Sep 14 2017

India Opens Homeopathy Laboratory

homeopathy-803_250pxAs I continue my efforts to fight against pseudoscience in medicine, I often ask myself – how bad can it theoretically get? I have had this discussion with others as well, some of whom argue that we should not worry because science will win out in the long run. Science is self-corrective, and pseudoscience will become marginalized over time. I hope this optimistic view is correct, but I am not reassured by the evidence.

Let’s consider a recent article in the Hindustan Times, written completely without skepticism or irony, which details how the government of India has opened a state-of-the art laboratory to study homeopathy.

Howrah-based Centre of Excellence in Fundamental Research in Homoeopathy will also undertake fundamental research studies in homoeopathy with an interdisciplinary approach.

“This institute has undertaken several clinical research studies such as autism, psoriasis, vitiligo, breast cancer, hypertension, migraine etc. along with proving of new drugs in homoeopathy with their clinical validations,” said Naik.

The lab will support PhD students in homeopathy and focus on research into viral and other infectious diseases. This is all part of the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). In India, pseudoscience in medicine, including homeopathy, have been fully institutionalized and are explicitly endorsed by the government.

This is how bad it can get.

For those who may not be aware, homeopathy is 100% pure nonsense. It is not herbal medicine as many falsely believe. It is based on a 200 year old pre-scientific belief that you can take a substance that causes a symptom, dilute it out of existence, and its magical essence will remain behind and somehow treat the illness which causes the same symptom. It’s witchcraft.

Further, multiple independent systematic reviews of the clinical evidence have concluded that homeopathy does not work for anything.

Science is Fragile

The historical experience of homeopathy has an importance lesson to teach us – science can be fragile. In fact, one hard truth we have been forced to confront recently is that many of the institutions we have taken for granted are more fragile than we had suspected.

Many professions such as journalism, medicine, and science depend on a shared culture and dedication to a set of standards and principles. However, it is possible to turn those standards on their head, to create pseudojournalism, bad medicine, or fake science. News outlets dedicated to an ideology or a tribe rather than to journalistic standards can easily displace real journalism.

The fact is that institutions and professions are based on a shared set of rules. Members have to agree what those rules should be and abide by them. This takes a certain amount of understanding and courage. Perhaps it is just too easy to become complacent, to collectively forget why we have the rules in the first place.

Science also has rules, and requires a true dedication to fairness, openness, and to methodology over conclusions. It requires judgement, and the willingness to challenge core assumptions. Science works when scientists are willing and able to ask – is this really true? How do we know?

The institutions of science are fragile because the only thing standing between them and descent into rank pseudoscience is the collective understanding and dedication of its members to high standards. This is a high energy state, however, and will tend to degrade to lower energy states in which cutting corners is progressively acceptable.

If you don’t think this can happen, it already has. Over the last few decades absolute pseudoscience has worked its way into mainstream medicine. It was frighteningly easy for this to happen – all it really took was a lack of concern and outrage on the part of the majority of medical professionals and scientists. This is embedded in a more complex social context, such as the rise of postmodernism and political correctness within academia. These, in my opinion, eroded an unflinching dedication to the truth which is necessary for any legitimate scholarly activity.

I watched as it became acceptable to change the rules of science in order to promote nonsense. Promoters of magic and witchcraft were allowed to have their own peer-reviewed journals, set their own rigged standards, lobby for laws which eroded protections for consumers and created a literal double standard for their snake oil, and were progressively made the gatekeepers of their own claims.

When we look at India (and also China with respect to TCM and chi) we are seeing where this all leads, unless we collectively fight hard to stop it. I now think it is naive to believe that science will somehow work it all out. It won’t do it by itself, because there is no abstract science. Science is a human endeavor, it is only as good as the institutions and culture of science.

Science can easily, therefore, be subverted to other agendas, political and ideological. Homeopathy is fully institutionalized in India. You can get a “degree in baloney,” conduct research in a tricked-out lab, get published in journals – and it all means nothing. It will never self-correct, because the entire process is biased and subservient to a belief.

