Feb 11 2011

Homeopathy Overdose Befuddles Homeopaths

Recently the 1023 campaign conducted another homeopathic overdose. In coordination with this, James Randi issued a $1 million  challenge to the homeopathic community to demonstrate that there is any difference between homeopathic water and regular water (there isn’t). Last week skeptics around the world downed fistsfull of homeopathic pills (i.e. sugar pills) to demonstrate that there is no effect or side effect to the products. You can take a couple of boxes of homeopathic sleeping pills without feeling the least bit drowsy.

To be clear – the homeopathic overdose is a stunt, and nothing more. It is not an experiment or meant to be scientific in any way. It is a stunt for the camera – to raise public awareness of the fact that there are generally no active ingredients in homeopathic products. They are sugar pills that have been kissed with magic water – nothing else. This is an important campaign because generally the public lacks awareness of what homeopathic products really are. Most people I encounter have no idea what the claims of homeopathy are, and assume that homeopathic means “natural” or “herbal.”

It is true that by doing this skeptics are demonstrating that homeopathic products lack toxicity and side effects – a feature prominently promoted by homeopaths. Of course, they have no side effects because they have no effects. It is easy for nothing to cause no direct harm. (Indirect harm is another matter.) So homeopaths should be happy – we are simply educating the public about their favorite snake-oil and demonstrating how wonderfully safe they are.

And yet the demonstration has the effect of irritating homeopaths – because no one likes to have it publicly pointed out that they are, in fact, completely naked.

Leave it to Mike Adams to write the most absurd homeopathic response to the overdose stunt. Adams has never met an argument or claim too full of burning stupid to embrace it fully, if he thinks he can use it to promote his nonsense. He complains that skeptics miss the point of homeopathy (no, we don’t) and issues his own challenge:

Notice that they never consume their own medicines in large doses? Chemotherapy? Statin drugs? Blood thinners? They wouldn’t dare drink those. In fact, today I’m challenging the homeopathic skeptics and other medical fundamentalists to a “drink-a-thon” test to see which medicines will kill you faster.

He wants homeopathy critics (i.e. the scientifically literate and well-informed) to overdose on real medicine. He thinks he is being clever, pointing out that real medicine has toxicity. Of course it does – pharmacology is all about identifying substances that are biologically active and then finding a dose range in which they have a beneficial effect that can be exploited with tolerable side effects and minimal to no toxicity. Any such substance, however, will become toxic if you increase the dose enough. Drink enough water and you will die of water toxicity. You can overdose on any vitamin. The symptoms of hypervitaminosis A are pretty gruesome – if it is acute enough you will die from your tissues falling apart.

In fact – here’s a counter (and also absurd) challenge to Adams – take an overdose of all those herbs, supplements, and vitamins you sell on your site (not homeopathy, but everything else). You’ll notice that advocates of science-based medicine never do that – because herbs are drugs and have all the toxicity of drugs. Supplements are also biologically active and can cause damage from overdose. Adams is a hypocrite for criticizing mainstream medicine for using remedies that have toxicity when overdosed, while selling products that also have toxicity when overdosed. Then again, the promoters of nonsense have never been known for their internal consistency.

Adams continues:

Homeopathy, you see, isn’t a drug. It’s not a chemical. So you can drink all you want and you won’t overdose on it. That’s not a defect in homeopathy — it’s a remarkable advantage.

We agree that homeopathy is not a drug or chemical – it’s literally nothing.  Homeopaths would have you believe that complete absence of any possibility of an effect is an advantage. In fact what it means is that homeopathy cannot work. And, in fact, when studied clinically it does not work – for anything. So if homeopathy cannot work by any established laws of physics, chemistry, or biology, how do homeopaths say it works? The answer – by magic. Of course they disguise the word “magic” in a Gish Gallop of scientific-sounding gobbledigook.

But homeopathy isn’t a chemical. It’s a resonance. A vibration, or a harmony. It’s the restructuring of water to resonate with the particular energy of a plant or substance. We can get into the physics of it in a subsequent article, but for now it’s easy to recognize that even from a conventional physics point of view, liquid water has tremendous energy, and it’s constantly in motion, not just at the molecular level but also at the level of its subatomic particles and so-called “orbiting electrons” which aren’t even orbiting in the first place. Electrons are vibrations and not physical objects.

Right – it’s the energy vibrational resonance of water – i.e. “magic”. Adams has now entered the pantheon of homeopaths who have desperately tried to explain how homeopathy works using the language of science, to humorous effect.

Adams also claims in his article that, “no one is harmed by homeopathy.” He even uses bold type to make sure we get it.

Well, tell that to Gloria Thomas Sam – whose parents decided to treat her severe skin condition with only homeopathic remedy. They were convinced by arguments similar to the ones being peddled by Adams that “chemicals” are dangerous. As a result, she died a horrible death at 9 months old. Tell that to all the people on this list at whatstheharm.net. This is just a small sample of cases of people being harmed, and even dying prematurely, because they were convinced to rely upon homeopathy to treat real non-self-limiting disease. This is a death toll that can be laid directly at the feet of all those who are promoting medical nonsense, like homeopathy. It belongs to all those who try to scare the public away from effective and proven medicine, to confuse the public with sophisticated but nonsensical arguments about magic water, and all those who attack “skeptics” who are just trying to explain the scientific facts to the public.

Share

87 responses so far

87 Responses to “Homeopathy Overdose Befuddles Homeopaths”

  1. shaneon 11 Feb 2011 at 10:33 am

    Hilariously homeopaths were claiming that of course this stunt didn’t work because nobody was showing the correct symptoms. What are the symptoms of an overdose of sleeping pills btw?

  2. Jim Shaveron 11 Feb 2011 at 10:35 am

    It belongs to all those who try to scare the public aware from effective and proven medicine,…

    That should be: “…to scare the public away from…”

    Steve, on behalf of all humanity, thank you for continuing to take on these homeopaths head-on. (No pun intended.) You are definitely doing your part, and lately the activities I have seen from the 10:23 campaign, the petitions on change.org, etc., have given me some encouragement that skeptics may finally start seeing some measureable success in these efforts to educate the public about this quack, fake medicine, nonsense.

