Oscillococcinum is a remarkable substance. It’s a homeopathic remedy which fights the Oscillococcus bacterium. Now some sceptics will balk at that and ask how a homeopathic medicine can fight anything. That’s not a problem in this case as Oscillococcus probably doesn’t exist. That’s a distraction. What’s interesting is Oscillococcinum itself.
Oscillococcinum is made from the extract of heart and liver of a Muscovy duck. This is diluted to 200CK. The K refers to the method of dilution. You fill a glass with a solution and then empty it. Then you refill the still damp glass with 100ml of fresh pure water. This method assumes you’ve just diluted your solution by one part in a hundred. The C is the bit that tells you it’s one part in a hundred. So in this case 1ml of heart and liver extract is diluted in 10 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 litres of water. If you took a drop of heart and liver extract and mixed it with all the water in all the oceans on the Earth, it still wouldn’t be anywhere near as diluted as Oscillococcinum.
Once I saw that one question lodged in my mind: “Is it suitable for vegetarians?“
It’s on Bad Science. On the plus side the SoH have got in contact and asked about the claimed cancer curing chemical conman. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
In the meantime there’s LOLHomeopathicRemedies and the world’s unluckiest LOLcat.
Hurrah! I can close the weekend on an upbeat note. Shpalman has had a look at his area and did not find homeopaths who claim to cure cancer, malaria, AIDS or scrofula. It would seem that at in at least some areas homeopaths do all stick to their Code of Ethics. It’s nicer to think of them as people who may be a bit incompetent rather than evil. How incompetent? Well Shpalman did find this quote from Oakleigh Homeopathy.
Homeopathic Remedies are possibly the safest form of medicine I have come across, an aspect very important to me then, in the care of my small children, and now in the care of my patients. If the remedies are not carefully matched they simply won’t work, a point born out accidentally by my children who during a lapse of attention managed to eat whole bottles full of the remedies and had no ill effects whatsoever!
Yes, someone who believes the pills could have a major effect on a person’s health discovered they were safe after she let her children eat bottles of the stuff.
It’s back to archaeology and ancient history tomorrow.
I’m guessing scrofula. So far I haven’t found a homeopath who will claim to cure scrofula. The Queen has nothing to fear. In fact she’s quids in if she catches AIDS because, you’ve guessed it, homeopathy can treat AIDS according to one member of the Society of Homeopaths.
I had five minutes so I thought I’d check my home county. It would at least be a comforting to know that unethical homepaths weren’t on the prowl locally. So I checked the SoH website for Derbyshire [Google Cache] [PDF Print]. The second website on the list was Helen Coles [Google Cache] [PDF Print]. I think she’s convinced me I was far too lenient in my previous post as she says:
People suffering from all kinds of illnesses, from depression to arthritis, migraine to ulcers and the more ‘modern’ illnesses including AIDS and ME, can be helped by homeopathy to regain their health.
Now as last time I could argue ‘regain health’ means alleviate symptoms rather than cure, so she’s not actually saying she can cure AIDS. I may feel a revulsion to the claim but, by itself, it doesn’t break the Society’s Code of Ethics. The next sentence reads:
Good homeopathy will not just drive away the symptoms but help the patient deal with the cause of the illness and regain good health.
Good homeopathy would deal with the cause of AIDS? Now again I could argue that she’s not claiming herself to be a good homeopath. She’s not said “I can cure AIDS and ME” in so many words. She just put the cure concept snugly up against AIDS and ME. On the other hand if you see someone in black clothes, with sinister organ music on their iPod and sharp pointy teeth from a joke shop, you have to accept they want to be seen as a bloodsucker.
I think the Society of Homeopaths is at a crossroads. It’s clear that some members are flouting the Code of Ethics. In each of the four counties sampled there has been at least one problem with the members who have websites. How much faith should we have the Society of Homeopaths stands for high quality healthcare? According to their disclaimer:
The Society of Homeopaths makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about:
(a) any of the content of this web site (including, without limitation, the quality, accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose of such content), or
(b) any content of any other web site referred to or accessed by hypertext link through this web site (‘third party site’).
You should consult a suitably qualified person on any specific problem or matter, which is covered by any information on this site before taking any further action.
Does that mean none at all?
A homeopathic photo of Homeopaths. (Note to the Society of Homeopaths legal friends: The pixels containing photos of homeopaths have been been diluted and re-diluted into another photo, so that no detectable pixels from the original photo remains. Thus this is a much more potent photo of homeopaths than orthodox photography. You believe that right?) Undiluted photo Ducking Hell
(cc) Gaetan Lee
I read an interesting article on Respectful Insolence yesterday. It was actually from the Quackometer, but you can't see it on there at the moment. It’s a really good demonstration of one of the reasons why I don’t often blog on medicine.
If you don’t know about this story, here’s the condensed version. Put yourself in the place of an honest homeopathic consultant. You know that your patients are likely to be very vulnerable. They’re ill and they’re probably don’t feel that conventional treatment will help them. Maybe they’re beyond the help of scientific medicine. This makes your patients perfect targets for all sorts of con-artists and snake-oil merchants. This you feel, as a honest homeopathic consultant, is a danger. Therefore you’re likely to welcome a code of ethics which states what you cannot do or claim, to ensure the patient is treated with respect.
The Society of Homeopaths has such a Code of Ethics which you can download. Le Canard Noir (which I think is a pseudonym) at the Quackometer did this and found two interesting clauses:
48: Advertisements, stationery and name plates maintain a high standard of propriety and integrity to enhance the reputation of homeopathy.
• Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority.
• No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.
• Advertising shall not be false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, extravagant or sensational.
72: [Homeopaths are required] To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in writing) implying cure of any named disease.
His article he said that he just checked a random homeopath and found someone breaking both clauses, including claims of treating malaria, which explains why the article title was The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing. LCN suggested that the Society was not taking its own Code of Ethics seriously.
Up went the article. Presumably someone at the Society read it, because the hosting company for the Quackometer received a complaint from the Society’s legal representatives. The article had to be pulled because the UK’s libel laws are strict and the hosting company wanted no part of a legal battle.
Others are talking about the ethics of bullying critics through legal intimidation rather than questioning the facts. In contrast I thought I’d check the story. Is it really that easy to go from the Society of Homeopaths website to a site of someone breaking their code of ethics?
The Red Fort where faith will soon triumph over Archaeology. Photo (cc) dijitalboy
If you’ve been following my del.icio.us feed you’ll have already seen I’ve been reading the archaeological news coming out of India recently. I’ve held off commenting, because I’m not very familiar with Indian archaeology. You should bear that in mind when reading on. I’ve also spent a few days trying to pull together who believes what happened when. And today I found the post ABC of Ram Sethu at E-mc^2, which says more or less the same thing. As far as I can tell the story is this:
Around 1.75 million years ago Ravana, King of Lanka was being a pest. As a bit of foresight Ravana had ensured that he was invulnerable to the attacks of Gods, Demons and celestial folk, but left out men and animal from the list. Vishnu spotted the loophole and incarnated as the human Rama, to get round some legal paperwork. Ravana kidnapped his wife and during the ensuing rumpus Rama built a bridge to Sri Lanka.
Around 125,000 years ago geological action started to form a bar of rocks and shoals creating a string of islands or shallows between southern India and Sri Lanka.
Around 2000 years ago the poet Valmiki composed the Rāmāyaṇa, which described the events of 1.75 million. Unfortunately he neglected to state whether Rama was homo sapiens or homo erectus, which could have helped a lot.
This sets the scene for a controversy around the dredging of a channel through the Ram Sethu. In 2001 the BJP, then the ruling party in India decided a channel through the Ram Sethu might be a good thing. At moment shipping has to travel round Sri Lanka. A channel could cut out a day’s travel so they started a feasibility study.
I wish I was as good an archaeologist as Michael Egnor claims to be. Egnor has recently written on the Antikythera Mechanism from a creationist point of view. To be honest I disagree with some of it, the words mainly, but the spaces and punctuation on the other hand seem sound. Christopher O’Brien has given the words far more attention than they deserve, so if you want a critique of the propositions ((It took me half an hour to choose that word. Facts as the blog entry makes clear wouldn’t have been the right choice)) then it’s a great read. What I find difficult is the repeated claim by creationists that you can simply see design.
It’s a common claim. When fundamentalists Cameron and Comfort are notexhorting people to stick banana-shaped objects into their mouths they make claims like: “If you stuck a group of scientists in a room with a painting then, with nothing from the outside world, they would conclude there was a painter.” Now I don’t think they would. I cannot simply see design in complex objects, so are the creationists wrong or am I thick?
Carl Feagans mentions the Tomb of Jesus brouhaha. I plan to put up something on this, but I’m holding back for now as I’m waiting for a couple of email replies. I’ve sent one to Professor who produced the 600:1 claim. I’ve tried seeing the press conference to see how he gets that figure, but it’s not working for me. The way they present the data in the document pack suggests if you’re not expecting Jesus to be married to Mary Magdelene then the probability falls from 600:1 to around 4:1.
The problem is that the statistical analysis is presented as being so ham-fisted that I have to assume something is missing. For instance I can’t work out how Historical Bias = 4. This is only a summary so I’m only 64.56732% sure this is a spurious figure plucked from the air. There could be harder archaeological reasons for saying why this figure is justified from an analysis of more ossuaries. Alas, the pack given by Discovery, despite their claims doesn’t give you the evidence to judge for yourself.
You can download the pack without working your way through all the Flash navigation and read a couple of articles, a couple of maps and the calculations for yourself. Mapwise it seems fairly conclusive that the tomb was buried. Article-wise one is reading the inscriptions and the other is on the context of the Ossuaries by Prof. Amos Kloner, who doesn’t support the attribution of the tomb.
While searching for OA journals I found a new journal Philica. If it works then it looks like it could be an affordable PLoSOne for the Humanities.
I want to be positive about the journal, I really do. Philica appears to take everything, and I like that. Even if it means a ridiculous paper on Intelligent Design in the Philosophy section. They also have open reviews, and I like that too. To an extent. The problem is that the reviews come after publication and when they arrive the publication is fixed. Some of the articles would have been so much better if they’d been reviewed before being published. The reviews come from bona-fide professional researchers, who are also often authors. So often the credibility of the reviews can be associated with the credibility of the reviewer’s own research. It’s a good idea. Or at least it will be if it can attract credible reviewers.
You can decide for yourself how likely this is by reading some of the articles and reviews.
I had a slight worry a few weeks back. I found a book that tackled a large swathe of alternative archaeology telling the truth about it. The subtitle was The Disinformation Guide to Ancient Civilizations, Astonishing Archaeology and Hidden History. It was a surprise because I keep kicking around an idea of writing my own disinformation guide. I flipped it open the contents page and found that it’s probably an uncritical trip through alternative archaeologies greatest hits. So it’s not quite what I want to do.