What all this shows is that the difference between real science and fake science is often razor thin. I also fear that we may have a limited time window to turn this around. The purveyors of snake oil and medical pseudoscience have so thoroughly infiltrated our institutions that they are now influencing the next generation of scientists and doctors. Once the next generation is fully indoctrinated, who will be around to ask the hard and important questions? They will be in the minority, on the fringe, impotent to effect any real change.

I have colleagues in China who have expressed that very reality. They understand that chi is magical pseudoscience, but they are working in a culture that accepts the reality of chi without question. They essentially have no opportunity, short of sacrificing their career, to stand up for reality.

This is how bad it can get.

48 responses so far

48 Responses to “India Opens Homeopathy Laboratory”

  1. mumadaddon 14 Sep 2017 at 9:09 am

    “You can get a “degree in baloney,””

    Goddammit. When I saw this line: “The lab will support PhD students in homeopathy” I planned to comment and make that very joke. Oh well.

    On a more serious note, Steve, do you think there is likely to be an equilibrium effect that stops pseudoscience from completely ousting real science — e.g. medicine that actually works is only going to get more valuable as the field is infiltrated by nonsense?

  2. Steven Novellaon 14 Sep 2017 at 10:40 am

    I don’t think CAM will replace science-based medicine entirely, so much as exist alongside it, harming patients, using up limited resources. I see like a parasitic relationship. It just causes massive harm and waste.

  3. BaSon 14 Sep 2017 at 12:10 pm

    If it gets bad enough, maybe science and evidence-based medicine will flip, and be seen as the plucky underdog whose views have been unfairly discounted by the smug dismissive majority of Big Holistic.

  4. jimcatalanoon 14 Sep 2017 at 12:56 pm

    If there was a degree in cheeseburgers I’d be all over it!

  5. jimcatalanoon 14 Sep 2017 at 1:04 pm

    To your point Steve, I found this quote on a homeopathy website:

    “Homeopathy is truly a Science of Medicine – Our knowledge of what each medicine may be used to treat is based on over 200 years of double-blind, controlled studies of each substance given to groups of healthy individuals. There are over 4000 proven Homeopathic remedies to date.”

    At best they are measuring placebo effects.

  6. Kabboron 14 Sep 2017 at 3:11 pm

    jimcatalano,

    I find that quote funny, particularly the “controlled studies of each substance given to groups of healthy individuals” bit. So they were not sick, how was a remedy proven?

  7. Kabboron 14 Sep 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Steven,

    There is one VERY minor thing I want to mention about how you talk about Homeopathy in particular. You use metaphorical language to disparage it in the following terms: you refer to it as alternatively witchcraft or magic. I just want to make mention of the fact that some people believe in the efficacy of witchcraft and/or magic. I don’t think they are in abundance in your audience/readership, but that simply stating something is magic does not automatically do the work of invalidating the concept for all audiences.

    As I said it is a minor problem to use such shorthand metaphorical language to demonstrate its lack of efficacy, but it may be ever so slightly beneficial to avoid describing homeopathy as magic. Perhaps it is just me reading these lines as though they have explanatory significance, but it IS magic after all, what can’t it do? We know the answer is: literally anything, but not everyone knows that.

  8. pdeboeron 14 Sep 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Hold the flame still, Steve. It burns brighter in these dark times.

  9. Willyon 14 Sep 2017 at 4:43 pm

    “PhD students in homeopathy”…OMG and WTF??????????????????

  10. Kabboron 14 Sep 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Steven,
    It just occurred to me that you may have been using the term magic to mean arcane magic, by being damaging and illusory/misleading. It doesn’t resemble divine magic which as we all know can grant healing and restorative magic… So if you want to clarify that it is arcane magic I’m sure the homeopaths out there will understand what you mean.
    If you are worried about a nitpick about bards or some such you can follow my previous post suggestion.

    I’ve got to take a moment to get these extra tongues out of my cheek.

  11. DisplayGeekon 14 Sep 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Steve… I never thought that I would have to write something like this… after years of reading you blog and only recently began commenting here; but I have to take very strong exception to one particular. “political correctness in academe”.

