Homeopathic Anecdote On The One Show

March 29, 2011 at 7:31 pm (Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Media) (, , , )

I enjoyed parts of this evening’s One Show on BBC One. I enjoyed the explanation of the magical thinking (like cures like) and diluting ‘active’ ingredients out of existence that form the basis for homeopathy. I especially enjoyed the Doctor pointing out – in response to Monty Don’s argument that ‘it doesn’t matter how homeopathy might work’ – that homeopathy simply doesn’t work. There was one thing that really bugged me though – an anecdote offered by one of the presenters, Alex Jones.

Apparently, her friend’s psoriasis cleared up following use of a homeopathic product. I wonder how much Alex Jones knows about the placebo effect. I’d also be interested to learn whether she is aware of the following:

Spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean, additional treatment, conditional switching of placebo treatment, scaling bias, irrelevant response variables, answers of politeness, experimental subordination, conditioned answers, neurotic or psychotic misjudgment, psychosomatic phenomena, misquotation, etc. [Kienle and Kiene, 1997 – PDF]

Personally, I find it much more plausible that a perceived improvement might be due to the placebo effect or one of the factors mentioned by Kienle and Kiene than the idea that such an improvement can be put down to swallowing a magic sugar pill containing no active ingredient. I don’t consider “asking the patient” to be a good way of finding out whether a treatment works.

More

Magical thinking: Hahnemann’s Law of Similars – “He believed that by using drugs to induce symptoms, the artificial symptoms would stimulate the vital force, causing it to neutralise and expel the original disease and that this artificial disturbance would naturally subside when the dosing ceased.” It’s like magic. Sympathetic magic. And let’s not forget, these are the same people who think writing the name of a remedy on a piece of paper can cure you – homeopathic paper remedies – and have produced ‘remedies’ made from Berlin Wall and a bit of wood taken from a shipwreck.

Dilution: Homeopathy – there’s nothing in it. 13C: “If pure water was used as the diluent, no molecules of the original solution remain in the water.” 30C: “Dilution advocated by Hahnemann for most purposes: on average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.”

Evidence: Some scientists are willing to spend their time trawling through all the research into homeopathy and producing a systematic review of the literature. One such paper (Shang et al) can be found here. There are several Cochrane reviews of homeopathy and there is actually a systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy:

…there was no condition which responds convincingly better to homeopathic treatment than to placebo or other control interventions. Similarly, there was no homeopathic remedy that was demonstrated to yield clinical effects that are convincingly different from placebo. It is concluded that the best clinical evidence for homeopathy available to date does not warrant positive recommendations for its use in clinical practice.

Other interesting links: with regard to my comments on whether ‘asking the patient’ is a good way to find out if a treatment works, readers might find the slides from page 11 onwards of this PDF relevant and of interest. They come from a talk Edzard Ernst once gave at Bradford University: Trick or Treatment.

A video of Ben Goldacre explaining homeopathy. And an article of the same. With regard to ethics and homeopathy, Gimpy has detailed examples of the issues.

ETA: you can catch the episode on iPlayer here – link (I think it will be up for the next week or so). Sceptical Banter has also blogged about the episode (there’s a couple of useful / interesting links in the update at the bottom of the post).

42 Comments

  1. Andybud said,

    An interesting post. I do think the dr on the show was very tactful in putting forward the case against homeopathy but I did find it frustrating that he did not jump on Alex’s comments. Was her friend only using homeopathy treatments? Was she taking other medicines at the time? Monty gave an interesting comment that a lot of believers subscribe to ‘there are some things science doesn’t know’ in some areas this is true but homeopathy has been around long enough for sufficient research and reliable conclusions to be made.
    All that aside I fall back to a non scientific position, I used to work for a pharma company that spent billions every year researching new drugs on average only 1% of drugs researched made it thru to the patient, if homeopathy truly works then pharma companies would not waste money on research and instead just Market those treatments

  2. pv said,

    I would have had lots of questions.
    What was the homeopathic remedy in question?
    Was it in reality homeopathic?
    If it was a cream, did it in fact contain a topical steroid?

    And yes, psoriasis is a self-limiting condition – comes and goes. So the most plausible explanation is, if a topical steroid cream wasn’t in use, it went away by itself and as one would expect.

  3. Oliver Dowding said,

    DC, of I didn’t watch the show, choosing instead to go to an alternative event which was infinitely more enjoyable.

    However, I may get to watch via the iplayer. When the BBC website is back in operation.

    I love the way you hitch everything on placebo. When will you get a life and appreciate that what happens with animals such as those on farms is not, and I emphasise not placebo.I suppose you’ll once again tell me that I imagined the animals got better, or that they would have got better anyway. You will probably ignore the fact that it was many different people, or that those who were looking after the cows and their offspring, who were analysing the illness, selecting the remedies, administering, observing the effects, were all deluded by either 600 KG cows all their baby calves (new to the world), were all deluded in presuming that on the hundreds and hundreds of occasions when they administered remedies, that the animals got better because of the remedy, and not because they would have anyway.

    I remain convinced, you don’t. I find that sad.

    Maybe you’d like to consider quite how many homoeopaths there are in India, quite how many people have been treated by homoeopaths, and surely you don’t think all of them have been deluded all the time? Or do you? http://bit.ly/dHhy6E explains more.

  4. phayes said,

    Christ what a dreadful follow-ip discussion to a good report. Not only did the ignorance and post hoc anecdotery largely go unchallenged but Dr Porter also gave the impression that he thought the homeopathic like cures like nonsense was reasonable.

    BTW, the correct response to Monty Don’s argument that ‘it doesn’t matter how homeopathy might work’ is that that argument just doesn’t apply: it matters a great deal that there is really *no* way it might work.

