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Monday 22 February 2016

What homeopathy denialists / skeptics deny

Homeopathy denialists are a small, but vocal group of skeptics whose single task in life appears to be to deny that homeopathy is an effective and safe medical therapy. 

Of course, everyone can and should have an opinion, but homeopathy denialists usually express their opinions in a derogatory and abusive way. Bad language and abuse is usually the preserve of people whose message is tenuous and unsupported, who are limited in the arguments, and short of evidence to support their opinions.

  • "Homeopathy does not work!"
  • "Homeopathy is placebo!"
These are not so much opinions but statements. Rarely do denialists produce evidence to support their statements. Instead, they turn the burden of 'proof' on to homeopathy, and claim that 'there is not evidence' that homeopathy works, which then leads them into more denial when they have to deny the large and increasing amount of evidence that clearly shows that it works.

So what do homeopathy denialists have to deny?

First and foremost denialists have to deny the experience of hundreds, thousands, and millions of people who have been successfully treated with homeopathy. Homeopathy is now practiced throughout the world. And Homeopathy has been practiced for more than 220 years. What this means is that there are a lot of sick people who have been cured by homeopathy! All the denialists can do is to suggest that we are 'mistaken', or 'lying', or that it is just 'placebo'.

Denialists say they are 'scientists'. Yet the first duty of any scientist, worth the name, to observe the world, and to see what is happening there. If there are things happening that we cannot explain, the responsibility of 'real' science is to seek to explain it. Throughout the ages, this is how human society has developed! Real scientists do not observe that millions of patients have been, and are being cured by homeopathy - and then just deny it!

This gives rise to the second area of denial. There are 'real' scientists who are looking into the homeopathic phenomenon, and several interesting areas of study are emerging that suggest that homeopathy's working mechanism can be explained. But the response of homeopathy denialists is just to deny that these scientists are doing this, or alternatively they denigrate their work, or even undermine the science they are undertaking.

Homeopathy denialists favour another kind of science. They believe that the 'gold standard' of science are randomised, double-blind, controlled tests, or RCTs. This is the kind of science that has told us that conventional medical drugs and vaccines (including many hundreds that have been withdrawn or banned) are effective, and sufficiently safe to give to patients. The problem is that there are now about 200 RCT trials that indicate that homeopathy is more than placebo, that it is more effective than conventional drugs, and that it can and does cure illness and disease.

So this is the third area of denial that homeopathy denialists have to get involved in. The evidence supporting homeopathy provided by these 'gold standard' RCT trials, they say, is poor quality evidence. The numbers of people involved in these studies are too small. The control factors used are inadequate. The data produced does not support the conclusion.

Implicit in this denial is that the RCT evidence supporting conventional pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines ARE valid. Homeopathy denialists tell us that they support of 'evidence-based' medicine, by which they mean conventional medicine, dominated as it is by pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. Now, these denialists rarely, if ever, openly defend conventional medicine. Whilst they routinely denigrate homeopathy, by contrast, they seem blissfully unconcerned about the damage, disease and death caused by the medicine they believe to be RCT supported!

This, then, is the fourth area of denial that homeopathy denialists are forced to adopt - they have to deny that most conventional medicine is unsafe, and that most is ineffective in the long term. For denialists conventional drug and vaccines are evidence based, and therefore 'good'. Homeopathy, having summarily dismissed and denied the 200 RCT trials supporting it, is 'bad'.

This process leads homeopathy denialists to another conclusion, illogical and unsupported as it is. Anyone opting for homeopathy is putting their lives at risk, because they are refusing to accept the questionable 'benefits' of conventional medicine! Consequently, in their minds, homeopathy becomes a 'dangerous' medical therapy!

The denialists cannot present us with evidence about any patient who has been harmed directly by homeopathic treatment, but this does not prevent them claiming that homeopathy is dangerous! Such a position fits in with their world view, and their deeply unscientific prejudice. Indeed, it marks them out as being some of the most 'unscientific' people who express any views on issues relating to health!

Homeopathy denialists are a small band of people, dedicated to (and perhaps even paid by) the pharmaceutical drugs industry, who largely talk amongst themselves on social media, especially Twitter. I have blogged before on their foul-mouthed and abusive attacks on homoeopathy and homeopaths. This raises an important question. What should be done about them?

My advice? Ignore them! Let them carry on their rants! They have little to offer anyone looking to maintain or regain their health except bile. Homeopathy has a very positive message about an extremely effective, and entirely safe medical therapy that so many people need to know about. With conventional medicine failing so badly (antibiotics, painkillers, statins, et al), homeopathy offers hope for the future, and homeopaths should not expend any energy or time with such people.

For more information about the homeopathy denialists, look at these blogs (some of which contain some extremely foul and abusive language they have used).
When considering the activities of homeopathy denialists, the wise and concise words of William Alderson should be considered.

          “The vitriol of opponents of homeopathy does not reflect an interest in science, but the scale of the threat homeopathy poses to an unscientific, dangerous, but highly profitable exploitation of illness”. William Alderson 3rd March 2016.