Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gullibility of some individuals

Another topic that bothers me are people who believe stuff they get told by someone without actually questioning arguments in general, or especially their credibility.

For example, alternative medicine. The term itself is debated (for instance, Richard Dawkins said that "there is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work."), and I can't judge every method that isn't already acknowledged as convential medicine, but I would like to state my own experience with a particular "medicine" called Homeopathy, which was first developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. 

For those not familiar with it, I quote Wikipedia:  
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners treat patients using highly diluted preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient.

It is based on the principle of  "potency", which is basically the dilution of the original substance. A 6C dilution, for instance, is the original material diluted by a factor of 100−6=10−12 (one part in one trillion or 1/1,000,000,000,000), what isn't the limit (200C also exists).

Another example given by a critic of homeopathy states that a 12C solution is equivalent to a "pinch of salt in both the North and South Atlantic Oceans", which is approximately correct.

Homeopathy depends on subject word of mouth instead of scientific testing ("The collective weight of scientific evidence has found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo.", Wikipedia).
An example for that would be the opinion of a close relative of mine, who firmly believes in Homeopathy.

If confronted by studies and scientific research, all stating that Homeopathy is completely without effect except maybe the placebo effect, the response usually is: Person X told me that Person Y had a headache, took some [insert Homeopathic substance] and got better in no time!

How should one argue with that? Any suggestions?

For anyone interested in this or similar topics, I recommend "The Enemies of Reason", written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.


  1. interesting, will take a look on the book

  2. Homeopathy is tricky...recently a Nobel Laureate has given it a boost

    Same is the case with economics as well...there is no correct answer in some cases...

  3. uuuuuuuuummmmm ok, ill believe what ever you say. Followed

  4. I agree completely.
    You know- an individual is intelligent and thinks rationally, the group is stupid and can be easily controlled like a pack of sheep.

  5. there is a strong power behind the will to believe, which is why people claim homeopathy works. it's just delusional ignorance though.

  6. this is just wrong and scary. some people...

  7. Just ordered the book through Amazon :)

  8. my mom is like that. so are some religeos people

  9. did you know gullible is not in the dictionary

  10. In my opinion Homeopathy is nothing else but a placebo.

  11. @tyrone

  12. woah. now that has me thinking a lot.

  13. I'd separate Homeopathy from alternative medicine, though. A lot of pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers have taken what were once traditional remedies for things that appeared to be effective and then strengthened their potency in the laboratory. This happens all the time. Consequently, a lot of natural remedies for things actually do work and have always worked traditionally.

    One example would be that the bark of willow trees was used in the past as a pain killer. Now Willow bark is taken, refined, and turned into aspirin.

    Also, in a lot of cases the natural remedies will be a lot better for a person because the often nasty side-effects that come with big pharma drugs won't be present.

    This isn't a defence of homeopathy at all. The problem with making sense of everything is that for every genuine natural cure out there, there are 10 thousand quacks and flakes and new age idiots trying to sell you shit that doesn't work.

  14. Homeopathy can work, but no more reliably than a placebo. Double blind tests etc, basically the homeopathic effect is statistically the same as the placebo effect. Thus although someone may experience relief, the relief is not necessarily due to the medication (or lack thereof).