  3. daedalus2uon 11 Feb 2011 at 10:51 am

    Shouldn’t Gary Null and Mike Adams get their stories straight about vitamin D?

  4. agentlionon 11 Feb 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Steve – I support the homeopathic overdose stunts, but what precautions should people be using to make sure they are using “true homeopathic” solutions? We know that 1) some actual medicines are packaged and sold as homeopathic (like Zircam, which contains zinc), and 2) since homeopathy is basically unregulated, we really have no idea what is going into the pills they’re selling, right?

    Who’s to say that the supposed 200C solution of duck liver or whatever isn’t actually a 10C solution of… duck liver. Or worse, of course, a 10C solution of an actual drug, toxic or not? Or it’s not sugar pills contaminated with whatever residue was left in the pill-mixing machine? Or better yet, wouldn’t it make sense for a homeopathic pill maker to slip a little diphenhydramine into their batch, so it would ACTUALLY make people go to sleep?

    Point being, even though we all know “real homeopathy” is harmless to take, we seem to be taking a lot on faith that these are true homeopathic solutions.

  5. Jim Shaveron 11 Feb 2011 at 2:01 pm

    agentlion:

    That is a scary thought, which I am certain has crossed the minds of many skeptics. However, on the other hand, as weak as US laws are on homeopathy, I think the FDA and federal prosecutors would go hard after any homeopathy company that pulled such a stunt. This would be the type of criminal behavior that would dismantle companies and put people in jail, an outcome that might not be bad.

  6. ccbowerson 11 Feb 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Shouldn’t one overdose on homeopathic products by taking half or 1/4 of the dose? Just sniffing a bottle could kill a man

  7. DrEvilon 11 Feb 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Reading the label to some products that were labeled homeopathic made it clear that some of them actually have active ingredients and appear to be homeopathic in labeling alone. It seems that with that practice apparently being not so uncommon, it muddies up the situation a bit as far as destroying its credibility with the ‘magic water’ explanation alone.

  8. writerJameson 11 Feb 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I shouldn’t be as surprised as I am by the extent to which someone like Mike Adams utterly misunderstands the skeptical position, but it’s just as bizarre to see now as it ever has been. He thinks it needs to be explained why a homeopathic “overdose” is an inherently ridiculous concept – as if that weren’t fundamental to the entire campaign. We *know* we’re not doing anything dangerous by taking more homeopathy than the recommended dose, or we wouldn’t be doing it.

    I had fun with this one too on my blog. He’s a regular source of entertainment and good ranting material, when he’s not just being infuriating.

  9. BillyJoe7on 11 Feb 2011 at 3:01 pm

    “Shouldn’t one overdose on homeopathic products by taking half or 1/4 of the dose? Just sniffing a bottle could kill a man”

    You forgot that the diluted water has to be potentised by wacking it so many times against a leather bound bible :D

  10. waltdakindon 11 Feb 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Following a demonstration that shooting yourself repeatedly with a water gun is harmless, Mike Adams would condescendingly laugh and demand the demonstration be repeated with a real gun.

  11. cwfongon 11 Feb 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Reminds me of the old joke where the Aussie told the bartender, if I didn’t know this was bush beer, I’d swear this stuff was used to boil squid.

  12. DrEvilon 11 Feb 2011 at 4:19 pm

    So what illnesses are caused by eating shit? I ask because if homeopathy were true, shouldn’t the entire human race be immune to said illnesses because all of our drinking water was once stooped in shit wasn’t it? Or do our water treatment plants also treat the magic water memory and remove it?

  13. Karl Withakayon 11 Feb 2011 at 6:04 pm

    “since homeopathy is basically unregulated, we really have no idea what is going into the pills they’re selling, right? ”

    I have an unfinished post somewhat along that line in respect to even if homeopathy were valid, there’s no way to know if the manufacturer of a homeopathic “remedy” actually prepared it as claimed or merely bottled some distilled water. I guess I need to finish that post when I get back from the Caribbean.

  14. Karl Withakayon 11 Feb 2011 at 6:10 pm

    “Electrons are vibrations and not physical objects.”

    Electrons are as much physical objects as as any other massive (as in having mass, not as in being relatively heavy) sub atomic particles are. They have mass and obey the laws of physics for objects with mass regarding traveling at less than the speed of light and conservation of momentum and mass-energy.

    Unprovable string theory aside, this is an absurd and ignorant statement to make.

  15. Khym Chanuron 11 Feb 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Unprovable string theory aside, this is an absurd and ignorant statement to make.

    But, but, but, quantum!!! Quantum explains everything!!

  16. elmer mccurdyon 12 Feb 2011 at 1:09 am

    I don’t believe I’ve met a single homeopathy enthusiast in my entire life. Oh, hold on, there was one on a chronic pain discussion board, who’d basically decided to throw everything she knew about at the pain and see what sticks. So, yeah, I guess that’s one.

  17. BillyJoe7on 12 Feb 2011 at 4:43 am

    “if homeopathy were true, shouldn’t the entire human race be immune to said illnesses because all of our drinking water was once stooped in shit wasn’t it?”

    You forgot that the diluted water has to be potentised by wacking it so many times against a leather bound bible :D

  18. BillyJoe7on 12 Feb 2011 at 4:51 am

    cwrong,

    “Reminds me of the old joke where the Aussie told the bartender, if I didn’t know this was bush beer, I’d swear this stuff was used to boil squid.”

    Nope.

    Down here we all get pissed every Friday night watching the Footy.
    What does that tell you?

