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Tags homeopathy , nhs , UK healthcare

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Old 25th July 2007, 08:07 AM   #1
volatile
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Homoeopathy: Help explain it to our credulous parliamentarians!

Dear Forumites,

Over in the NHS funding of homoeopathy thread, Pipirr pointed out that nearly 200 of the UK's elected Members of Parliament have signed an Early Day Motion to protest the closing of the Royal Homoeopathic Hospital.

It's text reads as follows:

Originally Posted by "Early Day Motion 1240
That this House welcomes the positive contribution made to the health of the nation by the NHS homeopathic hospitals; notes that some six million people use complementary treatments each year; believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients, including chronic difficult to treat conditions such as musculoskeletal and other chronic pain, eczema, depression, anxiety and insomnia, allergy, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome; expresses concern that NHS cuts are threatening the future of these hospitals; and calls on the Government actively to support these valuable national assets.
This is more than a little concerning, but I suspect the widespread support it has received is borne less out of true belief in the snake oil peddled by the homoeopaths, and more out of simple credulousness.

Most people, MPs included, simply don't understand what homoeopathy is. All the nonsense about dilutions and water memory and provings is obfuscated by devious advertising. I myself used to think that 'homoeopathic' was nothing more than a synonym for 'natural', and it was only on arriving on this forum that I found out the disturbing truth.

I propose, then, that we draw up a polite letter to these MPs explaining exactly what homoeopathy is. We need to show these intelligent people exactly what it is they're supporting, and I don't doubt that many will change their tune on presentation of the salient evidence.

So here's where you lot come in. What should be in this letter? How should we phrase it? What links and information should be in it? I think we need to aim for detailed (these are smart people, by and large) but clear, and firm but not rude.

Once we've got something together, we can either email these people, or try and post real snail-mail letters...
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Old 25th July 2007, 09:09 AM   #2
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"Homeopathy is based on two unproven concepts:

Similia similibus curantur - like cures like. This is the concept that diseases are cured by substances that provoke symptoms similar to those of the disease. Thus, vomiting has a tendency to be cured by an emetic.

Potentiation - that this effect becomes stronger the more the curative mixture is diluted. Common dilutions are measured in centesimal scales, e.g. 30C. This means that a drop of the substance is added to a volume of 100 drops of water and tapped against a leather book (succussed). A drop of this dilute mixture is diluted 100:1 and succussed. For 30C dilution, the process is repeated 30 times.

We know from Avogadro's Law (unknown to the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, in the 18th century) that statistically none of the "active" material remains after the first few dilutions. The later steps are not really dilutions at all, but replacing water with other water."


That's my chunk, all perfectly factual. Anyone care to add more?
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Old 25th July 2007, 10:19 AM   #3
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Here's a very good explanation of what homeopathy is, and why it may seem to work: http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/...Homeopathy.pdf

I think it should fit your purpose: only two pages long, it has a clear no-nonsense style but gives enough detail and references to satisfy a scientifically-inclined politician.
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Old 25th July 2007, 10:51 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Michael C View Post
Here's a very good explanation of what homeopathy is, and why it may seem to work: http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/...Homeopathy.pdf

I think it should fit your purpose: only two pages long, it has a clear no-nonsense style but gives enough detail and references to satisfy a scientifically-inclined politician.
Thanks for posting the link; that article is excellent. You're right, this is an excellent piece to give to people that don't understand the criticisms of Homeopathy.
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Old 25th July 2007, 10:58 AM   #5
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Absolutely superb stuff! Thanks Michael!

I'd like to propose printing that out and photocopying it double sided (I can possibly do this) and then posting it, with a letter, to each of the signatories... Snail mail is no doubt more likely to have an impact than an email, dontcha think?
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:00 AM   #6
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I think the two clear points to make are that firstly, Homeopathy has not only never been proved to be clinically effective, it has actually been proven to be clinically ineffective, and secondly, the unequal treatment which real medicine gets in the UK as compared to homeopathy- where real medicine has to be shown to be effective before it is adopted.