  5. Nancy Malik said,

    189 studies in support of homoeopathy medicine published in 79 peer-reviewed international medical journals out of which 87+ are FULL TEXT which can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/gFJIbg

  6. nobby68 said,

    still confused as to why Monty Don was going on about compost tea though?

  7. Steve Baker said,

    @Oliver Dowding – so you find it sad that people aren’t prepared to just believe something without explanation and substantiation?

    I think it is far sadder that you are unable to provide any evidence that the treatments you provide work or why you think they work on a biological and physical level. Simply saying there are a lot of homeopaths isn’t an argument for efficacy, it is simply an argument for the gullibility of the ill informed public. There is no way you can prove that these cows would not have got better without treatment whether you consider the arguments for placebo, or the more detailed Keinle and Keine comments, which you perhaps chose to ignore.

    Perhaps rather than giving us your sympathy and being sad for us you could provide instead something useful.

  8. jdc325 said,

    @Nancy,

    Do you understand why simply counting papers tells us little about whether a treatment works? I linked to a meta analysis by Shang in my post, as well as a systematic review of systematic reviews. Do please read this.

    Readers unfamiliar with Nancy Malik might find this interesting: Hawk Handsaw.

    AP Gaylard has a post from 2007 that looks at the evidence for homeopathy.

  9. jdc325 said,

    @Oliver

    “I love the way you hitch everything on placebo.”
    You’re ignoring spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean, additional treatment, conditional switching of placebo treatment, scaling bias, irrelevant response variables, answers of politeness, experimental subordination, conditioned answers, neurotic or psychotic misjudgment, psychosomatic phenomena, misquotation, etc. Then again, you’ve never been keen on acknowledging those factors – preferring to believe that magic water or sugar pills containing no active ingredient can cure animals.

    “When will you get a life and appreciate that what happens with animals such as those on farms is not, and I emphasise not placebo.”
    Simply asserting something doesn’t make it true Oliver. If you, your vet or homeopathic supplier would like to provide some actual evidence (or even just have a nice chat with me about the work they do) that the products you provide/use have an effect beyond placebo then I hope you will remember the offer I made to communicate with them and find out what is happening on your farm.

    “You will probably ignore the fact that it was many different people”
    What difference does it make how many people are mistaking a connection between an inert ‘treatment’ and a perceived improvement? Please explain.

    “Maybe you’d like to consider quite how many homoeopaths there are in India, quite how many people have been treated by homoeopaths, and surely you don’t think all of them have been deluded all the time?”
    What difference does it make how many people are mistaking a connection between an inert ‘treatment’ and a perceived improvement? Please explain.

    Readers unfamiliar with Oliver Dowding might find this exchange (and the other exchanges linked to) of interest. Then again, given how often we have gone over the same ground, perhaps not…

  10. Carol McLoughlin said,

    I would also like to know the name of the homeopathic remedy that worked for her friend’s psoriasis. I have suffered with the condition for 35 years so any respite would be very welcome. thank you.

  11. jdc325 said,

    @Carol

    I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the homeopathic product being sold as a ‘remedy’ for psoriasis.

    I would point out, though, that there is no active ingredient in the typical homeopathic product and that there is (unsurprisingly) good evidence that homeopathic products don’t work. It looks like there may be some promising treatments for psoriasis but I’m afraid homeopathy isn’t one of them.

    I would suggest that rather than looking for remedies or medical advice on the internet you might like to ask your doctor about effective topical therapies in the management of psoriasis.

    Hope you find something that helps.

  12. Amy said,

    I think that it is quite sad that there has been so much criticism of homeopathy. I used to work alongside a homeopath and have found that all patients that saw him were not recruited by advertising or force, they were there because they had found conventional medicine was not working for them and were looking for an alternative. They had done much research into homeopathy before seeing him and I think the emphasis here is on personal choice. Why try and ban something that helps so many people? Would this not limit our freedom of choice and make our society one that conforms to what we are told.
    I would also like to quickly mention that I do believe homeopathy has been researched and we are told it has been proven to not work. I don’t believe this..there has been much research into the memory of water, which is one of the main theories of homeopathy. I think everyone has got a right to their own opinions, but why try and force your view onto others, whether you believe it or think it’s nonsense?

  13. phayes said,

    @Amy

    Homeopathy doesn’t help people – if anything it hurts them – and it’s sad that anyone would wish to defend it. I don’t think any of us are trying to have it banned, but perhaps we should be:

    http://www.dcscience.net/kevin-smith-homeopathy-ethics-2011.pdf

    (And that’s without really going into the questions of the desirable/necessary prerequisites of personal freedom of choice and the degrees to which various categories of person actually have it.)

    The “memory of water” idea is the antithesis of a real [plausibly real] phenomenon established [motivated] by scientific research. It’s a hopelessly crackpot speculation which was offered – presumably in desperation – as a way out of (part of) the extreme logical and scientific absurdity of homeopathy in principle. But it’s so badly cracked that instead of providing such a way out it adds another layer of pseudoscientific nonsense and *exacerbates* the absurdity!

  14. Oliver Dowding said,

    It is difficult to know where to begin, or whether to begin. You sceptics are simply in a world of your own. I have every confidence you consider the same of those like me who both believe in and support homoeopathy.

    You pick up on one word in a whole commentary and ignore the remainder. Such as @Steve did with “sad”. I’ve no idea how much evidence you require, but if 15 years treatment of 300 cows, 200 of their offspring, by around 20 different people, supervised by maybe 6 conventionally orientated veterinary surgeons is to be all put down to chance, then I know where the descriptive “sad” belongs.