  19. norrisLon 12 Feb 2011 at 6:24 am

    This year’s Australian Veterinary Association conference to be held in Adelaide in May has the theme of “Evidence Based Medicine”which is what you would call in the US, Science Based Medicine.
    Interestingly, the holistic vets are not turning up for this year’s conference. Why is that? Lack of any evidence whatsoever I would suggest.
    A member of my staff and a former member of my staff are looking at having another go at having the use of veterinary woo banned by the AVA. Unfortunately, what happened when this was attempted 3 years ago was that the pseudoscientists turned up en masse to vote against the proposal, but the credible vets were much less motivated and did not attend the AGM in enough numbers to get the motion passed. Let’s hope that this time they do! Wish us luck.
    A “veterinarian” in practice about an hour away from me referred a case to my aforementioned friends. The “vet” had extracted a single tooth from a patient and yet had failed to notice that the cat’s entire lower jaw was affected by osteosarcoma. This is the level of professionalism and intelligence we are dealing with when we deal with these quacks. I used inverted commas around veterinarian and vet as it is my belief that these quacks should either recant their pseudoscientific notions, or hand back their degrees and registration
    and go away and practise as what they really are, charlatans, quacks and frauds. Fraud here applies to both medical and financial fraud.
    Stuart

  20. Lzzrdkingon 12 Feb 2011 at 1:49 pm

    @norrisL, not to be too pedantic but I believe there is a difference between evidence based medicine and science based medicine. Science based medicine takes scientific plausibility into account. They are mostly the same but that distinction should be made. If I am off on this someone please correct me because I always thought they were the same until recently, and I could of course be wrong.

  21. Hubbubon 12 Feb 2011 at 4:28 pm

    You know, I read of lot of blog posts highlighting “burning stupid” claims. However, this was the first that made me yell at my computer. Adams conveniently forgetting that, by his definition, herbs and vitamins are equivalently poisonous is the cherry on top.

  22. sonicon 13 Feb 2011 at 2:45 am

    Karl Withakay-
    To quote Heisenberg-
    “I think that modern physics has definitely decided in favor of Plato. In fact the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.”
    As quoted in The New York Times Book Review (8 March 1992)

    The expression in the mathematical language Heisenberg is referring to is know as the ‘wave function’.

    So to say that electrons are vibrations (described by a wave function) is not wholly inaccurate. To say they are not physical objects would agree with most people’s definition of such (most people think that a physical object has a specific location-for example- whereas it seems clear electrons don’t always have specific locations).
    Your turn-

  23. Nescio23on 13 Feb 2011 at 9:01 am

    If I was a manufacturer of homeopathic medicines I would be very, very tempted to simply sell sugar pills labelled as ‘Berlin Wall 30C’, ‘Rat’s Ass 100C’ or whatever, dispensing with the ritual entirely. There is no way anyone could possibly tell, no quality control procedure that could detect this deception. There is no machine, mystic or dowser that can tell a sugar pill with remedy from one without. It would surely save a truckload of money.

    I would hate to start an evil rumor, but I do wonder if that is already happening. I wonder if the majority of homeopathic remedies are sugar pills that haven’t had any homeopathic remedy added to them at all.

    By the way, I’m joking about the rat’s ass being used as a homeopathic remedy (though it wouldn’t surprise me if it was), but not, sadly, about the Berlin Wall.

  24. tmac57on 13 Feb 2011 at 10:21 am

    @Nescio23- I have recently heard several well known Skeptics,wondering,as you just did,whether or not the makers of homeopathic products are actually going through the tedious process of producing these nostrums as they are described.I would like to see a major investigation by the FDA or other appropriate regulating body,to find out what is really going on in these facilities.If it can be proved that they aren’t really producing these ‘remedies’ by their described processes,using the supposed ingredients (even if subsequently diluted to zero),and the described dilutions,and the required succussions,then they should be charged with fraud.
    I think that it is quite possible that at least some of these producers know that the processes don’t add anything to the final product,and are probably just doing the expedient ,and profitable thing by just repackaging,and relabeling common sugar pills.If that is the case,maybe they can be stopped using that tact,since the medical case has been stymied by the ‘needs more research’ ploy.

  25. Science Momon 13 Feb 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Let’s not forget about this: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm230761.htm

    I think this is one of many discussions of EBM versus SBM: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3748

  26. titmouseon 13 Feb 2011 at 2:23 pm

    sonic,

    “Not physical objects in the ordinary sense” does not mean “not physical objects.”

    Heisenberg points to something that is subjective –”ordinary sense”– that misleads us in our understanding of the subatomic world.

    I bet you dollars to donuts that for Mike Adams, “vibrations” means “vibrations in the ordinary sense” rather than “state vector.”

  27. sonicon 14 Feb 2011 at 1:18 am

    titmouse-
    Your comment would be more meaningful if there were a standard scientific definition for the term ‘physical object’.
    If there is one, I’m not aware of what it is.
    Since the article is written for a general audience, I would think the use of the term would be the one in ordinary understanding.
    If there is a standard definition-please cite, otherwise please justify why a definition other than the ordinary sense would be appropriate.

  28. BillyJoe7on 14 Feb 2011 at 3:54 am

    sonic,

    “To say they [electrons] are not physical objects would agree with most people’s definition of such”

    If we distinguish the following two categories:

    1) natural/physical/material
    2) supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial

    I’m betting the vast majority of physicist, and most ordinary people, would place electrons in the first category.
    And that’s all that’s relevant in my opinion.

    Physicists generally include in the first category anything that is the result of physical processes. So, for example, thinking is in the first category because it is the result of the brain’s processes and the brain is clearly a physica object in the ordinary sense.

  29. dsouflison 14 Feb 2011 at 6:57 am

    Given that, sometimes, ridicule is the only sensible approach to some subjects, and noting that practically all pseudo-sciences, homeopathy included, make abundant references to some kind of “energy”, I suggest that we take up the habit of referring to that as “enertzy”. That way, at least, we will be true to science, since their “energy” is anything but.

  30. cwfongon 14 Feb 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Thinking is a physical object? Because it’s the result of the brain’s processes? Something akin to a brain fart perhaps?

  31. sonicon 14 Feb 2011 at 3:24 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    If we distinguish the following two categories:
    1) An argument that begs the question
    2) An argument that does not beg the question
    we can see that your argument fits into category 1.
    If there is a standard definition in science for ‘physical object’ please provide, otherwise I’m going with Heisenberg on this one. (I would point out that people (including scientists) have trouble with Schrodinger’s cat. But the superposition is a common state for an electron.)
    For further reading you might enjoy–
    ttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-virtual-particles-rea

  32. BillyJoe7on 14 Feb 2011 at 10:25 pm

    cwrong,

    “Thinking is a physical object?”

