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Apr 09 2014

Are Australians smarter than Americans?

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has reviewed the evidence for homeopathy, and concluded that it is bunk. Stated more politely, of course.

While homeopaths claim they can treat all conditions in people by supporting their wellbeing, the NHMRC Draft Information Paper on the Evidence on Homeopathy released on Wednesday said ”there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions”. It also said: ”People who choose homeopathy instead of proven conventional treatment may put their health at risk if safe and evidence-based treatments are rejected or delayed in favour of homeopathic treatment.” The draft is now open for public consultation until May 26.

Meanwhile, the US maintains the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and gives the quacks money for ‘research’ (although, even at NCCAM, they are unable to say anything good about homeopathy).

42 comments

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  1. 1
    llyris

    I know how this looks :) :) :)
    But I assure you that there are idiots here, too. What a pity we haven’t managed to export them all yet.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    I think “smarter” is the wrong term: there is a difference between being smart and being willfully ignorant.

  3. 3
    Matt G

    @1 – please don’t send them to the US. Rupert and Ken have done enough damage already.

  4. 4
    cottonnero

    Well, Ken Ham did decide that Kentucky was better than Queensland when it comes to density (and density) of rubes.

  5. 5
    doublereed

    @4

    “Density of Rubes” is my new cover band.

  6. 6
    violetknight

    We have covered the same ground: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy

    Though it is embarrassing to be home to such purveyors of woo.

  7. 7
    Neil Rickert

    Are Australians smarter than Americans?

    As an Australian (by birth), that explains everything.

    The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has reviewed the evidence for homeopathy, and concluded that it is bunk.

    Australians are, by national tradition, a bit less inclined to give special privilege to business. Note that’s only “a bit less”. So it’s not a matter of being smarter. It’s more a matter of having traditions that are not quite as bad.

  8. 8
    Drolfe

    And 1 million dipshits cried out in unison “what’s the harm?!”

  9. 9
    playonwords

    You think that the USA is bad?

    Check the NHS statement on Homeopathy

    Does it work?

    There has been extensive investigation of the effectiveness of homeopathy. There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition (see What can we conclude from the evidence?).

    It is available on the NHS?

    The Department of Health does not maintain a position on any particular complementary or alternative therapy, including homeopathy. It is the responsibility of local NHS organisations to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of any healthcare treatments for NHS patients, such as homeopathy, taking account of issues to do with safety, clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness and the availability of suitably qualified practitioners (snip)

    … but there are several NHS homeopathic hospitals and some GP practices also offer homeopathic treatment. Italic emphasis mine

    Talk about weasel words

    Then there is the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital for Integrated Medicine. Operating as part of the University College London Hospital NHS Trust it is next door to Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgury. The “Royal” indicates has the imprimatur of the Royal Family, and, yes, the Duke of Cornwall (Dour Prince Charlie) does support it’s activities.

    Brian and Brenda* also support this landmark.

    +++++++++++++++++++++
    * aka Liz and Phil the Greek or The Queen and the Duke of Edinburg

  10. 10
    playonwords

    Blockquote bork …

  11. 11
    Sastra

    ”there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions”

    I have a lot of friends who use and endorse homeopathy knowing full well that there is no reliable scientific evidence for homeopathy. That is, they enthusiastically insist that there’s plenty of scientific evidence … but quickly knuckle under when faced with informed dissent. Then they insist that “personal experience” is another way of knowing (or even another way of doing science.) No right, no wrong, just different. It works if you believe in it. My refusal to use it shows how “closed-minded” I am. Clearly, I’m afraid it will work. I also want to ‘take it away’ from those it works for — sheer meanness, I guess.

    Unlike many users in the general public who think homeopathy is an herbal remedy or an old-fashioned “home” remedy, they do understand what it’s claiming and that it contradicts the discoveries of modern science. In fact, that’s one of its chief charms. By using homeopathy, they mark themselves as gentle followers of a Natural path which doesn’t reject spirituality. The open-minded path.

    As far as I can tell in their circle it’s mostly recommended for self-limiting, self-assessed, or chronic conditions which have no cure. Homeopathy “helps restore the body’s own ability to heal itself.” Sort of a no-lose situation then.

  12. 12
    violetknight

    @Sastra

    “It works if you believe in it.”

    Well, I suppose the best thing you can say about homeopathy is that it’s been shown to provide the “benefits” of placebos.

  13. 13
    borax

    I had a cold and took a homeopathic remedy. Five days later my cold was gone. Proof!

  14. 14
    colnago80

    In fairness, the NIH is required by statute to maintain and fund the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Thank Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch for this stupidity.

  15. 15
    twas brillig (stevem)

    I had a cold and took a homeopathic remedy. Five days later my cold was gone. Proof!</blockquote?
    a cold will last 7 days untreated, but when treated with a Homeopathic remedy it will be cured in just a week!1!1!

    but seriously. I've always considered the effectiveness of homeopathy to be essentially psychotherapy. That it really only can treat psychosomatic illnesses; and that alone distorts any statistics the Homeopaths bring out. The effects, if any, on actual diseases are no different than a placebo. But to digress onto the subject of placebos: Do placebo "effects" depend on the patient knowing they received a placebo, or, if they believe a placebo is a good, or a neutral, or a bad drug; and given only to deceive the recipient?