    @Steve and @jdc, if you both really believe that all these animals would have recovered normally through “spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean”, and similar suggestions you have made in the past, then I have to consider you are making ridiculous comments. The sheer numbers of occasions do not suggest a chance “spontaneous improvement etc”. The Indian experience likewise. If it is thus, why don’t you do the trial? It’s not me who believes in “spontaneous remission etc”, and I wouldn’t undertake such a crazy trial. You would be able to prove the “spontaneous remission” to your own satisfaction, would you not? It’s quite simple, find yourself a willing farmer who uses homoeopathy, and offer to split their herd of cows. All you have to ask the farmer to do is to not treat your half of the herd when they are affected by mastitis. After all, your belief is that they will revert to the mean and presumably by that you mean to full health. The only other thing you’ll have to do after the disease trial is to stand in the dock when you’re answering charges that you caused animal cruelty, and explain why you didn’t administer treatment to remedy the mastitis.

    @jdc, you ask me to explain “what difference does it make how many people are mistaking a connection between an inert ‘treatment’ and a perceived improvement”. I thought the whole purpose of science was that it didn’t matter what the treatment was, but it does matter what the reaction is, and improvement is improvement. If my cow gets better and the mastitis disappears, that’s not “perceived improvement”, its actual improvement. It’s you who believes that it’s “inert”. I know that I’m not going to shaking from that belief, and those who travel with you. I appreciate that there is no scientific test that satisfies you as to why homoeopathy is not “inert”. I’m also aware that I’m not a scientist, perhaps to my advantage, and I can’t explain in current scientific terminology what it is that creates the energy in the homoeopathic remedy that creates the resolving reaction within the body of the patient, be they human or animal, which is of course broadly speaking the same thing.

    I’m sorry that you consider the 120 million Indians to be deluded, although I’m sure that they would think something different of you. As would the 500,000+ homoeopaths administering to these people. Ditto those working with the livestock in India.

    @phayes. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at your comments. I think you’ll have to remain in your self-limiting realm. I’m pleased I don’t have such constraints, have seen, explored, used, and enjoyed discovering something beyond that which many “scientists” choose to tell me and simultaneously decry. In embracing it and seeing its efficacy with animals who do not lie, deceive, use weasel words, pick on single words or sentences, and which do not know about supposed limitations, I’ve learnt a lot about human limitations.

    @Amy. Clearly you’re using your eyes, ears, and brain to observe. You clearly don’t accept anything but others might tell you is a done deal, as being sacrosanct, even though (please note, the rest of you) you and I both except that there is still a place for much that conventional medicine has on offer. We see two options, they see one.

  15. Amy said,

    @Phayes
    I’m intrigued…how does homeopathy hurt people? Considering conventional medicine is the third biggest killer in the western world. I am not trying to persuade you to believe in homeopathy, but just accepting that there is a place for it for those who believe in it and for those it has worked for. As Oliver said it doesn’t really matter whether you believe it hasn’t worked for them as you are not the one that has received the treatment. If they are better then they are better…it cannot be perceived. If I perceive that I am happy then I would say that I am actually happy. I use conventional medicine when I believe I need it, but I also use homeopathy, and I know that homoepaths would never tell a patient not to use conventional medicine. The only time a patient stops using medicine is when they have decided for themselves that it is not working. If they didn’t go to a homeopath they would search until they found another alternative. If we try and filter out these alternatives then we will only be left with one option.
    I also don’t believe all the scientific evidence that is told to me…if there appears to be an alterior motive behind the research, for example it is being funded by a pharmaceutical company, then I think it is quite easy to establish the results you are looking for. Again as Oliver said the only way I would decide is by trying it out for myself and finding what worked for me, if I got better then that is enough evidence for me.
    You have all got every right to disagree with it..but I find it very unfair when it is something that is of a minority that doesn’t get the chance to speak up for itself. Maybe next time on the one show they should have a few more homeopaths speaking out as well as interviewing all the scientists.

  16. Steve Baker said,

    @Amy – homeopathy does hurt people – it kills them through the deluded belief something that can have no effect will work – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/28/homeopathy-baby-death-couple-jailed

  17. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Steve Baker if that is the best you can do, you don’t make a very convincing case. Anybody who uses their eyes, ears and brain is aware that there are some people out there in all branches of medicine have done wrong things. Run a Google search on doctors fraud, doctors prison sentence etc, and you will find heaps of conventionally trained doctors doing bad things. It’s the same in all walks of society, there are good and bad, even in the churches.

    One even finds that sloppy handwriting has been implicated in causing thousands of patient deaths, according to this report in Time magazine. It also highlights the significant additional problem according to a July 2006 report from the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM), that preventable medication mistakes also injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually. Oh dear.

    Equally, I’d point out this article from Reuters http://reut.rs/eVwpyQ in which the way in which drugs are promoted to doctors is shamelessly one-sided, skewed, and ought to be seen as giving (conventional) science a shocking reputation if that’s how it’s used.

  18. Oliver Dowding said,

    The Time magazine article is here http://ti.me/apPsi

  19. Steve Baker said,

    @Oliver – I don’t believed I claimed that effective medicine doesn’t kill people and isn’t misused or missold did I? Clearly that is the case – what the very significance difference is is that we know why people die through incorrect dosage, conflicts in effects of multiple medications etc. and learn from it.

    The fact we know that medicine if administered correctly could have saved another 1.5million people is not something to despair about – it’s something to strive to achieve that improvement through the effective treatment or sick people under better controls and management of the processes involved.

    There is no homeopathic treatment that could have saved that poor child because there is nothing in it. Tragically in this case the body did not get better on its own for whatever complications that allowing the disease to continue untreated caused.

  20. phayes said,

    @Amy “I’m intrigued…how does homeopathy hurt people?”

    If you are genuinely intrigued why are you asking? Were you unable to access and read the article I linked to? TBH, the remainder of your comment is so replete with falsity and fallacy (and irony – though not quite as much of that as Oliver’s essentially complete inversion of reality) that I’m not sure it’ll do any good if you do read it.

