Homeopathy is nonsense, say UK doctors. They say it is nonsense to drive a point. They want the state to stop funding this pseudoscience because it is bogus, ‘witchcraft’, and ‘nonsense’. Almost anyone who has understood science the right way already knows that homeopathy is utter bogus, closer to magic than actual medicine. And yet, many people swear by homeopathy and continue to consume balls of sugar dipped in alcohol hoping and believing it is actually going to cure them.
The ground reality is that 90% of the people who have studied science do not understand science. They go through science classes because they have to, learning it by rote, understanding few implications not understanding the gist, and without imbibing the scientific temperament. That’s quite understandable actually. Most of the theories of science are counter-intuitive to humans and the laws of nature are not obvious to most of us. Science has been in the mainstream thought only for the last few hundred years and human brains are not evolved to grasp scientific ideas naturally. Humans have to leave their natural intuition aside and follow the rigorous tools of careful observations, sophisticated experimentation and logical deductions to understand and appreciate science. However, most humans are lazy and they continue to see patterns where there are none, and continue to believe in certain miracles where there are none.
It is easier to assume that clouds are formed by a merciful and kind god in order to help humans with rains than to actually understand the complex climactic phenomenon based in physic and chemical laws. It is easier to assume that the right amount of oxygen in our atmosphere is concocted by an intelligent being to aid life on earth than to actually understand the evolution of our planet through billions of years. It is easier to assume that some godmen can conjure medicine right out of thin air to cure your bedridden grandmother than to understand how the chemicals and antibodies will actually work on the germs and microbes in her body.
Majority of the human population is comfortable with magic, miracles, and intuition that come naturally to them. Only a disciplined education that imparts scientific temperament can allow humans to look at the world using tools of rationality and logic applying the discovered laws of nature. And even after going through many years of schooling it is not guaranteed that all the students will actually develop scientific temperament.
Homeopathy is bogus for the obvious reasons. It is not based in science. It is based in completely unproven techniques and ideas which have no basis in scientific ideas of the modern times. It remains a quack medicine, pseudoscience and abracadabra.
So how come so many patients and adherents of homeopathy actually believe it works? Homeopathy works because placebo works. Placebo is a dummy medicine. It is just that the patient doesn’t know that it is a dummy medicine. Placebo works because a human body when convinced it is taking a medicine can create its own antibodies to fight off some diseases and ailments. A person who takes a placebo believes he is being cured and his body responds positively and therefore the body gets cured. This is a well understood phenomenon in modern medicine. However a placebo is never considered an actual medicine by modern doctors.
Homeopaths capitalize on this phenomenon that placebo cures, and they fool the people into thinking that they are taking actual medicine when in fact no actual medicine exists in their concoctions. The success rate of homeopathy is minimal in some cases and completely zero in other cases. In those cases where the difference cannot be seen easily or where placebo works as effectively as real medicine, homeopaths have a higher success rate. Homeopaths survive only in those domains where the modern medicine has not come up with an effective medicine.
Homeopaths thrive for the same reason why godmen thrive. People continue to rely on magic and miracles than established practices of science, because homeopathy comes closer to their natural intuition while science requires mental work to understand. Belief gives bliss while logic requires work.
Since it is clear that placebos work, modern medicine created by scientists has to work better than a placebo to prove itself as a medicine. If the new medicine works the same way as a sugar ball, then why should someone pay for it? Will the cure be effective? Is it guaranteed? To qualify the new pill as actual medicine it has to pass a double blind experiment. Only then it can be considered a medicine. Homeopathy medicine would fail such a test.
Homeopathy rides on the fact that placebo works. So if it works what is wrong with it? May be its success rate is lower than actual medicine, but the fact that it works should be good enough for many people. Astrology works for some people, palmistry works for some people, and homeopathy could work some people. The way we allow astrology and palmistry to be practiced, we should allow homeopathy to be practiced. However, there is no reason for the state to fund it, because there is no research in it. It’s like state funding magic, state funding prediction of events through bird flight, or funding prognosis by checking entrails of sacrificed animals. Countries like India should also stop all its financial aid, support and promotion of quack medicines like homeopathy.
Here is a criticism of what UK doctors said. I am quite sure that many readers would have similar objections to the proposed ban.
The British Medical Association says homeopathy, having no "scientific basis", shouldn't be taxpayer-funded. Many doctors ask for a ban, saying public money will be better spent promoting mainstream medicine. Now, these medical practitioners are certainly entitled to their views. But their associating homeopathy with "witchcraft" is rather unfortunate. That's not the kind of language expected of men of science. More so, since it amounts to insulting the intelligence of countless people who opt for homeopathic treatment.
Doctors in UK are not asking for a ban on the practice. They are demanding that the state should not fund homeopathy. There is a big difference between the two. There is no better word to describe homeopathy than to describe it as ‘witchcraft’, because both of them are very similar. In witchcraft, the witch has supernatural powers to invoke the dead or the ghosts to heal or harm a person, and people believe it works. In homeopathy, the healer will give you sugar balls coated in certain alcohol, and you believe that it will cure you. Neither witchcraft actually works just because people believe in it nor does homeopathy works just because people are duped into believing they are getting actual medicine.
Free societies should leave it up to people to choose what they want or don't, as long as their choices don't affect others. The point is, homeopathy has takers who, suffering chronic ailments, claim it helps them. Others say they prefer placebos to allopathy, believing these do less harm in terms of side effects. Still others turn to alternative medicine when all else fails. Reportedly, a survey in Britain's state-funded homeopathic hospitals shows 70 per cent of patients felt they were better off. Now, if consenting adults resort to homeopathy, ayurveda, naturopathy, acupuncture and the like, the decision is surely theirs.
Agree on this completely. It is agreed that adults are free to choose whatever medicine they want to choose for themselves. But there are certain risks involved in taking such medicine and these adults should be made aware of the risks. The risk is that homeopathy may not work at all because there is no real medicine in it. There are dangers in being ignorant or believing in false ideas. For example, some parents may believe in these hocus pocus so much that instead of giving actual medicine to their ailing kid, they give homeopathy, probably resulting in death of that ailing kid. So should the parents be prosecuted for not giving the right medicine to their kids? Is ignorance and blind faith excusable when it puts another life in danger?
Does it not make sense to educate people that homeopathy is hocus pocus so that people do not take it seriously when it comes to matters of death, like that of kids or old people, who are not in a position to take a decision on their own.
If democratic societies go about banning everything not 'scientifically' backed, where would it end? Should we proscribe home-made remedies based on traditional knowledge systems because their efficacy hasn't been lab-tested? Must scientists play referee between herbal and chemical? Yoga and meditation are said to have genuine therapeutic uses. Western researchers being divided on this, should both be outlawed? Why, many pray to beat psychological anxiety. Should they be coerced into seeing shrinks instead? Science is as much about what we don't know hence it questions as about what we do. The last thing it needs is to be made an excuse for placing curbs on individual liberty.
Banning the state funding and curbing it in funded hospitals is different from banning its practice altogether. The author is confusing the two. The doctors in UK are asking for banning of the state funding and its practice in funded hospitals. Homeopaths are free to continue the practice the way astrologers continue practice their hocus pocus. But definitely the state should not fund any such hocus pocus.