The Credentials Canard, and readers write in defending homeopathy

Very often I get emails or posts from readers incensed that I dare post about anything other than evolutionary biology. This first person, a professor who will remain unnamed to protect the benighted, has, as I recall, written this same email to me a while back. Apparently he thinks I have no credential to post about Islam when I haven’t held a post in philosophy as an Islamic specialist. I guess that means that nobody can discuss any religion if they haven’t held an academic post dealing with that religion. So much for all the New Atheists, including Christopher Hitchens. And how dare you pronounce on politics if you haven’t served in a legislature?

CREDENTIALS

Dr. Coyne,

Greetings. I see that you have written on Islam recently. I wanted to ask you what your area of specialization is within Islamic scholarship?

Have you ever held any positions within a department of philosophy as an Islamic specialist? Are you proficient in classical arabic? Please point me to your work in that area.

Regards,

[Name and University Redacted]
Professor of Philosophy

The next person tried to put up a post implicitly arguing that I shouldn’t talk about religion:

*********

From reader dfgdfg dfgdfgdcommenting on my post “HuffPo goes after Donald Trump’s taste in steak

Michio Kaku has a PhD doctorate degree. in physics, therefore when he speaks about physics he can be credible. While you….what is your degree on? Doctor on Bible studies…Mythology?

I wonder who embarrasses himself more here the scientist or the ignoramus?.

My answer: the person who wrote this comment, and of course was too cowardly to give his/her name.  Anonymity breeds contempt!

*********

HOMEOPATHY

I got several critical posts (or attempted posts) defending homeopathy. It’s amazing how people will make such pronouncements based on anecdotes rather than controlled clinical trials, which is the only way to establish that homeopathy works. And all the proper trials have, of course, failed. In fact, a regular MD once called me on the phone from Hawaii to try to convince me that homeopathy works. “How do you know?” I asked him. “Because I’ve seen it work!” he replied. More anecdotes. Of course there may be placebo effects, and many maladies disappear on their own. And so to several comments that arrived this morning:

“On November 19 I reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that homeopathic “medicines”, to be advertised as …”

Bunch of morons down here..I am a practicing surgeon in Pennsylvania and have seen wonders of homeopathy, it’s as scientific as surgery or any other modern medicine allopathic branch and works better in many medical conditions, downfall of them is that anyone can walk to the store and buy them, they are supposed to be prescribed by trained homeopaths..research trials ? Trial in homeopathy involves experiment on humans and involves drug proving rather than telling if it works against this pathology versus another..FDA should ban selling of those drugs on amazon so population does not treat themselves..it’s role is as important as allopathic, each have their divisions. Enough said !! Use your brains and personal comfort and experience rather than blaming any particular field.

As scientific as surgery or scientific medicine? If so, where are the clinical trials? As for a drug “proving rather than telling if it works”, well, I have no idea what that means, unless “proving” has something to do with faith.

*********

Reader Michael Walker commented on the same post:

They [CVS or Whole Foods] sell coffee, too.

Does coffee have any proven health benefits?
🙂

That might be a joke, but I don’t think so.

*********

Reader Bala Lodhia on homeopathty:

It is a known fact that the Royal family has been using homeopathic remedies and has had a Homeopathic doctor on their call to treat various illnesses.
It is quite obvious that big pharma is behind this attack on Homeopathy.

Yes, but the Royal Family, particularly Prince Charles, is no paradigm of  good judgment! As for “Big Pharma” being behind attacks on homeopathy, that’s bunk. Big Pharma doesn’t include all the governmental tests on homeopathy showing it’s worthless, nor people like Orac who is a surgeon and has nothing to do with Big Pharma. These defenders, instead of looking at the data, simply support their faith by attacking the people supposedly denigrating it. And if homeopathy worked, why wouldn’t Big Pharma be in on that game?

