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Homeopathic overdoses are homeopathically dangerous

January 30, 2010 Comments off

Today is the day of the worldwide homeopathic overdose that originally started with groups of skeptics throughout the UK — the 1023 Campaign — planning a protest (or a demonstration, in the literal sense of the word) in front of a high street pharmacy chain against their insistence on selling homeopathic products, despite repeated scientific analysis and practical demonstrations proving they are no better than the placebo effect.

I had arranged to attend the Oxford Skeptics in the Pub event due to take place near Radcliffe Camera, but — despite getting everything prepared last night, including programming my satnav for a carpark near the event — I forgot to set my alarm. I admit it: I am an idiot.

So I dropped an email apology to the organiser and prepared to ‘overdose’ at home… without the homeopathic protection of homeopathic medical services against this homeopathic act of homeopathic self harm. Homeopathically dangerous, I’m sure you’ll agree.

At precisely 10:23 this morning, I broke the seal and emptied the contents of my pre-purchased container of “30c Homeopathic potency of Sepia officinalis” — as it says in bold red lettering on the label — into my camera’s lens cap and then swallowed it all (minus the lens cap) in one sugary, children’s sweets-like gulp, washed down with a few mouthfuls of water. It’s now some time later and I’m feeling homeopathically ill, the world is homeopathically spinning around me, and I think I may homeopathically pass out anytime soon. Or put another way: I’m typing this blog post while drinking a nice cup of tea, and considering making myself a late breakfast. I am, by all accounts, homeopathically dead.

And while I couldn’t quite work out how to take photos while in the process of swallowing the sugar pills, I did take some. Behold! The mighty power of the sugar pill!

Pics 1 & 2: Note the therapeutic indications line in the second image.

 

Pic 3: Every pillule emptied into my camera’s lens cap.

 

Pic 4: Oh look, it’s 10:23! We know what that time means…

 

Pic 5: All gone! Sweet sugary goodness… and utter pseudoscientific bollocks.

 

You only have my word to go on that I committed homeopathic harakiri today (although my cat witnessed it, I’m not sure she’d be suitable to give testimony), but in this article alone I have provided orders of magnitude more evidence of me swallowing these pills than exists for the efficacy of homeopathy. I did indeed swallow them all in one gulp, and it’s over 90 minutes since I did so and the world (or my world, at least) has not ended. And I paid £4.99 for the privilege.

If you think that homeopathy has helped someone you know, then neither of you understand the importance of the placebo effect. Please learn about it — it’s a very real effect with measurable positive results. Ultimately there is no direct harm in taking homeopathic products (as all 1023 campaigners have proven today), but there is harm in taking these products instead of seeking medical advice. Particularly if they have an ailment where earlier diagnosis can make the difference, or affect long-term health or even life. They may feel better taking these pills for a little while, but eventually even they’ll stop working as the problem gets worse and by then it may well be too late.

But I’m not trying to convince you of anything that’s not provable or measurable. Do your own research and come to your own conclusions — even if a thousand or more skeptics around the world ‘overdosing’ on homeopathic products isn’t enough to convince you (for some Twilight Zone reason). Perhaps pick up a book by an actual scientist and medical doctor, and examine what research they’ve done to research their conclusions. I’d highly recommend Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (Amazon or Amazon UK), as it’s very readable, full of information (including this topic), and it’s all supportable by evidence.

 

Update: Thanks to Antony, we have some video footage of the the Oxford event:

1023 Homeopathic Overdose – Oxford

Update 2: Courtesy of Science, Reason and Critical Thinking, we have some video footage of the Southampton event:

1023 Southampton

Update 3: Richard Saunders, Skeptic Zone ringleader, and Sydney skeptics have some footage of the event in Sydney, Australia:

ten23 Homeopathy Protest – Sydney 2010

Update 4: Courtesy of Kylie Sturgess, footage from my home town’s skeptical group, Perth Skeptics:

The 1023 Event with the Perth Skeptics

Update 5: And now the walls begin to fall. The New Zealand Council of Homeopaths has just admitted that… Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In It! It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the homeopathy industry worldwide admit the same or begin circling the wagons. Either way, the truth is now public knowledge and we should see less of this:

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Homeopathy: There’s nothing in it (Oxford)

January 25, 2010 Comments off

Many news outlets of the less credulous persuasion are talking about the upcoming national (UK) protest against the household name of Boots the chemists who happily sell homeopathic products even though they are aware there’s no proof they work.

As the Director of Professional Standards for Boots himself said:

There is certainly a consumer demand for these products. I have no evidence to suggest they are efficacious. It is about consumer choice…

On one level I can understand the free market, capitalist ideal of “There’s a market for it and people are willing to buy, so what’s the problem?” The problem, of course, is that some people who are seriously ill will turn to expensive tap water instead of seeking actual medical advice or treatment.

‘Natural selection,’ you may cynically retort… but now imagine that person is your grandmother.

As the legendary Tim Minchin says in his excellent beat poem, Storm:

You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.

It’s as simple as that. Unless you’re some kind of conspiracy nut (“they are hiding the truth”), a deluded fool who thinks reading a few pseudo-scientific layman blogs qualifies you to know more than proven, peer-reviewed science (particularly meta-analyses of methodologically-reliable scientific studies), or think you have an open channel to some kind of supernatural force.

If you’re not familiar with the ‘theory’ of homeopathy, it consists of finding an agent that, when swallowed, generates symptoms that resemble the patient’s symptoms (e.g. food poisoning and Ipecac Syrup both induce nausea), dilute it to the point where there’s statistically no chance of a single molecule of the agent remaining, banging it a specified number of times to shake it up, and then believing that such super-dilution magnifies the healing properties, because it somehow remembers the life force (or something) of the original agent. Again, I refer to Storm:

Water has memory! And while its memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is infinite, it somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!