  21. jdc325 said,

    @Oliver, Amy,

    Do you accept that (a) there is no active ingredient in homeopathic ‘remedies’ above 12C and (b) the best available evidence suggests that the effects of homeopathy are compatible with placebo?

  22. jdc325 said,

    @Amy,

    “there has been much research into the memory of water, which is one of the main theories of homeopathy”

    In 2005, researchers found that “liquid water essentially loses the memory of persistent correlations in its structure within 50 fs.” Link.

  23. jdc325 said,

    For those who like to rely on anecdotes when arguing that homeopathy works, here are some anecdotes you might find interesting: http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html

  24. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Steve you criticised @Amy by pointing out one death as a result of somebody’s over-zealous determination to use homoeopathy. However, I pointed out that “preventable medication mistakes also injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually” (and within which number many, many will have died, and a huge number more in a global context). All you can say is that it’s not something to despair about, but the doctors must try to do better. Enough said.

    @JDC
    1. With regard to active ingredient, I fully understand, and to the best of my knowledge so do all homoeopaths, that there is no identifiable molecule within homoeopathic remedies diluted below 12C. However, you aren’t going to trick me into saying there’s nothing in it, because that’s wrong. I know that we could argue about this until the cows come home, so to speak. The way in which it works, and quite how it operates, in what way the molecular information from the original material is retained by the water is of course unknown. There are scientists who have theorised about it. I’m also acutely aware from having used homoeopathy extensively on livestock that the further one dilutes it and sucusses the remedy the more potent it becomes, and the quicker the reactionary healing will be observed when it is used. It seems perfectly clear to me that water is well capable of retaining information. As I’ve said on countless occasions before, and as have countless scientists, we may not at this stage know the precise mechanism by which it actually works, but that doesn’t mean to say that it doesn’t work, or that science won’t at some stage in the future discover the modus operandi etc.

    What I’m not saying, and note the way you asked the question, is that the effect of homoeopathy is placebo orientated. On a one-to-one basis, with some people, there may be a partial or total placebo action, which may or may not act with the homoeopathic remedy. I’m not in a position to judge on this. However, despite your best attempts to deny efficacy, and to consider my cows liars and deceitful, I’m 100% certain, or shall we call it 99% to leave a tiny bit of room for doubt which might please you, that there is no placebo action when it comes to the mighty cow, or indeed any other farm animal. When a farmer pours the remedy into the water supply to feed 180,000 chickens, I somewhat doubt that there is any placebo activity there. I fully appreciate that these animals are most frustrating problem for you, as they are bound to be operating outside the placebo arena.

    I note you didn’t comment on my suggestion about finding a farm where you could organise a trial through splitting their herd, and standing liable for any animal welfare problems which may result in your water treated half versus the homoeopathy treated half. I am not surprised. Would not be a headline you would welcome.

    I also note an earlier comment about the memory of water issue being implausible. I fully understand that viewpoint is held by some, perhaps many. However much science now considers things to be settled which at one time were thought totally implausible. I don’t need to cite particular examples here because they are numerous. The animals give great confidence in my views on efficacy, and that the water is carrying the “message in a bottle”. Oh, and the millions in India and other countries.

  25. Steve Baker said,

    @Oliver – I didn’t criticise Amy as it happens. She asked in what way Homeopathy hurts people – I think a death and jail is pretty much hurt and the subsequent links posted make it a lot more than one.

    I don’t know why it is enough said? The point I am making is that death isn’t a good outcome and we should always be striving to avoid it. Understanding why things work and why they don’t will help that and every scientific experiment is designed to help in that understanding. To my knowledge there has not been a single scientific experiment on homeopathy that has led to an improvement in understanding. It seems you are clinging to the hope of a breakthrough in understanding on the memory of water and continue to ignore the evidence that water doesnt have a memory, unless you work really really fast to make and administer the prescription. I’m pretty certain though that even the most efficient supply chain in the universe is going to struggle to come in under 50 femtoseconds.

    It’s not all about Placebo either, you have been provided with a lot of other reasons that coincidental events can be incorrectly assigned to an action that is taken. The whole of human life is after all a coincidental event. Unfortunately it seems a lot of people have trouble dealing with that fact as amazing and truly beautiful it is.

    As to the experiment with a herd of cows everyone would welcome it, with an infected herd split plus a control group in to those being treated with homeopathic ‘remedies’, nothing, proven medication, and unifected and seeing the results. I am certain it would not be a headline that we would not welcome – if it proved homeopathy then all well and good we would have to search for the reason it worked. It wouldnt of course but if you had the confidence in your practices perhaps you would do it to prove your point rather than we are frightened of the idea – we are not – the proof of scientific experiment is what we want. Unfortunately personally I cant afford a herd of cows but would love it if someone could.

  26. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Steve

    I understand where you’re coming from, and you’re very black-and-white on this.

    As for the trial, I think you’re missing the point. It is not about whether you can afford a herd of cows or not, or anybody else for that matter. It’s all about who is going to underwrite to stand trial when the welfare lobby and relevant organisations come after the person who hasn’t been treating the animals that are ill, and which
    subsequently develop even more serious illnesses, or die. When you have that answer, and it may be somebody else who you know who can afford to underwrite the trial, and is willing to jeopardise a significant amount of time, reputation, and everything else, then please let me know.

    I may have been supplied with “lots of other coincidental events can be incorrectly assigned to an action that is taken”. However, I’ve answered why I don’t consider them to be the reason for livestock on a farm, in large numbers, responding to treatment they don’t know they’re receiving. Furthermore, to my knowledge there is no science to show that they know how to lie or deceive, repeatedly, consistently etc. You are ignoring all of that.

