I don’t know much about the topic of homeopathy. I have really only read mainstream “skeptics” railing about how ridiculous it is. I came across a twitter post by someone called Yvette with the Twitter handle of @TheSciBabe.
For some reason that post got me thinking and I responded with the following question:
Not an expert but isn’t the non BS oral immunotherapy for peanut allergies, for example, a kind of homeopathy?
For those that don’t know, oral immunotherapy for peanut allergies involves treating an allergy sufferer with miniscule amounts of peanut at a point where they show no allergic symptoms. Slowly over time the sufferer is given increasingly larger doses of peanut. In this way, many people are able to overcome their peanut allergy.
to start with, you don’t know what homeopathy is.
I countered with the Merriam-Webster definition of homeopathy:
a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in larger amounts produce in healthy persons symptoms similar to those of the disease
So here I show her that, despite her arrogant pronouncement to the contrary, I in fact do know what homeopathy is. And, if you look at the definition and compare that to the process of peanut allergy oral immunotherapy, it seems like I do have a point. A point which seems to suggest that her initial dogmatic pronouncement was in error.
There is a bit of a sticking point in that with homeopathy generally, the remedy in large doses would produce symptoms in a healthy person. Whereas with peanuts, the symptoms would only be produced in those that, while otherwise healthy, have a peanut allergy. But peanut allergy sufferers are otherwise healthy people.
That aside, oral immunotherapy appears to be a form of homeopathy. Of course she does not respond to this point. She does make several other posts though:
Dana, I think this guy isn’t worth the time.
I have a book to edit. You’re so adorable if you think that’s the reason why I’m leaving an argument with someone with 200 followers.
No, you have no “rightness.”
This exchange is very bizarre because as I understand, Yvette has a decent science background in chemistry and forensic science. Her Twitter profile indicates that she is interested in promoting science. Yet the way she conducts herself online is anything but someone with a rigorous scientific outlook.
Someone that valued science would impartially look at my question and either 1) refute it in some way, 2) agree that I have a point, 3) admit that it is an interesting question but did not have an answer right now or 4) just ignore it. Yvette on the other hand chose to make the effort to attack me instead of my argument.
In fact, a cursory search seems to show that certain homeopathic preparations have been found to have some benefit. For example, in replications of in vitro homeopathic experimental models, a meta analysis on individualized homeopathy and a debunking of the Australian Report. The “Science Babe” though seems to prefer dogmatic pronouncements of faith over the scientific method.
What we have have is a common problem with pathological skeptics, generalization error. In this particular case, hasty generalization. “Skeptics” look at a few instances of homeopathy, find little to no evidence that it is effective and come to the sweeping conclusion that it is all bunk. This becomes an ingrained belief and anything that comes along to threaten that belief, like my question or a new study, is ignored and even pompously attacked, due to their blinding rage of confirmation bias.