Homeopathy is magical thinking based on poor science, logical flaws and unsupported assumptions. It’s water. I suspect the two main reasons that homeopathy is so popular is because its methodology sounds similar to the principle behind vaccination (a small amount of an antigen is given, allowing the body to generate antibodies) and because major, trusted retailers sell it alongside actual medical treatments.

And this last point is what the 1023 Campaign in the UK is addressing:

At 10:23am on January 30th, more than 300 homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’.

The closest protest to me is taking place in Oxford, and is being run by Skeptics in the Pub (Oxford). If you’re nearby and interested in attending, please visit the event’s page:

Skeptics In The Pub: Oxford ‘mass overdose’

More importantly, please contact Rosie (on the above page) to let her know you’ll be attending. You’ll also need to bring along your own Boots brand 30C homeopathic remedy pills.

Let me make this perfectly clear: this is a peaceful, harmless protest against a company that has a business practice that some of us consider unethical or harmful, it is not against government or other authority. Leave your politics and Guy Fawkes masks at home.

Why 1023? How’s your middle/lower school science memory? Avogadro’s Constant! A fitting use for it, I think.

Update: It appears this campaign has gained some momentum, with various skeptical groups worldwide planning their own ‘homeopathic mass overdoses’ this coming Saturday. Check with your local skeptics group, the 1023 Campaign website, the #ten23 hashtag on Twitter, Facebook or forums such as the JREF for more information.

 

Sharing the chuckles: Jesus vs Jeezus!

January 14, 2010 Comments off

It’s time to share another chuckle, this time via the good people at LOL god:

Predicting flames in 3…2… ;)

Categories: atheism Tags: , ,

Frozen Britain or Winter Wonderland?

January 11, 2010 Comments off

Icicles on the roofWe’ve certainly had some interesting weather here in the UK for the last 3 weeks. The week before Christmas we had a hefty snow dump of the kind I’ve not seen in my almost 9 years living here, and it disappeared enough to be able to resume normal activity just in time for Christmas Day. It required just a few minutes of digging to make two wheel ruts to enable me to be able to park again when I got back from visiting family.

Then last week we got another dump that was easily double that of the earlier one. It was forecast for Tuesday evening, and I made it home just in time to still be able to drive up the spur incline to my house and into my garage. If I’d been 15-20 minute later, I’d either have had to dig my way in or park on the street somewhere and risk the car being battered by one of the two nutters on my street who refuse to acknowledge adverse weather conditions (normally because a couple of people will always go outside to dig him out of his predicament). I had 30cm of snow in my back garden following Tuesday’s snow dump and, although it got as high as 4°C yesterday, it hasn’t really budged. The 30cm of fluffy snow has reduced to 10-15cm of crystalline iciness (a bit like an Icee) with a few centimetres of solid, compacted ice underneath.

If you think I’m being melodramatic, the BBC website has created Special Report: Frozen Britain to cover the event, as it’s such a rare occurrence — particularly in the southern half of the country — and it’s being compared to the previous worst cold-weather event almost 50 years ago. Road grit is running out, gas for heating is running low, snow chains and snow shovels are sold out, and the local shops have empty shelves as the delivery lorries can’t reach them (it’s a hilly area).

The plus side is that my freezer is gradually being emptied of older food that would normally have newer stuff placed on top of it, the cupboards are having a good clean out, I’m saving 50 miles of fuel and up to two hours each weekday, and I’m able to be just as productive from home as I am in the office thanks to stable power and Internet, VPN access and voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony.

And the neighbourhood kids have been loving it. They’ve been sledging like mad for the last week, the valley has resounded with their laughter and fun, and down by the bridleway, someone had built a huge snowman complete with snow sofa and footrests, giving people something (albeit chilly) to sit on and admire. In this age of parents locking their children indoors for fear of bogey men: good for them!

Categories: misc Tags: ,

The Big Bang Theory

January 4, 2010 Comments off

The Big Bang Theory - Season 1 DVDBeing the not-so-closeted nerd that I am, I spent some of New Year’s Eve formatting ebooks I own for my new Kindle and watching season 1 of The Big Bang Theory.

If you’ve not heard of The Big Bang Theory, it’s a sitcom about a group of professionally-successful but nerdy guys who haven’t outgrown their teenage game-playing, comic-consuming and socially-inept lifestyles. The main characters are Sheldon (neurotic former child genius who works as a theoretical physicist), housemate Leonard (also a former child genius who works as a experimental physicist), Rajesh (astrophysicist and female-induced mute), Howard (aerospace engineer and creepy wannabe ladies’ man), and Penny (waitress with the showbiz dream) . Penny is the pretty and “normal” neighbour to contrast the others, and is also the (not entirely unwanted, it seems) object of Leonard’s attentions.

You get the idea. It’s the Hollywood sitcom formula with a nerdy twist, but it really works.

Another part of the show that I like is the theme song by the Barenaked Ladies, who are probably best known for their song One Week. The theme to The Big Bang Theory is the best TV show theme I can recall as it suits the show so well, being itself funny, intelligent and actually related to the show (lyrics here):

Barenaked Ladies – The Big Bang Theory

If you’re on the lookout for an intelligent sitcom to get your teeth into, I recommend that you check out The Big Bang Theory. There aren’t many shows that have me laughing aloud every 2-3 minutes.

Or maybe I’m more of a nerd than I thought… ;)

Categories: art Tags: , ,

Division

January 1, 2010 Comments off

Division Isn't Just Happening in Maths Class

Categories: atheism Tags: , ,