0765: "Dilution"

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RandomMarius
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby RandomMarius » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:45 pm UTC

Ah I get it now.
The average human ejaculates 500 000 000 sperm max, and 2^30 is just over 1 000 000 000, which would mean half a sperm is left.
That is the joke, right?

That aside, I think homeopaths have the right idea to treat the person instead of the symptom. I just don't believe in their 'science' either. There has been studies in which the placebo have outperformed existing previously accepted medicine.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:49 pm UTC

RandomMarius wrote:Ah I get it now.
The average human ejaculates 500 000 000 sperm max, and 2^30 is just over 1 000 000 000, which would mean half a sperm is left.
That is the joke, right?
30X means 10^30, so there's only a minute probability than a single molecule from a sperm cell would be left.
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby phlip » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:52 pm UTC

RandomMarius wrote:2^30

Except the actual figure is 10^30 (30X is diluting by a factor of 10, repeated 30 times). And that is a very low dilution level compared to many homeopathic solutions.

2^30, on the other hand, is only around 9X, or 4.5C... positively piffling in comparison. Why, there's a not-negligible statistical chance that an entire spermatozoon is present in the result!

[edit] Bah, ninjaed.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby javahead » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:11 pm UTC

elrunethe2nd wrote:Oh man this comic pissed me off. Rather than being, you know, relevant, interesting, important or you know, decent, it is 'Randall Attacks Obscure Medicine!'.
We have women up for stoning, over-the-counter pills you can buy which can kill you and more problems to report on than ever and this webcomic attacks one of the more harmless questionable medicines out there.

xenny wrote:I've no real interest (or belief) in homeopathy but I guess I found that comment a bit disrespectful.

Exactly. Go and declare all religions a sham first, and leave the small-time snake oil dealers alone.

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Re: "Homeopathy" Discussion

Postby wagner » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:49 pm UTC

jspenguin wrote:Well, I have seen capital X used to denote a 10x dilution, but that's only for really expensive preparations. You see, you have to shake it 10 times after each dilution, or else the water will "forget" the molecules. Going by 100x on each iteration dilutes it a lot faster.


Exactly twice as fast, as it were.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby sarkeizen » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:15 pm UTC

RandomMarius wrote:That aside, I think homeopaths have the right idea to treat the person instead of the symptom.


Ok you've got someone with no symptoms...they feel perfectly fine. What exactly are you treating, with what are you treating it and how would you devise a RCT to determine it's success?

Edit: Point here is that even a homeopath/naturopath would - hopefully - send someone home if there is nothing ostensibly wrong with them. If there is something wrong (I mean they are *AT* the practitioners place right?), then it's a symptom. Even if the practitioner uses some ridiculously labyrinthine logic to arrive as to the cause and propose treatment. Whatever treatment they give to the person it's going to be the cessation of symptoms which will indicate to themthat their treatment is working. How, in any way shape or form is this not 'treating the symptom'?
Last edited by sarkeizen on Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:52 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Ghona » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:25 pm UTC

Killamus wrote:Isn't this rather how humans build up immunities to things such as venoms? By giving someone very, very small doses of snake venom, they will eventually become immune to it? I guess it's true, even the most illogical of things come from logical backgrounds :mrgreen:

Anyways, I was wondering how long it was going to take him to attack homeopathy. Only 765 comics in!

That and quinine. One of the main observations was that large doses of quinine cause similar symptoms to malaria.

sarkeizen wrote:
RandomMarius wrote:That aside, I think homeopaths have the right idea to treat the person instead of the symptom.


Ok you've got someone with no symptoms...they feel perfectly fine. What exactly are you treating, with what are you treating it and how would you devise a RCT to determine it's success?


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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby DavidRoss » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:31 pm UTC

[quote="elrunethe2nd"]Oh man this comic pissed me off. Rather than being, you know, relevant, interesting, important or you know, decent, it is 'Randall Attacks Obscure Medicine!'.
We have women up for stoning, over-the-counter pills you can buy which can kill you and more problems to report on than ever and this webcomic attacks one of the more harmless questionable medicines out there.

