I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

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Quackers McDuck
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I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Quackers McDuck » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:10 am UTC

Homeopathic medicine is the ridiculous belief that illnesses can be treated with extremely dilute (I'm talking 1 in 10^30 molecules) substances. In every controlled, properly done study, it was proven to be no more effective than water...which is why I don't understand why my friend wants to study it in college.

He's a fairly intelligent guy. He takes AP classes and does alright in them, but he insists that it works. He knows about double blind studies, adequate proof, and all that jazz. I've tried to convince him that it's quackery, but he just won't listen. It's such a waste of his time, money, and effort.

I'm not really that close to him so I can't influence him that much, but it's really frustrating. And I try not to be too confrontational because that could just make him more set in his ways.

Any advice?
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Malice » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:13 am UTC

What reason does he have to think it works?

Honestly, though, if he can get paid doing it, who cares? It's only a waste of his time, money, and effort if he doesn't enjoy it or can't turn it into a career. He can always go to India, I suppose.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby JoshuaZ » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:23 am UTC

Quackers McDuck wrote:Homeopathic medicine is the ridiculous belief that illnesses can be treated with extremely dilute (I'm talking 1 in 10^30 molecules) substances. In every controlled, properly done study, it was proven to be no more effective than water...which is why I don't understand why my friend wants to study it in college.

He's a fairly intelligent guy. He takes AP classes and does alright in them, but he insists that it works. He knows about double blind studies, adequate proof, and all that jazz. I've tried to convince him that it's quackery, but he just won't listen. It's such a waste of his time, money, and effort.

I'm not really that close to him so I can't influence him that much, but it's really frustrating. And I try not to be too confrontational because that could just make him more set in his ways.

Any advice?


Yeah, first be confrontational: It is more likely to actually work and is generally a lot more fun than pussyfooting. Now, when dealing with homeopathic claims I generally like to make the following points:

1) People have attempted suicide by taking homeopathic levels of arsenic or cyanide. Apparently they don't succeed. Even better, consider trying this in front of him. It is a fun demonstration and sometimes shocks people out of it.

2) Water is freaking everywhere and has been around for a very long time. So if homeopathy worked, I should be able to get a glass of tap water from the sink and be cured of every possible disease imaginable.

3) Homeopaths like to claim that homeopathic remedies never have any side effects. Now, minimal critical thinking here; how would something never have any result that harmed people? Moreover, how for a myriad of different chemicals would the exact result of dilution always preserve exactly the effects that help people? This sort of belief demonstrates a classical issue with pseudoscience; adherence to something that amounts to an almost anti-Copernican principle. They believe that the laws of nature are somehow set up so that humans (or intelligent life, or life) is somehow treated differently. That's not the case. The same laws of physics and chemistry govern everything. There is no vital force or anything of the sort. Thus, homeopathy does not fit into the general world-view that science and rational thought have discovered. Even if I had never heard of homeopathy and had no idea if studies supported it, this would give me at least a strong starting presumption against homeopathy. He should explain why examination of homeopathy shouldn't start with this major weight against it.

4) Compare his belief to other pseudosciences he doesn't believe in. Does he for example believe in morphic fields(maybe be careful with this one since many homeopaths due except this one). What about pyramid power? Crystal healing? Reiki? Dowsing? If not, press him on why any of these are different from homeopathy.

Also, remember that for many classes of beliefs, being surrounded by peers with those beliefs does more to reinforce the beliefs than anything else. Try to get the friend to go to free-thinking/skeptics talks and such, but start out with talks that have nothing to do with homeopathy. After a while, when they start talking about homeopathy he will be more willing to see it in the same category (this is a bit playing dirty and is also related to point 4 above).

Finally, remember that people who believe in homeopathy are idiots and if you can't get him to change his mind he should be shunned. Just kidding; try to remember that a lot of people who are otherwise intelligent have pretty silly beliefs. Don't stop talking to him or condescend to him simply because of this one bad idea in his head.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Nath » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:41 am UTC

Quackers McDuck wrote:Homeopathic medicine is the ridiculous belief that illnesses can be treated with extremely dilute (I'm talking 1 in 10^30 molecules) substances. In every controlled, properly done study, it was proven to be no more effective than water...which is why I don't understand why my friend wants to study it in college.

He's a fairly intelligent guy. He takes AP classes and does alright in them, but he insists that it works. He knows about double blind studies, adequate proof, and all that jazz. I've tried to convince him that it's quackery, but he just won't listen. It's such a waste of his time, money, and effort.

