Archive for pharmaceuticals

Brauer: Natural Quackery

Posted in health, pseudoscience with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2010 by cpolsonb

I was in a local pharmacy the other day when, as I normally do I sought out the “natural” alternatives that were made available. I guess I do this in the hope that once, just once the pharmacy won’t be selling utter nonsense to an unsuspecting and trusting public. That day has not yet come and as usual I located the rather extensive homeopathic range by Brauer Natural Medicine. Brauer is the quack medicine distributor I most commonly see in local Perth pharmacies and I have had the privilege of personally testing their product by taking a “dangerous” overdose of homeopathic pills as part of this years 10:23 challenge. So anyway, on this particular trip to the pharmacy I decided to pick up one of the free “product selector” booklets that Brauer medicine produce to peddle their snake oil. In this blog entry I present for you a quick run-down on what Brauer says about their product, why science says it’s total nonsense and why it is dangerous.

I won’t get into a long discussion about the history and nature of homeopathy as I wish to focus on the specific case of Brauer medicine. For a more detailed and referenced rundown on why homeopathy is bunk please check out these excellent resources: The 10:23 Website, The Skeptics Dictionary, SkepticWiki, Quackwatch. For a very quick rundown homeopathy is a system of claimed alternative medicine invented in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann. Since it’s invention it’s core beliefs have remained unchanged despite the world’s advancements in health and medicine including the discovery of viruses, bacterial infection, cancers, vaccines and genetics. It is by all accounts a relic of medieval thinking from a time when the leading hypothesis was that sickness was a result of imbalances in the four bodily humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile). Homeopathy itself is based on three laws; the law of similars, the law of infinitesimals and the law of succussion.

The law of similars says that in order to cure a problem you need to consume whatever causes the problem. This extends to such things as caffeine for sleep disorders, sore eyes with onion and rashes with poison ivy.

The law of infinitesimals says that the more diluted a substance the stronger it’s medicinal effect. This means that the vast majority of homeopathic solutions are diluted to the point that not a single molecule of the active ingredient remains, including dilutions of 1:1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000. Of course even if some of the active ingredient remained, the ingredient itself is worthless medically.

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“The Bad Man Punted Baxter”

Posted in conspiracy thinking, health, pseudoscience, skepticism with tags , , , on February 19, 2010 by cpolsonb

A couple of weeks back I received a private message on a forum I frequent that is completely unrelated to skepticism. The forum is westgamer, a discussion site for fellow West Australians who are fans of the nerdier side of life (table-top gaming especially). A friend of mine had recently started an off-topic thread on “conspiracy theories” and I’d challenged a few of the things he had to say. A couple of private messages were sent back and forth culminating in him sending a few consecutive challenges for me to investigate. First up was a real softball for debunkers:

“So been checking out more conspiracy type stuff, and came across a book called the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Was wondering if you have done any research into this subject and what your thoughts are on it.”

To which I replied.

“I hadn’t heard out this book in particular before you brought it to my attention but I’m very familiar with the family of conspiracies it falls into (that being anti-jewish conspiracies).

Even a rudimentary search on non-conspiracy peddling websites quickly reveals the book to be a hoax for a whole host of reasons. It’s actually quite interesting that this book is viewed widely as the beginning of contemporary conspiracy literature. I admit that most of what I read about it is from the wiki article (and the references that lead from it). There just doesn’t seem to be enough in this one to deserve a closer look, it’s been thoroughly debunked since the 1920’s. It is summed up nicely as follows “It is also one of the best-known and most-discussed examples of literary forgery, with analysis and proof of its fraudulent origin going as far back as 1921.” It’s really just a hate-filled anti-jewish hoax for which the only arguments as to it’s validity are necessarily improbable, improvable and immature.

Awesome find though, it’s great to read about this sort of stuff. If you find anything else of stand-out interest throw them my way as well. I hope you don’t take personal offence at any criticisms I have though. I very little patience for conspiracies like the above though, ones that are bred purely from prejudice and bigotry against a people who have suffered horrific injustices.”

He followed that one up though with a much meatier, much more complex and challenging to debunk conspiracy theory. I’ll post his message followed by my reply in full. One massive regret is that I didn’t reference my reply to him (something which I endeavour to do in all similar instances). So in the meantime before I find time to go back and fully reference my reply if there are any particular points you’d like to challenge or see a reference for just leave a comment in the post notes. Bare with me there was a lot of mis-information to wade through :P

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