I’ve hit that rite of passage – that thorn in the side of every homeopath in the public eye. When anonymous, self-proclaimed skeptics start to harass you with email, Twitter, and Facebook posts that refer to poorly-designed studies in order to prove that homeopathy doesn’t work. These people are demonstrating blatant hypocrisy when they use cherry-picked, fundamentally flawed studies to support their unscientific perspectives while simultaneously accusing homeopaths of the same. If the same standards or faulty methods were used to study pharmaceutical medicine, we would find very few medications that could be termed evidence-based!
What do I use the term “pseudoskeptic”? Well, first, because they love to use the word “pseudoscience” as a derogatory umbrella term for any research whose results don’t fit into their limited paradigm. Second, because a real skeptic is someone who critically analyzes the data from both sides with an open mind, a true scientist unprejudiced to finding the unexpected. Pseudoskeptics pretend to genuinely have an open mind in order to hide their actual agenda of ridiculing and discrediting. They fail to apply the same critical eye to research that defends the orthodox perspective.
So the most recent link I’ve been receiving and have seen on social media is the following:
The above article refers to a study published by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. Now before I pass you to the experts and their explanations as to why this study is fatally inadequate, I would like to quietly point out that the study was never published in a peer-reviewed journal – mirroring the skeptics’ favourite line of attack when it comes to homeopathic studies.
I would like to raise the question as to why studies like the one above receive so much media attention, while peer-reviewed, quality studies that have a positive outcome for homeopathy are completely ignored by mainstream media? For example, how many of you non-homeopaths out there are familiar with Dr. Robert Mathie’s systematic review of individualized homeopathy – the only meta-analysis of homeopathy to consider model validity in its study design? This means that he only included studies in which homeopathy is studied in the way homeopaths actually practice in the real world. No other meta-analysis has done that!
Now let’s listen to what the folks at the Homeopathic Research Institute have to say about the NHMRC’s systematic review of homeopathy (read in blue). You can read their extensive concerns about the study here.
We maintain that the conclusions of the NHMRC report are inconsistent with the evidence.
The inaccuracy of the NHMRCs conclusions stem primarily from one fundamental flaw at the heart of this report – the NHMRC reviewers considered the results of all trials for one condition together as a whole, even though the individual trials were assessing very different types of homeopathic treatment.
To illustrate this flaw, the NHMRC reviewers asked, “Is homeopathy effective for condition A?’, working from the premise that a positive trial showing that one homeopathic treatment is effective is somehow negated by a negative trial which shows that a completely different homeopathic treatment for that same condition is ineffective. This is a bizarre and unprecedented way of assessing scientific evidence. In conventional research the question asked would be, “Is treatment X effective for condition A?”, not “Is conventional medicine effective for condition A?” based on combining the results of all drug trials together. Some treatments work, some don’t. The whole point of medical research is to establish which treatments are useful and which are of no value. This is no different in homeopathy.
So, this is like saying, Let’s see if pharmaceutical medicine is good for headaches. In my hypothetical systematic review we’ll examine a study that shows NSAIDs work for headaches, then look at another study that shows blood pressure medication doesn’t, and another study that says statin medicines don’t help headaches. I then conclude that pharmaceutical medicine is not effective for treating headaches.
Secondly, we are deeply perplexed as to the reasons for the exclusion of some of the best evidence for key clinical conditions. In brief:
(6) Chatterjee A, Biswas J, Chatterjee A, Bhattacharya S, Mukhopadhyay B, Mandal S. Psorinum therapy in treating stomach, gall bladder, pancreatic, and liver cancers: a prospective clinical study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:724743. An abstract of the above study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology
I tried to shorten Dana’s comments, but I found it all pretty relevant. So, in conclusion – you have to take everything from the pseudoskeptics with a grain of salt. The only way to sift through all the nonsense is to be able to identify what makes for good science and what makes for scientism. Unfortunately, with all of their convenient omissions, obfuscations, and failure to comprehend basic statistical principals, they don’t make that very easy.