|Simon Singh takes on Zofia Dymitr, chair of the Society|
of Homeopaths, on last night's Newsnight
Newsnight went undercover to catch a North London homeopath offering up preventative treatments for malaria. There's not much more of a guarantee that orthodox treatments provide better protection than homeopathy, she says, perhaps 70 per cent success with orthodox, 60-65 per cent with homeopathy, although she admits she is "plucking those out of thin air". There follows a handy summary of how homeopathy works from the reporter, with the degree of dilution it entails described as "quite literally the equivalent of a drop in the ocean." This is followed by the subtle coup de grace, "By the standards of modern medicine, that's quite an unusual idea." The segment concludes with a debate between Zofia Dymitr, chair of the Society of Homeopaths, and Simon Singh – highly enjoyable viewing, but I don't think you need me to tell you who comes out on top. Here's the YouTube video:
In the main report, we're also shown a leaflet available in a pharmacist, which provides a guide to preventative homeopathic treatments for malaria. The leaflet helpfully points out that there is no scientific evidence for the efficacy of the treatments, before going on to state "We rely on anecdotal evidence of those who have chosen to use them successfully throughout the world." Watching this, I was immediately reminded of another piece of pseudoscientific news from yesterday, regarding the marketing of Power Balance bracelets in Australia. For those of you unfamiliar with Power Balance, they are rubber bracelets (I was reminded of those charity bracelets when I saw one) featuring a hologram. According to the company's website:
"Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body."
|A Power Balance bracelet|
"In our advertising, we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the trade practices act 1974."Surely a setback for the magic bracelet industry (they "may be no more beneficial than a rubber band", noted the head of the Australian regulator), but Power Balance came out fighting yesterday, with the main US company announcing:
"This is simply a matter of correcting prior marketing claims [in Australia]. We have heard from fitness professionals, athletes, coaches, personal trainers and everyday users who tell us they have experienced benefits from Power Balance."As with homeopathy, it seems that when there is a complete absence of scientific evidence, anecdotes will do just as well.