Category: Homeopathy

Towards a quantum Theory of Everything (including dirty dishes)

Perhaps few words in contemporary science have been abused as much as “quantum”. Simply put, a quantum is the minimum amount of an entity that can actually do anything. One example is a photon, which is the minimum amount of light that can be involved in an electromagnetic interaction. The study of such tiny particles, which exist at a truly infinitesimal level of minuteness, has become known as quantum physics, and is regarded by physicists as having the potential to underpin a so-called Theory of Everything — one that fully explains all known physical phenomena and predicts the outcome of all possible experiments. While we are not quite that far just yet, quantum physics does have significant practical applicability in industrial contexts, with estimates suggesting that up to 30% of the gross national product of the US is accounted for by inventions made possible by quantum mechanics. Therefore, while remaining committed to the long-term holy grail of explaining the universe, perhaps for now we should be happy just to settle for consolation prizes like, erm, quantum dishwasher powder.

Or more specifically: “FINISH® QUANTUM®“, part of the FINISH® “multi-benefit dishwashing tablets and pacs” range produced in the UK by Reckitt Benckiser plc. Interestingly, actual physicists don’t typically seek to protect their jargon by registering scientific descriptors as legal trademarks. But surprise surprise, actual quantum physics has little or nothing to do with this product. Continue reading “Towards a quantum Theory of Everything (including dirty dishes)”

The Irish Times: Promoting homeopathy, endangering children?

The Irish Times is the so-called “newspaper of record” in Ireland. It has a reputation for being Ireland’s leading print source of intellectual commentary and political analysis. It is widely regarded as maintaining impeccable journalistic standards and of being one of Europe’s leading newspapers. However, when it comes to alternative medicine, and homeopathy in particular, it has something of a weakness. Like many newspapers, the Irish Times appears to judge homeopathy as being immune from the normal standards of journalistic criticism (or, perhaps more likely, of being insufficiently important to warrant such rigour). This can almost be excused on the basis that any reader who is so ill-informed as to take the claims of homeopathy seriously should be willing to take responsibility for the outcome of such bogus treatments. However, when these readers are parents of vulnerable children, and when the Irish Times recommends that (inert) homeopathic treatments should be offered to children ahead of (effective) pharmacological ones, then we have a serious problem. Continue reading “The Irish Times: Promoting homeopathy, endangering children?”

Views on the Homeopathic Emergency Room

Okay, I’m pretty sure that many readers will already have seen this video, presenting a depiction of a “Homeopathic A&E” (i.e., ER) by comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb. After all, at the time of writing, it had accumulated over 1,000,000 hits on YouTube. However, it is certainly worth storing here for posterity.

As it happens, the title of “Homeopathic A&E” is a bit of a misnomer. Considering the script, this emergency room offers far more than just homeopathy. The physicians here invoke a wider range of paradigms in their treatment of their dying patient, including chakra balancing, flower remedies, crystal therapy, astrology, magnetic therapy (you need to be eagle-eyed to spot this one), “scream” thearapy (this one also), psi-cology (ditto), herbal medicine (again ditto), and even palmistry.

On the one hand this gathering together of multiple modalities is informative, because it reflects a level of theoretical confusion and non-discernment that is very typical in the real world of complementary medicine (in which practitioners regularly offer directly incompatible therapies to the same client). On the other hand, it also reflects the smokescreen problem that allows complementary practitioners to so easily deflect criticisms: they often dismiss attempts to conduct empirical research into complementary medicine on the basis that standardized studies do not capture the (holistic) complexity of a standard treatment situation.

Not surprisingly, even in this fictitious account, the therapies on hand are ineffective in treating the patient. Indeed, the back story, which reveals that the homeopathic A&E regularly fails in its attempt to treat real medical conditions, results in the best line, where one practitioner seeks to console the other with the following reassurance:

“Okay. So you kill the odd patient with cancer or heart disease. Or bronchitis, flu, chicken pox, or measles. But when someone comes in with a vague sense of unease, or a touch of the nerves, or even just more money than sense, you’ll be there for them…”

Pretty much captures it, really.

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