Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Go Dawkins!

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and one of the most prominent pro-science voices. He has authored several eloquently written books like “The selfish gene” and “The blind watchmaker”. I only wish more people would read Dawkins and Sagan instead of Crichton and Cook.

In his latest venture, Dawkins is making a series called ‘The enemies of Reason’ which is to be aired on TV on 13 August, 2007. In this series, Dawkins takes on practices such as astrology, tarot, psychic readings and the topic we recently discussed, homeopathy. I quote from the Sunday Times review on Dawkins’ series:

As Dawkins says: “There might be bad scientists, but that does not mean the methodology of science is bad.” For him the acid test is forever and always: “Test it!” This is a principle totally lacking, he charges, at the Royal London Homeopathic hospital, recently refurbished to the tune of £20m, including £10m from the cash-strapped NHS, and with a plaque certifying the endorsement of the Prince of Wales. (His title for episode two of The Enemies of Reason is The Irrational Health Service.)

Meanwhile it is no secret that there is a severe funding crisis in biomedical science research. Currently in the US, eight out of ten quality research grant application are going unfunded.

What is undisputed is that homeopathy derived from an early misunderstanding of the principle behind vaccination: that like cures like. But actually a real vaccine stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight the disease. What makes homeopathy so truly absurd in Dawkins’s inexorable logic is the idea that a substance becomes more powerful the more it is diluted. The idea, widely believed though totally unproven, is that water retains a “memory” of the molecule, though if it did he points out – as the people of Gloucester might nowadays bear in mind – it would also “remember” the salt, mud and urine it once contained. He cites the statistical probability that “one molecule in every litre of water drunk once passed through the bladder of Oliver Cromwell”. Hardly reassuring for royalists.

“I say to doctors who use homeopathy: if you can identify this you’d have discovered a whole new force in physics. Either there is no effect, in which case you shouldn’t be charging people money, or there is an effect, in which case you should prove it and win the Nobel prize.”

The fact that homeopathic doctors and patients do claim there is a benefit he puts down to the human body’s power to restore itself when given the psychological boost of someone else’s concentrated concern and attention: the average half hour to an hour, rather than the typical eight-minute NHS GP consultation. “There was a time when old-fash-ioned family doctors used to hand out placebos but now they aren’t allowed to because it’s against medical ethics. Now it’s only the homeopaths who are allowed to benefit from the placebo effect.

“Homeopathy started out about 200 years ago at a time when conventional medicine was considerably more dangerous. At least they weren’t applying leeches.” Dawkins insists that phenomena including religion, myths, superstition and science need to be seen in their historical context. He quotes the science fiction author Arthur C Clarke’s Third Law, “any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

“But you can’t simply reverse that and say that because it calls itself magic now it must be future science.”

The article in the New York times gives a good overview on what the show is about and if you won’t be able to catch the show do read the article because it touches on most of the topics that will be covered in the show.

I am happy that finally such initiatives are taking place and being broadcast on national television…albeit on Channel 4.


dodo said...

Dawkins is God! No, he is better than God!

Now, why this crusade against homeopathy? If stupid people want to believe in stupid "science", and become pyaara to stupid Gods, what's wrong with that? This planet is too farking over-populated, and a loss of idiots is in no way a bad thing. If only the hypocritical religious retards truly believed in God -- and did not take any medicine... we could be living in a much better world. Yeah, I'm being mean, it's just that I don't feel good when I see third-world countries full of people with 'Posh Spice'-bodies :(.

P.S. Why doesn't this blog allow anonymous comments? Respect my Anonymitay!

Crystal blur said...

You were missed in the last homeopathy discussion. The problem with ignoring these superstitious practices and quack theories is apparent with the Intelligent Design 'debate'.

I banned anonymous comments to make the cut and paste trolls suffer. The horrendous word verifications and login should make them think twice :)

dodo said...

I didn't participate because the trolls scared me away :(. They appeared pretty macho with those huge blocks of text ;).

There's only one answer to the "Intelligent" Design debate: the humonkeys who support ID are the missing link between monkeys and humans. And sadly, one of them is the current leader of the Free World :(.

