Tuesday, 6 July 2010

More criticism of homeopathy

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Writing his "Doctor's Diary" in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, GP James Le Fanu (who you may remember from a legal dispute with New Scientist magazine last year) declared that "There is something suspicious about the orchestrated campaign against the "nonsense on stilts" of homoeopathy, as it was described at this year's BMA Conference, which then urged its (very modest) £4 million of NHS funding to be withdrawn."

Unsurprisingly, this prompted no small amount of online discussion among sceptics, and it's been followed up by two excellent response pieces on the Telegraph's own site. First there's this piece by Telegraph blogger Tom Chivers, who can often seem like a lone voice for scepticism at that particular newspaper, in which he takes apart Le Fanu's arguments, which include anecdotal evidence for homeopathy's efficacy ("argumentum ad populum", as Chivers points out) and the idea that other parts of the NHS are trying to get their hands on homeopathy's funding and real estate – "One or both of these claims might be true – I have no idea (although the idea of august medical bodies beefing for corners like Marlo and Avonout of The Wire is not one I had previously entertained)."

Then there is this piece by Martin Robbins, who runs the Lay Science blog and was one of the organisers of the 10:23 overdose protest against homeopathy earlier this year. Robbins points out that there is nothing "suspicious" about the campaign against homeopathy on the NHS – it's simply a result of many people's refusal to accept the public funding of a treatment for which no convincing scientific evidence has ever been produced, which is hardly surprising when you consider that any such evidence would necessarily force us to reconsider what we understand to be the laws of physics.

Both pieces are well worth reading – with homeopathy under fire like never before (the BMA's members voted last week to recommend that the NHS stops funding it), more of this kind of quality debunking will be needed in the coming months as supporters of homoepathy mount their defence.