*********

Reader Traci says that my priorities are misplaced:

Why do you have such a beef with homeopathy? If you think it’s quackery, don’t use it. Let the people who have used and greatly benefited from it continue to. I applaud CVS for giving its consumers choices. People are not idiots if something doesn’t work for them they won’t continue to use it. Why not take on more important issues like air pollution, water pollution, legal pharmaceutical drug abuse, gmo foods, etc.

The answer is clear. My beef is because people are being duped, and am I supposed to let them be duped if the science says that they’re credulous. The benefits, compared to placebos, are nil.

And if Traci applauds CVS for giving its consumers choices, does she also criticize CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes? Her notion is that if there are greater wrongs in the world, then I should be going after the greatest wrong and leave the rest alone. Sheesh.

*********

And this comment just arrived from reader Ace Biswas:

I exactly can’t make out what’s the writer’s problem. Does he say homoeopathic remedies acts upon health when it contains no molecule in most frequently used potencies? Even no one is forced to try it. I have several times applied it on myself and its been effacious [sic] on many occasions.

The “writer” here may be Orac rather than I, but no matter. Orac’s article is crystal clear, and if those remedies work when they contain no active drug, then yes, that is a problem. And once again we have people believing in homeopathy because they’ve had a healing experience with it. But where’s the control?

115 Comments

  1. DrBrydon
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    It’s pretty clear that the surgeon who commends homeopathy ain’t a doctor of grammar.

    Of course, the credentials canard cuts both ways. That surgeon isn’t a pharmacologist. The average theist who complains that criticism from the unlettered isn’t valid should know that their own understanding of religion must be equally poor and suspect on that basis. While I would be leery of listening an accountant’s criticism of an established field like Physics, the point about the occult disciplines, like homeopathy and religion, is that they have no solid basis of fact, and anyone can judge that.

    • Frank
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Ah yes, the misuse of ‘it’s’ again. Grammar that irks……

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:27 am | Permalink

        Where?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      +1.

      This argument that someone can only comment on a subject if they have relevant academic qualifications is ridiculous. It amazes me that so many use it. Funny how it only gets trotted out when someone disagrees with their opinion.

      Still, it might get all those Republican legislators to stop making laws about women’s reproductive systems and rights.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        Yeah I remember someone commenting on here in the past that sain no one should write about science if they didn’t have a degree in science. I found that funny and a few of us commented that Carl Zimmer and a few others are very good science writers and I think they have English Degrees

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      All I know is I’d rather have Orac do my surgery any day than the guy who wrote that note

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      And how do we know that the message’s author is really a surgeon?

      • GBJames
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Well, we don’t know. But if you are inclined to think surgeon’s are particularly sensible, just remember Dr. Ben Carson.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      sub

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Oh where did you get the credentials to speak on just any old subject? Same place you got that personality – was born with it.

  3. GBJames
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    sigh

  4. Michael Finfer, MD
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    To paraphrase Carl Sagan, we have built a society that is dependent on science and technology, and we have arranged things so that almost nobody knows anything about it. This is a recipe for disaster.

    This applies to homeopathy as well as to Donald Trump.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Bertrand Russell: “Most people would rather die than think [learn?]. And most people do.”

      Who specifically is the “we” who has purposefully “arranged things so that almost nobody knows anything” about science and technology? Willful ignorance on the part of a large fraction of the human primate population seems to be one of those things (e.g., greed, sense of entitlement) that do not require further reinforcement.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

        Who are the we? It’s good to find out who’s at fault and how they’ve failed. Progress in technology is very rapid since it only takes a handful of trained and skilled people to unleash unbelievable power.

        On the other hand, in order to improve things, there is a vast population who are far less trained and skilled who will need to vote and make decisions. And it’s necessary to recognize humanities “original sins” and frailties of mind and to look for ways to nurture society along toward a wiser future. It is clear that we need to focus on a lot of things at once, but one big thing that will have to be addressed is the influence of religious indoctrination of the young and how to provide a 21st century education to all. I’m trying to be optimistic.

      • reasonshark
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        Who specifically is the “we” who has purposefully “arranged things so that almost nobody knows anything” about science and technology?