Nobody said...

i didnt get my popcorn from the homeopathy (or homoeopathy, for ppl who care how its spelled) discussion.
BTW I was expecting a MB post as per the widget u have that says next MB post in 0 days 0 hours & 0 mins and 0 secs.

Twisted DNA said...

What a coincidence.. I just started reading "Selfish Gene." I didn't read the "God Delusion" yet. (I Know, I know. What can I do. The library has 40 holds on that book!)

"If stupid people want to believe in stupid"
One of the quotations I know begins like this:
"He who knows not and knows not he knows not, help him."
Most of the people who believe in Homeopathy do not know that it doesn't work. The doctors are taking advantage of them. So it is harming innocent people. We should try to spread the awareness.

Apparently Firefox thinks "homeopathy" is the right spelling :)

I should stop writing now. If I write a comment too long, dodo and Crys are going to call me a troll.

Drunken Master said...

Anything that claims to cure diseases allopathy cannot must make one wonder why the whole damn world isn't taking those pills in the first place.

As for Dawkins, for some reason, I've never bothered to read his books or about him. Did love his cameo on South Park! Weird huh?

dodo said...

@twisted dna
Well, we could, but I've realized that groupthink is almost incurable :(. I wish I had the powers of this awesome man!

@drunken master
The South Park episode was pretty funny, but I didn't understand why they had to cast Dawkins in such a bad manner.

And did you guys hear about 'homo'pathy? It's being used by hard-core Christians to "cure" gayness!

Crystal blur said...

Hey guys!
I was watching Last comic standing yesterday and one of the contestants said this (as I remember it):
"Did you hear about the homeopathy cures? They say that water has memory. I am certainly glad that water can't talk because I have done some wierd things in my shower."

What do you mean you didn't get the popcorn? It was certainly dished out in the comments section and you could've served it back too. I will reset the countdown clock to February 08 :p

What!?! You haven't read...:-O !! Just kidding. I think God Delusion will be a rehash of what you already know I am afraid but it is still worth a read.

Drunken master,
Unfortunately many people believe that rational thinking makes one close minded to the mysteries of the world. So spiritual healers, homeopaths and the likes will not go out of business anytime soon.

Dawkins was once asked in a forum if he had seen the SP sketch and he replied that the SP guys could've done a better British accent ;)

Although it is hard to convince some people (like my dad who has held onto his views for far too long to change), such discussions might be helpful for those who may have not have explored these ideas much. These kind of discussions are sadly lacking in the mainstream media.
Homopathy?!! Ugh! The insanity never stops.

Nobody said...

@crys Nobody didnt get no popcorn (i dunno what it means with all those double negations)

@dodo "He who knows not and knows not he knows not, help him." <-- nice one

@topic i would leave the believers believe .. like i do with people debating politics or religion.

Crystal blur said...

Arrey nobody, you are giving credit to dodo for the line that twisted dna quoted. But nobody is perfect...wait in your case nobody is not perfect :) You should make your tagline, 'Pobody is nerfect'.

Nobody said...

hmmm ... wrong credit ..
i canot admit i'm wrong as it would falsify the statement "nobody is perfect".
my explanation would be like .."i thought its just 1 guy using 2 ids :P"

Unkool said...

Was reading "The God Delusion" by Dawkins during the recent Diwali vacations.This delicious irony wasn't appreciated by my folks though!.My dad noticed the title of the book and asked me what it was all about.I told him it attempts to prove the non-existence of God through rational arguments.I respect him for not going into a fit of rage,but he did pass an innocuous,"why do you read all this bullshit?" comment.
Btw,the book turned out to be the final step in my conversion from an agnostic to a full-blown atheist!

Crystal blur said...

Hey unkool,

You are officially no longer unkool...welcome to the club! :)Dawkins and Sagan have always been very thought provoking. I have been reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western is a great book that gives you a perspective on how philosophers over the years have tried to figure out how our world/universe works. Very fascinating and I am sure you will enjoy it.

Dr. Nancy said...

Homeopathy cures where Convenntional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails

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