New Zealand’s Best Known Homeopath is Interviewed

25 02 2009

Recently “New Zealand’s best known homeopath” (I have never heard of her – perhaps I don’t watch enough television), Gwyneth Evans featured on Breakfast on TV One to respond to the criticisms made by Dr Shaun Holt that homeopathy only operates due to the placebo effect.

I would hope that the average New Zealander would watch this clip and not require a deep understanding of science or the scientific method to see homeopathy for what it is – wishful thinking.

While briefly explaining the underpinning framework for homeopathy, Mrs Evans says that it has been around for 200 years. The only comment I have in response to this is that I am pleased that due to modern medicines reliance on the scientific method, it has done away with bloodletting, the theory of four humours, and astrological influences on medicine.

However, rather than presenting a general critique of homeopathy (if you are interested then have a read of Dr Stephen Barrett’s article) I want to touch upon some of the things raised by Mrs Evans.

When asked about the efficacy of homeopathy, her reply is that rather than relying upon a crude physiological drug, there is a homeopathic energy or vibration that is retained in the substance that triggers the bodies own innate healing power.

As with most woo, once again ‘energy’ is presented as some kind of magical field or property (for which there is no scientific evidence of). To borrow the term used by Brian Dunning, energy is a measurement of something’s ability to perform work. It is not some all encompassing field that impacts upon vials of water sold as medicine or people, in this respect there is a distinct common misunderstanding about what ‘energy’ actually is.

Consider Einstein’s well known and little understood equation of E=MC2, mass can be expressed in grams and speed in metres per second. So simply put an objects energy equals the amount of work it takes to move a few grams a few metres in a few seconds. Energy is a measurement of work, not some bizarre made up energy field akin to the Force from Starwars.

With this in mind, it simply does not make any logical sense to say that the water retains the energy or the vibrations of original substance it contained and that it somehow interacts with the body’s ‘energy’.

Furthermore, if it did indeed trigger the body’s innate healing power, then this should be something that can be scientifically observed and I am still waiting on the evidence for this and the underlying theory about its mechanism.

While I am on this subject, further on into the interview Mrs Evans is asked about the scientific evidence for homeopathy, and she pulls out the old “it’s a different paradigm” card. What she means is that the homeopathic community has decided that the rigorous testing that science demands no longer applies to them as it has a different understanding of disease and health when compared to evidence based practises.

I would hazard a guess that the reason for such an attitude is because there is very little scientific evidence for her discipline, if the scientific evidence supported homeopathy, do you think that homeopaths would be saying that the positive results did not apply to them as their paradigm cannot be measured by science? On the contrary they would be quick to trumpet the results.

It is quite simple, there is no paradigm shift, homeopathy claims to cure people of illness and therefore its effects are measurable. Homeopathy claims to trigger an innate healing ability and therefore there is a physiological response, which requires a mechanism.




6 responses

25 02 2009
Bruce (wombatwal)

Why is it that woos always say that science cannot study their brand of woo, big cop out. With this TV show there was no critical analysis of what she was saying. What show is this, one of those morning shows for the intellectually challenged on the commercial stations?
One good question to homeopaths would be to ask what about all of the other substances that has been in water. What happens to their vibrations.

25 02 2009

Yes, Pippa Wetzel does a poor job when it comes to challenging people in interviews. I would imagine that the other host Paul Henry would do a far better job of it, but it is meant as some light discussion for those people falling out of bed in the mornings. Evans was bought onto the show due to respond to criticisms made by Shaun Holt on the same show, which can be viewed here.

One thing I forget to mention in relation to the paradigm issue is that if we cannot observe or understand the mechanisms of homeopathy then what magical abilities does a homeopath have that enables them to observe and understand it, because at some point one of them must of in order to desribe the vibrational energy of the water and its effects on people – or perhaps its because its the product of some imaginary thinking.

25 02 2009

Good post 🙂

It is nice to see homeopathy debate getting some airtime in NZ and I was quite impressed by Shaun Holt’s presence on the show – quite refreshing! I recommend looking at the other videos on his youtube account as well.

28 02 2009
Paul from Canterbury Atheists Blog

Late last year I did an investigation/article entitled “New Zealand’s Vitamin and Natural Health Food Hustle” (click on name to read)

Anyway I sent a copy of this article in letter form, to the new people in the corridors of power in this country, in the forlorn hope they would do something, in the form of consumer protection.

You guessed it – nothing happened, I got an acknowledgement and little else.

It appears this ‘can of worms’ is too large for our politicians and law-makers, and this is fact is exploited to the full.

Keep the good work-up.


25 05 2009

“Furthermore, if it did indeed trigger the body’s innate healing power, then this should be something that can be scientifically observed and I am still waiting on the evidence for this and the underlying theory about its mechanism.”

The mechanism isn’t as important as the evidence. Any evidence would prompt investigation into the mechanism but that trigger is needed first.

I think Tim Minchin says it best in his poem “Storm“;
“Hm that’s a good point, let me think for a bit
Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
If you show me
That, say, homeopathy works,
Then I will change my mind
I’ll spin on a fucking dime
I’ll be embarrassed as hell,
But I will run through the streets yelling
It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it’s memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!

You show me that it works and how it works
And when I’ve recovered from the shock
I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock”

Christiaan, could you also get in touch with me? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you regarding a Skeptics in the Pub meetup.

25 11 2010

I don’t think anyone should underestimate the importance of an alternative to mainstream medicine, I live in the United States and find it disgusting and depressing to see how the pharmaceutical companies control and abuse the health system and ultimately the lives of people. Knowing there is an alternative to this very corrupt system is what makes it possible for ME to live here. I have used homeopathy many times with excellent results and will continue to do so regardless of the ‘sceptics’ .

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