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This is the first installment in what I hope to be a series of diaries examining the pseudo-science and statistics behind various popular 'alternative medicines,' such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, spiritual healing, and acupuncture.
Long before the dawn of human civilization, our species has sought desperately to cure its physical ailments. Primal paleolithic shamans used ancient techniques to cast out wicked spirits or ward away the evils of witchcraft. The Lakotan medicine man sought the aid of Wakan Tanka to assist in healing the body or the psyche. A central facet of most religious faiths, to this day, is the existence of divinity manifesting itself in mortals through the power of healing.

Like most ancient superstition, mythos, and folklore, these ancient medical practices derived as an attempt to derive understanding from a terrifyingly inexplicable cosmos. They had no knowledge of viruses or bacteria. Blame was assigned to pernicious supernatural forces, and various powerful magicks were fashioned to combat them.

Interestingly, these ancient cures had some degree of success. Many ancient medical practitioners used barks and herbs in potions to combat ailments. We concentrate the same materials today into scientifically verified effective medicines. Willow bark, for example, was used as early as 2000 B.C.E by Egyptians to reduce fever. Today, we use salicylic acid, the active component in willow bark extract, in the creation of salicylates like Aspirin.

I often joke of various 'alternative medicines' that they have been found to be "at least as effective as a placebo." This was no less true in ancient times than today.

However, we now possess the power to examine medical claims with scientific rigour. In science, the human race finally has a tool to examine what works, what doesn't work, and why.

Regardless of this fact, many of these ancient practices (or slightly altered versions of them) exist to this day, despite the overwhelming evidence that they possess no true medicinal qualities apart from the power of the placebo effect.

This diary series will examine in depth many 'alternative medicine' claims, and do its best to relate modern scientific opinion on the subjects.

Follow me below the fold for a look at the first such examined claim- the healing properties of homeopathic dilution.

In 400 B.C.E, Hippocrates saw that large amounts of mandrake root may cause manic symptoms in a person, and suggested that a small dose of the stuff may be used to treat mania itself. As strange an extrapolation as this may seem, this very idea is at the core of homeopathy.

Let us jump forward to the early 19th century C.E. Samuel Hahnemann, a middle-aged physician grown distressed with the dangerous and ineffective medical practices of his day, sought to revolutionize his field. While poring over the work of Scottish theorist William Cullen, Hahnemann saw that Cullen advocated the use of cinchona as a malaria cure, and swiftly undertook an experiment. He orally ingested cinchona bark, and swiftly came down with fever, joint pain, and chills. Noting that these are common symptoms of malaria, he came to the rather peculiar notion that all true medicines create symptoms in healthy individuals practically identical to the illness that may be cured, and further postulated that any ingredient that causes similar symptoms would function as a cure. This brought him to the idea of the "Law of Similars," a central belief in the school of homeopathy.

(Interestingly, Oliver Wendell Holmes attempted to replicate the experiment in 1861, and experienced no ill effects from the consumption of cinchona bark. Later scientific studies found that cinchona bark is effective in combating malaria because it contains quinine, and not because it may cause fever in large doses.)

Hahnemann may not have been a particularly effective scientist by today's standards, but the man was not an idiot. He understood that introducing elements that cause distressing symptoms in already sick people may not be the safest idea. Instead, he came up with a quite elegant solution. (zing!) He proposed that medical practitioners remove the harmful effects but retain the healing properties of these ingredients by diluting them a great many times. Essentially, he advised the following actions be taken.

1. Take the operating ingredient (for instance, wolfsbane) and dilute it in a solution usually containing water, sugar, or alcohol, to the point where the operating ingredient accounts for one part per hundred of the final solution. (Today, one part per ten solutions are more common.)

2. Shake this compound thoroughly.

3. Take the new solution, and dilute the new mixture once more, again by a factor of one hundred.

4. Repeat steps  2-3 a variable amount of times. The more you dilute the mixture, the more powerful the remedy is said to be. (Hahnemann recommended a total of 30 1/100 dilutions.)

