Like science?

April 30, 2013

Like science and the progress and prosperity it brings the UK? Then sign the pants off this bad boy. #sivpoint8

#QEDcon 2013 ISS passes

April 9, 2013

Information shamelessly lifted from and

Friday Night (12th)

  • 21:43-21:48 – “Incredibly Bright” – cloud cover 23%

Saturday Night (13th)

  • 20:52-20:59 – “Incredibly Bright” – cloud cover 99% ūüė¶
  • 22:29-22:32 – “Incredibly Bright / Short pass” – cloud cover 100% ūüė¶

Sunday Night (14th) (for the stragglers)

  • 21:39-21:44 – “Incredibly Bright” – cloud cover 94% ūüė¶

So… Friday night it is then, caveats about weather forecasting notwithstanding. If we can drag ourselves out of the bar for 5 minutes.

Ice crystal forest.

March 18, 2013


Wear sunscreen.

April 21, 2012

I made this ages and ages ago. I feel compelled to share this wisdom with others.

We’ve got the horn.

February 29, 2012

Ivory trading is illegal. Here’s a nice story about how the ill-gotten wares of the Ivory traders can have a use in science.

Our research technician Liam with some confiscated elephant horn, now destined for medical research.

Ivory trading and the hunting and killing of elephants for their tusks is illegal in most countries. Despite this there is considerable demand for ivory, ivory trinkets and other elephant derived products used in unproven and largely worthless traditional medicines [1][2].

The trafficking of Ivory is tightly restricted under international law, and it is illegal to bring any Ivory into the UK without the correct permits [3], and the UK border agency will confiscate any Ivory that people attempt to bring into the UK[4].

So, what happens to the Ivory that is confiscated? It would be immoral for the UKBA to sell it and sadly it cannot be re-united with its owner.

One potential use for Ivory is biomedical research. Ivory is primarily made up of a substance called Dentine, found in teeth. Dentine is also an acceptable substitute for human bone in the sorts of assays that our lab does to test the effect of various substances on cells called Osteoclasts that are responsible for bone resorption (basically bone destruction). During growth and development of the skeleton, bone is formed (by Osteoblasts) and broken down (by Osteoclasts) Рit is thought that the bone disease Osteoporosis is caused by an imbalance of bone formation and destruction Рi.e. too much Osteoclast activity.

If we can find a therapeutic agent that inhibits Osteoclast activity, we might be able to halt or slow the progression of Osteoporosis. The upshot of all this is that our lab has obtained a section of Elephant horn that has been confiscated by the UKBA. We will recycle this and use the dentine in our bone resorption assays.

Ivory belongs on Elephants. However, if someone has already killed the elephant and removed the Ivory, better that we use it to further medical research and perhaps save or improve some lives, than turn it into a bauble that sits on a shelf gathering dust.

I am still alive.

January 9, 2012

I really should try and blog more often.


100 FACTS!!!11!! About Homeopathy

April 14, 2011

Now with added reality! Warning: Contains Snark.

From this -> “100 Facts About Homeopathy” By Louise Mclean, LCCH MHMA with contributions from: Vaikuntanath Kaviraj

I got my ‘red pen’ out.

Basically – we have 10 sections.

  1. Homeopathy is old – therefore it works!
  2. Arm-wavy nonsense about ‘energy’ and ‘higher levels of health.’
  3. Random irrelevant facts about the ‘remedies.’
  4. A bit of ‘agrohomeopathy’ – can’t imagine where that came from…
  5. Homeopathic hospitals – bizarrely, this shows that there once were quite a few US and UK homeopathy hospitals – now there are less – I wonder why?
  6. A bit of whinging about previous complaints about homeopathy.
  7. A bit of whinging about the UK ‘evidence check.’
  8. Ah – tries to push some ‘science’ to back up claims – but finishes by stating that science can’t test homeopathy because of individualisation…
  9. Some arm wavy stuff about homeopaths.
  10. Large final section about how many people use homeopathy…

Foundations of Homeopathy

FACT 1:¬† Hippocrates ‚ÄėThe Father of Medicine‚Äô of Ancient Greece said there were two Laws of Healing:¬† The Law of Opposites and the Law of Similars.¬† Homeopathy utilises the Law of Similars, orthodox medicine uses the Law of Opposites, e.g. antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-convulsants, anti-hypertensives, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics.

So what?

FACT 2:  Discovered by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago homeopathic medicine is based upon sound scientific principles of the Laws of Nature Рunlike medical theories which are constantly changing.  Far from being ideas-based, Homeopathy is a completely evidence-based, empirical medicine Рa unique concept when it was founded.

Rather than being based upon ‘sound¬†scientific¬†principles and the Laws of Nature’, homeopathy¬†conveniently¬†ignores certain Laws of Nature (avogadros constant, 2nd law of thermodynamics) as they are inconveinient. Medical theories change to reflect current evidence and best practice. Homeopathy, like any other faith-based system, selects what it believes in order to support¬†preconceived¬†notions.

