Hilarious homeopathic handbaggery

Over the weekend Lay Scientist blog master and 10:23 press supremo Martin Robbins took issue with the British Homeopathic Association over their presentation of the “evidence” on homeopathy to the House of  Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.

The BHA, it seems, have taken umbrage. (Let me say that again: definite umbrage).

They have responded by having a public huff at him.

I suppose Martin should be grateful they didn’t sue.

He has now responded.

Curiously Martin finds that the BHA seem to have quite a taste for selective quotation.

It’s a great film, if you like garbage

The selective quote is an art long practiced by publicists and PR types, especially when promoting book or films to which the reviewers have not been kind.

For instance, you might see, on the film poster, the line:

“Full of life and colour. McZ remains the doyen of fast action films”

the Guardian

- When the full quote from the newspaper’s film critic was something like:

“Despite it’s complete lack of anything resembling a story, the film is visually full of life and colour. McZ remains the doyen of fact action films – though the characters are utterly wooden, and they and the repetitive car chases, smashes and explosions left this viewer completely uninterested in the outcome”

Pro-Unreality Quote-Mining

Martin R has a special talent for spotting quote mining by the Pro-Unreality Community. You might remember his famous spot when the British Chiropractic Association quoted a study as saying:

“There was weak evidence to support the use of [chiropractic].”

When what the cited study actually said was:

There was weak evidence to support the use of hypnosis, psychotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic but it was provided in each case by single small trials, some of dubious methodological rigour.”

I wonder if the BCA and the BHA use the same people to write their stuff?

Anyway, please go and have a read over at Lay Scientist. As Jack of Kent says, you have to love any post that starts with a line like:

“Over the weekend I received a rare honour, a press release directed at me with the full intellectual might of the British Homeopathic Association behind it.”

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41 Responses to “Hilarious homeopathic handbaggery”

  1. Cybertiger Says:

    Droopy draust is waving his handbag at homeopaths: more draw-dropping ennui, I can see!

  2. Dr*T Says:

    Hey Dr Aust, you got yourself a little blog-kitten. How cute :)

  3. draust Says:

    Not so sure about “kitten”, Dr*T. Ill-tempered (or should that be “distempered”?) middle-aged tabby with a bad attitude, more likely.

    PS I understand you can vaccinate cats against feline distemper, though I suspect it’s probably a no-no in this case.

  4. Mojo Says:

    It’s a great film…

    http://www.wepsite.de/Critic%27s%20Choice.htm

  5. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dr_Aust_PhD: Hilarious homeopathic handbaggery: http://wp.me/p7r3S-fy

  6. Nancy Says:

    Real is Homeopathy. Homeopathy for Everyone

  7. Cybertiger Says:

    One for Herr Drippy and the lovely Frau Draust …

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/340/feb03_1/c643#230889

    Dare I suggest that Droopy’s Frau might be one of those tiresomely underemployed and yet grossly overpaid GPs who sling mud at homeopaths and chiropractors … and competent scientists like Andrew Wakefield. Not so pretty and not so lovely. Ugly, in fact …

  8. draust Says:

    Oh dear. Spectacularly wrong on all counts, Shabby. As usual.

    Mrs Dr Aust, after many years slaving away in the trenches as an SHO and registrar in hospital medicine, is currently an underpaid “Specialty Doctor” (aka Trust Grade Doctor aka Clinical Assistant aka dogsbody) in a Large Urban Hospital. In which role, needless to say, the kind of wages earned by even salaried GPs like yourself look like the distant sunny uplands of plenty.

  9. Cybertiger Says:

    A violin and a bunch of yellow roses for poor Dr Dogsbody, slavish Frau to Herr Droopy, the iconic, but appallingly paid British scientist. Cue, more violins. I guess, die familie Draust will just have to upsticks and follow the Lone Star … to riches beyond belief …

  10. Cybertiger Says:

    PS. Thanks for releasing me from the cat-mangle (aka cybercensor’s trap)

  11. Cybertiger Says:

    PPS. There’ll be no Nobel prize under the Lone Star for Dr Droopy Draust … that prize is bagged by another.

  12. draust Says:

    Behave yourself, Shabby, or I shall have to move your litter tray back into the spam box…

  13. Cybertiger Says:

    You’re lightening up, Dr Dreary! I actually larfed at that one.