Let me see if I understand this comment. Randall has a duty to determine all of the ills in the world, put them in priority order, and IN ORDER, find something funny about the most pressing world issue (and be able to convey that in stick figures) before moving on to the next most pressing world issue? Even if there were "more problems to report than ever" (actually, there are not: In the period of 1310 to 1376 there were more global problems to report on than there are in the 2003-2010 period - look it up in Wikipedia), if we're getting our important news from Randall, we're all screwed.

C'mon, Randall. Do a joke on DES, overdosing on Claritin, or stoning. (Apparently, if you can dig yourself out of the hole while being stoned, you get to go free. Why have I never seen a reality show on that?)

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Kow » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:36 pm UTC

These people are having dilutions of grandeur.
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby sarkeizen » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:39 pm UTC

Ghona wrote:They've got an inflamed wallet. We must operate quickly!


Nurse! Bring me the patients tax forms stat. We may need to do a bank-costomy to reduce the swelling.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:41 pm UTC

DavidRoss wrote:
elrunethe2nd wrote:Oh man this comic pissed me off. Rather than being, you know, relevant, interesting, important or you know, decent, it is 'Randall Attacks Obscure Medicine!'.
We have women up for stoning, over-the-counter pills you can buy which can kill you and more problems to report on than ever and this webcomic attacks one of the more harmless questionable medicines out there.


Let me see if I understand this comment. Randall has a duty to determine all of the ills in the world, put them in priority order, and IN ORDER, find something funny about the most pressing world issue (and be able to convey that in stick figures) before moving on to the next most pressing world issue? Even if there were "more problems to report than ever" (actually, there are not: In the period of 1310 to 1376 there were more global problems to report on than there are in the 2003-2010 period - look it up in Wikipedia), if we're getting our important news from Randall, we're all screwed.

C'mon, Randall. Do a joke on DES, overdosing on Claritin, or stoning. (Apparently, if you can dig yourself out of the hole while being stoned, you get to go free. Why have I never seen a reality show on that?)

I'm going to start using that...

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Arancaytar » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:46 pm UTC

Killamus wrote:Isn't this rather how humans build up immunities to things such as venoms? By giving someone very, very small doses of snake venom, they will eventually become immune to it? I guess it's true, even the most illogical of things come from logical backgrounds :mrgreen:


Well, snake venoms consist of enzymes, which the immune system can build antibodies against. It doesn't work on substances that can't be bound by antibodies, like cyanide. The homepaths' fallacy of extending this specific behavior to other substances seems like the flat-earth reasoning that since, in our normal environment, objects fall down when you don't hold them up, the Earth must be resting on something in order to not fall down.

(Note: My understanding of biology is at the highschool/Wikipedia level.)
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Similar thoughts

Postby ikepigott » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:58 pm UTC

Funny, because I posted this on Twitter last night before the comic hit:
HYPOCRITE: a homeopath who discards the water he used to boil his broccoli.

sarkeizen
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby sarkeizen » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:03 pm UTC

Arancaytar wrote:
Killamus wrote:Well, snake venoms consist of enzymes, which the immune system can build antibodies against. It doesn't work on substances that can't be bound by antibodies, like cyanide.


To generalize: Anything with an adverse immunoresponse there's a chance of building up a decreased immune response. Other things you can develop a tolerance for i.e. drugs like caffeine. However I've never heard of something where this could happen without continued supplementation of the drug. So although morphine isn't a poison per se - it's possible that you could develop a lower chance of adverse reaction to a high dose by slowing increasing your intake.

That said, for this to actually work it is actually required to give the subject a dilution which has some of the actual substance in it - homeopathy often works at dilutions that are highly unlikely to carry even a single molecule. Secondly they aren't slowly increasing the concentration over time. They believe that there is actually an INVERSE strength/effect correlation - sort of the opposite of the dose/response ideology used in modern medicine.

somewhackjob wrote:Oh man this comic pissed me off. Rather than being, you know, relevant, interesting, important or you know, decent, it is 'Randall Attacks Obscure Medicine!'.