I'm not really that close to him so I can't influence him that much, but it's really frustrating. And I try not to be too confrontational because that could just make him more set in his ways.

Any advice?

I've had my share of homeopathy debates, and I'll warn you now that it won't go anywhere. I'm not aware of any high quality, large scale studies of homeopathy, so there's nothing you'll be able to point to and say, "see? It doesn't work.". At best, you'll find studies claiming that some specific treatment does not work, and meta-studies claiming that homeopathy may or may not be more effective than placebo.

Also, while the standard homeopathy mechanism (consuming pure water) is pretty daft, the field of homeopathy seems to have absorbed various trial-and-error based medicine systems. While these alternative systems may not have any logic to them, they have had time to adapt to the point that they are better than placebo. This further muddles the literature on homeopathy and other crackpot^W alternative systems of medicine.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby phlip » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:46 am UTC

JoshuaZ wrote:1) People have attempted suicide by taking homeopathic levels of arsenic or cyanide.

Though I agree with your post as a whole, I feel I should nitpick here (if only because it's a common pseudoscience brain-bending trick to pick on a tiny error like this and thus ignore the argument)...

Homeopathy is already about taking extremely diluted solutions, specifically of toxins. The idea is that, since, for example, arsenic trioxide can food-poisoning-like symptoms, a heavily diluted solution of arsenic trioxide should be enough to trigger your immune system against it, without being enough to actually cause damage (as in a vaccine)... and then cure any disease that has food-poisoning-like symptoms. This is also why they think it can't have any negative side effects... you only become immune to bad things, after all, never good things...

The reason it doesn't work is that vaccines don't work that way. A vaccine has a high enough concentration of the disease to actually give you that disease... it's just been altered so as not to actually be infectious (full of dead bacteria or suchlike). If the vaccine was heavily diluted, it wouldn't work either. Unfortunately there's no such thing as a deactivated arsenic molecule, or anything else inorganic, so you can't make a vaccine for it.
The other reason it's bogus is that a cure for one disease that has food-poisoning-like symptoms won't necessarily cure another disease that has food-poisoning-like symptoms... and if it does, it's probably only curing the symptoms and not the disease (which could be dangerous in and of itself).

So, in short: a better example than drinking a dilute solution of cyanide or arsenic would be drinking an extremely dilute solution of, say, Vitamin C, and expecting contract scurvy... by the same theory that a dilute amount of Vitamin C will still increase your tolerance of the vitamin.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby CivilDefense700 » Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:29 am UTC

Homeopathy is hilarious!
Oh! lets give everything latin sounding names and then it will seem like real science!

Just to share some of the shear stupidity of the medicines:

Uranium Metalicum
http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/quackcures/uraniumhomeopathic.htm
Brousing the web people suggest this for TREATING Uranium posoning and radiation exposure!
http://www.orau.org/ptp/collection/quackcures/bromi.htm

My mom also got into that for a time (what's bad is she was a nurse), and the instructions on the little vials said that you can't touch the tablets or they will be ruined! You have to use the cap to hold it and then drop it in your mouth or it won't work.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby JoshuaZ » Thu Feb 07, 2008 5:53 am UTC

phlip wrote:
JoshuaZ wrote:1) People have attempted suicide by taking homeopathic levels of arsenic or cyanide.

Though I agree with your post as a whole, I feel I should nitpick here (if only because it's a common pseudoscience brain-bending trick to pick on a tiny error like this and thus ignore the argument)...

Homeopathy is already about taking extremely diluted solutions, specifically of toxins. The idea is that, since, for example, arsenic trioxide can food-poisoning-like symptoms, a heavily diluted solution of arsenic trioxide should be enough to trigger your immune system against it, without being enough to actually cause damage (as in a vaccine)... and then cure any disease that has food-poisoning-like symptoms. This is also why they think it can't have any negative side effects... you only become immune to bad things, after all, never good things...

The reason it doesn't work is that vaccines don't work that way. A vaccine has a high enough concentration of the disease to actually give you that disease... it's just been altered so as not to actually be infectious (full of dead bacteria or suchlike). If the vaccine was heavily diluted, it wouldn't work either. Unfortunately there's no such thing as a deactivated arsenic molecule, or anything else inorganic, so you can't make a vaccine for it.
The other reason it's bogus is that a cure for one disease that has food-poisoning-like symptoms won't necessarily cure another disease that has food-poisoning-like symptoms... and if it does, it's probably only curing the symptoms and not the disease (which could be dangerous in and of itself).

