Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Homeopathy, pumice stones, magical thinking and flights of fancy

tl;dr - gibberish :)
"S13 felt burning in her chest around the heart chakra towards her throat, also in her sacral chakra and spleen meridian."
All of homeopathy is utterly silly but a particular sort of open-minded* dimwittedness descends on homeopaths when they decide to 'prove' a new 'remedy'. This involves asking a selection of people to try it out and report on every little event, feeling or other whim that occurs to them. Remarkably tenuous explanations for these experiences are offered, relating to some imagined properties of the source material. It's quite astounding.

There are also some very silly remedies indeed, many skeptics have enjoyed the homeopathic antics that have given us remedies made of Berlin wall (for separation anxiety I think, or some such guff) and owl (for sleeping problems probably). Absolute drivel.

Despite being unintentionally very funny it's also rather sad and reading the Proving of the Pumice Stone from Montserrat organised by Leeds Homeopaths throws up the strong impression that homeopaths seem very keen to ascribe external influences (eg the remedy under investigation) to quite ordinary daily annoyances. It is as if they don't believe they have much control over their own lives.

The document begins with the notion that initially set things off, that a pumice stone is vageuly similar to osteoporotic bone and perhaps it could form a remedy for osteoporosis. There's then a treatise on volcanic rock and on Montserrat, pointing out the island had suffered "a traumatic history of hurricane and volcano damage" and that the homeopaths "think there are parallels with this recurring damage and loss with the amount of work done during the proving analysis which was mislaid, lost, redone (and sometimes found again afterwards)". Oh dear.

A couple of the provers suffer accident or injury during the time of the proving - of course this is magically linked to some negative effect of the remedy. Amazingly these injuries are not immediately solved with homeopathy, as you might expect, but seem to cause more lasting problems. Not much of an advert for homeopathy!

"...another prover broke her arm on the way to take the prover's baseline appointmentand had to withdraw from the process as a consequence. (This same lady was then off work for 3 months and only recovered properly a year later)." - gosh, how is such a thing possible when we all know that taking a single pill nearly always solves such problems immediately!

Another homeopath "fell and tore her right Achilles tendon before the closing meeting which then meant she could not attend it as planned. It was a severe injury that took a long time to recover from and she still felt traumatised a year later." - this seems like a fairly straightforward injury for homeopaths to heal, surely.

As well as the injuries there are surprising examples of people getting stuck in traffic - things that hardly ever happen normally, apparently. OK this one is fairly rare but I expect there's a fairly mundane reason: "One prover had a wall socket catch fire for no apparent reason."

Quite a few of the dozen or so homeopaths involved dropped out or didn't complete their assignments but the next few pages of the 16 page PDF are full of a range of their reported irritations, illnesses or then suddenly feeling energised and capable (imagine if you were to write down every event or emotion that happened to you in a week, you might find a bit of variability!). There's even a bit about their dreams in there.

2020 seems like a really good time to put away childish things and give homeopathy up for good.

Their document was published in 2016 under a Creative Commons share alike licence, so I've used the same licence for this post in the unlikely event that you want to re-use it (even commercially). Be my guest (but you must link to this blog).

*as in so opens brains have fallen out

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).