    While post-modernism is a step toward silly gobbledygook sloppy thinking that an easily lead to the failure of critical thinking, “political correctness” is a term to disparage the use of language in a respectful manner towards traditionally marginalized groups. That is, “political correctness” is not calling women “chicks”, not calling blacks “niggers”, not calling chinese people “chinks”, not calling homosexual men “faggots”, and not calling transfolk, “trannys”.

    Even James Damore, who wrote the Google screed in one of his footnotes remarked, “Political correctness is defined as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which makes it clear why it’s a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.”

    Thus, I am very disheartened that you should call out “political correctness” as being a problem… and especially placing blame for the expansion of pseudoscience in medicine.

  12. BillyJoe7on 15 Sep 2017 at 12:39 am

    DG,

    In reference to SN’s post, “politically correct” means accepting CAM bullshit because it is “politically correct” to do so.

    More broadly….

    The “politically correct” pendulum has swung clear over to the “regressive left”.
    It’s no longer about not marginalising minority groups but about stamping out anything that even remotely could be construed as offending anyone regardless of the intentions of the so called “transgressors” who are mercilessly beaten to a pulp both verbally and physically.
    It has served to actually harm those minority groups it pretends to protect.
    And it has become an enemy of free speech.

  13. SteveAon 15 Sep 2017 at 4:22 am

    DG,

    I agree with BJ7.

    If Political Correctness was only what you say it is, we already had a much better word for it – ‘Politeness’.

    It’s become something much more, and much worse than that.

  14. SteveAon 15 Sep 2017 at 4:27 am

    BTW.

    When did ‘Tranny’ become not-correct (un-correct?). It’s just a contraction (and a cute one I might add). I’ve heard plenty of Transsexuals refer to themselves and others that way.

    Did someone decide and not tell them?

  15. Nidwinon 15 Sep 2017 at 7:20 am

    It’s a lost cause and I’ve given up to try to put some common sense around me. They just don’t want to listen and have strong beliefs being special, open minded, informed with some decent scientific knowledge while I’m being the asshole.

    Just Yesteday evening, while having a couple of beers at my usual place, I tried to explain to a very close friend why it’s important people being aware of asexuality (I’m ace). I got shouted at that asexuality is bullshitt and he didn’t give a damn shitt about it.

    To me it’s not even that they do believe in pseudo and nonsense, but that they want to because it certainly works on or for them because they’re the special ones.

  16. edwardBeon 15 Sep 2017 at 9:34 am

    There is one thing that is full strength in homeopathic remedies: they are 100%, triple distilled Bull$hit! As far as the analogy to magic goes, it is definitely a form of magical thinking to insist that water has a memory and that potency is increased by dilution because like magic, these concepts assume that the laws of physics can be suspended.

  17. Pete Aon 15 Sep 2017 at 9:44 am

    In various fields of applied science and engineering, the term “tranny” was, and still is, used as an endearing term for: an electromagnetic transformer; a transistor; a transitorized radio receiver; the mechanical transmission components of a motor vehicle; Ford Transit vans and minibuses; photographic reversal film.

    I can think of no reason why someone who describes themselves as a “tranny” would not be automatically endeared by those of us who’ve worked in various fields of applied science and engineering.

    Whereas, people who insist upon political correctness are unwelcome in some fields of endeavour because they stifle the exactness required in mission-critical work. Whenever an employee is being an asshole they are categorically informed that they are being an asshole, and they are given the choice between two simple options: Stop being an asshole; or seek employment elsewhere. There is no polite way of saying that to a person who is jeopardizing mission-critical work and/or jeopardizing the safety of others by refusing to abide by the relevant health & safety legislation, which is under the jurisdiction of criminal law — not under the jurisdictions civil law, etiquette, and modern manners!

  18. Ryan Martinon 15 Sep 2017 at 9:53 am

    https://youtu.be/e-k-v7i-QeI

    Futurama ftw!

  19. edwardBeon 15 Sep 2017 at 9:55 am

    George Carlin had some interesting things to say about political correctness, among them is “Political Correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkhUivqzWv0

  20. Stony5on 15 Sep 2017 at 10:17 am

    Great article. I listen to the SGU and I am writing a research paper (Senior in highschool) on Alternative Medicine. I was wondering if you could give me any advice on places to look for information and any general advice you have.