So, in short: a better example than drinking a dilute solution of cyanide or arsenic would be drinking an extremely dilute solution of, say, Vitamin C, and expecting contract scurvy... by the same theory that a dilute amount of Vitamin C will still increase your tolerance of the vitamin.


Er yes and no. Although classical homeopathy did make those claims many modern homeopaths simply claim that diluting a substance will have the same result. Thus for example you can buy homeopathic vitamin supplements. See http://www.elixirs.com/prodSearch.cfm?P ... UnitPrice= as one of many examples. But yes the point is taken, if he believes in classical homeopathy this doesn't work (although it is interesting, most proponents of homeopathy seem to accept both versions even though they are almost complete opposites of each other).

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby neon » Thu Feb 07, 2008 9:19 am UTC

Homeopathy is already about taking extremely diluted solutions, specifically of toxins.

Right, as I understand it they believe that in minute quantities a toxin has an opposite effect than usual. So... if a Homeopathy practitioner wanted to commit suicide does that mean they would have to drink pure water?
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Robin S » Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:17 am UTC

No, just extremely diluted antitoxin.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Pixel » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:42 pm UTC

Annoyingly I'm at work and therefore can't view it to check, but I think this video is the one I am thinking of, where James Randi explains homeopathy. The shaking process & dilution rates are rather eye opening.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Masuri » Thu Feb 07, 2008 3:14 pm UTC

Malice wrote:What reason does he have to think it works?

Honestly, though, if he can get paid doing it, who cares? It's only a waste of his time, money, and effort if he doesn't enjoy it or can't turn it into a career. He can always go to India, I suppose.

I agree with this.

Also, if he really truly believes this bullshit, who are you to gainsay it? Of course it's crap, but at least this guy will be an honest quack as opposed to a charlatan.

Would you rather he get into something he doesn't believe in, doesn't enjoy, and won't like just to make you happy?

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:34 pm UTC

neon wrote:Homeopathy is already about taking extremely diluted solutions, specifically of toxins.

Right, as I understand it they believe that in minute quantities a toxin has an opposite effect than usual. So... if a Homeopathy practitioner wanted to commit suicide does that mean they would have to drink pure water?

All they are drinking is pure water. A 30C dilution of something means 1 cc of the agent has been effectively diluted in 1.18 million cubic lightyears of water. The probability that there is even one molecule of the original agent in the resulting water is therefore going to be on the order of 10-30 or lower.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Pixel » Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:41 pm UTC

Masuri wrote:Also, if he really truly believes this bullshit, who are you to gainsay it? Of course it's crap, but at least this guy will be an honest quack as opposed to a charlatan.


But his friend would then be giving money to support a quack medicine, and set himself up in shop selling a quack cure to people who should be using their time & money finding a cure that actually, you know, cured them.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Indon » Thu Feb 07, 2008 8:44 pm UTC

Considering most individuals are dehydrated to some degree, drinking pure water is indeed likely to be healthy for them.

In fact, homeopathic gatorade is probably healthier than the actual fluid (ditto with many 'sports drinks').

Edit: But surely there are homeopathy double-blind studies that can be cited here.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Ari » Thu Feb 07, 2008 10:41 pm UTC

Homeopathy isn't a cult, (and calling it that is not gonna help convince your friend you're being objective) but yeah, it hasn't yet held up to any rigorous studies I've heard of. It's entirely possible that much or all of its effectiveness is due to the placebo effect.

That said, I'm not exactly sure all of its premises have been experimentally refuted. I'd have to look into it.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby rachel » Fri Feb 08, 2008 1:27 am UTC

Quackers McDuck wrote:Homeopathic medicine is the ridiculous belief that illnesses can be treated with extremely dilute (I'm talking 1 in 10^30 molecules) substances. In every controlled, properly done study, it was proven to be no more effective than water...which is why I don't understand why my friend wants to study it in college.

He's a fairly intelligent guy. He takes AP classes and does alright in them, but he insists that it works. He knows about double blind studies, adequate proof, and all that jazz. I've tried to convince him that it's quackery, but he just won't listen. It's such a waste of his time, money, and effort.

I'm not really that close to him so I can't influence him that much, but it's really frustrating. And I try not to be too confrontational because that could just make him more set in his ways.

Any advice?


