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Logical fallacies of the homeopathic kind [21-30]

Posted in Altie Meds, homeopathy, Skepdude by Skepdude on October 27, 2008

Welcome to the third part in the 5 part analysis of the a recent article on NaturalNews.com, in which 50 “facts” were presented to support homeopathy. Part 1 and Part 2 addressed facts 1-10 and 11-20 respectively. Here I continue with facts 21-30.

* Fact 21 – Epidemics such as cholera and typhoid were treated successfully using homeopathy in the 19th century with very high success rates, compared to orthodox medicine (http://www.whale.to/v/winston.html) .

This is a statement, fallacies do not apply. It is completely made up by the way. The website that this “fact” links to seems to be some sort of conspiracy theory minded site. Here’s the opening paragraph of its mission statement :

MISSION: FREEDOM from Tyranny

[Whale is a search for the truth (and the fun of exploration) and freedom from Tyranny, and a collection of information or knowledge towards that aim (most tyranny survives purely through disseminating lies), and this quote gives some idea about the reasons for doing that: The truth may hurt for awhile – and usually does –but it heals forever – without fail. It may be unpleasant to see parasites like big brother but you don’t kill parasites and gain freedom by ignoring them, however large and powerful they appear when you first see them.  This is mostly a medical politics and anti-vaccination site, the Big Brother and (his) Mind Control sections were included to show the wood from the (medical) trees and to see where Tyranny (eg wars, famine, atheism, poverty, droughts, killer hurricanes, drugs, crime, most disease fear, etc) really comes from, causing most folk to think God doesn’t exist!  “Whale” is a tribute to our larger brained mammals.
PS:  This is a true sceptic site as opposed to the pseudo-skeptics.]

It’s an openly anti-vaccination website, which classifies atheism as Tyranny (WTF???) and apparently is a religious site since it is quite worried that the Tyranny makes people not believe in God. Read this again, they’re complaining that war, famine, killer hurricanes, crime, disease make people doubt God. Wow! And by the way this is the site that the author links to as proof of her patently false assertion that homeopathy was more successful in treating cholera than real medicine. And what an account it is. By their standards homeopathy seems to have a 90% + rate of success. Amazing! Wait a minute though, that’s all anecdotal evidence. What the hell happened to Fact # 5 The Homeopathic provings of medicines are a more scientific method of testing than the orthodox model.” But I digress. I promised to stick with logical fallacies. How about anecdotal evidence? Not quite a fallacy but I guess good enough for this fact.

* Fact 22 – There are thousands of homeopathic books, available at specialist outlets, not sold in the high street.

Appeal to popularity – There is no relation between the number of books being sold and the quality of the information contained within them.

There seems to be a bit of a conspiracy theory flavor to this argument, something in the lines of homeopaths being open with their “Science” and scientists hiding behind their ivory towers that are beyond the reach of mere mortals. Do you get that vibe?

Further, what this really is saying is that it is cheap to become a homeopath, after all our books are available everywhere, but it is expensive to become a doctor. Yes, so what? Real knowledge takes time and effort and money. Any good college education requires time, effort and money. You can’t become a mathematician by buying Math for Dummies books;  without shelling cash for specialized math books you’re just an amateur at best (unless of course you’re Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting). So how do they expect to be able to learn medicine that way?

* Fact 23 – There are 5 homeopathic hospitals in the U.K. — in London, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. They cost the NHS under £10 million a year compared to the £100 billion for the total annual NHS budget for 2008!

Appeal to popularity & Authority – 5 hospitals times thousands of patients a day, my God this stuff is really popular in the UK! And look at how cheap it is, only 10 million out of 100 billion budget, why that’s barely a drop in the bucket. Notice how they pick UK, and not say Ethiopia. I guess UK makes a much more convincing authority that Ethiopia.

It’s the same argument over and over actually: 1) Lots of people believe this and 2) It’s quite cheap. The main point however should be how well does it work? Except for some wacko website, no other relevant references are offered. You did not expect anything else did you?

* Fact 24 – At one of the earliest debates on the NHS Act of 1948 the Government pledged that homoeopathy would continue to be available on the NHS, as long as there were “patients wishing to receive it and doctors willing to provide it”.

Appeal to Authority – Well the Government doesn’t care, so there must be something to it! After all they are…THE GOVERNMENT!!!!! Since when is the Government an authority on matters of science?