        I think modern economic, political, and media-based systems contribute a lot to that, especially in the USA and the UK. It’s most obvious in well-funded denialist campaigns pitted against the global warming consensus, but also in political and media silence over (and lip-service to) the issue.

        To the financial elite in power, science and technology are useful only to the extent that they make a quick buck or serve an agenda. Anything that calls into question business practices, favoured political policies, or media integrity, is to be resisted as often as possible, with whatever money it takes. In short, they have an incentive to distract, dumb down, and denigrate science and technology according to their interests.

        I think, though I don’t know how to demonstrate it, that most people are genuinely interested in science and technology. However, they are let down and misinformed (if not outright lied to) by too many cultural forces, from meagre educational institutions, through selective business and political reporting, to sensationalist newspapers.

        In a cultural milieu focused on luxuries, single-handed lone achievements, cult-like fame, or gadget breakthroughs seemingly out of nowhere, you’re almost forced to become a rhetorical sensationalist just to get by. And honesty is about as welcome as a killjoy at a binge drinking party.

  5. Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    What is the reasoning of “protecting the benighted?” Why do you believe that the benighted deserve protection?

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I try not to reveal people’s names unless they directly threaten me, and the identity in cases like this one isn’t really important.

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      I prefer the word “ignorant” to “benighted” since the latter seem to imply born-that-way, die-that-way. We as a country have failed in teaching “the scientific method” and critical thinking for years. I have a PhD in English but grew up loving science (hanks to Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, et al.) AS noted by several writers, educated writing helps with clear thinking, and they contribute to one’s approaching science with a “temperament of receptivity” (thanks, Oscar Wilde).

      • Filippo
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        “We as a country have failed in teaching “the scientific method” and critical thinking for years.”

        Do you not think it is only fair to also mention in the same breath or two the profound and pervasive and seemingly innate anti-intellectualism prevailing in Amuricuh? (Re: Richard Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” and Susan Jacoby’s “The Age of American Unreason.”)

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I think the fault lies more with willful ignorance and popular so-called culture, education being only a distant third. Teachers can’t overcome everything.

  6. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    A quibble.

    It’s amazing how people will make such pronouncements based on anecdotes rather than controlled clinical trials, which is the only way to establish that homeopathy works.

    Controlled clinical trials are the only way to establish if any claimed medical treatment or intervention (not just homeopathy) works and/ or is safe.
    Homeopaths (and creationists, and followers of religion in general, or of some religion in particular, and hosts of other groups) love to see themselves as being specifically persecuted, when in reality they’re being held to the same standards of proof, behaviour etc as everyone else.

    • Rita
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      That reminds me of Tim Minchin’s “Thank You, God” (for fixing the cataracts of Sam’s Mum). If you don’ know it, google it, it’s worth a listen.

      • Geoff Toscano
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I was listening to that just the other week. Brilliant.

      • Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Since you mentioned Minchin, and in the spirit of the season I had to link this one my favorite Christmas song.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 21, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the reminder. I love a sentimental Christmas song.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted December 23, 2016 at 6:16 am | Permalink

          Love that song; brings tears to my eyes.

      • Wilbur Right
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        As long as we are quoting Tim Minchin:
        “By definition (I begin), alternative medicine (I continue) has either not been proved to work or been proved not to work. Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”

        From his song/poem “Storm.”

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

      What’s there to quibble about? Clearly the topic is homeopathy so that is the logical subject of the ultimate clause in Jerry’s sentence. “[W]hich is the only way to establish that homeopathy works” doesn’t in any way imply that that’s the only area critical thinking is good for.

  7. Mike Cracraft
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Homeopathy sounds just like another religion.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      A con? A scam? A carny’s wet-dream? I agree.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Homeopathological?

  8. Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I am pretty sure homeopathy is nonsense. But what do you make of the fact that it is used far more widely in less-religious (and therefore one would think less gullible) Europe than in goddy America? Do our minds have a quota for nonsense? Or is faith healing the American substitute for homeopathy?