I'm not sure what qualifies as 'obscure' to you but to me if I can find homeopathic treatments in a big grocery store (which I do - but at the oddly strong/weak concentrations of 12x and 6x) then it's passed my litmus for relevant enough.

snowdream wrote:I'm on the fence about homeopathic medicines.

I have relatives who are Doctor's (Legit med degree's) who have also taken certification courses in homeopathic medicines. I like the balance they have, as my one aunt who is a Doctor says "Aloe Vera might be nice for a light burn, but sometimes you just need the skin-graft."


You are likely referring to 'natruopathic' medicines - which is an umbrella term for anything marginally related to nature and possibly not accepted by modern doctors. Homeopathic remedies are by contrast dilutions (often of the selfsame natural compounds) at concentrations so ludicrous that there is no chance of effect.

In the end there is only one kind of medicine - the kind which shows effect in blinded RCTs.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Sprocket » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:32 pm UTC

There are plenty of things out there that cure or reduce the symptoms of various ailments that were not created by modern medicine. We all know about willow bark and aspirin, for example. Sulfur has been used for a long time to help prevent acne, and decrease the effects of arthritis. There are many things in modern medicine of course that are more effective, but what do you think is in medical treatments, anyway? Chemicals, chemicals that can be found in minerals and vegetation.

Natural treatments however should not be conflated with the definition of homeopathic medicine. The one is somewhat a subset of the other, based on a very odd idea, the way some people make martini's by holding a glass upside-down over a bottle over vermouth for a second, before filling it with cold gin, and swearing they've got more than just gin in there, and assuring you they most certainly are not alcoholics.
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Jul 12, 2010 4:33 pm UTC

Minthulf wrote:Is it me or are the alt texts getting less subtle and funny?


That's sort of like watching a hurricane in formation and saying "Is it me or is the wind getting less gentle?"

I also have a question to make: in the previous comic, xkcd supporters argued that the attack against anthropologists was Just A Joke, shouldn't be taken at face value, and anyone who got offended was Clearly Wrong and missed the joke.

In THIS comic, is the attack against homeopaths also Just A Joke? Is Randall just being lighthearted and poking fun at something he actually respects? Is it meant to be a friendly, innofensive joke? Does Randall actually respect homeopathy?

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby sarkeizen » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:05 pm UTC

CatProximity wrote:There are plenty of things out there that cure or reduce the symptoms of various ailments that were not created by modern medicine. We all know about willow bark and aspirin, for example.


This gets brought up a lot, and I admit I don't think it's as clear as people like to think it is. What constitutes 'modern medicine'? What are we assuming we are treating with wllow bark?

CatProximity wrote:Sulfur has been used for a long time to help prevent acne


Somehow I think now we are talking about a different era than 'chewers of willow bark here'. It's also an element and it makes me wonder how we are defining 'natural'.

It's also important to differentiate between 'used for' - e.g. 'Mercury was used as a curative in China' or 'Shown to have effect'. The former has zero value, anything can be 'used for' anything. The later is hard for naturopathic medicines since other than 'modern medicine' the instances of people preforming anything remotely resembling a controlled trial is pretty weak. IMHO I think we've exhausted most of the historical natural remedies.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby rhiannon » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

Regarding the idea that diluted semen would terminate a pregnancy... the problem there is pregnancy isn't a disease. Homeopathy is not a way to control any and all states of the body, it is aimed at treating conditions of imbalance, manifested as ill health.

Honestly I didn't enjoy today's comic. I don't find it funny to discount the ideas of others, whether they are right or wrong. Whatever can be said of homeopathy's mainstream success or lack thereof, a lot of people have put heartfelt work into it, and many have found comfort. This comic felt very disrespectful.

I like the xkcd that laughs and looks at the larger picture, that enjoys life and love. That was the form of humor that drew me to this site in the first place.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Onchei » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:19 pm UTC

I, for one, found the title text hilarious.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby DorkRawk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:20 pm UTC

There is a difference between naturally occurring things with medicinal properties, but often modern medicine has refined these things to make them more potent or safer.

