Sunday, October 23, 2011

Homeopathy, Fempecked

It has been made known to me that Rebecca Watson, strong and competent advocate of science, has produced a video in which she brings to bear her much commended knowledge of the basic science on the matter of homeopathy, one of her specialties noted by PZ Myers. According to Myers, one needn't publish science papers to speak competently on science. True enough. But according to him, Watson (by name) has done a "fine job on explaining alternative medicine and how homeopathy doesn't work."

So, in his leisure time, when he's not white knighting, perhaps he should look at her doing this 'fine job'.In her most recent contribution to the public understanding of homeopathy, she sets on display the full weight of her penetrating knowledge. Please watch before reading on. I know, I know. You only need to get through the first minute forty-five or so.

She claims (claim 1) that if you asked a homeopath, the homeopath would tell you the following: if you bought some produce and failed to wash it such that when you ate it still had shit on it and you contracted e. coli, the homeopath would prescribe that you eat more shit because like cures like.

Well, I'm not normally in the habit of defending woo, but at least get the claim right, ma'am. Like cures like. Shit != e. coli. If one contracted a disease, the symptoms would be what are viewed as similar. The symptoms are the familiar results of gastroenteritis: diarrhea, pain, abdominal distention. These are hardly restricted to e. coli infection, and are certainly not a necessary consequence of shit. This all presumes, of course, that what is caused by the e. coli in question isn't just a UTI, or deadly meningitis. So, no, a homeopath wouldn't advise one to eat more shit - not even a little (see claim 2). What one might advise use of would perhaps be something silly like arsenicum album, or colocynthis, or gelsemium, or any host of other things that are conspicuously not listed as 'fecal matter'.

How do I know? Well, it's a little thing that's generally known as being educated about a topic before discussing it. It's not like this is secret information one has to go to quack school to learn about. One can spend a few minutes at Google University and see this. Of course, this depends on one being able to differentiate cause from sign from symptom from mechanism of infection.  Watson seems to think that e. coli having a mechanism of infection riding on some shit means that the mechanism of infection is the thing to be treated. The homeopaths are quacks, but not retards. They at least know the thing to be treated are the symptoms, and the cause of the infection - not the medium through which the pathogen is transmitted.

Picture it: any trauma room, USA. The trauma team is scrubbed, gloved and awaiting arrival of a patient reported to be bleeding from the chest (sign), in pain (symptom), penetrating chest wound (cause) from a gunshot (mechanism). Our highly trained team then approaches the gurney, pull back the cover to begin treating a .357 revolver. This is the rough analogy Watson has drawn.

She goes on to say that dilution is like taking a 'tiny' amount of 'fecal matter', putting it in a glass and shaking that up, taking out 'a drop', putting it in a swimming pool, mixing that up, taking out a drop and puting it in the ocean, and then we're on our way to having a remedy.

Well, no. That's not how they prepare homeopathic remedies. It's not even the same scale. I linked to a video by a silly graduate student who did a replication of the actual advised process using household bleach, mathematics, scale, at (no real) risk to his own health to demonstrate the process. To include the process known as 'potentization', which is noticeably unlike a swimming pool or ocean. (video embedded at the end).

Also, there's an important number threshold that is passed in this process, but Watson clearly is unaware of this - hence the drop to swimming pool reference. And drop to ocean reference. She doesn't know the mathematics on it. Scale is meaningless, to say nothing of introducing to the 'sugar and water' confuction some seawater, chlorine, unmediated controls, a dubiously inaccurate method, and, of course, the mechanism of transmission instead of the pathogen or symptom thereof ultimately that is 'like' the thing to be prescribed (depending on the results of an exam and the totality of the circumstances).

Also of note is that she introduces a new element to the Periodic Table: shit.  Apparently, one can have 1 atom of shit, which I've labeled a shatum (atomic number 2), not to be confused with a shmatum (its diatomic, natural state, usually found embedded in the most common element, atomic number 1).

Why does this matter? Normally, it wouldn't - one quack talking about other quacks is normally not a cause for my attention. Except a noted scientist is pointing to this quack and saying she does a 'fine job' of explaining this - presumably, fine means 'without any semblance of science education, or understanding' despite his having said she understands the basic science. No, PZ, what Watson does is what the creationists do - she fucking butchers science and then states a conclusion not borne out by her chain of reasoning (based on a complete absence of evidence one notes). It's just okay when she does it because she's saying the right conclusion, I guess.

To paraphrase a friend of mine, Watson only knows how to operate by taking another's position, mangling it and then attacking that MANglation.