FACT 3:¬† In Hahnemann‚Äôs first experiment, though perfectly healthy at the time, he found that by giving himself repeated doses of cinchona bark (quinine), he brought on all the symptoms of a malaria attack –¬† fever with heat and chills.

Or maybe he gave himself quinine poisoning?

FACT 4:¬† Hahnemann was the first to conduct trials on medicines.¬† He set about discovering the healing properties of plants, metals and minerals by testing them on himself and on healthy volunteers or ‚ÄėProvers‚Äô, recording all the symptoms that each substance caused.¬† He created a ‚ÄėProvers Union‚Äô.


FACT 5:  After some years of practising, Hahnemann found the tiny doses of substances he was using caused side effects.  He experimented by diluting then succussing a substance (shaking through striking the phial a number of times between numerical potencies).  The potentised remedy was safer to use on the sick, unwanted side effects disappeared and medicines were more effective.

FACT 6:  Hahnemann tested 99 substances on himself and healthy volunteer Provers, keeping detailed accounts of his observations.  He matching the tested substances to heal symptoms of his patients using the Law of Similars.


Homeopathic Prescribing

FACT 7:  Every patient is unique so homeopathic medicines are individualised.  The homeopathic practitioner treats the WHOLE PERSON, believing all symptoms are interrelated and seeks to select a medicine which fits the whole state.

This is meaningless.

FACT 8:¬† Homeopathic medicines are chosen on the basis of a patient‚Äôs mental, emotional and physical constitutional type, unlike orthodox medicines which treats in a ‚Äėone-size-fits-all‚Äô manner.¬† A homeopathic medicine is chosen on the basis of totality of symptoms.

Why not prescribe a medicine that works and is suitable for the disease that causes the symptoms… oh wait…

FACT 9:  Just as there are fat and thin, dark and blonde, tall and thin, chilly and hot, talkative or quiet people, lazy or hurried people, etc., etc., there are homeopathic medicines to match all types.

This is also meaningless.

FACT 10:  Homeopathic medicine awakens and stimulates the powers of the whole body by communicating a current/pattern/frequency of energy, which acts as a catalyst to set healing into motion and jump start the body’s own inherent curative mechanisms.

This is utter nonsense. There is no evidence of any of this army wavey “current/pattern/frequency of energy” guff.

FACT 11:  Homeopathy assists the body to heal itself, to overcome an illness which brings the patient to a HIGHER level of health.  Orthodox medicine suppresses the illness, bringing the patient to a lower level of health.

Evidence or GTFO (there – I said it – just let me have one). Another unsupported and wildly speculative claim with little basis in reality.

FACT 12:  Outcomes of homeopathic treatment are measured by the LONG TERM  curative effects and the complete eradication of the disease state.

Because if we measure for longer it is more likely that the patient will just get better by themselves…

FACT 13:¬† Homeopathic medicines are used for inherited diseases and trace their origins to three main genetic causes or ‚Äėmiasms‚Äô: Psora, Syphilis and Sycosis.

We’ll just ignore the whole of molecular biology and genetics, because otherwise things might get difficult.

Homeopathic Medicines

FACT 14:  Most remedies are made from a single substance but some are made of compounds, while others are mixtures of compounds. Hepar sulph and Causticum as examples of compounds.


FACT 15:  During the making of a homeopathy remedy, the formative intelligence of the substance is imprinted on the alcohol/water medium via the process of succussion (vigorous shaking) between each numerical potency.  Remedies are not made using dilution alone.

“Formative intelligence of the substance is imprinted on alchol/water medium” – LOLWUT? Once again, and unsupported assertion with no basis in reality.

Remedies are made using the process of trituration, whereby the substance is reduced first to smaller than molecular size, (nano-phase) which causes electrons to be rubbed off, with a negatively charged electrromagnetic energy, measurable by piezo-electric constant. This energy is passed on to the dilute, which becomes charged.  Succussion is the amplification of that energy.

Wait – shaking causes electrons to be rubbed off, with a negatively charged electromagnetic energy??? Is that why the batteries in my TV remote control are good for a few more days if I take them out and shake them?

FACT 16:  Homeopathic medicines are made using the original substance, plus 40% alcohol as a preservative and 60% distilled water or 50/50 of each.

Or 87% Alcohol, 13% Water – but why does that matter?

FACT 17:  There are no molecules in any homoeopathic dilution, because the substances have been reduced to nano-phase, which is smaller than a molecule.

Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-h-ah-a-ha-h-ah-ah-ah-a-ha-ha. Seriously? That’s how you are getting around Avogadro’s constant – by making up a phase of matter? (Unless you mean nanophase material – which still have grain sizes on the order of um, nanometers and contain actual atoms. (Atoms being fairly small little beasties have a typical size of roughly 0.3nm)

FACT 18:  There are more than 4,000 homeopathic medicines.

