MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I have to thank one of our regular commentators for inspiring me to write this post. He recently contributed this insight about homeopathic provings:

If you didn’t experience anything from a proving you didn’t perform it properly.

It is an argument that, in different forms and shapes, I have heard very often. Essentially it holds that, if an investigation or a test fails to produce the desired result, the methodology must have been faulty. Donald Trump is, I fear, about to use it in the upcoming US election: if he is voted out, he will claim that there was too much fraud going on. Therefore, he cannot accept the result as valid. Thus it is his democratic duty to remain in post, he is likely to claim.

In medicine, the argument has been popular since millennia. In our book TRICK OR TREATMENT?, we recount the story of blood letting. Based on the doctrine of the 4 humours, it was believed for centuries to be a panacea. If someone died after losing litres of blood to the believers in the doctrine, the assumption was not that he had been bled to death, but that he had sadly not received enough of the ‘cure all’. Eventually, some bright chap had the novel idea of running a rigorous test of blood-letting, and it turned out that the patients who had received the treatment had a worse chance of survival than those who had escaped it. Aaaahhh !!!, shouted the blood-letters, this shows that the concept of the scientific test is flawed.

Checking the methodological rigour of clinical studies (or homeopathic provings) can be a tricky and tedious business. It requires proper learning and experience – qualities that SCAM fanatics rarely possess. Amongst other things, one needs to know about:

  • trial design,
  • statistics,
  • sources of bias,
  • confounding,
  • and the many tricks people use to hide flaws in published studies.

This is not easy and it takes time – lots of time – to acquire the necessary skills. Having discussed such issues with enthusiasts of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for decades, I realise that it would be unrealistic to expect of them to spend all this time learning all these complicated things (they have to make a living, you know!). I therefore propose an entirely new and much simpler method of differentiating between valid and invalid research of SCAM. It rests on merely 2 golden rules:

  1. Any research methodology is valid, if it produces the desired result.
  2. Any research methodology is invalid, if it fails to produce the desired result.

In analogy to these two rules, one can easily extrapolate further. For instance, one can state that:

  • any person who generates or promotes the desired result is honest;
  • any person who contradicts the desired result is corrupt (bought by ‘Big Pharma’).

I am sure my readers all see the beauty of this revolutionary, new system: it’s easy to learn, practical to apply, it avoids controversy and it takes full account of the previously much-neglected needs of the SCAM fraternity.

35 Responses to The new and revolutionary SCAM method for telling valid from invalid research

  • Can happen on both sides.

  • Whenever someone, other someone with real credentials, offers research or says “I did the research myself,” I recall this post from Alan Levinovitz, a professor at James Madison University: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1309266934316380160.html

  • Not everyone is equally sensitive to a remedy. You have to take it repeatedly over several days until some new symptom appears. Then you should see many new symptoms appear over the next few days and weeks until it wears off. Taking a dose or two and saying “Nothing happened” is not a proving. I have people refer me to an 1835 “proving” that supposedly “proves” that provings dont work. They gave everyone a bottle of the remedy and said basically, “go home and take it and tell us what happens.” That is not a proving.

    The Underwhelming-Randi downing a bottle of Calme Forte in a single shot is not a proving.

    Edzard, what procedure did you follow in the “failed” provings? Did you have an objective supervisor who took your recent health history before you started the proving? Did you check in with them on a regular basis?

    • Roger – as usual you you are talking pure excretum tauri. How do you get it to be so pure?
      It must be multiple distillations or is that provings?
      I think it must be that all homeopaths are lacking a requisite number of neurons in order to believe all this nonsense – there has to be some explanation for their ability to defy all reason and logic and instead embrace insanity and sheer lunacy as they do.
      “Provings” are among the most delusional aspect of this incredibly delusional belief system.
      I suppose we ought to be grateful that among your miraculous attributions to the power of pure water you don’t attribute the power of walking upon it – or maybe you do?
      Is that proving number 317a or something?

      I am always highly amused by the homeopathic flu “remedy” oscillofloccinum. duck innards diluted to oblivion at 200C or 100 to the power of 200 – i.e 1 part in 1 followed by FOUR HUNDRED ZEROES. (sorry not enough space here.)
      That is several times more than the total number of ATOMS in the whole observable universe!
      It is inconceivable how one could even begin to dilute anything that much…..
      Or what exactly the point would be……
      Or why any sane human being would think it might work…..for anything.
      But that’s homeopaths for you – nobody ever accused them of being sane.

      • Its so admirable when someone attacks homeopathy who knows exactly one thing about it. Its too dilute. Wow! How perspicacious you are. How come none of us homeopaths ever noticed that? I bow before your genius.

        Now that you have fired up that one neuron, maybe you could fire up a few more, if you have any, and actually DO a homeopathic proving.

        • Hey Roger

          Rather than shouting “Do a proving” at everyone, why not read a proper response to the twaddle you spout and reply with a bit of proper science rather than your imaginary notions.

          This wonderful bit of ire from has on one of the other homeopathy threads:

          “It’s about what you’ve got robust evidence for. You’ve got no viable mechanism of operation (quantum flapdoodle doesn’t count), and high-quality randomized double-blinded trials in the field return consistently negative results. Which is entirely in keeping with everything else we know about how the universe works. For homeopathy to be correct, huge tracts of established scientific knowledge, which it contradicts, would have to be wrong. And whereas that science has already given us the microwave oven, cures for plagues, atomic bombs, and so on, all you lot can provide is grandiose delusions, religious handwavium, and the utter, utter unwillingness to consider even the possibility that you could ever be wrong. In other words, one of these has proved itself, the other has proved itself pablum for fools. Guess which is which. Evidence, or GTFO.”

