We’ve written a lot about homeopathy lately, but every time I think I have written all I can, something sucks me back in. The 10:23 demonstrations and the CBC Marketplace coverage have elicited fascinating case studies in CAM professionalism. Rather than offering any new information or evidence about homeopathy itself, some homeopaths have spuriously accused skeptical groups of being malicious Big Pharma shills. Enter Mike Adams of the Natural News website, black hole of nonsense. He has decided to provide his own coverage of the 10:23 campaign with characteristic, glaringly self-referential flare.
Mike’s thesis is essentially: Silly skeptics, it’s impossible to OD on homeopathy! After some mixed metaphors about skeptics being five-year-old psychopathic flat-Earthers failing to learn Mozart (or something) — you know, because we’re such rubes for yet again failing to grasp such complex a topic as homeopathy — he makes several testable claims, with no supporting evidence whatsoever, as if they are self-evident. They are not.
1. “Notice that they never consume their own medicines in large doses? Chemotherapy? Statin drugs? Blood thinners? They wouldn’t dare drink those.
Of course we wouldn’t. Steven Novella rightly points out that, though Mike thinks he’s being clever here, he’s actually demonstrating a lack of understanding for what the 10:23 campaign is about by using a straw man. Mike later issues a challenge for skeptics to drink their favourite medicines while he drinks homeopathy. Since no one will agree to that for the reasons explained above, he can claim some sort of victory — hence his smugness. But no one is saying that drugs aren’t harmful.
The difference between medicine and poison is in the dose. The vitamins and herbs promoted by the CAM industry are just as potentially harmful as any pharmaceutical drug, given enough of it. Would Adams be willing to OD on the vitamins or herbal remedies that he sells? These actually contain ingredients and, in some cases, can cause significant harm or death if dosed incorrectly. Even Adams’ favorite panacea, vitamin D, is toxic if you take enough of it (just ask Gary Null). Notice how skeptics don’t consume those either, because that is not the point they’re making.
The point of these demonstrations is that homeopathy has nothing in it, has no measurable physiological effects, and does not do what is advertised on the package. Also, these demonstrations elicit a wide variety of criticisms that contradict each other, demonstrating that even homeopaths themselves often can’t agree on what homeopathy is and how it works. Homeopathy was invented in the 1800s and there remains no plausible — or even consistent — explanation for homeopathy’s supposed effects. Consumers should know that.
Another point of the homeopathic demonstrations is to clarify to the public that homeopathy is not herbal medicine. Many people see “Arnica” (for example) on a bottle and think they are getting Arnica, not realizing that 30C isn’t a fancy notation of dose, but an indication that the ingredient has been removed past the point of individual recognition.
2. “Homeopathy, you see, isn’t a drug. It’s not a chemical.”
Well, he’s got that right.
“You know the drugs are kicking in when you start getting worse. Toxicity and conventional medicine go hand in hand.” [emphasis his]
Here I have to wonder if Adams knows any people with diabetes, AIDS, or any other illness that used to mean a death sentence before the significant medical advances of the 20th century that we now take for granted. So far he seems to be a firm believer in the false dichotomy that drugs are bad and natural products are good, regardless of what’s in them or how they’re used (as we know, natural products can have biologically active substances and effectively act as impure drugs – but leave it to Adams not to get bogged down with details). There is nothing to support the assertion that conventional medicine is nothing but toxic symptom-inducers. Either he is being deliberately obtuse or disturbingly negligent. Adams needs to put his evidence where his mouth is.
3-11. “But homeopathy isn’t a chemical. It’s a resonance. A vibration, or a harmony. It’s the restructuring of water to resonate with the particular energy of a plant or substance. We can get into the physics of it in a subsequent article, but for now it’s easy to recognize that even from a conventional physics point of view, liquid water has tremendous energy, and it’s constantly in motion, not just at the molecular level but also at the level of its subatomic particles and so-called “orbiting electrons” which aren’t even orbiting in the first place. Electrons are vibrations and not physical objects.” [emphasis his]
This is Star Trek-like technobabble – lots of sciency words, complete nonsense. Mike says precisely nothing here. No matter how he dresses it up, if something — anything — has an effect, then that effect is measurable by definition. Either something works or it doesn’t, regardless of mechanism. In any case, I’d like to see the well-documented series of research that conclusively proves this supposed mechanism. Actually, I’d like to see any credible research at all. I know what the answer will be to that: science can’t detect this yet. Well if you agree with that statement, reader, ask yourself this: then how does Adams know? Where did he get this information? Without evidence, he is guessing, and what is that really worth?
12. “That won’t be taught that in university physics classes until probably 2020, at which point most of them will probably be dead from taking pharmaceuticals to treat their own diseases. For now, they’ve all convinced themselves that electrons are — get this — tiny “particles” flying around atomic nuclei and tremendous speeds which just happen to stay in their little orbits like little perpetual motion machines (which they say are impossible), until all of a sudden, these electron “particles” inexplicably leap to a higher or lower orbit without occupying the space in-between those orbits at any moment. Yep, magic teleporting particles! That’s the “scientific” explanation of these folks. No wonder so many of them are magicians: Believing their explanations requires that you believe in particle magic!”