    • rickflick
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Good question. If Europe is more gullible in the alternative medicine side, what is the educational and public awareness factor compared to the US? The quota idea could be the culprit because it is based on what we know about human nature – it’s easy to fool yourself. But you’d want to control for external factors like public awareness. Is it discussed in the press or by government agencies?

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      I’ve read somewhere that, at least in Germany, it is popular because it was heavily promoted by the Nazis during the war. All their doctors and pharmacists were sent off to battle and all their real medicine was also used for soldiers, so they were left with the problem of what to do with civilians. They trained a bunch of dupes in homeopathy and then convinced the civilians that homeopathy was great and they should all go to homeopaths and everything would be fine. They, of course, knew it was bullshit so they didn’t use it on the soldiers. But the people believed them and old habits die hard. I’m not 100% sure if that’s true, but it sounds plausible.

      • Posted December 21, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Even if it’s not true, it is a nice story! And it is a fact that homeopathy originated in Germany and is still strong there. Germany itself is strong in the EU, so abandon hope that EU institutions will do anything to protect consumers from this fraud. More and more Europeans get pissed off as they see the worst German things rebranded as “European” and pushed on everyone in the EU.

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I’d guess the reason for Europe’s lower level of religiosity is more cultural than intellectual.

      That aside, are you sure homeopathy isn’t as popular in the U.S.?

      • Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        I am sure of what I read in the various reports that I see on the internet. I am not sure about the quality, reliability or comparability of the statistics. I have not found WHO quality data. But from what I did see it would appear that less than 3% of Americans see a homeopath per year whereas in Europe the figure is five to ten times higher. France in particular has a high rate.

        • Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          Ah. It could well be that Americans don’t actually go to a homeopath as frequently as Europeans do. But based on my admittedly non-scientific and non-representative experience, Americans buy plenty of homeopathic “medicine”. I can barely go a day without a friend or acquaintance touting homeopathy, or ear candling, or oil pulling, or cupping, etc.

  9. nickswearsky
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    If CVS sold coffee as a medicine, that would be a problem.But they don’t.

    I’d like to submit some grant proposals for clinical trials of homeopathic remedies. I’ve got time and can round up some subjects. I’m well-versed in the paperwork necessary for human subjects. Where do I apply? Small bills, 5’s to 20’s are preferred.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Coffee actually works though! As a stimulant anyway. Not sure about the coffee enema thing though. Actually, that might be an effective way to administer a stimulant. Messy though.

      • GBJames
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Coffee response is partly a function of genetics. Some of us (the lucky ones? the unlucky ones?) metabolize caffeine quickly and tend to consume more coffee without so much stimulant response.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted December 23, 2016 at 6:20 am | Permalink

          Ah, that explains why coffee does nothing for me (other than as a pleasant soothing hot beverage {channelling Sheldon here, I think}). I’m actually jealous of those who get a “hit” from it.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

            Espresso is the Hashish of coffeedom.

            • GBJames
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              Ironically, I think espresso has less caffeine per volume than regular coffee.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

            Yeah, when I got my genetics done, there is some sort of marker that indicates if you are a fast or slow caffeine metabolized. I’m a fast metabolizer, which I know from experience. I can only have one maybe 2 coffees per day. If I have more than that, I get queasy, which I think is from my heart beating fast. I’m very sensitive to any medication – if it will make you tired, it will knock me out. If it wakes you up, I’ll never sleep! This is why remaining on Tamoxifen was impossible for me as it just knocked me on my ass and I couldn’t even make it to work.