The reasons that serial dilution should be considered utter hokum are quite self-evident. After all, the 'law of similars' which homeopathic medicine claimed as its reason for functionality was disproven before the American Civil War. However, the idea of dilution itself has some grave errors behind it.

When you dilute these substances, the numbers get very big very quickly. After diluting a substance a mere four times (out of the suggested thirty), Hahnemann would have a solution that has 1 part per 100,000,000, or the allowable concentration of arsenic in United States drinking water. After diluting it 13 times out of 30, he would gain a solution that is 1 part per 100^13, or 100,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000. To put this into reference, it is the equivalent of one third of a drop of the original substance dropped into all the water on earth.

At this point, we have probably lost even a single molecule of the operating component. A few dilutions down the road, we no longer have not only no molecule of the operating component, not only no molecules of the original solution, but we no longer have any molecule at all that has come into contact with the original solution.

The dilution that Hahnemann advocated was a solution that was 1 part per 100^30, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000. On average, in order to give a single molecule of the original operating component to a patient at this dilution, it would require giving 2,000,000,000 doses per second to 6,000,000,000 people for 4,000,000,000 years.

Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic flu remedy sold today, has been diluted at a 1/10 ratio a total of 400 times. The final solution is 1 part duck liver, the operating ingredient, per 10^400, or 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000. There are approximately 10^80 molecules in the observable universe. At 80 1/10 distillations, we would reach the point where there is one molecule of the operating ingredient remaining in a solution the size of the known universe. Diluted 400 times, Oscillococcinum would require approximately 10^320 more universes to retain so much as a single molecule of its operating component. All this for the enviable price of $32.79 a box.

Homeopathic defenders claim that these solutions retain some sort of spirit-like 'essential property' despite these massive dilutions, in spite of all scientific understanding of the nature of matter and atomic make-up. However, let us call a spade a spade- even if the 'law of similars' were scientifically valid, which it certainly, demonstrably is not, these esteemed gentlemen are literally peddling the world water (sometimes, sugar water) and claiming that it will heal dangerous illnesses.
.
.
.
But, hey. At least it's as effective as a placebo.

Originally posted to Keille on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 01:32 AM PST.

Also republished by Science Matters and SciTech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very nice, thank you (20+ / 0-)

    There's the homeopath who drank a glass of pure water and died of an overdose.

  •  Homeopathy is like many ideologies. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, Wee Mama, koosah, ebohlman

    It's esthetically pleasing but it doesn't work. Although I like to think my short comments are a homeopathic remedy for bad diaries (not yours, I hasten to say).

    My comments are coming from a place of love.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 03:49:41 AM PST

    •  But the diarist demonstrates that it does work. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, ebohlman
      Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic flu remedy sold today, has been diluted at a 1/10 ratio a total of 400 times. The final solution is 1 part duck liver, the operating ingredient, per 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
      000. There are approximately 10^80 molecules in the observable universe. At 80 1/10 distillations, we would reach the point where there is one molecule of the operating ingredient remaining in a solution the size of the known universe. Diluted 400 times, Oscillococcinum would require approximately 10^320 more universes to retain so much as a single molecule of its operating component. All this for the enviable price of $32.79 a box.
      Do you realize how many ducks' lives are saved by that method of compounding the remedy? Homeopathy is very good for ducks.
  •  I wonder how often this is true: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, koosah, Ahianne
    But, hey. At least it's as effective as a placebo.
    For a placebo to work, doesn't the patient need to believe it's a real drug? So it's probably an effective placebo only for those that don't understand basic math.

    ....no longer in SF.... -9.00, -7.38

    by TFinSF on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 03:57:58 AM PST

    •  I cannot imagine that (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, koosah, elfling, Username4242

      Someone would purchase a 'medication' which is as expensive as many homeopathic remedies are without firmly believing that they have some medicinal qualities about them.