    Thinking is the result of physical processes in the brain so thinking is falls into the natural/physical/material category is what I said. ;)

    “Because it’s the result of the brain’s processes?”

    Yes. :)

    “Something akin to a brain fart perhaps?”

    No :(

  33. titmouseon 14 Feb 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Physical objects demonstrate physical properties which can be measured.

    You’re welcome.

  34. cwfongon 14 Feb 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Do sand squids think ink farts?

  35. BillyJoe7on 15 Feb 2011 at 5:29 am

    cwrong,

    If you want to place thinking in the supernatural/non-physical/immaterial category go right ahead. I’m sticking with the natural/physical/material category.
    There aint no ghost in my machine.

  36. BillyJoe7on 15 Feb 2011 at 5:44 am

    sonic,

    “If we distinguish the following two categories:
    1) An argument that begs the question
    2) An argument that does not beg the question
    we can see that your argument fits into category 1.”

    I wasn’t making an argument. I was trying to circumvent your request for a definition of physical because defining it won’t help the discussion (such as it is with cwrong flatulating his nonsense). It just results in arguments about the correct definition.

    Essentially, it comes down to this:
    Do you believe in magic?
    If so, then you have category 2.

  37. BillyJoe7on 15 Feb 2011 at 5:47 am

    sonic,

    There is nothing at:
    ttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-virtual-particles-rea

    Or at:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-virtual-particles-real

  38. cwfongon 15 Feb 2011 at 11:45 am

    Somebody should tell the sandsquid expert that thinking doesn’t belong in either of those arbitrarily selected categories. Thinking is the description of a function of the brain, it’s not a measurable property, not a substance, nor is it supernatural as a consequence of not being physically existent. It’s been best described as a qualitative and non-physical property of a natural biological system.
    But then I hear the squid cry, “nevertheless thinking is material.”
    I ask why, and that’s his gotcha moment, “because,” he cries, “it’s relevant.”

  39. tmac57on 15 Feb 2011 at 12:23 pm

    BillyJoe-Maybe the Scientific American article is in superposition.

  40. cwfongon 15 Feb 2011 at 1:47 pm

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-virtual-particles-rea&print=true

    This is the true version. The other site was superjacent.

  41. BillyJoe7on 15 Feb 2011 at 3:39 pm

    cwrong,

    “Thinking is the description of a function of the brain…”

    As a consequence of which it is regarded as physical in the context of Physics. If it can be described in terms of Physics->Chemistry->Physiology->Biology, it is physical. Eat your heart out.

    “…it’s not a measurable property”

    You think not?
    (double take ;) )

    “…not a substance”

    What is a substance?
    Does it have to able to be knocked on like your thick skull?
    Or does your flatulant gas qualify as well?
    Molecules are nearly 100% nothing, with subatomic wavicles making up the almost non-existent remainder. What about the subatomic wavicles then? Are they physical substance? Leptons and quarks? Strings?
    You are disappearing down a rabbit hole, my friend.

    “It’s been best described as a qualitative and non-physical property of a natural biological system.”

    Ah, natural!
    So we agree after all. Thinking is in the first category: natural/physical/material.

  42. cwfongon 15 Feb 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Tell this numbsquid that there is no category where natural consists of only physical material. Which he has just had the misfortune to assert. I repeat, there is no such interdependent category.

    Which I ordinarily wouldn’t bother to repeat, except that I also get to point out and correct another idiocy:
    There is nothing that is “nearly 100%” nothing. There is nothing that’s any percent at all of nothing. Nothing is not a physical measurement.

    But as we’ve seen, there’s no arguing with someone incapable of understanding the argument. Thinking is not a substance, it’s an abstraction that represents to us the reason or objective of the process. These purposes also abstractions.

    So once again, thinking is an emergent property, which is in turn natural, yet by definition not physical or material. These properties are conceptual, i.e., based on mental concepts.
    Mental concepts are not in the realm of the unnatural or supernatural by definition. They are formed by the physical, yet paradoxically not physical in form.

    Nature is replete with paradox and illusion. Thinking, which is an aspect of consciousness, is, so far, of mysterious and illusory origin. I’ve proposed in the past that it comes from a universal property of awareness, which the squid has argued cannot be a property of nature, not being physical or material.
    Yet now he says that, in effect, it must be.
    A squid of a different size or color remains a squid in my dictionary.
    But by definition that includes its non-material raison d’être (a colloquial abstraction.)

    That’s all I’ll have to say on this subject – while I sit back and watch the squid fart more ink. Can’t run, but can’t hide either. Self-gullible.

  43. BillyJoe7on 15 Feb 2011 at 10:20 pm

    cwrong,

    “So once again, thinking is an emergent property, which is in turn natural, yet by definition not physical or material. ”

    So it falls into the category natural/physical/material.
    Seems we agree but you still insist we don’t!

    …oh well, time to move on.

    “I’ve proposed in the past that it comes from a universal property of awareness, which the squid has argued cannot be a property of nature, not being physical or material.”

    That was a desperate prod to get you to explain what exactly you mean by “universal property of awareness”. But nothing doing. It still remains a mystery as to what exactly you mean.

  44. sonicon 16 Feb 2011 at 3:06 am

    titmouse-
    That’s quite good. Thanks.
    But it points out the problem beautifully–

    When Heisenberg says
    “smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.”
    it implies that any description of an electron in terms of physical properties will be ambiguous. This is the wave-particle duality.

    It seems possible to describe the electron as a physical object only to an extent. The electron is best described as a mathematical construct– and it is not clear to what extent a mathematical construct is well described as a physical object. At least not in terms of the list of physical properties you listed.
    That’s full circle- no?

  45. sonicon 16 Feb 2011 at 3:48 am

    cwfong- thanks for fixing the link.

    BillyJoe7-
    the moniker cwrong is kinda funny. I don’t agree, but inventiveness scores points.
    Mr Dennett had an impact on you, no? But at least admit that the way people actually use a word is important as to if it is appropriate to use it. Not everyone knows that there is no essential difference between the sun and the thought “God is Love”.
    I admit even I am suspicious.