  27. Steve Baker said,

    @Oliver – I’m not ignoring it al all – to the contrary I am saying that its not always just placebo but other random events to which people subsequently assign consequence to their own actions and therefore your persistence in claiming what animals know or whether they are deceitful etc. is totally irrelevant.

    So if you feel a trial is not possible how then might evidence be gained, because at the moment you are offering no options to prove the efficacy of your methods.

  28. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Steve

    There is none so blind as he who won’t look.

    I appreciate that you are clearly not prepared to accept that the length of time over which we were using homoeopathy on my farm, and which would be the same with hundreds more in this country, tens of thousands more elsewhere in the world, to be relevant. I don’t see why. If you add together all of our experiences globally, they are very relevant, and not chance.

    What other “random events” would you think might be deluding me into thinking the animals got better because of homoeopathy? Remember, we’re not talking about companion animals here. The farmer with thousands of chickens, or hundreds of cows, is not the same as somebody with their pet pooch. That’s not to say that I don’t believe homoeopathy to be efficacious in treating diseases in companion animals, which it clearly has been, in my opinion and understanding. The farm is a very different entity.

    I’m afraid it’s on this basis that I don’t feel need to prove the efficacy of my methods, having done so to my satisfaction for 15 years. Ditto the satisfaction of my conventionally trained, and non-homoeopathic, veterinary surgeon. They were simply diagnosing the illnesses. Where we felt confident we could treat the disease, we were selecting the remedies, and they were noting whether the animals got better. Where we didn’t have that confidence, or the disease was complex, we would allow them to do what they felt was required. Leaving aside their interest in making profits from selling drugs, don’t you think if they saw animals getting better “just on their own” that they’d want to try it on other farms? The reason they don’t, apart from the fact that they are conventionally trained, is the same that you (and jdc et al) won’t get involved in my suggestion of your running a trial, and that’s because they know there will be animal welfare implications as the untreated group suffer excruciating illness, and in many cases would die.

    There were occasions when we treated cattle and we had either diagnosed the ailment wrongly, the severity of the ailment wrongly, chosen the wrong remedy, or chosen the wrong potency of the remedy. There you have four options that the conventional farmer with a single tube of antibiotic that he uses to treat every single case of mastitis, regardless of the bacterium that causes it, doesn’t have to consider. I know that on countless occasions when we encountered this problem, and the animal didn’t immediately respond (and I’m talking less than 24 hours) we would re-evaluate, reselect the remedy, and invariably get it right second time. On such occasions as we might not, or when we weren’t convinced that we could handle the illness with homoeopathy (we were only lay operators) we would resort to antibiotic or some other conventional medication. Quite happily, as it happens. But the amount of times when that occurred were very few.

    All I’m asking you to do, is to locate the farm where they are prepared to undertake this trial. I know that I cannot, because there is nobody who would not treat until animal on the basis that it will get better anyway, from the administration of a placebo sugar pill.

    “Man who say it cannot be done should not interrupt one doing it.”

  29. Steve Baker said,

    Hmm – we’re getting in to the using vague sayings now are we… interestingly in this case starting off with one that is extremely hypocritical. I want to look and understand my eyes are not closed and I am not choosing to ignore data – all the evidence to date (collected scientically not by observation and false association alone) shows me that homeopathy doesn’t and can’t work (there’s nothing in it and its been proven water has no memory.) You seem to have little desire to understand how what you think is happening works and rely on blind faith instead.

    What other events might make your animals better… well their immune systems for one would be a pretty good place to start wouldn’t it? By going on about companion animals you are again focusing on the fact that placebo is the only option.

    Your next couple of paragraphs get interesting… so you have a diagnosis of a condition in your animals. You then pick a remedy and if it works great – there’s the potential the animals immune system cured itself no? Sometimes though you dont get the right water with nothing in it so choose a different one and the animal gets better. There’s no chance the infection was more intense and that it took longer for the animal to fight the infection? Then sometimes the disease is complex and homeopathy cant cope? So the like with like treatment only works one at a time, or on mild diseases?

    I am not afraid of animal welfare either – I think a trial would be sensible – as I mentioned before I don’t have any cows. But lets think of other ways of doing trials – after all we can easily grow disease be it bacteria, viruses, or whatever under laboratory conditions. Surely mixing your homeopathic water that treats these conditions would kill them? I am sure there is some excuse coming up that it wont work in a lab as the rhythms of the glass dont match the rhythms of the cow or something similar that ignores all the laws of physics, biology, chemistry….

    As to your final vague saying thats just as ridiculous as the first. I say murder shouldn’t be done but we should let someone doing it get on with it should we? Strangely enough we don’t, and similarly we don’t let drug companies produce stuff that doesnt work or causes harm and take action to deal with things when such events unfortunately do happen.