My aunt had cancer a few years ago (she's recovering, certainly doing much better now) and she disrupted the schedule of her treatment because she tried to augment it with some herbal medicine. Despite her strong interest in holistic/homeopathic/non-traditional medicine, she let modern medical science take over 100% after that.

There is a reason that humans live much longer than we used to....

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby SecondTalon » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:20 pm UTC

rhiannon wrote:Regarding the idea that diluted semen would terminate a pregnancy... the problem there is pregnancy isn't a disease. Homeopathy is not a way to control any and all states of the body, it is aimed at treating conditions of imbalance, manifested as ill health.

Honestly I didn't enjoy today's comic. I don't find it funny to discount the ideas of others, whether they are right or wrong. Whatever can be said of homeopathy's mainstream success or lack thereof, a lot of people have put heartfelt work into it, and many have found comfort. This comic felt very disrespectful.

I like the xkcd that laughs and looks at the larger picture, that enjoys life and love. That was the form of humor that drew me to this site in the first place.
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Sprocket » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:47 pm UTC

rhiannon wrote:Regarding the idea that diluted semen would terminate a pregnancy... the problem there is pregnancy isn't a disease. Homeopathy is not a way to control any and all states of the body, it is aimed at treating conditions of imbalance, manifested as ill health
Also mixing water with sperm would just leave you with a bunch of dead sperm. That was the part that I thought was most funny.
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby uncivlengr » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

rhiannon wrote:Regarding the idea that diluted semen would terminate a pregnancy... the problem there is pregnancy isn't a disease. Homeopathy is not a way to control any and all states of the body, it is aimed at treating conditions of imbalance, manifested as ill health.

Honestly I didn't enjoy today's comic. I don't find it funny to discount the ideas of others, whether they are right or wrong. Whatever can be said of homeopathy's mainstream success or lack thereof, a lot of people have put heartfelt work into it, and many have found comfort. This comic felt very disrespectful.

I like the xkcd that laughs and looks at the larger picture, that enjoys life and love. That was the form of humor that drew me to this site in the first place.

Yeah, like when people mock 419ers and their work - they put a lot of effort into making up those stories to trick you into sending them money, they deserve as much respect as anyone.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Роберт » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:49 pm UTC

Homeopathy is based on the principle of delusion which is scientifically proven to be effective against certain ailments.
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby lly » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:04 pm UTC

Unfortunately, as has been pointed out, comics like this serve to make the debate more polarized and discourage actual scientific discourse. It is one thing to go up to someone and say "prevailing evidence indicates that this is no more effective than placebo, can we talk about these studies..." and "your entire practice is a sham." The former promotes some discussion and can help educate, it can also help bring to light the actual scientific research that indicates there is a problem. Regardless, it is conducive to civilized debate.

If you go the latter route, you immediately put them on the defensive and should not be surprised that they act irrationally and emotionally--you have started by using emotionally laden and judgmental terms ("sham"). If you are on the side of "right," then surely you can afford to take the high road regardless of whether they do.

Then again, perhaps I am overanalyzing a comic.

Kendo_Bunny wrote:I have never and will never recommend a homeopathic remedy to anyone.


I have. I recommended a homeopathic stress relief to someone for anxiety problems that hadn't gotten so bad that she was willing to see a therapist or psychiatrist for. I told her it was probably a placebo effect, but that it would also probably work for her. Placebo is highly effective against anxiety, and we also took advantage of the placebo forcing her to do some things that have demonstrated effectiveness ("take this and take three deep breaths" when the deep breaths are actually the mechanism, but wouldn't be done without the placebo "prop" of the homeopathic "cure").

Sure enough, it did work for her, possibly the result of placebo, but just because it is in your mind doesn't mean that it isn't real enough to you.

I take advantage of the same effect, but with an essential oil that I smell rather than a homeopathic remedy. It basically acts as a prop.

Bruenor wrote:Homeopathy is FAR from harmless. Not only does it take money away from people that can rarely afford it, practitioners often convince patients to ignore modern medicine and exclusively use "water" to cure all their problems, with obvious consequences.


