Saturday, December 6, 2008

French Homeopaths: A Bunch Of Real Jokers

"Every year a homeopathy company kill a duck. Then they remove 35 grams of its liver and 15 grams of its heart.

I don’t know what they do with the rest of the duck but the bits they’ve got they prepare in water which they dilute so many times that there isn’t a trace of duck left.

Despite this it’s not suitable for vegetarians. This is then the homeopathic remedy for flu or as the French call it, ‘la grippe’.

It’s highfalutingly called Oscillococcinum pronounced, oh-sila-cox-see-num. The water of that dissolved golden duck i’m told sells for $20,000,000 a year.

Homeopathy is the science of the minimum dose. The idea is that like cures like.

So if you have insomnia, what causes insomnia? Coffee. So they dissolve a tiny bit of coffee in gallons of water. That’s sold as a cure for insomnia.

Alright you say so it’s just the same as vaccinations. No!? Vaccinations have some content. Homeopathic remedies are diluted so many times they have not an atom of the original product.

Some argue that the water has a memory of the original coffee or duck bits. If that’s the case how’s it forgotten the pipes it’s been through or various people’s bladders.

Believers laugh when you point out that some cultures apply the same ‘like cures like’ theory. For example the idea that the ground down powder of the erect rhino horn cures sexual dysfunction in men. Isn’t that like cures like?

Or the voodoo idea that you can influence a person by sticking pins in a doll likeness.

I’ve an old letter from Crippen the convicted murderer. He was a homeopath and he sold homeopathic plasters to cure deafness.

In the watery world of the homeopath there’s someone with a sense of humour."
-- Wilf Lunn, seeing the "sick" joke - of homeopathic French quacks actually selling watered-down duck - in The Huddersfield Examiner.

1 comment:

  1. There's an absolute ton of blogs popping up all over to support Riva, but I don't think that very many of them have actually read the original blog or the letter that was sent - the instant comparisons to Singh and the automatic painting of Boiron as the heartless, faceless, corporate monster without any attention paid to the actual blog itself would certainly seem to indicate that. I think that the whole situation deserves further scrutiny before Riva is painted as a hero of modern science. To be clear, I don't like what Boiron are doing, but to paint the blogger as a total innocent who's being sued because he spoke ill of homoeopathy is misrepresenting the situation, as as someone who prizes rational thinking, I can't help but be irked by that. The case isn't really about whether or not homoeopathy works, but about some potentially very sloppy blogging and silly mistakes made which allowed Boiron to come in and cause a fuss in the first place.

    The fact of the matter is that Riva used copyrighted imagery without their permission, and stated that they made claims which they did not. He seems to think it's splitting hairs, and indeed, invoked the "everyone does it so it's ok" defence when questioned on the use of copyrighted imagery. When the problem with stating "Boiron said it cures flu", he again said it was splitting hairs, saying that he shouldn't get in trouble because of imperfect sentences, but it's really much more than that. There's a reason that Boiron don't have the word "cure" in their promotional literature, and it's because it would be against the law for them to claim a cure where there isn't one. Riva said that this is what they are claiming, and that falls very neatly under libel law in Italy, where attribution of a determined fact that is untrue has both a specified fine, and penalty. By putting words in their mouth, Riva left himself open to criticism and sanctions – to say that they claim it’s a flu cure is, factually speaking, untrue.

    I think that the response is disproportionate, but I also think that sloppy blogging and a casual attitude to copyright have left Riva in a vulnerable position. It's one thing to criticise homoeopathy, but it's another to libel a company, and the two shouldn't become so intermingled in the minds of the public that we begin to think it's ok to libel someone or something as long as it's peripherally related to something we believe to be nonsense.

    Libel laws are, in many countries, downright punishing, and sadly, open to abuse, but here’s the rub – if we want the law to change, to better protect bloggers and authors and anyone else who wishes to share an opinion, then we also have to play nice with the existing laws. Direct criticism of a company or their product is a difficult thing to do, and there is a fine, often poorly defined, line between valid criticism and outright libel. You can be critical of a company or product if you have evidence to back up that criticism, but you cannot invent evidence to support a criticism. You can share your opinion of a product or company, but you can’t put words in their mouth. In short, you can’t libel a company simply because you don’t believe in their product, and you can’t use their copyrighted imagery to help you libel them. I have sympathy for the position that Riva now finds himself in, but I also hope that others take this as a cautionary tale and learn from the mistakes that were made.