In search of the woo that cures faith in woo


Should promoters of homeopathy be able to claim that homeopathic “vaccinations” are effective? Nope, not in my view. It’s the equivalent of advertising Cyanide Candy on cartoons shows aimed at children.

A court in Australia has accepted a version of that view.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has convinced a court that a company that offers homeopathic remedies was “misleading and deceptive” when it tried to argue that said remedies provide a viable alternative to the pertussis vaccine.

The case dates back to early 2013. The company, Homeopathy Plus, posted a series of three articles that claimed (among other things) that the vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) is unreliable and ineffective. Literature currently at the site criticizes vaccines more generally, while promoting homeopathy as effective in preventing “malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leptospirosis, and meningococcal disease.”

Dangerous.

[T]he whooping cough articles drew the ire of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration Advertising Complaint Resolution Panel and Therapeutic Goods Administration, which sought a retraction of the published claims. Homeopathy Plus, however, declined to obey these orders. At that point, the Competition and Consumer Commission filed a federal case.

And won. Good.

I wonder if there’s any homeopathic remedy that can cure people of the reckless irresponsibility of claiming that woo “remedies” are effective. I wonder if there’s any kind of woo anywhere that can make people realize it’s a terrible thing to do to claim that their pet magical pseudo-remedy is a cure or preventive for dreadful diseases like pertussis.

Comments

  1. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Reading the article too quickly on a mobile tablet, I was curious to know what a homeopathic vacation might be.

    They take a bit of the Parthenon, dilute it a zillion times and you look at it?

  2. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I had a glass of water this morning. It was a homeopathic trip to the Bahamas.

    …but not nearly as fun.

  3. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Nobody seems to appreciate the full potential of homeopathic education.

    A homeopathic course in homeopathy.

  4. yazikus says

    I have some loved ones who have fallen for this particular woo. They showed me this pretty little wooden chest filled with glass vials labeled ‘homeopathic vaccines’ for various diseases. I asked how they worked and was treated to this answer, “Well, they are just like the regular ones, only all natural with none of the toxins”. The thing is, these loved ones aren’t stupid. One works in the health care field and one has a degree in the sciences. They are loving parents and want to do the best for their child. Sadly, they’ve bought into this lie.

  5. Sili says

    They take a bit of the Parthenon, dilute it a zillion times and you look at it?

    I really wish people would get their mockery of homoeopathy right.

    Assuming a trip to Greece is a nice think, and homoeopathic preparation of the Parthenon would cure that niceness.

    If you want an awesome homoeopathic vacation, you’d need to begin with something awful. Two weeks in Bognor Regis, say.

  6. theobromine says

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Superficially, the explanation for the mechanism of science-based medical vaccines sounds a bit like homeopathy – you take a small (generally weakened or otherwise altered) amount of the disease-causing agent, and you inject it. In response, the body mounts an immune response that provides protection against the disease (i.e. “strengthen the immune system).

  7. RJW says

    The ‘corporate veil’ should be lifted and real, actual, humans should be prosecuted and hopefully, jailed. The case started In early 2013 and it’s almost 2015, because of the glacial pace of the legal system, the homeopaths have been given nearly 2 years to peddle their snake oil.

    The solution is simple, only those medicines which have been subjected to clinical trials should be allowed to be legally promoted, so anti-vaccination activists, homeopaths, or natural healers are welcome to experiment on themselves, not gullible members of the public, or children.

    There’s an very recent case here in Australia, a 3 year old girl has recently died after drinking raw cow’s milk (which can only be sold for cosmetic purposes) whether the child was given the milk or accidentally consumed it, is not clear.
    Whatever the facts of that case, some people think that unpasteurised milk is healthier, and it’s not been established how widespread the practice of using ‘cosmetic milk’ for human consumption actually is.

  8. yazikus says

    Whatever the facts of that case, some people think that unpasteurized milk is healthier, and it’s not been established how widespread the practice of using ‘cosmetic milk’ for human consumption actually is.

    I’m not against raw milk, but I do think it should be regulated- highly regulated. If people are getting around a ban on raw milk by buying ‘cosmetic milk’ (not sure what that even means) then that is the same as buying any other non-regulated product and using it for something other than its intended purpose.

    I guess I just don’t see raw milk and homeopathy as quite the same thing. One is completely imaginary, and one is a product that some people prefer the taste of. Regardless, as you said, if something is being promoted as a medicine, it needs to be tested fittingly.

  9. says

    yazikus, do your loved ones understand a properly prepared homeopathic “remedy” actually contains no active ingredient? For that matter it’s possible the manufacturer doesn’t understand that either.

  10. yazikus says

    timgueguen,
    It was recommended to them by their naturopath, so I’m not sure what she told them. I’m hesitant to get into it with them, because as great as it would be to be able to dissuade them from their mis-belief, we all know it is harder than that with family.

