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Pseudoscience - Homeopathy

Used as treatment for clinical medical conditions,Homeopathy is a pseudoscience invented by writer, translator and medical practitioner, Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 – a time before the germ theory of disease had been discovered and when many patients died from the treatments of the day rather than the actual illnesses.

Homeopathy is dependent on major premises proposed by Hahnemann.  Firstly “like cures like” and secondly, water retains a “memory” of the toxins it has come in contact with.  Homeopathic preparations, therefore involve treating a patient with water containing the disease-causing or similar toxin, that has been subjected to a dilution process in which no traces of the original toxin are present.  Today, this water is then added to sugar pills and sold to the public as treatments for anything from sleeplessness to cancer.

Essentially harmless, the efficacity of homeopathy as a viable treatment for major illnesses has come under the scrutiny of national healthcare agencies, such as the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK and Australia’s publicly funded universal health care system Medicare, who have argued that continued support of homeopathy is a waste of tax payers’ money and potentially dangerous in leading people away from conventional health management practices.  Proponents of homeopathy argue that homeopathy is a natural treatment currently outside of the understanding of science, and a relatively low-cost alternative to conventional medicine.

In this activity, you will examine the pros and cons of homeopathy, and write a composition and conduct a discussion and debate using the information in the sources provided below.

Activity

  1. Read and understand the articles
  2. Watch and understand the videos
  3. Write a ONE-PAGE composition based on ONE of the following topics:
    1. An impartial but informative news article for your local newspaper
    2. An argumentative essay pursuing one aspect of the debate
    3. An analysis of the credibility and motivations of the articles and videos below

Articles

Questions to think about while reading the following articles:
  • Credibility: Is the author or publisher reputable?
  • Bias: Does the author or publisher exhibit a vested interest in their subject matter?
  • Balance: How well balanced is the article in the presentation of the arguments?
  • Sources: Are the sources of information cited?

  1. "Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds" – Melissa Daley, The Guardian, March 11, 2015
  2. "Homeopathy: what does the 'best' evidence tell us?" - Edzard Ersnt, The Medical Journal of Australia, 2010; 192 (8): 458-460 PDF
  3. "Harvard Study Has Good News for Homeopathic Medicine" - John Weeks, Integrative Practitioner, March 4, 2016
  4. "Scientific proof that Homeopathy works" - Matthew Silverstone, Natural News, Sept. 13, 2011
  5. "Can homeopathy 'work' even when there's no evidence?" Bianca Nogrady, ABC Health & Wellbeing, May 25, 2014

Videos

While you're watching the videos below, think about the following questions:

  • What objective is each video trying to achieve?
  • What are the scientific facts presented in the videos?
  • Are the claims backed up with evidence? 
  • What is the level of neutrality in which the information is presented?
  • Does the video play to the viewers' emotions or rationality?

Does Homeopathy Work?

While a growing number of people are turning to such remedies to treat a range of health conditions, the majority of data in peer-reviewed scientific literature does not support its effectiveness.

What is Homeopathy? - Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby

Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby explains how homeopathy works and how it's used to cure illnesses.

Does Homeopathy Actually Work? Science Explains

Generic look at homeopathy and why it can "work". (subtitles not available)

Oral Activities

Open Discussion Questions

After you’ve read the articles and watched the videos above, discuss the following questions in a small group or with a partner. 
  1. What are the benefits of homeopathy as a treatment?

  2. What are the dangers in using homeopathic preparations in the treatment of serious illnesses?
  3. Parents should be allowed to choose homeopathic treatments in lieu of conventional medicines for their children.
  4. Would you allow your pet to be treated using homeopathic methods?  Explain your decision.
  5. Like conventional medicine, governments should fund the use of homeopathic preparations through federal healthcare systems. Discuss why you agree or disagree.
  6. Define the placebo effect and its relation to both conventional medicine and homeopathy.
  7. Discuss the training and certification necessary to become a homeopath.
  8. What do you know about your government's current role in homeopathy? (Regulations, labeling, certification, testing, etc.)
  9. Is the non-regulation of homeopathic preparations and administration a benefit or hindrance to the growth of the profession?
  10. What information would you want the public to know in relation to homeopathy?
  11. People get better after visiting a homeopath.  To what can this be attributed?
  12. In your opinion, is homeopathy viable?  Discuss the reasons for your answer.

Download the questions in PDF

Mini Debate

With a partner or in a group of 3, conduct a debate adopting the two positions outlined below.  Once you have chosen your positions take some time to prepare your debate based on the materials presented above.

Situation:
Parliament is currently looking at whether or not to continue the funding of homeopathic remedies in the country’s public healthcare service.  In order to make their decision they have called for a public hearing and debate examining the pros and cons of homeopathy and its cost effectiveness for the country’s taxpayers.

Position A:

You are a practicing homeopath and a supporter of its use in the greater population for the treatment of illnesses and ailments.  You believe that conventional medicine can be aggressive, that people should have the choice in how they manage their health and that the government should remain neutral in such decisions. Discontinuing funding for homeopathic treatments would be discrimination.

Use the information provided in the articles and videos to argue for continued funding of homeopathic treatments.

Position B:  

You are a research scientist at the center for public health and disease prevention.  You believe that because there is no scientific evidence to support homeopathy its continued funding is both a waste of taxpayers’ money and dangerous for those who chose homeopathy instead of conventional medicine in the treatment of illnesses.

Use the information provided in the articles and videos to formulate and argue for the removal of homeopathic preparations from public health funding.

Position C: (optional and can be more than one person)

You are a member of parliament. You will remain passive during the debate between positions A & B. However, based solely on the arguments presented during the debate, you will render your decision and cite the reasons why you will approve or disapprove of the continued funding of homeopathic treatment payed for by the national health service.

 Download the mini-debate in PDF

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