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The Huffington Post Hates Science

December 14, 2009

That’s the only possible explanation for this piece of shit column about homeopathy getting so much space.  Homeopathy is pseudoscience that claims to provide medical interventions for whatever ails you.  A homeopath finds an herb that causes whatever symptoms the patient is suffering from, puts some in water, then dilutes the shit out of it.  The end result is water with nothing in it.  It is administered to the patient, and that’s that.


That’s what these fucking people believe.  Never mind that it’s prescientific, no plausible mechanism explains how it could possibly work, and no study shows its efficacy.  What really gets me is this:  if a water molecule can retain memory of whatever the homeopath has put in it, why doesn’t it retain memory of everything that’s ever happened to it?  Any given molecule of water may have been in a dinosaur’s tear drop, a wombat’s semen, or a 19th century Parisian sewer.  Or all three.  There is nothing reasonable or plausible about homeopathy, but why let the facts get in the way?

Take a look at the first paragraph of Ullman’s torrent of bullshit:

It is commonly assumed that homeopathic medicines are composed of extremely small doses of medicinal substances. And yet, does anyone refer to an atomic bomb as an extremely small dose of a bomb? In actual fact, there is a power, a very real power, in having atoms smash against each other.

What?  First of all, atomic bombs are enormous devices.  Secondly, I think he is saying that relatively small amounts of fissile material provide explosions comparable to those from far greater amounts of chemically explosive compounds like TNT.  That’s true, but irrelevant.  Nuclear fission is a well-understood phenomenon.  Precisely measured quantities of specific isotopes of particular elements like uranium and plutonium must be present under exacting conditions in order to initiate a nuclear chain reaction.  It took the world’s greatest physicists and engineers years of painstaking research to harness this power.

Meanwhile, homeopaths shake water.

Update: I have heard doctors and other skeptics belittle homeopathy for a long time, but I always kind of thought that they were portraying it in the worst possible light.  It turns out that there is no good light in which to portray homeopathy.  These people actually believe that medicines become more effective the more they are diluted with distilled water.  The water, if shaken vigorously prior to dilution, retains memory of the chemicals it once contained in solution.

I propose a simple test of this principle.

1. Begin with a glass container, red food coloring, twice-distilled water, and a dropper.

2. Place one drop of red food coloring in 99 drops of water.

3. Shake vigorously.

One well-shaken part in 100 is what homeopaths refer to as 1C.  The founder of homeopathy suggested 30C as an appropriate level of dilution for most homeopathic remedies.

4. Take one drop of the 1C solution.  Place it in 99 drops of water.  Shake vigorously.

Congratulations, we now have a water/food coloring solution at 2C!

5. Take one drop of the 2C solution.  Place it in 99 drops of water.  Shake vigorously.

6. Take one drop of the 3C solution.  Place it in 99 drops of water.  Shake vigorously.

7. Continue thusly until you have reaced a dilution of 30C.  If homeopathy is correct, you should have a solution so red that it blows your fucking mind.  If, perchance, you have a clear solution with no discernable trace of red in it, question the basis of homeopathic claims.

Here are a few relevant links:

An ABC investigation into homeopathy



A homeopath complains about Wikipedia

12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2009 3:49 pm

    so… i’d really like to know if this ullman guy is just retarded or just really misguided. either way, this article is totally a load of crap.
    first of all, i’d encourage ullman to look up the definition of nano before he starts writing about it…
    second of all… silica chips? you know what that sounds like to me – sounds like you shook your water so hard you got contaminants in there! (and he tries to pass that off as a medical mystery.)
    in any case, does anyone else find the atomic bomb metaphor a little distasteful?
    but your point, barry, about water memory is interesting. … actually, that might explain why i keep on having flashbacks about french rats and sad dinosaurs. 😛

    • Barry permalink*
      December 14, 2009 4:07 pm

      My inquiry into the atomic bomb analogy didn’t proceed as far as to appraise its tastefulness. Once I realized that it was such a fraught comparison, I didn’t get much further. If you read the update I just posted, you’ll see a simple experiment I proposed to test homeopathic claims.

  2. Jonathan permalink
    December 14, 2009 7:20 pm

    OK Barry, next time we see each other, this is what I am going to do:

    I am going to take a small amount of uranium. I am going to place the uranium in 99 drops of water and shake vigorously. I am going to take a drop of the uranium water and place it in 99 drops of water, and then I am going to take a drop of that and place it in 99 drops of water.

    Then, and here is the great part… I am going to pay you $100 to drink the solution. You heard me right Barry! Not $1, or $10, but $100 to drink homeopathic uranium water.

    Just kidding. I have no opinion on the topic of homeopathy, and had never even heard of it before reading this post. I just thought homeopathic uranium water sounded funny.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 14, 2009 8:26 pm

      Jonathan: No matter what substance you name, be it uranium, urine, or cyanide, I will consume it in a 30C solution.

      I will eat (as James Randi has done) an entire box of homeopathic sleeping pills. I’ll eat 10 boxes.

      Homeopathy is a scam; the only medical procedure homeopaths administer is a radical cashectomy.

  3. Ted permalink
    December 14, 2009 8:46 pm

    This is the kind of logical fallacy mixed with phony authority mixed with misdirection mixed with bullshit underdog appeal that I expect from Glenn Beck. Et tu, Arianna?

    • Barry permalink*
      December 14, 2009 8:52 pm

      She gives this irresponsible nonsense carte blanche at the Huffington Post. Also, what’s with the title “Huffington Post”. We were thinking that instead of Is It Luck , this blog should be called Ian & Barry Gazette. But then we realized we’re not assholes. Or at least that type of asshole.

  4. Jonathan permalink
    December 14, 2009 8:46 pm

    Well, maybe it has benefits as a placebo. I mean, if you aren’t really sick, but just think you are, then isn’t it better for you just to drink water than actual medicine?

    Personally, I have no problem with somebody making a lot of money by doing nothing. It’s a sign of intelligence.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 14, 2009 8:49 pm

      If you are not actually sick, it’s better to drink water than to take medicine, but if you are actually sick, it’s demonstrably bad for you to trust your health to these fuckers.

  5. Jonathan permalink
    December 14, 2009 9:06 pm

    Well now the placebo effect is a very controversial thing. Some studies show that placebos are very effective at curing common ailments, while other studies show that they have no effect at all. I would guess that their effectiveness has a lot to do with how the effectiveness of the fake medicine is sold to the patient. These homeopathic guys seem like pretty good pitchmen.

    Anyway, if people are gullible enough to give these guys their money, I say let them. If everybody in this country were required to make their money selling actual usable goods and services, we would be one of the poorest nations on earth.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 14, 2009 9:12 pm

      In principle, I am all for free markets. But I am also against people marketing ineffective non-scientific garbage as medicine. While it’s one thing for a consenting adult to freely choose this bullshit over real medicine, it’s another thing entirely for parents to take sick children to homeopaths. And I am not sure that people are free to choose nonsense over medicine when the vendors of said nonsense disguise themselves as doctors. They are drumming up business by deceiving the gullible. Sounds highly unethical and borderline criminal to me.

  6. Jonathan permalink
    December 14, 2009 9:15 pm

    Ah, there is the root of our disagreement. In all cases I side with the criminal.

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