Alternative Medicine

Published on February 22nd, 2014 | by Rayne


Alternative Medicine: How it exploits the masses

Last post I deconstructed the underpinning framework that is the homeopathy industry. Given the overflowing amount of blatant woo, quackery and appeals to nature embedded in homeopathic “philosophy” – the mind boggles how people can still swallow this tripe.

So today I thought I’d have a look at some of the reasons as to why homeopathy and the alternative medicine industry continue to be a multi-billion dollar industry despite being nothing more than magic water, magical thinking and unproven assertions. This article mainly focusses on homeopathy however many of the tactics used by homeopathy can be found used in other strains of alt med.

Perhaps the number one reason homeopathy rakes in 1.05 billion euros in the UK, $5.35 billion in India and approx $300 million – $20 billion some years in the US, is due in large part to the Appeal To Nature spread by its promoters. For those of you that don’t know, the Appeal To Nature fallacy is a logical fallacy where all things are pigeon-holed into “Good” or “Bad” – everything “Natural” is good and everything created in a laboratory is “Bad” (further to that point, everything “Chemical” is bad). People who appeal to this fallacy conveniently forgot that 1. Everything is chemicals. 2. Not every chemical is synthetically created in a lab. 3. Arsenic is found in nature. The people who latch onto this fallacy are clearly demonstrating black and white thinking as a way to propel people away from medicine and towards alternative medicine such as homeopathy, naturopathy and the like.

Appeals to nature are a waste of time, especially seeing as the “naturalness” of a substance does not determine whether its harmless or harmful. If I wanted to take the route of “Everything natural is good and everything chemical is bad” I could say something like “Arsenic is good because it’s found in nature but Aspirin is bad because it sounds like a chemical and is made by Big Pharma” – completely forgetting the Aspirin is created from its natural form found in places such as the willow tree. Eyeglasses are unnatural yet they’re the reason I can see my keyboard.

The “Appeal to Nature” is pretty much the bread and butter of the alternative medicine industry along with the following:

Another tactic homeopaths and their followers like to use is the “Homeopathy is safe” tactic. Homeopathy has no side effects therefore it  must be better than pharmaceutical intervention. This is bunk on several levels:

  1. As I’ve pointed out here: The very underpinning framework of homeopathy violates the laws of chemistry and physics. It cannot work in the way it’s described to work unless you believe that herbs and minerals have ghosts that get stronger in water, the less the real physical herb or mineral is in the water.
  2. Homeopathy has no side effects because there is no physical trace of the substance in the water.
  3. Substances are dangerous dependent on the dosage in which you take them. That’s not to say everything is safe in small doses, there are some things you flat-out shouldn’t ingest however the fallacy that things with side effects are automatically bad is a bit rich coming from an industry that has no side effects purely based on the fact that there is nothing of the substance left to have side effects from.

Let’s take the homeopathic remedy: Sulphuric acidum. Sulphuric acidum is a dilution made from sulfuric acid. It’s used in homeopathy to treat issues ranging from skin, head, eyes, mouth, stomach issues to respiratory issues in children. For those of you who don’t know about sulfuric acid, it’s something you should stay away from – especially away from your children and your bare skin. Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive mineral acid which is soluble in water. A mineral acid is an acid derived from one or more inorganic compounds. Just looking at the Material Safety Data Sheet for it makes me cringe over the thought it’s being peddled as a way to treat respiratory issues in children.

Granted in a spill, sulfuric acid can be neutraliszed but not when it’s in the body in its concentrated form. Going back to the underpinning framework of homeopathy (the less real substance in the water, the stronger the substances “spirit essence” is), I don’t know about you, dear readers but I imagine a substance like sulfuric acid to have a nasty spirit essence. It’s a bastard in its physical form – how exactly is its “spirit essence” going to be nice and placid and not corrosive?

Thank fuck homeopathy doesn’t work.

Ah, this old chestnut. Pharmaceutical companies are only out to make money from sick people and to continue to keep them sick by not curing the disease or illness. People who promote the Big Pharma conspiracy theory conveniently forget that the homeopathy industry is worth 1.05 billion euros in the UK, $5.35 billion is India and approx $300 million – $20 billion some years in the US. Alongside of peddling treatments of recurring illnesses, some homeopaths will promote the thought that their “remedies” will cure illnesses – in that case, why would you need more than one dose of the so-called “cure”? This is the origin of where homeopathy gets its nickname: Big Placebo. All and all the conspiracy theory is a great way to demonise the medical industry to propel people towards homeopathy.

