In an article published in the American Journal of Medicine and entitled: “Should We Maintain an Open Mind about Homeopathy?” Michael Baum and Edzard Ernst, addressing their colleagues, strongly criticised homeopathy:
“Homeopathy is among the worst examples of faith-based medicine… These axioms [of homeopathy] are not only out of line with scientific facts but also directly opposed to them. If homeopathy is correct, much of physics, chemistry, and pharmacology must be incorrect… To have an open mind about homeopathy or similarly implausible forms of alternative medicine (eg, Back flower remedies, spiritual healing, crystal therapy) is therefore not an option. We think that a belief in homeopathy exceeds the tolerance of an open mind. We should start from the premise that homeopathy cannot work and that positive evidence reflects publication bias or design flaws until proved otherwise… We wonder whether any kind of evidence would persuade homeopathic physicians of their self-delusion and challenge them to design a methodologically sound trial, which if negative would finally persuade them to shut up shop… Homeopathy is based on an absurd concept that denies progress in physics and chemistry. Some 160 years after Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions, an essay byOliver Wendell Holmes, we are still debating whether homeopathy is a placebo or not… Homeopathic principles are bold conjectures. There has been no spectacular corroboration of any of its founding principles… After more than 200 years, we are still waiting for homeopathy “heretics” to be proved right, during which time the advances in our understanding of disease, progress in therapeutics and surgery, and prolongation of the length and quality of life by so-called allopaths have been breathtaking. The true skeptic therefore takes pride in closed mindedness when presented with absurd assertions that contravene the laws of thermodynamics or deny progress in all branches of physics, chemistry, physiology, and medicine.”
Baum M, Ernst E (November 2009). “Should we maintain an open mind about homeopathy?”. Am. J. Med. 122 (11): 973–4.
Where does one begin with a tirade like that! The good professor admits in another part of the piece that he has no homeopathy qualifications, which interestingly he claimed to have a few years ago! That’s by-the-by, though you would expect a professor to have an understanding of his subject!
“We should start from the premise that homeopathy cannot work and that positive evidence reflects publication bias or design flaws until proved otherwise.”
So…you can show him research which suggests homeopathy has an effect (& there is tons of it out there), & this anti-scientist is claiming that we should ignore this evidence as it contradicts his preconceived beliefs! This is a common attitude in the denialist brigade (they prefer to call themselves Skeptics…however this is totally inappropriate. Skeptic is from the Latin ‘scepticus‘ meaning thoughtful or inquiring).
I’m struggling to come up with an analogy here… someone like Ernst conducting research that sets out to disprove something is like The Wright Brothers trying to build aeroplanes to prove they will never fly (in other words, they’d never have got off the ground)…it’s totally backward & not good science. There can be hundreds of factors that might stop an experiment working properly, if you’re wanting the outcome to fail, you don’t have the drive or incentive to keep fine tuning until it works. Then once you get the reaction or whatever working, you write it up & challenge others to follow your methods & get the same results.
There is something deeply disturbing to me about this type of mindset, it’s a peculiar philosophical belief structure I’d call Secular Materialism. The Denialists that follow this religion seem to me to have a real inability to live with the unknown…I believe that’s why have such a problem with homeopathy & it’s high dilutions! So you can present the amazing & massive study on the successful homeo-prophylaxis of 2 million people against Leptospirosis in Cuba (there are now 2 years worth of data showing the same incredible results) & it won’t matter a damn to this crew…their belief structure is threatened, so reality be damned!
“Homeopathy is based on an absurd concept”
What absurd concept is that? That giving someone a small amount of a substance, say a TB, can prime a person’s immune system to deal with the disease?!
This is really a battle of two belief structures, rather than between rational people & whooly-headed crazies. The new religion of Secular Materialism believes that we are just complex machines (which we are in part of course)…so every disease must have a physical cause. You just have to look the state of modern psychiatry to see where that assumption leads to, endless searching for specific physical causes in the brain that can be treated with chemical drugs. Anything wooly like ‘mind‘ or ‘consciousness‘, or even the idea that a patient’s psychiatric problems may stem from past trauma has to be swept under the carpet if they can’t be measured.
On the other hand homeopathy & other alternative medicines are based on the idea of VITALISM, that our bodies have an innate healing intelligence. So a homeopathic remedy, or traditional Chinese doctor’s needle, is being used to nudge this innate healing intelligence into healing the problem, rather than attempting to fix some discrete physical dis-ease within the body.