    •  Not always, in many cases the placebo (0+ / 0-)

      treatment involved more than "nothing" - e.g, given a "sugar pill"

      In some cases, the sugar pill has a physiological effect.  etc.

    •  Not really (0+ / 0-)

      What we commonly call "placebo effect" includes more than just expectancy effects. A big part of it is just the natural variability of diseases; if you take something inert and then you get a reduction of symptoms that's just due to the random ups and downs of the disease, your brain will make a false association and conclude that the inert stuff caused the improvement.

      One reason that MS and autism attract more than their share of quackery is that they're both characterized by seemingly random exacerbations and remissions (with the overall course being downhill for MS and uphill for autism, but the trends can only be seen over a period of 10-20 years). One is naturally more likely to try any remedy when in a prolonged down period, and that's also when an improvement is most likely to occur.

      Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

      by ebohlman on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 02:05:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I applaud your effort, but alas I think you (7+ / 0-)

    waste your time.  Woo-woo is an ideology, and ideologies are not amenable to evidence or data. People will believe whatever they want to believe, no matter how silly or demonstrably untrue it is.  (shrug)

    I comfort myself with the fact that while the rightwing anti-science kookers get to run the EPA, our leftwing anti-science kookers just get laughed at.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 04:01:13 AM PST

    •  Woo is an ideology, yes. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, quill, koosah

      Alt med is very, very good at making promises and smiling pretty, and when it doesn't work the first time around, that's when it becomes about purity.

      But, frankly, the best time to pull someone from the woo is before they start; this isn't a bombshell for the crankmasters, it's armor for the previously ignorant. And that needs to be out there.

    •  you said: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1

      "I comfort myself with the fact that while the rightwing anti-science kookers get to run the EPA"

      Please note that Gina McCarthy is not an "anti-science kooker" and neither was Lisa Jackson.

    •  It is never a waste of time (0+ / 0-)

      to understand human patterns of thought.  One should know what ideas one is rejecting and why.

      Dismissal of homeopathy as "woo-woo" isn't as strong a position as considered rejection of homeopathy based on hard data about how it claims to work.

      •  A leads to B (0+ / 0-)
        Dismissal of homeopathy as "woo-woo" isn't as strong a position as considered rejection of homeopathy based on hard data about how it claims to work.
        ;)

        Alas, "considered rejection of homeopathy" only works for those who don't already believe in it.

        Once ideology is established, changing it is worse than pulling teeth.

        Just ask our gopper friends.

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 04:38:15 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  nicely done (11+ / 0-)

    Thanks for putting the basic arguments which make it clear that homeopathy is bunk into a clear, succinct diary.

    I was distressed that my reputable (big-chain) pharmacy sells "cold medicine" zinc tablets which are labelled as homeopathic... but in that case, zinc, for what its worth, is an actual ingredient: the dilution is claimed to be 1/100 (not clear what this implies; 1% by mass of the tablet?).

    It seems in this product, as in other homeopathic "medicines", an additional "selling point" that they tout is that the product is "all natural".

    Of course, arsenic is all-natural. So is smallpox. I have never quite understood the default appeal of "all natural".

    •  "Drink up, Socrates, it's all-natural!" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Andrew Lazarus, mikidee, ebohlman
    •  the zinc homeopathy remedy (0+ / 0-)

      is truer to the true meaning of the term compared to what this diary makes it out to be.

      i.e., that a small dose (yes, small dose, not the mockery of no dose per this diary) of something that is harmful, is helpful.

      In a way, vaccines are based on this principle, but to stick with zinc, it is poisonous that at high enough doses but presumably helpful at low doses.  Perhaps the similar to selenium.  But I keep digressing from zinc.

      For The Simpsons, just consider what a world w/o zinc would be like:

      Jimmy:          Hey, what gives?