There are over 9,000 types of beer.

FACT 19:  In 2006, an Arnica gel product was the first homeopathic product to be registered by the MHRA.

Cheezus – even homeopaths can’t tell the difference between ‘homeopathic’ and ‘herbal’.

FACT 20:  Homeopathy works very FAST in acute illnesses, more gradually in chronic illness.


FACT 21:  Many high fevers can be lowered within minutes after taking the homeopathic medicine Belladonna and Aconite.


FACT 22:  Homeopathic remedies are inexpensive to produce and buy.

Sugar is quite cheap on the open market, although Homeopathy is the most expensive kind of sugar one can buy.

FACT 23:  Homeopathic medicines can also be made using a Radionics machine.

Radonics machines? They don’t work.

FACT 24: Homeopathic medicines have no toxic side-effects.

Because sugar is safe for most people

FACT 25: Homeopathic medicines are NON-ADDICTIVE.

Sugar is mostly non-addictive

FACT 26:  Homeopathic medicines work well for small babies, animals and plants, showing this cannot be placebo effect.

Nonsense – babies and animals can feel the effects of the placebo effect, and babies, animals and plants can be subject to the secondary placebo effect, where the owner/parent’s reaction or interpretation of the state of the baby/animal/plant is subject to their assumptions about the treatment. For more about the oft repeated fallacy – see point 3 in this post.

FACT 27:  Homeopathy is safe for women to take during pregnancy and safe for old people.

Sugar is mostly harmless.

FACT 28:  There are thousands of text books on homeopathic medicine, available at specialist outlets, which record historical evidence of homeopathic cures for a vast number of conditions.

Books full of anecdotal evidence, which is essentially meaningless.

FACT 29:  Homeopathic medicine has been proven extremely effective in Epidemics such as cholera, typhoid, diptheria, yellow fever, polio and influenza and used extensively in the 19th century.

It was used extensively in the 19th century because medical science back back then was not up to much, and sugar pills were as likely to be successful as leeches and trepanning. Medical science has moved on since then. Homeopathy has not.

FACT 30:  Homeopathy prevented a Leptospirosis Epidemic in Cuba for over 2.4 million people with only 10 reported cases.  99% success rate.

An uncontrolled and extremely dodgy piece of work which is explored in more detail here.

Homeopathy for Animals and Agriculture

FACT 31:  Homeopathic medicines are used successfully for treating disease in animals, proving that there is no placebo effect.

No it has not. See response to fact 26. Homeopathy studies on farm animals are as dodgy (as far as I have seen) as those conducted on humans.

FACT 32:  Homeopathy is used to treat the cows at Yeo Valley Organic Farms.

So what.

FACT 33:  There are courses on homeopathy for farmers.

and in 2010 Christine Lees was the Farmers Weekly Livestock Adviser of the Year finalist with advice on homeopathy for animals.

Wait! Farmers weekly! Why didn’t you say so! Quickly! Tear up the textbooks, an agricultural glossy has decreed that homeopathy works.

Oh – hang on – she was just a finalist? Not the winner… shame…

FACT 34:  There is a list of homeopathic vets at the British Association of  Veterinary Surgeons who treat all animals

There is also a British Veterinary Voodoo society. Go figure.

FACT 35:   Homeopathic medicines are used in agriculture, known as Agrohomeopathy.

And this has been shown to work where?

FACT  36:  Wine is produced from grapes using 100% homeopathic agriculture.

Wow Рa sales gimmick. Yawn.

Homeopathic Hospitals

FACT 37:  There were once fourteen Homeopathic Hospitals in Britain.

Note past tense.

FACT 38:¬† In the USA, by 1900 there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, more than 100 homeopathic hospitals, over 60 orphan asylums and old people’s homes, and more than 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies.

*Idly wonders how many there are now*

FACT 39:  In 1854 there was a cholera epidemic in London.  When the House of Commons asked to see a report about the methods of treatment, patients who had received homeopathic treatment at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital were not included. The House of Lords demanded an explanation and it was shown that under conventional medical care the death rate was 59.2 per cent but for patients under homeopathic care, only 9 per cent.

See fact 29…

FACT 40:  There were homeopathic hospitals in France, with Neuilly treating soldiers in WW1.

WW1 – that was the one where nobody died, right?

FACT 41:  Homeopathy in Russia dates back to 1824.

So what…

FACT 42:¬† At one of the earliest debates on the NHS Act of 1948 the Government pledged that homoeopathy would continue to be available on the NHS, as long as there were “patients wishing to receive it and doctors willing to provide it”.

The government of the time. Also, politicians noted for their trust-worthyness…

FACT 43:  There are now only four homeopathic hospitals in the Britain Рin London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow.  The total cost to the NHS in 2010 was around £4 million a year compared to over £100 billion for the total annual NHS budget!

