MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Yes, this post might come as a surprise to some.

And no, I am not changing sides in the debate in the debate about homeopathy.

But I have long felt that, when sceptics criticise homeopathy, they often wrong-foot themselves by using arguments which are not entirely correct.

Here I want to list seven of them (more details can be found here):

Homeopathy is one single, well-defined entity

During the last 200 years, many different variations of Hahnemann’s classical homeopathy have emerged, for instance clinical homeopathy, complex homeopathy and isopathy. Strictly speaking, they should be differentiated, and it is not correct to generalise across all of them.

In the 200-years’ history of homeopathy, homeopaths have done no good at all

Hahnemann and his followers can be credited with considerable achievements. Foremost, they realised that, 200 years ago, most of the conventional treatments in common use were not just useless but often outright dangerous. Their criticism of ‘heroic medicine’ helped to initiate crucial reforms and to improve health care for the benefit of millions.

No theories to explain how homeopathy might work have ever been put forward

There are several theories which might go some way in explaining how homeopathy works. But all of them are currently just theories, and none provides a full explanation as to the mechanism of action of highly diluted remedies. Yet, to claim that homeopathy is totally implausible might be a counter-productive exaggeration.

There is nothing in it

Many sceptics claim that homeopathic remedies are devoid of active ingredients. Yet, not all homeopathic remedies are highly diluted; some can contain pharmacologically active compounds for affecting human health. These preparations cannot therefore be classified as implausible.

There is no credible evidence at all that might support homeopathy

Several well-conducted clinical studies of homeopathy with positive results have been published. It is therefore not true to claim that there is no good trial evidence at all to support homeopathy. The much better point sceptics should make is that the totality of the reliable evidence fails to show that highly dilute homeopathic remedies are more effective than placebos.

Homeopaths aim at deceiving their patients because they have nothing to offer to them

It would be wrong to claim that all homeopaths aim at deceiving their patients, and it would be misleading to say that homeopaths have nothing to offer to their patients. Many patients of homeopaths primarily treasure the long, compassionate consultations that homeopaths have with their patients and see the homeopathic remedy as secondary. Seen from this perspective, homeopaths do offer something that many patients value highly.

Patients who use homeopathy must be stupid

It would be arrogant, insulting and counter-productive to claim that everyone who uses homeopathy is stupid. Patients consult homeopaths mostly because they have needs which are not met by conventional medicine but which they feel taken care of by homeopathy. Seen from this perspective, the current popularity of homeopathy in some countries is a poignant criticism of conventional medicine. To dismiss it a stupidity means missing a chance to learn an important lesson and to improve mainstream health care.

I know, my stance here can easily get misunderstood (see for instance some of the comments here). But please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that homeopathy is a useful therapy, nor am I suggesting that we should not criticise it or stop public funding for it. All that I am trying to convey here is this: when we criticise homeopathy, we ought to make sure our arguments are factually correct – if not, we only give ammunition to our opponents.

In a nutshell: I don’t wish to undermine our arguments, but want them to be more effective.

 

 

54 Responses to When sceptics (or skeptics) criticise homeopathy, they are often wrong

  • I’d like to add one that I find particularly problematic: Saying: “It’s all placebo.”

    It seems very plausible that a huge chunk of the success of homeopathy can be attributed to self-delusion and regression to the mean effects. That is: Patients don’t get better due to homeopathy, not even caused by a placebo effect, they simply get better because that’s the normal progression of their illness. The other huge chunk, which you have been discussed here extensively in the past, is that homeopaths act like a therapist and homeopathy is some kind of mini-psychotherapy, because people have someone that listens to them.

    I think seeing it that way has very real consequences on how to act. If you bring forward the “It’s all placebo” argument then people often end up saying “but if the placebo effect helps then we should give then the sugar pills anyway”. This argument gets strengthened if you ignore the other effects at play.

    If you see the wider effects you’re more likely to come to the conclusion that what the people often really need is a doctor who has enough time for them.

    • I find that many of these are frequently those that homeopaths use to characterise criticisms rather than criticisms used by skeptics themselves.

      When homeopaths retort that it can’t all be placebo, I point them to this by the late Barry Beyerstein: Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work. He explains simply the very many reasons homeopathy (or other quackery) might appear to work:

      The disease may have run its natural course.
      Many diseases are cyclical.
      Spontaneous remission.
      The placebo effect.
      Some allegedly cured symptoms are psychosomatic to begin with.
      Symptomatic relief versus cure.
      Many consumers of alternative therapies hedge their bets.
      Misdiagnosis (by self or by a physician).
      Derivative benefits.
      Psychological distortion of reality.

      It has to be up to proponents to demonstrate that none of these perfectly simple, rational and well-understood reasons are not the explanation but that it was their magic sugar pellets that really made all the difference.

  • These are good points.

    In general, and without meaning to criticise anyone individually, I find skeptics tend to focus too much on the business with Avogadro’s number. Valid criticism of course, but it obscures the fact that even if the particles *were* active there is still no reason they would have the desired physiological effect. It leaves the door open for homeopaths to respond that “science still can’t explain…”; and for many people, an argument based on maths is inscrutable, whereas “It works for me- I’ve seen it with my own eyes” is far more compelling.

    I would prefer that skeptics also emphasise the fact that homeopathy is based on flawed deductive reasoning about physiology — namely that what creates symptoms must inevitably heal those same symptoms. There the focus is on physiology rather than the further reaches of chemistry and physics.

    • How do you know there was any effect at all? Positive CT / MRI before and after? Lab tests? Feelings do not count. They are subjective. Or if there was, sugar globules had anything to do with it? After all people usually have done lot of things before falling ill and getting better.

  • to claim that homeopathy is totally implausible might be a counter-productive exaggeration.

    I’d regard the part of homeopathy that claims potentizing a ‘remedy’ by succussion of a substance to dilutions at which no molecule of the substance as totally implausible. Sure, it just might be true, in the same way as winged unicorns might exist, since you can’t ever prove a negative. But this is the part of the homeopathic canon that is laughably absurd and which underpins the common critical view that to believe homeopathic ‘medicines’ can have an effect you’d need to revise everything science has shown about chemistry, physics and biology.

    Explanations such as ‘water memory’ and ‘nanoparticles’ are just theories backed up by inadequate scientific experimentation, as covered in point 3. If water has a memory, so too must ethanol, which is often used as the solvent, and so must lactose and other solids used as the matrix for homeopathic pills. The succussion process itself, in which serial dilutions of a substance have to be shaken by banging against a hard wooden surface or — for maximum effect — against a leather-bound book is pure voodoo. Potentizing by dilution with succussion is more than ‘totally implausible’: it’s absolutely ridiculous.

    Your statement in the blockquote above may be literally true, but I don’t think it’s counter-productive to claim total implausibility for homeopathic remedies diluted beyond 12C. To rephrase your fifth point, clinical trials that show efficacy significantly beyond placebo for such remedies must, in principle, have a flaw in their design or execution.

  • Prof. Ernst, with regard to theories, I would suggest to replace this word with hypothesis plus a short explanation about the definition of “theory” in science. A lot of hypotheses have been put forward, however they all violate one or more scientific theories. I don’t know if you are aware about the recent discussion over the p-value and prior probabilty, but violation of several scientific theories puts the prior probabilty of a hypothesis on the near zero end of the scale. This affects your statement about credible evidence. It is clear that even with non-working treatments one will get some positive studies, purely by chance. Here comes the prior probability into play. If the prior probability of a hypothesis is extremely low, the probability is high that we deal with a false positive.

    • Agree on sloppy use of “theory” – it’s just an invitation to play silly tu quoque word games (c.f. creationist tactics 101) instead of dissecting the evidence and arguments they’ve actually got.

