Whatever

auto da fe

Oh here’s a good one. A bunch of ‘rational thinkers’ cheering the fact homeopathy has been condemned by the British House of Commons. They’re happy because they’re certain homeopathy doesn’t work, and that, therefore, right and justice has been served.

How do they ‘know’ it doesn’t work? Simple, they’ve selected all the data that supports their personal bias and rejected everything that doesn’t, thus turning a blurry, inconclusive situation into one of certitude, comfort and simplicity.

Does homeopathy work? The answer is probably ‘yes, sometimes’. Some people have great results, others none at all, just as with aspirin, or chemo. The difference being, there is some science behind the latter two that justifies us accepting they work (when they do). It may be of course there’s also a science behind homeopathy but we just don’t get it yet (and of course never will if the British Govt has its way and halts further research). Or maybe when it works it’s ‘just’ placebo doing it’s thing. Or maybe it’s all garbage. But, even if garbage is all it is, at least taking a few drops of water on your tongue isn’t going to kill you. The same can’t be said of aspirin or chemo unfortunately. So, you know, couldn’t we have a little humility and grace and allow homeopathy its small and harmless place in this complex universe we are so far from understanding?

Well, no, not according to these ‘rational’ Torquemadas. Anything, however benign, that threatens their particular certitudes just has to be burned. Presumably they’d tell anyone stupid enough to think they were healed by it that they need to be more rational and just accept they’re still sick. And so, homeopathy, which at its worst at least never did any harm, has to be banned because the mere possibility it might work collides with the version of reality these Inquisitors want to impose on us all.

Try opening your minds people. Believe nothing, consider everything possible until proved otherwise, and don’t even be too sure about it then.

Roll on the Enlightenment.

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10 thoughts on “auto da fe

  1. My own experience of homeopathy was surprising. As a skeptic I went into it with very little faith, and the placebo effect is unlikely to have been a factor. But, after a simgle course of treatment, my psoriasis was better than it had ever been, better than after any amount of conventional meds. Does that prove anything? Most likely not I guess.

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  2. > Does homeopathy work? The answer is probably ‘yes, sometimes’. Some people have great results, others none at all, just as with aspirin, or chemo.

    Sometimes you die after drinking a glass of water. Sometimes you don’t. See, its just like getting shot by a gun, or run over by a car. Sometimes you die, sometimes you don’t.

    > at least taking a few drops of water on your tongue isn’t going to kill you.

    Have you heard of this concept called “opportunity cost”?

    > Try opening your minds people. Believe nothing, consider everything possible until proved otherwise, and don’t even be too sure about it then.

    Forget “possible”. As you know (by reading philosophy or watching the movie Matrix) to “Prove Impossible” is not the point. Have you read Russell’s Teapot argument? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_teapot

    > Well, no, not according to these ‘rational’ Torquemadas. Anything, however benign, that threatens their particular certitudes just has to be burned.

    Don’t feel angry at the little pig which prefers to build his house out of bricks. Don’t feel angry if he points out straw houses are not as safe.

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    • Ricardo, it’s interesting you talk of building houses – ie walling yourself in, defending yourself, shutting out some supposed threat. It’s that embattled, pseudo-rational viewpoint that bothers me, because it seeks to impose a wholly IRrational and subjective conformity on human thought. In my view that’s a poor way to approach the marvellous complexity and mystery of this universe. We don’t have all the answers – about anything much, why wall ourselves up inside the pretense that we do?

      Your point about the drink of water escapes me. Unless you’re contending that sometimes water kills people?

      Not angry at all, rather enjoying this. Remember, I’m not asking you to believe in homeopathy, I’m asking you to be truly rational and therefore agnostic about it, and about everything else we have less than perfect understanding of to date.

      And of course I’m not demanding anyone try to prove a negative, just that they don’t assert a false certitude. I mean you are aware that some studies suggest homeopathy works. You are aware that some anecdotal evidence does the same? The situation is complex and blurry, and when you assert it isn’t you’re being every bit as irrational as any true-believer anywhere.

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      • >> Sometimes you die after drinking a glass of water. Sometimes you don’t. See, its just like getting shot by a gun, or run over by a car. Sometimes you die, sometimes you don’t.

        > Your point about the drink of water escapes me. Unless you’re contending that sometimes water kills people?

        quidsapio, the point is that death sometimes happens after drinking water, in the same way that cure sometimes happens after ingesting homeopathic water (or sugar pills). Not because of it, but after it. I am just recalling a well known logical fallacy:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc

        The relationship between water and death is the same as between water and cure (even if that water, which doesn’t contain any active ingredient, is called “homeopathic”). That is to say: the relationship is coincidental.

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  3. “Anything, however benign, that threatens their particular certitudes just has to be burned. Presumably they’d tell anyone stupid enough to think they were healed by it that they need to be more rational and just accept they’re still sick.”

    Exactly. This whole campaign has been an exercise in intellectual preening and posturing. If these people had genuine concerns for the healthcare of the nation, there are far greater travesties of justice to confront.

    Homeopathy works – most people railing against it do not understand the roots of medicine in the empirical tradition and are unwilling to look at the limits of the scientific process. What a shame.

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  4. You don’t even deserve to receive comments for such a laughable, meaningless post. Since I’m so ‘rational’ I suppose I will be completely defenseless when you send psychic ghosts to put a curse on me since all of that rubbish has the same legitimacy as homeopathy. Go back to community college and leave logic with the big boys and girls, k?

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    • I would never accuse you of being rational, Julia; such a thought never entered my head. But aside from that you seem to have missed the point of this. I’m not asserting the truth of homeopathy (or ghosts or even community college), I’m asserting that ‘belief is the death of intelligence’ – and that what’s often falsely called ‘skepticism’ can be as faith-driven and irrational as any religion. The only true skepticism is never to be entirely certain of anything, and to question even the seemingly unquestionable, and to never let your comfort zones limit your idea of the possible.

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    • Sorry, logical fallacy, Jeremy. The cases here are about homeopathy failing to make someone better, not homeopathy doing harm. Yes, I’ll buy it as far as it goes, but how far is that? Conventional medicine can fail to make people better too. Often does. Any figures on how many people die from antibiotics not working when they should? But no sane person would argue this means antibiotics should be banned.

      Plain fact is the worst homeopathy can do is not work. Even if it’s totally bogus (and it might be), that’s the worst that can happen. The worst antibiotics can do is shut down your kidneys. The worst Tylenol can do is destrioy your liver. So, if someone wants to try a little benign homeopathy for their skin rash or their migraine, before opting for Big Pharma why do we have to prevent them? There’s no sound logical reason. So it must be ideology. Belief. The crusading certitude that everyone should see things your way .

      By the way, the real lesson from your link is ‘don’t do fucking dumb stuff’, but is that one we’re ever gonna learn?

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  5. How amusing that the very same fundamentalist, burn-’em-alive Ditchkinsites whose attitudes QS rightly disparages should turn up here as if for the specific purpose of demonstrating how ripe for disparagement they are.

    You guys who are so right that your rightness absolves you of any need for rational debate, or for actually thinking about the things you’re right about, or above all for common politeness – five hundred years ago you’d have been clamouring every bit as self-righteously for the blood of Catholics. Or Protestants. Which one would depend purely on where you were born, but either way you’d have been just as sure you were right.

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