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Logical fallacies of the homeopathic kind [31-40]

Posted in Altie Meds, homeopathy, Skepdude by Skepdude on October 31, 2008

Welcome to Part 4 of the 5 part demolition (hopefully) of the 50 facts homeopathy article at If you have not been following this series, you may want to go over Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before continuing here.

* Fact 31 – Big Pharma does not want the Public to find out how well homeopathy works!

Conspiracy Theory – Just because a big, powerful organization/entity is against something, does not make that something automatically true. The us Military is a favorite among conspiracy theorists. The US military is fighting terrorists today. Does that make terrorism good, solely because the US Military is against it? Doesn’t make a lot of sense when you put it that way does it?

Furthermore, this is an obviously false statement. There is money to be made in homeopathy, lots and lots of it for that matter. If there is money to be made there’s no reason why Big Pharma would fight it. Instead they would  do whatever they can to get a piece of the pie. Maybe the fact that homeopathy is not supported by science has something to do with this.

* Fact 32 – In 2005 the World Health Organisation brought out a draft report which showed homeopathy was beneficial causing Big Pharma to panic and The Lancet to bring out an editorial entitled ‘The End of Homeopathy’.

It’s hard to verify this statement without a link to the actual report she’s referring to, or the report title so we could search for it ourselves. Prior experience tells me this report does not exist as described. Alternative medicine supporters like to throw around this sort of vague “facts” that are impossible to verify in order to make an Argument from Authority. More Conspiracy Theory ensues with the sinister Lancet who dares have a different opinion. I wonder if The Lancet is so sinister and obviously in the pocket of Big Pharma how is it they they were responsible for publishing the bad studies that started the whole MMR vaccine scare?

* Fact 33 – In 2005 The Lancet tried to destroy homeopathy but were only looking at 8 inconclusive trials out of 110 of which 102 were positive. This was a fraudulent analysis.
“The meta-analysis at the centre of the controversy is based on 110 placebo-controlled clinical trials of homeopathy and 110 clinical trials of allopathy (conventional medicine), which are said to be matched. These were reduced to 21 trials of homeopathy and 9 of conventional medicine of ‘higher quality’ and further reduced to 8 and 6 trials, respectively, which were ‘larger, higher quality’. The final analysis which concluded that ‘the clinical effects of homoeopathy a
re placebo effects’ was based on just the eight ‘larger, higher quality’ clinical trials of homeopathy. The Lancet’s press release did not mention this, instead giving the impression that the conclusions were based on all 110 trials.”

Where do you start with this one?  First I highly doubt that the Lancet “tried to destroy” homeopathy, as it is not in the business of destroying anything and it couldn’t even if it wanted. We seem to have a bit of a hero complex going on here (or victim complex whatever you want to call it). Second, it is quite an accusation to call their analysis “fraudulent”. You may call it wrong, ill advised, not carefully done, blah blah blah, but unless they intentionally fudged the numbers, fraud is an unwarranted accusation. Then they go to complain that only “larger, higher quality” studies were included by The Lancet. That’s something to complain about? Isn’t that what you want? Weed out weak and poorly constructed studies and look at the good ones? I guess not if that does not give you the answer you want. Further, they complain that the press release did implied that the results were based on all 100+ studies. They don’t link to the press release so I can’t verify that, but even if that’s true, who cares? Does the actual analysis itself make it clear? That just goes to show you that these folks actually equate a press release with a study.

Oh and by the way the link here takes you to the article where she got this info from. The article was published in the “Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” and was written by a certain Peter Fisher, who apparently at the time was Director of Research, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital in London. Hardly an unbiased source of information wouldn’t you say?

* Fact 34 – There have been many clinical trials that prove homeopathy works. In the past 24 years there have been more than 180 controlled, and 118 randomized, trials into homeopathy, which were analysed by four separate meta-analyses. In each case, the researchers concluded that the benefits of homeopathy went far beyond that which could be explained purely by the placebo effect.

What studies are they talking about? What meta-analysis? If not links, can they provide the name of the journal where they were published, title and author name so people can look them up and make up their own mind? I suspect this is some more bad references. Most probably there were some badly set up studies, or some weird analysis published in a homeopathic journal. That is probable, but without references to follow up on this is just useless.

Notice how this sort of argumentation is constant throughout the pseudoscientific word. The “there was an unnamed study, by an unnamed author published in an unnamed journal that showed fantastic results” technique is used all the time by all kind of alternative medicine and (S)CAM practitioners. Why can’t they provide one link to a respectful publication? Because there isn’t one. I challenge anyone to point to the studies and meta-analyses that she’s referring to here. And I don’t want 180 links. Give me 5 links to good studies, studies accepted as valid by the scientific world.

* Fact 35 – The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital carried out a study published in November 2005 of 6500 patients receiving homeopathic treatment. There was an overall improvement in health of 70% of them (…) .