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

              Did you have an alternative to Tamoxifen? I ask simply out of concern for your health.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

                Nope. No alternative. I’m a permenstral woman so there aren’t a whole lot of options. However, my oncologist and surgeon were both okay with my decision. I was on the vile stuff for 1.5 years so I gave it a good try. My cancer was cancer-lite being grade 1, stage 1. My oncologist made a bit of a deal over the tumor size (around 2 cm) but I reminded her it was mutinous and therefore probably artificially inflated in size since it was surrounded by mucin. I basically had the best kind of breast cancer, unless it had been stage 0 and not invasive), one could have. So, since it was a low grade, they were okay with me not being on it and admitted that women are often over treated but that’s because Tamoxifen always affords some benefit so if you can tolerate it, why not? For me, it gave about a 1%

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

                Oops, hit enter accidentally.

                It gave me a 1% benefit over 5 years and a 5% over 10 years. It’s also interesting to note though, and I said this to both my doctors, that I wasn’t supposed to get cancer in the first place. I had less than 1% chance of getting it but I still did so when you’re dealing with statistics, it’s hard to judge as one data point. Both my doctors admitted that it’s really hard to tell how an individual will respond.

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

                I’m please for you that the cancer was relatively, well I was going to say benign, which sounds stupid, but you know what I mean. Hopefully (pace Jerry 😉 )you’re clear now. I wish you good health for the New Year and beyond.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

                Thanks! I have more risk than the average woman so who knows. I’m just hoping for better treatments if I ever get another cancer or a recurrence.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

                @ Diana,

                Superbly Freudian typo up there:

                “…but I reminded her it was mutinous …”

                Aren’t they all? 😉

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

                Haha. That’s not the first time autocorrect has done that when I type mucinous. I remember laughing about it when I was first diagnosed.

              • Diane G.
                Posted December 24, 2016 at 3:08 am | Permalink

                Oh, right, exactly what Autocorrect is best at! 😀 That should have occurred to me.

      • nickswearsky
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Oh, I am well aware of the medicinal value of coffee (I cannot live without it!). But, the FDA does not consider it medicine and even if it did, it falls under “generally deemed safe and effective” category, I’m sure.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      In the 17th century coffee was prescribed for women for mental illness. Of course, some of the things that got women considered to have a mental illness were pretty dodgy. Having strong opinions of the wrong sort and being outspoken about them, for example.

      I think the difference with coffee is that (I assume) CVS isn’t claiming a therapeutic value in drinking it. They are for homeopathic products.

      As for offering choice, that sounds like a creationist’s argument for a a science curriculum.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      Besides, coffee’s been studied six ways from Sunday and probably will continue to be so. How many times have you read about some new coffee research concluding thus & so? (If you’re young, start keeping track.;) )

  10. Walt Jones
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    As your post yesterday pointed out, whether a close reading of the Quran supports something or not, it’s the actions of its believers that matter. Knowledge of Arabic is not required.

    Regarding the royal family, I’m reminded of Hitchens’s description of the Church of England as, “founded on the family values of Henry VIII.”

    • nicky
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Despite being prayed for en masse and regularly, the British Royals have not a particularly long life expectancy, as Galton pointed out.
      Would homeopathy fare any better?
      Note, at the time of Hahnemann (late 18th century) many medical practices were quite unhealthy: bloodletting, mercury, castor oil, injection of bull-testicle extracts, etc. etc. In those days homeopathy at least didn’t harm directly.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        The current British royal family does have a much longer than average life expectancy. There’s no correlation between that and prayer or the use of homeopathy though.

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:48 am | Permalink

          Whereas during their lifetimes medicine itself has advanced tremendously. Hmmm…

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

            Quite true. Though Queen Victoria is a direct ancestor of both the Queen (90) and Prince Philip (95). The Queen’s father (George VI) died of cancer, but her mother was 101 when she died. They’ve got the genes to live long lives.