Don't confuse the practitioners and the practice. Homeopathy--the practice--has nothing to do with ignoring modern medicine. That doesn't mean the actual liquid (or whatever) is in any way harmful, or that taking advantage of placebo in that way is a bad thing (especially if you acknowledge you are most likely dealing with placebo), it just means some quacks have latched on to it.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby shpoffo » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:12 pm UTC

Thank you @scottgoblue314 for outsmarting Randal.

Here's to a whole new class of 'placebo medicines' that outperform standard drugs by leveraging 'psychological physics.'

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Re: "Homeopathy" Discussion

Postby SpringLoaded12 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:23 pm UTC

myrcutio wrote:I can't help but wonder if diluted semen is easier to clean up. Controlled experiment anyone?

Most body fluids wash off of solid surfaces and skin very easily with water. This is true even if they have dried, although slightly less easily. I'm guessing diluted semen would be extremely easy to clean up. But I suppose if an experiment is necessary it can be done, if you can guarantee that no one will think it's creepy (It's in the interest of science! If we can blow stuff up for science, we can certainly dilute semen for science!), but what are we cleaning it off of?

The text at the bottom of the comic has TWO comma splices. Come on now Randall, you know better than that. That sentence needs no commas.

Given the Wikipedia definition of homeopathy (Yeah, so sue me! :P), they must be doing this because the girl's experiencing symptoms of pregnancy!
No way of telling which symptoms, but as someone who may or may not be wearing a lab coat as he types this, I recommend that she avoid smoking, drinking, drug use, physical exertion, and riding roller coasters.

Роберт wrote:Homeopathy is based on the principle of delusion which is scientifically proven to be effective against certain ailments.

"Delusion." I can't tell if that's a joke or just a misspelling. If it's a joke, bravo!
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Seameep » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:25 pm UTC

Leaving the never-ending "my medicine is better than your medicine" war aside, I am wondering about two things. One, did I miss the announcement that it's "Easy Target" month and two, is this the new xkcd light, now without wit or subtlety?

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Kendo_Bunny » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:58 pm UTC

lly wrote:
Kendo_Bunny wrote:I have never and will never recommend a homeopathic remedy to anyone.


I have. I recommended a homeopathic stress relief to someone for anxiety problems that hadn't gotten so bad that she was willing to see a therapist or psychiatrist for. I told her it was probably a placebo effect, but that it would also probably work for her. Placebo is highly effective against anxiety, and we also took advantage of the placebo forcing her to do some things that have demonstrated effectiveness ("take this and take three deep breaths" when the deep breaths are actually the mechanism, but wouldn't be done without the placebo "prop" of the homeopathic "cure").

Sure enough, it did work for her, possibly the result of placebo, but just because it is in your mind doesn't mean that it isn't real enough to you.

I take advantage of the same effect, but with an essential oil that I smell rather than a homeopathic remedy. It basically acts as a prop.


Essential oils can actually do something. Humans tend to find scents very evocative, and have been proven to find pleasant scents soothing. The fact that essential oils do something is why I explain what they can do to every person who buys one from me (such as never applying them directly to the skin, except tea tree oil and lavender oil, and to be careful with sunlight after using citrus oils).

The placebo effect does have it's place, but the people who are looking for a placebo effect tend to pick up homeopathic remedies on their own. I have taken the ones for stomach problems, deliberately trying to invoke a placebo effect and spare myself a bit of pain. If I could focus on something other than the pain and other than the fact that it's quackery, it helped a bit. It helped me not focus on the pain, until the muscles contracted again, causing pain and nausea again. A few minute window of no pain is better than nothing, but not enough to make me want to participate in what I consider a very expensive fraud. Thankfully, my boss doesn't stock pills that are supposed to help with conditions that are more than mildly disagreeable - I can live with myself selling sugar pills to help with leg cramps and sunburns, I couldn't selling sugar pills that were supposed to cure cancer.