This reference is quite funny. The BBC article itself also refers to the Lancet study which showed that homeopathy was no better than placebo. Not only that but it turns out this great study by the homeopaths did not even have a control group. Says the same BBC article :

Professor Matthias Egger, of the University of Berne, who worked on The Lancet study said the study was weakened by the lack of a comparison group.

He also questioned the validity of the way the study recorded improvements in patients’ conditions.

“Patients were simply asked by their homoeopathic doctor whether they felt better, and it is well known that in this situation many patients will come up with the answer the doctor wants to hear.”

Wait a minute, don’t these doctors know that that’s precisely what makes homeopathy’s provings more scientific. It is precisely the lack of controls that makes their studies better, don’t you see? You’re such a close minded sheep, you fact checking, scientific method following, non-flexible naysayer!

* Fact 36 – Homeopathy can never be properly tested through double blind randomised trials because each prescription is individualised as every patient is unique. Therefore 10 people with arthritis, for example, may all need a different homeopathic medicine.

And there it is ladies and gentlement, Special Pleading. Right after spending the previous two facts to show how homeopathy had been shown in countless studies to work, she has to qualify it by saying that it can’t be tested scientifically! RIGHT AFTER SAYING THAT IT HAS! Is that not incredible? Furthermore that is bullshit, homeopathic medicines are available at your local pharmacy and they are not individualized. Everybody buys the same little bottle of water or same box of sugar pills.

* Fact 37 – Homeopathic medicines are not tested on animals.

Non Sequitur – So what? What does that have to say about their efficacy? On the other hand does that mean that they are tested directly on humans? That’s horrible and unethical. Or does it mean they’re not tested at all! That, I think, is more likely, because after all homeopathy cannot be tested scientifically (Fact #36), but it has been shown in countless scientific studies to be quite efficient (Fact #34 & 35). Scratching your head yet?

* Fact 38 – Homeopathic medicines work even better on animals and babies than on adults, proving this cannot be placebo.

Bullshit. You can’t know either with babies or animals, because neither can talk properly (especially the animals). But wait did they not just say that homeopathic medicines are NOT tested on animals? But they are being prescribed for animals. So they are prescribing medicines for animals, without testing them on animals, thus without having any idea or basis to conclude that they do work on animals. Yeah, that’s how things should be done. One can only conclude that that is probably the process they follow for the human medicines too.Skip any safety precautions, such as testing to make sure there are no undesirable effects. It is not true that such medicines are not being tested. They are, it’s just that the homeopaths are making the test subjects pay to be part of their experiment. Genius! Callous and immoral, but genius nonetheless.

* Fact 39 – Scientists agree that if and when homeopathy is accepted by the scientific community it will turn established science on its head.

Non Sequitur – Scientist also agree that if a human being could fly unaided (kinda like Superman) that would also turn established science on its head, but that does not mean that there is any truth to the “flying people” rumors. And I doubt that scientists used the word “when” as in “if and when” which gives the impression that they are expecting it to happen. That, I submit is not true. Give me evidence that that is what scientist are saying.

Argument from Authority – Scientists, woooo! I could care less what a mathematician, a statistician or a physicist has to say about this. They are scientists but none of them is an authority in medicine. What do real doctors say? That would be more relevant.

* Fact 40 – Homeopathic Practitioners train for 4 years in Anatomy and Physiology, as well as Pathology and Disease, Materia Medica, Homeopathic Philosophy and study of the Homeopathic Repertory.

Non Sequitur – Who cares. Homeopathy is not medicine so any training in medicine by the practitioner has no bearing upon the veracity of the art of homeopathy. This is kinda like saying that your mechanic is better than my mechanic because your mechanic also studied astronomy.


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

5 Responses

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  1. Purushottama said, on October 31, 2008 at 8:40 AM

    The arguments made against Homeopathy are utterly non-sense. It only shows the polluted mind of the author against Homoeopathy. Such tactics can not make people move away from the system because we know on whose behalf such articles are written!

  2. Skepdude said, on November 4, 2008 at 5:19 AM

    Interesting point. Which argument specifically would you say is nonsense? Can you please point out where I went wrong in that argument?

  3. Homeo said, on November 9, 2008 at 12:36 PM

    I bet you’re working for a big Pharma company that spends billions of dollars for research instead of just selling water! Homeopathy works! It cured my cat too — these arguments are simply ridiculous!

  4. Skepdude said, on November 9, 2008 at 2:01 PM

    Ha ha,

    priceless. I work for a not for profit that has nothing whatsoever to do with big or small pharma.

    And saying that an argument is ridiculous is not saying anything. You must point out the mistake and I will take it back if I made a mistake.

  5. Skepdude said, on November 10, 2008 at 3:13 PM

    PS: Best wishes to your cat and thanks for the laughs!

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