  11. RJW says

    @9 yazikus,

    “I guess I just don’t see raw milk and homeopathy as quite the same thing.

    Neither do I, however they’re both clearly in the snake oil category. Perhaps we could distinguish between, “ineffective” as with homeopathy and “actively dangerous” as with raw milk. Unpasteurised milk can be lethal, that lesson was learned more than a century ago.
    Apparently ‘cosmetic milk’ is ostensibly, used for skin treatments, what proportion of the milk sold is actually used as a drink is not going to be easy to establish, for obvious reasons.

  12. RJW says

    @11 yazikus,

    “…we all know it is harder than that with family.”

    Yes, I discovered that through bitter personal experience, no amount of reasoned arguments made the slightest difference.

  13. yazikus says

    @12 & 13 RJW,
    I think you are right, regarding the raw milk. Though I will admit to having on occasion purchasing what I refer to as the ‘fancy milk’ from the grass fed cow highly regulated raw dairy with the glass jug… But I wouldn’t offer it to a child and I know the risk I take. I have heard though, that listeria deaths from things like lunch meat (or candied apples, as we saw this month) are far more common than raw milk sickness. But I know that there is a lot more lunch meat floating around being eaten than there is raw milk.

    My condolences regarding your family. We can only do our best.

  14. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says

    I wonder if there’s any kind of woo anywhere that can make people realize it’s a terrible thing to do to claim that their pet magical pseudo-remedy is a cure or preventive for dreadful diseases like pertussis.

    I can’t offer you woo.

    But I can offer you a phenomena that takes place early in development that is likely one of the earliest manifestations of the vict…er problem. Centration.
    It’s a tendency to focus on one aspect of a situation and ignore other, possibly critical aspects. It’s generated by egocentrism, and aspects of that stick around in lots of cognitive realms in different people to different extents.

    You see centration in the same general stage of cognitive development (pre-operational) as, wait for it…

    …magical thinking (symbolic function substage).

    Funny enough I think my tourette’s is really close to this too.

  15. Ysanne says

    yazikus has it exactly right in #9: Drinking raw milk is dangerous when you’re relying on the unregulated operation of “bath milk” producers instead of having proper avenues of producing and consuming it safely.
    In Australia, selling raw milk for human consumption is simply banned, so if you want to drink it, you either need to have your own cow, or drink milk that’s sold as a Cleopatra-inspired “bath additive”, with the label ruling out human consumption in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge way. It’s a niche market and and sometimes things go horribly wrong.
    Contrast that with Germany: It’s legal to sell raw milk at the farm under very strict conditions involving daily testing of milk samples, and warnings that the milk won’t keep for longer than 2 days etc. There’s an even more strict standard to satisfy if the raw milk is to be sold in a store (lower bacteria levels, consume-by date 4 days at best, etc.). Heaps of people buy this stuff, including myself because I love the creaminess, and I don’t remember ever hearing a case of someone getting sick from raw milk around there.

  16. Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says

    Just to be clear about my attempt at humor in 15 I would consider irrational thought in general to be a thing to be hunted and in that sense it would be my victim. Anyone with irrational thoughts and beliefs I see as victims of a process that they often have little control over.

  17. Ben Finney says

    I guess I just don’t see raw milk and homeopathy as quite the same thing. One is completely imaginary, and one is a product that some people prefer the taste of.

    There are other, more objective reasons to prefer that milk:

    Often it is sold directly by the farmer (at a farmer’s market) or by a very short supply chain. This has all the benefits of locally-sourced food: much of the wasteful transportation is avoided; and thereby a lot of the preservatives added simply to allow all that long-term and long-distance transportation and warehousing are also avoided.

    Similarly, if it’s sold directly by the farmer, much of the strong-arming by the centralised food chains is avoided; the farmer is keeping most of the profit so their working conditions and business ownership are much more ethical.

    People who choose to sell “organic” or other terms associated with woo will usually avoid massive antibiotic overdoses to fight infection, and instead give better living conditions to the cows to avoid disease. Reducing the routine introduction of antibiotics into our food is fast becoming a crucial issue.

    These are all good traits of foods that are marketed with terms like “organic”.

    Regardless, as you said, if something is being promoted as a medicine, it needs to be tested fittingly.

    Yes, it’s unfortunate there is so much entanglement also with dubious practices (there’s no general reason to tout “unhomogenised and unpasteurised”; it just seems to be a way of avoiding processing costs) and myriad dubious health claims.

    So in my view, it’s not merely “some like the taste”; I don’t notice a specifically better taste from the milks we’re talking about.

    There are many objective benefits to be had. But one also has to deal with the associated woo and bad practices. Ah, the complexities of human endeavour :-)

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