You could always let him do what he wants with his life. But that's just a crazy suggestion, I know.

Regardless of whether or not it works or how intelligent he is, it's not your decision to make. It's his. So let him make his own decision. Also, putting down something that a lot of people believe in and some are fairly passionate about isn't really that cool. It's not like people are out on the streets, forcing their homeopathic remedies on you. Live and let live, my friend.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Nath » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:01 am UTC

rachel wrote:You could always let him do what he wants with his life. But that's just a crazy suggestion, I know.

Regardless of whether or not it works or how intelligent he is, it's not your decision to make. It's his. So let him make his own decision. Also, putting down something that a lot of people believe in and some are fairly passionate about isn't really that cool. It's not like people are out on the streets, forcing their homeopathic remedies on you. Live and let live, my friend.

...Except that homeopathy isn't some harmless eccentricity. It kills people. I know of people who refused to see real doctors, went to their local crackpot, and ended up dying a preventable death.

A lot of people are fairly passionate about their beliefs that infidels should be destroyed. A lot of people are fairly passionate about their beliefs that women are property. Cool or not, I'm not going to ignore harmful delusions just because a lot of people are fairly passionate about them.

(For the record, I'm not saying that people should be forced not to administer or seek homeopathic treatments. I'm saying that quackery should be exposed; people should be informed.)

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby rachel » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:08 am UTC

I never said they shouldn't be informed, but if that is how they choose to live their life, then so be it.

I just don't see why people can't just let other people do what they want, in some situations. This being one of them. If someone chooses to seek a homeopathic remedy to treat their cancer instead of chemotherapy, that is their decision. The most you can do is let them know of the alternatives and that homeopathic remedies don't work a lot of the time. Beyond that, it isn't up to you what they do.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Nath » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:20 am UTC

rachel wrote:I never said they shouldn't be informed, but if that is how they choose to live their life, then so be it.

I just don't see why people can't just let other people do what they want, in some situations. This being one of them. If someone chooses to seek a homeopathic remedy to treat their cancer instead of chemotherapy, that is their decision. The most you can do is let them know of the alternatives and that homeopathic remedies don't work a lot of the time. Beyond that, it isn't up to you what they do.

Sure, you can't force them -- and if you could, it still wouldn't be right to do so (except in extreme circumstances, such as when person A is about to disembowel person B). You can try to persuade people to do sensible things. The original post in this thread was not about forcing anyone to do something against their will. It was about persuading someone not to choose a career that could potentially harm a lot of people.

If someone you knew was interested in a career marketing arsenic-coated pacifiers, wouldn't you try to talk him out of it? If an acquaintance of yours wanted to buy one of these pacifiers for his kid, wouldn't you try to persuade him otherwise? Sure, you could argue that it isn't your responsibility to do so, but would you really object if I tried to talk him out of it?

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Masuri » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:27 am UTC

Pixel wrote:
Masuri wrote:Also, if he really truly believes this bullshit, who are you to gainsay it? Of course it's crap, but at least this guy will be an honest quack as opposed to a charlatan.


But his friend would then be giving money to support a quack medicine, and set himself up in shop selling a quack cure to people who should be using their time & money finding a cure that actually, you know, cured them.

Well, people couldn't sell snake oil if nobody wanted to buy it, ya know? Plus, they wouldn't go to the doctor anyway. If someone is bound and determined to see a quack, then see a quack they shall.

If the 'doctor' (*snerk*) is someone who believes in the remedy and he can begin to see it isn't working, he is more likely to refer a patient to other avenues than someone who's just in it to get rich. So, at least give them a true believer to give their money to, and perhaps they'll get the help they need one way or the other.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby rachel » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:35 am UTC

I think there's a very obvious difference between poisoning babies and allowing people to choose a treatment or career path that seems right for them. If the doctor and the patient are both okay with the situation and you've informed whomever it is that it probably won't work and that you're concerned for their well-being but they won't listen, well, that is all you can do really.

Quackers McDuck wrote:I've tried to convince him that it's quackery, but he just won't listen. It's such a waste of his time, money, and effort.

Looks to me like he's already informed him. So all that's left to do is let this kid do what he wants. If he wants to study homeopathic medicine, let him. Jeez. Maybe once he's in school he'll realize how ridiculous it is, or maybe he'll have a revelation before he even starts attending school. The point is, it's not really up to you what your friends do, is it? (The answer is no.) The most you can do is voice your concerns, and if they choose not to listen then they choose not to listen. You did what you could letting them know how you feel and anything more can come across as pushy or controlling.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Ari » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:57 am UTC

Nath wrote:...Except that homeopathy isn't some harmless eccentricity. It kills people. I know of people who refused to see real doctors, went to their local crackpot, and ended up dying a preventable death.