            • Diane G.
              Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

              Oh, right, I forgot about the Queen Mum! 🙂

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted December 22, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            Maybe those that don’t die off early on from in-breeding, go on to thrive. 😀

  11. Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    As a cardiologist/scientist/skeptic I feel most qualified to write about cardiology, however, I think the scientific/skeptic tools gained from working in academia are well put to use in any other area where logic/critical thinking/analysis may benefit.
    I love Jerry’s comments on homeopathy. They are spot on. Pretty much any scientist whether in the engineering/math side or biologic side can see that homeopathy is a crock of BS.
    I, too, am infuriated to see obvious snake oil remedies like homeopathic nostrums sold and promoted at Whole Foods and pharmacists which pretend to be promoting healthy, safe and effective agents.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      I have no medical or scientific qualifications whatsoever. My training is in the humanities. When done properly, that includes looking at information skeptically as well. It’s also obvious to me that homeopathy is bunk.

      My opinion is that anyone who promotes homeopathy is putting their personal wealth above the health and wellbeing of others. It’s not like giving someone a choice between different brands. It’s a choice between tires for your car with tread or without.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I teach a senior capstone course, and the introductory lectures include a pretty extensive review of homeopathic medicine and other forms of quack medicine. I love that moment, since about half of the students don’t really know what homeopathy really is. When they realize what is, and learn how big and popular it is, I get to see a wave of varied and telling reactions spread across the room. Here I see raised eyebrows, there I see lips curled in disgust, and sprinkled throughout it all are bits of nervous laughter and looks of shock.
      I always look forward to that moment.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink

        Oh, I’ll bet many students are delighted to learn of frauds like this!

  12. rickflick
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “But where’s the control?”

    It vanished with the self control.

    BTW, shouldn’t it be
    “The “writer” here may be Orac rather than ME.”?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Potwa duly issued 😉 (Pedants Of The World Association)

      • rickflick
        Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        So that’s what I’ve become. Oh, well…

  13. ursula goodenough
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    My favorite response to the credentials argument: Tell me that folks can’t talk about professional sports unless they’re professional athletes.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Wait. Are you a credentialed sports reporter? 😉

    • Kevin
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Or a music critic whose never plucked a guitar. Or a movie reviewer whose never acted. How about a coach: Bob Bowman or Coach K must suck ass since neither can hardly swim or play basketball as well as their athletes. Clearly worthless individuals. Good grief.

    • harrync
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Some tasks require expertise, some don’t: Want to know the expected wind directions for the next week? Better ask a weatherman. Want to know the wind direction now? As the song says, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

    • Filippo
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      From an early Bill Cosby comic routine, parodying a Brylcreem commercial:

      Football player to kid:

      “Throw it to me, the ball. Pick it up first.”

      I also contemplate the literacy of not a few professional sports figure compared to that of a 6th grader (or younger?).

  14. Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    In homeopathy, “proving” involves giving healthy volunteers a relatively concentrated dose of the potential remedy to see what symptoms it causes. These are the symptoms the dilute dose is thought to treat.

    In theory, the volunteers don’t know what the chemical they’re testing is or what symptoms are expected, but in fact the tester may be the person interested in the potential drug. Any physical or mental symptoms that occur over the next several days may be considered an effect of the drug. And of course there is the fact that a chemical that causes symptom X usually does not relieve that same symptom.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      That sounds like a crude simulation of scientific method. A bit like cargo cult science.

    • Desnes Diev
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      ““proving” involves giving healthy volunteers a relatively concentrated dose of the potential remedy to see what symptoms it causes. These are the symptoms the dilute dose is thought to treat.”

      Knowing that core principle, one wonder why homeopaths never succeeded to resuscitate a dead body using an ultra-diluted strong poison. It would be a definite proof of the validity of homeopathy. (But it could be debated if death is really an illness.)

      Numerous skeptics have shown that swallowing a huge quantity of homeopathic pills containing cyanide (or other poison) do not cause death. It proves nothing, however, as they stayed alive which is the reverse of what concentrated cyanide causes 😉

  15. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Big Pharma don’t need to get after homeopathy. They own many of the homeopathy companies themselves, along with those that make lots of the other “natural” remedies. Win-win for them.

    • jeffery
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      I’d like to see some sources as to this information- not saying it isn’t true….

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 1:55 am | Permalink

        I would, too.

  16. W.Benson
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    People that say interesting things can expect crank mail. Unsought praise is the best. Congratulations.

