Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a statistician and risk analyst. He recently sent out a tweet that defended homeopathy as being harmless and even beneficial since after all people were only taking a placebo and that it may prevent them from over-treatment of marginal symptoms. He followed up with another tweet saying that “Superstitions can be rational if 1) harmless, 2) lower your anxiety, 3) prevent you from listening to forecast by economists & BS “experts””
Leaving aside the obviously facetious third point, the first two are often invoked by homeopathy’s defenders that even if homeopathic treatments don’t do any good, they at least don’t do any harm.
But Cory Doctorow says that such bland assurances are misleading.
In pursuing this line of inquiry, Taleb ignores the great body of peer-reviewed, published evidence about the real harms of homeopathy, which fall into two categories: first, people with real medical problems (e.g. cancer) substitute placebos for effective therapies.
Second, that people who take homeopathic remedies for difficult-to-diagnose or imaginary ailments waste public/insurance money (in healthcare systems that fund “Complimentary/Alternative Medicine”) and are apt to overmedicate with both homeopathic and real medicines — a 2015 paper looked at 45,000 patients and determined that homeopathic treatments “led to more productivity loss, higher outpatient care costs and larger overall cost.”
This has sparked an angry response from Taleb, calling Doctorow “very stupid” and dishonest”.
No post on homeopathy is complete without this clip from That Mitchell and Webb Look.