  21. Kabboron 15 Sep 2017 at 10:33 am

    Just throwing this caveat for political correctness: to be politically correct you should avoid actions that result in making people feel inferior based on their race, sex, orientation and belief. This last one is the most controversial, and from what I gather most people here agree that the belief component can and should be disregarded when it comes to beliefs that are provable/disprovable. A belief that there may be life elsewhere in the universe is different than the belief that humans are most related to the eggplant.

  22. BBBlueon 15 Sep 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Shout out to Be Reasonable; an excellent podcast format that allows conspiracy theorists, quacks and woo peddlers to reveal themselves through persistent but polite questioning.

    This is a good example: Sean Clarke from the Spiritual Science Research Foundation in India.

  23. Pete Aon 15 Sep 2017 at 3:33 pm

    edwardBe,

    Thank you for posting the video. My disabilty started when I was a teenager, which made me acutely aware of that fact that some people struggle to cope with their disability, and that doing even the smallest of things for them can make a worthwhile improvement to their quality of life.

    With that in mind, imagine how mortified I felt recently after saying to a disabled person in a crowded shop: “May I help you with your shopping?” To which they replied, in an a stern loud voice: “I do not need help! I require assistance!” Fortunately, the manger of the shop helped me to recover from the shock and humiliation, instead of helping that customer with their shopping.

  24. BillyJoe7on 16 Sep 2017 at 1:48 am

    Kabbor,

    “Just throwing this caveat for political correctness: to be politically correct you should avoid actions that result in making people feel inferior based on their race, sex, orientation and belief. This last one is the most controversial…”

    It’s not controversial. It shouldn’t be there. The thing that links the first three is that fact that they are things you can’t change. Beliefs don’t belong in there at all. They are fair game. Including beliefs is part of what makes “political correctness” an enemy of free speech.

    Yes you can criticize Islam. You can damn well sledgehammer it into the ground if you want. Because, notwithstanding what the “regressive left” will have you believe, Islam is a belief system, not a race. If people feel hurt because you criticize their belief system, then they’re just going to have to feel hurt. Free speech is more important than hurt feelings.

    In fact, some believers insist on feeling hurt and some of the politically correct brigade are only too eager to sensitise their feelings further. They are not helping. They are inculcating psychopathology and bad coping strategies into the very people they set out to protect.

  25. chikoppion 16 Sep 2017 at 6:24 am

    [BBBlue] Shout out to Be Reasonable; an excellent podcast format that allows conspiracy theorists, quacks and woo peddlers to reveal themselves through persistent but polite questioning.

    +1. Mike Marsh is a dogged yet amiable inquisitor who patiently unpeels the layers of pseudoscience and conspiracy. That said, trying to listen to those interviews makes me physically vibrate with irritation.

  26. sarah_theviperon 16 Sep 2017 at 7:09 am

    This is off topic, I apologize. Years ago when I was in college there was this dude in one of my classes who didn’t believe in evolution, which was mind boggling to me as he is quite smart. Anyways one day he was going after me about my proclivity at that time for vending machine food. He said Americans don’t rot as fast because of the amount of preservatives we eat. Something I really didn’t see a problem with. I used it as a get to know me thing for another class and left it at that. I was wondering if there was any truth to what he was saying, or if it was just like the Panera food scaring thing.

  27. RickKon 16 Sep 2017 at 8:42 am

    Pete A: ““I do not need help! I require assistance!” ”

    What’s the difference? Both words are used to define the other? Is this particular word choice a thing for people with disabilities? It doesn’t show up in the couple disability etiquette guides I checked.

  28. Pete Aon 16 Sep 2017 at 10:31 am

    Rick, I forgot to say that it happened in England, in case that makes any difference. I’ve been unable to figure out what I’m supposed to say, and I have no wish to repeat that experience. Offering to help someone who’s having difficulty is a spur of the moment decision and I’ve always said whatever phrase pops into my consciousness. I’ve been told many times that my spoken English is calm, polite, and friendly, however, I’m fully aware that my knowledge of politically-correct language is very limited.