If I was asked for something natural to help anxiety, I would suggest chamomile tea (since most people find hot drinks soothing, the smell is pleasant and calming, and it's mild flavored, well tolerated, and gentle on the stomach). Chamomile itself has a reputation of being soothing to the nerves and promoting relaxation - no idea if it's been tested and proven to work better than some other equally pleasant smelling, soothingly hot drink, but it has a reputation that may invoke a placebo effect.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby sarkeizen » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:12 pm UTC

lly wrote:It is one thing to go up to someone and say "prevailing evidence indicates that this is no more effective than placebo, can we talk about these studies..." and "your entire practice is a sham." The former promotes some discussion and can help educate, it can also help bring to light the actual scientific research that indicates there is a problem. Regardless, it is conducive to civilized debate.


Evidence suggests that may not be true - at least one study has indicated that showing scientific evidence counter to ones own beliefs actually strengthens ones pre-existing beliefs. Just to play devils advocate you probably don't have any well controlled experiment to show that repeated applications of blistering scorn don't actually work better than a reasoned encounter. I appreciate the fact that your "prevailing evidence" approach seems intuitively correct. However it's important to come to grips with the idea that the world might be very much different than our perceptions of it. I'd assume you know that since you've advised someone to take something that all reason would tell you has no effect - yet you apply this principle selectively by telling people 'the truth' as to how they should approach talking about things like homeopathy.

same guy wrote:I have. I recommended a homeopathic stress relief to someone for anxiety problems that hadn't gotten so bad that she was willing to see a therapist or psychiatrist for. I told her it was probably a placebo effect, but that it would also probably work for her. Placebo is highly effective against anxiety, and we also took advantage of the placebo forcing her to do some things that have demonstrated effectiveness ("take this and take three deep breaths" when the deep breaths are actually the mechanism, but wouldn't be done without the placebo "prop" of the homeopathic "cure").


Actually prevailing evidence suggests that placebo may explainable via reporting bias.

same guy wrote:Sure enough, it did work for her, possibly the result of placebo, but just because it is in your mind doesn't mean that it isn't real enough to you.


What does 'it' mean here? Homeopathy? Just from the way you described things it appears that there is equal evidence that it didn't work. Considering you have no control - why didn't you conclude that your remedy *harmed* the recovery time?

same guy wrote:Don't confuse the practitioners and the practice. Homeopathy--the practice--has nothing to do with ignoring modern medicine. That doesn't mean the actual liquid (or whatever) is in any way harmful, or that taking advantage of placebo in that way is a bad thing (especially if you acknowledge you are most likely dealing with placebo), it just means some quacks have latched on to it.


Taking advantage of placebo is by definition a bad thing if you assume that patient should be given information sufficient to make an informed choice on a per case basis. However placebo - that is to say giving someone something which is known to have no active ingredient and relying on some psychological mechanism based on the perception of treatment for effect - makes that impossible.
Last edited by sarkeizen on Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:32 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Dilution" discussion

Postby Pizzachu » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:26 pm UTC

Wikey wrote:This is the first time I've felt weird not knowing if the characters were wearing clothes or not.

http://xkcd.com/699/
What about that one?

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby chrth » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:46 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:I also have a question to make: in the previous comic, xkcd supporters argued that the attack against anthropologists was Just A Joke, shouldn't be taken at face value, and anyone who got offended was Clearly Wrong and missed the joke.

In THIS comic, is the attack against homeopaths also Just A Joke? Is Randall just being lighthearted and poking fun at something he actually respects? Is it meant to be a friendly, innofensive joke? Does Randall actually respect homeopathy?


The difference is that in One Two, he ended the alt-text (or whatever it's actually called) with a "Zing!" ... amazing how one word can completely change the tone, huh?

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Scaraban » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:57 pm UTC

katydid wrote:I fear homeopaths are dilutional.

lol

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:09 pm UTC

CatProximity wrote:…the way some people make martini's by holding a glass upside-down over a bottle over vermouth for a second, before filling it with cold gin, and swearing they've got more than just gin in there, and assuring you they most certainly are not alcoholics.