          And provings, Roger, which have previously been explained to you to be delusional nonsense, do not count as evidence no matter how often you bleat about them.

          • Homeopathy doesn’t contradict what is Known. Entertain the possibility that everything is not known. I realize that is a difficult position for a Brilliant “scientist” such as yourself.

            Quality of the RCTs you refer to are in the eye of the beholder; meta analyses are subject to the bias of the analyst. The Shang et al 2005 Lancet meta analysis ignored all of the hundreds of studies except exactly 8.

            Homeopathy provides 200+ years of well documented long term cures of chronic and serious acute illness. I realize the skeptics community is unwilling to consider this evidence other than to wave their hands and say it must be placebo. All placebo research shows that it only works short term for a few conditions. All Conventional medicine provides For chronic illness Is lifelong dependency on drugs. If it really had answers it would sweep the field because it is so heavily funded.

            The only delusions related to homeopathic proving are those held by those who refuse to do them. It’s a repeatable science project anyone can do

          • It is not that we cannot yet explain how homeopathy works.
            Rather we can explain why it cannot work.

          • @Roger

            The attention you get, as negative as it is, is your nourishment. It allows you to rise and draw breath for yet another day.

            If people were to ignore you, my guess is you would spontaneously ignite and leave nothing but a smouldering mound of dust on the floor.

            Like all good zookeepers, however, we show up regularly to make sure you are fed.

            Glad to be of service.

          • Homeopathy doesn’t contradict what is Known. Entertain the possibility that everything is not known.

            Thanks for the (short) laugh Roger 🙂
            And for reminding us of an even better laugh: https://youtu.be/qHNQqCCOoZ8

        • Doing a proving only proves that you know how to do a proving, not that homeopathy works. So what exactly are you trying to prove here?

          • Homeopathy doesnt contradict what is KNOWN about the universe. Maybe you dont know everything there is to know about the universe! Dont be so f-ing arrogant. Entertain that possibility. While you are at it experience what you dont know, and do a proving!

          • A proving is the fundamental basis of homeopathy. When done with highly dilute remedies, it shows that they have profound effects on human beings. Im trying to get the So-called Skeptics to experience if for themselves. But they are afraid of direct experience for some reason.

            In the early days of homeopathy, provings and treatments were done with undiluted substances. homeopathic treatment worked but not as effectively as when they were diluted/potentized. But this makes the skeptics wedded to a mechanical paradigm nervous. They suppose that this somehow violates their known universe.

            I am challenging them to move out of their safe zone.

          • I know you are slow on the uptake. let me therefore repeat: I HAVE DONE SEVERAL PROVINGS ON MYSELF AND OTHERS WITH NO RESULT

          • Edzard, maybe you are slow on the uptake. I have given you multiple reasons why you probably did the provings improperly and didnt experience anything. Technique matters in homeopathic provings just as in other experiments. Or doesnt that apply to you?

          • @Edzard

            I have to agree with Roger, Professor. The magic, fakery, silliness, bullshit experiment—I mean proving—didn’t work because you didn’t do it right. Obviously.

      • Your firm command of the obvious must serve you very well in your job. What? Filling boxes for Amazon?

        • There is nothing wrong with a job working in a warehouse or as a delivery person. During this period of lockdown we’ve been relying on the such people more than ever.

          It’s a shame you seem to have contempt for such jobs – and ironic coming from an alt-med proponent.

          • Bjorn, I am going to leave it to you to do one and then you can explain to us how it worked for you.

          • Just contempt for someone who thinks they are explaining to me for the first time the concept that homeopathic remedies can be so dilute that none of the substance is left, like we didnt know that.

        • Now tell us about you, Roger.
          What is your education and skills? Did you finish school? Have you worked in some other field than hawking homeopathy?

          • @Björn

            I think Rog’s job is to troll us. I mean, it’s not like he ever makes sense.

            I certainly can’t see any other purpose for his nonsense other than, perhaps, to seek the attention he never got as a child. (If that is the case, Roger, I truly feel for you. That would be awful.)

          • Tell me about you, Bjorn. What makes you qualified to attack homeopathy? You apparently dont know how a proving is conducted which is the basis of homeopathy. Like most skeptics you seem to only know that many remedies are highly diluted, or the equivalent of what someone learns from reading the Wikipedia article.

          • The burden of proof is on you, dear Roger.
            I am beginning to think you are not a homeopath, just making believe you are 🙂

    • I frequently am directed to the so-called 1835 Proving that supposedly refutes homeopathic provings.
      ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1676327

      The instructions give details of how the “remedy” they used was made that dont include succussion as part of the process. Are we supposed to assume that the remedy was made correctly?

      Further we read “Three weeks later, at a second meeting, the participants were asked to report whether they had experienced anything unusual after ingesting the vial’s content.”

      I will let you brilliant scientist spot the 3 or 4 things wrong with this supposedly “scientific” process that are indicated in this step. You all supposedly understand how a proving is supposed to be conducted.

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24685415/
    Do Homeopathic Pathogenetic Trials generate recognisable and reproducible symptom pictures?: Results from a pilot pathogenetic trial of Ozone 30c

  • Bjorn, you obviously are ignorant of the subject of homeopathy and provings in particular. I was waiting for you to confirm that.

    1) you dont take a vial of the remedy all at once for a proving (as idiots like the magician Underwhelming Randi do). You have to take the remedy repeatedly over several days until some new symptom appears.
    2) A proper proving is done with a supervisor who takes the recent health history of the prover before the proving.
    3) A supervisor checks in with the prover regularly (daily, at first) to review what changes have occurred.
    4) The prover keeps a minute log of their experiences during the proving. Can you remember your experiences over the last day or two, much less 3 weeks?

    Violate these principles and its not a valid proving.

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