Haukur Þorgeirsson wrote:
IIRC you were
the one carrying on about childbirth being "punishment for
I'm sorry if you misunderstood. I was quoting the Genesis, which is one of
the books of the Bible. I am not personally of the opinion that all women
should suffer in childbirth because of Eve's transgression.
Quoting the Bible in a context about science has its pitfalls. :-)
possible state where homeopathy might not work is
different the inflexible POV that it has already happened. Your, "What
would it take for you to be convinced that..." attitude suggests
inflexibility. There can be no consensus if you prejudge the result.
I think we probably have somewhat different ways to think about things
since I frequently fail to understand your paragraphs. You originally
"Even if homeopathic medicines turn out to be inert placebos, placebos
still have a level of effectiveness that exceeds doing nothing."
And I asked you what events would bring about this "turn-out-to-be" state.
What debunking would be sufficient? What test failure would do?
When you begin from the premise that something must be "debunked" you
make an assumption that that is the inevitable goal of the discussion.
I have never claimed to have ever used homeopathy, and I really don't
know what I would do if the occasion ever arose. Under those
circumstances it doesn't matter to me whether the tests would fail. If
you show me conclusively that a particular homeopathic medicine is
ineffective it's still not rational to extrapolate that result to all
the other such medicines. Neither am I ready to make the kind of study
that would satisfactorily bring me to a specific stand on either the
validity or invalidity of homeopathy. I can imagine myself arguing in
the same way as I am now if your views were completely the opposite to
what they actually are.
It's not homeopathy that interests me; it's the rigorous application of
the scientific method no matter where it leads me. The fact that a
"science", to use the term broadly, has not been proven does not mean
that it has been proven false. The burden of proof remains with the
person who claims that it is valid. The person who isists that
something is false manages to shif that burden to himself when it is not
necessary to do so.
Conversely, I can easily outline circumstances in which
I would accept
homeopathy as valid. I consider it beyond the realm of the probable - but
it could theoretically happen.
That statement is self contradictory. To be meaningful it would require
invoking the concept of negative probability. Perhaps you are not using
the term "probability" in a mathematical sense.
Allow me to quote from Richard Feynman, he puts it
better than I ever could.
- - -
Example. I'm in Las Vegas, suppose. And I meet a mind reader, or, let's
say, a man who claims not to be a mind reader, but more technically
speaking to have the ability of telekinesis, which means that he can
influece the way things behave by pure thought. This fellow comes to me,
and he says, "I will demonstrate this to you. We will stand at the
roulette wheel and I will tell you ahead of time whether it is going to be
black or red on every shot."
I believe, say, before I begin, it doesn't make any difference what number
you choose for this. I happen to be prejudiced against mind readers from
experience in nature, in physics. I don't see, if I believe that man is
made out of atoms and if I know all of the - most of the - ways atoms
interact with each other, any direct way in which the machinations in the
mind can affect the ball. So from other experience and general knowledge,
I have a strong prejudice against mind readers. Million to one.
Now we begin. The mind reader says it's going to be black. It's black. The
mind reader says it's going to be red. It's red. Do I believe in mind
readers? No. It could happen. The mind reader says it's going to be black.
It's black. The mind reader says it's going to be red. It's red. Sweat.
I'm about to learn something. This continues, let us suppose, for ten
times. Now it's possible by chance that that happened ten times, but the
odds are a thousand to one against it. Therefore, I now have to conclude
that the odds that a mind reader is really doing it are a thousand to one
that he's not a mind reader still, but it was a million to one before. But
if I get ten more, you see, he'll convince me. Not quite. One must always
allow for alternative theories. There is another theory that I should have
mentioned before. As we went up to the roulette table, I must have thought
in my mind of the possibility that there is collusion between the
so-called mind reader and the people at the table. That's possible.
Now suppose that we go to another club, and it works, and another one and
it works. I buy dice and it works. I take him home and I build a roulette
wheel; it works. What do I conclude? I conclude he is a mind reader.
- - -
- From "This Unscientific Age", a lecture given in 1963. Here quoted from
"The Meaning of It All", published by Penguin Books in 1999, pp. 68-70.
Apart from his harmless confusion between the different psychic
phenomena, I have no problem with this story. He has made a
probabilistic determination that the person is a "mind reader"; he has
not proven it (The actual phenomenon involved would likely be
precognition, or less likely psychokinesis. There is no "mind reading"
unless the knowledge is gained from what someone else already knew
through normal means. This error is harmless in these circumstances.)
redirects me to an nih site on nucleic acids and the word
"placebo" does not appear there at all.
Sorry, I had two PubMed links open - that one was something
I was using for my M.S. thesis. My bad :) A Google search will
reveal the page I intended to send you to.
Thanks, I may look for it.
If the data on
the placebo effect is of such poor quality it
does not strike me as scientific to novertheless use it as a reference
I think this article probably argues for more research
into the placebo effect. If you search PubMed for the
words "placebo effect" you will, however, find a
reasonable amount of recent articles.
If that's their argument I support it.
How does the
"effect in the placebo arm" differ from the "placebo effect"?
Not having actually read the article I cannot say for sure.
My guess is that they want to distinguish the *change* that
occurs in the placebo arm of an experiment from the *effect*
of the placebo they are given. That is to say a part of the
placebo group may get better without it having anything to
do with the placebo - they might have gotten better even
The do-nothing group is yet another reference group, but IIRC placebo
groups often tend to do better if only because those receiving the
placebo believe that they are getting real medicine. This gets us into
questions about the healing power of one's own mind.