A lot of people are fairly passionate about their beliefs that infidels should be destroyed. A lot of people are fairly passionate about their beliefs that women are property. Cool or not, I'm not going to ignore harmful delusions just because a lot of people are fairly passionate about them.

(For the record, I'm not saying that people should be forced not to administer or seek homeopathic treatments. I'm saying that quackery should be exposed; people should be informed.)


I agree with you that ineffective treatments should be exposed- or rather, any treatment should have to prove its effectiveness scientifically just like conventional medicine has to be.

That said... some of us see "quacks" because we knowingly want the placebo effect, because we're scared pantsless of doctors for completely irrational reasons that have to do with intimidating environments and white coats ;)

I think also the right to seek alternative treatments (even if they haven't been subjected to rigorous study) is right up there with the right to refuse treatment. You can't demonise these treatments just for existing, their practitioners need to actively be attempting to have people refuse mainstream treatment before I'd say they're doing anything wrong, in even a moral sense, let alone a legal one.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Nath » Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:56 am UTC

rachel wrote:I think there's a very obvious difference between poisoning babies and allowing people to choose a treatment or career path that seems right for them. If the doctor and the patient are both okay with the situation and you've informed whomever it is that it probably won't work and that you're concerned for their well-being but they won't listen, well, that is all you can do really.

Yes, there is a difference between a person choosing a career selling hazardous toys and a person choosing a career selling dangerously ineffective medical treatment. I claim that the difference is mainly one of degree.

If the doctor and the patient truly understand that homeopathy doesn't work, and choose it anyway, that's fine. I don't understand that mindset, and I might be upset if the patient was someone I cared about, but there's nothing more to be done. In reality, however, I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of people seeking homeopathic treatment do not realize that it's ineffective. Simply telling them that it's ineffective won't change their minds. You have to persuade them. Opinions have inertia.

Yes, this can backfire, and there are times when you've just got to let it go. But there are also times when it isn't enough to tell someone something once, and sit back to watch them die (or, in Quacker's friend's case, kill).

rachel wrote:Looks to me like he's already informed him. So all that's left to do is let this kid do what he wants. If he wants to study homeopathic medicine, let him. Jeez. Maybe once he's in school he'll realize how ridiculous it is, or maybe he'll have a revelation before he even starts attending school. The point is, it's not really up to you what your friends do, is it? (The answer is no.) The most you can do is voice your concerns, and if they choose not to listen then they choose not to listen. You did what you could letting them know how you feel and anything more can come across as pushy or controlling.

Yes, in this case, I'd probably be inclined to let it go. If it's someone I don't know well, and don't have much influence over, this is often the best course of action. What I've been arguing is that sometimes it isn't the best course of action. When discussing something important, I'm OK with coming across as pushy (family members will vouch for this :)). The objective is to change minds, not win hearts.

Ari wrote:I think also the right to seek alternative treatments (even if they haven't been subjected to rigorous study) is right up there with the right to refuse treatment.

Absolutely. I am not interested in taking away anyone's rights. I am interested in persuading people to make better decisions.

Ari wrote:You can't demonise these treatments just for existing, their practitioners need to actively be attempting to have people refuse mainstream treatment before I'd say they're doing anything wrong, in even a moral sense, let alone a legal one.

Here, I disagree. (On moral grounds, not legal ones.) If you know that your treatment doesn't work, and you know that people are choosing your treatment instead of effective treatment, then I don't think it is justified to continue to offer treatment.

On the other hand, if you genuinely think that your treatment works, I don't think there's anything immoral going on. Harmful, yes, but not immoral.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby chaosspawn » Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:40 am UTC

Youtube: James Randi on Homeopathy
If nothing else in that lecture I think the best demonstration is when he described homeopathic sleeping pills. In order to prove they do absolutely nothing, he downed enough homeopathic 'sleeping pills', that if they had been the regular kind, he certainly would be dead. Maybe you should try doing similar in front of your friend.