    If you want to talk about magic- let’s start here-
    “One object cannot influence another one removed from it without involving local agents located one next to another and making a continuous chain joining the two objects.” –mathematician Mikhael Gromov-
    An influence other than described as above we’ll call magic. OK?

  46. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2011 at 4:57 am

    sonic,

    “An influence other than described as above we’ll call magic. OK?”

    Not at all.

    Once we are able decide when “action at a distance” is going to apply and when it is not going to apply, THEN we will have magic. But whilst it occurs in ALL the strictly defined situations that we observe, we have just have the laws of physics. The outcome of quantum physical experiments are the most predictable of all of science. No wiggle room.

    So, sorry, no magic here.

    Action at a distance is certainly counterituitive. But what would you expect? Our intuitions are based on our experiences of our macroscopic existence. We should not expect to have them apply to the microscopic world of the quantum. Or to speeds at large fractions of the speed of light for that matter (I suppose time dilation, space contraction, and the curved space of general relativity, are also magic?)

  47. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2011 at 5:56 am

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-virtual-particles-rea&print=true

    Even your link fails to support your view.
    Goddamn, sonic, you sure you’re not cwrong?

  48. sonicon 16 Feb 2011 at 11:46 am

    BillyJoe7-
    Then what are we going to call magic? (I do believe that is the usual definition).
    The article I linked to is just a sample of why some think it difficult to classify an electron the same way we classify the moon. I guess there are those who think the moon pops into and out of existence from time to time, but there are those who prefer rugby to basketball– that is to say– some ideas are more worthy consideration than others. ;-)

  49. cwfongon 16 Feb 2011 at 1:40 pm

    But sonic, you mean some ideas are more virtual than others? Based on their measure of, say, virtue? Which by that measurability makes them at least temporarily physical? Like little (i.e., made almost of nothing) datadots popping (but not magically) out of your brain that form an informational blob that’s almost made of something worthy to give weight to?
    That’s not what I got out of that link, but then a linked-to article has to be chain linked (as your mathematical source avers) to a brain that understands the virtue of the datadots. Some brains have evolved (assisted by some continental driftings) to take different measure of those dots than others.
    Some moons made out of green cheese somewhere. Until something that’s 99% of nothing gets the immeasurable idea that they’re edible.

  50. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2011 at 3:18 pm

    sonic,

    “Then what are we going to call magic?”

    Magic is when something is made to happen that defies the laws of physics. You might be confused by the word ‘magician’. Magicians are more correctly called ‘conjurors’ – they make it appear as if they are defying the laws of physics without actually doing so.
    In other words, magic doesn’t exist.
    Or, at least, that should be our default position.

    “The article I linked to is just a sample of why some think it difficult to classify an electron the same way we classify the moon.”

    The electron is part of microscopic realm, the Moon the macroscopic realm, so it should be no surprise that they are very difficult to classify in the same way. However, they are both part of what physicists classify as ‘physical’.

    “I guess there are those who think the moon pops into and out of existence from time to time…”

    I thought Schroedinger’s Cat put paid to that notion.

    “…some ideas are more worthy consideration than others.”

    I could not agree more.

    For example, the ideas of those who remain grounded are more worthy of consideration than the ideas of those who go off on “magical mystery tours” every time they find something that cannot be explained.

    Newton could not explain the precession of Mars. Was it magic? Of course not. There was a regularity there. The orbit of Mars was obviously following some law of physics, it just wasn’t Newton’s. Then along came Einstein.

    Who’s to say what future physicists make of “action at a distance” and the apparent “backwards in time causation” seen at the quantum level. Already we have an hypothesis (many worlds) that could account for it. Sure, it conjurs up the existence of parallel universes about which we have no evidence whatsoever, but surely that is preferred to going off on a “magical mystery tour”.

  51. BillyJoe7on 16 Feb 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I see fongie has taken off again.

    Must have been my mention of one of the destinations of his very own Magical Mystery Tour called Universal Awareness.

  52. cwfongon 16 Feb 2011 at 5:18 pm

    sonic, do you also believe that we are alive in an otherwise dead universe? I’d always thought you could build a conceptual structure somewhat better and sturdier than a squid, but if that’s so, you seem to keep those talents under wraps.
    “Molecules are nearly 100% nothing, with subatomic wavicles making up the almost non-existent remainder.”
    Is that a concept that for you sits comfortably with the established concept of a logical universe? Or is logic in the universe more magical conceptually than the divine revelation that logic is illusory, and there’s nothing magical about the predeterminate?
    That all such questions are ultimately rhetorical?

  53. sonicon 16 Feb 2011 at 10:36 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    You might want to look up the word ‘tautology’ and see if this doesn’t apply to your thinking here.
    I’m quite sure the inviolate will not be violated. But I’m not sure this is of interest.
    BTW–
    Newton’s account of gravity couldn’t account for the motion of Mercury not Mars. Einstein solved the problem –
    “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.”
    Of course his ‘gift of fantasy’ is probably not what you mean when you say ‘magical mystery tour’.
    But that was the Beatles- right?

  54. sonicon 17 Feb 2011 at 1:59 am

    cwfong-
    Sorry for the delay in answer– I have been trying to determine the boiling point of virtue. Problem is I can’t find any to run the darn test on!
    We seem to have a number of viable possible philosophic interpretations of the evidence. I try to understand how the different interpretations lead to the different conclusions. It seems we can believe in a uniqueness (collapse of wave function) that defies logic or we could believe in inevitability (the Landscape) due to there being 10 to the 500th power universes- and somewhere in between we find the multiverse.
    Currently there is no scientific test to determine which is true.
    Is that the same as saying the questions are rhetorical?

  55. cwfongon 17 Feb 2011 at 3:27 am

    Currently there is no scientific test to determine the validity of any of these speculative versions of the cosmological arrangement that, in our sphere, requires order consistent with our development of the predictive functions that sustain its life. All these multiversal concepts are dependent on the assumption that they’re capable of logical discernment.
    Collapse of the wave function defies the hypothetical, and not because it defies logic, but that our logic as a metaphor for nature’s strategies is, as we’re already aware, imperfect. But logic has a strength as a predictive tool that ‘logically’ would not be needed where predictive functions had no good reason to evolve. Yes, evolve unequally between and within species, but there’s a consistency involved that shows there’s likely method in that madness.
    All this unless we have a trickster God somewhere, that has no wish or power to be everywhere at once.

