Don't be scared.. here's some science!
I recently went to London for a workshop run by Dr Alex Tournier of the Homeopathy Research Institute. He was talking about the science and evidence for homeopathy and it was a facinating and enlightening day.
One of the research papers our critics always throw at us is the Shang paper in the Lancet which was a major meta-analysis of 110 randomized, placebo-controlled trials (RCTs) of homeopathy compared with similar trials of conventional medicines. When it was published in 2005 The Lancet heralded it as marking the end of homeopathy. I suspect very few of the people who talk about it have actually read it. The whole article talks about the fact that results of homeopathic and conventional trials were comparable, then the final paragraph on the results section and the discussion say exactly the opposite. It was denounced by many, many people for the lack of transparency (it took a year for the authors to say which studies that had used) and the headline conclusion was based on only 14 papers (8 homeopathy and 6 conventional medicine) and illustrated data dredging and statistical manipulation of the worst kind.
These two graphs come from that paper. The top graph is homeopathy trials, bottom one is conventional medicine ones. All you really need to know is that if the spots are to the left of the vertical line the effects were better than would be expected from a placebo.The further left the spots, the better the outcome. I think anyone would agree, both graphs look pretty similar and the majority of points in both are to the left of the line which shows the treatments were effective. The nearer the top of the graph the spots are, the more precise the outcomes were.
See here for Studying the Studies: Meta Analysis an HRI newsletter which discusses the Shang paper and the other 5 meta analysis papers which showed homeopathy was effective.
Many articles were published as a response to the Shang paper, I think this one is very clear and to the point. Domenico Mastrangelo, The Growth of a Lie and the End of 'Conventional' Medicine He is not a homeopath, but an Italian ophthalmologist from Siena who is curious about water structure and the possible mechanisms which might explain the actions of homeopathic remedies.
If you would like to know more about the academic research in homeopathy a large number of full papers are available on this homeopathy knol website
Alex also talked about some of the work of Luc Montagnier which has been very controversial. He won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for his research on HIV and retro-viruses and then in 2009 published a paper entitled 'Electromagnetic signals are produced by aqueous nanostructures derived from bacterial DNA sequences' - this paper generated a barrage of abuse and criticism from the scientific community and he has now left Europe to continue his research in China.
This video is a discussion of his research and the implication for life and science in general. It is pretty academic in places but I urge you to watch the first 10 minutes where Montagnier's experiments, and the reason for the controversy surrounding them, are very clearly explained in cartoon form. They are extremely similar in many respects to the work of the late Jacques Benveniste. I'll write more about him in a later blog.
Bill Gray's book Homeopathy: Science or Myth is an excellent and clear guide to the experiments of Benveniste and other ultra-low dilution research if you would like to find out more about the subject. It was published in 2000 so doesn't contain Montagnier's work. It does have a lot of science in there but is explained very clearly. Some of the pages are available to view on Amazon.
Jo Rhodes is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.