Myths about homeopathy – exposing those who think it is “evidence-based medicine”

Video Transcription

Jeff Korentayer:
I just want to grab a few minutes, I just have a few minutes to spare right now. I became aware of this video on YouTube and I just want to play it. I want to walk through it with you because it illustrates one of the greatest myths that’s out there about homeopathy. And I hope we can use this time profitably, just to set things straight, and get our own thinking straight, about what homeopathy is and where it belongs in the grand history of medicine. So let me just go to the video. Let’s give the video a chance to talk and we will pause and make comments as we go through.

Mani Norland:
I grew up with homeopathy all around me. My father, Misha Norland, is one of the best known homeopaths in the UK. And when I was very young, I had eczema and he treated it successfully with homeopathy. He then went on to open the School of Homeopathy, which I’m now principal at. And I run that school now.

Jeff Korentayer:
Okay. So far, so good. But I’m just gonna drop a little hint here. That when he talks about his personal history and that success story he had of treating the eczema as a child, that’s all well and good. I’m not going to quibble with that. But we’ll see there’s a kind of a running theme. We’re going to notice as we get to the end of this video that he talks about homeopathy, exclusively, in the realm of treating symptoms. And as I say, we will have more to say about that in a couple of minutes.

Mani Norland:
“Homeopathy is a system of natural medicine. It’s evidence-based medicine and it works on the principles of ‘like cures like’.”

Jeff Korentayer:
Okay, I’m gonna cut him off there again. I’m gonna drop another hint. He does correctly identify as a principle of “like cures like”. But what I want to take issue with, in fact very huge issue, with him categorizing homeopathy as “evidence-based medicine”. So just tuck that behind your ear. We will come back to that point again as we get towards the conclusion of this video.

Mani Norland:
“What’s in line with the laws of nature with your immune system to bring about.”

Jeff Korentayer:
Again, I’ll make a quick little comment there. I may be splitting hairs here, but I think it’s part of the spirit of really understanding the error of this. What he’s saying in this video, when he talks about the laws of nature, “like cures like”, working with your immune system to affect the cure, the hairsplitting I would do here – that’s a very misleading way of portraying it. In other words, he’s portraying an idea that somehow, the homeopathic remedy will stimulate the person’s immune system. And that through the person’s immune system, the cure will be conducted. Where, in fact, a more precise understanding leads us to understand that it’s very directly the remedy through the law of similars or “like cures like”. The remedy meeting the disease in the person is where the cure is effected. And then it’s the healing afterwards which is the responsibility of the so-called immune system. Anyways, to say I am splitting hairs here a little bit. But I think it’s important with the point we want to get to with analyzing this video.

Mani Norland:
“Conventional medicine tends to be much more symptom-led. So you would go to see your doctor because you have a rash on your arm. And then the doctor would maybe prescribe a steroid cream that you would put on that rash. A homeopath wants to understand why you got the rash – what was the stress on the organism that caused the rash. And they would look to understand what that was, and then bring the healing about from the inside out. And thereby helping the rash from the inside.”

Jeff Korentayer:
Again, he’s saying some true things, but some things I want to point out a little bit. He does criticize allopathy for only being symptom-focused. But if you watch through this entire video from beginning to end, he only talks about homeopathy on the basis of symptoms. So again, I may be overly critical. Maybe we could find him talking about homeopathy in other ways he did. For example, even in this little blurb here, he did talk about the homeopath looking for the cause, which is a true enough sentiment. But I don’t see how he’s fleshing that out in a true way with the principles that we’re trying to unleash here. So let’s get back to the video.

Mani Norland:
“Almost anything you take to your GP you can take to a homeopath. So yes, of course, it can deal with the aches, pains, the bumps and bruises, the diarrhea, the coughs, the colds, the flu, and the small child’s diseases. But actually it works with much more serious disease as well. We don’t see so much of that here in the UK, but abroad you see a lot of that. But where homeopathy has really earned its laurels in the UK, if you like, is through mental and emotional disease. So, perhaps things that conventional medicine (modern medicine) really struggles with. But you don’t want to be put on antidepressants. Nobody does. But there’s a lot of mental and emotional disease around. And that’s where homeopathy really is good – for those types of ailments, as well as the bigger physical ailments as well.”

Jeff Korentayer:
Again, he’s touching on something that’s true enough. As far as how homeopathy is taken up with the mental and emotional diseases. But again, the running subtext here is that he’s only defining disease and defining treatment, and all the rest of it purely on the basis of symptoms. So let’s get back to it.

