I’ve started a controversy!

Today my guest post over at The Green Phone Booth was about homeopathy and herbalism, specifically my own very meager experiences with it, and a desire to find out if other Booth readers had had any experiences with homeopathy…

And now there’s this debate going on over there, because a couple of people showed up and proclaimed with utter authority that homeopathy is a load of garbage. (Why are so many people so eager to assume that the data they have and the opinions they’ve formed from it are the be-all end-all, and there’s nothing they may be lacking? I don’t get it.)  While I value all opinions, the more sweeping and generalized the opinion, the more footnotes I expect to be given that back it up if I am to take it seriously.

I expect most of my readers here also frequent the Booth, but I’d love to hear if anyone else has any substantive experiences with homeopathy, anecdotal or otherwise.  My most valued comments would be from a converted skeptic, or I guess by extension from a former devotee who’s learned stuff that’s changed their minds…

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Posted on November 6, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. heya, wow what a discussion!
    I added my little piece, and I agree some people need to “chill”. I feel for LJ.

    I thought your post was fantastic and thoughtful. Extremes aren’t the best way to live life. 🙂

  2. Sometimes I wonder if people like those commenters at the Booth have search bots set up so they can immediately find controversial subjects and start an argument. Actually, I didn’t know homeopathy was so controversial, and I thought your post was very balanced.

    I haven’t tried any homeopathic remedies, but I am not one who believes science is infallible. They’ve been wrong before, they can be wrong again.

  3. greenmomintheburbs

    I think the search-bot thing might be right–the same thing happened a month or two ago when I posted something about Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff” and this complete troll (who makes the two Booth guys look like perfect gentlemen) (well, I guess they are being gentlemen…a little patronising, but not overtly rude and nasty, which I have to appreciate. But to say the least, they don’t seem to represent the Booth’s “target audience.”) started ranting and raving and calling me an idiot and referring readers to the YouTube rebuttal of the whole Story of Stuff, which I watched about 10 minutes of until it just got too annoying–like today, lots and lots of sweeping assertions, no footnotes. But he was a real piece of work. First and only person I’ve had to block so far.

    Ah well.

    With the homeopathy thing, really, I AM pretty balanced, because I don’t know enough to make any sweeping assertions either way. I find these different modalities fascinating…and watching person after person around me pursue Western medicine as far as it can take them, sometimes literally losing their homes and livelihoods in the process, makes me want to at least take a look at what else is out there.

    Or maybe it’s just that, since some of us are trying to step off the consumer grid a little, it makes me look at the other grids–here, the health care grid–and wonder about the people who’ve stepped off THEM, you know? I studied and researched and stepped off the typical obstetrical grid when I birthed my children, and that’s a decision I’ve never regretted in the slightest. So it makes me look at these other health questions and want to ask them too…
    –J

  4. Hi there

    Yes, I have a google reader set up that informs me of various postings that are relevant to my areas of interest, including this one.

    I hope that I’m not thought of as “starting an argument” though.

    I’d be very disappointed if it came across that way and would withdraw.

    Cheers

    Andy
    Merseyside Skeptics Society
    10:23

    • greenmomintheburbs

      Hi Andy! Well, like I said, you at least were a gentleman in your skepticism–but I’d still appreciate links and footnotes. I already get why people who believe in homeopathy think it does work, and why those who think it’s hooey think it’s hooey, but I’d love to actually see some of the websites, studies, abstracts, etc. which support the different sides of the argument. Do you have any of those?

      –Jenn

  5. Hi Jenn

    Well aside from pointing you to the recent reccomendations against homeopathy from the world health organisation, the careful wording that governments insist homeopathy fits within and the cpmmon sense argument that says a sugar pill with literally nothing in it but sugar will only have the therapeutic effect of…sugar, and the fact that when you are already ill, your body is already producing the antibodies required if it can, I would take a look at these two.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_memory

    This one is pro homeopathy and is a summary by a homeopath Doctor of a study published in the Lancet that was widely criticised for its execution.

    http://www.hpathy.com/research/bhatia-lancet-homeopathy.asp

    There is little point in my just posting a ton of links. If you’re interested enough these will get you started. There’s no slam dunk argument available here, and no study convincing enough to convert an advocate of homeopathy. But for anyone trying to find the answer for themselves there is a lot of stuff for and against. I recommend that you follow common sense. My mum used to put butter on a burn. Just the once and just after the burn. She’d have been better off sticking my hand under the tap (fawcet) for 15 minutes but she was convinced the butter was the way. She wasn’t right though.

    I should say that homeopaths are generally convinced that the evidence will emerge eventually. My view is that while we wait for this unlikely evidence we should be skeptical about it rather than attribute magical memory properties to water that don’t exist, using substances of questionable therapeutic benefit and a bash of the vial.

    There is a principle of logical fallacies that assists in separating subjective from objective information during discussions. The main one used in the homeopathy debate is the following

    “Ad ignorantiam
    The argument from ignorance basically states that a specific belief is true because we don’t know that it isn’t true. Defenders of extrasensory perception, for example, will often overemphasize how much we do not know about the human brain. UFO proponents will often argue that an object sighted in the sky is unknown, and therefore it is an alien spacecraft.”
    http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx

    And for a bit of cringeworthy fun…

    There is another I would like to post called “if homeopathy works I’ll drink my own p***. I guess folks can find that for themselves. It’s fun but good too because it discusses Avagadro’s limit.

    Cheers

    Andy, Merseyside Skeptics Society
    10:23

  6. greenmomintheburbs

    Thanks for those links. (I’m looking on the WHO website to try to find the exact denunciation you’re looking for, but so far I’m coming up dry…though there are a lot of bloggers citing said article, I’m not finding links to the citations they’re citing…though there are lots of good articles there.) (And most of them seem to hold alternative medicine’s efficacy to the standard of “provable by allopathic standards,” which itself is going to present a lot of problems on both sides.) Of course I can find links to things, but as I’ve said, when people come onto my or other blogs making sweeping statements about the absolute truth of something they believe is provable without providing some kind of documentation, I have trouble giving too much credibility. Too much time as an academic, I guess. Footnotes R Us.

    I think we need to agree to disagree at this point, though. Not about the efficacy of homeopathy, because as I’ve said I’m not really convinced one way or the other. What we disagree on is whether the lack of scientific evidence of something proves that it does not exist, is not effective, is not valid, etc. And that’s philosophical, not scientific, so I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere further on it.

    But thanks for stopping by!

  7. Hi Jenn

    Thanks for hosting me for a short time. It’s appreciated.

    Just for completeness, I should let you know that I never compiled a list of the stuff that I took as convincing to get me to my point of view. And now, like many people I guess, I just look at stuff and decide whether it informs or affects my current position. Often I’ll review the abstract together with some commentary from various bloggers.

    I’ve never tried to build a convincing collection of links to point people to. I think that I sort of expect people to get to the “facts” by themselves, those being so obvious to me when I consider how it is purported to work.

    Thanks for pointing this out to me.

    When there is such a resource I’ll swing by again if it’s ok with you.

    As far as agreeing to differ is concerned, that particular principle can be applied at any point in a discussion. If you’re out of steam for the topic, that’s one thing, and I’m cool if that’s the case. This is a busy and popular blog which I know takes some effort.

    But agreeing to differ because it’s a philosophical point? Hmmmm. You sure about that? Bit disappointed with that one.

    Thanks again

    See y’all

    Cheers

    Andy, Merseyside Skeptics Society
    10:23

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