by Dr. John Benneth
Embarassment is an emotion of having to remember what you don’t want to know.
Remember Memento? It’s a movie made in 2000, directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Guy Pearce, who plays a man who’s lost his short term memory and trying to find his wife‘s murderer.
The film noir story runs black and white scenes in chronological order and color scenes in reverse . . just like the argument against homeopathy.
The last scene is played first. Sort of. I think. Oh, I don’t remember. It’s a confusing movie until you realize what’s happening. So by the end of it the plot converges and hopefully you won‘t have to buy another ticket to figure out what you saw the first time. What would be helpful is if they warned you at the box office . . “Now look, here’s what you need toknow if you’re going to udnerstand this thing.”
You know, it’s embarrassing when you’re the only one who doesn’t get it. It’s kind of like the threat of being the last smoker.
Just like with homeopathy. I’ve seen it a hundred times, if not a thousand and they always bear the same old stamp of disapproval.
I got a classic example of this mentally-ill kind of thinking sent to me as a comment on my last blog, signed by “Guy Chapman.”
“All your proposed evidence is weak and observational, most of it fatally undermined by selection bias and other confounders. In the days before the Enlightenment it was enough to produce an empirical result and from that propose a possible rule; Newton did away with that . . ”
“You – homeopaths – can silence your critics by demonstrating in a large randomised a double blind trial that human subjects show a difference in response between (a) the “correct” remedy, (b) a “remedy” designed to produce an opposite or substantially different effect and (c) placebo. Do that and science will ahve to take note and work with you to understand the underlying mechanism. ”
Like the movie Memento, what Chapman doesn’t tell you right away is that he’s playing the logic backwards. He leaves it until the last to tell you why he thinks we need all this stuff that would never occur to him in any other context,
“Because there is no way on earth we’re likely to believe that water with nothing in it has an effect based on a physically and chemically undetectable memory of an arbitrarily chosen substance.”
How many times have we heard that one? It’s like having a name everyone makes a the same joke about. Chapman waits until the very last sentence to say what he should of said to begin with, which is why he thinks the evidence is weak, which is why he won’t state criteria for testing, and which is why he can’t say what he thinks “science” is. He leaves it until last because he doesn’t want to believe that there is any, but he has to say it, what is most important to the argument, the hump he can‘t get over and doesn‘t want anyone else to either. Whatever we show him, he won’t believe it.
So here, in this last sentence he has given us the key to his mind. The strength of the evidence is its “rationale,” how it fits into the corpus mundi of science.
Chapman is no different in his thinking in this regard than Professor Sir John Beddington (UK Chief Scientist), Prof. David Colquhoun, Michael Shermer, Prof. Steven Novella, Prof. Edzard Ernst, Ben Goldacre, Andy Lewis, James “the Amazing” Randi and a million others.
Will knowing the secret will result in a massive book burning and loss of funding for academia by drug company profits? And loud mouths like Chapman that chant their litanies, in a slow, excruciating death by embarrassment . . from homeopathy.
John Benneth, PG Hom. (Hon.)
Hahnemann College, London