  17. Justin Seabury
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Clearly reader Traci is wrong, or high on the homeopathy, to say “people are not idiots”. This discussion (and many others) would not be happening if they weren’t. Sigh…

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      The majority of people are idiots but the internet allows them to find an article that evidences to them that they are smart. I suppose it would be more charitable to say ignorant and promote them to idiot only when they refuse to try to overcome their ignorance with some learning.

      • Justin Seabury
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        I agree. And I am handing out all them nuts field promotions!

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        Shock news just in: Nearly 50% Of Population Below Average Intelligence, Scientists Says.

  18. Kevin
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    “I … have seen wonders of homeopathy”. No you haven’t. When homeopathy does wonders it will be called medicine. There are no secrets when evidence is required.

    When I devise a cure for cancer, Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease you will find me on the beaches of Hawaii…which I will own…all of them and people who drink expensive water will not be allowed to visit any of the islands.

  19. Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    You need credentials to criticize religion, but they’ll let any old idiot join up, and promote it.

  20. Historian
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    It was not too long ago that if people wanted medical advice they asked their doctors or perhaps looked at a medical encyclopedia. Their sources of information were limited and they took such advice as an act of faith. The information provided may not have been accurate, but at least there seemed to be clarity. With the advent of the Internet and the seemingly infinite medical websites, people often find conflicting advice on a medical topic, even when the advice is provided by supposed, credentialed experts on the given topic. So now, people often question the advice and recommendations of their personal physicians, especially if they can produce an Internet article that says the opposite of what their physicians said. Confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety reign. Take this medicine or not? Have this surgery or not? Eat this food or not? Information overload is creating real problems (even if the obvious quack sites are weeded out). I can’t think of an easy way out of this problem. Maybe the only solution is to trust your doctor and avoid turning to the Internet for medical advice. It may not be the perfect answer, but it will at least reduce anxiety.

  21. jeffery
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    My big question about the rational (?) behind homeopathic “medicine” is this: why, each time we take a drink of water, do we not immediately come under the effects of that water’s “memory” of all of the countless substances that have been dumped into it over the centuries? The ocean being huge, all of these “nature-produced homeopathic doses” should be of maximum strength, having been diluted so much- wouldn’t we all quickly overdose on hundreds of different compounds? The most obvious nonsense.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      “why, each time we take a drink of water, do we not immediately come under the effects…?”

      No money changes hands?

    • kevind
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      They do have this covered in their “theory”.
      Water is rather intelligent and only remembers stuff when you give it a smack at the right moment. They call it succussion.

      I have always sort of liked the theory behind homeopathy.
      Starts of apparently with a bad reaction to quinine giving the same symptoms as malaria so he concludes like cures like.
      Then quickly, although possibly after a few bodies need disposing off, realises that since like cures like often includes poisons the theory involves to include the dilution approach to ensure customers can actually come back and buy more.

  22. rickflick
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    “why, each time we take a drink of water, do we not immediately come under the effects…?”

    No money changes hands?

    • rickflick
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      This comment is misplaced. Please ignore.

  23. RPGNo1
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Homeopathy is quackery.

    • Kev
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Homeopathy is okay in small doses: very, very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very small doses

      • GBJames
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        lol

      • rickflick
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        True. It doesn’t hurt you, but you can drown in it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 22, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        😹

  24. loren russell
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    PCC(e): “As for a drug “proving rather than telling if it works”, well, I have no idea what that means, unless “proving” has something to do with faith.”

    Proving does have a technical meaning in homeopathy, and it’s about as convincing as Joseph Smith’s magic hat.

    Any homeopathic nostrum, for instance a sugar pill representing a 30C dilution of a vial of water exposed to the light from the rings around Uranus, is administered to a few volunteers.

    The volunteers keep a detailed notebook of their sensations, thoughts, dreams for a few days. The concoctor of the “ringorum Uranorum” goes through the notebooks, and finds that several volunteers noticed that, perhaps, their hair parted more easily and several others reported that their feces were hard and chocolate brown. One perhaps noted that thinking of chocolate made them hungry.

