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Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century

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Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century

Nonsense, Not Science

This is a 62-page critique of Sense About Homeopathy by Chris Tyler, a leaflet published by Sense About Science in 2006. It includes five appendices, a bibliography and full references.


It concludes that Sense About Homepathy contains at least seventeen major faults listed below:


1.  It fails to define some basic terms (such as ‘disease’, ‘condition’ and ‘effective’).

2.  It defines the ‘placebo effect’ but then surreptitiously re-defines it as the complete opposite of the

      original definition.

3.  It uses the term ‘homeopathy’ indiscriminately to mean the system of homeopathy, homeopathic

      treatment and the medicines used by homeopaths.

4.  It ignores five of the seven principles on which homeopathy is based, despite their crucial importance

      to many of the arguments used. For example, the requirement in homeopathy to treat the ‘totality of

      symptoms’ invalidates many of the arguments used in this leaflet.

5.  It fails to acknowledge or discuss the fact that homeopathy has a definition of effectiveness.

6.  It misrepresents potentisation by equating it with dilution, which is only a part of the process, without

      providing any evidence that the effect of succussion is insignificant.

7.  It invents terminology to create distinctions which are never explained, such as that between

      'disease' and the 'symptoms of disease', and ‘inducing physiological changes’ and ‘working in a

      clinical sense’.

8   It fails to provide any evidence that the nature of homeopathic treatment is essentially the same as

      that of placebo.

9.  It misrepresents the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in order to justify the claim

      that homeopathic treatment is a placebo.

10. It fails to acknowledge that RCTs are not infallible guides to efficacy or effectiveness, and so

      cannot be used as the sole basis for categorising a treatment as a placebo.

11. It fails to examine the real problems with designing appropriate RCTs to test homeopathic


12. It relies heavily on a single meta-analysis (by Shang and others), and not only misrepresents the

      conclusions of this analysis, but fails to take into account the serious criticisms levelled at it. These

      criticisms have subsequently been justified, but the leaflet has not been amended.

13. It also misrepresents the conclusions of four other major meta-analyses.

14. It fails to acknowledge that meta-analyses are inherently subjective, and so constitute an unreliable

      basis for categorical decisions.

15. It misrepresents other research. For example, research showing that a reduction in stress reduces

      inhibition of the immune system is claimed to show that placebos can “boost” the immune system.

16. It repeatedly relies on assertions which have no general basis in reality in order to present spurious

      arguments as though they were significant. Examples include claims that homeopathy works “like a

      vaccine”, that homeopathy has “a powerful placebo effect”, that people use homeopathy because

      they “believe” it works.

17. It repeatedly exhibits a fundamental lack of understanding of physiology and orthodox medical



These faults mean that Sense About Homeopathy has absolutely no scientific validity and would seriously mislead any member of the public turning to it for reliable information.


To download Nonsense, Not Science (62 pages) click here.




    Definitions of Terms

Discussion of Page 1

    Introductory Paragraphs  -  Box 1: “Another way of saying … Placebo and the placebo effect”  -  Box 2:

    “Not to be confused … Proven”  -  Box 3: “Clinical Trials”  -  “Homeopathic principles”  -  “Like cures

     like”  -  “Minimum dose”  -  “The evidence”  -  Effectiveness

Discussion of Page 2

    “Why homeopathy ‘works’”  -  “The placebo effect”  -  “A powerful placebo?”  -  Box 4: “Some

     interesting placebo facts …”  -  “Veterinary homeopathy”  -  “Prescribing placebos”


Appendix 1: Homeopathy and the placebo effect

Appendix 2: Problems with RCTs of homeopathic treatment

Appendix 3: Evidence for the ‘Law of Similars’ from orthodox medicine

Appendix 4: Evidence of the power of homeopathy’s scientific approach

Appendix 5: The use of the word ‘homeopathy’

Appendix 6: Sense About Science


    Books  -  Reports  -  Computer programmes  -  Journal articles


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