  30. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Steve.
    ” You seem to have little desire to understand how what you think is happening works and rely on blind faith instead”. Absolute rubbish. I’d love to understand how it happens. It’s not a question of me thinking it’s happening, I’m not relying on blind faith, and it does happen. If you read everything that I’ve written you’ll appreciate that it’s been observed as having happened by professionally trained veterinary surgeons. They’re not in the habit of making things up.
    So, you like to think they’re going to get better because their immune system works so well. Why is it the national dairy herd is plagued by mastitis, and that the animals aren’t able to get better on their own? My animals were no less no more susceptible to mastitis, had no less no more cases of mastitis, and all other diseases that afflict the dairy herd. I’m not saying that for a good number of cases that the immune system might restore full health. However, as I’m sure you realise, one of the key things in restoring health is removal of the maintaining causes of ill health, and they’re prevalent right through every dairy herd.
    Your next dismissal is whether we’ve chosen “the right water”. Wrong, we were using remedies. You choose to think of them as water, I refer to them as remedies because that’s what they are. The paradigms in which you are working appears not to allow you to think that. Of course it takes longer for people and animals to fight different infections. Why would you think I didn’t understand that? I wouldn’t say that homoeopathy can’t cope with all diseases, but the limitations of us were our understanding of the physiology of the animal, the mechanism of disease, selection of remedies and more. We were lay operators. But, we were suitably capable of treating a significant number of ailments, regularly, and with a wide variety of remedies. I’ve explained all of this before.
    I fully appreciate you don’t have any cows. I’ve already said that. You can do all the work you like in petri dishes, but it’s not the real thing. You can make snide remarks about “rhythms of the glass don’t match the rhythms of the cow” etc if you choke choose. You make yourself look silly. At least, you do to me. My point is that if you don’t treat them illness or condition, the vast majority of the time in dairy cows, particularly with something like mastitis, it gets worse, the animal is rendered useless, or the animal dies. Animal welfare problems will result in a court case. That’s why you’re not interested in locating somebody who can undertake the trial for you. I’m not asking you to own the herd, I’m just asking you to stand responsible for the legal case that will likely follow.
    Finally, of course my last comment didn’t refer to murder. You drew that connection. Interesting. I’m glad you don’t think drug companies produce things that don’t work or cause harm, or that if they do then action is taken. Presumably you mean swiftly. I wouldn’t have said that was the case myself. I draw your attention to the following articles of which there are other versions outlining the same problems. I stress that these are not connected to whether or not homoeopathy works to your satisfaction, that are relevant to the success or failure of conventional medicine for which you are a great supporter. I’m not saying I don’t support it, in case you think so. I’m just not happy with an enormous amount that they do, and perfectly happy with some of the alternatives that exist, of which homoeopathy is one.

    http://bit.ly/gbWrAd
    http://bit.ly/fDcAN
    http://bit.ly/gO9f48
    http://fb.me/Y4lEz7jW

    And finally, this one about a sceptical scientist who made a spectacular conversion to homoeopathy. He undertook a lot of research on its impact on himself. You might think he made it all up! Have a nice evening http://fb.me/Y4lEz7jW

  31. Steve Baker said,

    @Oliver – OK so you want to know how homeopathy works but you still blindly trust it does even without understanding how and think everyone is terrified to experiment for fears of annoying some politically correct animal welfare organisation of some sort?

    Things being observed mean nothing. I observe the moon come up every night that it is not cloudy and I get tired. Therefore it is a fact that the moon makes me tired – the evil little man up there – I thought he would be happy feasting on the cheese – but no he just makes me tired the little bastard.

    Your veterinary supporters that you previously said dont go and try homeopathy on other farms yet believe your remedies work? Things dont seem to add up there.

    Does homeopathy work before a disease is present? If it does why dont you pre treat your herd with some very cheap remedies and eliminate mastitis forever – why doesnt the whole country? Surely eliminating the disease and maintaing the required low somatic cell counts in milk would improve our efficiency and allow farmers to make a sensible amount of money (rather than pass on those savings to the supermarkets that continue to screw businesses and not pass on to the end consumer.)

    So if homeopathy can cope with all diseases why dont you employ a more expert homeopath than you lay selves rather than using traditional medicine? Do you not believe in it sufficiently, do you not have a local expert?

    Why are petri dishes different then? And why is it silly to suggest you would come up with an inventive excuse, which you patently failed to do on this occassion other than calling me silly for guessing one on your behalf? Are you saying that there is no biological pathway involved in the treatment? Does the treatment not kill the infection but act in some other way? What is present in the animal that reacts with the water, sorry remedy, that wouldn’t have the same effect in the lab?

    I would happily stand responsible for a trial if the control group, or the unifected group, showed any worse results than the homeopathic group. If someone offered a suitable contract I would have no qualms in signing it.

    Your last comment wasn’t a comment it was a saying, an irrelevant and unhelpful one which I drew an equally irrelevant and extreme alignment to it. Have no idea why you find it interesting that I chose murder – are you suggesting that it’s something I might do or find particularly interesting myself?

    As to the action taken against drug companies for ineffective or treatments which even after testing actually prove to be dangerous being swift – unfortunately I think swift is not necessarily a good aim as it takes a significant amount of time to establish what is actually happening, whether there has been any genuine incompetence etc all based on scientific review. Similarly this is why medicine takes so long to develop in the first place. Presumably a homeopath could decide on a like cures like treatment, dilute it, claim it works and away we go. No control, no evidence, and if it doesnt work oh dear it wasnt the right remedy in this case lets try another one.

    I have no idea why you think links to failed medications or complaints about them is relevant to the discussion about whether homeopathy is efficacious. Everyone would admit not all medicine has been perfect and has caused undesirable side effects. But often those dangers are well understood (just watch a drug ad on american tv to see how long they spend listing potential side effects.) Of course homeopathy has no side effects – you can take as much as you like everyday of your life, although you might get a bit of a sugar rush I guess, so the adverts would be brief on the side effect angle – but they would also get banned as there wouldn’t be any evidence they worked.

    Have a good evening yourself.

  32. nobby68 said,

    oliver i would be more interested in seeing some of the herd health plans from an organic dairy farm. unfortunatey i do not know any dairy farmers to get them myself, but i know you do. is it possible you could acquire some, namely on mastitis and on ring worm in calves. Also any records relating to disease treatment and prevention. i think these would be easy to get hold of if you know the right people. i am wondering if DEFRA have some organic farms and it could be possilble under the FOI act to get them there, but it may take some time. i know you do not have your records anymore.

    if we are going off topic then here is my two pence worth and appologies for doing so :

    “It is a fine line between control in the interests of the people, and controlling the interests of the people. It’s very much an issue over control of free speech, and the ability to express an opinion. There are many within the corridors of power, and those corridors being both within government and corporations, who would like to see freedom of speech restricted to one side only. That may seem far-fetched, given that we apparently live in a democracy. Time to wake up! Many people won’t be aware that new legislation arrived on the blocks as of the 1st March, and this gives new powers to the Advertising Standards Authority, conferred via the EU, to exert control and authority over everything on the Internet. It will be interesting to see how selective or not they are in utilising this control..oliver’s blog.”

    http://www.tonicattack.com/content/freedom-expression

    i dont think its even worth a comment.