Mani Norland:
“In the UK, there are a handful of critics, skeptics, that seem to have made it their business to criticize homeopathy. And they are very vocal and very good at getting headlines. And homeopaths aren’t in the business of marketing and communicating and PR. Homeopaths are in the business of patient care and health. And so we have not been fantastic at responding to these criticisms. And it’s something that we have to get better at. But unfortunately, you know, it does feel like a bit of a distraction, because it’s taking you away from the important work of looking after patients. And things that we get criticized on, most of all, are the ultra dilutions in homeopathy. And these are hard to understand, because science doesn’t understand ultra dilutions. But then science doesn’t understand a lot of the natural world that we see about us. In fact …”

Jeff Korentayer:
Well, I’ll just quickly interrupt him again here. I like a lot of what he said in that little passage. Basically, the skeptics are making a lot of noise, but we’re busy. We’re basically just trying to help people and get on with business. All well and good. Now again, when he’s talking about the criticism of the ultra dilutions (the so called ultra dilutions of homeopathy), he doesn’t really come to answer to this. But again, this can be the topic of a whole separate video that I can do. But really understanding, getting really to the foundational way of understanding physics in a way that really reveals how it is – that a homeopathic medicine can work the way it does – can kind of transmit that additional information in ways that will be taking us way off course from this video. But again, I do want to applaud part of what he’s saying here. Just leave people alone, leave them to engage with their work, engage with the true things in this world. But again, this of course, is what I’m criticizing him in this video is he is off track for the true principles of homeopathy. That’s what I want to stick to in this video today. So let’s get back to him.

Mani Norland:
“…there is a chart that the British Medical Association produces every year and the most recent chart shows that 51% of drugs given out on The NHS have no known effectiveness – 51%. So, to say that we don’t fully understand homeopathy, we don’t fully understand most of the drugs that we’re using with conventional medicine. So I think there is a place to educate and to bring people up to speed with what homeopathy is and how it works. But what we do know about homeopathy is that it does work. Because we see the results, we see people getting better. And not just one or two, we see millions of people getting better around the world all the time.”

Jeff Korentayer:
Okay, again, that’s all well and good. And I applaud that as well – actually seeing the evidence, seeing the results. But the subtext underneath all of this, the main point I really want to bring out about this video and about how we really want to think about homeopathy, is that… Let me back up a bit here. So what he’s saying sounds reasonable, sounds intelligent, and all the rest of it. But when we look back at the history, the long deep history of medicine, back into the long history of philosophy, the history of science, the history of medicine… If you know a little bit of the basic branches of philosophy, the branch known as “epistemology”, that’s the part of philosophy, as well as science, which is all based on the ideas of how we come to have knowledge, what is the capacity of the human being to know certain things, or are there some things that are knowable to us and some that are not.

Anyways, there’s a very big discussion about all that. But just to give us a basic historical context here, that branch of philosophy, known as epistemology, has a major division historically between what’s called the “rational understanding” and the “empirical understanding” of where knowledge come from; or in other words, what are called the “rationalists” and “empiricists”. And this whole language, this whole concept about homeopathy, he’s placing firmly in that camp of empiricism. Well, it’s what he calls evidence-based medicine.

And that side of knowledge, that side of human knowledge, what’s called empiricism as we’re saying, by definition is based on only what we can acquire in terms of our senses – we see things, we smell things, we come to know things just by our direct experience of them. And that’s fair enough, I understand that. But to understand Hahnemann and Heilkunst and his system of medicine, it firmly sits in the rationalist stream of medicine. And what that stream says is that to understand how to, first of all, how to diagnose someone, but then which medicine to give to them. Hahnemann’s system, especially if you look at his writings from about 1790-1796, you can watch him historically make this discovery for himself that he landed firmly in this camp of rational medicine.

In other words, once you understand the principle (and this video did speak to that) that principle of “like cures like”, but in the video he did not ground that in the rationalist stream of medicine. He grounded it in the empiricists. So, in other words, what Hahnemann came to understand was once you understand that as a rational principle, that we can apply based on the workings of nature and so on, that principle of similarity, you can always have definite knowledge. You can be assured of your knowledge that when you properly identify the disease, how it expresses, and identify what that medicine is based on that rational principle, similars, that is what makes the whole the whole system of Heilkunst Medicine unique and special.

Now, I know he plays a lot of lip service. I’m kind of guessing a lot of his narrative, a lot of his thinking, it’s almost like he’s trying to justify homeopathy in terms of allopathic medicine. He’s trying to make homeopathy and Heilkunst (he doesn’t have the concept of Heilkunst), but he’s trying to make Hahnemann’s system fit in to allopathy rather than realized they are on two different streams – like two different train tracks. And they are never going to meet no matter how many trials are done, or experiments with this remedy, that remedy, whatever. You’re never going to find this fundamental thinking about science and medicine that’s going to converge in these two systems.

So anyways, that’s about the time I have for today. But I hope I made the point clear enough. And I hope you get something out of this. And I hope, as I say, you take this forward with you. Well, either in your own thinking – when you’re thinking about homeopathy, how remedies work, how different treatments work and so on. That you just bear this framework in the back of your mind, between rational realism and empiricism. And I think it will help you illuminate a lot of places where otherwise people can get confused. So I will see you in the next video. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to type them in the comments below. I will get them. I’ll get to them in a future video and I will be seeing you soon.

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