      Be careful on using “hypothesis” too, as that describes an explanation proposed in good faith which is intellectually honest and falsifiable – and alties are rarely fans of either.

      TBH, I think just stating that hpaths propose several explanations is more than adequate, as that covers everything from Science! to “Poof the magic man did it!” Leave the onus on them to prove that their explanations qualify as viable hypotheses, which is exactly how it should be.

  • Speaking of ‘nanoparticles’, a recent in vitro study in which effects of homeopathic preparations were reportedly observed is bound to lead to many more:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27914571

  • There is no credible evidence at all that might support homeopathy:

    I disagree a bit with the study claim. Because you have to differ between clinical trials and experimental studies. If I am looking at a specific mechanism in cells e.g. I didn’t found any good study made. This is different regarding clinical trials with people but we all know the big problems even in good designed clinical trials.

    I therefore would say there is no biological, chemical or physical proof whatsoever although there are clinical trials with a low positive result, which doesn’t not mean that Homeopathy is really working and “totality of the reliable evidence fails to show that highly dilute homeopathic remedies are more effective than placebos.” (Ezard)

    In addition for me personally there is no real credible evidence unless there is at least a second equal study that confirms the first one.

  • I’ll argue against three of your points.

    No theories? Yes, no theory has been advanced for homeopathy other than it is a placebo with confirmation bias. Hypotheses abound by the dozen and each is either unfalsifiable or has been falsified by either evidence or logic.

    There is nothing in it?
    The extraction procedures are those used by herbalists, the dilution system is exactly as used by biochemists, in production, they even use the same equipment.

    The only unique aspect of homeopathy is precisely when they use nothing, it is their defining characteristic.

    Homeopaths deceive their patients? Yes, they do but do they do it knowingly? Certainly the ones who advertise through social media know they are lying or they are incapable of understanding that telling falsehoods is lying. Some less evangelical homeopaths may firmly believe their own propaganda but they still readily put out misinformation galore.

    • yes and no.
      Yes, I should have used the term hypothesis instead of theory.
      No, homeopathy is defined by the ‘like cures like’ principle, not by diluting remedies. here is the ‘official’ definition from the International Dictionary of Homeopathy: ‘Homeopathy is a therapeutic method using substances whose effects, when administered to healthy subjects, correspond to the manifestations of the disorder in the individual patient.’
      “The extraction procedures are those used by herbalists” but by no means all remedies are plant-based, and different extraction methods are used for solids.
      “The only unique aspect of homeopathy is precisely when they use nothing, it is their defining characteristic.” as I tried to point out in the post, there are plenty of remedies that do contain ‘active’ molecules.
      Homeopaths may knowingly or unknowingly deceive patients but they nevertheless offer something patients are looking for and conventional medicine often does not supply.

      • I appreciate that homeopaths use the like vs like argument, but do they use it? Ullman started selling homeopathic potassium iodide in response to false radiation fears. What does duck offal have to do with flu? And then the completely wacky ideas of black holes, light of Venus… So like vs like is not a defining characteristic, having real material present is just herbalism so what do we have left? Nothing.

        • you don’t need to convince me that the Ullmans of this world use false arguments.
          what I want to achieve here is that we use the CORRECT ones!

          • Without doubt we should use the correct arguments. That’s why I consider it incorrect to use the claim of homeopaths to define them. Judge them by their actions, not their words.

          • sure, but it helps if at least one side adheres to the correct definitions.

      • I am glad that we finally agree there is SOME evidence that homeopathy works and also that that homeopathic remedies (in lower potencies) contain SOMETHING.

        I also agree the best trial results comes from individualised homoepathy, but these trials should be on acute cases only like the otis media cases on the HRI website.

        Working with chronic cases taks time (months) and sometimes the required remedy changes. Such cases are better evaluated by patient outcome surveys.

        However, I do not agree with you on the following matters.

