Plausibility and evidence: the case of homeopathy

Plausibility and evidence: the case of homeopathy Homeopathy is controversial and hotly debated. The conclusions of systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials of homeopathy vary from ‘comparable to conventional medicine’ to ‘no evidence of effects beyond placebo’. It is claimed that homeopathy conflicts with scientific laws and that homoeopaths reject the naturalistic outlook, but no evidence has been cited. We are homeopathic physicians and researchers who do not reject the scientific outlook; we believe that examination of the prior beliefs underlying this enduring stand-off can advance the debate. We show that interpretations of the same set of evidence—for homeopathy and for conventional medicine—can diverge. Prior disbelief in homeopathy is rooted in the perceived implausibility of any conceivable mechanism of action. Using the ‘crossword analogy’, we demonstrate that plausibility bias impedes assessment of the clinical evidence. Sweeping statements about the scientific impossibility of homeopathy are themselves unscientific: scientific statements must be precise and testable. There is growing evidence that homeopathic preparations can exert biological effects; due consideration of such research would reduce the influence of prior beliefs on the assessment of systematic review evidence. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png "Medicine, Health Care & Philosophy" Springer Journals

Plausibility and evidence: the case of homeopathy

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Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Subject
Medicine & Public Health; Theory of Medicine/Bioethics; Medical Law; Ethics; History of Medicine
ISSN
1386-7423
eISSN
1572-8633
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11019-012-9413-9
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Homeopathy is controversial and hotly debated. The conclusions of systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials of homeopathy vary from ‘comparable to conventional medicine’ to ‘no evidence of effects beyond placebo’. It is claimed that homeopathy conflicts with scientific laws and that homoeopaths reject the naturalistic outlook, but no evidence has been cited. We are homeopathic physicians and researchers who do not reject the scientific outlook; we believe that examination of the prior beliefs underlying this enduring stand-off can advance the debate. We show that interpretations of the same set of evidence—for homeopathy and for conventional medicine—can diverge. Prior disbelief in homeopathy is rooted in the perceived implausibility of any conceivable mechanism of action. Using the ‘crossword analogy’, we demonstrate that plausibility bias impedes assessment of the clinical evidence. Sweeping statements about the scientific impossibility of homeopathy are themselves unscientific: scientific statements must be precise and testable. There is growing evidence that homeopathic preparations can exert biological effects; due consideration of such research would reduce the influence of prior beliefs on the assessment of systematic review evidence.

Journal

"Medicine, Health Care & Philosophy"Springer Journals

Published: Apr 27, 2012

References

  • The occurrence of hormetic dose responses in the toxicological literature, the hormesis database: An overview
    Calabrese, EJ; Blain, R

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