¬£4 million too much…

FACT 44:  The cost of homeopathic medicine to the NHS in 2010 was £57,000 per annum compared to £11 billion for pharmaceutical medicine.

¬£57,000 too much…

FACT 45:¬† In March 2007 –¬† 208 MPs signed Early Day Motion 1240 to save the¬† NHS Homeopathic Hospitals.

Speaks volumes as to the intelligence of 208 of our elected representatives.

FACT 46:  In November 2005, the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital published a study of 6500 patients who had received homeopathic treatment showing an overall improvement in health for 70% of them.

An uncontrolled observational study in which patients were allowed to keep taking other medicines at the same time.

FACT 47:  In a survey of 500 patients at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, 72% of reported being able to stop or reduce their conventional medication.

An uncontrolled observational study in which patients were allowed to keep taking other medicines at the same time.

FACT 48:  In 2010, spending on homeopathy in Scotland was a third of the rest of the UK with an annual total of 60,000 prescriptions and the Scottish Government backing the funding.   Evidence for Homeopathy from the Glasgow Homeopathy Hospital

Spending money ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 49:  In 2010, 55,000 patients were treated on the NHS with homeopathic medicine

On average, 70% of follow-up patients seen at the homeopathic hospitals report a positive outcome from homeopathic treatment.

Once again – uncontrolled so how do we know the outcome was down to the sugar pills.

FACT 50:  Homeopathic hospitals SAVE money for the NHS, as the Smallwood report commissioned by Prince Charles has demonstrated in 2005.

Ah yes. Prince Charles. Known for his scientific knowledge and rigour.

FACT 51:  Homeopathic Hospitals are clean, friendly, with well informed staff and patients are generally pleased with their treatment.  The chances of contracting MRSA or C. Difficile at a Homeopathic Hospital are extremely rare.

Contracting MSRA or C.diff is much less likely in¬†institutions¬†where invasive surgical procedures¬†aren’t actually carried out.

Orthodox Medicine Opposing Homeopathy

FACT 52:  After its formation in 1847, members of the American Medical Association had great animosity towards homeopathy and decided to purge all local medical societies of physicians who were homeopaths.

FACT 53:¬† In 1847, the American Medical Association published a code of ethics which stated that physicians would lose their membership if they consulted with a homeopath.¬† At an AMA meeting, Dr. J.N. McCormack of Kentucky, who was the driving force behind the 1903 reorganisation of the AMA, said: ‚ÄėWe must admit that we never fought the homeopath on matters of principle.¬† We fought him because he came into the community and got the business.‚Äô

FACT 54:  In 1858 the British Medical Association also passed internal rules that forbade their members from practising homeopathy or even consulting with a homeopath.

FACT 55:  In 1910, vigorous attempts to stamp out homeopathy were stepped up in the USA when the Carnegie Foundation commissioned a report by Abraham Flexner, who was chosen to reform American medical education.  The report was an evaluation of US medical schools and it gave the homeopathic and herbal colleges a bad rating.  In 1900 there had been 22 homeopathic colleges but only two were left in 1923.

FACT 56:¬† In 2005 the World Health Organisation brought out a draft report which showed homeopathy was beneficial causing Big Pharma to panic and the Lancet to bring out an editorial entitled ‚ÄėThe End of Homeopathy‚Äô.

WHO also said that ‘homeopathy is not a cure’ – but this somehow failed to be¬†mentioned¬†here…

FACT 57:¬† At the end of August 2005 the Lancet looked at eight inconclusive trials out of 110, of which 102 were positive.¬†“The meta-analysis at the centre of the controversy is based on 110 placebo-controlled clinical trials of homeopathy and 110 clinical trials of allopathy (conventional medicine), which are said to be matched. These were reduced to 21 trials of homeopathy and 9 of conventional medicine of ‚Äėhigher quality‚Äô and further reduced to 8 and 6 trials, respectively, which were ‚Äėlarger, higher quality‚Äô. The final analysis which concluded that ‚Äėthe clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects‚Äô was based on just the eight ‚Äėlarger, higher quality‚Äô clinical trials of homeopathy. The Lancet’s press release did not mention this, instead giving the impression that the conclusions were based on all 110 trials.”

Just¬†because¬†you don’t understand a paper or press release, doesn’t mean it was done maliciously.

FACT 58:  In 2006 there was a campaign by UK Professors to oust homeopathy completely from the NHS.

and in 2007 they sent a document on NHS headed paper to all Primary Care Trusts telling managers not to refer patients to the homeopathic hospitals.


FACT 59:  There are a few hundred Skeptics who spend their time attacking homeopathy on their blogs and websites, especially in the UK.

I utterly refute this.

FACT 60:  In February 2010, the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee called for an end to funding for homeopathy on the NHS after conducting an Evidence Check in November 2009.

