The Cult of Homeopathy
Whilst teaching a class of little Year 7’s today, somehow the subject of homeopathy raised its head. One girl’s Mum worked as a homeopath and whilst she was talking to her friends I decided to stick my oar in. I brought up my faith in science and its basis in theorising ideas, testing them and then altering theories if necessary; the disturbingly well-informed smart eleven year old countered that I must open my mind and that everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I objected to this statement- When it comes to science, opinions do not count without evidence, not everyone’s opinions are equal- Science is based on rigorous testing of structured theory, not purely on opinion. I decided to intervene because I was absolutely astounded what was coming out of this girl’s mouth- She was perfectly regurgitating the standard defences the homeopathic brigade trot out whenever their pseudoscience is questioned. explaining that “When people are treated with drugs you treat one problem and end up with another”; she even said “Oh dear, have you been reading those horrible sceptic websites?” and when I brought up the idea of placebo “Shhh! Shh! My Mum hates that word, it’s like a swear word to her!”
We were having a decent discussion (twenty-seven year old vs. eleven year old) but her friends decided to join in on the teacher’s side without having any clue what we were both talking about. So the student ended up getting upset and crying. Who felt like a bit of a shit? ME.
I took her out of my classroom and explained that i’m not having a go about her or her Mum and that I enjoyed the conversation we had been having in that debate is important and that I was happy to have a chat with her Mum; I asked her to ignore the people who had no idea what we were talking about and that I would have a word. She was all right after that, drying her tears and going back to painting her box.
I felt terrible for this poor girl- Her Mother’s “profession” with it’s lack of efficacy has led her to be showered with the fall out from her Mum’s need to prove that her bogus science actually works. It was like she’d been brainwashed by a cult and she is going to have to suffer because of all the stuff that’s been shoved down her throat.
I shouldn’t have gotten into such a discussion but I can’t help but think if the same debate had happened in a science class and was led by a science teacher would they be feeling bad? I do not think so. I await to see if I receive any fall out from today’s events- It’s not the student’s fault and perhaps I should not have engaged her in conversation but when I heard the adult-concocted excuses stream out her mouth I could not let the rest of the class hear only one side of the story.
Homeopathy can be dangerous and it contradicts everything they are learning about in physics, chemistry and biology- It provides false hope, is expensive, and can kill. That is why I felt it so necessary to jump in.
Bad Science Homeopathy
An excellent summary from Wikipedia (referenced of course):
Homeopathy is unsupported by modern scientific research. The extreme dilutions used in homeopathic preparations usually leave none of the active ingredient (no atoms, ions or molecules) in the final product. The idea that any biological effects could be produced by these preparations is inconsistent with the observed dose-response relationships of conventional drugs.
“The proposed rationale for these extreme dilutions – that the water contains the “memory” or “vibration” from the diluted ingredient – is also counter to the laws of chemistry and physics. Thus critics contend that any positive results obtained from homeopathic remedies are purely due to the placebo effect, where the patient’s subjective improvement of symptoms is based solely on the patient expecting that it will work.
Critics cite the lack of viable scientific studies for the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies as evidence that they are not effective and that any positive effects are due to the placebo effect. Critics also contend that homeopathy is inherently dangerous, because homeopaths offer a false hope that may discourage or delay proper treatment.”