        1) Only treament with solid evidence (RCTs) behind it should be paid for by the NHS. This is a false premise as lots of treatments – if not most – paid by the NHS fails this test.
        https://www.amazon.com/Rigor-Mortis-Science-Worthless-Billions/dp/0465097901
        http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/set/static/cms/efficacy-categorisations.html
        Would you be prepared to axe all such treatments – conventional or alternative – from the NHS?

        2) A meta-analysis proves homeopathy doesn’t work. This is off-course absurd. You cannot discard a complete healing system based on a meta-analysis. Would you accept the same for conventional medicine? This meta-analysis (based on SSRI, statin, etc. trials) proves conventional medicine doesn’t work?

        For a homeopath – as you know – the difficult part is to find the correct remedy and to some extent also in what potency.

        He who cures is right.

        • he who writes such nonsense is wrong!

        • “Would you be prepared to axe all such treatments – conventional or alternative – from the NHS?” “Would you accept the same for conventional medicine?” Yes, yes, yes! Medicine progresses all the time by abandoning treatments that don’t work. OK, it may not happen overnight but it really, truly happens the whole time, which is why medicine constantly makes strides in a better direction. By contrast, all branches of Big Snakeoil seem to be stuck in their origins — in many cases centuries to millennia in the past.

          “He who cures is right.” That’s so wrong, to the point of total bollocks.

        • Olavius, apparently you do not realize how science works. In assessing the evidence one has to take into account the prior probability of a hypothesis. In case of homeopathy this probability is still zero, even if the tincture contains something more than water. That in turn means that a positive study is most likely a false positive.

          “You cannot discard a complete healing system based on a meta-analysis.” There you are wrong. One can do that. However, i case of homeopathy that is not only the reason why to discard it. Homeopathy violates several scientific theories, and is based on the misinterpretation of a hypersensitivity reaction by it’s founder, Hahnemann. We know now pretty well what happened during the famous cinchona bark experiment and we also know that the observed effects have nothing to do whatsoever with “like cures like”. This in turn lets the “healing system” of homeopathy collapse.

  • A small point, maybe, but I too found the use of the word ‘ theory’ instead of ‘ hypothesis’. a little jarring.
    The misuse of the word very often leads creationists to argue that Evolution is ‘just a theory, that’s all’, with the heavy implication that anybody else’s crackpot notion is just as valid.

  • The point about homeopathy not being a single well defined entity is important. However, it is clear that many homeopaths do seem to believe that they belong some big happy CAM family. Lay homeopaths in Anglophone world especially qv the absolute silence when the acts of some western homeopaths in Africa are condemned as unethical. Nor do they seem particularly keen to criticise manufacturers of dubious OTC products.

    The divisions in homeopathy are rarely seen by outsiders but they do exist. One example is when Indian homeopaths have spoken of treating homosexuality on less public forums and western lay homeopaths have got upset. Indian homeopathy is often tied up with a religious conservatism, whereas western lay homeopaths often see themselves in a very different way.

    Taking a more measured line on the evidence for homeopathy doesn’t make for snappy soundbites. It does not capture the attention of the fickle internets and social media. “There is no compelling overall evidence that homeopathic medicines have any effect above and beyond placebo” doesn’t have the same snappy ring as “It doesn’t work!”

    One point I would make is that it is unclear whether consumers are aware of the vitalistic nature of homeopathy. Certainly, in the anglophone world, promoters of homeopathy seem to omit this in communications aimed at the public.

  • As I try to set out in ‘Real Secrets of Alternative Medicine’ (Amazon) – ‘Homeopathy’ (no matter how configured),
    comprises two dimensions:
    the undoubted benefit of the TLC of a constructive therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient (type I effects), and the benefit of a ‘homeopathically prepared’ remedy (type II effects).
    Conflating these two dimensions causes confusion.

    Can we be clear?
    Is there any plausible evidence whatsoever that any HP remedy has ever had any effect on any pathological process?
    (Discounting placebo and type I effects).