Remember MPs can withdraw their support from EDMs so get writing. I'm just off to draft something up.
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:14 AM   #7
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Oooh. It looks as if MPs can be contacted by post simply by sending a letter to:

[MP Name]
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

We could do individually-enveloped letters and send them in one pack, saving a tonne of postage.
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:19 AM   #8
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Does anyone have teh details of the 2005 meta-analysis of homeopathy published in the lancet? I've tried googelign but all I get is Big Pharma CTs and crying homeopaths
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:47 AM   #9
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Does anyone have teh details of the 2005 meta-analysis of homeopathy published in the lancet? I've tried googelign but all I get is Big Pharma CTs and crying homeopaths
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:51 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by volatile View Post
Oooh. It looks as if MPs can be contacted by post simply by sending a letter to:

[MP Name]
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

We could do individually-enveloped letters and send them in one pack, saving a tonne of postage.
Tomorrow is teh last day of parliament before recess- most MP's wont get their mail untill they come back in a couple of months, so either write to their constuency office or e-mail them. try www.theyworkforyou.com for contact info.

If you address them by name (first name only) they'll tend to treat it like a real letter.
if you address them as Sir or Madam, they'll assume its a circular.
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:51 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by volatile View Post
Oooh. It looks as if MPs can be contacted by post simply by sending a letter to:

[MP Name]
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

We could do individually-enveloped letters and send them in one pack, saving a tonne of postage.
That would be wise. I believe that they are obliged to reply.

This may also help as a secondary source:

Alphabetical List of Members of Parliament

May I suggest a letter and an email (many seem to have email).

.
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:54 AM   #12
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Attached to this thread is a Zip file containing an XLS spreadsheet, which lists the MPs who have signed this EDM, along with their party affiliations and constituencies. I guess it will be useful in automatic the letter-addressing.

EDM Data from here ; MP details from here.
Attached Files
File Type: zip HomoeopathyMPs.zip (16.5 KB, 27 views)
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Old 25th July 2007, 11:55 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by H3LL View Post
That would be wise. I believe that they are obliged to reply.

This may also help as a secondary source:

Alphabetical List of Members of Parliament

May I suggest a letter and an email (many seem to have email).

.
Sending them as one pack will be ignored, e-mails them or fax them- all contacts are available through they work for you.

they are not obliged to respond to all correspondence.
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Old 25th July 2007, 12:12 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by brodski View Post
Does anyone have teh details of the 2005 meta-analysis of homeopathy published in the lancet? I've tried googelign but all I get is Big Pharma CTs and crying homeopaths
Here it is:

http://www.farmaciasfrancesco.it/Lancet_Omeopatia.pdf

This could be helpful as well:

http://www.dcscience.net/ernst-tips-sept-2005.pdf


And it might also be an idea to mention this (originally posted by Asolepius):

Quote:
UK parliamentary science committee under threat

Have a look at this exchange in the Commons. One of the side effects of Gordon Brown's reshuffle could well be the relegation of science within the government. Specifically, the excellent Science and Technology Committee could well be disbanded.

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...ad.php?t=87694
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Old 26th July 2007, 02:39 AM   #15
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Individual letters from a constituent to their MP are definitely the way to go. And I'd hand-write the envelope (though not the letter).

Anecdote. I was at an SNP conference, trying (and succeeding) to bury a very bad animal welfare policy document. In this I found I was supporting no less a personage than Winnie Ewing (Madame Ecosse herself). Afterwards, she said to me that although the policy we had just managed to compost in a deep basement was the wrong one, we still needed an animal welfare policy. Why? Because this was the issue she got far more mail about than any other! I put it to her that this volume of mail may well not be reflecting a real height of concern about the matter (on the usual mail principle that those who write are just the tip of the iceberg of those concerned), but that the animal welfare lobby was both extremely vocal and extremely organised. I suggested it was likely that those she'd had letters from might be the only people in her constituency to feel strongly about the matter.

