Just a few days ago, British prime minister David Cameron shuffled his cabinet, moving Hunt from Minister of Culture to his new position in charge of health. Within hours, Tom Chivers, a science editor at the Telegraph, reported on Hunt's belief in homeopathy:
"The man put in charge of the nation's health policy is on record as supporting spending public money on magic water to cure disease."He went on to add:
"This is not unlike putting someone who thinks the Second World War began in 1986 in charge of the Department of Education."Not surprisingly, Chivers' blog post was flooded with hundreds of comments, many of them from upset defenders of homeopathy. Most of their arguments boiled down to "I think it works for me, so there."
Homeopathy is one of the most absurd, wildly implausible forms of quack medicine. I've written about it many times (for example, about the bogus flu pills sold as oscillococcinum,
about NCCAM's embarrassing funding of studies of homeopathy, and about how homeopaths offer strychnine to cure children's colds), so I'll try not to repeat myself. Homeopathy is founded on two basic notinos, both of them dead wrong:
- Infinitely diluted substances are more potent than substances at higher concentrations, and
- "Like cures like," meaning that if a substance causes a symptom, you can use that substance to cure the symptom.
Thus caffeine can be used to help you sleep, and poison ivy can cure itching. No, I'm not making this up; homeopaths really believe this stuff.
Homeopathy is simply magical thinking. There has never been a shred of scientific evidence to support it, and the British Medical Association declared in 2010 that homeopathy is witchcraft. After pressure from science bloggers, NIH's NCCAM has corrected its website to state that
"it is not possible to explain in scientific terms how a remedy containing little or no active ingredient can have any effect."But homeopaths make a lot of money selling homeopathic potions, and through clever marketing they keep themselves in business. Now they have a new ally, the UK Minister of Health. Andy Coghlan, writing in The New Scientist, called him "the new minister for magic." Brilliant! As Coghlan pointed out, magic is much cheaper than real medicine:
"Think of the savings if all those expensive proven treatments and drugs are phased out, and patients are offered cheap little vials of water instead."We're desperately looking for ways to control health care costs here in the U.S. as well. The UK Minister of Magic may have a solution for us. I wonder, though, if it works for muggles?