liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Homeopathy vs Science: Kent implicates Darwin and Curie

We were assigned some time ago to read this decidedly biased article on homeopathy. It was written by Henry Clarke, who we are taught at school was an important founder of American homeopathy. Henry Clarke was a London homeopath in the 1870's who became disenchanted with the direction of British homeopathic medicine. He became a "loose cannon" according to homeopathic establishment, and single-handedly divided the "movement". He was also a "typical early-century right-wing fascist and an anti-Semite." Clarke is credited with bringing homeopathy to the masses, and possessed a charismatic and forceful personality, like most of the celebrated names in the field.

Henry Clarke asserts in this article that Darwin was completely convinced of a homeopathic medical action on a fly catching plant (Drosera) but was loathe to publish his finding. I suppose Darwin didn't like how unscientific it sounded. Madame Curie's name is also mixed in, as her father was apparently a homeopathic practitioner. Other stories more supportive of homeopathy are told, but they are not of famous and respected scientists. These stories are interwoven by Clarke with mentions of famous scientists to support to the basic assumptions of homeopathy, which to a critical mind (such as the minds of Darwin or Curie) are still unsupported.

A critical mind would say that mixing the names of real scientists with the stories of homeopathy believers does not make the believer's belief's scientific. But the uncritical reader will simply mix the two and believe. What these articles, in combination with the prevalence of belief in homeopathy, prove to me is how unscientific are the minds of most people. As a species we are suggestible, see patterns where there are none, attribute causality where there is none, and generally create a model of the universe that is mostly based on our fancies and our desires, rather than on what we see in the world. This tendency of the majority revealed by the Meyer's Briggs personality inventory, which finds that 25% of all people are N's, and 75% are S's. But that is another story entirely.

Today's reading caused me to google "homeopathy Nobel prize", wanting to know if any homeopaths have received Nobel prizes. Curie and Darwin both earned Nobel prizes for their work. But it appears that no homeopaths have won a Nobel prize. So they created something they call the "Alternative Nobel Prize" aka "Right Livelihood Award". They use the name Nobel to suggest scientific attainment by association. The "greats" of homeopathy who have received this prize include George Vithoulkas (living), Boenninghausen, Boericke, Hering, Allen and Kent. Vithoulkas received this award in 1996 "for upgrading Classical Homeopathy to the standard of a science". How does one accomplish such an upgrade? I haven't seen it yet. Once again, the critical mind says that naming your award after one that is based on true scientific genius, does not lend any scientific cred to the award.

Here's Vithoulkas' acceptance speech. One thing he said in 1996 really struck home with me: "Today, I want to make another prediction. If conventional medicine does not take notice of what we say and drastically change its practices and its logic in treating with chemical drugs; if it does not also change the direction of its research, soon diseases will go to the very centre of the organism, which is the nervous system, and most of the population on earth will be mentally ill individuals." He's right. Mental illness is increasingly pervasive, and conventional medicine is not addressing it.

There is a reward on offer for anyone who can prove that homeopathy works. Edzard Ernst has put up £10,000 for the first person to prove homeopathy works. Ernst is a former homeopath who now is a leading researcher of complementary medicine at Exeter University. Ernst said 200 strictly controlled trials had failed to find any evidence that homeopathy worked. ‘If you do a systematic look at all the evidence you fail to demonstrate strong evidence in favour of homeopathy,’ he added. Ernst agrees with me that the researchers who "prove" homeopathy (like Linde and his oft-quoted meta-analysis) do it by selectively picking studies that support the treatment and ignoring those that don’t. Ernst says that homeopathy-supporting "scientists" misquote the findings of trials, or rely on flawed studies. So far nobody has been able to claim the prize. There is no proof of "similia similibus curentur", or "like is cured by like", at least none that will convince the skeptics. All true scientists are skeptics whose operating model of reality can be modified by new evidence. Without proof of the founding principle the entire homeopathic medical methodology is based on a hope and a dream.

Here's one physicist who thinks it is an embarrassment for a University to offer homeopathy degrees. Apparently they had to stop the program due to low recruitment. I must say, I am embarassed and somewhat ashamed to be engaged in a course of education that requires me to invest so much time and energy into it. Homeopathy should be a specialty which is chosen by the individual, not a "core competency" for natural medicine certification. Homeopathy is struggling for respect, and has latched onto Naturopathy as an up and coming field where it can hang on and gain visibility and credibility, or at least not die out. I believe that the inclusion of homeopathy in the Naturopathic Doctor degree is to our detriment in the long run. It is parasitic on a practice of medicine that is much needed and scientifically verifiable.

An acronym to remember:
NMQPs = non-medically qualified practitioners
Tags: history, homeopathy, intellect, naturopathy, personality test, science

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