Yes they did.

Science & Technology Committee Evidence Check on Homeopathy

Wednesday 25th November 2009

Monday 30th November 2009

FACT 61:  Only half of the 14 Members of the Science and Technology Committee actually attended the two oral hearings and those MPs who attended appeared to have little knowledge or understanding of it.  

Of the nine witnesses at the first hearing, only two who had any relevant qualifications РDr. Peter Fisher, the Queen’s physician and Clinical Director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital and Dr. Robert Mathie, Research Development Adviser of the British Homeopathic Association.  There was noone called to represent patients.

“any relevant qualifications” what you mean like doctors and pharmacologists/pharmacists?

FACT 62:  Their Report was voted on by just five of its fourteen members, with only three MPs ratifying it.

That’s a problem with parliament, not science & medicine…

Science & Technology Committee Evidence Check on Homeopathy

REPORT – 22nd February 2010

Evidence Check – 33 Conclusions

FACT 63:  Out of a total of 66 written submissions to the Committee, nearly 40 compiled by the homeopathic profession that were positive about homeopathy, was not properly considered.  Written Submissions:

How do you know this?

FACT 64:  In May 2010 The British Medical Association called homeopathy Witchcraft

No. One doctor did. (Dr Tom Dolphin)

FACT 65:  In July 2010 the UK Government came out in favour of continuing the NHS Funding for homeopathy.

Or maybe they just failed to legislate either way, despite advice from the chief scientific advisor.

FACT 66:  According to BMJ only 11% of NHS treatments are found to be evidence-based medicine with any benefit.

This is incredibly disingenuous. And wrong. 76% of current practice is evidence based – Imrie R. The evidence for evidence-based medicine. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2000. Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 123-126.

FACT 67:  Hundreds of medical doctors have converted to Homeopathy

That link does not back up your claim. And even if it did, hundreds of thousands of doctors haven’t, therefore….

FACT 68:¬† Unlike orthodox medicine, where the bill for claims for side-effects of pharmaceutical medicines runs into millions, a leading UK insurance company reported only ‚Äėa couple‚Äô of insurance claims against homeopaths in a ten year period!¬† Hence insurance cover for homeopathy is around ¬£70 per year, reflecting low risk.

That’s because sugar pills have relatively few side effects.

FACT 69:  In 200 years, there has never been a single homeopathic medicine recalled, unlike many pharmaceutical medicines.

Because 1) sugar pills don’t have side effects, and 2) homeopathy is almost entirely self-regulated. People don’t like to wail on themselves.

FACT 70:  The pharmaceutical industry does not want the Public to discover that homeopathy works!

People don’t want other people to find out how something that doesn’t work, works??

Scientific Studies

FACT 71:¬† In 1985 French scientist Jacques Benveniste published his ‚ÄėMemory of Water‚Äô research in Nature.¬†

Which was subsequently debunked here –¬†J. Maddox; J. Randi, W. W. Stewart (28 July 1988). “”High-dilution” experiments a delusion” (PDF).¬†Nature 334 (6180): 287‚Äď290.

FACT 72:¬† The first clinical RCT trials of medicine where undertaken by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann and used in Provings of medicines.¬† 50 ‚Äď 100 volunteer Provers took the 30c potency of a medicine every two hours until they started experiencing symptoms which were carefully recorded. The group supervisors collected all the data and delivered it to the Proving Master, who was the only person who knew the name of the medicine under trial. That way, all bias was removed.

I’m not seeing the words ‘placebo’ and ‘controlled’ anywhere here…

FACT 73:   In the past 24 years there have been many clinical trials that prove homeopathy works. there have been more than 180 controlled, and 118 randomized, trials into homeopathy, which were analysed by four separate meta-analyses.  In each case, the researchers concluded that the benefits of homeopathy went far beyond that which could be explained purely by the placebo effect.

The vast majority of homeopathy trials are flawed. I know – I read over 100 of them – please see here.

FACT 74:  In 2004 Rustum Roy published The Structure Of Liquid Water; Novel Insights From Materials Research; Potential Relevance To Homeopathy Rustum Roy1, W.A. Tiller2, Iris Bell3, M. R. Hoover4

Rampant speculation, ‘preliminary data’ – hardly compelling.

FACT 75:¬† After carefully studying the structure of homeopathic medicines, a team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Arizona reported that by using ‘spectroscopy’ these researchers were able to see distinct structural differences between a homeopathic remedy and plain water, between one remedy and another remedy and between different potencies of the same remedy. Equally important, they replicated the results many times over.¬† The researchers noted that the spectography of the remedies revealed the spectogram of the diluted substance, instead of water.

Rampant speculation, ‘preliminary data’ – hardly compelling.

