Death by Embarassment, from Homeopathy

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.”

He says:
“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

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8 comments on “Death by Embarassment, from Homeopathy

  1. Wetherby Close says:

    It’s no good trying to reason with Chapman. He has a justified Internet-wide reputation for evasiveness, obnoxiousness and vileness. However what is extraordinary here is that you’ve found the needle in the haystack…unlike with pretty much everything else, he is actually right about homeopathy!

    I mean really…how can anyone with any intelligence seriously believe that water molecules “remember” what other molecules have been among them, and even if that’s the case, how do we know what other (potentially nasty) molecules have previously been among the same water molecules? If homeopathy is remotely effective then why does no-one seem to be able to overdose on homeopathic “remedies”? Where on Earth is the evidence that reducing the strength of the “remedy” will increase its effectiveness? I mean come on, homeopathy is just so farcical in so many ways…there are so many other remedies which are actually effective but are missing out on adequate research and publicity because of rubbish like homeopathy…it’s irresponsible to keep promoting it, so please stop.

    Much better to talk to Chapman about, say, speed cameras…he supports them because he hates cars and he sees cameras as an excellent weapon against motorists (make the speed limit too low, “police” it with hidden cameras, and hey presto, you’re well on the way to banning countless safe drivers…Chapman wants private motoring to become a thing of the past as it’s not part of his vision of a socialist utopia).

    Apart from the lunacy of wanting to bully every motorist off the roads, there’s another small problem with his wish to use speed cameras to achieve that aim: cameras have been conclusively shown to make the roads more, rather than less, dangerous. Chapman is well aware of this and yet still campaigns for cameras: he thinks it’s OK to deliberately and unnecessarily kill road users as long as it’s for a good cause, and apparently forcibly ridding our highways of the motorist scum falls into that category.

    I kid you not, that’s what he thinks…just one of many reasons why people hate him. You can try reasoning with him on the subject, though you’re unlikely to get far…sooner rather than later he’ll feel unable to answer one of your questions, and that’s when the sneering evasiveness, underhand tactics and thousands of personal attacks will start. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

    However, the fact remains that if you are going to take Chapman on, it’s better to choose one of the many, many subjects where he’s demonstrably wrong and unreasonable, instead of the single subject (homeopathy) where he happens to be correct (probably for all the wrong reasons, but nevertheless he does seem to be right).

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    • johnbenneth says:

      Thank you for your post about Guy Chapman, and infomrating us about him. I also appreciate your quetions about homeopathy, but to start with, if he’s been so unreasonable about other things, what makes you think he suddenly becomes reasonable about this?
      The questions you ask about homeoapthy are the same questions we all ask. Stop for a moment an think about it, do you really belive that what you’re asking and what your’e concluding are the first time we’ve heard about this?
      You’re repeating what the pharmacuetical intersts want you to repat. This is not an easy subject to understand, and they have eploited that. There are answers to everyone of your questions. Just because homeopathics use water in them is not a reason to dismiss evidence that shows their action in vivo (in loive subjects) and in vtiro (in petri dishes and testtubes). In other words, homeopathics have been shown to work on plants and animals, and biochemicals.
      They have also been identified chemically.
      At one point Guy said that for every study we have that shows the action of homeoapthic drugs, there is one that shows its a placebo. We challenged him to show us one good scientfic study, and he failed. Because there is none.
      Homeopathy poses a huge threat to a huge industry that is under attack for criminal activities. They have been fined the largest crcivil penalties amounts in history, billions. But this is a small threat compeared to what homeopathy poses, so they will do anything they can to discredit it in your mind.
      Thanks again for nodding in here. IF there’s any questions we can answer here about homeopathy, please feel free to ask.
      best,
      John Benneth

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      • Guy Chapman says:

        Well, John, you really need to look at what constituted “reasonable” in his mind.

        In his mind, the fact that I pointed out the flaws in someone’s assertion that speed cameras are responsible for a third of all road fatalities, means that I know speed cameras are responsible for a third of all road fatalities, I hate motorists, and I want as many of them to die as possible, so I found the flaws in the argument just so that the Evil Government could carry on killing motorists with speed cameras.

        That’s his version of “reasonable”.

        I don’t think many dictionaries have a definition of “reasonable” that’s quite elastic enough to encompass that.

        If you’re looking for people who hate me, in order to be able to play the game of ad-hominem and distractions, then find the Wikipedia user called paralelUni. That one is even more toxic than the person you just replied to (who usually goes by the handle “Nuxx Bar”).

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  2. hulseve says:

    “It’s kind of like the threat of being the last smoker.”
    How much is it possible?

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  3. Guy Chapman says:

    Hmmmm. You deleted my reply. Do you think that makes you seem more credible or less? (rhetorical question).

    Like

    • Guy Chapman says:

      Oops, no, back now. Glitch in WordPress, it seems.

      Like

      • Wetherby Close says:

        Or maybe you just screwed up. You know, like when you posted as Lou Knee from an IP address that you’d previously used? Not particularly clever considering that you’re a self-professed “thought leader” in IT. Oh well, as long as you never admit fault and refuse to answer difficult questions, no-one’s any the wiser, or at least you can keep telling yourself that.

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  4. Guy Chapman says:

    Had you taken the trouble to ask instead of making assumptions, you’d have discovered some of the many ways in which your rant is simply wrong.

    I’ve had a good, modern, western education. The scientific method is pretty much baked in these days and for good reason: the track record of the scientific method in improving our understanding of the world is unmatched by any other methodology. Robert Hooke was, in my view, the last great empirical scientist, and even he was as much concerned by the why as by the what. The dispute between the Baconian and the Cartesian methods was settled centuries ago.

    You have, I’m afraid, done nothing here to advance your claim. Rather, by succumbing to blatant ad hominem, you have weakened it.

    I have proposed an experiment which will advance this debate. we know that small scale trials are less reliable than large scale ones (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2805%2967177-2/fulltext, http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.com/content/82/1/69.full) so I propose a large, randomised, double-blind trial comparing responses to the notionally correct versus notionally incorrect homeopathic remedy, and placebo as a third arm. This would be very easy to do. You’d need to ensure that the experimental protocol is validated and monitored and the paper is properly vetted and published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal.

    I would suggest that is a vastly better use of your time than engaging individual sceptics. Few of us matter a hill of beans in the global scheme of things, neither do you of course – what matters is the evidence. Right now you are on the wrong part of the curve, the dispassionate evidence base is increasingly against you. I personally don’t care too much about that, you might.

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