What’s the Difference Between Homeopathy and Religion?

It’s good to see that the Irish mainstream media have finally started to question the fraud of homeopathy.  That’s encouraging.

Sadly, however, there are still so many people prepared to argue in favour of this worthless money-making racket by using personal attacks, by trying to foster a sense of paranoia and by relying on logic so faulty a three-year-old wouldn’t stand for it.

There are about 500 comments on the article as I write, and a quick scan through them is a good indication of the tactics employed by the supporters of Woo.

I think the proponents of homeopathy are divided between those who genuinely believe in magic and those who know it’s bollocks, but they seem to share one common characteristic: they all think there’s a conspiracy against homeopathy.

Most particularly, they’ve evolved a new hate figure: the Skeptic.    This is a bit like the American right-wing demonisation of Liberals, but with significantly less intelligence than the Tea Party, and that’s saying something.

It’s remarkable how Irish and British homeopaths have all adopted the American spelling of this word, skeptic  but let’s gloss over that for the moment and examine the logic.  The assumption seems to be that scepticism is a bad thing, even though healthy doubt is the thing that keeps us alive.  After all, if you offer me a blue and purple mushroom to eat, I’ll be sceptical.  I’m not just going to take your word that it’s edible.  Why should I?  Show me the evidence.  Scepticism is a sensible survival strategy.  Otherwise, we’d all be eating poison and jumping out of helicopters without a parachute.

Animals are the ultimate sceptics.  You have to win their trust before they’ll come near you, and that’s for the very good reason that they might die if they make the wrong choice.  Scepticism is at the very core of evolution and survival.  It’s also the thing that drove every single discovery that humanity ever uncovered.  Instead of believing the first conjecture we hear, instead of swallowing any old nonsense, human beings have said   No.  Let’s find out about this.

It might easily be a rough definition of science: let’s find out about this.

Yet, in the world of homeopathy, scepticism is a bad thing, and Skeptics are the enemy.  This seems to be what characterises the arguments in favour of water-medicine.  Instead of answering the hard questions about their claims, they prefer to demonise the people asking those hard questions, as  religious fundamentalists are inclined to do.  Instead of arguing the facts, they prefer to question the good intentions of those who disagree with them.

They even have a devil, and its name is Big Pharma, a demon with no motivation apart from making money.

Wait.  Are they talking about those thieving, manipulative, dishonest pharmaceutical corporations that rob the rest of us?  If so, maybe we’ve found some common ground.  They point out the disastrous problems with Thalidomide and a host of other ill-conceived chemicals that caused nothing but harm, and so far we’re all on their side.  So far, so good, until you bump up against a  ludicrous logical fallacy, which is this.  Somehow, because cynical, dishonest pharmaceutical companies exist, it means that homeopathy  must work.

Where’s the logic in that?  Cynical, dishonest pharmaceutical companies can sell poisonous chemicals for the rest of eternity, and homeopaths will still be selling you water.  I went into that in great detail here, so I won’t waste time covering it again, except to say that all homeopathic remedies are either water or sugar and nothing else, but that’s where the homeopaths shift up a gear and delve into the realms of magic.  Water, it seems, has a memory, and even though the homeopathic remedy has nothing at all dissolved in it, somehow or other it remembers what used to be there.  Not the billions of other things it had dissolved in it since the dawn of time, but only the thing you, as a homeopath, want it to remember.  What a kind, obliging substance water is.

Homeopathy has its origins in an era before people understood what molecules are, and before people understood the difference between a solution and a suspension, but that doesn’t stop its proponents attempting to silence its critics with ludicrous pseudo-scientific talk of quantum physics.  And if that doesn’t work, they’re delighted to fall back on Latin, the language of ancient medicine.  Thus, we have quackery invented in the 18th century, whose adherents describe all their remedies in a ridiculous fake-classical terminology.

Electricitas: electricity.

Wonderful.  You can bottle electricity and use it to cure things.

You can buy a dilution of  the deadly poison Paraquat, and no matter how much you drink, it will do you no harm whatsoever.  Why?  Because it’s only water.  That’s homeopathy for you.  No active ingredients.

When homeopaths aren’t attacking the bona-fides of the people asking hard questions, they’re trying hard to snow you with fake scientific terminology, which leads to a delicious contradiction.  On the one hand, they’re not prepared to submit to proper scientific examination, but on the other hand, they’re delighted to hijack the language of rational investigation in support of what is essentially nothing more than magic.  You’ll hear a lot of talk about quantum physics and nano water molecule science, because this is the sort of thing that impresses people who know nothing at all about science.

The mark of a true ideologue is when they try to impose this kind of language on reasonably well-informed people who actually understand a bit of science.  Or to put it another way, don’t give me this guff.

And when that happens, the veil slips away, and homeopathy is exposed for the scam it is.


