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Submission On Homeopathy and Evidence


The purpose of this submission was:

  • To outline the role of theory and evidence in the scientific process and note the difference between science and technology

  • To high-light some of the weaknesses of the empirical approach, including the lack of scientific definitions for key reference points

  • To explain why the evidence-based medicine (EBM) approach has been developed, and how it is dependent for any success on the scrupulous use of more than one type of evidence;

  • To point out the hazards of this approach, especially those resulting from the assumption that a single type of evidence is sufficient;

  • To argue that this approach is inappropriate for assessing homeopathic treatment, as homeopathy is based on use of the scientific method;

  • To assess the use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to test homeopathic treatment, and the need to take fully into account the scientific principles of homeopathy when designing such trials;

  • To assess similarly the role of evidence from meta-analyses, outcome studies and clinical practice when reaching conclusions about the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment;

The conclusion of this submission was as follows 

Conventional medicine relies on a model known as Evidence Based Medicine which balances

bodies of evidence in order to minimise the risks of harm. Within this model no form of

evidence can provide a definitive statement of effectiveness. Attempts to limit the approach

used and allow one form of evidence to dominate will defeat the object of this model. The

model is an implicit (and often explicit) recognition of the fact that medicine has no underlying

scientific theory.


Homeopathy has an underlying scientific theory. This theory is consistent with observed facts, it

has led to analyses decades in advance of other medical practice, and it has a strong body of

evidence of successful practice. On this basis it is entirely inappropriate to use the EBM model

to assess its practice, let alone a single element of that approach. Instead it should be tested by

relating its clinical practice to the predictions of its theory, as would be the case in any other

field of science. Homeopathy requires a Science Based Medicine model.



Report on Selected Evidence


Three of those giving oral evidence to the Committee seemed to have no other basis for being there than that they are involved in high-profile campaigning against homeopathy. These were:

  • Professor Edzard Ernst, Director, Complementary Medicine Group, Peninsula Medical School

  • Dr Ben Goldacre, Journalist, The Guardian

  • Tracey Brown, Managing Director, Sense About Science

We have looked at their oral and written evidence and its relationship to their other publications, in order to assess the value of their evidence.


What we have found is that:

  • Ernst has again shown that he does not understand the principles of homeopathy, and that his evidence relates only to what he imagines homeopathy to be rather than to the reality.

  • Goldacre has made contradictory statements to the Committee, including statements which are the exact opposite of what he says in Bad Science.

  • Brown and Sense About Science have not even tried to honour their aims and inform the public about the scientific evidence relating to homeopathy. Instead they have focused on putting pressure on decision-makers, as H:MC21 has always claimed.


In conclusion we point out that


Opponents of homeopathy, such as Edzard Ernst, Ben Goldacre and Tracey Brown, accuse homeopaths of being misled by their beliefs and of being insufficiently rigorous in scientific terms. We have shown that in fact such accusations would be appropriately applied to themselves.




For the Submission (10 pages) click here.


For the Report on Selected Evidence (11 pages) click here.



The Submission and Report are free. However, if you would like to make a donation to H:MC21 in recognition of the time which has gone into making this work available, please either donate here through Paypal, or click here to go to information about donating in other ways.


If you are a UK tax-payer, H:MC21 can also claim an extra 28% of your donation from the government if you send us a completed Gift Aid Form.

Commons Science & Technology Committee

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