“Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds,” reads a headline in The Guardian this week. Well, that’s hardly news. But it repeats saying anyway. It’s a story about the latest in a series of studies that again and again debunk homeopathy as a treatment and conclude it is useless.
Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) “…thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement,” the paper reported.
And on Gizmodo they said:
An analysis of over 225 medical studies and 1,800 scientific papers has found that homeopathy is ineffective as a health treatment. Its authors urge that “people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments.”
The scientists waded through a total of 1,800 reports; but only found 225 were actually controlled studies that lived up to the rigorous scientific standards required to make any claims of benefit stand up. So if any of them concluded homeopathy wasn’t bunk, it was because they failed the basic test for scientific rigour.
As The Smithsonian reported:
After assessing more than 1,800 studies on homeopathy, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council was only able to find 225 that were rigorous enough to analyze. And a systematic review of these studies revealed “no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions.”
Homeopathy is called an “alternative medicine” – which is bafflegab for claptrap. There is medicine or alternatives, and they don’t meet in the middle. It’s up there with the likes of iridology, reflexology, reiki, aromatherapy, healing crystals, naturopathy and magic incantations for utter medical buffoonery.
Homeopathy is not some form of herbalism; it’s not even medicine. It was invented by one man in 1796. He was wrong about how illness works then and his cult-like followers are still wrong about it today. In fact, it would take until 1854 before the germ theory of disease was recognized (thanks to John Snow‘s cholera investigation, and no, he’s not the guy from Game of Thrones) and not even until Louis Pasteur until it was properly understood.
Thanks to them and all those researchers and scientists who followed, we know better these days what causes illness. We may not be able to cure everything, but keep in mind that homeopathy has cured absolutely NOTHING at all since it was invented.
Homeopathy has been debunked many times before this latest report – The Smithsonian links to similar studies done in 2002, 2010 an 2014; all reaching the same conclusion: homeopathy is bunk. Which is what The Guardian reported earlier, in April, 2014:
For the 68 conditions – including those listed – the review either concluded definitively that homeopathy was not more effective than a placebo, or at the very least there was no reliable evidence to suggest it was.
“No good-quality, well-designed studies with enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than a substance with no effect on the health condition (placebo), or that homeopathy caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment,” read the report’s summary.
It’s such bunk you wonder why real doctors and scientists waste their time studying it, since at the very best all they can do is confirm it as codswallop. And in August 2014, some scientists asked that very question. As Science Daily reported:
Experts… call for an end to clinical trials of “highly implausible treatments” such as homeopathy and reiki. Over the last two decades, such complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments have been embraced in medical academia despite budget constraints and the fact that they rest on dubious science, they say. The writers… argue that, in these cases, the medical establishment is essentially testing whether magic works.
Your first thought when you read the claims made for homeopathy is that no one in a modern, 21st century country with anything higher than a kindergarten education would believe this pseudo-science claptrap. It’s positively medieval, up there with witchcraft, astrology and creationism on the credibility scale.
But then you think, wait, a lot of people DO believe in bullshit and superstition and reject actual science, medicine and fact. Judging by the number of posts that pop up on Facebook and Twitter, people actually believe in angels, ghosts, UFOs, psychics, Harry Potter, Bigfoot, ayurvedic treatment, and that local bloggers are telling the truth. So homeopathy is just another step down the path of gullibility.
In fact, it’s part of a rapidly growing multi-billion-dollar business – or scam – that preys on that gullibility. We used to call it snake oil. Now we call it “alternative medicine.” Ka-ching! the cash register sings.
Believing in UFOs, Bigfoot, chemtrails and the credibility of local bloggers is pretty much harmless; an intellectual weakness ranging from a mere folly to sheer stupidity. Believing in homeopathy is like not believing in vaccinations: it can kill you or your children. As the Guardian story noted from the report:
“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”
So it’s not only stupid, it’s dangerous and potentially lethal. So why do people fall for this crap instead of taking advice from actual doctors and scientists? Dr. Ginni Mansberg, writing in the Australian Herald Sun, asks,
We are talking about the greatest scientific minds in a pretty smart nation examining all the available scientific data and declaring, for the benefit of their fellow citizens, that drinking in pregnancy is not safe. How on Earth can you dismiss that advice in the same way you’d reject a political opinion?
Part of that answer lies in a quote on the Skeptics’ Dictionary page about homeopathy:
“…for the purposes of popular discourse, it is not necessary for homeopaths to prove their case. It is merely necessary for them to create walls of obfuscation, and superficially plausible technical documents that support their case, in order to keep the dream alive in the imaginations of both the media and their defenders.” –Ben Goldacre
In other words, homeopaths leverage the public’s general suspicions about corporations, government, science, medicine and anything they don’t understand or can’t pronounce (the Food Babe also preys on this mixture of gullibility and paranoia). That SD page also notes previous studies have all come to the same results:
A review of the reviews of homeopathic studies has been done by Terence Hines (2003: 360-362). He reviewed Taylor et al. (2000), Wagner (1997), Sampson and London (1995), Kleijen, Knipschild, and ter Riet (1991), and Hill and Doyon (1990). More than 100 studies have failed to come to any definitive positive conclusions about homeopathic potions. Ramey (2000) notes that
Homeopathy has been the subject of at least 12 scientific reviews, including meta-analytic studies, published since the mid-1980s….[And] the findings are remarkably consistent:….homeopathic “remedies” are not effective.
So here we are in 2015, and after 25 years and dozens of intensive, rigourous scientific studies and tests, peer reviews and analysis, the conclusion is still the same: homeopathy is bunk.
Do we really need to say any more? Do we really need to do any more studies? Homeopathy is bunk. Dangerous, stupid bunk. Let’s carve that in stone on every medical building in the land and be done with it. Hopefully someone will pay attention.