Monday, December 08, 2014

The Galileo fallacy

I read that  MP David Tredinnick is getting laughed at again for trying to promote Homoeopathic remedies as part of his (ludicrous) role on the Science and Technology Committee. In an interview on radio 4 today he was exposed by Professor Lord Winston to be a wilfully ignorant buffoon whose grasp of scientific facts is truly appalling (starts at 2:54).

Tredinnick kicked off by claiming that Winston was not "qualified" to comment on Homoeopathy because Winston had never "studied it" - this fact doesn't seem to stop Tredinnick (who has a "business degree") babbling on about it at every turn, but in actual fact Winston has studied so called "alternative medicines" and reiterated the fact that no Scientific study has ever shown any significant Homoeopathic effect, ever. You would have thought that if successful outcomes were as obvious as claimed then it would be trivial for the Homoeopathy industry to pony up some money (from their bloated pots of profit) for double blind trials in order to highlight data that shows efficacy? Apparently not.

Tredinnick then went on to babble about microbial resistance to antibiotics and how this can be alleviated by people taking Homoeopathic remedies instead; he cited his own experience of having a cold over the weekend and getting better via a Homoeopathic remedy "without taking antibiotics". Lord Winston reminded everyone that colds are viruses and therefore antibiotics would have no effect anyway. Such ignorance is criminal for someone who is supposedly representing people on a committee with a scientific and medical remit and how he got onto this committee in the first place cause for grave concern.

No one really cares what nonsense Tredinnick believes in the privacy of his own home, if he wants to pay £10 of his own money for a few milligrams of pure water believing that it will cure him of a common cold then so what; there are much worse things in the world to worry about. However what does worry me is misinformation, and the wider issues of what homoeopaths themselves do: undermine vaccination campaigns, wasting precious NHS resources, give foolish advice on serious illnesses, attack medicine, attack individual people, undermine the public’s understanding of evidence, and so on. Mr Tredinnick seems to have a bad case of the Galileo fallacy, i.e. the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. As Carl Sagan once pointed out, people also laughed at Coco the Clown.



A Heron's View said...

I have used homeopathy successfully on many occasions.

That's all the proof I need that it works. It's a whole lot cheaper than MDs and pharmaceuticals too, with no ill effects or even side effects.

Steve Borthwick said...

HV, Thanks for your comment, clearly many people claim the same kind of anecdotal evidence and it's well known there's such a thing as "the Placebo effect"; hence the necessity of insisting on double blind trials for all treatments in the first place, i.e. to eliminate that possibility.

We are still left with the fact that when medical professionals do proper tests they find no (statistically) causal link. Personally I'd prefer it that public money is NOT spent on treatments for which there is no evidence of efficacy. Such a rule protects us from the pharmaceutical companies palming us off with ineffective crap as much as snake-oil salesmen MPs, and does not restrict personal freedoms in any way, I don't see any downside?

A Heron's View said...

Oh you mean pharmaceutical drugs like :-

Ciba-Geigy: Ritalin injuries

Covidien: Heparin injuries

C.R. Bard, Inc.: Kugel Mesh hernia patches

Cutter Biologicals: Hemophiliacs infected by HIV contaminated plasma products causing injury and death

Davol: Kugel Mesh hernia patches

Eli Lilly: Prozac injuries; Prozac autism cases; Prozac suicides and suicide attempts; Fialuridine (FIAU) experimental hepatitis B drug injuries and deaths

Forest Labs: Lexapro/Celexa birth defects; Lexapro/Celexa autism cases; Lexapro/Celexa suicides and suicide attempts

GlaxoSmithKline / SmithKline Beecham: Paxil suicides and suicide attempts; Paxil personal injury litigation (MDL-1574); Avandia heart attacks and strokes



Steve Borthwick said...

HV, So, what do you think would make such errors and fraud less likely? More rigorous testing of products or none?

A Heron's View said...

Basically greedy pharmaceutical companies who bluff medical personal and doctors into believing their false expertise; at the expense of the patients health.

At least with homeopathy a wrongly prescribed remedy will do no damage, whereas the correct works perfectly and that I do know!
You though will never know how good they are until you expand your limited philosophy.

Chairman Bill said...

Remedies that have no effect being used for serious conditions will definitely do harm.

I am horrified to discover that the glass of water I drank just now is homeopathically infested with Julius Caesar's piss.

Steve Borthwick said...

HV, well yes I agree, there are unethical people in this world, but surely that fact supports my argument for proper testing, how else would you propose that we distinguish good from bad drugs?

I would have thought that if Homoeopathy really worked then the "greedy" pharmaceutical companies would be all over it, after all chemically it's just water, the profit margins are huge, they could turn an easy profit (no?) The fact that they don’t want to tarnish even their sullied reputations with it says everything someone with a philosophy “limited” by reason and scepticism like me needs to know. Well, that and the awkward fact that Boiron makes 300 million euros a year flogging water re-labelled as medicine to gullible (sick) people, a stellar example of an unethical “greedy pharmaceutical company” if ever I saw one.

I am reminded of a comment from the House of Lords Science and Technology committee allergy inquiry back in 2007, it’s so damning that it’s worth putting on a tee-shirt.

Lord Broers: I have a simple, technical question about homeopathy and drugs. Is it possible to distinguish between homeopathic drugs after they have been diluted? Is there any means of distinguishing one from the other?

Ms Chatfield [Society of Homeopaths]: Only by the label.

Chairman Bill said...

Big Pharma net margins - ranging from 9% (Sanofi-Aventis) to 24% (Roche), with the rest spread between these figures.

Apple net margin - 21.9%

Dyson net margin - 18.25%.

Seems to me there's a lot of myth surrounding Big Pharma greed. If profits were that high, the shares would be like diamonds, but they're not.

Steve Borthwick said...

CB, interesting numbers, it's also interesting to see a bunch of the tech companies (like Apple) getting into "health" products as fast as their wearable device labs can carry them...