  29. Kabboron 16 Sep 2017 at 10:35 am

    BillyJoe7,

    con·tro·ver·sial
    ˌkäntrəˈvərSHəl,ˌkäntrəˈvərsēəl/Submit
    adjective
    giving rise or likely to give rise to public disagreement.

    It is not that I am disagreeing with your opinion on the matter, I don’t have particularly strong feelings on the matter. That said, I’m pretty sure it can be qualified as controversial.

  30. UK Homeopathy Regson 16 Sep 2017 at 10:56 am

    The Ministry of AYUSH may not exist as a separate entity for much longer. It was only formed in 2014 and NITI Aayog (a government policy think tank) have recommended it be abolished and its functions folded back into the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare where they formerly belonged.

    The situation in India for homeopathy is not as rosy as it often made. For example, a lot of money has been invested in homeopathy “colleges” only for them to turn out unemployable graduates – the qualifications are seen at best second rate. The Central Council for Homoeopathy is often accused of corruption and graft. Advertising by AYUSH practitioners is being tackled etc.

  31. BBBlueon 16 Sep 2017 at 12:21 pm

    chikoppi- Hahahaha, me too. I’ve been trying to control that impulse, particularly when it comes to Internet trolls, but it has been a struggle.

  32. BillyJoe7on 16 Sep 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Kabbor,

    You can’t argue by dictionary definition because there are varying definitions to suit different situations and I could probably search for a meaning that suits this situation, except that I never argue by reaching for a dictionary.

    However, it is generally agreed by reasonable people that, for example, creationism does not make the idea of evolution controversial. Evolution is a fact. It is not controversial. Similarly it is not controversial that a person’s beliefs are fair game for criticism in a way that his or her race or sex is not.

    “I don’t have particularly strong feelings on the matter”

    Political correctness is being used to sqash any speech that could conceivably hurt anyone’s feelings. It is also being used to sensitise those individuals towards feeling hurt. It has become the enemy of free speech. And of minorities. So watch out, becuase if you don’t speak out, it will your freedom of speech next.

  33. BillyJoe7on 16 Sep 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Sarah,

    That is almost certainly an urban myth.

    https://modernlegends.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/preservatives-slow-down-the-decomposition-of-bodies/

  34. sarah_theviperon 16 Sep 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you BillyJoe!

  35. Kabboron 16 Sep 2017 at 7:14 pm

    My dictionary definition was an attempt to disambiguate my meaning but it appears to have offended instead. My use of the word controversial was about whether or not belief ought to be included under the umbrella of political correctness.

    Somehow comments sections always manage to create confusion. I’m willing to take my fair share of the blame for my unusual style of communication.

  36. Willyon 16 Sep 2017 at 7:15 pm

    BBBlue: Thanks from the bottom of skeptical heart for the “Be Reasonable” podcast. I am listening to episode 45, an interview with a “journalist” named Kerry Cassidy, who is explaining the worldwide conspiracy to do, well, everything, I guess. Turns out we are a mixture of alien species, some “reptilian”, and pretty much everything we believe is a lie… This “journalist” is golden, a laugh every ten seconds. This podcast deserves more exposure!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s nice to have people make fools of themselves and the interviewer is great at giving them rope. Priceless!

  37. carbonUniton 16 Sep 2017 at 7:43 pm

    “On a more serious note, Steve, do you think there is likely to be an equilibrium effect that stops pseudoscience from completely ousting real science — e.g. medicine that actually works is only going to get more valuable as the field is infiltrated by nonsense?”

    It’s probably an effect sort of like herd immunity. If there’s enough real medicine in play, pseudo science can ride it’s coattails. If real medicine falls to too low a level, bad things happen and the lie is exposed.

  38. BBBlueon 16 Sep 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Willy- Careful, we don’t want to tip our hand to the Reptilians.

  39. Willyon 16 Sep 2017 at 11:44 pm

    BBBlue–or the mantids… I’m sleeping with the lights on tonight fer shure.