      Jimmy's Dad:          You said you wanted to live in a world without zinc, Jimmy. Well now your car has no battery.

      Jimmy:          But I promised Betty I'd pick her up by 6:00. I better give her a call.

      Jimmy's Dad:         Sorry Jimmy. Without zinc for the rotary mechanism, there are no telephones.

      Jimmy:          Dear God! What have I done? (Jimmy pulls out a gun and points it to his head and fires)

      Jimmy's Dad:          Think again, Jimmy. You see, the firing pin in your gun was made out of... yep... zinc.

      Jimmy:         Come back zinc, Come Back!!

  •  I don't knock the placebo effect. (7+ / 0-)

    If people find a path that lets them feel better, I'm all for it, even if the 'better' is entirely within their own thoughts.

    Happy thoughts aren't going to cure your gangrene, but if they take your mind off the pain, that's a help while medical personnel work on the post-amputation healing.

    •  I don't knock the placebo effect either. (5+ / 0-)

      I just take extreme gumption at snake oil salesmen peddling their wares as miracle cures for exorbitant prices while deriding and condemning traditional western medicine.

    •  yeah, except that people are harmed by it (6+ / 0-)

      placebo medicine isn't as harmless as many assume:

      - believers replace effective treatment with placebo cures, which can be deadly.

      - to rationalize their beliefs, they adopt an opposing attitude and condemn "traditional medicine" (aka science based medicine) as as wrong and to be avoided. They preach this attitude to anyone who will listen and convert others to the woo.

      - they force their placebo cures on their children (and pets), who may be harmed by not receiving proper treatment.

      - people are ripped off: if the "cure" only makes you feel better but not actually treat the problem, then that is false advertizing.

      - fake medicine damages and confuses public opinion about medicine in general. Attacks on trad-med cause loss of public support for medical research.

      "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

      by quill on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 07:55:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Given the suppresson of negative studies (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice, quill

        by the pharma companies, this is not entirely surprising.

        •  that is certainly a problem (0+ / 0-)

          And when that sort of malpractice is (rightly) exposed it feeds into the anti-science / tradmed CT arguments. However, that is not the case for the vast majority of commonly adopted practices and treatments derived from medical research.

          "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

          by quill on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 11:23:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well both sides are at faul (0+ / 0-)

            Pharmaceutical companies have about about as much scientific backing showing they "treat" the underlying problems as homeopathy.  I know of no drugs that treat the underlying problem, rather they treat symptoms.
                  It would also help if pharmaceutical companies, instead of plagiarizing nature, could actually develop a drug that wasn't synthesized from a plant, a plant that when taken alone or in for instance a tcm mix doesn't cause the side effects of the synthesized compound likely created with toxic chemicals.
                   Would it not be better to research the herbal compounds themselves, and allow the public access to them?  This would drastically lower drug costs.  For instance prescription Linbrel is very expensive, but Baicalin from Skullcap, which has been shown to be more effective than nsaids and cause no risk of ulceration, is quite cheap and easily grown just about anywhere.

  •  the homeopathy effect has other uses too, such as (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder

    in pollution as we found out in our recent floods.

    After the floods our state board of whatever did extensive tests of our major river drainages. They found no sign of any pollution at all from the many wells we have in our county. Fracking fluid is mostly water and when injected it's pushed into layers very deep underground that already have oil, gas, etc in them.

    Petro residue in quantities too small to be detected is obviously a huge oil spill according to activists.

    Science? Who needs it.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 05:42:13 AM PST

    •  not the same (0+ / 0-)

      Whereas homeopathy involves careful deliberately homogenious dilution, frackIng polution , and "dilution" by flooding is not necessarily homogenious at all.

      I'm not sure what you're arguing here: are you saying that fracking and its byproducts are always safe because of one example where the pollution was apparently diluted? Your sample size is not scientific.

