4886/ed719fd6e6bdfada8ad0819ca7e47a92/f.pdf
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/MiamiMultiMediaURL/B6T1B-4GYH5HK-12/B6T1B-4GYH5HK-12-7/4886/a8ee95a40daaf8719fcfc1b793a3a8e1/f.pdf

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Reply #2 on : Sat December 01, 2007, 10:44:27
Also on the topic, I've written a reply to Dawkins' recent TV program on homeopathy, <i>The Enemies of Reason</i>, on my blog:

<a href="http://www.homeopathyzone.com/blog/article/is-homeopathic-medicine-the-enemy-of-reason/">Is Homeopathic Medicine the "Enemy or Reason"?</a>.

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Reply #1 on : Sat December 01, 2007, 10:40:21
I've been involved in a debate on the topic of the current state of homeopathic evidence on the site "Bad Science" written by Ben Goldacre who writes for the Guardian in the UK and has thereby been influential in the recent anti-homeopathy backlash there:

http://www.badscience.net/2007/11/the-lancet-benefits-and-risks-of-homoeopathy/

My view is that it is pointless to pacify the skeptics and that it only weakens the position of homeopathy. On the other hand, I belief it is important for homeopaths to study philosophy of science in depth in order to be able to not only object to aspects of current scientific method but also to offer alternatives to those, and to be able to 'survive' a debate (if one is foolish enough to get into one!) without losing on grounds of poor understanding of how science operates, since many skeptics are quite knowledgeable on the topic even as they see reality too simplistically.

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