  33. jdc325 said,

    Homeopathy and science. It’s like every conversation I’ve ever had with Oliver Dowding…

  34. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Steve

    “still blindly trust it does even without understanding how” Yes, as we all do with many things we use and know of within our daily lives. In my case, I’m not “blindly” trusting, but doing so as a consequence of experience and observation, both of myself and millions of others.

    You say “things being observed mean nothing”. I observe a car coming towards me on my side of the road, and it means everything! Life is built on observation.

    Regarding my “veterinary supporters”, these are veterinary surgeons. Don’t belittle them. There are many thousands worldwide. Many, if not most, have trained conventionally, as is often the case with doctors, and then following observation (yes, that word again) appreciate that homoeopathy has substance and take additional training to gain dual qualification.

    Of course I would have loved to be able to pre-treat the herd and eliminate all disease in toto. However, I’d be amazed if that ever happens anywhere.

    I would have loved to be able to use a fully qualified homoeopathic vet, but there was none within 60 miles. Not much good for a medical emergency. There are very few up and down the country.

    Regarding your question about petri dishes, as you’ll appreciate I’m no scientist, and I’m not going to argue about that one. However, an internet search revealed this http://bit.ly/eiTYuU and this http://scr.bi/hED5fX

    With regard to the trial question, I will be doing nothing to locate herds for you. You might think, as Nobby clearly does, that I would know lots of farmers who I could persuade to partake. I’m not, because I’m not putting my name to any trial where half a herd is getting no treatment for serious diseases, the half that you want to medicate with “water”, as opposed to the half being treated with homoeopathy. If you really want to undertake such a trial, you can approach http://www.hawl.co.uk directly, locate homoeopathic vets directly etc. This is not my business, and I’m not interested in pushing other people to partake in things that they do not wish to. Similarly, if you are so interested to find out information, you can ask them whether they are prepared to provide it. As you’ll appreciate, by and large we’re mostly independently running our own small businesses.

    With JDC having posted his link, I think that neatly brings this chain of to and fro debate to a close. We don’t accept each other’s points and approaches!

    I’d like to thank you all for your illuminating contributions. As JDC said, we’ve been here before.

  35. nobby68 said,

    “Regarding my “veterinary supporters”, these are veterinary surgeons. Don’t belittle them. There are many thousands worldwide. Many, if not most, have trained conventionally, as is often the case with doctors, and then following observation (yes, that word again) appreciate that homoeopathy has substance and take additional training to gain dual qualification.”

    Yes you can by the list here on the BAVHS the flood of vets training in homeopathy. Basically the interest has tailed off since 2003, with only 9 vets for those 8 years (2009 and 2007 there was none) compared to 10 vets in 2001-2002 out of a total of 48. Has the bubble burst?

    http://www.bahvs.com/findavet.htm

    “Of course I would have loved to be able to pre-treat the herd and eliminate all disease in toto. However, I’d be amazed if that ever happens anywhere.”

    Try looking on your farm? Did you not say:

    “We adopted some prophylactic treatment for the widespread illnesses, by placing remedies in the water troughs. This was designed to give whole-herd or group coverage, using what are referred to as nosodes. These were applied maybe weekly, at about 5ml per water trough, which typically held 200-500 gallons of water.”

    http://phoenixhomeopathy.com/blog/index.php/2010/01/04/homeopathy-works-for-animals-on-the-farm/

    I never mentioned anything about the trial all I wanted to know if you could get hold of a herd health plan for mastitis and a plan for ringworm in calves. I also wanted to know if you could get hold of any treatment records. I do not know any organic dairy farmers to get hold of one from. If you do not know any organic dairy farmers then say so. If you cannot get hold of the health plans or treatment records then say so.

    Once again you have dodged providing anything more tangible than you own assertions…well done Oliver, see you next time when you spout the same assertions.

  36. Oliver Dowding said,

    Nobby, in it’s not surprising that there are so few trainees. Follow the money. But observe the attitude of the conventional veterinary surgeons organisations. But I’m only guessing, because I’m not involved in these organisations. However, I do observe the money flow within agriculture and those supplying the (conventional) inputs to it

    Regarding prophylactic: you’re right, we did use them. However, six years out of dairy farming, nor had to leave you to contact the organisations that might be able to help you. They’re not secret, and I’m sure if you come to them with a plan that they can help with they will do the best they can. You’re clearly adept at using Google, and I’m sure it will serve you well in this end. I don’t plan to ask anyone for their health plans, as I don’t need them.

    I’m sorry that you think I have not provided anything more tangible than my own assertions. I would argue that there more than assertions. Naturally, I realise that you disagree. I’ve observed the same from various other posters on this site in response.

    Goodbye, for now.

  37. nobby68 said,

    like you said that is just a guess. we could speculate a lot of things but only the vets themselves know the answer. What we do have is less and less Vets going into the field of homeopathy. Which goes against what you said that they appreciate that homeopathy has substance etc. You even say that the nearest one was 60 miles away, even after 15 years of farming. So i dont think the vets that visited your farm were that convinced enough to go onto further training in homeopathy. Even in your video that you did as part of the homeopathy works for me thingy you guess that the Vets deep down accepted your view of homeopathy.its all speculation.

    how amazed are your then now you have remembered that you used prophylactics on your farm?

    google comes up with nothing except a sample copy about flies. Of course i can definatley see how you do not need them. maybe the BAHVS could send me one, after watching your video i seem to contacting these vet organisations.

    of course they are just assertions. you never provide anything beyond ancedotal evidence. you just want people to accept them without even the slightest piece of evidence to back them up. so people should question what you say. when are you ever going to provide something more concrete from your 15 years experience? conviently for you the records you would have to keep are no longer available. you cannot argue that they are more than assertions without providing some form of tangible evidence.

