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Dilute this Poll? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Those who follow me (or Scott Hurst, who introduced it to me) on Twitter or read PZ Myer's blog have seen calls for skeptics to vote in this poll regarding the effectiveness of homeopathy on Swine Flu, or as it is more properly known, H1N1. The mission is clear... overwhelm the poll with skeptic votes saying "No, Homeopathy can't help Swine Flu."

(If you don't know what Twitter is... you'll have to find someone more articulate than myself to explain it.)

I had an exchange with "CarrieP" on Twitter, which I will share with you.

CarrieP: Thanks for link. IMHO, Too much bashing, not enough details, in comments.  "homeopathy = crap" does no good on a pro-CAM site.

JeffWagg: The interesting question is, what does do good?

CarrieP: Indeed. I don't have a good answer there, I just try to be respectful and present the science more than attack the woo.

CarrieP: I work with the sweetest lady who's strongly into alt med. Changing her mind is like wearing down a rock with rainwater. S-L-O-W.

 

JeffWagg: I usually take your approach, but there are different audiences, and different messages are needed.

CarrieP: Fair enough. I jumped into that particular poll blind, no context on the site or the group.

I agree with Carrie, but it's a much larger issue than Twitter would allow for. First, she's right. Many of the comments are unhelpful. Lots of name calling and profanity... the kind of thing you see on YouTube frequently. But some of the comments ridicule homeopathy with wit, and you know, there's a place for that. Homeopathy is, in my opinion, RIDICULOUS. It's worthy of ridicule. And scorn.

Consider this polite but horrific post by Dr Vladimir Singh:

Yes! I just received my doctorate in Homeopathic Surgery, and I can say that I have seen homeopathy work. For example: a patient had a cancerous liver. We opened him up and poured some of the homeopathic solution on the diseased, vile smelling organ. Before our eyes, the liver healed! Another example: a patient with severe cerebral degeneration was opened up. Again, we poured the appropriate solution onto the rotting, maggot infested brain, which was like a soup. In mere minutes, full healsure! That woman is now studying homeopathic psychiatry.

We filmed these incidents, but medical societies have colluded with the media to prevent this information from being revealed.

Nothing like throwing in a conspiracy theory to spice things up. As a skeptic, I feel strongly that this guy needs to either put up or shut up. Immediately. And again, there's a million dollars waiting if he can do what he says.

But back to Carrie's point, the entrenched homeopath is never going to respond to ridicule. "Dr." Singh is never going to change his mind because someone made a joke about toilet water (not the French kind) being the ultimate homeopathic solution.  But casual observers may. If your goal is to influence the opinions of the undecided, ridicule can have a place. Bob Park uses this quite effectively. Also, it can be enjoyable to make fun of the opposition. It's helps build a community bond as well, which is sorely needed.

But for someone who truly believes in something, probably the best approach is Carrie's rain on a rock. And so, the message here is... consider your audience.

For me, broadcasting the poll was a sociological experiment rather than a "conversion mission." Just how strong are we as a group, and what can we do when we focus on a specific thing?

Apparently pretty strong. At the time of this writing, there are 1635 votes YES, homeopathy can help, and 5674 votes NO. Not too shabby.

What else can we do?

 

 

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Comments (41)Add Comment
Dilute This Poll?
written by MFD, May 01, 2009
I am not a doctor but let me see if I have this correct. This guy opened a patient's brain and found maggots. I don't believe this is even possible, since maggots are fly eggs. Or did I miss the part where he talked about the flies that got inside the brain before he opened it?
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written by Call me Crazy, May 01, 2009
Consider this polite but horrific post by Dr Vladimir Singh:

[snipped for brevity]

Nothing like throwing in a conspiracy theory to spice things up. As a skeptic, I feel strongly that this guy needs to either put up or shut up. Immediately. And again, there's a million dollars waiting if he can do what he says.

I ... don't think he was serious ... Are you?
Surely, he's lampooning the homeopathic community; it's too over the top even for them (except the conspiracy things, that's spot on, true to life caricature). And I hope you're putting us on when you say he should "put up or shut up". Otherwise I'd turn that skeptometer up a notch.
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Votes: +12
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written by Alan3354, May 01, 2009
Homeopathic psychiatry? How would that work, refuse to talk? One sentence per session?
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Pierre
written by pierre, May 01, 2009
how sad but typical that there is also a "Yes, but won't be allowed to!" box to tick. Does homeopathy cause conspiracy theory delusions?
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@Call me Crazy..
written by JeffWagg, May 01, 2009
Honestly, I've seen claims just as ridiculous said with a completely straight and sincere face. My guess is... it was an honest comment.
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Did anyone vote Yes just to see?
written by numsix, May 01, 2009
"hank you to all the skeptics for coming to our website, reading the articles and voting in our poll. The links of www.Hpathy.com that you..."