Here Adams has invented a supposed belief of the people he’s arguing against and then ridiculed it. The actual facts (and what people educated in physics actually believe) are much more informative and interesting than Adams’ misrepresentation. A good rule of thumb: Don’t take physics lessons from someone who thinks elementary particle movements are magic (despite mountains of available evidence-based information), but water memory (which there is zero credible evidence for) is serious business.
13. “But getting back to water and vibrations, which isn’t magic but rather vibrational physics, you can’t overdose on a harmony. If you have one violin playing a note in your room, and you add ten more violins — or a hundred more — it’s all still the same harmony (with all its complex higher frequencies, too). There’s no toxicity to it.” [emphasis his]
So after spuriously concluding that particle physics, which he either doesn’t understand or is deliberately misrepresenting, is “magic”, he proposes a mechanism for homeopathy that is entirely unsupported by any evidence whatsoever and declares it more plausible than modern physics. Mike, I will eat my own keyboard if you can provide any robust evidence for your claims.
Homeopathy has standard dosing regimes (they’re all the same), but there is no “dose” to speak of: the ingredients have usually been diluted out to nothing. But Adams is also saying that homeopathy doesn’t work by dose at all, it works by the properties of “resonance” and “vibration”. Then why any dosing regimen? To maintain the resonance? How is this resonance measured? How long does the “resonance” last? Why does it wear off? Why does he think televisions can inactivate homeopathy? (I think I might know the answer to that last one, as electronic interference is a handy excuse for inefficacy.)
Scientists can’t apparently measure the indefinable yet presumably effective qualities of homeopathy (as per the claims of many homeopaths) and yet homeopaths have “figured out” dosing regimens – because they wouldn’t just randomly put anything on the box, right? Right? They are apparently privy to important information that would be beneficial to share so that we can help prove their amazing remedy is actually doing something. Care to share? I’m listening.
He keeps saying the word “resonance”, but ignoring the word “amplitude”. One thing about multiple violins playing in a room is that waves line up and increase wave amplitude as resonance builds leading to things like this (to give a physically explicit example). So if homeopathy works by “resonance” and “harmony”, why does the amplitude not increase as the resonance builds and cause an overabundance of effect?
Finally, who said homeopathy was toxic? The point of the 10:23 campaign is to raise awareness of certain inconsistencies with homeopathy. For example, if homeopathy can have an effect, why is that effect only and always at the perfect level, treating but never over/under-treating, even if the dose is completely wrong? “Resonance” doesn’t seem to be a sufficient explanation for this. Where is the evidence? And if homeopathic remedies can’t make healthy people sick, then what is a proving?
If you thought the above was hard to parse, please join me as Mike Adams packs up his pitchforks and goes on a quest to Crazy Town.
“These skeptics just want to kill themselves… and they wouldn’t mind taking a few of you along with them, too. Hence their promotion of vaccines, pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy and water fluoridation. We’ll title the video, “SKEPTICS COMMIT MASS SUICIDE BY DRINKING PHARMACEUTICALS AS IF THEY WERE KOOL-AID.” Jonestown, anyone?”
This is truly vile. First, if he believes we are mistaken in our evidence-based assertion that vaccines are life-saving, medicine in the right dosage is life-saving, and chemotherapy has extended the lives of thousands of people, why assume that we intentionally want to kill people? Why not just assume that we’re really, really dumb? Oh right, because we’re all on the take from Big Pharma. Allegedly. Without any proof whatsoever.
In any case, what Adams seems to have missed is that the skeptics have no intention of killing themselves, so his bizarre claims that the 10:23 participants are psychopathic, self-loathing, and suicidal makes not even a little bit of sense. Skeptics know they aren’t going to die with these demonstrations, because homeopathy has no active ingredients and no evidence of efficacy.
“Do you notice the irony here? The only medicines they’re willing to consume in large doses in public are homeopathic remedies! They won’t dare consume large quantities of the medicines they all say YOU should be taking! (The pharma drugs.)” [emphasis his]
The inventor of homeopathy himself, Samuel Hahnemann believed that excessive doses of homeopathy could be harmful (see sections 275 and 276 of his Organon). Homeopaths are pros at retconning their own field to fit in with Hahnemann’s original ideas (inventing new mechanisms, such as water memory and resonance, in the face of germ theory). So how does Adams reconcile this claim?
In sum, homeopathy will or won’t (depending on who is asked) cause an OD or even unwanted symptoms in healthy people (against the very foundations of homeopathy), depending on whether the issue is effectiveness or safety. Perhaps homeopaths could kindly come to an agreement on how homeopathy is supposed to work, so we poor saps can stop misunderstanding and making utter fools of ourselves, as Adams is so apparently convinced we have done. A consistent and clear explanation that can be tested empirically is all we ask. That shouldn’t be such a chore. Scientists do it every day. Unless homeopathy just doesn’t work…
Mike, there’s a million bucks in it for you and a lot of crow for us to eat if you can prove any of what you’re saying, rather than responding to reasonable inquiry and public challenges of efficacy with empty vitriol. I know that’s chump change in today’s alternative medicine market, but you could at least do the test and donate your winnings to charity. I’m sure there’s many charities that would appreciate such a large donation and the skeptics would be shut up good and proper. Have at it.