Edit:
Also with 10^30 dilution there is literally nothing there. Given that Avagadro's number is on the order of 10^23, that means that given a few grams of homeopathic substance you only have a 1/10^7 chance of there actually being the specific molecule there (that is ONE molecule in the whole pill). So over 99.999% of the time the 'medicine' is just the inert substance you used to dilute it. So even if dilute amounts of the substance would provide a cure, that medicine can't because it doesn't have the substance in it. Seriously they shouldn't be able to list it as an ingredient because it's not even there.

Re: live and let live
I think the major concern here is whether or not this belief is actually harmful. I am of the opinion that it is. This is because I am measuring the harm not from the standpoint of what would happen if you did nothing, but versus what would happen if you did the responsible thing. For instance, I think that giving a child something proven ineffective over a viable cure is wrong. But, I think that with risky treatments or with serious effects it can be in the child's best interest to forgo treatment.

Personally I am against people believing in homeopathy because I see it to be discredited. Yet the whole personal choice about medical treatments is a difficult subject. You need to balance an individual's right to believe versus the harm it will do to society. I think that when the belief interferes with someone other than the believer getting safe, effective medical treatment that that belief is then a harmful one.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Nath » Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:22 am UTC

chaosspawn wrote:Youtube: James Randi on Homeopathy
If nothing else in that lecture I think the best demonstration is when he described homeopathic sleeping pills. In order to prove they do absolutely nothing, he downed enough homeopathic 'sleeping pills', that if they had been the regular kind, he certainly would be dead. Maybe you should try doing similar in front of your friend.

Skeptical as I am about homeopathy, I should point out that demonstrations like this don't prove that homeopathy as a whole is ineffective. They only debunk that specific homeopathic treatment. I wouldn't be able to debunk mainstream medicine by getting an ineffective treatment from some incompetent MD/MBBS.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Zak McKracken » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:51 am UTC

chaosspawn wrote:If nothing else in that lecture I think the best demonstration is when he described homeopathic sleeping pills. In order to prove they do absolutely nothing, he downed enough homeopathic 'sleeping pills', that if they had been the regular kind, he certainly would be dead. Maybe you should try doing similar in front of your friend.

That's not gonna work, because homeopathy is all about doses. If you take the 100fold dose it's not supposed to have 100 times the effect, so no defender of homeopathy will be impressed by the display and instead try to explain why you don't see the "truth": It's all about taking really small amounts of something. If you take big amounts, it's like "classical medicine" thinking, and that is not a valid concept in homeopathy.


chaosspawn wrote:Re: live and let live
I think the major concern here is whether or not this belief is actually harmful. I am of the opinion that it is. This is because I am measuring the harm not from the standpoint of what would happen if you did nothing, but versus what would happen if you did the responsible thing.


I think it is really mostly harmless. In Germany, most health insurances will even pay for homeopathic medicine, but only if there's no classical alternative, or if all else fails.
And actually, I know people with neurodermitis (is that word correct English?) and other chronical problems whom many doctors have told to "just live with it", homeopathy has helped (they say). So probably this is just placebo effect, or drinking a glass of clean whater every evening was helpful or there is something in that ointment the homeopathist doesn't know or care about, but if it makes a person feel better, why not let them do it?

The important bit here is this: Does someone specifically deny to make use of classical medicine at all and resort to homeopathy alone, or do they use it if all else fails? In the latter case I see really no problem with that. Except that it can be hard to argue some of the claims some people make, but then everyone has some weird ideas about something.

Also, knowing some doctors and how they are eductated, I sometimes think that they don't really know what they're doing either. Many doctors do nothing that a script with a lot of "if-then", "else" and "except" and a good image recognition system couldn't do. But then of course, not every physician can be a 1st class scientist, especially if you think how many there are of them. But still, realizing this will give some people a reason to abandon classical medicine and use something else. And, occasionally, some empirically derived method might do someone good, especially if he believes in it or if the problem the person had had really a psychological connection. The placebo-effect is well known, and if homeopathy is just a way of maximizing it, then so be it.

I wouldn't talk about someone joining a cult if he's not changing his way of live other than by using placebos. Overreacting like that might actually alienate people, and that would be completely counterproductive.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Quackers McDuck » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:00 pm UTC

Zak McKracken wrote:I wouldn't talk about someone joining a cult if he's not changing his way of live other than by using placebos. Overreacting like that might actually alienate people, and that would be completely counterproductive.


When I compared it to joining a cult I mean the way he's gonna waste so much time and money studying something that doesn't work is similar to the way cult victims do the same thing, albeit this is to a somewhat lesser extent.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Masuri » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:17 pm UTC

He also stands to make a ton of money off people who believe it works.