Is what you get when you vote no.
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@JeffWagg
written by Call me Crazy, May 01, 2009
Honestly, I've seen claims just as ridiculous said with a completely straight and sincere face. My guess is... it was an honest comment.

I must admit I don't have a lot of experience with having to listen to the ramblings of homeopaths, but I always thought that there was at least some explanation for their beliefs. Explanations such as: coincidence combined with confirmation bias, the placebo effect, and misinterpretation and/or plain ignorance of science.
A belief in near instant healing -- beyond the capability of the placebo effect -- therefor seems suspect to me, and something I wouldn't expect a homeopath to claim. Let alone claim first-hand experience of. None of the explanations covers how this deluded idea might spring to mind; e.g. it's not something that could have happened and then been falsely attributed to the homeopathic medicine used. Whereas, say, feeling better from a cold after taking homeopathic medicine can be explained by the placebo effect.

I'm almost afraid to ask, in case the answer is yes, but have you really seen serious claims so ridiculous as to defy explanation of how they even came into being?
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Voted
written by MAL_JD, May 01, 2009
I figured, what better way to celebrate sending in my N-400 Citizenship Application to the USCIS (formerly INS) then by voting "No" in this Poll.


-Martin A. Lessem, J.D.
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@MAL_JD
written by MAL_JD, May 01, 2009
Correction: N-400 Application for Naturalization smilies/wink.gif
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@Call me Crazy..
written by JeffWagg, May 01, 2009
Umm, oh yes. How about the woman who claimed she could have God fill my bladder with urine and then make me lose control? I actually tested that one. (and remained dry).
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written by Alan3354, May 01, 2009
"Homeopathic" doesn't fit will with either "surgery" or "psychiatry" in my opinion.

Wouldn't holding the solution near the patient be more effective than pouring it on the liver or the brain?
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written by Alan3354, May 01, 2009
We filmed these incidents, but medical societies have colluded with the media to prevent this information from being revealed.

If these people actually had a solution that would heal a liver or a brain as written, why wouldn't they make a video and post it on YouTube? That would defeat the "media and the medical society" attempts to conceal it.
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Votes: +6
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written by PaulJ, May 01, 2009
Truly, Dr. Singh's post must be satire. His patient's brain, rotting, maggot infested, was instantly cured with a homeopathic solution, to the extent that she is now studying "homeopathic psychiatry".
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Votes: +9
Poe's Law
written by Matt_D, May 01, 2009
Poe's Law strikes again.
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Usefulness of polling things that have nothing to do with public opinion
written by Matt_D, May 01, 2009
There has been a strange trend I've noticed recently of people polling topics that have absolutely nothing to do with public opinion. A medicine's (or "medicine's") efficacy is totally unrelated to whether it actually is effective or not. Polling seems to have moved away from a tool to gauge public preference (What party are you voting for? kind of questions) to polling people's opinions about objective reality or to making predictions about things they have no control over (a majority of voters at NHL.com saying the Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup has absolutely no bearing on who will win. A majority of voters saying they're going to vote Liberal in the upcoming BC election actually tells us something useful). Other than a measure of general ignorance, I don't really understand what purpose this serves.

Sorry, that was kind of meandering.
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Votes: +5
Woah
written by Matt_D, May 01, 2009
That should read "public opinion about medicine's efficacy", not just "A medicine's efficacy".

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written by Kuroyume, May 01, 2009
Of course, the Detroit Red Wings are going to win the Stanley Cup. (I'm psychic and I can(not) prove it!) smilies/wink.gif

Well, look at the situation with Evolutionary Theory. Basically, the 'public opinion' is generally that it is 'unproven' and that so-called 'competing' 'theories' should be allowed into school curricula. Talk about voting objective reality. This is the result of people who only understand subjective reality thinking that a consensus makes things so.