  40. Hard Of Hearingon 17 Sep 2017 at 9:35 am

    There are so many fervent repeating denunciations of homeopathy in this article that I wonder if the lady “doth protest too much” and what is purports to be a level-headed critique becomes to my reading a zealously hysterical fundamentalist polemic in the name of the God Science.

    This dispute comes down to one underlying question: What is medicine for?

    To my mind -and I’m neither a doctor nor a practitioner, but simply a ‘working stiff’ with an inquiring mind teased by a fundamental scientific education acquired many years ago – medicine has always had a number of goals including prevention of disease, healing, and reducing suffering. In order to bring about these goals physicians throughout the ages and from all civilizations subscribed to their traditions of “what works.” How it works was less of an issue in pre-scientific times, and perhaps there are grounds today for modern medicine to revert back to what works and integrate these ideas and disciplines – if they work – into the general system we call medicine today.

    Ask any of the millions of satisfied patients of homeopathic practitioners (including me) how come they use homeopathic treatments when they are seemingly so unscientific, and they will all say ‘Because it works for me or for my family’. It may not work for everyone every time, but then neither does regular or conventional medicine.

    I would request that the writer and the readers replace their urge to dogmatism with a little healthy skepticism, and instead of striking down carefully-constructed straw-man arguments, adopt an attitude of neutrality for a moment, and address the following three questions (there are more, but these three are the first to come to mind):

    (1) Is it completely impossible that there is something that actually cures or heals in the homeopathic system, as evidenced by many who have tried it, but that science as we know it hasn’t yet found an articulate explanation of it?
    (2) Why were some ‘like cures like’ principles cheerfully integrated into regular medicine (e.g. the vaccination system) while homeopathy is exiled as ‘pseudoscience?’ (Is there any faint possibility that there is a factor called ‘greed’ involved, because vaccines happen to be patentable, and therefore profitable, whereas most homeopathic preparations can be made by anyone from first principles without a patent?)
    (3) The ‘placebo effect’ is frequently derided in the article for being an inconvenient distraction from true scientific medicine. While many admit that we don’t yet fully understand how the ‘placebo effect’ works, (a) why is so little scientific effort put into utilizing, exploiting and maximizing this marvelous innate self-healing system as an opportunity to heal ourselves (Again, could the profit motive have anything to do with this?) And (b) could it just be that somewhere in the individualized practitioner-patient-remedy system offered by homeopathy, we are offered a way to push the placebo effect to greater levels of healing, without yet having a fully scientific rationale for it?

    I do not believe that vitriolic clamoring of “Snake Oil, Snake Oil” is the way to approach homeopathy – nor for that matter any of the ‘alternative’ approaches to healing. More than at any other time in human history do we have today ‘anecdotal’ or ‘reported’ remedies of many kinds and from many traditions that the dinosaur that Modern medicine has become, automatically rejected. Some are snake oil. Most probably aren’t. But I don’t believe that everything needs to be tested by randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials. That is appropriate for the standard drug approach to patentable remedies – and incidentally the FDA and other regulatory bodies even with these should set much more stringent standards for efficacy and side effects, and not depend on remedies being called back in after version 1.00 is released.

    But even the validity of randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials is based merely on a statistical device. But if one wishes to scientifically evaluate the efficacy of homeopathy – or for that matter any of the alternative therapies, one can’t use the “one size fits all” approach, i.e. subjugate all forms of healing to the same randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials, as the assumptions are different with each therapy. After all what made the non-exact (or in some people’s minds pseudo-) so-called science of statistics the only valid tool with which to evaluate what works?

    Instead I propose that some truly skeptical scientific – but open – minds, develop new instruments and technologies that are capable of taking into consideration all the healing elements in homeopathy as well as in each holistic healing system, examine more generously “what works” and what doesn’t without resorting to dogmatic diatribes like quackery and hoo-hoo.

  41. Ironiston 17 Sep 2017 at 10:23 am

    Wow. This is some truly scary stuff.

    I worry that the institutions that perform higher level quality control, with things like meta-analysis and systematic reviews will also lower their standards. I image that the review teams of these rubbish studies will composed of self-selected alt-med reviewers, uncritical of the sub-par methodology.