    • yes
      if you prepare a ‘Arsenic 1X’ for instance and you follow all the instructions of a homeopathic pharmacopoeia, you can kill a few rats.

      • Such a product could not be legally offered for sale in the EU!

        • I know; it’s an extreme example – simply to make the point.
          and it’s not SALES we were talking about here.

          • OK, I need to be more specific, and in future will refer to homeopathically prepared remedies to “the standard recommended by Hahnemann – 30C.”

            So, has anybody got any plausible evidence whatsoever that 30C HP remedies have any effect whatsoever on any physiological or pathological process?

            And a corollary: what is the least potentised (least diluted) HP remedy for which there is plausible evidence of effectiveness?

          • “has anybody got any plausible evidence whatsoever that 30C HP remedies have any effect whatsoever on any physiological or pathological process?”
            I don’t think so; at least I have seen none that is compelling [some clinical trials will be cited, but I would argue that they lack independent confirmation and are therefore not compelling].
            “what is the least potentised (least diluted) HP remedy for which there is plausible evidence of effectiveness?” this will depend on the nature of the stock [Berlin wall is less toxic than Arsenic, for instance].

      • Or Zicam, which contained diluted zinc at a level very effective at getting rid of your unpleasant sense of smell.

      • I would argue against this point. We should not consider, what you could do with a homeopathic remedy by misusing it, but what would be the outcome when used as intended.

        Arsenic X1 would be spread on one hundred times its weight on to sugar. The regular daily dose for acute conditions is 15 tiny balls (Globuli in German) totalling about 0.15 grams of sugar. Sticking to the prescription an adult would receive 0.00015 grams of arsenic per day. Wikipeda gives ten times this value per kg of weight as LD50.

        So I would argue, that a patient even at very low potencies hardly gets any significant amount of active ingredient when she oserves the instructions that come with the remedy.

        Any homeopathic drug can have destructive effects – by throwing the bottle into the face of someone for instance. But this is not the wa it is intended to be used.

        • the X-potency scale uses 1;10 dilutions.
          and even a mother tincture [zero dilution] is strictly speaking a homeopathic remedy.

          • Yes, in the outmost regions of this realm, putting the definitions to their limits, there could be some remedy that contains some sizable amount of active ingredient.

            But would this low potency, that means weak drug in homeopathic thinking, be used by homeopaths on a regular daily basis?

            Of course you are right, we should be very exact in what we say, and I feel caught on some of your points. But I want my arguments to be understood by the layman – even at the cost that they are valid only for 98% of homeopathy as used today.

          • …and I feel that arguments ought to be understandable AND factually correct.
            NOT TO DEFEND HOMEOPATHY BUT TO GIVE HOMEOPATHS LESS ‘WRIGGLE ROOM’.

        • Norbert Aust -in such an instance it would surely be the bottle being misused, not its contents.

          • Sure – but the contents of the bottle adds to the weight and thus the impact is increased. 😉

          • Norbert Aust-
            Have there been any serious studies into this matter?

          • I fear not. This piece of science cannot be tested in a double blinded manner for obvious reasons. The participants usually fail to hit the target – which makes for chance results that are not valid in science.

          • Norbert Aust- is it possible that science has not caught up in this matter, as homeopaths are fond of arguing?
            I’d be willing to participate in a rigorous experiment, albeit preferably as a bottle checker rather than a chuckee.

          • Norbert, The double-blinding would occur during the test, rather than before it starts 🙂

          • Barrie, Your comment has reminded me of one of my favourite music albums:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Real_Chuckeeboo

            Best played loud on a high-end system that includes correctly-placed-for-the-listening-room speakers that contain large woofers!

          • Barrie, thats another problem with the study design. Participants are only very unwilling to give their consent once they get infiormed. They refuse the idea of randomisation to either the throwing or receiving end. And it would be hard to get some approval on ethics.

            And I fear, science will never catch up with this.