  14. Cybertiger Says:

    This prof from North Carolina has just swung a heavy handbag into Colquhoun’s hefty *****s.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/339/dec15_1/b5432#231175

    Colquhoun will soon be squealing like a pig with flu. Watch the skies.

  15. draust Says:

    I don’t think David will be too discomforted by the comment Cybertiger cited from (Emeritus) Prof Jonathan Davidson.

    I don’t agree with Davidson’s expressed interpretation of the totality of the trials on homeopathy, and neither, I am sure, would David Colquhoun. Davidson’s comments seem to me to suggest he is using the same kind of reading as the British Homeopathic Association, where one counts the trials rather than rigorously trying to weigh up which ones are more reliable.

    The other thing is that Davidson completely ignores the “biological plausibility” (or rather implausibility, for homeopathy) aspect of the argument. This is a well-recognised problem with EBM – or perhaps one should say “loophole” – that has allowed the advocates of belief-based therapies to drive a coach and horses through the “hierarchies of evidence” set-up.

    I would also note in passing that Davidson has published a bunch of articles on homeopathy, notably with Peter Fisher. but also with some distinctly rum characters. So he can hardly be said not to have a dog in the fight.

    I actually have an open mind on the topic of placebo therapies, or “stealth psychotherapy”. I can see the ethical problems with dishing out dummy pills, but I can also see why some doctors think there are settings where placebo interventions, or stealth psychotherapy, might be useful. But we cannot have a sensible discussion about this until folk like Peter Fisher and Jonathan Davidson stop refusing to engage sensibly with the idea (though it is far more than that) that homeopathy is a placebo.

  16. Cybertiger Says:

    I agree with you, Draust! Without doubt, Colquhoun is a rum character, the obvious dog’s bol***ks of biological implausibility. One awaits with interest the undoubted implausibiliy of Colquhoun’s response to Davidson.

    PS. I note the cat-spa-m-angler is still in operation.

  17. Cybertiger Says:

    Bollocks! I note the cat-spa-m-angler was still in operation.

  18. Cybertiger Says:

    I spoke too soon: two implausible attack dogs have already been given leave to give Davidson a bollocking.

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/339/dec15_1/b5432#231240

  19. draust Says:

    For those who don’t speak Tigger, what the last comment means is that Edzard Ernst and David Colquhoun have both pointed out some of the fallacies in Davidson’s argument. You can follow CyberT’s link to see the ripostes, which are rather good.

  20. Cybertiger Says:

    You can tell Draust PhD is a real scientist; he knows for certain that big bollocks are scientifically associated with phantastic fallacies.

  21. Michael K Gray Says:

    I wish that you would prevent this puerile mental infant who hides behind “cybertiger’ from polluting an otherwise adult blog.

  22. Cybertiger Says:

    Hi Mike

    If only Herr Draust would show some personal restraint and censor the naughtiness – and haughtiness – of this adult blog.

  23. pv Says:

    The infant who hides behind “cybertiger” is one “Dr” Mark Struthers. “Dr” Struthers is a well known Internet sociopath and supporter of St Andrew Wakefield. He fancies himself as a bit of a wit and intellectual heavyweight. He is in fact a perfect example of the Dunning Kruger effect:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

    Ask him why he got the sack, as it were, from his most recent practice.

  24. Cybertiger Says:

    Ahhh, our incompetent spokesperson from the smelly ‘underworld’ has arrived on the scene.

    I suspect that Gorski, Novella and Offit are the true sufferers of the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome and the stunning ‘arrogance of ignorance’ effect that sufferers suffer.

    http://www.ageofautism.com/2010/02/dr-steven-novella-makes-the-case-for-vaccine-autism-link-by-mistake.html

    The stupid, it burns!

  25. pv Says:

    Your childish response merely confirms my assertion, Mr Struthers. You simply lack the intellectual capacity to question your own position so you make infantile comments about others.
    I for one am very happy for you to post your ramblings all over the Internet, just so the world can see you for the dumb fool you are.

    So why did you get the sack then? Because of your genius? Don’t tell me someone else was wrong!

  26. Cybertiger Says:

    Your perverse ramblings, pv, merely suggest an easy few minutes of shrinkage … while you ramble on to the back of the psychiatrist’s chair.

  27. Cybertiger Says:

    Oh dear, I fear some more big balls are about to be juggled …

    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/339/dec15_1/b5432#231589

    Edit: some boring Shabby-stuff about David Colquhoun removed.