* Fact 25 – There is a campaign by certain U.K. Professors to oust homeopathy completely from the NHS after they wrote on NHS headed paper to all Primary Care Trusts in 2006 telling managers not to refer patients to the homeopathic hospitals.

Conspiracy theory – There is a campaign against us, so obviously we’re pushing the right buttons since they are trying to silence us. That’s what fanatic Muslims think about when they blow themselves up. I believe this is also referred to as the hero complex.

* Fact 26 – The Homeopathic Hospitals are clean, with friendly, well informed staff. The patients are generally pleased with their treatment unlike many orthodox National Health Service hospitals.

Non Sequitur – So what? My local grocery store is clean with friendly staff. Does that mean I should go there next time I break my leg? I mean they’re so nice and clean! Cleanliness and niceness have nothing to do with effectiveness in treating illnesses. Date rapists are generally clean and nice guys, until they slip the drug in the woman’s drink and well you know how that goes.

* Fact 27 – The chances of contracting MRSA or C. Difficile at a Homeopathic Hospital are extremely rare.

Non Sequitur – So are the chances of being actually cured. Scratch that, it’s not extremely rare to be cured of anything in a homeopathic hospital, it is impossible.

Also the chances of contracting MRSA or C. Difficile are extremely low while laying in your couch, but does that mean that you should pick your couch over a doctor when all of a sudden it feels like an alien is trying to rip out of your chest?

This one makes me laugh. This is the equivalent of ” The chances of dying of a plance crash while driving your car are much lower than the chances of dying in a plane crash while flying, therefore driving is a safer flying method than actual flying“. Really, it is that ridiculous!

* Fact 28 – Unlike orthodox medicine where two thirds of all conventional hospital admissions are due to the side-effects of pharmaceutical medicines, the bill for negligence claims soaring into billions, one U.K. leading insurance company reported only ‘a couple’ of claims against homeopaths in a ten year period!

First, I have a feeling the 2/3 statistic is made up from thin air. Second, when you don’t do anything, it is less likely to cause side-effects. After all most of us drink water all the time, and we’re ok. Third, death must not have been considered as a side-effect of the homeopaths by this leading Insurance Company. After all what the homeopaths did, didn’t kill these people. It’s what they were encouraged not to do that hurt them. Fourth, can’t she tell us who this insurance company is? Why does it have to remain unnamed? Why not reference it properly, company XYZ on the XYZ report released on such and such date, which can be found at such and such link. Instead we get the mysterious “One UK leading insurance company”. Riiiiight!

* Fact 29 – In the United States in the early 1900s there were 22 homeopathic medical schools and over 100 homeopathic hospitals, 60 orphanages and old people’s homes and 1,000+ homeopathic pharmacies.

Appeal to popularity – So what? And why are all these statistics coming from the 1900s and 1800s? Isn’t there anything more recent that these homeopaths look at? Do they really believe that 100 year old knowledge is better than current knowledge? After all bloodletting was quite popular right about that time, well actually about a century earlier but you get the point. Just because it was big in earlier times, when people didn’t know as much as today, it does not lend it credibility.

* Fact 30 – Members of the American Medical Association had great animosity towards homeopathy after its formation in 1847 and it was decided to purge all local medical societies of physicians who were homeopaths.

Conspiracy Theory – Well the policy has great animosity towards child molesters too. Is that supposed to imply something good about the molesters?

WIKIPEDIA LINKS

And for an even more in depth look at logical fallacies, check out the logical fallacies section of Skeptic Wiki.

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Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on October 27, 2008

I knew that if I accepted that there was no god, then I had to stop believing in an afterlife… it meant that I could no longer communicate with my dead sister. It meant that my sister, who I missed terribly (and still do) was not watching over me. She wasn’t talking to me. She wasn’t sending me messages. She didn’t want me to know she was okay. She isn’t telling jokes to my grandfather and she’s not playing fetch with our childhood dog. She’s not proud of me. She’s not guiding me. She’s gone. Nothing more, nothing less. Just gone. It meant that the psychics I was communicating through to talk to her were lying to me. It meant I never talked to her after she was gone. It meant that the last thing I ever said to her was that sure, she could call me back later.

She never did call me back…

Skepchick