I don't know whether she took on board what I'd said, but we never did revisit the animal welfare issue, and the party still got elected in May so it can't have been all that fatal.

But just because I drew dear old Winnie a picture, doesn't mean that all of them realise this. They really do take a lot of account of such letters. One may be dismissed, if it runs counter to their beliefs and prejudices, but several do make a difference.

If anyone is doing this, I'd suggest using the Sense About Science leaflet as an enclosure, for information. Then writing a fairly short but pithy personal letter (we could chew over a few sample letters here and people could pick and adapt) making the point personal.

My own instinct would be to major on the concept of evidence based medicine, and to put it to the politician that public money should only be spent on evidence based treatments. If people want non-evidence-based feel-good "treatments" then nobody is stopping them, but they should do it with their own money. This is particularly important when the NHS has budget constraints and there is a strong public demand that the money should be well spent.

I would try to point out the lack of any evidence base for the entire discipline, and maybe highlight the source of the claim of 70% benefit (a survey that was no more than a straw poll, simply asking patients at a homoeopathic hospital whether they felt a bit better after attending there for a while). No control group, and the person asking the question was the patient's homoeopath himself - a position where many people might feel obliged to answer in the affirmative. In fact, given the structure of the survey, I'm just gobsmacked that they managed as little as 70%! I'll try to find that reference later, or maybe someone else has it at their fingertips.

Bottom line is, it's hand-holding and ego-massage, built on a base of false science. The NHS should not be paying for this.

One little wrinkle about the SAS leflet - it seems yet again to propagate the myth that the remedies are chosen because appreciable quantities of the substance really do produce the symptoms of the condition in question. This is just so not true. When I actually found out the truth about "provings" I was just gobsmacked. It's probably not appropriate to go into the detail of that in a letter to a politician, but the relative rationality of the common (and wrong) version is misleading, and I'm sorry to see the leaflet continuing to repeat it.

Rolfe.
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Old 26th July 2007, 02:57 AM   #16
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Hi Folks,

I really like this, keep up the good work! I'd send a letter, but I'm American and I doubt they want to hear from me.

What about, at the end of the letter or on another page, including some "Further Reading" sources? Maybe they won't look at them, but it at least shows that the person sending the letter is not alone in his/her opinion.
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Old 26th July 2007, 03:10 AM   #17
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If several people write to the same person make sure that they are different letters. Otherwise someone might work out there is a letter writing campaign going on.
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Old 26th July 2007, 03:12 AM   #18
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I'm sensing it will be tricky to find people in all of these MPs' constituencies, thus negating the effect. I'd like to put together a single letter to send to multiple people, but br0dski thinks they might be ignored if sent in a pack together.
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Old 26th July 2007, 04:00 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by volatile View Post
I'm sensing it will be tricky to find people in all of these MPs' constituencies, thus negating the effect. I'd like to put together a single letter to send to multiple people, but br0dski thinks they might be ignored if sent in a pack together.
If they are sent as a pack together they will be dismissed as a “campaign”- I take Rolfs point about letters over e-mail, but e-mail is easier, and given that no MP will be in Westminster from about 3 PM today, writing to them at their commons address is a little pointless.

Remember, we don’t just need to write to those MPs who signed this, write to your own MP as well, or even better make an appointment to go and talk to them about it face to face, ask them to table their own EDM opposing this EDM or even table a question.
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Old 26th July 2007, 04:12 AM   #20
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My MP has signed it, so I'll definitely be dropping her a line.
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Old 26th July 2007, 04:23 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
I would try to point out the lack of any evidence base for the entire discipline, and maybe highlight the source of the claim of 70% benefit (a survey that was no more than a straw poll, simply asking patients at a homoeopathic hospital whether they felt a bit better after attending there for a while). No control group, and the person asking the question was the patient's homoeopath himself - a position where many people might feel obliged to answer in the affirmative. In fact, given the structure of the survey, I'm just gobsmacked that they managed as little as 70%! I'll try to find that reference later, or maybe someone else has it at their fingertips.

