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Posts Tagged ‘Rustum Roy’

Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007
Climate change

Well it’s supposed to be that season, though with the current thickness and intensity prevailing in many areas of community and inter-community relations the world over, things feel very far from peaceful.

Astrologically, the conjunction of the Sun, Jupiter, Mercury and Pluto at the Galactic centre, which was at its closest December 15 through 21 just as Saturn was stationing to turn retrograde on the 19th, made this something of a tipping point in relation to negotiations between different thought systems. With conscious awareness (Sun), thought systems/communication (Mercury) and destiny/the big picture (Jupiter) aligned with the planet of transformation (Pluto) and insight into the fundamental nature of things (Galactic centre), the opportunity arose to re-evaluate the nature of the structure and boundaries (Saturn retrograde) of our notions of “reality”. And with this little party in broad opposition to a loose grouping of Mars (also retrograde), Hades and Kronos, the battle lines are clear: the foregoing are challenging the forces of will (Mars, in internalised mode) and authority (Kronos) which are mixing it with the forces of disintegration and primal “Dreamtime” reality (Hades). Hades trine to Apollon, the manifestation of the unfolding expression of universal laws and principles, also underlines the disintegration of outmoded ways of being in favour of greater harmony and balance, as does Saturn’s quintile aspect to Hades.

Chart for December 18 2007

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Appropriate then that the closing days of the Bali climate conference strayed into this astrological territory. While producing nothing of any significance in terms of concrete measures, the drama nevertheless signified a massive symbolic victory for the forces of sense, compassion, reason and people power over human greed and hubris. Protocols were broken, David took on Goliath. In the face of the US delegation’s sabotaging of every initiative towards progress on CO2 emission targets, the delegate for Papua New Guinea, Kevin Conrad, stood up and said

“We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.”

to loud cheers from the assembly, while any continued attempts of the US delegation to block progress was treated to booing and hissing. As the leading article in the Independent of December 16 put it,

Last week was the week, and yesterday was the day, when the world finally showed that it was terminally fed up with the simple-minded, short-sighted and self-serving outlook of George Bush. The moment came not, as it well might have done, amid the dust and bloody debris of Iraq or the torture and state terrorism of Guantanamo Bay, but in Indonesia’s lush and lovely Island of the Gods. And, appropriately, it came over climate change – the issue on which the “toxic Texan” first showed that he was going to put his ideological instincts and oil-soaked obstinacy over the interests of the rest of the world and of future generations.


It is simply not done in international negotiations for one country to single out another for criticism; it’s the equivalent of calling someone a liar in the House of Commons. But from early last week other delegations were publicly, unprecedentedly and explicitly blaming the US for the lack of progress. Worse, they were beginning to point the finger at President Bush himself, suggesting that things would improve once he was gone. That is the kind of humiliation reserved for such international pariahs as Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein. But even they were never subjected to the treatment that America received yesterday morning. When it tried, yet again, to sabotage agreement the representatives of the other 187 governments broke into boos and hisses. When Papua New Guinea told the US to “get out of the way”, they cheered.

Meanwhile the hysterical attacks on homeopathy in the UK continue apace. This vocal minority of sceptics might be more plausible if they actually stuck to the facts of the matter, yet as we’ve seen, even supposedly august scierntific journals are not above publishing falsehoods in support of the editor’s own opinions on the matter (see last month’s posts). The facts of the matter are that the “hard” evidence is inconclusive, which means … ummm … it’s inconclusive: neither validating nor invalidating. However, such enthusiasm for distorting the evidence can only ultimately be seen for what it is. Hopefully the recent planetary alignment will provoke a breakthrough and lead to more reasoned and properly evidenced debate on the matter.

As it happened, December 19 saw the publication of an article in the Guardian by Rustum Roy entitled Homeophobia must not be tolerated, though to date, judging by the voluminous comments to the article, no Bali-style turning points have materialised.