It's a viable career path. It's just not a particularly reputable one.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby jabberwock33 » Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:44 am UTC

Since homeopathy is not actually damaging, and any placebo will work if the patient believes in it, your friend has inadvertently discovered a way to somewhat treat most non-major diseases in himself only. The fact that it is purely a placebo is actually somewhat irrelevant, and convincing him out of it would only ruin his helpful bubble of disease immunity. Plus, he is not wasting time/money studying it if he sells the remedies to those who believe in it, thus having mainly the same effect on him as if he became an ordinary physician. They may not be true, but his beliefs benefit him.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Vaniver » Sat Feb 09, 2008 4:47 am UTC

Cut him out of your life and never look back.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Indon » Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:20 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Cut him out of your life and never look back.


Or, at the other extreme, you could cut him out of your life homeopathically.

Which makes me wonder, how does homeopathic surgery work?
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby genewitch » Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:36 am UTC

jabberwock33 wrote:Since homeopathy is not actually damaging, and any placebo will work if the patient believes in it, your friend has inadvertently discovered a way to somewhat treat most non-major diseases in himself only. The fact that it is purely a placebo is actually somewhat irrelevant, and convincing him out of it would only ruin his helpful bubble of disease immunity. Plus, he is not wasting time/money studying it if he sells the remedies to those who believe in it, thus having mainly the same effect on him as if he became an ordinary physician. They may not be true, but his beliefs benefit him.


BULLSHIT!

They're giving africans malaria homeopathic remedies and people are fucking dying. I'd call that pretty freaking damaging.
http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2007/10/homeopaths-cens.html wrote:A bit of web research shows where Julia was working (picture above). The Abha Light Foundation is a registered NGO in Kenya. It takes mobile homeopathy clinics through the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages. Its stated aim is to,

introduce Homeopathy and natural medicines as a method of managing HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Kenya.

I must admit, I had to pause for breath after reading that. The clinic sells its own homeopathic remedies for 'treating' various lethal diseases. Its MalariaX potion,

is a homeopathic preparation for prevention of malaria and treatment of malaria. Suitable for children. For prevention. Only 1 pill each week before entering, during and after leaving malaria risk areas. For treatment. Take 1 pill every 1-3 hours during a malaria attack.

This is nothing short of being totally outrageous. It is a murderous delusion. David Colquhoun has been writing about this wicked scam recently and it is well worth following his blog on the issue.

Let's remind ourselves what one of the most senior and respected homeopaths in the UK, Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital, has to say on this matter.

there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.

Skeptico.blogs.com, PZ Myers @ scienceblogs, and WhiteCoatUnderground for MORE examples of how this CAM bullshit can and is hurting people as we freaking speak.

For instance, people will go to a homeopathic practitioner, and then avoid REAL medical care.

Also, the dilution is irrelevant. We all know it's just water. abut the homeopaths state that water has this metaphysical property of "memory" i swear to god. WATER MEMORY. the water remembers the contaminants and therefore your body will react to them as if they actually were there. (they had to develop this belief because everyone knows that 100C dilution means that that bottle of water or that pill hasn't even seen a spec of whatever the hell they say is in it)

QE-freaking-D. People who believe/use/sell/buy/promote this shit need to go right straight to hell.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Vaniver » Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:44 am UTC

Indon wrote:Which makes me wonder, how does homeopathic surgery work?
Hm, it appears that you broke your arm. Clearly, breaking it again will aid the healing process- like cures like!
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:29 am UTC

They're giving africans malaria homeopathic remedies and people are fucking dying. I'd call that pretty freaking damaging.
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People who ask "what's the harm in $magicalbaselessbelief?" usually don't realize that it's actually a perfectly answerable question in many cases, rather than rhetorical like they think. The treatment doesn't actually cause harm itself, apart from monetarily. Fine. But when it comes to dangerous and treatable using the "treatment" of homeopathy instead of something that might actually have any effect at all on your body absolutely is harmful
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Clumpy » Sat Feb 09, 2008 10:07 am UTC

My mum used to take me to some homeopathic clinic to treat my allergies. I took the drops and stuff to humor her while seeing absolutely no effect. They have some kind of machine which detects your blah blah and reads the levels of your blah blah blah and then - surprise! - the lady charges you $200 for pills and drops because - surprise again! - the machine says that only the really expensive kind will work.

