Monday, 24 August 2009

Homeopathic Vaccinations? Oh, Please.

This morning David and Kim (admittedly hardly paragons of scientific virtue) really dropped the ball.

Not only did they give a substantial chunk of air time to Isaac Golden, a “doctor” of homeopathy with some very strange ideas about vaccinating using homeopathy, their resident actual doctor Nikolai Petrovsky completely failed to call Golden on any of the bullshit he was spouting.

Warning: video may induce the urge to hit head on desk.

The video has been removed from YouTube because of a copyright claim from Channel Ten, but you can find a transcript here.

At timestamp 4:10 Golden claimed to have a homeopathic treatment for swine flu, and it was actually David who asked the very good question: “What is it? What are the components of it?”

Golden started banging on about the “law of similars” and similar nonsense, and Petrovsky still didn’t call him on it.

All Dr. Petrovsky had to say was “I’ll tell you what the components are David … it’s simple. In fact there’s just the one. Water! That’s it! You could fill your syringe up at the tap and it’d do you just as much good as a homeopathic vaccination. In fact, screw the $400,000 the Cubans apparently paid for their treatments. I’ll do it for $50,000 and a slab.”

But no … all Petrovsky could manage was some lame protests that “vaccines work” before being interrupted by Golden with some hand-waving about a “major scientific paper about to be published”.

Just quietly, I’m not holding my breath for that one.

The real concern here is that viewers watching this piece may have come away thinking that homeopathic vaccination is a viable alternative to genuine vaccination.

I’d like to see a follow-up piece, in which it’s clearly explained that the claims of homeopathic practitioners fly in the face of all known scientific principles, that homeopathy has never been shown to have any effect in a properly controlled double-blinded trial, and most importantly, that homeopathic solutions are indistinguishable from everyday tap water.


Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Yes it was a very sad segment. Major air time given to an unproven modality in the wake of a pandemic. What's next listening to psychics give advice on the stock market?

Jason said...

I can't say I'm that surprised that a morning TV programme has sunk to this point, but I'm going to be a horrible pedantic bastard now:

"homeopathy has never been shown to have any effect in a properly controlled double-blinded trial"

should be

"homeopathy has never been shown to have any effect greater than placebo in a properly controlled double-blinded trial"

Yes, I know the trial description implies this, but some punters need it spelling out.

Yes, homeopathy can appear to have an effect. Yes, that effect is indistinguishable from what you'd get from a placebo. This is exactly why nutters think it works. It seems to work, some of the time, if you expect it to. But so would a non-homeopathic equivalent, if administered in the same way.

But it ain't a vaccine, and it never will be. Vaccines most certainly do have an effect beyond placebo and no amount of denial, equivocation or bleating about homeopathy being a valid alternative can change that.

I'll shut up now...

Matt said...

That's a good point, Jason ... and precision does matter when it comes to this kind of thing.

Dave ~ said...


One step forward, eight steps back.

I just freaked out my fellow workers by yelling at the computer screen. Anyone with half a brain should have been asking the basic questions here.

I have a feeling if they ask the hard questions on morning television they'd scare off future guests. Then they'd be left with talking about their weekends, their favourite pens and whatever happened to their TV careers....

Anonymous said...

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