FACT 76:  In 2008, a major CAM Pilot Project, implemented by Get Well UK, was commissioned by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in two primary care trusts in Northern Ireland.  There was a 79% improvement in the level of health for those who had homeopathic treatment. (see page 31 for Homeopathy)


FACT 77:¬† In 2001 Professor Madeleine Ennis of Queen’s University Belfast finds homeopathy works.¬†

One botched assay does not a system of medicine make. Plenty of caveats here too…

FACT 78:  In 2009 Nobel Prizewinner Luc Montagnier Proves Homeopathy Works

Actually – No.

FACT 79:  There are more than 90 homeopathic trials on animals

They can’t be much cop if the UK Veterinary medicines directorate are clamping down on ineffective homeopathic remedies.

FACT 80:  Homeopathy can never be properly tested through double blind randomised trials because each prescription is individualised.  Therefore 10 people with arthritis may all need a different homeopathic medicine.

You spend 10 facts trying to demonstrate a science base for homeopathy, and then try and claim that science can’t be used to test homeopathy. LAUGHABLE.

Homeopathic Practitioners

FACT 81:  The homeopathic physician endeavours to search for and remove the cause of the disease in order to heal the EFFECT of it.

They may endeavour all they want – but sugar pills are ineffective.

FACT 82:  Homeopathic Practitioners train for three to four years.  They study anatomy and physiology, as well as pathology and disease, Materia Medica, Homeopathic Philosophy and the Homeopathic Repertory.

We know what gets taught on a homeopathy course.

FACT 83:  Most homeopaths treat patients who have been referred to them by word of mouth.  Most patients seek out homeopathy because conventional treatment has not benefitted them or because it poses too great a risk of side-effects.

Referred by word of mouth – great – but wouldn’t it be better if they were referred by their GP – oh wait…

FACT 84:  The homeopathic community has thousands, even millions, of written case notes that demonstrate the positive benefits of their treatment. Some homeopaths have video proof of their patients before and after treatment.

Uncontrolled case notes Рlargely meaningless.

FACT 85:  Homeopaths charge patients an average of £50 an hour, whereas specialist Doctors can charge up to £200 or more.

Not on the NHS. And anyway Р£50 for meaningless banter and sugar pills?

Popularity of Homeopathy

FACT 86:  According to the WHO, homeopathy is the 2nd most popular and widely used medicine in the world.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy – cigarettes are popular too…

FACT 87:  The popularity of homeopathy has grown in the past 30 years, its revival entirely through word of mouth and estimated to be growing at more than 20% a year the world over!

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 88:  Hundreds of famous people throughout the past 200 years have enjoyed the benefits of homeopathic medicine.

Appeal to authority

FACT 89:  Many of the famous swore by it including writers Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, George Bernard Shaw; artists such as Renoir, van Gogh, Monet and Gaugin and the composers Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann, to name a few.

Appeal to authority

FACT 90:  Nowadays many modern celebrities opt to use homeopathic preparations.

Appeal to authority

FACT 91:  The aristocratic patronage of homeopathy in the UK extended well into the 1940s and beyond can be easily demonstrated.  In the Homeopathic Medical Directories there are lists of patrons of the dispensaries and hospitals.

Appeal to authority

FACT 92:  The Royal Families of Europe use homeopathic medicine and Queen Elizabeth II of England is reputed to never travel anywhere without her homeopathic medicines.

Appeal to authority

FACT 93:  Homeopathy is practised nowadays in countries all over the world.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 94:  In India there are 100 homeopathic medical schools, around 400,000 registered homeopathic doctors with approximately 13,000 being added every year!  There were 28 homoeopathic dispensaries in Delhi in 1978 and now 78. The number of patients taking homeopathic medicines has increased from around 800,000 patients in 1997 to 13,62,174 patients in 2006.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 95: 100 million Europeans use homeopathy ‚Äď 29% of the EU population.

65% of Europeans have declared they have used homoeopathic medicine and 45% have declared that they are satisfied to use it again.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 96:  Homeopathic medicine is used in France by a third of the French population.  Almost all French pharmacies dispense it with its use covered by state social security.  In 2004, 62% of French mothers used homeopathic medicines in the previous 12 months. A survey of French pharmacists in 2004 found that 94.5 per cent. reported advising pregnant women to use homeopathic medicines. 70% of French doctors are receptive to homeopathy and consider it effective and at least 25,000 of them prescribe homeopathic medicines for their patients.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 97:  In Germany 20% of doctors treat patients with homeopathy.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 98:  In the Netherlands 47% of doctors treat patients with homeopathy.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 99:  In a 2008 Global TGI survey where people were asked whether they trust homeopathy the following percentages of people living in urban areas said YES:  62% in India, 58% Brazil, 53% Saudi Arabia, Chile 49%, United Arab Emirates 49%, France 40%, South Africa 35%, Russia 28%, Germany 27%, Argentina 25%, Hungary 25%, USA 18%, UK 15%.

Popularity ‚Ȇ efficacy

FACT 100: The media as a whole has been unwilling to air a proper defence of the efficacy of homeopathy and the validity of this 200 year old profession.

