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Scientific rigor versus homeopathic condescension

Scientific rigor means implementing the highest standards and best practices of the scientific method and applying them to research that is being conducted. It’s about discovering the truth. On the other hand, homeopathic condescension consists of accommodating oneself to the discourse that another says without assessing whether it is correct or not.

If you are of scientific vocation, even without having studied any branch of science, and you are curious about what surrounds you, you will doubt everything. That is the starting point, not believing anything, except the evidence, the facts. It is amazing how there are people who create information because someone else said it or saw it on the internet.

There are people who detract from the credibility of a comment because it has been done by someone without scientific training and yet, she who does not have it dares to reproduce false data or far from the scientific method and her opinion is valid. And his opinion is valid because “a doctor told me” or”I saw it in aYoutube video“. I’m sorry to tell you that a YouTube video never led its author to win a Nobel Prize.

The scientific method

The scientific method is responsible for the technological advancement of the last two hundred years. It consists of a series of steps that every researcher must follow in order to accept or reject a starting hypothesis. The scientific method implies the search for truth and the prediction of events. In addition, it requires that there be repeatability of the experiments, that is, that, under other conditions, another scientist can carry out the same experiment and obtain the same or similar result.

In the scientific method we start from a series of data that a scientist observes. After observation, a hypothesis is formulated, an assumption made from what has been observed that serves as the starting point of the research. To corroborate the hypothesis, a method is used, an orderly and systematic way of proceeding to reach a certain result or end. Finally, the original starting hypothesis is accepted or rejected. All in search  of scientific rigor.

If we use as an example the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which produces the  COVID-19 disease, the use of the scientific method would be as follows:

  • Observation. A scientist or group of scientists observes that there is a disease of unknown origin.
  • Formulation. A hypothesis is formulated, in this case it would be, “The disease of unknown origin resembles diseases produced by viruses of the Coronavirus type and we intuit that this may be the origin“.
  • Method. Scientists perform a series of procedures aimed at confirming that it is the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
  • Result. SARS-CoV-2 virus is detected in patients with bilateral pneumonia or other symptoms of the disease, the original starting hypothesis is confirmed.

Homeopathic “studies”

Homeopathy  is based on the doctrine of the Saxon physician Samuel Hahnemann who in the late eighteenth century proclaimed that similar cures similar. It is based on the ultra dilution of an active ingredient. And they don’t follow the scientific rigor that is required for any study.

I will give an example of an invented homeopathic treatment and what would be the homeopathic method.

  • Observation. A shepherd observes that his sheep have green tongues. Walking through a meadow he will find some plants that are very cool green.
  • Formulation. A hypothesis is formulated, in this case it would be, “The green plant of which I do not know the name cures the green tongue that my sheep have“.
  • Method. The shepherd performs a series of procedures aimed at confirming that the green plant cures the green tongue of his sheep.
  • Result. Apply a green plant preparation and 50% of the shepherd’s sheep are cured and 50% are not cured. It is confirmed that the green plant serves to cure the green tongue. If the shepherd had not done anything, 50% of the sheep would have been cured and 50% would not.

Statistical significance in science

Most homeopathic studies are a hodgepodge of meaningless data. They are published in scientific journals which are more than anything a showcase where anyone paying can publish what they want. There is no scientific rigor in these websites or at least there is little scientific rigor.

I recently saw a presentation from a doctor talking about the no need for a third dose of Pfizer vaccine and put a table on which it was seen on the screen that the results were not statistically significant. What does this mean? Well, the two variables he used could not extract any reasonable explanation about their relationship. If they can’t be compared, what do you compare them for?

I will give a very simple example to demonstrate what statistical significance is. It turns out that you go through Madrid and you meet two people. One is white and the other is black. You can create a study and say that you took a sample of a population and you have come to the conclusion that 50% of the population of Madrid is white and 50% is black. This is very far from reality and is false, the result has been due to chance. A sample of two people has been taken, when the sample size is essential to make statistical analyses.

Science will always look for statistical significance. Statistical significance is a way to ensure the quality of a study. Considering the term significant involves using comparative terms for two hypotheses.  Hypothesis tests are statistical significance tests that quantify the extent to which sample variability may be responsible for the results of a study. We seek to sample results that are not attributed to chance.

Summary

Studies to date have not provided strong evidence to support the use of homeopathy in any clinical condition. If your doctor tells you that since he is a doctor you may think he knows a lot about the subject, it is false. There is no scientific evidence and therefore what you have been told is nothing more than a story.

Although there are homeopathic experiments in which some positive effects were observed, the effect did not go beyond the placebo effect in most studies. That is, between taking nothing and taking something homeopathic there is no difference.

There are methodological errors in most homeopathic studies, in which such effects were found to be superior to the placebo effect. Since properly prepared homeopathic medicines are ultra-diffused, they do not cause significant side effects, which is an advantage, because at least it does not harm the patient. Nor do they cure him. They do nothing.

However, some products with the name homeopathic medication are not diluted enough and contain significant amounts of active ingredient. These products can cause side effects.

Another major danger that homeopathic treatments can create is that they can cause the patient to abandon the current primary treatment. For now, it would be helpful to stay away from these types of treatments, acting in light of the available evidence and scientific rigor.

References

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