  28. Cybertiger Says:

    Oh no, precious Draust has switched on the tabby-mangler again. What can I have possibly done this time to invite such censorship?

  29. pv Says:

    Keep digging Struthers. At least your stupidity is funny.

    But do tell why you got the sack. Some of us would like to hear your side of the story. Was it that your bedside manner was so good that it put your colleagues to shame?

  30. draust Says:

    Re. Shabby’s now de-spammed comment at 4.12 pm:

    Once more, a translation for those who don’t speak Tigger:

    Prof George Lewith, one of CAM’s more prominent advocates in academic (general practise) medicine, has added a further and rather belated response to the same British Medical Journal comments thread (Shabby’s link) in which Lewith takes issue with David Colquhoun’s Christmas editorial.

    In the bit I deleted Shabby anticipates (with the usual infantile taunts) that David will respond, which is probably a fair bet. Unlike Shabby, I suspect David is more than capable of seeing off Professor George.

    PS: Shabby: it seems that something about your comments with links in them unerringly convinces WordPress that you are a spammer. Not being a computer algorithm expert I can’t tell exactly what, though I have been impressed with the programme’s judgement over the years.

  31. draust Says:

    PS Just noticed Shabby posted a link (comment at 9.23 am) to something on the Age of Autism blog.

    Posting any kind of link to the stew of paranoia, conspiracy theory, disinformation and ad hominem bile that is Age of Autism ought to be one of those “Internet Laws”. I suggest something like:

    “In any argument that concerns a question regarding who is more in touch with scientific, medical, or general reality, citing Age of Autism with approbation loses you the argument and gets you laughed out of the room. ”

    Though all the other crazy people will doubtless still be your friends.

    For plentiful examples of AoA’s dissociation from reality, you can nip over to Respectful Insolence and type “age of autism” in the search box.

    One of the more unpleasant examples is discussed here.

  32. Cybertiger Says:

    “At least your stupidity is funny”, said that underworld fella. But with scientific evidence-based certainty, I vouch for Droopy Draust being the funny one … and that’s just with his homeopathic take on the hilarity of handbagging.

  33. al capone junior Says:

    What happened cybertiger, you get fired or something, and thus have more time for trolling now?

    Perhaps the AoA internet law could be a corollary of Scopie’s Law, because (and I’m sorry to say this), Aust’s law just doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

    [Edited to add link]

  34. Vicky Says:

    I developed this theory: Homeopaths aren’t deliberately trying to mislead, they’re applying homeopathic principles (namely the law of infinitesimals) to rhetoric. Diluting the original quote (or maybe even potentising? they might be succussing the quote, too) is meant to rid it of all negative statements and increase its positive effects.

    In a sceptic’s eyes “homeopathic quotes” (as I will call them from now on) are not superior to or even distinguishable from “placebo quotes” (i.e. made-up quotes), but you’ll find many people on the internet citing them as “proof” for homeopathy anyway. After all they were convinced by the homeopathic quote, so this is proof for its effectiveness, isn’t it?

    PS: Another Nancy M. one-liner! Is Nancy really everywhere or only on the blogs I happen to read?

  35. draust Says:

    Heh. Interesting theory, Vicky.

    Re Ubiquitous homeo-spammer Nancy Malik:

    Like you, I suspect, I had seen her favourite spam one-liner:

    “Homeopathy cures where allopathic medicine fails”

    – all over the internet whenever sceptical views are aired on homeopathy. I think I responded the first time the comment popped up on this blog, but after that I saw it so many times elsewhere that I assumed “she” was a Spambot rather than an actual person.

    To my amazement, though, the Ten-23 campaign, and particularly its twitter hashtag, have revealed pretty conclusively that there really IS a crazy woman called Nancy Malik who is an Indian homeopath. Her latest recurring tag-line seems to be to call “allopathic” (i.e. real) medicine “killer medicine”. On her various Web profiles she actually styles herself as both a “homeopathic physician” and even a “medical professional”, thus displaying the grandiosity and lack of self-insight that characterises so many homeopaths.