Unwilling? Or unable? Taking advantage of sick people to peddle nonsensical, unsubstantiated cures is indefensible.

Please put up on as many websites as possible…Louise Mclean


Copyright © Louise Mclean (updated 2011)

And the award for most ham-fisted attempt at astroturfing goes to…

August 31, 2010

It could only be Nancy…

I was googling the other day, and I happened across this page on

Q. Why is homeopathy getting more and more popular?

A. 1. Homoeopathy is highly scientific, logical, and extremely effective method of treatment with no side effects.

2. Homeopathy is an evidence-based medicine. It is supported by worldwide clinical research.

3. Homeopathy’s popularity is growing by leaps and bounds. Homeopathy is the fastest growing medicine in the world. According to WHO, homeopathy is now the second largest system of medicine in the world.

4. Famous people who have used homeopathy successfully include Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Theresa, Tina Turner, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Pamela Anderson, Jane Fonda, Martina Navratilova, Charles Dickens, W.B. Yeats, Boris Becker, David Beckham, Tony Blair, Prince Charles to name a few.

and so on and so on.

(To refute the points 1. No it isn’t, 2. No it isn’t, 3. So what, 4. so what)

Having read such a glowing and obviously erroneous write-up of homeopathy I was eager to see who had penned such piffle – the answer came as no¬†surprise…

First answer by Dr. Nancy Malik. Last edit by Dr. Nancy Malik.

Homeopathy’s most prolific and asinine blog commenter strikes again. Having determined who wrote it, I wondered who had posed such a strange question. Most questions on Wikianswers tend to be students trying to get the internet to answer their homework questions for them. This was not worded like a homework question.¬†The answer is not immediately obvious but is discoverable with a couple of clicks:

Dr. Nancy Malik (supervisor) [112] asked Why Homeopathy is getting more and more popular 11 Aug 2008 09:54

Faily fail fail fail.

Q. Gee, Dave, why are you so fantastic?

A. Well, thanks for asking Dave. My fantastic-ness is due to the immense amounts of awesome I posses.

Q. Thanks, Dave, that really clears that one up.

Readers may also be interested to see the entirely humble and modest write-up that Nancy has given herself on Wikianswers.

The use of the internet to spread alt-med humbug is likely to have lead to any uptake in alt-med modalities and indeed the spread of anti-vaccine ideas and sentiment (one hesitates to use the word propaganda, but that is essentially what it is). If left unchallenged, those that seek answers may well be mislead by those with a vested financial interest in promoting their own particular brand of woo.

Trying to break out of the echo-chamber…

August 17, 2010

A brief exercise in navel-gazing regarding engagement and whatnot.

There is obviously a serious side to my protest/spoof application for the job of homeopath to NHS Tayside.

I did not expect the post to get the attention it has got, and I still do not expect it make the bigwigs at NHS Tayside to change their ways and drop the idea of hiring a homeopath at the same time as they sack 500 other employees. That being said, I think that my estimation of the chances of that happening has risen from 0.01% to maybe 0.1% over the last 72 hours.

There has been some criticism of showering the HR department at NHS Tayside with spoof applications, and I can sympathise with this. However, at the last count there have only been 11 (the full list of known participants is available here, at Zeno’s blog) and so whilst I do feel a pang of guilt towards whomever has to plough though them, it’s not as if they have hundreds of extra applications arriving.

In any case, if, by some miracle you are reading this blog, NHS Tayside HR-person, I apologise – although I do hope you had a giggle reading though them. Perhaps if you did, you’d be kind enough to add a comment letting us know?


There has been much introspection within the UK skeptical community recently, following Frank Swain’s talk at Westminster Skeptics. There are numerous blogs covering/discussing¬†this, and Frank has listed them at the bottom of his blogpost. I’d like to touch on a few things¬†mentioned¬†in that talk in respect to the NHS tayside/spoof application situation.

Frank said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that one of the most powerful things that we can do is change someone’s mind, through the power of a rational, well constructed argument. Absolutely true and wonderfully put – but this isn’t what is intended here. I would argue that those who believe that homeopathy works are going to stick to their guns, and I very much doubt that a handful of spoof job applications are going to change that, especially when a well written and argued S&TC evidence check [PDF] failed to do so.

This was never intended to be an engagement exercise either Рengagement requires two-way traffic Рan exchange of views. I wholly expect that my job application will be very quickly binned when they read my supporting statement.

This was about informing. Spreading the word. Letting people know that, hey, this is going on, and I think it’s pretty shitty.

The use of weapons.

If we’ve learnt anything from Lolcatz and other internet memes, it is that nothing spreads around the internet faster than something that makes you laugh. Sure, small groups with similar interests will share pages that provoke discussion or make you think, but something that raises a smile will be seen by more people, and more quickly. Go and look at your facebook home page now (assuming you have one). If your friends are anything like mine, the majority of the shared links will be to things that are intended to make you laugh.