These people look down on the scientific method and traditional medical establishment for the same reasons that flat-earthers would boycott the space program.

Homeopathy, applied kinesiology (muscle testing), "organic" foods, affirmations, etc. - who's buying it? Maybe I'm being a little antagonistic but I was sick of being dragged through that wave of pseudoscience bullhockey.

If done correctly, affirmations can be healthy for the same reason that optimists have lower blood pressure. Muscle testing only worked for me on one incident, but I'm sure it was a coincidence - I had a weak strand of dengue fever after returning from Asia that left me feeling weak for days. My mom took me to the usual place and I went on my own time and had it confirmed by a doctor. Strange.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby gmalivuk » Sat Feb 09, 2008 4:03 pm UTC

Clumpy wrote:I had a weak strand of dengue fever after returning from Asia that left me feeling weak for days. My mom took me to the usual place and I went on my own time and had it confirmed by a doctor. Strange.

So you're saying that you came back weak and achy from Asia and some quack happened to correctly guess dengue? Yeah, I'd have guessed the same thing, actually, and I wouldn't have even charged you for it!
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Indon » Sat Feb 09, 2008 10:39 pm UTC

Clumpy wrote:"organic" foods,


Wait. I had the impression that organic foods were just foods grown without using certain pesticides, or cows not fed with ground beef, and stuff like that?

Clumpy wrote:affirmations,


Now I mind won't be at peace until I look this up.

Edit: While I don't see what it seems to have to do with health, it looks like a good method for focusing on one's goals and such.
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby Ari » Sun Feb 10, 2008 9:10 am UTC

Nath wrote:Here, I disagree. (On moral grounds, not legal ones.) If you know that your treatment doesn't work, and you know that people are choosing your treatment instead of effective treatment, then I don't think it is justified to continue to offer treatment.

On the other hand, if you genuinely think that your treatment works, I don't think there's anything immoral going on. Harmful, yes, but not immoral.


If someone knows about the criticisms of homeopathy and hasn't attempted to address them rigorously, then yes, they've at least done something morally wrong- they've attempted to deceive people about the efficacy of their treatment.

gmalivuk wrote:They're giving africans malaria homeopathic remedies and people are fucking dying. I'd call that pretty freaking damaging.
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People who ask "what's the harm in $magicalbaselessbelief?" usually don't realize that it's actually a perfectly answerable question in many cases, rather than rhetorical like they think. The treatment doesn't actually cause harm itself, apart from monetarily. Fine. But when it comes to dangerous and treatable using the "treatment" of homeopathy instead of something that might actually have any effect at all on your body absolutely is harmful


Right, I'm with you here, but let's be careful. The supposed treatment of itself is not harmful. It's the implication that you don't need to treat it with anything else and that it will be completely effective that's harmful. In the example given, do you think these people would have been able to get access to more rigorously proven medicine? Let's not be too hasty in assigning blame for people dying, as that's a pretty big thing to be apportioning blame for <.< >.>
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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby livelyness » Sun Feb 10, 2008 5:12 pm UTC

Maybe, and i might just get shot for this, turn him on to some of the better alternative medical practices. Now before you slam me I'm not saying anything beats a trip to the doctor but there are some supplemental things that certainly do more good than homeopathy. It certainly would be a lot easier than convincing someone especially someone who knows that they're generally smart, that a belief they hold is wrong.

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Re: I feel like my friend is joining a cult (homeopathy)

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Feb 10, 2008 6:50 pm UTC

Ari wrote:In the example given, do you think these people would have been able to get access to more rigorously proven medicine? Let's not be too hasty in assigning blame for people dying, as that's a pretty big thing to be apportioning blame for

Is money of any kind being spent to provide them with homeopathic "remedies"? I imagine so. This money could be better spent on providing them with actual medication and real hope instead of magic medication and false hope. Also, receiving any kind of "medical" attention is likely to have a dampening effect on whether a sick person is likely to seek out any other kind of help. If I go up to someone with malaria and give him a vial of water and tell him it will cure his sickness, he's far less likely to look for anything else or to accept other help than another person who I just leave the fuck alone with my quackery.

In other words, let's also not be too hasty in absolving the deceivers of any guilt they have for the easily preventable deaths of sick people. (And they are being deceptive, even if they believe in the stuff. Because they have to know about the objections to it, and by your own words it is then deceptive to foist those treatments on anyone without making it clear that these objections exist.
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