Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fallacies, Autism, and Homeopathy

Some time ago I joined the yahoo group EoHarm with the purpose of learning from primary sources about the opinion and positions of parents who believe in a Vaccine induced etiology of autism and in biomedical treatment. I have not participated in that group as I see no evidence that it welcomes dissent or critical commentary. I have however, approached this group with the mindset that perhaps they have something to teach me.

I read a message on that board recently that I think should be challenged as it is mostly based on fallacies premises and has the potential to do harm to autistic children. It is not my wish to copy someone’s message from a closed membership list. However, I greatly wish to challenge this argument. Also, this should be given as an example of how quackery has infiltrated vaccine etiology of autism theory advocates. This is particularly the case as the moderator of that group supported the Homeopath by citing non autism studies of Homeopathies effectiveness.

Message #21050

“A Homeopath makes a prescription of a remedy usually "potentised" (or energised) based on the law of similars which is that which causes something can also cure it.
Remedies are made of all sorts of things from the animal , vegetable, or mineral realm. What is given depends upon the symptoms of the individual patient, not the disease name.
The healing energy of the substance when potentised and when similar to the disease symptoms will produce a cure.
Think of it as two frequency waves of the same amplitude and wavelength but in opposite phase being able to cancel each other out. If the amplitude, or wavelength do not match there will not be a cure.
Homeopaths can be medically trained or can not. Sometimes an allopathic mindset is difficult to deprogramme and can be a hinderance to being a good homeopath as they are constantly thinking in disease terms rather than patient terms.
Homeopathy has been around for over 200 years and is usually very safe . The difficulty in proving this absolutely is mainly due to the fact that there are no two people that are alike and it is very difficult to do the standard double blind trials that they do with other allopathic drugs. You may have 50 people with say , migraines all needing a different remedy.
In the 18th century the main form of health care in the US was Homeopathy and it did very well compared with allopathy which had far more side effects and deaths from the treatment. After the advent of antibiotics the current Medical monopoly started to take hold and got rid of homeopaths as they were a threat to their way of doing things. Many doctors were struck off for even talking to homeopaths!!!!
Theres got to be something to it then!”

The Law of Similars is very adequately addressed by Dr. Barrett here: It is based on the notion that the cure of certain given symptoms is provided by substances that produce similar symptoms; an interesting concept, but one without any research assessing it for autism. In general for other various conditions the research is quite mixed. Nor has this “law” been established by basic/observational research.

Indeed the author states the difficulty in producing double blind studies that show effect as the each patient may require a separate remedy. This functions as a red herring, it distracts from, but does not adequately explain why Homeopathic remedies can not stand up to controlled studies. If the Homeopaths have a means of discerning what patient should receive what cure (determined in patient terms I assume) then they could group individuals similar in this regard and have a testable hypothesis that could be assessed in controlled trials.

The “potentised” concept refers to the idea that a remedy can be greatly diluted and the larger medium, e.g. (water) will retain the same potent energy, or this will even be increased. That a given amount of material can be reduced and yet have a greater medical impact, is an example of magical thinking. Not surprisingly, it is not substantiated in the research.

The author does not explain what “healing energy” might be, or how the presence of this energy is determined and measured. The concept that an Allopathic mindset (the term Allopath is used by many practitioners of alternative medicine to describe contemporary or historical science based medicine) is difficult to deprogram is an interesting statement. However, I would imagine that a logical mindset in general might make it difficult to effectively practice Homeopathy.

The conclusion that in the 18th century had Allopathic treatments caused far more side effects when compared to Homeopathy has no precedent in the literature, namely as proper recording and the current controlled trials were not yet implemented. This is an example of ad hoc reasoning.

The conceptualization of two frequency waves canceling each other seems to be an example of the fallacious use of jargon. This is a wave process that most lay persons are unlikely to be familiar with. It sounds impressive, but distracts from the issue at hand.

The final statement that author presents a conclusion that does not follow and is therefore a non-sequitur, it also assumes the greed of allopath’s and is therefore a ad Hominem, it also fallaciously assumes a hidden truth, when there is no logical reason to assume such. That argument is easily, but not fallaciously, reducible to absurdity.

The author’s logic is represented in this syllogism:

P. Those who greatly oppose an idea recognize that it has validity (unstated).
P. Allopaths greatly oppose Homeopathy.
C. Allopaths who oppose Homeopathy secretly recognize its validity.