Here are some screen shots of PZ lambasting one quack (Althouse) in favor of lauding another quack (Watson), noting that the first quack was no match for the second, and the ensuing exchange:

PZ Speaks

Someone who's literate responds

PZ speaks again - out of his ass, again
Remember, Rebecca Watson could be educating people near you. So long as people are happy with this dumbass who has delusions of mediocrity, then we'll continue having such a profoundly unlettered halfwit be a public (horse) face of our movement.

Here's Myles.


Mike Fisher said...

Thanks, but the screen shots are unreadable

The Justicar said...

If you click on them, they open up and are readable.

John D said...

She is obviously communicating with people who are as simple-minded as the ones who believe in homeopathy.  In this case, the idiotic audience just want a good dramatic explanation regardless of accuracy.  It is the Oprah Winfrey approach to communications.  Tell a compelling narative and the facts don't really matter.

I am no genius (well... maybe I'm a genius... I've never been tested... but I almost 4 pointed my BS and MS degrees... but I digress), but I like a story that uses facts.  Very few other humans agree with me on this.  Most of my fellow monkeys like to be told a fictional story and pretend it is real.  I don't know why this is other than they don't usually use facts in their life anyway.

My wife and I were watching a movie and sitting through the trailers last night.  The new movie about J. Edgar Hoover was advertized.  Right away I knew it was a fiction and they even said it was "based on a true story".  I turn to her and say... "Crap... Hoover is really interesting.  Why do they have to fictionalize this guy?  He was a fucking maniac!"  and she says... "This movie is not for you.  It is for everyone else.  You should stay home and watch a documentary!"

Haha!  Of course she is right.  Have I mentioned that I love my wife.  She reminds me that I can't change the world.

The Justicar said...

Have I mentioned I love your wife too? Anyone who can put you on a leash is a okay in my book!
Sitting through the trailers? You two visited Laden?

0verlord said...

If Watson were actually successful at
educating all the "idiots" who watch her videos and (ahem) lectures,
she'd lose her audience.

John D said...

Okay...  Thus proving I am not a genius.  Please explain this joke to me.

 and Justicar... I will let me wife know how you feel.

The Justicar said...

Which joke? It's not usually good for a married guy to go telling his wife how a gay guy feels. =p

The Justicar said...

Oh. The trailer joke. Laden PhD from Harvard and holier than thou apparently flew off the handle about all these poor trailer trash neighbors of his in his trailer park. See my explanation. At Abbie's!

John D said...

Wow... okay... too much of an inside joke for me (regarding trailers).  Thanks for the clarification.... and furthermore... how do you know if my wife wouldn't like to join in?

The Justicar said...

Touche! It is it the internet; I should have guessed you'd be straight up freaks. =P

The Justicar said...

I was thinking of what to say in response to this. I don't for a second disagree. Just the thought of a world where any random audience would immediately know she's full of shit stopped me dead in my tracks. I guess when I dream, it's not always of a pony!

gr8hands said...

Headline:  Justicar admits beastiality fantasies!  SPCA alerted.

Kevin Bonham said...

This reminds me of that John Stewart bit about Michelle Bachmann - "You used that photo in a petty attempt to make Michelle Bachmann look crazy, and that's what her words are for." (

I saw Greg Laden link to this video, watched it and thought, "You don't need to go making shit up to make homeopaths look crazy, what they actually believe is crazy enough." Useless.

Scented Nectar said...

You know, maybe all she needs is a decent ghostwriter, or at the very least a small team of people to edit or hopefully re-write, her video scripts.

The Justicar said...

Mm hmm. Daily Show link no workie!

I have said it over and again: this shit writes itself. No one needs embellish or misrepresent the crazy, the dimwitted, or the poseurs. Just point and laugh at what they actually do/say.
Now they're throwing her a 'surprise' party thing because I'm soooo mean to her. I have half a mind to send in some Mr. Wizard episodes.
Borg. Hahahahahaha. Smart iPhone - that was supposed to read bleh!

The Justicar said...

No doubt you have them on speed dial for some reason better left imagined than specified!

The Justicar said...

You can, but it seems to turn out ugly.  Alas, that's beyond my control!  But the link works, this time. And that skit is hilarious.

Maria Maltseva said...

Brilliant. They are the new creationists. Do you ever remember doing math problems where the prof gave you partial credit for getting the process right but making a silly mistake?  Yes, it's the conclusion that's important in the end, but knowing how to get there is what makes you intelligent.

GrafVonBek said...

Even more PZ and RW goodies to be found here in their latest debacle.