Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anti-science, pro-homeopathy

I don't really read BoingBoing any more, except when I mosey on over to make a suggestion for an item, but I spotted the article about the 10:23 event in Boots, and it made me very cross.

The group describe themselves as pro-science, anti-homeopathy as though those two things go together hand-in-hand. The reason I feel cross about it, is that I have personal experience of homeopathy which leads me to think it has a discernible effect, even though convetional medicine cannot tell me what it is. Conventional medicine can't explain the effect in acupuncture either.

It is the arrogance of people who say they are pro-science, believing that they can use logic to decide whether or not homeopathy is effective, rather than science, even though they profess to be pro-science. You can't. A lot of things which don't seem to make sense are scientifically proven, not least the behaviour of water, which is central to homeopathic method.

There are so many complex things tied up in my response to this protest. Firstly, no-one is forcing them to use or take homeopathic medicines... but that's not good enough for them, they want to prevent other people from using them. Even if the effect in homeopathy is solely part of the placebo effect - and I don't think it is, personally - there are no side effects or drawbacks to homeopathic medicine, which is more than can be said for most allopathic medicines.

And finally... they may be mistaken. New Scientist reported last year that experiments in Belfast designed to prove once and for all that there could be nothing in homeopathy in fact proved the opposite - that there may be an effect which is not understood by science. It seems to me that there may be something very important to be learned about the way that substances interact with water, which could be scientifically established.

Unfortunately, this group are too busy trying to impose their views on you and me to actually look at the science. It's very useful to have a group of people who can tell without experimentation, without experience, without any specialist knowledge, what will work and what won't. It doesn't seem terrifically scientific though.

I hate arrogance, and I hate people who profess one point of view while living another. And I don't like being told what I can and can't do. In any case, as I pointed out on the BoingBoing comment thread, 180,000 people were apparently killed by their stay in hospital last year. It is possible for a person to kill themselves by discontinuing needed medication and only taking homeopathy, but I really don't think homeopathic treatment will have killed anyone. That alone is reason enough to demand the choice of using it.

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