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Logical fallacies of the homeopathic kind [11-20]

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 26, 2008

This is part two, of the 5 part analysis of logical fallcies in the recent article on by Louise Mclean. In Part One we went over Facts 1-10. In this installement we’ll go over Facts 11-20. Without further ado, let’s get going.

* Fact 11 – The homeopathic practitioner treats the whole person, believing all symptoms are interrelated and seeks to select a medicine which most closely covers them all.

This is a statement about the homeopath’s beliefs. As such there are no fallacies to worry about. We could however debate the accuray of such statement, especially in light of  Fact #5 which said that homeopathy’sprovings of medicines are a more scientific method of testing than the orthodox model”. Actually science does not believe that all symptoms are interelated and that there is ONE medicine that can cure them all. But I won’t linger to long on these sort of things. Fallacies is what I am after here.

* Fact 12 – Homeopathic remedies are cheap.

This is also a statement, nevertheless this has some implications attached to it. The implication is that homeopathic remedies are cheap while real medicine is expensive. The second implication is that because they are cheap, people should go to homeopaths. As such we have a couple of logical fallacies to work with.

False Dichotomy – It is not true that all real medicine is expensive. As a matter of fact a lot of over the counter medicine, such as Tylenol and Advil etc etc are jsut as inexpensive, if not more inexpensive, than their homeopathic counterparts.

Non Sequitur – The fact that homeopathic remedies are cheap has nothing to say about their efficacy, how good they are at treating diseases, or if they are better than real medicine. It just goes to prove that water is not that expensive.

* Fact 13 – Pharmaceutical medicines are expensive.

If anyone was going to challenge my implications that I made in regards to Fact #12 please refrain from making a moron out of yourself. Fact #13 proves that I was right.

* Fact 14 – There are more than 4,000 homeopathic medicines.

Appeal to popularity – There are more than 4,000 pedofiles in the world. Does that make child molestation acceptable?

* Fact 15 – Homeopathic medicines have no toxic side-effects.

Non Sequitur – Lots of things don’t have toxic side effects, without being good at curing diseases. For example turning the pages of a book has no side effects, but it does nothing for your hemorroids.

Secondly, there is another hidden implication here. No toxic side effects, therefore no one can’t get hurt. What’s the harm right? This is the harm. I wonder if death is considered a toxic side effect?

* Fact 16 – Homeopathic medicines are non-addictive.

Non Sequitur – Addictive or not, that has nothing to say about their efficacy. I would love to challenge the actual statement that homeopathyc remedies are not addictive, but unfortunately I don’t know much in that area. Can anyone supply some links in the comments?

* Fact 17 – Every true homeopathic medicine is made using one substance — whether plant, mineral, metal, etc. The exact substance is known, unlike most modern drugs where we are rarely informed of the ingredients.

Non Sequitur – This specific type of fallacy is quickly becoming her favorite. Even if we grant her that homeopathinc remedies are made using one substance (which is patently false if you consider that there are at least 2 substances in it, water and whatever they are diluting in it, unless of course she’s agreeing that it’s all water) how do we make the jump from saying that one substance is better than many substances in treating a disease? That’s kinds like saying my toy car is better than your real car, because it has less moving parts. Ridiculous right?

* Fact 18 – Any remedy up to a 12c or a 24x potency still contains the original molecules of the substance and this is known as Avogadro’s number.

Ah the appeal to a real scientist and a real scientific property. Brian Dunning explains homeopathy in Skeptoid Episode 34. Here’s a quick recap on Brian’s demolition of the Avogadro number defense ” Dilutions of homeopathic products that are sold today usually range from 6X to 30X. This is homeopathy’s system for measuring the dilution, and it doesn’t mean 1 part in 6 or 1 part in 30. X represents the roman numeral 10. A 6X dilution means one part in 106, or one in one million. A 30X dilution means one part in 1030, or one followed by 30 zeros. A few products are even marketed using the C scale, roman numeral 100. 30C is 10030. That’s a staggering number; it’s 1 followed by 60 zeros, about the number of atoms in our galaxy. In 1807, they knew more about mathematics and chemistry than they did about medicine, and it was known that there is a maximum dilution possible in chemistry. Some decades later it was learned that this proportion is related to Avogadro’s constant, about 6 × 1023. Beyond this limit, where many of Hahnemann’s dilutions lay, they are in fact no longer dilutions but are chemically considered to be pure water. So Hahnemann designed a workaround. Hahnemann thought that if a solution was agitated enough, the water would retain a spiritual imprint of the original substance, and could then be diluted without limit. The water is often added to sugar pills for remedies designed to be taken in a pill form. So when you buy homeopathic pills sold today, you’re actually buying sugar, water, or alcohol that’s “channeling” (for lack of a better term) some described substance. The substance itself no longer remains, except for a few millionth-part molecules in the lowest dilutions.

Let’s look again at Avogadro’s number. 6 × 1023 atoms is called a mole, a term any chemistry student is familiar with. How big is that number? Well, if you had 500 sheets of paper, you’d have a stack about two and a half inches high, like a ream that you’d buy at the stationery store. If you had 6 × 1023 sheets of paper, your stack would reach all the way from the Earth to the Sun. And not only that: it would reach that distance four hundred million times. Think about that for a moment. One sheet of paper, in a stack that’s 400,000,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. That’s a typical homeopathic dilution. Sounds pretty potent, doesn’t it? – Wow not so short, but you get the point right? Listen/Read the full Episode 34 transcript for complete details.

* Fact 19 – Every Patient is Unique so homeopathic medicines are individualized.

Actually this completely contradicts Fact #17 which boasts that homeopathic medicines are made by using one substance. Threre are  over 6 billion people in the world. Either they know of 6 billion substances that can be used, or they are re-using some substances.  Fact #14 claims that there are 4,000 homeopathic medicines. So either they can only treat 4,000 people, or homeopathy is not unique and its remedies are not individualized.

* Fact 20 – Homeopaths treat genetic illness, tracing its origins to 6 main genetic causes: Tuberculosis, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, Psora (scabies), Cancer, Leprosy.

I don’t even know what the hell that means. Can someone elaborate?


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