  16. 16
    violetknight

    @colnago80 Ack, good lord, not looking closely, I didn’t realize that was a part of the NIH. Still, at least they seem to be doing some respectable work in trying to inform consumers about the drawbacks and ineffectiveness of homeopathy… that’s more than the FDA is doing.

  17. 17
    Menyambal

    Homeopathy has about five different ways that it violates the laws of science. I’d give it one new discovery, if it worked, but it has so many “new” impossibilities that I don’t even.

    I was able to come up with a better story as to how it works than is usually offered, but it was still bunk.

  18. 18
    esmith4102

    American beliefs are weird indeed: fear vaccinations cause autism, denial of climate change due to human produced greenhouse gasses, believe organically labeled foodstuff is healthier despite absence of evidence, homeopathy, astrology, belief in transcendental levels of existence, etc, etc.

    Good data is available on these issues which lessens our ignorance and the well informed citizen can make use of it to make their own decisions more wisely, but for the rest…you can’t cure stupid!

  19. 19
    mildlymagnificent

    “It works if you believe in it.”

    Well, I suppose the best thing you can say about homeopathy is that it’s been shown to provide the “benefits” of placebos.

    It’s also why it’s so dangerous for some conditions. Asthmatics have been studied* using homeopathic “preparations” and they claimed that they could breathe more freely. But when they were tested for lung function – their condition was deteriorating to the extent that they were at risk of a serious attack.

    *Orac included this in one of his many posts on the topic but I can’t find the one I want just now.

  20. 20
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    They’re certainly smarter than Brits. We can get homeopathic remedies on the NHS, for fuck sake.

  21. 21
    Louis

    Are Australians smarter than Americans?

    No.

    They are both a bunch of degenerate Colonials only slightly worse than the Canadians. Still, better than being Foreigners or French.

    [/Prince Philip (A Greek) and/or Rudyard Kipling Mode]

    What? WHAT!? It’s true!*

    Louis

    *Okay, it’s not.

  22. 22
    Louis

    Thumper,

    SHHHHHH! You’ll give the game away!

    ;-)

    Louis

  23. 23
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @Louis

    *Best General Melchettt Impression*

    Smarter they may be, but they can’t be considered fully human until they can speak The Queen’s English™! Brains aren’t everything, you know! Was it brains that won us the Empire? No! It was G&Ts, a stiff upper lip, and guns… mostly guns.

  24. 24
    playonwords

    @ Louis Ahhh, the wonderful world of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and the Battenbergs, just don’t mention the War (either of them)

  25. 25
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Well, I suppose the best thing you can say about homeopathy is that it’s been shown to provide the “benefits” of placebos.

    No need for inverted commas, Violetknight. Placebos- and homeopathy too probably- do have real and verifiable benefits. There’ve been clinical trials where the placebos worked better than the medicines they were being compared with. There’s no way of knowing whether when or how they work though. The problem is either finding ways to make everyone benefit from them or identifying the people who are likely to benefit from them. I used to know a psychologist who spent ages trying and failing to find a way to do either of these things.

  26. 26
    Rich Woods

    @Sastra #11:

    By using homeopathy, they mark themselves as gentle followers of a Natural path which doesn’t reject spirituality. The open-minded path.

    By using homeopathy, they mark themselves as, er, marks.

    @playonwords #9:

    Brian and Brenda* also support this landmark.

    +++++++++++++++++++++
    * aka Liz and Phil the Greek or The Queen and the Duke of Edinburg

    Brian is Charlie-boy’s alter ego in Hislopworld, not Phil’s.

  27. 27
    violetknight

    @sc_…and so forth

    Oh, sure, that’s why I said it’s probably the best thing to be said for them (it’s certainly not the worst!). We know a couple ways that homeopathy and placebos don’t work, however — through some active ingredient affecting the body’s chemistry or physiology, or by affecting any kind of surrounding energy field, or many of the ways homeopathy is often advertised as working.

  28. 28
    Jerry

    violetknight in comment 16 mentioned the FDA not stopping homeopathy.
    Did you know the FDA was prohibited BY LAW from regulating the “herbs and dietary supplements” industries, including homeoquackery? The FDA can only step in when there has been demonstrable harm or death, but there is no enforcement mechanism to determine if industry is actually passing along all adverse reports. Thank Congress for passing the “Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)”, which considers this junk safe until proven unsafe.

    comment 25 mentioned some unnamed drugs being as effective as placebos.
    Citation please? All you’re saying is that the two were equally ineffective, meaning the so-called drugs should never have been approved as drugs. There’s nothing to test further, given what you said.

  29. 29
    dccarbene

    Excuse me, people:

    Homeopathy = Water

    Water = Life

    Therefore, Homeopathy = Life
    QED

    And you call yourselves rationalists……

    Also: Playing football without helmets = smarter than Americans? Or is that just a way of handicapping the race to give the Yanks a fighting chance?

  30. 30
    robro

    esmith4102 @#18

    American beliefs are weird indeed…believe organically labeled foodstuff is healthier despite absence of evidence

    Is it OK if I eat locally grown, vine-ripe, organic strawberries, tomatoes and so forth because they taste better than the cardboard replicas Safeway sells? There are other reasons to eat organic that have nothing to do with any reputed health benefit.

  31. 31
    Sastra

    twasbrillig #15 wrote:

    Do placebo “effects” depend on the patient knowing they received a placebo, or, if they believe a placebo is a good, or a neutral, or a bad drug; and given only to deceive the recipient?

    It depends. There are a lot of elements which come together in the “placebo effect.” A recent study which used a “placebo balanced design” to tease apart the effects of actual medicine from effects of suggestion and expectation found a distinction between conscious and unconscious responses.

    It doesn’t really look as though the placebo response is very useful. When you remove the biases and artifacts and confounding factors like regression to the mean, there’s not much if anything left to the infamous mind-over-matter claim. And now you run into the ethical problems.

  32. 32
    Kichae

    I’m actually starting to wonder whether the CAM crowd isn’t just about ready to throw homeopathy (the word, not the practice) under the bus. It’s one of the most widely spread and most mainstream bits of CAM these days, with products in mainstream grocery stores and pharmacies (at least here in Canada) carrying the “homeopathic” label. It may very well have over-exposed itself. Not only is it easier than ever to see that homeopathic treatments don’t work, but it’s also harder to pat yourself on the back and milk your superiority complex when the homeless bum on the street corner is hydrating on homeopathy.

    My girlfriend shocked me shortly after we started dating by telling me how excited she was that her benefits plan covered a naturopathic doctor. When I, in disbelief, asked her if she knew that naturopathy was a bunch of junk, she informed me “No, you’re thinking of homeopathy”.

    That was two months ago, and I’m still stunned.

  33. 33
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    Jerry @28:
    It’s a long time since I came across the accounts, but there were occasions with drugs used for psychiatric treatment where both drugs and placebos were effective and some where the placebos were more effective. It’s in that field of medicine, where both illness and improvement have strong subjective aspects, that you would expect placebos to be most likely to work.

  34. 34
    Rich Woods

    @Kichae #32:

    That was two months ago, and I’m still stunned.

    I recommend Arnica 30C. You’ll soon feel better.

  35. 35
    Rich Woods

    I recommend Arnica 30C. You’ll soon feel better.

    Wait, sorry, I have no legitimate qualification which both legally and ethically allows me to recommend that drug to you. You’re on your own. Good luck.

  36. 36
    Rich Woods

    You’re on your own. Good luck.

    You and the water, obviously.

  37. 37
    robro

    Kichae @#32

    It’s one of the most widely spread and most mainstream bits of CAM these days

    Same around here. It’s one thing to go to my hippy-dippy, worker-owned collective grocery store and find it, but Safeway and Walgreens are full of homeopathic treatments. Of course, when absence of active ingredient is the key, then it’s pretty easy to be homeopathic. Hell, the water department could declare our tap water a homeopathic treatment. I just realized that my coffee is homeopathic.

  38. 38
    madscientist

    I’ve stayed in Australia the past 20 years not because Australians are more intelligent but because there are fewer loons. It’s good to see folks fighting the voodoo though; I wonder when/if the US will ever have another push against the voodoo. Every time I think “that’s the end of voodoo” it comes back with a vengeance.

  39. 39
    rorschach

    I’ve stayed in Australia the past 20 years not because Australians are more intelligent but because there are fewer loons.

    The ratio may look good to an American, but to a German it doesn’t. Way too many loons and dimwits for me, and they have come out in force since the Abbott win. A loony bigot government helps the general populace loony bigots flourish.

  40. 40
    llyris

    #28 dccarbene

    Playing football without helmets = smarter than Americans?

    This would be because Australian Rules football is a game involving skill, rather than just running at full tilt, head first towards the enemy, with no intention beyond smashing as hard as possible into them.
    I don’t understand why someone would want to watch a group of men chase a ball around a muddy paddock, but I certainly don’t understand why *anyone* would want to watch a group of pillows mashing each other.

  41. 41
    mickll

    Straight answer?

    No.

    Australians voted in a Catholic fundamentalist that believes climate change is crap and the free market will magically solve the recession he seems hell bent on creating!

  42. 42
    Rey Fox

    This would be because Australian Rules football is a game involving skill, rather than just running at full tilt, head first towards the enemy, with no intention beyond smashing as hard as possible into them.

    And golf is just some guy hitting a ball with a stick as hard as he can.
    And cricket is just some guys standing around in a field.
    And basketball is just a jumping contest.
    And…

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