Sorry that this post has little to do directly with homeopathy. We here all know that the hypothesis and the process (succussion) have been thoroughly shown to be false and ineffectual. Voting on whether or not to use such a useless thing for a real threat is ludicrous. Homeopathic 'medication' is nothing of the sort.
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written by Michelle, May 01, 2009
@MFD: Oh, he just forgot to mention the patient was a zombie. smilies/tongue.gif

This man does indeed need to put up. He may have a remedy that can cure many lives. A maggot infested brain! Healed in mere minutes! All we need is a demonstration.
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written by BJB, May 01, 2009
Voting 'no' automatically takes you to the 'Skeptics Page'. Even a direct link takes you there so they are not using a trackback to tell if you followed a link from a skeptical website. Just another lie from the homeopaths!

I thought I would 'share my views' with the homeopaths. Here's what I wrote:

I voted 'no' because there is no evidence that homeopathy works for any kind of illness. Just to keep an open mind, I read through your website, but I quickly found an error:

"Many people believe that the current virus strain matches closely to the 1918/1919 flu pandemic, although it is not exactly alike."

This is not true at all. The Spanish flu is now known to have been a form of bird virus that could also infect humans. This makes it very different from the current swine flu.

Of course, you use vague phrasing such as 'Many people believe...' to give an impression of authority but you are completely wrong. I could say 'many people believe Bigfoot in an inter-dimensional being, which accounts for all of the Bigfoot photographs being blurry', but just because 'many people' believe something does not make it true.

BJB

P.S. Sadly, I was not joking about people believing Bigfoot is an alien. There are plenty of bizarre beliefs out there but at least not all of them kill people like homeopathy does.
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written by JasonPatterson, May 01, 2009
@MAL_JD: Congratulations and welcome! We definitely need more sensible people in the US. smilies/grin.gif

I find it difficult to believe that anyone who isn't already convinced of homeopathy's efficacy will be convinced by an online poll, so I voted Yes just to scratch the itch regarding the page that you're sent to... It turns out that everyone is sent to the skeptic's page, regardless of their vote.
Here is where I was directed, if anyone is curious.
http://www.hpathy.com/poll/ind...+Vote+Now+
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written by bestservedchilled, May 01, 2009
Sorry Jeff, but you must have had a sense of humour failure! Mr Singh's comment is obviously written in jest. Homeopathic surgeon pouring in remedies - I don't think so...
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Votes: +4
Please tell me you all understand that Dr. Vladimar Sinhgh was joking!!!
written by Kaldi, May 01, 2009
Seriously, you all get that the good "doctor" was having a little fun right!? For the love of god tell me you understand that this was a joke. I really hate to think that us skeptics really are the humorless dullards that some folks claim us to be. Yes I know I ended a sentence with a preposition, lighten up everybody!
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Votes: +7
First Randi and now Jeff...
written by BillyJoe, May 02, 2009
...is the JREF falling apart???

I can't believe we're actually seriously discussing whether or not that doc is for real.

No one in their right mind can believe, surely, that some doctor actually believes they saw with their own eyes a diseased liver and brain healing within minutes of them pouring on water...um...I mean, a homeopathic solution.

We do all understand this don't we?. I mean we are all taking the mickey? Aren't we?

BJ
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written by MadScientist, May 02, 2009
... and don't forget to read PZ's pleas for help on winning an iPod from Eric Hovind. smilies/smiley.gif
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written by bosshog, May 02, 2009
"Maggot infested brain".
I love it! I think I'll have that tattooed on my neck.
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written by mazyloron, May 02, 2009
I agree with BillyJoe. It seems fairly clear that this is satire.

I don't know what's up with the post moderating - is this new? Why was my previous reply not posted? This seems unusual for the JREF, unless there were a lot of nasty replies from the poll site?
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written by mazyloron, May 02, 2009
...ok, and now the moderating is gone. But my previous reply was apparently moderated into oblivion. I know it was critical of Jeff, but not in a mean or ad-hom way. Much the same as BillyJoe, I wondered how anyone could think that "Dr. Vlad" was serious. There is nothing about that comment that seems reasonable, even for a hard-core woo fundie.

Even Poe's Law seems a bit extreme here...I would wonder if there's a bit of presumption going on with Jeff. Again, no offense personally, as I'm sure he's seen some crazy things. But thinking that post was real is a new level of jaded that I personally hope not to reach.