  38. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Nobby “its all speculation” is your opinion of what people I know and spoke with regularly for over 15 years. Please yourself if you think you know better what they said and thought than I and the herdsmen and others who worked here.

    Re more homoeopathic vets……….I said “follow the money”………there is your answer, which you ignore. Plus follow how the veterinary associations steer their profession etc.

    And please yourself if you wish to continue to believe that all those tens of thousands of vets globally practicing homoeopathy are in some way deluded.

    I know not your motives in pursuing this subject (??) but I am sure all professional bodies will deal with your enquiries professionally.

  39. nobby68 said,

    your at it again with your assertions and speculations. you have nothing to back it up with have you? none of what i am saying is based up my own opinion it is based upon what you are saying. you said that vets were coming to the farm and

    “then following observation (yes, that word again) appreciate that homoeopathy has substance and take additional training to gain dual qualification.”

    after 15 years, did any vet that visited your farm ever trained further in vet homeopathy …? according to what you report happening on your farm there should be one at least. but then again you did say the nearest one was 60 miles away. so which is it?

    did you not say on your video that you guess that deep down the vets accepted your view of homeopathy..? your not reporting what the vets said, your reporting what you guess the vets thought of homeopathy….speculating once again.

    follow the money? i didnt ignore it did i, i said only the vets know the answer…more speculation on your part….i could speculate that given the research base it would be a complete waste of time for them.

    deluded is your choice of word not mine.

    i was merely asking or attempting to ask the British Association of Homeopathic vetenriary surgeons a simple question reproduced here:

    I have just been watching a video made by an organic farmer with 15 years experience. In the video they described how ringwrom is treated:

    “where as all we would be doing was putting this remedy in a water trough and the job was done”

    is that really how ringworm is treated on organic farms?

    unfortunatley the email contact for the site is not active and was returned and wendy the treasurer has never worked in the organic sector. i have sent the opposite to the BVA about conventional treatment you described in that video.

  40. Oliver Dowding said,

    deluded was my choice of words, because that’s what you are if you think that all of those homoeopaths, and the millions of animals treated, are getting better by chance.

    I’m not saying the vets accepted MY view of homoeopathy, but they did have to accept that the animals they diagnosed with an illness for which on every other farm they would have recommended a conventional pharmaceutical treatment, recovered from the illness after our treatment of the animals with homoeopathy. You might therefore fairly ask why did they bother to treat the other animals on the other farmers farms with pharmaceutical drugs, if your belief is that what you consider to be “sugar water” was capable of making them better on my farm, and the many others using homoeopathy.

    I’m sorry I used the word “guess” in reference to their view on homoeopathy. How I should have phrased it is that they saw the illnesses the cows were suffering, they knew the treatments that we were giving the cows, they noted the recovery of the cows, and that we were able to utilise the milk from those cows much sooner than those who are using antibiotics. They never saw need to report me for animal cruelty. Nor did anybody else.

    As for why they didn’t choose to go on and train in homoeopathic medicine, is a question that only they can answer. That doesn’t mean that others haven’t done so. As you will agree, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Which is approximately how we both think of each other’s views on homoeopathy.

  41. nobby68 said,

    i think your use of the phrase “getting better by chance” needs explaining more, do you mean self cure rates?

    That is the whole point of organic farming, to reduce the use of conventional pharmaceutical treatments. i use the word “reduce” as vets know they can always use them on organic farms. The vet would also have knowledge of the natural course of an illness and know the prognosis, so they can step in with conventional treatments when required. The easy answer as to why they use conventional treatments on conventional farms and not homeopathy, is that they utalise the best treatment option available. i am sure that they are some animals on organic farms that have only at times been treated with antibiotics for an illness, as it is a welfare issue. The vet is the person best placed to weigh up the best treatment option versus the welfare of the animal. So i would not expect welfare issues to be any different on organic farms from conventional one, until they adopt an evidence based approach and withdraw ineffective treatments like homeopathy until they can prove efficacy.

    no doubt you will reply with some disease examples and i am somehow supposed to be impressed. i have read several times where you claim a 90% success rate with homeopathy. very impressive, though usually the more common figure used by people without any evidence to back it up with is around 85%. as for my belief, its not a belief at all, it is based on a testable scientific principle that it is sugar water, once it has gone passed avogrados number there is nothing in it.The belief is that there is something still in it, even when no molecules remain of the origninal “remedy”.

    as for it having an effect in cattle? looking at the research it is not looking good for homeopathy and cattle is it? i know you like to say that cattle dont lie or decieve when they “respond” to treatment. but how do you explain when they fail to respond to treatment under control conditions, are they lying and deceiving now? i know you believe that cows and calves are stupid. i also expect you have never read much scientific research on them. so why do they fail, they are kept on their farms and not in a lab. only the diagnostic tests of disease are carried out in the lab. so how come it never gets anywhere near your 90% success rate and the rate of all the other farms you keep mentioning?

    yes but not many vets have gone to futher training in homeopathy have they, unless i am missing something. The problem is the water you want them to drink is very poor quality and hard to swallow.

  42. Homeopathy - how you know when someone has failed highschool science Insufferable Intolerance said,

    […] tidbit of more complete weirdness that is homeopathic magical thinking. These homeopaths are the same people who think writing the name of a remedy on a piece of paper can cure you – homeopathic paper remedies – and have produced ‘remedies’ made from Berlin […]

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