Homeopathic Dilutions

Homeopathic Nonsense


13 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Homeopathy and Religion?

  1. Wow Bock, leave the auld water alone!

    Needless to say I agree, but if it helps a load of hypochondriacs take nothing more than water to make them feel better then what’s the harm?

  2. Lfcarrickgorman, it’s bad if people take this shit instead of going to a doctor, and get sicker. To give a famous related example, Steve Jobs went the alternative medicine route for his cancer, rather than surgical removal of tumours, for a year or two. There’s harm in placing your faith in fake medicine.

    Ben Goldacre is a great man for this stuff, though I’m worried his new book, Bad Pharma would be used by dopes in a similar way to that described here.

    Bad Science, his previous, tore homeopathy apart.

    I was bought some of this stuff lately, and to humour someone, I took what I was given. No effect. So I thought, do I need something stronger, and checked for the measurements of ingredients, there weren’t any measurements given. I thought I’d been given a herbal thing, and some herbs do work, but no, it was sugar.

  3. Some traditional medical potions “work” because of psychosomatic causes of the dis-ease in the first place. A patient can be induced to will herself back to good health. The American Indian medicine man administering a potion/rubbing down part of the body with a concoction, then following it up with chanting and dancing (like in 1950s Hollywood cowboy ‘n injun movies) could sufficiently stir up the patient’s willpower to get well. Autosuggestion can and has been used by doctors (M.D. graduates) to will away toothaches headaches etc. In the middle ages of Europe they had a commonly-believed theory of the ‘humours’ and doctors and herbalists acted on this belief to relieve illness. I’m not a medical person, but if a treatment works without risks of bad side effects and it cures some patients, then patients should count their blessings, take up their beds and walk freely again. If it works it works, and if it doesn’t work the healer still gets his fee. There are charlatans still trying to sell snake oil, and there are individuals claiming to have mystery healing powers. The individuals who are seventh sons of seventh sons still go around the country towns advertising in local papers that they will be available for consultations in a four-star hotel on a certain Saturday afternoon. Caveat Emptor.

  4. There is a clear difference between religion and homeopathy. Religion is the exploitation of the ignorant by the ignorant. Homeopathy is the opposite.

  5. The basis of good science is sceptisism and it is the sceptics (I refuse to use the american spelling) make good scientists. That is what I was thought when studying it (my primary degree). I was athough to question things.

    I would think the shunning of sceptisism points to the fear of their ‘quackery’ being found out.

    Of course not everything studied can be proven or disproven and good quackery and genuine methodologies share this. This unfortunately allows the quackery to thrive.

    I would subscribe to herbalism as allied to genuine medicine (as much of medicine was allied to study of botany) but herbal remedies are being hijacked by the pharmaceutical companies and distilled and purified until they become controlled. No longer for instance can we take St John’s wort as a pure herb (thanks to Mary ‘Contrary’ Harney) but must pay through the nose for the privilege by going to a GP (60 bucks) and getting a prescription and then paying for the purified ‘drug’ (loads a money).

    So there is a conspiracy after all. Let’s control the access to good old fashioned medicine.

    but anyway, on Homeopathy I think it a pseudo- science and a load of bollox but can’t or am not interested in having it proved or v.v.. Some things maybe can be decided on a gut feeling (and very un-scientific)

  6. I certainly agree with you that there’s a pharmacology scam, but of course that doesn’t mean homeopathy is anything other than water.

  7. I accept Bock’s point that if a homeopathic practitioner – does she study somewhere, like China or Germany for a certificate? – persuades a patient/client to forgoe a surer scientific medical treatment and the homeopathic remedy doesn’t work, then there is an ethical and health issue to be pursued. If other remedies don’t get the desired result a patient/client may desperately seek ‘alternative’ forms of treatment, and who knows, the ritualistic aspect of the treatment may produce a healing based on psychosomatic cause and effect.

    Chinese traditional therapies have been attracting increasing numbers of western people who have gone to study them in that country. So we now get western acupuncturists, herbalists and others who, armed with their diplomas, practise these non-western remedies. Everybody’s body and medical history is different. Some of us have been brought up on varying diets and in different environments. You never know. If some alternative treatments work, they work. Not all herbalists are experts. Not all university-trained doctors are trustworthy. Every professional wants to earn money. All professions set up barriers to protect their interests. The writer GB Shaw asserted that every profession “is a conspiracy against the laity.”

  8. When you bring in traditional medicine, you open up a whole new discussion.

    There’s a popular fallacy that alternative treatments all have something in common when for the most part, the only thing they share is an absence of systematic testing,

  9. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s true:

    If “alternative medicine” worked, they’d just call it “medicine”.

    Homeopathy is bollox, but I look at it a different way – homeopathy is the chlorine in the gene pool.

  10. Bock, did you ever read Christopher Brookmyre’s “Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks”?

    Crime fiction but with some great comments on woo

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