Stepping Carelessly Astern of the Cow

I ran across this and this today: yet another reason why everyone ought to be educated to competence in the basics of biology, physics and chemistry.

From the cited press release in the first link:

For the first time since Product Licences of Right were issued in 1971, companies will be allowed to include information about the treatment and relief of minor, self-limiting conditions based on the use of the product within the homeopathic tradition. For example, labels may indicate that a product may relieve the symptoms of common colds and coughs, hay fever or chilblains. All homeopathic medicines authorised under the new scheme will have clear and comprehensive patient information leaflets to help consumers use their medicines safely and effectively.

Professor Kent Woods, Chief Executive of the MHRA, said, �This is a significant step forward in the way homeopathic medicines are regulated. Products authorised under the National Rules Scheme will have to comply with recognised standards of quality, safety and patient information.�

The only patient information that ought to be included is: “This crap does not work. Do the math”. Sometimes I think that the entire UK is just slowly circling the drain.

When I was a graduate student working on a project involving colloids, I ran across some seriously strange alternative medicines based on “colloids“. I ran across the infinite dilution concept in homeopathy at the same time, and it came up again when I was doing the piece on Emoto, people who are inclined to believe that water has emotions are also inclined to believe that a medicine becomes stronger when diluted to Avogadran proportions. This, Ladies and Gents, leads me to my personal quote of the day, from Skepchik:

Would you sit in a bathtub someone just peed in? Would you swim in an ocean that someone just peed in? There�s a difference, and if you can�t tell that difference then you deserve to spend your life sitting in a tub of pee.

14 thoughts on “Stepping Carelessly Astern of the Cow”

  1. New age lunacy, eastern mysticism, and alternative medicine is all the rage among the very people who get apoplexy at the mere mention of intelligient design or Christian values being considered in a public forum. (For the record, I don’t believe in the former, and the latter is a matter of private conscience, although they certainly permeate our culture)

    I’ve been watching this naive enthusiam for every crackpot theory and mystical scam artist since the ’60’s, and it gets dumber every year, with every new “miracle” theory about crystals or spirits or reincarnation drawing in another bevy of blithering fools.

    The challenge of living in a science-based culture is that it demands the release of previously consoling superstitions and childish notions.

    Just as some cultures are still convinced that witchcraft is responsible for illness, and some children have a hard time accepting that the tooth fairy is really Mom, way too many people are desperate to believe that there is some mystical way around the callous indifference of scientific reality, biology, chemistry, natural laws, and the operations of the material universe.

    There isn’t. Deal with it.

  2. If you went out on the pier at Santa Cruz and watched the seals play and frolic and poop massively in the water – over and over again – you’d stay the hell out of the ocean right there too.
    I came across Homeopathy when I was at school in India, it’s pretty common but it’s also something quite different than folk remedies. It’s much more of an “established” pseudo-science with a network of pseudo doctors who paid for pseudo classes, wearing pseudo lab-coats and writing pseudo prescriptions – it’s truly cargo-cult “scientism.” Folk remedies can and often do work based on other principles, but Homeopathy – it’s just a big nothing. The infinite dilution and all that crap – the science of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Perhaps a good thing is that its agents are so weakened that they don’t actively kill more people, despite the bad thing that it leads to false hope. Just for the hell of it I tried some sure-fire (probably literally) when I had a cold – no result.

  3. I amamazed at all the fake stuff out there that people turn to. I am a professional phrenologist, and I can predilct what will and will not work if I can examine a patient (client) for 20 minutes.

  4. fred lapides,

    Oddly enough, the basic idea behind phrenology, that the anatomy of any individuals brain reflected their individual mental strengths and weaknesses turned out to be true. However, the phrenologist had only a fanciful map of the brain’s functional areas and the anatomical differences can only be seen with very modern tools. Even today we can only get a rough idea of persons strengths and weaknesses from a scan.

    Even homeopathy wasn’t originally a nutball idea when it arose in 1700. It seems to have inspired Jenner in developing vaccinations. The original version simply had pre-scientific researchers looking for cures in the same places as diseases themselves, an idea that has some merit. The modern homepathic idea of hyper-dilution is, iIIRC, a late 19th or early 20th century invention.

  5. John,

    I could have sworn I saw this exact post somewhere else. I was cleaning out my blog bookmarks by viewing each blog I saved and I remember seeing this post on one of the blogs I deleted, I just can’t remember which.

    Was it deja vu or is this really crosslisted somewhere else?

  6. GFK – I usually cross-list something like this on TPwithpagenumbers, and this post is. I don’t always bother to note the cross-post on the Chicago Boyz.

    Shannon – the gross anatomy of the brain does somewhat control physiology, but the anatomy of the skull? Although, in a rougher and more violent age, lumps on the skull might indicate a harder childhood and more violent adulthood…

  7. “Sometimes I think that the entire UK is just slowly circling the drain.”

    Please don’t lump us all with some fanciful lunacy just because it emanates from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority of the United Kingdom!

    Just because Prince Charles gives some credence to this bunch of wittering idiots doesn’t mean that the balance of Her Majesty’s subjects follow suit!

  8. Mike – I was partly kidding in a dark way, although the banning of Piglet in some council offices has me much more bearish about the UK than I was previously.

    When will you right-thinking Brits wrest your country back from the loons who didn’t stop at banning guns, but now want to ban knives?


    Раз уж ты научился читать будь готов к тому, что другие научились писать.

    Разве он прав.

  9. You mean – he isn’t [right]? I thought it’s rather shrewd of his sister. Considering the amount of blogs around, or that library porn visual…life is too short for all those voices.

    OT: here’s some more from same author, reminiscencies on a subject how he got interested in chemistry in his childhood (he’s now professionally designing reactors for chemical experiments)

    [start from ***}

  10. The thing about homeopathy, alternative medicine, ancient herbal remedies etc., as opposed to mainstream medicine is that… most of what ails us on occasion, be it colds, flu, the usual diseases… one way or another, we will get over them. The human body is quite enormously resilient. We will recover anyway, one way or another. Doesn’t matter if you took a sugar pill, some homeopathic remedy diluted lord-knows-how-many times in water, or the latest scientific wonder cure. You’re gonna get over it. Some of this stuff may just make you feel more comfortable as you get over it… my father was a great believer in a potion of equal parts wiskey, marmelade and hot orange juice as a cold cure. Whatever it is, in most cases you’re gonna get over it, no matter what. Everything else is just a matter of what makes you feel better in the mean time.
    Serious/chronic diseases, complicated injuries and things demanding surgery (like for an appendix) are aside, of course.

  11. . . .equal parts wiskey, marmelade and hot orange juice. . .

    Isn’t that more or less what Nyquil was before they removed most of the alcohol?

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