Monday, October 16, 2017

A Challenge for Homeopaths

Homeopathy is a body of "knowledge" wherein it is believed that ingredients that cause a symptom when consumed in full strength can be used to treat health issues that have those same symptoms.

At least some homeopaths cause patients to delay real treatment for diseases like cancer, and thereby to die.

The discipline (in the sense of its adherents being disciples) was created, entirely out of whole cloth, at a time when placebos could conceivably be better than the real medical treatments of the day. That's one proposed reason for its rise in popularity.

Not coincidentally, homeopathic remedies require extreme dilution, to the point where the mathematical modelling demonstrates that the remedy contains none of the original active ingredient.

Homeopaths claim that a higher amount of dilution, even well past the point where there is nothing left but water, boosts a remedy's strength and effectiveness.

I'm sure this is an overly simplistic summary of homeopathy. Just as there are entire universities where people study for many years in theology, the more fictional a structured field of study, the more esoteric the knowledge must become. Much of the body of knowledge and study must be focused on learning and developing "outs", i.e. the ability to shift goalposts in order to keep the main hypothesis unfalsifiable.

So, based on this take of homeopathy, here is my challenge:

You need not use a remedy to successfully treat a disorder, because that would allow for the aforementioned goalpost shifting ("it doesn't work if you don't believe").

I will merely supply several samples of homeopathic remedies. They will all be samples from real purveyors of homeopathy. For each sample, you need only tell me what the active ingredients are, and at what concentrations.

You can use whatever equipment you would like in order to do the analysis. You can use the samples on people - even true believers - to measure the effect; anything you like as long as the challenge is conducted with your ignorance of the source samples.

In the spirit of James Randi's million dollar challenge, and in light of my inferior financial position (given the need for escrow), I'd suggest a $1000 prize, or perhaps I can crowdfund the prize money, so you can win from lots of non-believers.

Either way, it will be worth your while to merely prove to me that your career isn't a giant fraud, and that you didn't waste all those weeks at the Unaccredited University for Fictional Studies.

Are you up to the challenge?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Trump's Inauguration Speech

So, if you haven't, watch Trump's inauguration speech. Don't watch excerpts, which can introduce bias; go to the source and watch the whole thing.

I can see how people could see it as inspiring or uplifting, or other positive things.

I thought it was pretty worrying if seen through the lens of examples of fervent, populist movements concentrating power at the top. His references to hearing the people's voices and that people wouldn't be unheard anymore was particularly scary, as he didn't show how he'd actually be listening to individual real people, and deliberating rationally based on those inputs.

Instead, it sounds like he'll be doing what is needed to maintain that fervour and to increase his power, i.e. he'll be the figurehead of a mob. That's a power structure that is easy to exceed the limits of American constitutionalism. And without that, there's the risk of some very dark times.

But like I said, watch it for yourself. I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong.