Saturday, July 26, 2008

Many People Are Bigger Fools Than They Think

Lemme make a pitch for the Guardian’s Science page, which seems to do a good job covering science news. For instance, on Monday, they offered a fine article about UK pharmacists, who persist in handing over homeopathic “remedies” to customers without comment, despite their own ethical guidelines, which compel them to inform customers of relevant info.

What’s the relevant info? That these homeopathic remedies have nothing in them (“no biologically active agents”) and, in study after study, they have been shown to be no more effective than sugar pills.

How come they have nothing in them? Well, according to homeopathic theory, you start off with the active ingredient (say, arsenic), but you don’t want to actually give that to people, cuz it’s toxic. So what do you do? You dilute it. As you dilute it, say the homeopaths, it becomes stronger as a medicine.

But they don’t just dilute it. They dilute it to the point that likely not one molecule of the ingredient is left (they acknowledge this). That’s when it’s really powerful.

What’s the matter with people?

-- Chunk Wheeler, describing "How we know that homeopathy doesn't work," for Dissent The Blog.