August 27, 2005

Homeopathy no better than sugar pill: metastudy

Homeopathic remedies may help people feel better, but their impact appears to be no greater than a placebo effect, a comparison of more than 200 studies of the alternative medicine and conventional treatments concludes.
A surprisingly large percentage of the people are very interested in so-called natural medicine. So I ended up hearing about homeopathy and did some research on it. As the article states...
Homeopathy, which aims to stimulate a patient's own healing processes with minute dilutions of specific remedies, is based on the theory of treating “like with like.” The patient describes symptoms in detail and the practitioner prescribes tiny, non-toxic doses of a selected substance that, at higher doses, would produce those symptoms in a healthy person.
The reaction of the US National Center for Homeopathy was predictable. They claim the study is flawed. What the Globe's article doesn't touch on is that the very basis of Homeopathy is flawed and doesn't need a study to prove so.
Homeopathy not only says that like needs to be treated with like. Homeopathy suggests that the smaller the amount of the substance the more powerful it is, the theory being that the body is triggered to heal itself. Let me say that again, the less medicine given the greater the effect.

This belief is diametrically opposed to the basis of pharmaceuticals. Both theories cannot exist in concert. One or the other is right. And whatever you might think of pharmaceutical drugs, they are effective in very many ways. When you get an infection, you don't take herbs, you take an antibiotic. If you have depression, you take antidepressants. The more you take of it, the more powerful its effects. In many cases taking more won't be any more effective but taking less would not make its ability greater. That's foolishness. Quackwatch even calls Homeopathy "the ultimate fake":
The basis for inclusion in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia is not modern scientific testing, but homeopathic "provings" conducted during the 1800s and early 1900s. The current (ninth) edition describes how more than a thousand substances are prepared for homeopathic use. It does not identify the symptoms or diseases for which homeopathic products should be used; that is decided by the practitioner (or manufacturer). The fact that substances listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia are legally recognized as "drugs" does not mean that either the law or the FDA recognizes them as effective.

August 21, 2005

Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive

One tv show I enjoy watching is Boston Legal. What's this got to do with science, you say? Well, tonight's rerun episode had to do with a teacher suing a principal after she lost her job for refusing to teach Intelligent Design alongside Evolution. It makes for interesting drama but the scary part is that its premise isn't so far from reality as you can see by reading the linked NY Times article:
Pushing a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution, the institute has in many ways transformed the debate into an issue of academic freedom rather than a confrontation between biology and religion.
Mainstream scientists reject the notion that any controversy over evolution even exists. But Mr. Bush embraced the institute's talking points by suggesting that alternative theories and criticism should be included in biology curriculums "so people can understand what the debate is about."
So ideologically-driven individuals want to frame teaching non-science as an academic freedom issue. But science is just that - science.

Humanities like history, philosophy and art can and should teach different ways of looking at things because there are lot of areas that are open to intepretation. But math, science, chemistry and physics, at least at the elementary levels, don't give such latitude. Nor should they. Evolution has stood the test of the time, Intelligent Design hasn't.

Arguing, as Intelligent Design does, that evolution doesn't explain everything is hardly proof of Intelligent Design. Lack of information doesn't disprove a scientific theory. Information to the contrary does.

Besides, Evolution was not theorized to get rid of God. It was a theory to figure out how different species developed and changed over time. It just happens to fit the data. Evolution is absolutely silent on whether there is a creator because his existence cannot be proved or disproved. Whether or not God exists is a question best left to the philosophers not science. And theists should recognize that science is best left to scientists.

I leave a question to theists. If life is so complicated that it cannnot come into being or develop on its own, then its creator must be even more complicated. Who created him? He couldn't have come into being on his own since you've already argued that something less than him can't.

August 15, 2005

10th Planet Discovered

There have been other 10th planets (both real and imagined) before, but none were big enough to be considered as planets. But this one...
Its sheer size in relation to the nine known planets means that it can only be classified as a planet itself, Brown says.
Now maybe the debate on whether Pluto is a planet can end since invalidating Pluto would invalidate this one, too. NASA will also have to update this page: Is there a Planet X or 10th planet?