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Homeopathy — Still Crazy After All These Years

Posted in Skeptic by Skepdude on January 15, 2009

Homeopathy is one of the longest running forms of pseudoscience in the modern world. Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized that it was nonsense back in 1842 when he wrote “Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions.” We long ago gave up the nonsense of trying to balance the four humors by bloodletting and purging, but the homeopathy Energizer Bunny is still marching on. What makes it so indestructible?

One reason is a lack of understanding about what homeopathy really is, even among health care providers. I recently heard about a nurse who thought “homeopathic” just referred to any mild natural herbal remedy. In case any readers are similarly confused, here’s a brief overview. Homeopathy was invented by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. It is based on the now-outdated principle that “like cures like,” and the lower the dose the better in homeopathy. If coffee keeps you awake, highly diluted coffee will put you to sleep. The more dilute the coffee, the better you will sleep.

To figure out what remedy works for what symptoms, you do a “proving” by giving a substance to healthy people and writing down every symptom they have for the next few days (without trying to determine whether the symptom was due to the substance or was just coincidental). You make a remedy by diluting that substance many times and shaking it (succussing) at each step. You look up a patient’s symptoms in a book listing all the different proving results, and you give him the remedy that best matches what ails him.

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It’s an injustice to NOT marry girls aged 10, says Saudi cleric

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 15, 2009

Ten-year-old girls are ready for marriage, according to Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, the country’s grand mufti, told Al Hayat newspaper that those saying ten or 12-year-old girls are too young to marry are being ‘unfair’ to them.

Al Sheikh’s comments come at a time when Saudi human rights groups have been pushing the government to put an end to marriages involving the very young and to define a minimum age for marriage.

In the past few months, Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men or very young boys

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Vaccine cuts meningitis rates, even in adults

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 15, 2009

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A routine childhood vaccine used to prevent several common types of infections has helped cut the rate of a deadly form of meningitis by 30 percent in children and adults, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday, suggesting even the unvaccinated are benefiting from the shot.

They said the vaccine Prevnar made by Wyeth significantly reduced cases of meningitis caused by pneumococcal bacteria strains covered by the vaccine.

But they also noted a worrisome increase of pneumococcal meningitis in strains not covered by the vaccine and those that resist antibiotics.

“When you immunize children, they are much less likely to carry pneumococcal strains covered by the vaccine in the back of the throat,” Dr. Lee Harrison of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, whose study appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, said in a statement.

“When vaccinated children don’t carry these virulent strains, they don’t end up transmitting them to other children, their parents and grandparents.”

Harrison said the study clearly shows adults not covered by the vaccine benefit, suggesting it conveys so-called “herd immunity” to people who have not been vaccinated. Previous studies showed it protected elderly people against deadly pneumonia strains, even when they were not given an adult vaccine.

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