So, let’s take a quick look at the traffic a few cheap laughs have generated – as a rough guide for how many people we might have made aware of the NHS Tayside situation. David Colquhoun’s and Dean Burnett‘s applications were published on Sunday afternoon – my post at about 11pm the previous evening. I’m taking these three blogs as my yard sticks, and the authors have been kind enough to share their internet traffic figures with me. Apologies to authors who have joined the fray since then.

Since publishing the posts I’ve had roughly 4000 hits, DC has had about 5000, and Dean Burnett about 12000.

Even if we are pessimistic¬†and we assume that everybody who has seen mine and DC’s blog has also seen Dean Burnett’s blog, that’s 12000 people. I have some data on how many people have come to my site via DC’s and Dean’s sites, and the figure is <20%, not 100%. But hey – let’s err on the side of caution and take 12000 as our baseline figure. I am going to guess that the majority of these 12000 people did not know about this story before hand. Even if it’s news to only 10% of them, 1200 more people are aware of the¬†ridiculous¬†situation at NHS Tayside.

As far as I am concerned, for 30 minutes of my time, that’ll do nicely.

I know from my own traffic data that I am getting lots of referrals from places that I don’t¬†usually¬†get¬†referrals,, reddit, BMJblogs, as well as the more skeptically orientated websites like badscience forums and One thing that Frank Swain touched on was the fact that skeptics and SiTP is in danger of becoming an echo-chamber – and I share his concerns about this.¬†Referrals and pingbacks¬†from websites not usually¬†associated¬†with skepticism is one measure of how we well we are doing at “breaking out of the echo chamber” – reaching people who we might not normally reach.

Only a well constructed¬†argument¬†is going to change someone’s mind. However, in cases such as this, when perhaps minds do not necessarily need changing, rather they only need pointing at a particular fact or piece of news, I would argue that a quick laugh or a wry smile with a tiny bit of message built in is going to be passed around the internet faster. Sometimes, all that is needed is to shine a light onto those who make questionable decisions, to allow everyone else to see for themselves what is going on, and make up their own minds as to whether it is wrong or right.

I shall finish with a vaguely relevant quote from Nobel Prize winner A.V.Hill that Dr Aust introduced me to:

“Laughter is the best detergent of nonsense”

PS – I realise that everything I have written is entirely internet based and I make no apology for that – the only way I can break out from that would be to get something published in the main stream media. In a case such as this is highly unlikely.

In which I apply for a job as a homeopath…

August 14, 2010

A story in the Daily Express has been doing the rounds on twitter, regarding NHS Tayside’s decision to sack 500 staff, but still advertise a ¬£68,000 per year post for a homeopath.

Whilst I discussed this over dinner with my wife, Natalie, she suggested that I should apply for the position — she then suggested that maybe every skeptic with 30mins spare could also apply for the position. ūüėÄ

Given the post pays nearly twice what I earn now, and is only to cover 2 sessions per week, I thought “why the hell not”. Tayside is quite a nice neck of the woods.

The application details are found here, and I have e-mailed my completed form to

As a guide, I thought I’d share my “statement in support of application” with you:

” Whilst I have no formal medical qualification, I believe that I am ideally suited for the job of handing out sugar pills to unsuspecting patients on behalf of NHS Scotland. My PhD level scientific training and 6¬Ĺ years postdoctoral experience means that I know lots of scientific and biomedical buzz words with which I can bamboozle prospective patients like ‚Äúmedical biomimicry‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúpostconditioning hormesis‚ÄĚ ‚Äúquantum entanglement‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúthe placebo effect.‚ÄĚ

My biochemistry degree means that I am familiar with such vagaries as Avogadro’s constant, but given the extremely attractive salary (at least compared to scientific research), I’m sure I could be convinced to overlook the fact that homeopathic remedies with a potency over 12C contain zero molecules of active ingredient whatsoever.

The original research that I have published means that I am familiar with the body of published work on homeopathy, and the many meta-analyses and systematic reviews conducted on it. The fact that these conclude that homeopathy is no more effective than a similarly administered placebo will not bother me whilst I am taking advantage of some of the excellent salmon fishing to be found in the Tayside region. Indeed, given the fact the position only calls for the successful applicant to attend two sessions per week, I should imagine I would have plenty of time to indulge in a bit of fishing.

In conclusion, whilst I may be an atypical applicant for this post, I will do my level best to help any patients referred to me to get the best healthcare the NHS can offer ‚Äď by referring them straight back to a doctor who won’t prescribe them worthless sugar pills at the taxpayers expense.”

Fingers crossed, eh?

EDIT РToday myself, David Colqhoun and Dean Burnett have all received requests from NHS Tayside for CVs, Immigration Status Forms, Declaration Statement and equal opportunities forms.