Homeopathic logic

On Dr Karl on Triple J Podcast recently, and a lady called in (lets call her B) to say homeopathy works for her. She said her children were never vaccinated, and only receives homeopathy treatments, just like all her friend’s children, and that they are all healthy. B thus concluded that homeopathy works, and to show she isn’t the only one who thinks so, she presents the Royal family, who practices homeopathy, as a supporting fact.

It would appear at first she is right: homeopathy works and the facts are compelling - but a little critical thinking goes a long way.

Firstly, the only logical conclusion one can draw from the facts presented isn’t homeopathy works, but homeopathy isn’t fatal.

To arrive at B’s conclusion one would need to:

  • give one of her children placebo

  • give one of her children prescribed medicine

  • give one of her children nothing

  • give one of her children homeopathy

Further, one would need to observe the child given homeopathy doing better than the other children to show homeopathy:

  • isn’t a (costly) placebo

  • works better than prescribed medicine

  • isn’t harmful

These kind of things are done in clinical trials, and no clinical trial to date has shown that homeopath has anything more than a placebo effect.

So what about the Royal Family? Surely, you think to yourself, this lends homeopathy the weight of authority. However this is a logical fallacy known as “argument from authority” or “appeal to authority”. Simply put, just because some one in authority says it is true, doesn’t mean it is. After all, we were told there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq...

It would appear most adults do not engage critical thinking: to look at what facts are presented, evaluate how reliable they are, and judge claims based on those facts. Even a cursory examination of the principles of homeopathy shows it runs contrary to, and has no basis in, reality. Yet this makes no difference to some people, who latch on to any fanciful tale as the truth as long as it makes them feel better, or it aligns with their world view.

In a world populated by scientologists, perhaps it is unsurprising we find fervent supporters of homeopathy. I can only hope that natural selection does its job.