    From such a proving, it’s likely that Ringorum Uranorum would enter the Homeopathic Pharmcopeia as “indicated for tangled hair as well as for maintaining regular bowel movement. In xer paper, the concoctor might suggest that more work is required to determine if Ringorum Uranorum might benefit anorectics.

  25. jaxkayaker
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Apparently low concentrations of rationality have cured these people of being rational. That’s how homeopathy works, right?

  26. stuartcoyle
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It seems like your correspondents in these cases are falling back on the fallacy of argument from authority. Or rather, the negative corollary of that argument: “You are not an authority therefore you are wrong.”

    This should have a name.

    On the subject of argument by authority I have tried to explain to my wife that just because a book is written by A.Author PhD, it is not necessarily true (“but this is a REAL doctor saying homeopathy works.”). Most of the decent authors of scientific works don’t append letters to their names. To me the appearance of them is a red flag that the author may be attempting argument by authority.

    I see my copies of “The Nature of Relativity” by “Albert Einstein”, “Principia Mathematica” by “Isaac Newton”, “The Origin of the Species” by “Charles Darwin” and “God Created the Integers” by “Stephen Hawking”. Not a single Phd, Dr, Sir, FRS, BA or MBA (God forbid!) in the author’s names on the front of the books.

    • Historian
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      You certainly have raised a conundrum. One certainly should be wary of the appeal to authority fallacy. But, one must be equally wary of the appeal to the non-authority fallacy. In other words, unless a person has immersed himself in the minutia of a complicated topic, it is extremely difficult for a person to sort out conflicting claims on an issue where supposedly knowledgeably “experts” offer conflicting explanations. In most cases, the “truth” eventually wins out, but this process could take years or decades. In the meantime, the public may be fooled into believing what is ultimately revealed as nonsense.

  27. Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    💦

  28. Ronaldo
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Some may have seen this already, but if not, have fun:

    • Mike
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      No further explanation needed.lol

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      I was going to post the same thing. If homeopathy is the future, this is what that future will look like. Good grief.

  29. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 21, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    People are not idiots if something doesn’t work for them they won’t continue to use it. Why not take on more important issues like air pollution, water pollution, legal pharmaceutical drug abuse, gmo foods, etc.

    One of those are not like the others:

    “The GMO debate is over — again. Last week, the prestigious National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine issued what is probably the most far-reaching report ever produced by the scientific community on genetically engineered food and crops. The conclusion was unambiguous: Having examined hundreds of scientific papers written on the subject, sat through hours of live testimony from activists and considered hundreds more comments from the general public, the scientists wrote that they “found no substantiated evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops.”

    The National Academies process was both impressively inclusive and explicitly consensual.”

    [ http://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/mark-lynas/gmo-safety-debate-over ]

    Trust a believer in homeopathy against the evidence to get other things wrong against evidence too. Apparently “people are … idiots”. [/kidding, rather they are prone to be suckers by embracing selection bias]

  30. Posted December 21, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    In response to the guy who dismissed you for lacking expertise about Islam, those of us who were anti-nuclear activists were also dismissed as know-nothings because we didn’t have degrees in physics. But the late Dr. John Gofman, a prominent nuclear physicist and physician responded thus: You don’t have to be a hen to judge the quality of an egg.

    • Kev
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      In my last job it was said, “Discussing technical issues with HR is like discussing omelettes with chickens”;

    • jeremy pereira
      Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Or, if I may refer to the Anti-Cat (PZ Myers), you don’t need to be an expert in fashion design to point out the emperor has no clothes.

  31. Kev
    Posted December 22, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Homeopathy is okay in small doses: very, very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very,very small doses

  32. jeremy pereira
    Posted December 22, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    the Royal Family, particularly Prince Charles, is no paradigm of good judgment!

    Possible typo? Paragon?


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