  56. BillyJoe7on 17 Feb 2011 at 5:04 am

    sonic,

    “You might want to look up the word ‘tautology’ and see if this doesn’t apply to your thinking here.”

    Nope, I don’t see it. You’ll have to explain what you mean.

    “Newton’s account of gravity couldn’t account for the motion of Mercury not Mars.”

    Excuse me! I was concentrating on the point rather than the detail. Thanks for commentating on the detail.

    Of course [Einstein's] ‘gift of fantasy’ is probably not what you mean when you say ‘magical mystery tour’.”

    Right. So why the irrelevant comment?

  57. BillyJoe7on 17 Feb 2011 at 3:44 pm

    cwrong,

    “sonic, do you also believe that we are alive in an otherwise dead universe?”

    Who is ‘we’?
    It’s important in order to understand your ‘other’. ;)

    “I’d always thought you could build a conceptual structure somewhat better and sturdier than a squid, but if that’s so, you seem to keep those talents under wraps.”

    Ouch, sonic, that hurt didn’t it? :D

    ““Molecules are nearly 100% nothing, with subatomic wavicles making up the almost non-existent remainder.”
    Is that a concept that for you sits comfortably with the established concept of a logical universe?”

    Sits comfortable with a logical universe???
    You are such an idiot.
    Why don’t you just say what you mean.

    “Or is logic in the universe more magical conceptually than the divine revelation that logic is illusory, and there’s nothing magical about the predeterminate?
    That all such questions are ultimately rhetorical?”

    I won’t even attempt to follow that argument to where the sun don’t shine.

  58. sonicon 17 Feb 2011 at 4:44 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    You are excused for the detail error. Please excuse me when I make one.
    If we define ‘the laws of physics’ as ‘that which explains everything’ and we define ‘magic’ as ‘that which defies physics’, then we see that there can be no magic by definition. Tautology.
    This may apply to the 2 categories you mentioned earlier as well.

    cwfong-
    “The affirmation of being is the purpose and cause of the world.” Kurt Godel
    So much for logic!! ;-)

  59. cwfongon 17 Feb 2011 at 6:56 pm

    sonic,
    You should mean, so much for the consistent usage of their forms of logic by all individual members of the human species.
    How is the speculation of a mathematician, who hasn’t yet found purpose as a mathematical construction, and thus constrained to speculation, evidence that the universe lacks order?
    You might as well say that he existence of a single theist proves there’s no logic, when of course it only shows the logic of the universe is to that extent beyond our ken.

    And in any case “The affirmation of being is the purpose and cause of the world” is not a bad way to form a premise. We don’t know that isn’t true, or to what degree it’s possible. I doubt that’s led Godel to theism – more likely theism’s led Godel to that as an excuse.

    If the universe for example has acquired its own order, and that order then acquires functional purposes that sustain order, and as the universe expands, functions evolve accordingly, then to have a reactive function evolve to be proactive would seem to serve some universal evolutionary objective, the end not known in advance – as a predetermined worldly end would have no need (by my logic if not yours) to reach it in such a roundabout and risky way. Not to mention that predetermination is theistic, and in that case Godel would have been forced to affirm it.
    And, again, all these questions ultimately rhetorical.

  60. BillyJoe7on 17 Feb 2011 at 10:32 pm

    sonic,

    “If we define ‘the laws of physics’ as ‘that which explains everything’ and we define ‘magic’ as ‘that which defies physics’, then we see that there can be no magic by definition. ”

    The laws of physics explain the regularities. Magic defies the regularities explained by physics.
    Get up from your chair and jump in the air. You’ll come right back down again. Laws of physics. If you remain suspended above the ground. Magic.
    It is possible but I’m betting you’re not going to see any magic.

  61. sonicon 17 Feb 2011 at 11:02 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    So Mercury was magic until Einstein?
    If not, then why not?

  62. BillyJoe7on 18 Feb 2011 at 4:51 am

    sonic,

    Very simple.
    Despite the failure of Newton’s Laws to explain it, there was a regularity in the precession of Mercury’s perihelion crying out for an explanation.
    Or do you think scientist threw up their hands and cried “Magic!”

  63. sonicon 18 Feb 2011 at 3:33 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    If you don’t answer the questions, we can’t get an answer.
    See, if you define ‘magic’ as ‘that which violates physics’ and then when I give an example of something that violates those laws (at least the current understanding) then you must call it magic.
    Otherwise your definition is BS.
    (Rather than say ‘magic’ it is currently fashionable to say ‘dark matter’ to deal with the observations that violate the current understanding. But that shows the problem with your definition, not the scientists.)
    BTW, this is about how to define the word, not anything else.

  64. cwfongon 18 Feb 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Magic lies in a squid’s ability to draw valid inference from untested conclusions rather than draw inference from the validity of testable assumptions.

  65. Mlemaon 18 Feb 2011 at 6:51 pm

    “The affirmation of being is the purpose and cause of the world.” Kurt Godel
    So much for logic!! ;-)

    i love that!

    For those of you who’ve never been to the dark side of the moon:
    Thoughts have energy (and I’m not talking about the physiological processes involved in thinking)- certainly, thoughts are a part of the natural, or supernatural world (why get so caught up in dividing existence?) Try to imagine the day when we are able to quantify the energy of a concept.

    Tip: to study thought, you must have a state of non-thought. Not so easy to accomplish! But some can do it. And just as we always find something in nothing, there will be knowledge where there is no thought. A physiological trick of the physical brain? Perhaps. When you enter the realm of belief, there is no logic.

    Science vs. magic? They are one and the same my friends. We can only usefully discuss: what is fortuitous? And, that is subjective. Although most would agree: any therapy. old or new, is valuable according to it’s results. The proof is in the pudding, as they say!