            Mechanics seems to be somewhat like homeopathy: You have a senior scientist that lived in pre-scientific times (named Isaac Newton), dealing with ‘forces’ noone has ever really seen, all his musings are based on a single experience, wherefrom he deducted axioms he claimed would explain how the world moves allbeit never proved in clinical trials. In the end someone found that these ‘laws’ are not flawless and insufficient für the purpose they were intended – but they are still taught in schools and a great number of professionals – civil and mechanical engineers – rely on them with most of their work and put the life of their customers in peril, claiming these never really proved ‘laws’ are sufficient for their ‘real life’ problems.

  • I’m not sure it is possible to discuss homeopathy purely in terms of efficacy. Surely ethical and legal concerns also have to be considered as well? It’s not as if the practice of homeopathy exists in a purely evidential vacuum.

  • There are several theories which might go some way in explaining how homeopathy works. But all of them are currently just theories, and none provides a full explanation as to the mechanism of action of highly diluted remedies.

    There are no “theories” about how homeopathy works. A scientific theory is a highly reliable summary of how a scientific phenomenon works that has a high degree of predictive value. What you are referring to are at best hypotheses, but I would argue that they aren’t even hypotheses. Hypotheses have to have some degree of plausibility and evidence to back them up. Homeopathy lacks even this. What you are referring to, in reality, are wild-assed guesses or handwaving.

  • According to this review, one of the ‘seven spurious arguments by opponents of homeopathy’ you demolish is that ‘Homeopathy is a cult’. Which surprised me. Look forward to reading that….

  • As much as I admire your blog and have been guilty of some of the above, I wish to take issue with a few points too;

    “Homeopathy is one single, well-defined entity”
    There may be different forms of homeopathy but it seems even homeopaths don’t seem to make any distinction and claim it all works, based on little more than mounting a general defence. If there is an attribution to be made for this lack of knowledge, homeopaths should take the substantial portion.

    “In the 200-years’ history of homeopathy, homeopaths have done no good at all”
    While it is true homeopaths have criticised medical treatments in the past, the criticism was based on a false premise; homeopathy offered a better alternative. In the sense that it did nothing, it did at least remove some of the dangerous practices. Medicine was, however, progressing and abandoning bleeding, for instance, based on a trial conducted during the American Civil war.

    “No hypotheses *theories* to explain how homeopathy might work have ever been put forward”

    I have taken the liberty of rewriting this paragraph;
    “There are several hypotheses which might go some way in explaining how homeopathy works. But all of them are currently just speculation, and none provides a full explanation as to the mechanism of action of highly diluted remedies. Yet, to claim that homeopathy is totally implausible might be a counter-productive exaggeration, or it might not.”

    “There is nothing in it”

    While there may be active ingredients in some, have any been subjected to the rigorous testing conducted on pharmaceuticals. Until that happens, anything claimed by homeopathy is speculation and anecdote, even considering the point below.

    “There is no credible evidence at all that might support homeopathy”

    “Several well-conducted clinical studies of homeopathy with positive results have been published”, however, “the totality of the reliable evidence fails to show that highly dilute homeopathic remedies are more effective than placebos.” Hanging their hat on a few studies when the evidence points to the latter discredits both the practitioner and the practice.

    “Homeopaths aim at deceiving their patients because they have nothing to offer to them”

    Compassionate or not, there is little substance other than the worried-well having their egos salved with charm/smarm.

    “Patients who use homeopathy must be stupid”

    I don’t believe it is the fault of medicine to not offer the same experience and I don’t like being “soothed” by a crank. When I go in for treatment, I tell the doctor/specialist they don’t need to tell me what they are going to do, just tell me (not ask) what they want me to do and I will follow the instructions to the letter. I go for treatment/diagnostics, not for a soothing chat or an argument, nor to grill the medico. Do what you need to do and I will fully co-operate with everything. I have found this puts the medicos at ease too and one, in particular, told some really funny jokes as we walked to the theatre, both of us laughing loudly to the amusement of other medicos.

