Friday, 28 February 2014

Militant Skepticism and the Homeopathy Denialists

This is an old Persian story - which seems to sum up the position of Homeopathy denialists!

"A man who had always lived in the city visited a farm and saw some chicken roosting and resting on one leg as they do.

"Based on his observation he reported to his older and wiser friend that chickens have only one leg!

"His friend could not change this man's observation no matter how hard he tried and how many photographs of birds and chickens all having two legs!

"He formed a group of prominent people who all confirmed that Chicken have only 1 leg!

This appears to be the way that Homeopathy Denialists function. They regularly attack these blogs. They believe that homeopathy does not work, that there is no evidence that homeopathy works, and that it is nothing more than placebo.

  • Every person who was sick but has been treated successfully with homeopathy is an 'anecdote'.
  • The many millions of former patients who can testify for the effectiveness of homeopathy are still just 'anecdotes'.
  • Evidence produced by scientific research is not acknowledged by them: it is either ignored altogether or is 'not of sufficient quality'.
What is the best way to deal with people whose beliefs and prejudices appear to overcome what everyone can see? 

Ignore them! Allow them to continue to believe that chickens have just one leg, and continue healing illness and disease, and curing patients through Homeopathy.

Recently, I have been blogging a lot from the "Why Homeopathy?" website, which seeks to examine and compare the homeopathic and conventional treatment of a variety of illnesses and diseases. In all of them conventional medicine either has nothing to offer (and admits it on the NHS Choices website), or offers drugs which can known to cause the most serious adverse reactions, or DIEs. Homeopathy offers gentle, safe and effective remedies, and in most of the illnesses covered, there is is scientific research to support it.

What is the militant skeptic response to these articles. Have a look at these typical examples, all sent to me via Twitter over recent weeks.

"Why Homeopathy is best treatment for Asthma"
It isn't, you complete charlatan.
Dangerous bullshit
Dangerous bollocks
Complete and utter twaddle
You dishonest charlatan
That fuckwit is currently advocating sugar pills for painful female problems which sometimes indicate serious conditions.
The public has a right to know... that you are a dangerous delusional fuckwit who smears opponents.
There's no homeopathic treatment for tetanus. Dangerously stupid and irresponsible.

So who do we have to thank for these insightful comments? Nat (@SecuLawyer); Enoch (@FruitOfNoah); Dragonblaze (who states that Homeopathy is 'faith based'); Vix (@lillal23); Anarchic Teapot; Paul Morgan; Secular Bloke, and many others.

You can see from the quality and the rationale of these comments that these are just the kind of people who, once they believe that a chicken has one leg, will continue to believe that chickens have just one leg.

But don't dismiss these people entirely, even though they produce no evidence to support their prejudices, even though their language is deplorable, even though they are clearly full of bile. There are some Homeopathy Denialists amongst theme who should know better. One of these is Edzard Ernst. Wikipedia describes him as follows:

"…. an academic physician and researcher specializing in the study of complementary and alternative medicine. He was appointed Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, the first such academic position in the world.

Perhaps we might expect something rather more edifying from him. I will be outlining some of his Twitter statements in a future blog, and unfortunately they are little better in terms of evidence and reason than his colleagues quoted above. Ernst, too, it would seem, is the kind of person who cannot be persuaded that chickens have two legs!