Is this the one: Spence et al., Homeopathic Treatment for Chronic Disease: A 6-Year University-Hospital Outpatient Observational Study, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Vol 11 No 5 p 793?


Quote:
One little wrinkle about the SAS leflet - it seems yet again to propagate the myth that the remedies are chosen because appreciable quantities of the substance really do produce the symptoms of the condition in question. This is just so not true. When I actually found out the truth about "provings" I was just gobsmacked. It's probably not appropriate to go into the detail of that in a letter to a politician, but the relative rationality of the common (and wrong) version is misleading, and I'm sorry to see the leaflet continuing to repeat it.

It's apparent from homoeopathic sites that provings are generally carried out at 30C, but do you have a reasonably authoritative source for Hahnemann having recommended provings being carried out at 30C? The best I've managed to find so far is one of Hoare's letters on the BVVS site.
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Old 26th July 2007, 05:38 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post

That's the one!

Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
It's apparent from homoeopathic sites that provings are generally carried out at 30C, but do you have a reasonably authoritative source for Hahnemann having recommended provings being carried out at 30C? The best I've managed to find so far is one of Hoare's letters on the BVVS site.

I'm really going by Hoare as well. He's not one for citing references, you might have noticed. And you're right, the unsupported statement of a homoeopath should not be accepted without confirmation. It may be Hans has the source for this.

I had a look at Holmes, and he says:

Quote:
The effects of drugs upon healthy persons have been studied by Hahnemann and his associates. Their results were made known in his Materia Medica, a work in three large volumes in the French translation, published about eight years ago. The mode of experimentation appears to have been, to take the substance on trial, either in common or minute doses

This is consistent with what Hoare has claimed, that Hahnemann originally used material doses, but later shifted to using 30C exclusively.

Rolfe.
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Old 26th July 2007, 05:51 AM   #23
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NB. Given the probable inability of any reputable scientists at the time, let alone Hahnemann working in a kitchen, to be able to accurately create and measure such dilutions, I'd suggest that any reliance on the "30C proving" data from Hahnemann would be utterly unreliable at best.
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Old 26th July 2007, 05:55 AM   #24
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Oh, we allow for "trifling errors, like Lake Superior or the Caspian"!

Rolfe.
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Old 26th July 2007, 06:17 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post

One little wrinkle about the SAS leflet - it seems yet again to propagate the myth that the remedies are chosen because appreciable quantities of the substance really do produce the symptoms of the condition in question. This is just so not true. When I actually found out the truth about "provings" I was just gobsmacked. It's probably not appropriate to go into the detail of that in a letter to a politician, but the relative rationality of the common (and wrong) version is misleading, and I'm sorry to see the leaflet continuing to repeat it.

Rolfe.
I'd be interested in knowing more about this Rolfe. I don't want to de-rail this thread, so maybe you could post a link to more info on "the truth about provings", or to another thread where this has been discussed.

Many thanks
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Old 26th July 2007, 06:27 AM   #26
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The truth about provings.

See also here.

And here.
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Old 26th July 2007, 06:53 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post

Oooh, I see the dingbats at hominf.org have added a few more tasty ones since I last looked. Have they ever got anyone to come and say any of these remedies has been credited with a "cure" yet? It's a bit like waiting for accredited miracles, except you don't need any to take money for the stuff so who cares.

To be fair, these ones are out on the lunatic fringe (though I came across one of moonbeams once). But the whole business of collecting every little sensation and nuance from people who've basically sucked a couple of sugar pills is standard.

It's well worth reading O. W. Holmes - he collected some absolute doozies from the 19th century.

