I am really glad to read of the grilling that MPs are giving the people in the Homeopathy ‘industry’. If astrology sucked that much out of ordinary gullible pockets, I would hope that they would do the same.
I have a specific reason to be annoyed: as someone who has sat through one and a half home-births, I am aware of quite how vulnerable people can feel when about to undergo great pain. And you know there are no easy ways out: and it was a considerable distraction and annoyance last summer to find these placebos in the house during such a difficult time. A diluted substance that promises to strengthen the uterine muscles? Please. I would love to know how they think that is proven. And (update) “Loads of people have done this for centuries” is no proof. Loads of people used leeches, believed in faires and alchemy. The scepticism of science has been quite a liberation.
Another white pill promised “to reduce irritability during labour”. How on earth could they know that? If they had taken 1000 pregnant women, given one half homeopathy and the other half fruit pastilles, and recorded their levels of irratibility, I would be willing to half-believe it. I also bet the general levels of irritability would have shot up! But I very much doubt that there is anyone alive who would have that degree of courage or insensitivity.
So it must be making statements about its effect that it cannot possibly justify. But since most of us only experience our own medical situation once, the gullible and needy will lap this sort of stuff up: even when the CEO of Boots admits it does nothing.
I see homeopathy as no better than the misselling that happens around financial products. Life and outcomes are too varied and multi-causal for you ever to know for certain that you were sold a bad deal. The noise and fuzziness between pill and cure, or buy and sell, are enough to hide all sorts of cause and effect. Finance knows how to make money out of such vagueness. Playing on our insecurities is also a tool of the fashion industry. But at least choosing the wrong dress is not a dangerous mistake.
UPDATE: Great, interesting comments below, and can I point anyone reading to SceptiCat’s useful looking blog on this subject? It discusses the HOC evidence at length: I like this bit:
“Why does the water retain the memory of the homeopathic ingredient and not the memory of all the poo that’s been it?”
And this blog gives some alarming evidence of the serious consequences when hokum is accepted by people in authority:
In 2000, the now infamous International AIDS Conference took place in Durban. Mbeki’s presidential advisory panel beforehand was packed with “AIDS dissidents”, including Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick. On the first day, Rasnick suggested that all HIV testing should be banned on principle, and that South Africa should stop screening supplies of blood for HIV.