    I don’t defend homeopathy, and i think it’s very wrong to forego medical care to use homeopathic treatment. But read:
    http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Messages-Water-Masaru-Emoto/dp/1582701148

    OK! good thoughts to all!

  66. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2011 at 4:16 am

    sonic,

    That was a bit unfair but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just lost track of the discussion.

    Nowhere have I said, “this is how I define magic”.
    Initially, I merely responded to a specific example you gave of what you consider to be magic. Your example was “action at a distance” at the quantum level and you said that it is magic if one object influences another object but there is no chain of cause and effect between the two. I said this is not magic because “action at a distance” occurs in ALL the strictly defined situations that we observe. No exceptions. What we have therefore is laws of physics explaining or describing these regularities. Not magic.

    So, when you asked what do we call magic, I simply repeated, in the context of that example, that magic is when something is made to happen that defies the laws of physics. Then I immediately qualified this by saying: Newton could not explain the precession of Mars. Was it magic? Of course not. There was a regularity there. The orbit of Mars was obviously following some law of physics, it just wasn’t Newton’s. Then along came Einstein.

    In other words, the key is regularity, and the laws of physics explain these regularities and, when existing laws they don’t explain them, we don’t call it magic, we look for other laws to explain them.

    Then you suggested I was quilty of a tautology. I couldn’t see the tautology and asked you to explain. Your explanation made it clear you were focussing only on the laws of physics part of my argument, missing completely the point about regularities. And when you asked if the precession of the perihelion of Mercury was magic before Einstein, I replied: Despite the failure of Newton’s Laws to explain it, there was a regularity in the precession of Mercury’s perihelion crying out for an explanation. Scientist did not throw their hands in the air and cry “magic”, they kept looking for a law which explains this regularity.

  67. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2011 at 4:28 am

    cwrong,

    “Magic lies in a squid’s ability to draw valid inference from untested conclusions rather than draw inference from the validity of testable assumptions.”

    But then there’s that Universal Awareness biting you in the bum.

  68. cwfongon 19 Feb 2011 at 12:35 pm

    If we are to believe what Miema wrote above, with a supernatural compassion for other worlders and water creatures, there is always awareness that we are unaware of. Or if there is nothing it’s because of something.
    Or, as per her citation, that “water is deeply connected to people’s individual and collective consciousness.”
    Or, as per the wisdom of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, for squids to poop on.

  69. cwfongon 19 Feb 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Or that “Molecules are nearly 100% nothing, with subatomic wavicles making up the almost non-existent remainder.”

  70. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2011 at 1:23 pm

    With Steven Novella’s very next article, this thread disappears into the never never. For someone who thinks he’s ahead of the game, in this instance he is actually correct.

  71. cwfongon 19 Feb 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Squids just don’t get that nothing is never less than 100% of itself, or more than 0% of anything else. Or more importantly, that no things exist that nearly don’t exist.

  72. cwfongon 19 Feb 2011 at 5:45 pm

    As to the hypothesis re many-worlds that sonic also appears to accept in toto, I have some serious doubts. In general, re Wikipedia, it is a postulate of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal wavefunction, but denies the reality of wavefunction collapse, which implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real —each representing an actual “world” (or “universe”).

    The rub lies in the meaning of “all possible.” If our universe operates with laws that serve a regulatory purpose, which allow for those purposes to evolve, or in the alternative, allows life to evolve to serve its own purposes, then to imagine there’s an alternate universe someplace where your double has evolved for exactly the same reasons you have, yet somehow for example has a different wife that offers him the exact life experience yours has, yet had to have a different universal history, is a bit of a stretch to say the least.
    So the chance accumulation of particles that duplicate another form somewhere is theoretically possible (as I’ve seen it enthusiastically explained), but the chance of that formation having had an identical history of causation that has and will lead that formation in a consistent state of change during all possibilities of universal time, and all other formations in that universe to follow with consistence, purposive or otherwise, is nil.
    Without of course that old predetermination bugaboo, where neither chance nor purpose would exist.

  73. cwfongon 19 Feb 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Stick with the universe as a parallel processor, as our brains are for example, and then we’ll talk.

  74. sonicon 19 Feb 2011 at 9:55 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    I’m sorry if I’m missing your point.
    You asked if I believed in magic, I’m trying to get a definition so that I can answer that question.
    So something that isn’t regular is magic?
    So if a process is ‘random’ (lacking regularity) then that would be magic?
    Perhaps something can’t be well described by a differential equation?
    (BTW- if I ask you to pick a card–don’t believe that it will be ‘any card’) ;-)

    Mlema-
    Try this one-
    “The complexity of living bodies has to be present either in the material (from which they are derived) or in the laws (governing their formation). Kurt Godel
    The man was awesome…

    cwfong-
    I wouldn’t say I believe in the multiverse or the Landscape. I am willing to understand them to a point where I can respect a person who does.
    I do believe this makes me very strange.

  75. cwfongon 19 Feb 2011 at 11:17 pm

    sonic, stick with the Landscape if you only allow yourself two choices.
    A multiplicity of universes, consistency of forms or no, would seem to be more functional as separate units, than a multiplicity of inconsistent worlds in one.

    As to Godel, as your quote would indicate, he was close (too close) to being a creationist, but he was onto something that the neoDarwinists weren’t. He seemed to know intuitively that the complexity of life forms came from intelligence, not simply chance, and that the intelligence was inherent to nature’s laws. I’m not sure he was willing to accept or agree that it was life itself that provided the intelligence for its own complexity.

  76. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2011 at 11:36 pm

    sonic,

    “I’m sorry if I’m missing your point.
    You asked if I believed in magic, I’m trying to get a definition so that I can answer that question.”

    I didn’t actually ask you if you believe in magic. I said: “Do you believe in magic? If so, you have category 2 [supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial]“. That is clearly a statement or claim along the lines of: “If you believe in magic, you believe in category 2 [supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial]“.
    And you didn’t explicitly ask me for a definition of magic.

    “So something that isn’t regular is magic?”