      "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

      by quill on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 08:14:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm saying the same sorts of nut cases that (0+ / 0-)

        think homeopathy is science also believe fracking polluted CO in the floods. Delusional idiots, not science based but emotional feelings.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 12:52:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Benveniste was the most recent "serious" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah, quill, Ahianne

    scientist to advocate for homoeopathic effects, and he was resoundingly debunked.

    Interestingly there is also a nocebo effect so it makes it tricky to discuss the possible side effects of drugs without interfering with their direct actions.



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 06:22:20 AM PST

  •  There is a reason its called alternative medicine (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah, BlackSheep1

    Its because its been proven to not work.

    You know what they call alternative medicine that's been proven to work?.........Medicine.

    Tim Minchen

    Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

    by fauxrs on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 06:44:14 AM PST

  •  I recently attended a "talk" for parents of kids (8+ / 0-)

    on the autism spectrum. The original speaker--an occupational therapist--was ill, so a substitute speaker was quickly arranged. I guess.  

    Lucky us! we were treated to a local homeopathic doctor and her ideas about "treating" autism and its possible causes. There was a lot of "science-y" sounding stuff about protein precursors and brain chemistry. Food allergies and environmental stress were big culprits. It would be very attractive and plausible for anyone who wanted to find something-anything- to do, some course of action to take, some way to feel in control of a disorder that remains enigmatic for traditional medicine.

    I eventually just put a pleasantly polite smile on my face and seethed quietly to myself. As the other parents questioned this practitioner, it became increasingly apparent that the ultimate responsibility for success or failure of homeopathy rests with the patient and the patient's commitment to the treatment. It is no different from faith healing at this point. These parents were told that if their autistic children failed to respond to this course of treatment (severe diet restrictions plus homeopathic remedies and nutritional supplements) it must be because they had not really restricted the child's diet sufficiently, had not really added the correct supplement, had not really identified the best "vibrational" what-the-eff-ever and that they must try harder.        

    They. The parents.  Must. Try. Harder.

    Because, of course, it would not be because homeopathy is complete nonsense.

    When I came home that evening, mr. koosah asked if he had missed anything. (He stayed home with koosah kid.) "Nope," I answered. "Unless you miss being lectured by a Witch Doctor."

    http://youtu.be/...

    "Profit is a filthy word. Wherever there is profit, there is also deficit." Russell Brand

    by koosah on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 06:51:58 AM PST

  •  Uh oh . . . (0+ / 0-)
    This is the first installment in what I hope to be a series of diaries examining the pseudo-science and statistics behind various popular 'alternative medicines,' such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, spiritual healing, and acupuncture.
    do I see more Alan Harper bashing on the horizon?
  •  excellent piece. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tekno2600, quill, Ahianne, koosah, Tinfoil Hat

    If I had no ethics at all, I could make myself very wealthy selling some of these "cures."

    But it's wrong to lie to people.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility (not an original but rather apt)

    by terrypinder on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 07:38:09 AM PST

  •  It seems to me that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Batya the Toon, RunawayRose

    ..Republican voters are operating on homeopathically diluted intelligence.

    Cogito, ergo Democrata.

    by Ahianne on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 08:20:31 AM PST

  •  Pete's Dragon (0+ / 0-)

    Thing how much more could be made if only he'd thought to dilute "every little piece"
    http://www.youtube.com/...

  •  Great scientific based analysis. Do more! (4+ / 0-)

    I can't wait for my personal favorite, the chiropractors, I,e, the back-crackin' healers of those dread "subluxations" that only they see (and yes, there is such a thing in real medicine as a subluxation, but they don't use the term the way an orthopedist would).                          
    This diary is a good follow up to the one yesterday concerning an Italian physician's scientifically refuted and unsupported beliefs on causation of multiple sclerosis which have been adopted by the desperate, and blames Big Pharma and Big Medicine for standing in the way of a miraculous cure because it would affect their profits, which explains these evil forces denying someone afflicted with such a debilitating condition the crackpot's cure. Sorry folks, it doesn't work that way.
    Unfortunately, quackery persists when nothing else works, and leads to criminal profiteering and a trail of desperate ,dead people left uncured of their colon cancer by the Mexican coffee enemas and peach pit diets.