Thanks! I need to try that recipe sometime
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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby rcox1 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:34 pm UTC

Here is the rub. Ideally Science requires two things. Observation of an event occurring, and a process by which it occurs. If we realize a ball from a height, we will see it fall. If we release many balls, we will see a similar thing happening and can create a mathematical model. But we need a process. The initial process was 'spooky action at a distance', all objects attract each other[math]f=G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}[/math]. This was not a very satisfying process, and no one was really happy until Einstein hypothesized that space was curved and the warping of spacetime was the thing. Along with this can an limitation on the speed of information.

Science requires a cause-effect and a process, otherwise we assume that it is just coincidence and a third fact is actually causing things to happen.

So jump ahead and we have two entangled particles with indeterminate spin. We keep one and send one into space. We believe that no matter how far they are apart, if we measure the one, the other will instantly have the complimentary spin. We know this is the result, we have the math, but all the explanations are spooky action at a distance, and spooky action that violates the limit on the speed on the flow of information.

Medicine, as far as it is a science, also tries this. It pushes small amounts of poison into a body, see if there is an effect, and then tries to attribute the effect t the drug.. We attribute this effect by employing the 'placebo effect;, that is, does the drug, or poison, reduce symptoms better than a placebo effect. With drugs this concept fo placebo effect is critical as there is often no physical proces better than 'spooky action at a distance', so there is really no way to validate the results to the standards we use in modern science. Second, the drugs are often poison, and we would not want to allow people to sell poison for human consumption unless there was probably a net benefit. For instance, we do not want to allow substances advertised to children that cause suicidal tendencies unless those substances have some demonstrable benefits.

The misinterpretation, I believe, is the confusion of the placebo effect. It is not a negative thing, or something we always have to better than. If we can encourage the placebo effect, the spooky action at a distance that helps the body get better without poisons, that is a good thing. That is what psychoanalysis is all about. That is what a vacation is all about. That is what a walk is all about. To the subject of this article, that is was sex is all about. Make us feel better without poison. Make love instead of drugs. Again, the only reason that drugs must beat the placebo effect because there is no reason to poison ourselves for no reason.

So back to homeopathy. If may do not good, but if people use it that is there choice. The pharmacies would like to force us to by it's medicines, as it did with medicare part-d, but we are free agents. We have a choice in our healthcare. Some may argue that homeopaths are lying to customers and causing them to die, but I would argue that pharmcos are lying to people worse by strongly implying that we may live however we wish and the drugs will cure us. That kids that are active are not normal and require drugs. That is your life is not butterflies and cream that you require drugs. There is no moral high ground here. We are all free agents and free to interpret the data, and personal experience, and decide what is best for us.

I do not use homeopathy, and would not recommend it, but playing the placebo card with respect to homeopathy demonstrates an incredible lack understand of who we are trying to protect with regard to drugs. Homeopathy certainly does not have a viable process to cure, other than the placebo effect, but a healer that disregards the placebo effect is not a healer, but a puppets of drugs.

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Re: "Dilution" discussion

Postby cecikierk » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:44 pm UTC

Meng Bomin wrote:According to the Wikipedia page on homeopathy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy), homeopaths often use what they call a 30C dilution which by their terminology would also be a 60X dilution, which is really a 1 part in 1060 dilution, which in biochem would be 1060X. Obviously this is never used in biochem because such a dilution, if performed properly, would have a very low chance of containing a single molecule of the original solution.

So, assuming the comic is using homeopathic terminology, it is still highly unlikely that a single sperm would be present in 30X diluted semen, but I would think that a true homeopathic believer would go for the full power of a 1:1000000000000000000000000000000 dilution of his already 30X diluted semen. Obviously, while such homeopathic semen wouldn't have a single sperm, the water's memory of the sperm (passed on through generations of dilution, since none of the original water molecules would be present either) would serve to fertilize the egg.


Really really off topic, but we have the same last name.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Maximus_Light » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:55 pm UTC

Ouch, burned.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby tesseraktik » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:11 pm UTC

chrth wrote:
SirMustapha wrote:I also have a question to make: in the previous comic, xkcd supporters argued that the attack against anthropologists was Just A Joke, shouldn't be taken at face value, and anyone who got offended was Clearly Wrong and missed the joke.