    How does that follow?
    If I say that the precession of the perihelion of Mercury and action at a distance are regularityies and therefore not magic, does that mean everything that isn’t regular must be magic?
    If I say Queensland is in Australia and there not in America, does that mean that every state not in Australia must be in America?

    “So if a process is ‘random’ (lacking regularity) then that would be magic?”

    See your mistake?
    I’ll make it easy. I gave you attributes that would exclude the two particular examples we have discussed from being magic. If you want attributes that would conclusively put everything into two columns (magic & not magic) beat your self up.

    “BTW- if I ask you to pick a card–don’t believe that it will be ‘any card’”

    Honestly, anyone can play that game ;)

  77. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2011 at 11:39 pm

    cwrong,

    “Squids just don’t get that nothing is never less than 100% of itself, or more than 0% of anything else. Or more importantly, that no things exist that nearly don’t exist.”

    What I said was poetically correct.
    Beat yourself up.

  78. BillyJoe7on 19 Feb 2011 at 11:42 pm

    cwrong again,

    “As to the hypothesis re many-worlds that sonic also appears to accept in toto”

    You have yet to identify a single person who accepts the many worlds interpretation, let alone another person.

  79. cwfongon 20 Feb 2011 at 12:48 am

    “Already we have an hypothesis (many worlds) that could account for it. Sure, it conjurs up the existence of parallel universes about which we have no evidence whatsoever, but surely that is preferred to going off on a “magical mystery tour”.”

    Poetically correct? Iambic pentameter was a little off but what the hell, it’s rocket science.

  80. BillyJoe7on 20 Feb 2011 at 6:39 am

    cwrong,

    Well, now, you’ll just have to explain to me how that quote suggests that I accept the Many Worlds hypothesis.
    There are at least three qualifiers in that one paragraph, and the most positive thing I can say for it is that is is preferred to magic.

    But what can we expect from someone who doesn’t even understand his own references as evidenced by the fact that they generally do not support his point of view.

  81. cwfongon 20 Feb 2011 at 1:23 pm

    If one cites an example of something that they believe is not magic, they would “appear to accept” that it’s not magic. Otherwise you’d think they’d come up with a different example. They shouldn’t get all in a squidtizzy when someone takes them at their word.

    I just happen to think that the use of that hypothesis as a good example of the non magical is to have selected one of the worst examples possible since it’s the best example of the public advocacy of the magical by those you’d expect to know better that I can come up with.

    Sonic, who by the way was the person I addressed it to, wasn’t offended by that expression of opinion. But then he understood what I was writing, just as he understands my citations.

    I gather he prefers the prosaically correct to the poetic versions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  82. sonicon 21 Feb 2011 at 12:59 am

    BillyJoe7-
    You have defined magic as “magic is when something is made to happen that defies the laws of physics.”
    But if the ‘laws of physics’ are what people know, then when I point out an example, that example must be magic. But you say, no.
    If the ‘laws of physics’ are not what is known currently, then what are they?

  83. sonicon 21 Feb 2011 at 1:10 am

    cwfong-
    Richard Feynman-
    “Today we cannot see whether Schrodinger’s equation contains frogs, musical composers, or morality. We cannot say whether something beyond it like God is needed, or not. And so we can all hold strong opinions either way.”
    I’m quite sure I don’t know more about the situation now then he did then.
    I seem to be in the minority.

  84. BillyJoe7on 21 Feb 2011 at 4:45 am

    cwrong,

    “If one cites an example of something that they believe is not magic, they would “appear to accept” that it’s not magic. Otherwise you’d think they’d come up with a different example. ”

    What on Earth are you talking about?
    I used it as an example of non-magic that could explain action at a distance.
    Please keep up.

    “I just happen to think that the use of that hypothesis as a good example of the non magical is to have selected one of the worst examples possible since it’s the best example of the public advocacy of the magical by those you’d expect to know better that I can come up with.”

    That’s just your opinion, though.
    I suppose you think gravity is magic as well.

  85. BillyJoe7on 21 Feb 2011 at 4:49 am

    sonic,

    “You have defined magic as “magic is when something is made to happen that defies the laws of physics.”
    But if the ‘laws of physics’ are what people know, then when I point out an example, that example must be magic. But you say, no.
    If the ‘laws of physics’ are not what is known currently, then what are they?”

    You appear not to have read my reply when you last asked that question, so I’ll just re-post my previous answer:

    “That was a bit unfair but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just lost track of the discussion.

    Nowhere have I said, “this is how I define magic”.
    Initially, I merely responded to a specific example you gave of what you consider to be magic. Your example was “action at a distance” at the quantum level and you said that it is magic if one object influences another object but there is no chain of cause and effect between the two. I said this is not magic because “action at a distance” occurs in ALL the strictly defined situations that we observe. No exceptions. What we have therefore is laws of physics explaining or describing these regularities. Not magic.

    So, when you asked what do we call magic, I simply repeated, in the context of that example, that magic is when something is made to happen that defies the laws of physics. Then I immediately qualified this by saying: Newton could not explain the precession of Mars. Was it magic? Of course not. There was a regularity there. The orbit of Mars was obviously following some law of physics, it just wasn’t Newton’s. Then along came Einstein.

    In other words, the key is regularity, and the laws of physics explain these regularities and, when existing laws they don’t explain them, we don’t call it magic, we look for other laws to explain them.

    Then you suggested I was quilty of a tautology. I couldn’t see the tautology and asked you to explain. Your explanation made it clear you were focussing only on the laws of physics part of my argument, missing completely the point about regularities. And when you asked if the precession of the perihelion of Mercury was magic before Einstein, I replied: Despite the failure of Newton’s Laws to explain it, there was a regularity in the precession of Mercury’s perihelion crying out for an explanation. Scientist did not throw their hands in the air and cry “magic”, they kept looking for a law which explains this regularity.”

  86. cwfongon 21 Feb 2011 at 1:21 pm

    sonic, I’ve just read the latest blog post here about the body snatch effect, and that may explain why these tirades about the magical not being magical keep coming at us.
    Brain snatch.

  87. BillyJoe7on 21 Feb 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I’ve not read it yet but, if there is a new post, that means this one has slipped off the edge…..

    See you in the new post.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.