    I understand that this phenomenon has both global and local elements, with infiltration by quacks occurring across the board, but active state interest and involvement in countries such as China and India. One imagines active state support in enough countries will eventually influence the field internationally, and result in regional spillovers even earlier. One of my best friends was born in Hong Kong and she’s described practices like Acupuncture as being accepted as a legitimate medical practice by large swathes of the population, even among the anti-China youth.

    @DG, I mostly agree with you and am no fan of the New Centre that paints discussions on the harmful usage of language as regressive or somehow anti free speech. That said, I can see where Steve may be coming from.

    Many people that share my general ideological/ethical leanings are woefully scientifically illiterate and often wooey as hell:

    Vegetarians frequently mix their advocacy with naturalistic quackery and sloppy emotive reasoning.

    Leftists are often more internationally orientated and anti-imperialist (yay), but efforts to appreciate things from other perspectives sometimes descend into defences of obviously harmful practices or pseudoscientific beliefs.

    An understanding of innumerable problems with capitalism and the marked wealth inequalities is often accompanied with calls of “shill” and “corporate influence” in completely unwarranted circumstances.

    An awareness of the disgusting history of psychiatry and medical institutions with respect to women, sexual and racial minorities even into the late 20th century sometimes leads to a general distrust or dismissal of actually expertise.

    These attitudes/reactions are detrimental and support the things Steve is arguing against, although I wouldn’t associate it with “political correctness” per se.

    I frequently find myself, a leftist, cringing at these things as I know that for people who are uninformed, have undeveloped opinions or simply hold different ideological positions, these missteps may result in reinforcing the “regressive-left” narrative that is bandied about so often by centrists and those on the right. I believe these narratives to be reactionary distractors from the pertinent issues of our day, but it looks like they’re spreading and have taken hold quite firmly in many online science enthusiast communities.

    Humans aren’t perfect logical machines; most have not studied analytic philosophy and nor do they hold an interest in scientific scepticism. Even those that do rarely meet their own idealised norms of rationality or meta-cognition. I think that any political movement/group will have the bulk of its members engaging in hyperbole, rhetorical sleigh of hand, logical shortcuts. There will also be some degree of maliciousness, unproductive antagonism and misapplication of aggression/violence. I believe these factors combined create somewhat of a false sense of credibility to centrist positions or the status quo in general, at least when it comes to messy issues outside the scope of simple scientific consensus.

    As I’m sure many of us are, I’m guilty of wishing the people working to the sames ends as me would act with perfect intellectual integrity. It’s a ridiculous standard that no group could ever meet and I understand that acting according to these standards probably isn’t always the best tactic, but I can’t shake it.

  42. BillyJoe7on 18 Sep 2017 at 8:27 am

    The three stooges all rolled into one.

    Dunning-Kruger, the Arrogance of Ignorance, and Hard of Hearing.
    I tried hard but I couldn’t find a single sentence even tenuously connected to reality.
    I don’t know if I can be bothered anymore talking to morons with defective hearing.

    I mean, seriously, what point is there when the bullshit is piled so high.

  43. fbrosseaon 18 Sep 2017 at 9:52 am

    @BillyJoe7….let me try! let me try!

    @HoH: skepticism is the practice of requiring evidence before accepting a claim to be true. By its very nature it is the most open-minded practice because skeptics are ready to accept any claim that has sufficient evidence in it. The writer and the readers are extremely open minded on homeopathy, however the burden of proof has consistently failed to be reached. Refusing to recognize a lack of evidence for a thing because of the way it makes you feel is by definition, closed-minded.

    also:

    1) yes it is completely impossible that something in homeopathy cures. A 1e99 dilution of something makes it non existant. If you take 1 metric ton per liter solution of something and dilute it 1e99, you are left with a 1e-96 kg/L solution of that thing meaning that you would need to ingest 1e95 L of the result to ingest a single molecule of the the active ingredient (assuming that molecule is lead, I can calculate any molecule you want). It is by definition, nothing. No evidence has ever suggested there is ever a “memory” effect in this water
    2)Vaccines don’t cure diseases, they prevent them. It’s not a like-cures-like thing at all. The mechanism is measurable and observable and a clear cause and effect can be established as evident from the eradication of polio and severe decrease in many diseases
    3)The placebo effect is a catch-all term for improvement in a condition following a treatment. It is true that in the past the placebo effect was misunderstood, but now its understanding is growing and growing and largely to be found to be a collection of factors that have nothing to do with the intervention: natural history, regression to the mean, Simpson paradox, Hawthorne effect, Rogers phenomenon. All things that have nothing to do with the treatment. An excellent article on it here: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/placebo-are-you-there/ . This is not to mention the fact that it has never been objectively measured, only self-reported. If you think your inflamed appendix is hurting you less, is it still there? Science seeks to attribute cause-and-effect to a treatment while you are looking only at effect and are inferring what the cause is.

    Yes, statistics is the only valid tool to evaluate the validity of a claim. It gets rid of subjectivity as much as possible and won’t care if you can profit of it or if it makes you feel good. Again if you think your bursting appendix is hurting slightly less after you drank the special magic water, it will still burst. True, statistics mean little to an individual, but if you’re asking some to buy stand at a pig farm and wait for one to start flying before they get cured instead of flipping a coin and waiting for heads, you are taking advantage of that person.

    The FDA is a body who serves to evaluate risks of a treatment vs. benefits. Any treatment that has benefit will have a risk because of the physiological change it triggers in the body. How is this evaluated? You got it! Statistics!

    Calling people out that say “I scratched my butt three times and now my migraine is better, I’ll teach you how for three easy payments of $99.99” is not misplaced antagonism, it’s accusing someone of dishonesty for trying to bypass a process demonstrated to self-correct and minimize cognitive biases by appealing to people’s emotions.

    Rant over.

  44. RickKon 18 Sep 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Hard of Hearing,

    A little thought experiment:

    A large, multinational pharmaceutical company releases a new miracle drug designed to increase cognitive ability – a “smart pill”. It costs about $700/month for the average user, and it flies off the shelves, becoming a darling of college students, rising executives and ambitious parents of high school students. Reports flood social media of how much sharper people feel when taking it. The pharmaceutical company enjoys massive profits and develops the drug into a whole series of related products tailored for specific age groups, backgrounds, professions, etc. There are almost no negative side effects to taking the drug – all reports are either neutral or positive, with some being very positive.

    Years later it is determined that the drug was nothing more than caffeine. It’s apparently complex chemistry was just a marketing ploy, facilitated by some bribed FDA examiners who were now living very comfortable lives abroad. In spite of the revelations, many consumers of the product still swore by its tremendously positive impact on their lives. The drug unquestionably did little to no harm (other than financial) and was credited with uncounted personal victories.

    So, was the pharmaceutical company guilty of fraud? Or were they simply practicing good medicine by maximizing the power of the placebo effect?

  45. BillyJoe7on 18 Sep 2017 at 5:13 pm

    fibrossea,

    “The writer and the readers are extremely open minded on homeopathy”

    Sorry, but bullshit.
    Homoeopathy has zero plausibility and has been shown not to work. Period.

  46. fbrosseaon 19 Sep 2017 at 6:19 am

    Yes, sorry I didn’t mean to misrepresent that. I meant that you are open-minded in the sense that you looked into the claim and found it to be bullshit after reviewing the evidence rather than dismissing it because you are clinging to ideology.

    Also messed up the homeopathy, it’s actually 1e72L of water to get a single molecule. I was off by 24 orders of magnitude…oops.

  47. BillyJoe7on 19 Sep 2017 at 7:03 am

    fbrossea,

    And my apologies for messing up your name. 🙂

    “I was off by 24 orders of magnitude…oops”

    Don’t worry, Hard of Hearing probably wouldn’t know what an order of magnitude is anyway. 😀

  48. Kabboron 19 Sep 2017 at 8:46 am

    What’s 24 orders of magnitude between friends? I asked a buddy for change to get a coke from a vending machine and instead of giving me the 25 cents I asked for he gave me 250 quadrillion dollars. That’s what friends are for.

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