Thursday, March 13, 2014

Homeopathy, Panaceas, And Reason

Just expensive water

Not one molecule of material substance

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

A public mass overdose of homeopathic remedies has forced the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit openly that their products do not contain any "material substances". Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that "there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining" in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.

"You´re paying $10 for a teaspoon of water that even the homeopaths say has no material substance in it," says Skeptics Chair Vicki Hyde. "Yet a recent survey showed that 94% of New Zealanders using homeopathic products aren´t aware of this basic fact - their homeopath or health professional hasn´t disclosed this. The customers believe they are paying for the substances listed on the box, but those were only in the water once upon a time before the massive dilution process began - along with everything else that the water once had in it -- the chlorine, the beer, the urine...."

Source: Scoop Health

A common misnomer: homeopathy does not mean home remedy

Due to the name, homeopathy, I've had many people (including many clients) falsely assume homeopathy meant anything related to "home" remedies and homeopathy was the combination of the words, home and remedy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The root words are homeo and pathos: similar + suffering. Curing suffering with poisons that cause similar symptoms.

Home remedy makes people think of natural remedies or herbal supplements like aloe vera for burns or certain teas for sore throats. Homeopathy is in a different category.

Seems like when this misunderstanding occurs, people who work in the field often don't spend the time correcting this misunderstanding or explaining what exactly homeopathy is.

If people are willing to take it voluntarily because they know what it is, fine. That's their will, but using lack of education is the same as manipulation.

From Wikipedia:

"Homeopathy (also spelled homoeopathy or homœopathy; from the Greek hómoios- ὅμοιος- "like-" + páthos πάθος "suffering") is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like, according to which a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people. Homeopathic remedies are found to be no more effective than a placebo, and homeopathy is widely considered a pseudoscience."

There are doctors who are unaware of the origins of homeopathy and what exactly it means, who misunderstand it like everyone else.

The interest isn't in getting you to understand what it is, they just want you to buy it. The interest is sales not education.

There are also doctors very well aware of what it is, selling it to patients which further adds to the confusion of what it really is because of their medical degree.

The Logic of Rich = Genius

We can be quite the skeptic when someone is talking to us about creationism or how climate change is not a real thing. But we somehow can shut off that part of our brain if certain buzzwords are used, like holistic, cancer fighting, super food, homeopathy, karmic, zen, energy, alternative, Eastern, Oriental, or if it's all the rage at the high priced health market or yoga studio.

The bias many people have is this, if it's expensive, and rich people are doing it, it must be correct. Because rich people are geniuses. Then what does that say about the poor?

The other bias is, ingroup bias. If people in your group, your political party, your spinlates class are doing it, it needs no verification.

A common thing I see in Los Angeles are people who are really into astrology and reincarnation but loathe people who don't believe in evolution. Both are forms of magical thinking as my client Gavril puts it.

We all have biases, every group and party does. We just express them differently.

As one of my scientist clients puts it, "you can be crazy as long as you're the right kind of crazy."

There are many who wait years on a waiting list to be a patient of an expensive physician (who sell you a bunch of supplements insurance will never cover) because all the rich people go to them. And as we discussed, we misperceive wealth with knowledge.

Or because some rich person or celebrity they know did a $500 a week designer detox, somehow it's worth every penny. Because rich people would never do something irrational. If the gym they go to is $300-400 a month for a membership, it must somehow be better. And the $18 gym? It must be broken.

Money buys the "secret" sauce. Not all secret sauces are effective. And when it sounds too good to be true, often times it's not true.

Supplements can be helpful. I take a few myself. It's just that health and greed make strange bedfellows.

With all that said, wealth allows greater access to better education, but it also gains access to a lot more unconventional ideas by people who want their money.

How does homeopathy work?

Homeopathy uses many animal, plant, mineral, and synthetic substances in its remedies. How it works is you use poison to cure you. Which isn't that strange as that's the basis of modern vaccines.

The strange part is they take said "poison," and then dilute it in water or alcohol, by a factor of 100. Then you vigorously shake it, then you take a drop of that and dilute it again in 100 parts of water. The more you repeat this, the more powerful the "medicine" becomes.

At the end, all you're left with is the essence, the vibrations of the poison. If you've been around pseudoscience and new age religions, vibrations is something you hear often. From laws of attraction, to crystals, to metaphysics, to obscure cults, vibrations are the go to explanations for everything. Because it sounds based in reality.

There's constant class action lawsuits against homeopathic medicine and supplements because there is no trace of any active ingredients. And if it's real homeopathic medicine, there never should be, you should only be left with the vibrations. One of our clients works for a law firm, where all they do is sue and win lawsuits against homeopathic companies. But those companies can afford to pay out because it's so profitable.

Be more open minded they say

Be more open minded they tell me. I am. Just to reason. I could say the same, why can't you be more open to listening to logic?

Some might read this and ask why I hate the rich. I don't. I could just as well ask that same person why they hate the poor.

It's the same argument, just depends on which side you're standing on. It's all about being the right kind of crazy right?

You're so judgmental some might say! Listen, if I say it's great or it sucks, those are both value judgments. But most people only count things as judgment if it's non-validating. If it validates their stance, it's just a compliment. Which in the world of pseudoscience, people tend to want to surround themselves with loving, positive, validating people right?

If we surrounded ourselves with people who have our same world views, beliefs, socioeconomic standings, we create a kind of echo chamber effect, and we lose self awareness and become as ridiculous as the people we make fun of. We become insular.

Only when we have some people who disagree with us as well does it force us to think out and check for consistencies in our own beliefs. If not, intellectually and emotionally this can be crippling. We know how influential peer groups can be.

Winston Churchill used to surround himself not with yes men, but people who disagreed with him.

Sometimes people take facts that seem to disagree with their stance as judgment... Just because that's how they take it doesn't mean it is.

There has been much controversy whether Steve Jobs waited too long to get conventional treatment for his cancer. He was a skeptic, but of modern medicine. Was he being open minded to alternative treatments or close minded to modern medicine? Depends on where you stand right?

So instead of using good or bad let's clarify a lack of understanding on this subject. Do what you will with this new information.

Does having new information change anything?

I once had an interaction with someone who was asking me about diet. We got into protein and she doesn't eat meat or legumes. She said she doesn't worry about it because all foods have protein. I asked her how she knew that, she said that's what she chooses to believe. She had a host of preventable medical conditions, but that's the sacrifice she was willing to make for her beliefs.

I kid you not, there are even people who believe you don't need water or food to survive...

And that's what this is really about right? Belief? And if you believe you may believe in spite of new information. But that's not science, that's devotion. That is religion. Then why hate on creationism again?

Famous skeptic James Randy explains homeopathy

And for the TED Talks fans

And now?

Now that you know what it is, decide for yourself. Don't just do it because you know people who do it or because you thought it was something else.

And if not, there's power in belief. If it doesn't hurt you, why not. You always have the freedom to do what you please with no explanation. Maybe the more expensive it is, the more you will believe.

When it can hurt you is when you have a serious illness and you choose this for yourself. That's ill advised. When a child has a serious illness and you choose this over actual medicine, that's criminal.


My name is Sam Yang. I'm a martial artist, entrepreneur, fitness nerd, information geek, and productivity nut. For more useful information, join my newsletter. You can also connect to All Out Effort on Facebook and Twitter.

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