In THIS comic, is the attack against homeopaths also Just A Joke? Is Randall just being lighthearted and poking fun at something he actually respects? Is it meant to be a friendly, innofensive joke? Does Randall actually respect homeopathy?


The difference is that in One Two, he ended the alt-text (or whatever it's actually called) with a "Zing!" ... amazing how one word can completely change the tone, huh?
With all due respect, these comments strike me as entries to the "One Two"-discussion, rather than this one (it is really to those debating that subject that this question is directed, is it not?). Considering how venomous that discussion has grown, and seeing as there is plenty to discuss in this thread without bringing that up, might I suggest that we attempt to keep such comments to the "One Two"-thread?
ni'o mi nelci le zirpu sovmabrnornitorinku
Spoiler:
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EDIT: I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently it's some ancient Babylonian unit for angles :/

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby sarkeizen » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:56 pm UTC

rcox1 wrote:but a healer that disregards the placebo effect is not a healer, but a puppets of drugs.


Well for the sake of full disclosure three things about you piss me off. One, you refer to medicine as 'poison' I see no reason to consider medicine more a poison than anything else. As they say 'The dose makes the poison'. Second you assume a mechanism (or process) is required or the effect is considered coincidental. This is not necessarily the case, although I definitely have higher regard for a medicine for which we have a detailed biochemical understanding of there are plenty of medicines which we don't and yet have a predictable effect: The monograph for isotretinoin for example says (or used to anyway) "The mechanism for isotretinonin is unknown". According to you, this is dismissed by science as coincidental. That is monumentally stupid. Careful controls, large sample sizes/repetition allow us to produce various metrics for determining how likely the result is achieved through chance. Finally you confuse comparing a medicine (or poison) against placebo with evidence of a placebo effect. A placebo is a largely inert comparison sample (or control) for example in vaccine saftey trials the placebo group is compared not against saline but against a serum without the active ingredient (e.g. live virus). This is different than the 'placebo effect' which is an alleged medically significant response to a placebo.

Which brings me to my main criticism,

First, there is significant evidence to suggest that there is no such thing as a 'placebo effect'. Hróbjartsson and Gøtzsche recently published a systematic review noting that the placebo effect is either small or NON-EXISTENT for 'hard' (i.e. things that can be rigorously and objectively defined) outcomes and that for 'soft' (e.g. pain, quality-of-life) outcomes it can be explained through reporting bias. This is a clinically interesting response - since it means, yes you need to control against this but what you are controlling for is not some mystical self-healing crap but the idea that people tend to *SAY* they are doing better when they are treated.

Second, considering there is no well defined explanation for the effect you claim exists. I find it interesting and highly ironic that you don't follow your own methodology and "assume that it is just coincidence and a third fact is actually causing things to happen" - you know like reporting bias
Last edited by sarkeizen on Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:28 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Dilution" Discussion

Postby Patashu » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:09 pm UTC

jacog wrote:
Patashu wrote:It'd be like telling a young earth creationist that they're wrong because the universe is actually billions of years old - they'll be all like, "Nuh-uh!" and nothing has been gained. Instead, a better approach is "Come, look at these fossil layers we've unearthed. Let's have a chat about them." or an equivalent.


Hehe, you haven't spoken to too many creationists then. ;) I invite you to go over to http://www.answersingenesis.org and have a look there. They have all kinds of "scientific explainations" that "prove" the earth is 6000 years old. Anything you show them will be met with some form of pseudo-science answer.

In the extreme, everything can be answered with misinformation. I don't think giving a site like answersingenesis is a good example, because it's in their vested interests to say the earth is 6000 years old. Wouldn't be much point if they packed their bags and admitted 4 billion years, would it?

The people we're looking to convince are the people who don't make money out of saying the Earth is 6000 years old. People who haven't delved into the science and debate and understanding as deep as they could.

My favourite example is a petroleum geologist called Glenn Morton. He was a young earth creationist until he got out of college and got his first job - only to see that all the data he could find was completely against the idea of a 6000 year old earth. Any YEC he'd bring it up with wouldn't engage with him on the subject, but just shun him for 'choosing the wrong conclusion'. http://home.entouch.net/dmd/gstory.htm


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