I would recommend taking a step back and looking at that again - even within the framework of homeo-woo, does it make anything resembling sense? I would say no.
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Votes: +1
Heh
written by DrMatt, May 03, 2009
My latest comment on their page:

---------------
A person who cares about truth is apparently a "troll" in homeopathic terminology, according to a message from the webmaster now appearing on this site. A troll in ordinary Internet terminology is a person who deliberately makes statements they themselves don't consider true for the purpose of causing ensuing bickering. "Troll" in Internet terminology is derived from "trawl", with the implication of "fishing for responses." Misusing terms like this makes you look foolish.

While you encourage truth-seekers to take your elementary course in homeopathy, I encourage all to take an elementary course in chemistry and learn about Avogadro's number.

Quarantine is the only demonstrated strategy for helpipng influenza pandemics, and the best evidence we have on the matter are previous influenza pandemics.

I am saving a copy of this posting elsewhere.
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Wow, never been called a troll before.
written by gabriel, May 03, 2009
This is the first time I have ever been accused of being a troll. And just because I said no. They really can't stand to have anyone disagree with them.
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@gabriel
written by mazyloron, May 03, 2009
Well, anyone who votes "no" must obviously be one of those skeptics who just goes around being contrary for no reason other than to mess with people (look up "skeptic" and you'll see that's the definition, I'm sure). I mean, any rational person would obviously want to use homeopathy on any pandemic, so if you voted "no" then you clearly don't know what you're talking about.

Please note: the above was humor, and not to be taken seriously. Since apparently some people can't tell the difference.
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written by gabriel, May 03, 2009
Mazy,

Yeah, I got the joke.

Gabriel
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written by mazyloron, May 03, 2009
gabriel: that part wasn't directed at you. Others here seem to have lost their ability to filter out satire and sarcasm.
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written by JeffWagg, May 03, 2009
I will admit I could be wrong, and that the "Dr" is merely playing a joke. But in my position, I see far more ridiculous claims being taken seriously ever day. And I'm fine with folks saying that I got it wrong. I may have.
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written by Otara, May 04, 2009
Id have thought the name alone would be a hint at taking the mickey, given its Russian and Indian, two commonly used nationalities for alternative therapy sekrit origins.
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written by Careyp74, May 04, 2009
Looks like we are going to have to amend the definition of Poe's law to include those with no sense of humor.

I am willing to bet Dr. V is a fellow skeptic who enjoys adding fuel to the fire rather than fighting to put it out. Hey people, lets use our skepticism here. Don't believe everyone posting on the internet is serious.

Otara, not only that, but I thought the name Singh looked familiar, so I searched it on this site. It comes up in a couple different names dealing with Homeopathy.
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written by Ruckenheim, May 05, 2009
I had a big old belly laugh, I must admit. And that is more healthy to mind and body than anything any crazed homeoquack can cook up in a 100 years! smilies/cheesy.gif
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The Atheist Delusion
written by Gaius Cornelius, May 06, 2009
There is a place for satire and it is much more likely to get the message across to those who should hear it. Every now and then I like to see what the "other side" has to say, and that was the only reason I clicked on the rather excellent youtube offering at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkhQLt1vbWU
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written by gr8white, May 06, 2009
I had no doubt the comment was satiric and when I read it immediately following Jeff's comment about "ridiculing homeopathy with wit" I assumed he was providing that as an example. Which made it all the more puzzling to read his following comments.
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written by BillyJoe, May 07, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkhQLt1vbWU

Come on, I think even Jeff Wagg and James Randi would have picked that one.
Well at least by two thirds of the way through anyway. smilies/cheesy.gif

Oh, come on, I'm joking.

BillyJoe
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written by Steel Rat, May 09, 2009
Actually you would need a "rotting, maggot infested brain" to study homeopathic anything. So the good comrade Singh's patient (how weird a name is "Vladimir Singh"? I'm picturing a swami with a mink turban and a bottle of vodka charming a cobra) could not possibly be studying such things after miraculous "healsure".
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It's a JOKE!
written by HiEv, May 09, 2009
Come on! "Homeopathic surgery"!?! That immediately tipped me off that the guy was joking. The "homeopathic psychiatry" bit was just the icing on the cake.

I know you've heard some ridiculous stuff, but this isn't simple misattribution of a cause, like the urination lady, this is a rather obvious fabrication (maggots in the brain?!?) produced entirely for humor. I don't know how you could miss that.
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