Rolfe.
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Old 26th July 2007, 07:05 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
...snip...

One little wrinkle about the SAS leflet - it seems yet again to propagate the myth that the remedies are chosen because appreciable quantities of the substance really do produce the symptoms of the condition in question. This is just so not true. When I actually found out the truth about "provings" I was just gobsmacked. It's probably not appropriate to go into the detail of that in a letter to a politician, but the relative rationality of the common (and wrong) version is misleading, and I'm sorry to see the leaflet continuing to repeat it.

Rolfe.
Please, please consider producing a "JREF Forum" or "Rofle's Guide" (I don't care about the name) leaflet for the Repository e.g ."A quick guide to what homeopathy really is and isn't" - pretty please? (see: http://www.internationalskeptics.com...ad.php?t=73720 and "The Repositry" section about a third of the way down)
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Old 26th July 2007, 07:50 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Oooh, I see the dingbats at hominf.org have added a few more tasty ones since I last looked. Have they ever got anyone to come and say any of these remedies has been credited with a "cure" yet?

I don't know about them, but if you take a look at "veryscarymary" (Mary English)'s site you'll find some amazing claims and testimonials about the effects of "Tempesta".
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Old 26th July 2007, 07:56 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
"A quick guide to what homeopathy really is and isn't"

The problem with that is that "what homoeopathy is or isn't" depends on which homoeopath you ask.
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Old 26th July 2007, 08:07 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Thanks Mojo...I'm speechless!
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Old 26th July 2007, 08:18 AM   #32
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My MP hasn't signed any EDMs at all in the past year, including this one.

I've drafted him a letter regardless, just to say 'good lad, support your non-support stance etc'.
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Old 26th July 2007, 08:23 AM   #33
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Does anyone know if it's possible to see the votes cast by an individual MP?
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Old 26th July 2007, 08:25 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Pipirr View Post
Does anyone know if it's possible to see the votes cast by an individual MP?
Yes!

Try http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ and http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/index.php for starters.

TheyWorkForYou is brilliant - you can subscribe to receive email alerts every time your MP speaks in Parliament!
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Old 26th July 2007, 08:42 AM   #35
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Excellent, that covers it! Thanks volatile.
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Old 26th July 2007, 09:19 AM   #36
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When I talk to people about homeopathy I always make sure I include the third of Hahneman's principles after like cures like and the law of infinitesimals, which is the need to strike the vial containing each dilution several times on a leather pad in order to potentize it. You seldom hear present-day homeos mention this, because it makes the whole thing sound so obviously ridiculous, and of course it can't be, can it...?
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Old 27th July 2007, 02:29 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by brodski View Post
they are not obliged to respond to all correspondence.
Indeed, my MP has about a 25% success rate in terms of replying to my correspondence.

Fortunately mine hasn't signed this, which makes a pleasant surprise!
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Old 27th July 2007, 04:22 AM   #38
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When you write your letters, you might want to add that the homoeopathic pills that most homoeopathic users take, are in fact just sugar pills sprayed with the homoeopathic solution. Most homoeopathic patients I have met have been speechless when I mentioned this to them, and the article does not say this at all.
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Old 27th July 2007, 01:58 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Just as well I was sitting down when I read these. Even so I nearly fell off my chair laughing. To be fair to the authors of the Sense About Science leaflet (to which I made a small contribution), I think it is talking about the `theoretical' basis of provings, even though publications by homeopaths themselves show that the whole process is total rubbish. There was one recently, can't remember which, upbrading homeopaths for not providing more consistent provings. In other words, they can't even agree with each other - the surest sign of quackery that I know.

My own MP Robert Key did of course sign this EDM. I shall invite him to a discussion group on sCAM which I am running in Salisbury in a month or so.
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Old 27th July 2007, 02:01 PM   #40
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BTW does anyone on this board have Dr Ian Gibson as their MP? He is a signatory, and was chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee until last year.
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