Logical fallacies of the homeopathic kind [1-10]
In a recent article on NaturalNews.com, Louise Mclean presents 50 facts about how/why homeopathy works. Louise is a “homeopathic practitioner with 20 years experience. She is also the Editor of Zeus Information Service which came into being in February 2003. Its purpose is to help unify the Worldwide Health Freedom movement – people and organisations who believe in the value of natural health therapies and want to continue using them.”
I will not argue about the veracity of the actual claims, meaning that I won’t even bother with how true the numbers or statistics that are given are. I will try to concentrate solely on the logic. As my skeptical tool I will use the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe “Top 20 Logical Fallacies“. For Wikipedia links of the fallacies I use in this entry scroll down to the bottom of the entry. This is the first of what will, hopefully, become a 5 part series each dealing with 10 facts.
* Fact 1 – Hippocrates ‘The Father of Medicine’ of Ancient Greece said there were two Laws of Healing: The Law of Opposites and the Law of Similars. Homeopathy treats the patient with medicines using the Law of Similars, orthodox medicine uses the Law of Opposites, e.g. antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics.
Appeal to Authority – Just because Hippocrates thought that thousands of years ago, it does not mean that that is how medicine actually works. He may be known as the “Father of Medicine”, but he’s considered as much of an authority on medicine today, as the inventor of the stone wheel is considered an authority in modern car engineering.
Straw Man – Modern Medicine does not operate according to the “Law of Opposites” whatever that is.
* Fact 2 – Homeopathic theories are based on fixed principles of the Laws of Nature which do not change — unlike medical theories which are constantly changing!
Non Sequitur – The statement that the “Laws of Nature” do not change has no bearing upon the veracity of homeopathy, or real medicine. The laws of physics, chemistry don’t change either (more or less), but that fact alone has nothing to say if a physicist is doing good science or not.
False Analogy – comparing apples and oranges. She is comparing the unchanging nature of the laws of nature ( a bit of redundancy there sorry) with the changing nature or our medical knowledge. There is no comparison to be made. Saying that is the same as saying that because the laws of aerodynamics don’t change, aeronautics is bunk because it keeps coming up with different airplane models.
Unstated Major Premise – They are implying that change is bad whereas non change is good. In fact, improvement is by definition change.
* Fact 3 – Homeopathy is an evidence-based, empirical medicine.
This is just a statement, not an argument. As such logical fallacies do not apply. It can be shown that this statement is wrong and nonfactual, but that is besides the point I am trying to make here. Furthermore, Fact #36 states that homeopathy cannot be properly tested, as such it is hard to see how it can be defined as empirical science.
* Fact 4 – Homeopathy is both an art and a science.
This is just a statement, not an argument. As such logical fallacies do not apply. Art yes, science not in the least.
* Fact 5 – The Homeopathic provings of medicines are a more scientific method of testing than the orthodox model.
Again, statement not argument. Nevertheless it makes no sense as it is the orthodox model that uses the scientific method. I don’t know what “a more scientific method of testing” would be. It would be nice to know what additional criteria they use that the current scientific method does not. Furthermore this claim is completely contradicted by Fact #36 which says that homeopathic ideas can never be really tested. Are you scratching your head yet?
* Fact 6 – Homeopathic medicine awakens and stimulates the body’s own curative powers. The potentized remedy acts as a catalyst to set healing into motion.
Unstated Major Premise – They are assuming that whatever self healing properties our bodies have CAN be potentized (which means strengthened) beyond their natural limits.
Furthermore this is a complete fabrication as homeopathy depends on the law of atraction, and has nothing to do with the bodies curative powers. In fact their main tenet is that whatever causes the disease cures it, not the body itself, unless of course homeopathy HAS CHANGED which would be heresy according to Fact #2.
* Fact 7 – Homeopathic medicines work by communicating a current/pattern/frequency of energy via the whole human body to jump start the body’s own inherent healing mechanisms.
Same as Fact #6.
* Fact 8 – Homeopathy assists the body to heal itself, to overcome an illness which brings the patient to a higher level of health. Orthodox medicine suppresses the illness, bringing the patient to a lower level of health.
Straw Man – I don’t know what a lower level of health is but I am pretty sure that conventional (real) medicine does not bring anyone to a lower level of health.
False Dichotomy – Where is it said that there are two and only two levels of health, high and low? This is just some on the spot made up fact in order to facilitate attacking the straw man they constructed.
* Fact 9 – The homeopathic practitioner endeavours to search for and treat the cause of the disease in order to heal the effect.
No issues here. I hope they are all really trying to find the cause. That is what every doctor does. There are no logical fallacies here. We may say that they are wasting time and concentrating on the wrong causes, but there is nothing logically wrong with that, as long as they think they are working on the correct causes.
* Fact 10 – Outcomes of homeopathic treatment are measured by the long term curative effects of prescribing and complete eradication of the disease state.
Those are in fact the standards by which it should be judjed. Nevertheless, we difer in our assessment if homeopathy passes or fails such test. I challenge any homeopath to point to the literture and studies that show that long term, homeopathy has curative effects, if any. Leave the name of the author, publication, date published and study title on the comments section.
- Appeal to Authority
- Straw Man
- Non Sequitur
- False Analogy
- Unstated Major Premise – I can’t find this in Wikipedia anyone has the link?
- False Dichotomy