  36. Michael K Gray Says:

    Nancy is vying to be the type-specimen for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  37. Nancy Says:

    Triple Blind studies, Double-Blind Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial, Systematic Reviews & Meta Analysis, Evidence-base

    130+ studies in support of homeopathy medicine published in 52 peer-reviewed international journals

    http://knol.google.com/k/dr-nancy-malik-bhms/scientific-research-in-homeopathy/pocy7w49ru14/2#

    Medicines for specific disease conditions, Ultra-molecular dilutions, Structure & Memory of Water, Animal Studies, Plant Studies

  38. draust Says:

    She’s back!! Yes, it’s the reigning Queen of Internet Homeo-spam, “Dr” Nancy Malik.

    For those of infinite patience, my blogging and scientific friend Xtaldave has deconstructed Nancy’s less than convincing catalogue of pro-homeopathy studies on his Anomalous Distraction blog.

    PS In case you were wondering, “Dr” Nancy is as much a real medical doctor as I am a world-renowned neurosurgeon.

  39. Nancy Says:

    The so called “scientific” among skeptics xtaldave’s and other skeptics of homeopathy medicine questions’ have been answered at

    http://knol.google.com/k/dr-nancy-malik-bhms/faq-a-on-homeopathy/pocy7w49ru14/11#

    20 most Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

    Q. How homeopathy medicine provides a strong and stable foundation for your health?
    Q. What are the preventive medicines in Homeopathy?
    Q. What are those 14 good reasons that patients choose Homeopathy medicine over conventional as the choice of medical treatment?

    Classical homeopathy, constitutional treatment, Role of Symptoms, Homeopathic Consultation, Preventive Medicine, Why patients choose homeopathy over allopathy?

  40. Sceric Says:

    ok, let me answer that for you Nancy

    Q:How homeopathy medicine provides a strong and stable foundation for your health?

    not at all aka by hoping and believing religiously in something which is even less plausible than a homepath with a degree in thermodynamics

    Q. What are the preventive medicines in Homeopathy?

    by sprinkling water on sugar

    Q. What are those 14 good reasons that patients choose Homeopathy medicine over conventional as the choice of medical treatment?

    1. Because they choose to believe
    2. Because they ignore evidence
    3. Because they are not full informed by the homeopatic – so called -doctor
    4. Because (at least some of them) choose to stay ignorant
    5. Because the choose an surreal hope instead of the plain truth
    6. Because they think its cheaper
    7. Because they never thought about how the “remedy” is produced
    8. Because they never thought about why the water/sugar just should remember the one ingredient
    9. Because they think that the production of their remedy is done under 100% clean room surroundings (because otherwise thee could get other particles in the water which somehow should screw up the remedy
    10. Because they don’t know that every production which relies on the accuracy that the homeopaths claim isn’t feasible
    11. Because they think that if I sprinkle water on sugar that the sugar also remember all that the water “knows”
    12 Because they think that water is multilingual (yep that guy from Japan claiming that water remember the stickers on the bottles)
    13. Because they think it makes more sense to avoid a realistic chance to get treatment in favour of a nice talk with somebody
    14. Because Doc Nancy’s spreads her marketing waste all over the place so that she get’s richer than most people she treats ever will be (I know that’s only an assumption, but one that could be proven, not like what the lady sells)

    buy the way, I’m not a medical doctor either, but as an engineer I know enough about production that diluting something that often can’t result in the on the package stated result/accuracy (Hey if you really don’t care if it’s C30 +/- 10)

  41. Dr Aust Says:

    Thanks for that, Eric.

    One of my favourite rebuttal points for homeopathy is simply to run the numbers for a “30C” solution (30 sequential 100-fold dilutions and “succussions”, so diluted 100^30, or 10^60, times). I got this from David Colquhoun, who used to show the calculation in his very funny deconstruction of alternative nonsense, and I now often use it the same way in seminars about homeopathy.

    The trick is, first, to calculate a ballpark molar concentration for the “remedy substance” in a typical ultra-dilute remedy. For instance, if the “mother tincture” contained a 1 Molar concentration of “remedy stuff”, then a 10^60 dilution contains [6 x 10^23) x 10^(-60)] – Avogadro’s Number times the dilution – remedy molecules per litre, which is 6 x 10(-37) molecules per litre.

    The next step is to ask:

    “So…how big would a pill made from this “solution” have to be to have a realistic probability of finding one actual molecule of the “remedy substance” in it…?”

    The answer, if you do the sums, is a sphere with a diameter of approximately 1.46 x 10^11 metres.

    For a useful comparison, 1.48 x 10^11 metres is the distance from the earth to the sun.

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