The major premise is unstated and unsubstantiated. Based on this logic I will state:

P. Those who greatly oppose an idea recognize that it has validity.
P. My fifth grade teacher opposed the answers on my spelling test.
C. My teacher recognized the validity of my answers on my spelling test.

P. Those who greatly oppose an idea recognize that it has validity.
P. My friends greatly opposed the idea of drunk driving.
C. My friends secretly recognize the validity of drunk driving.

P. Those who greatly oppose an idea recognize that it has validity.
P. Interverbal greatly opposes the use of illogic.
C. Interverbal actually recognizes the validity of illogic.

P. Those who greatly oppose an idea recognize that it has validity.
P. A Canadian individual opposes a State mandated treatment for autistic persons.
C. That Canadian persons actually recognizes the validity of State mandated treatment.

P. Those who greatly oppose an idea recognize that it has validity.
P. The members of the yahoo group EoHarm condemn those who argue that there has been no epidemic of autism.
C. The EoHarm members recognize the validity of the no epidemic of autism statements.

In conclusion that post to EoHarm is an example of the inroads of alternative medicine into the vaccine etiology theory of autism camp. The arguments presented within are primarily fallacious. It is to be hoped that the inroads of quackery into the ranks of the vaccine etiology of autism theory advocates will not continue.


Milazzo, S., Russell, N., & Ernst, E. (2006). Efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer treatment. 42(3), 282-9.


Blogger Do'C said...

Great analysis of the argument side Interverbal. I personally don't have the time or energy to participate in such a group - I have enough challenge encouraging critical thinking and evidence vs. anecdote in the supposedly 'normal' parent group I do frequent.

With respect to that group:
I am curious though. Have you ever seen the aspect of dilution beyond molecular presence, relying solely on the 'mystical energy' memory of the compound(s) addressed? And, since the earth's atmosphere is essentially closed, with all water coming into contact with toxins over billions of years, wouldn't all water in the world be homeopathically toxic with harmul memory and 'mystical energy'?
What would they say?

8:26 PM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Thanks dad of Cameron,

I try to follow EoHarm, but do not participate there. They do not welcome disagreement. Those who have are instantly personally trashed by the other participants and then it seems kicked out by the moderator

I have never seen the the dilution aspect adressed beyond justifications that are magical or fumblings with quantum theory. There must be a good one somewhere (I really hope so at least), but I have not seen/been shown it.

What I see most often if a red herring or ad hominem attach at that point when in discussions with Homeopaths.

9:30 PM  
Blogger steve colville said...

Interesting analysis of the argument as to whether the jab is responsible for the rise in autism.

I thought the jab had caused my daughter's autism, because just a few months after having it, she became highly autistic, and was diagnosed by the medics as such.

The only thing was, she still understood what was said to her. So I fought the medical profession tooth and nail but they wouldn't change the diagnosis.

Then I found someone (a non-medic) who told me that the problem was something else. And he told us what to do about it. And now she's better.

I've started a blog about the story.

Please drop by and take a look sometime.



5:39 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Thanks Steve,

I will take a look.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

You may be interested to know that a homeopathic dilution of thimerosol has been suggested as a treatment for autism.


Unbelievable lack of logic in many ways!

10:31 AM  
Blogger Interverbal said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for the link.

Believe it or not, the dilution of vaccines (or their additives)is nothing new and has been used by the Homeopathic crew for a while to combat the ills (real or imagined) of childhood vaccines.

As I have said before, the logic used by these folks, is a rare gem indeed.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Do'C said...


Thank you for the very amusing link!

I had a couple of questions and a couple of comments after reading:

What are megs as written regarding the initial vaccination? Megatons? Megabytes? I am not a Pharmacist or Homeopath, is this a measurement I should be aware of and I let it slip by? Or is it common outside the U.S.?

What, the child preferred eating snacky carbs like crackers and pretzels? I can't even imagine, because my kids will only eat brussel sprouts. Is this normal?

Number of times it was attempted to write the word Thimerosal - 8

Number of times Thimerosal was spelled correctly - 2

I know that's petty, but they are trying to appear scientific aren't they? If they were really trying to prove that Thimerosal caused and cured in this case, you'd think they'd at least have spelled it right.

200C ?

1 in 100 to the power of 200. This number (with 400 zeroes)is even greater than the number of molecules thought to even exist in the entire universe.

Freakin hilarious.
Thanks again, seriously.

2:25 PM  

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