Kind of tragic

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

“We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.”
Rabindranath Tagore

The homeophobes (a term coined by Jeanette Winterson in her Guardian article In Defence of Homeopathy this week) really seem to have the bit between their teeth these days. Yesterday’s publication of The Lancet revealed a comment piece penned by none other than Ben Goldacre, which he supplemented by a more emotive piece, A Kind of Magic?, saying much the same thing in the Guardian.

While recognising the utter pointlessness of arguing back – irreconcilable systems of thought can’t be reconciled in each other’s terms but only by a system of higher order, a metatheory that can encompass both (see Unscientific Attachment for more on this) – I felt Goldacre has had things his own way for quite long enough and it was time to send a letter to the Guardian. Whether it’s published or not is another matter, of course, but here it is in any case.


In his November 16 Bad Science article A Kind of Magic?, Ben Goldacre writes: “This is all good fun, but my adamant stance, that I absolutely lack any authority, is key: because this is not about one man’s opinion …”

Unfortunately Dr Goldacre seems somewhat deluded on this point. This is very much about one man’s opinion (and a few others like him). He seems very fond of assuming the mantle of ‘science’ and claiming to speak in its name. However, ‘science’ does not speak with one voice – if it did, it wouldn’t be science – and his oft-repeated mantra that homeopathy avoids scientific scrutiny and that there’s no proof for its efficacy is complete nonscience. There are many people within the boundaries of what Dr Goldacre might define as ‘science’ working hard on the subject, and a large number of high quality trials testing the therapy in terms of its principles as well as its remedies have now been published.

So many, in fact, that the 2005 Shang et al meta-analysis which featured in The Lancet’s last attempt to dismiss homeopathy identified 110 which matched their stringent criteria for inclusion. Why that 110 was reduced to 8 unidentified trials in the final analysis still remains to be answered. At the very least this was a violation of transparency which should never have passed peer review. The analysis also failed to make any comparison between the homeopathic and conventional trials it finally selected. Could that be because there was no statistical difference between the two interventions? So if homeopathy is nothing but placebo, and conventional medicine no better, why is the NHS teetering towards bankruptcy because of the amount it has to spend on drugs, which, according to a 2000 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, are responsible for over 106,000 deaths annually in the US through side effects alone? We should all be on placebo!

Dr Goldacre holds up randomized controlled trials as the gold standard in evidence-based medicine but seems to forget that these are what they are – trials. It’s estimated that up to one fifth of all new prescription drugs may eventually be recalled or produce potentially harmful side effects (JAMA again, 2002). A 20% failure rate is not much of a gold standard. The gold standard for evidence-based medicine is surely “does it work in practice”? There are now several large-scale long-term clinical studies of homeopathy showing that it not only produces outcomes comparable with conventional medicine, but in some cases (a 2005 German study by Witt et al) better. A 2002 literature review by an Italian Advisory Board came to the same conclusion.

His adherence to the dogma that homeopathy’s use of extreme dilutions renders any potential action impossible is mistaking the map for the territory and ” … relies on a quaint old idea from the nineteenth century that the ONLY way that the property of water can be affected or changed is by incorporating foreign molecules. This is the Avogadro-limit high-school level chemistry argument. To a materials scientist this notion is absurd, since the fundamental paradigm of materials-science is that the structure-property relationship is the basic determinant of everything. It is a fact that the structure of water and therefore the informational content of water can be altered in infinite ways.” ?(Prof Rustum Roy PhD, Evan Pugh Professor of the Solid State Emeritus; Professor of Science, Technology and Society Emeritus; Professor of Geochemistry Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University).

Dr Goldacre may not value patient choice, but the interests of evidence-based medicine alone would seem to be demanding that he indulge in a little more scientific study and a little less opinionated prejudice. The research is all there and it would be kind of tragic if a valid and effective therapeutic option were lost to us for no good reason other than that it violates our present consensus conception of how the world works. The core of the scientific method is that if the evidence contradicts the theory then it’s the theory that gets questioned.

Yours etc

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
Søren Kierkegaard

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard