Category: Pseudoscience

What’s the deal with that Swiss government homeopathy report?

A letter in today’s Irish Times bemoans a recent column on homeopathy. The column had drawn attention to a report by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council that was dismissive of homeopathic treatments. But according to our letter-writer

The report of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ignored any positive research on homeopathy, including the Swiss government report, a five-year study which found in favour of homeopathy and recommended its inclusion under its health insurance. This Swiss report concluded that, “There is sufficient evidence for the preclinical effectiveness and the clinical efficacy of homeopathy and for its safety and economy compared with conventional treatment.”

The Swiss government, eh? I keep hearing about it. So, what’s the deal with their homeopathy report?

Well, this is the deal with their homeopathy report:

swiss med wkly


From the introduction:

In 2011 the Swiss government published a report on homeopathy. The report was commissioned following a 2009 referendum in which the Swiss electorate decided that homeopathy and other alternative therapies should be covered by private medical insurance. Before implementing this decision, the government wished to establish whether homeopathy actually works. In February 2012 the report was published in English and was immediately proclaimed by proponents of homeopathy to offer conclusive proof that homeopathy is effective. This paper analyses the report and concludes that it is scientifically, logically and ethically flawed. Specifically, it contains no new evidence and misinterprets studies previously exposed as weak; creates a new standard of evidence designed to make homeopathy appear effective; and attempts to discredit randomised controlled trials as the gold standard of evidence. Most importantly, almost all the authors have conflicts of interest, despite their claim that none exist. If anything, the report proves that homeopaths are willing to distort evidence in order to support their beliefs, and its authors appear to have breached Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences principles governing scientific integrity.

So basically more of the same ol’ homeopathy mumbo-jumbo.

The full critique is worth a read. Check it out here.

But our letter writer goes on:

There was no representation for homeopaths and no expert on homeopathy on the NHMRC. Would this be acceptable, for example, in oncology or orthopaedics?

Well, would it be acceptable in oncology or orthopaedics? No, I dare say it wouldn’t. But this is because oncology and orthopaedics are pretty ordinary enterprises. They are not controversial. They are not famous for making claims that are described by scientists as laughably implausible. They are not known for their ridiculous assumptions about the way nature works, or for flying in the face of not only medical science, but that of physics and chemistry too. Homeopathy, by contrast, is controversial. And massively so.

(Also, a review of either oncology or orthopaedics would require expertise in medicine and, critically, in research methods relevant for medicine. Let’s just say homoepaths are not exactly famous for their expertise in methods.)

So, indeed, it would be quite unacceptable for a review of homeopathy to be conducted by a bunch of homeopaths. In fact, it would be quite scandalous. Like with that Swiss government report which, let’s face it, has been discredited for some time now. Not that that stops the homeopaths going on about it.

A bit like homeopathy itself, really.

I’m not saying Greenfield’s a pseudoscientist. I point to her pseudoscientific reasoning. That is all


Like a good sharknado, Susan Greenfield is (a) ridiculous and (b) back for more.

We all remember this defence of her claim that internet use causes autism, don’t we?

I point to the increase in autism and I point to internet use. That is all.

Well, whoopy do. On that basis, Russia’s annexation of Crimea was responsible for loom bands. Obviously.

As a reminder, Greenfield’s schtick is as follows: according to her, social networks — the internet kind — cause brain damage. Now such phrasing sounds like a jokey summary of something more nuanced. However, it’s pretty much everything in a nutshell.

But while Greenfield is an expert in treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, she has no expertise or training in sociocultural factors that actually cause brain damage. In other words, she knows X but doesn’t know Y. She knows how to get the milk into the tea, but it doesn’t logically follow that she can get it back out again.

Also, she has no expertise or training in autism. Or in developmental psychology more generally. Or in psychological assessment and diagnosis. Or for that matter, in internet behaviour, sociology, engineering, or any relevant field.

Here’s a general tip for all you logic fans out there: knowing a lot about X doesn’t mean that you’ll know anything at all about Y. Alan Hansen knows a lot about where right-backs should stand when defending set-pieces in football. However, I wouldn’t rely on him to flash a custom ROM onto my Xperia ZL. Continue reading “I’m not saying Greenfield’s a pseudoscientist. I point to her pseudoscientific reasoning. That is all”

My battle against dry eye: I never thought things would get *this* bad…

Readers might remember that I got nice new frames for my spectacles lately. Of course, the same visit to the optometrist revealed me to have ‘dry eye’, a condition associated with being pregnant, suffering a stroke, and other things (such as having eyes).

Well, in the course of doing some research for this book I’m writing, I have now discovered something bad about dry eye. Something really bad.

Take a look at this extract from Louise L. Hay‘s 1994 classic best-selling book, You Can Heal Your Life


Not a dry eye left in the house. Apart from mine

It’s from a table of physical health problems that runs on and on over several pages. It’s not just any old list. According to Louise, it’s “the” list.

You can see ‘Dry Eye’ right there, in between Depression and Dysentery. Now, what’s really worrying are the other two entries in the table. Basically, according to Louise L. Hay, the ‘probable cause’ of my having dry eye is as follows:

Angry eyes. Refusing to see with love. Would rather die than forgive. Being spiteful.

You see? I knew I wasn’t pregnant! Continue reading “My battle against dry eye: I never thought things would get *this* bad…”

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