Podcast Episode

Little Sugar Pills: Why Fall For Homeopathy? Token Skeptic Special Episode

Little Sugar Pills – Why Fall For Homeopathy?

Direct Download of Mp3 here.

There’s a variety of reasons why someone might believe in homeopathy.

Homeopathy isn’t as powerful as its supporters claim it is – the power of the human mind is greater. Which is why we have to use our minds, when it comes to getting the message out. There’s more to stopping homeopathy than taking an overdose of little sugar pills.

Credits:

Written and presented by Kylie Sturgess.
Music by Milton Mermikides – ‘Primal Sound’ – at www.miltonmermikides.com.
References:
Beyond Belief: Skepticism, Science and the Paranormal – Martin Bridgstock.
Tribal Science: Brains, Beliefs and Bad Ideas – Michael McRae.
Trick Or Treatment? Alternative Medicine On Trial – Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst.
Bad Science – Ben Goldacre.
Thanks to – Barbara Drescher and Mark Henn.

FULL TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS:


Little Sugar Pills – Why Fall For Homeopathy?

There’s a variety of reasons why someone might believe in homeopathy.

Firstly – we are pattern-seeking creatures. We see shapes in the clouds, we jump at shadows and we think that because we took a pill and we feel better – it must be the pill that did it. Pattern-seeking is a good thing, however. It enables us to make sense of the world, can make us spot what’s right and wrong, and sometimes avoid dangers.

But sometimes we see patterns where they just don’t exist and the problem is what we assume about patterns. For example, a shape on a grilled cheese sandwich can look like the Virgin Mary. The illusion is thinking that the pattern could only exist if it was put there by someone. We think of randomness as even, not uninfluenced.

Even when we know something is a visual illusion, our brains persist in tricking us. This is why we have to use statistics instead of trusting our pattern-seeking minds.

Secondly – we seek out things to confirm our beliefs. We can ask the wrong kinds of questions, be unsure about the reasons for things and it’s not because we’re ignorant or silly. It’s because we can tend to overvalue or seek out support for our beliefs, rather than naturally step back and be critical about what is really true. You might not even have access to the information that can encourage you to question homeopathy’s little pills.

Then there’s the use of placebos and how homeopathy is often compared to them. If modern medicine has a place for placebos, then why not a place for homeopathy? If homeopathy is claimed to be a highly-individualised treatment – suitable on a case-by-case basis, which is not suitable to large-scale trials on whether or not it works – then why can’t it be accepted as working for individual conditions? If the so-called law of infinitesimals, potentiation, succussion and proving have been practiced for over 200 years in the application of homeopathic treatments – shouldn’t that mean something works with these little pills?

Finally – you might believe in homeopathy, because it seems everyone else you know and trust does too. Testimonials and anecdotes, personal experiences can all be extremely convincing. Effective marketing, the shops that sell the products, and a multi-million dollar industry world-wide. They all encourage you to give those little homeopathic pills a try.

Of course – there’s many arguments against homeopathy that can be used and should be used. Arguments about how hundreds of trials have failed to show evidence to support the use of homeopathy for any health condition.

That homeopathy doesn’t work, because they typically do not have a single molecule of an active ingredient to make them work. The laws of thermodynamics, which tell you that you can’t get energy from nothing. These do not support the claim that you can dilute something well past the point of there being any of the original substance in those little pills – and it  making any difference.

Even though they are sold over the counter and placebo effects can occur, homeopathic remedies with no active ingredients can carry risks – because they replace other medical treatments. The news has reported on tragic cases like the death of nine-month old baby, Gloria Sam, in 2009 and Penelope Dingle in 2010 – because homeopathy was relied upon.

You can say all of these things to me as a believer in homeopathy – and you can  say that I’m foolish for buying these remedies. That I’m brainwashed by popular belief, that I’m silly for trusting treatments in little pills that are advertised as natural and sold in pharmacies, drugstores and by medical practioners, as well as health food stores.

You can criticise me for listening to my family and friends, for relying on something called ‘women’s intuition’ about what might work – and then tell me that I’m anti-science.

You could say that it’s ignorance that makes me believe the likes of Prince Charles, Jane Fonda, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tony Blair – when they lead by example when it comes to trusting so-called little sugar pills.

You could condemn me outright as a danger to society for wanting to try something different when I feel that anything is worth a try. Especially when it comes to conditions like cancer, and I’m desperate to find something that might can help me, my community, my children.

You can shake your head when I don’t listen to you when you tell me the facts about homeopathy. That I’m foolish, brainwashed, ignorant and anti-science. A silly woman. A bad citizen. A danger to society, just like homeopathy…

But will any of those things change my mind about homeopathy?

Homeopathy isn’t as powerful as its supporters claim it is – the power of the human mind is greater. Which is why we have to use our minds, when it comes to getting the message out. There’s more to stopping homeopathy than taking an overdose of little sugar pills.

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