  •  Two things (3+ / 0-)

    First, as a suggestion, could you put those numbers into scientific notation as well? I understand what you're trying to do with all those zeroes, but it actually reduces clarity to some extent.

    Second, as I've said before, I've seen someone come up with an idea for homeopathic whiskey. Dilute it to 30c, sell it as a hangover remedy, and you now have the first homeopathic remedy that actually treats something (assuming the patient drinks enough of it.)

  •  seems appropriate to ask for (0+ / 0-)

    the diarists credentials/qualifications to be making a lot of very broad brush claims.  Especially if it presumes to continue to educate us on this range of topics.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 02:09:10 PM PST

    •  I don't disagree. It's an appropriate question. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      claude, Username4242

      I'm not a medical professional, and perhaps I should have mentioned that in my opener. I am currently in my later years as a student of theatre at Montana State University, and am a passionate skeptic with a great deal of enthusiasm on the subject matter at hand.  

      Each of the diaries in this series will involve a great deal of research (some already accomplished) on my part. I will delve into pertinent historical texts, articles, and scholarly papers. None of the information that I will provide, apart from the odd yarn involving a 'specialist' that I may have visited in the past, will involve any experiments conducted by me personally. I plan to simply climb atop the shoulders of giants, and relate to those who have not gone through the effort what the view looks like from up there.

      I will strive to admit merit where I find even the slightest hint of it, but do not intend to 'tell both sides' of the argument. I am interested in the facts, and not the argument itself.

      (I had considered citing my sources in these diaries as I would in any academic paper, but decided against it, as I don't particularly want to put a works cited page in each of these articles. If anyone takes offense at this, kindly let me know, and I may change my mind.)

      •  Probably worth it to post your cites. (0+ / 0-)

        You're going to get lots of pushback on these topics, and listing your sources upfront (or at least assembling a list to post if/when questioned) could help out. You will, of course, then get pushback about your choice of sources (when it's my viewpoint,  this group is a collection of experts; when it's your point of view,  that group is a bunch of biased advocates ;) Saw that dynamic here just the other day).

        •  Well, it might help, but a lot is simple math (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TiaRachel

          At least in this case. When the dilution gets as high as the homeopaths want, it is statistically unlikely that you'd have even a single molecule of what you're diluting. Then there's the fact that if dilution worked the way the homeopaths claim, the tap water in my sink should cure just about anything that ails me. And then there's the fact that chemistry wouldn't work the way it does if you had some sort of weird solvent memory.

          Anyway, I would suggest anyone interested in pseudoscience get a copy of Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. It's 60 years old and some of the topics aren't really mentioned these days (Lysenkoism and phrenology, for instance) but it's an enjoyable read and it's really amazing how much of it is still perfectly relevant today.

          •  Lots of people don't get math. My favorite (0+ / 0-)

            is to do that petri-dish e coli dilution series that's a staple of gen chem 101 -- you get a very clear visual of the concept with that. There was a front-page article in the NYTimes magazine quite a while ago that did it well -- but for some reason I'm not finding it online. Oh well.

    •  I don't really see where you are coming from here. (0+ / 0-)

      The diary consists mainly of a description of homeopathy.  What "broad brush claims" are you talking about?

  •  I believe that homeopathy should be covered (0+ / 0-)

    by any civilized nation's healthcare system.

    I also believe that the payments to homeopathic practitioners should themselves be homeopathic.

    (I seem to remember that some years back the Onion had a headline that read something like "alternative doctors refuse alternative payments".)

    Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

    by ebohlman on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 02:33:09 PM PST

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