So since yesterday I’ve been reading around online a little about homeopathy more generally rather than just about this specific clinic. It’s amazing what you can find out when you’re not reading propaganda.
Until now the only thing I’d read about homeopathy is leaflets from the clinic and from the society of homeopaths itself. They gave the distinct impression (as did Helen Campbell, the homeopath I spoke to on Friday at the clinic) that there hadn’t been much ‘real’ scientific research gone into it (when she asked what I mean by real science, I couldn’t resist replying “you know, chemistry, physics…”). So I was under the impression that since research hadn’t been done into homeopathy, it was unfair to dismiss it out of hand. How wrong I was!!
I’ve now learned that there are loads of studies into homeopathy showing it doesn’t work. Thanks to some of the regular posters over at think humanism I’ve been able to read up on some more information, which otherwise I wouldn’t have known about. This leaflet from sense about science is a very helpful starting point for anyone wanting to find out more, containing references to studies showing homeopathy as no better than a placebo, particularly this one from Shang et al (you may not be able to access it depending on where you are and what entitlements you have), which shows no specific effect for homeopathic treatment over that of a placebo.
This is the summary of a BBC Horizons programme on the subject (the questions and answers section with James Randi is particularly interesting – also if you go on the transcript, about 2 thirds down it tells you about the experiment they did), and Homeowatch has a great collection of materials on the subject, particularly under “articles by various critics”, where I found this very comprehensive analysis. I’m not going to do much in the way of commentary, indeed I’d prefer you read the evidence for yourself as any interpretation I put on it will be biased.
As far as I can see it is an open and shut case. The evidence in favour of homeopathy is very weak, and the evidence against is overwhelming. Not only can homeopaths not explain how it works (which I knew yesterday, but dismissing it based purely on that logic is akin to an argument from personal incredulity), they can’t even demonstrate that it does work, and plenty of studies show that it doesn’t. Until such a time as they can do so clinically (and to me they don’t even seem to be willing to try at the moment), I’m happy to dismiss it as rubbish. I would be particularly interested if they could prove it worked on animals or babies, but so far attempts to do so have fallen flat on their faces. Sorry if I confused anyone yesterday.