    As always, those making the claims bear the onus of proof, and that has yet to be fulfilled after more than 200 years. If that isn’t long enough, particularly with the availability of modern science, there is little or no reason to believe there is anything to it.

    • I agree with most of what you say.
      In my post I wrote:
      I am not saying that homeopathy is a useful therapy, nor am I suggesting that we should not criticise it or stop public funding for it. All that I am trying to convey here is this: when we criticise homeopathy, we ought to make sure our arguments are factually correct – if not, we only give ammunition to our opponents.
      In a nutshell: I don’t wish to undermine our arguments, but want them to be more effective.
      I am pleased to see that, in your case [and hopefully many others] I seem to be succeeding.

  • I would argue the point that there is reliable evidence.

    In his recent review about individualised homeopathy Mathie et al rated the risk of bias for all the studies included in this review, totalling 32. They did not rate any study as low risk of bias, the best was medium. In a post hoc attempt to save thier face they defined, that some studies could still be considered reliable evidence, when only one of a certain set of minor important domains was rated unclear risk of bias. Two of the three these upgraded studies were listed as mere pilot studies, which by definition do not count as evidence.

    Of course, this accounts only for the branch of individual homeopathy, but still, this is homeopathy at its best. All other flavours are second rate.

  • I shall address Edzard’s third paragraph: “But I have long felt that, when sceptics criticise homeopathy, they often wrong-foot themselves by using arguments which are not entirely correct.”

    I would go much further by saying that “… [sceptics] often wrong-foot themselves by using arguments which are fundamentally flawed.” Before we criticise/critique homeopathy (or anything else) we must firstly establish whether each argument for homeopathy is an inductive argument, or it is a deductive argument — because the formal rules of logic that apply to each type of argument are very different.

    It is essential to establish this with each proponent of homeopathy BEFORE we even think about asking the proponent questions, let alone forming a reasoned counter-argument/criticism/critique. If their argument is inductive then I suggest that, within this context, the word “hypothesis” is not the scientific meaning of the term, it is the meaning used in philosophy: a proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth. In other words, if the proponent suggests “water memory” as a tentative hypothesis for homeopathy then it is irrelevant whether or not “water memory” is true; it’s just a placeholder for: perhaps this or perhaps something else.

    Whenever sceptics criticise an inductive argument using the formal rules for deductive arguments, or vice versa, they likely come across as being nothing other than incompetent fools.

    “An inductive logic is a system of evidential support that extends deductive logic to less-than-certain inferences. For valid deductive arguments the premises *logically entail* the conclusion, where the entailment means that the truth of the premises provides a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion. Similarly, in a good inductive argument the premises should provide some *degree of support* for the conclusion, where such support means that the truth of the premises indicates with some *degree of strength* that the conclusion is true.”
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-inductive/

    Note the vast difference between the logically testable falsifiability of a deductive argument — which is one of the primary pillars of scientifically testable hypotheses — and the correctly intended non-falisifiabilty and non-confirmability of an inductive argument, in which only the strength of the argument can be estimated and discussed.

    I strongly suggest that whenever a research project, or any proponent of sCAM, claims that further research is required then their argument is an inductive argument, it cannot possibly be a formal deductive argument, therefore, sceptics must refrain from analysing the claims using the methods reserved for deductive arguments. I’m fully aware, of course, that all forms or charlatanry rely on wilful obscurantism.

    Properly conducted, replicated, double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trials that produce negative results are indeed both formal deductive arguments and scientifically valid. However, the authors of the paper(s), or the authors of peer reviews and/or systematic reviews, need append only the phrase “but further studies are indicated” and the originally valid deductive negative result is magically transformed into a positive inductive argument that can never be won by sceptics. Why? Because the strength of an inductive argument can never be less than zero; even the weakest of arguments are positive arguments.

  • Brilliant.. Not helped by the misunderstanding of ‘theory’. And not one piece of evidence, just claims that it exists.

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