Monday, February 25, 2008

Ethnocentrism and Homeopathy

Irresponsibility to the nth power: Homeopaths treating HIV in Africa

I don't even know what to say yet. Read the article.

Anyone who reads this blog knows my opinion of homeopathy. Just type "homeopathy" in the little search box on the left side of this blog, and you'll be greeted with many, many posts dating back to the very beginnings of Orac's presence on ScienceBlogs. Of course, science is with me on this one, as it does not support the primary claims of homeopathy, including:

  • Like cures like

  • Dilution with succussion makes a remedy stronger

  • Water has "memory" of remedies that it has come in contact with, which is how homeopathic remedies can "work," even though they've been diluted to the point where, even homeopaths admit, there is unlikely to be even a single molecule of active substance left.

Dr. Kimball Atwood has also discussed the utter implausibility and lack of scientific support for homeopathy in a five part series: "Homeopathy and Evidence-Based Medicine: Back to the Future" (Part I, II, III, IV, V), as well as why homeopaths can cite clinical trials that appear "positive" despite this extreme scientific implausibility in "Prior probability: The dirty little secret of 'evidence-based' medicine" (parts I and II). So what am I to think of this story about homeopaths treating HIV patients in Africa?

It's long, but Orac breaks it up all friendly-like into paragraphs and quoted sections, so don't give me that tl;dr silliness.

Some of the comments, though, are great.

In response to this quoted section from the article:
She believes part of the appeal of homeopathy in Botswana is because it has elements of both traditional and western medicine. "It comes in a pill, but the approach - taking into account mind, body and spirit - is more Batswana. People are very comfortable with it," she said.

Meraydia said, "And of course the woman falls into the racist fallacy of according sprirituality to "native" populations."

Thank you, Meraydia. I was hoping someone would point out that Fairclough doesn't seem to think Africans care as much about being healthy as having spiritually-correct water. Effective health care is clearly some kind of Euro-American value that Those Damned Allopaths are imposing on Botswana.

I just... I'm glad someone else noticed this. It pisses me off every time I see it, because Fairclough's statement feeds into a belief that has kept many people from supporting AIDS treatments in Africa. You see, AIDS is a problem in Africa because they're dirty superstitious half-naked heathen negroes, not because colonial powers have utterly destroyed the economic viability of most of the continent.

We can't fix the fact that they're dirty superstitious half-naked heathen negroes with medicine, since it's obviously coded into their DNA. So why bother? Just give them some magic water and wait for them to die.

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