This one is fairly obvious. Homeopathy among other alt med industries exploit those who don’t know the science behind vaccines (and how they work), clinical trials or what exactly goes into creating a new drug – all by offering a quick treatment that is safe with explanations that are easy to digest even if those explanations are grade A bullshit. They sound nice and fluffy – full of rainbows and unicorns unlike the picture the alt med industry paints of science and medicine – scary with big words and harsh sounding chemicals. Alt med likes to play on ignorance and fear often using the “Think of your children” mantra to scare mothers into buying its products. Homeopaths target vulnerable people who medicine cannot help – often due to their illnesses having no treatment (like the common cold), people get unhappy hearing an answer they don’t like and switch to homeopathy due to its promotion of treatment and cures for illnesses and disorders that have none (much like the “treatments” for autism such as the MMS (sodium chloride) and black salve (cansema) for cancer)

Homeopathy exploits many things but the number one  thing homeopathy plays on is the placebo effect and confirmation bias. Homeopathy as you all well know by now, is nothing more than water – it once had a trace of a substance in it but due to an extremely high amount dilutions, it no longer has any trace of any molecules of the original substance in it. Therefore any effect the water has on the illness it’s promoted to treat is purely the effect placebo effect combined with confirmation bias. The placebo effect is simply what happens with someone experiences an effect after taking a sugar pill (or in homeopathys case – water). Confirmation bias is the tendency to select or to interpret things in such a way that it confirms a persons preconceived bias about a subject.

Correlation does not imply causation is a phrase most often used within the scientific community. Basically the phrase is saying that just because there maybe a correlation or relationship between two variables (in this case homeopathic remedy and an illness), this does not imply that one caused the other. Using homeopathy as an example, just because someone ingests homeopathic water and their stomach ache goes away, does not imply that the homeopathic water caused the stomach ache to stop. The stomach like the rest of the human body has ways of healing minor issues. As Patrick the Atheist discusses:

With homeopathy, reflexology etc, there are other factors at work (such as the placebo effect) that yield positive results. This would show a correlation between the alternative therapy and patient outcome, but not indicate that it is the actual therapy which is leading to the positive trend. An explanation for the positive trend would be that patients think that is is going to work, and because of the placebo effect, the patients think that they are healing, and thus report positive results.

Many people ask why is homeopathy harmful if it is only water? It’s not the water that’s harmful – it’s the conspiracy against medicine, it’s mothers putting their children in danger by denying them medical care due to delusion that homeopathic water can treat them, it’s the lies promoted by people who homeopathy  and alternative medicine works as more than just a placebo that is harmful. By all means go ahead and pay $80 a box for Oscillococcinum (freshly killed ducks liver) to treat your cold but don’t tells me it works more than a placebo.

Things to check out: What’s wrong with Alternative Medicine?

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23 Responses to Alternative Medicine: How it exploits the masses

  1. Pingback: Homeopathy - how you know when someone has failed highschool science Insufferable Intolerance

  2. notashill says:

    It’s really quite hilarious to see this unfold: Homeopathy skeptics and vicious Big Pharma attack dogs are running around the globe in ludicrous demonstrations where they consume huge doses of homeopathic remedies in public and then claim that because they don’t die of an “overdose,” these medicines therefore don’t work.

    Notice that they never consume their own medicines in large doses? Chemotherapy? Statin drugs? Blood thinners? They wouldn’t dare drink those. In fact, today I’m challenging the homeopathic skeptics and other medical fundamentalists to a “drink-a-thon” test to see which medicines will kill you faster. But we’ll get to that in a minute…

    • Ian says:

      ah the “it’s safe therefore it’s better” argument. quite frankly your wrong. homeopathy is safe because it’s almost always diluted beyond the molar limit.

      1×10^24 aka 24X aka 12C. if you dilute beyond this point you have only a 60% or worse chance of finding a SINGLE molecule of the original solution. in short homeopathic remedies are safe because all your taking is water.

  3. Jane Step says:

    I hope you never have children. Parenting is about making sure your kids are safe and Big Pharma is NOT safe.

  4. djarm67 says:

    Q) What do you call alternative medicine that has been demonstrated to work via double blind testing?

    A) Medicine.

  5. james says:

    Notashill: You’re hilarious. No really, you are confirming that there’s nothing in Homeopathy, and something in medicine. Well done.

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