Mod+ The Dr. Malerba Interview and Alex's surprising skepticism

#1
I was surprised by Alex's skepticism with respect to homeopathy, as on its face, it has validity on par with other ideas wholeheartedly supported by Alex (even better than most, as I mentioned to Alex). And it has the elements which would seem relevant to this forum - anti-materialism, plenty of supporting testimony, spiritually meaningful, dependence upon intent. Why would he say that he doesn't get the homeopathy stuff?

I thought I'd start a thread to pursue some of the ideas which came up in Alex's thread.

Mod+ refers to the ideas referenced here:
http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/does-it-matter.1240/page-5#post-33913

Linda
 
#2
I think science has been forced to research homoeopathy more seriously because it represents a direct economic challenge to orthodox medicine.
I don't see how its a direct economic challenge. If Bucky is to be believed, medicine will simply adopt homeopathy for itself if money is the object. And to be frank, the kinds of patients who tend to make heavy use of homeopathy, are not the kinds of patients who would be economically lucrative. There might be competition over the research money allocated to alt-med research, but that's only if that money would go to medical research if it wasn't being used by alt-med. I don't know if that would be the case (maybe it would get rolled into the brain-mapping program).

This has generated some evidence for these treatments.
Any research will generate 'evidence' (see "selective outcome reporting"). It's better quality with respect to homeopathy, because it's done under the umbrella of medicine, which has more rigorous practices than the umbrella of psychology.

Most of the subjects we discuss are more or less ignored by modern science.
Which is also why I'm surprised by Alex's skepticism. :)

I somehow doubt that a serious study (not suggesting for a second that RS's study was other than serious) of dogs knowing when their owners were returning, would come up with no evidence.
Homeopathy is no different in that regard. You see the same difference with respect to the rigour of the design and the reporting of results that we saw with Wiseman and Sheldrake.

It is because a lot of people care about homoeopathy that it would be impossible to perform Wiseman's trick in that field.

David
Sorry to burst your bubble, but pretty much the same 'tricks' take place with respect to homeopathy research, including controversies over whose meta-analysis is to be trusted.

Linda
 
#3
OK. I'll come at this from a slightly different perspective. Think carefully about the similarities between homeopathy and placebo. Belief and suggestion. Hypnosis is occurring here and is the key to understanding the process (IMHO).
Hypnosis? Why do you think this has something to do with hypnosis? The effects of "placebo" are mostly the effects of doing nothing plus some minor changes in subjective reports. You don't need to go as far as hypnosis to get people to alter their reports - all it takes is minimal feedback.

Linda
 
#4
I was surprised by Alex's skepticism with respect to homeopathy, as on its face, it has validity on par with other ideas wholeheartedly supported by Alex (even better than most, as I mentioned to Alex). And it has the elements which would seem relevant to this forum - anti-materialism, plenty of supporting testimony, spiritually meaningful, dependence upon intent. Why would he say that he doesn't get the homeopathy stuff?
I'm even more surprised that you've posted something that agrees with a perspective I have. :D But yes I was surprised by Tsakiris's posting his "not getting":
I'm surprised to see you post that. Not that you don't get it but that you deem that important. Is there still part of your thinking that equates "getting it" with actuality. As much as current mythology (aka modern science) denigrates homeopathy there is a wealth of testimony to its efficacy.
 
#5
I don't see how its a direct economic challenge. If Bucky is to be believed, medicine will simply adopt homeopathy for itself if money is the object. And to be frank, the kinds of patients who tend to make heavy use of homeopathy, are not the kinds of patients who would be economically lucrative.
Alternative medicine is obviously a challenge to conventional medicine - particularly in those areas where it seems to work best.
Any research will generate 'evidence' (see "selective outcome reporting"). It's better quality with respect to homeopathy, because it's done under the umbrella of medicine, which has more rigorous practices than the umbrella of psychology.
Which reduces to - there is more research dollars to be spent!
Homeopathy is no different in that regard. You see the same difference with respect to the rigour of the design and the reporting of results that we saw with Wiseman and Sheldrake.
This is vastly different. Wiseman undertook to reproduce Sheldrake's experiment, and then changed the protocol after he had collected the data. Surely you can see that this is unacceptable?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but pretty much the same 'tricks' take place with respect to homeopathy research, including controversies over whose meta-analysis is to be trusted.
I don't have a bubble to burst, but my point was that I don't think anyone could have done what Wiseman did in higher profile research.

David
 
#6
Hypnosis? Why do you think this has something to do with hypnosis? The effects of "placebo" are mostly the effects of doing nothing plus some minor changes in subjective reports. You don't need to go as far as hypnosis to get people to alter their reports - all it takes is minimal feedback.

Linda
LOL - I guess the word 'mostly' means that some effects of placebo aren't as easily explained :)

Have you read Irreducible Mind? If you haven't, you really should. One of the things you will read about is the link between deep hypnosis and some instances of ψ.

David
 
#7
Hypnosis? Why do you think this has something to do with hypnosis? The effects of "placebo" are mostly the effects of doing nothing plus some minor changes in subjective reports. You don't need to go as far as hypnosis to get people to alter their reports - all it takes is minimal feedback.

Linda
Hypnosis is based on suggestion, belief, and expectation... Some are more susceptible than others. I think the link to placebo (and homeopathy for that matter) is obvious.
 
#12
Alternative medicine is obviously a challenge to conventional medicine - particularly in those areas where it seems to work best.
That doesn't make sense. If it works, then it's medicine, not alt-med.

Which reduces to - there is more research dollars to be spent!
There's more money for alt-med research than parapsychology? I'm pretty sure you're right about that. If there was less money the research would be poor quality? That I don't know, but I suspect not. I still think that they'd be doing RCT's, just fewer.

This is vastly different. Wiseman undertook to reproduce Sheldrake's experiment, and then changed the protocol after he had collected the data. Surely you can see that this is unacceptable?
He didn't change the protocol after he collected the data. He established the protocol and then collected the data. The only thing which changed between the first experiment and the rest was the discrimination threshold which Pam's parents chose to predict Pam's return. But it is standard operating procedure for these tests to see how they perform with different discrimination thresholds (i.e. definitely not "unacceptable"). And not only that, but trying out various discrimination thresholds actually increases the chance of finding a positive result. That's why I get such a kick out the proponent claim that Wiseman's actions sabotaged the experiment. The thing that you complain about - changing the criteria - actually had the opposite effect. It gave Wiseman more opportunity to find any effect which was there. The problem was that there was no effect - Jaytee wasn't predicting when Pam was arriving on those trials, he was just going to the window more often the longer she was gone,

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Receiver_operating_characteristic

I don't have a bubble to burst, but my point was that I don't think anyone could have done what Wiseman did in higher profile research.

David
Use a more rigourous protocol and apply it appropriately? Of course that is what you can expect to see n higher profile research,

Linda
 
#13
LOL - I guess the word 'mostly' means that some effects of placebo aren't as easily explained :)
Not really. I said it that way to leave the door open. But so far, there isn't anything definitely mysterious to be found in the placebo effect. But it would be interesting if there was.

Have you read Irreducible Mind? If you haven't, you really should. One of the things you will read about is the link between deep hypnosis and some instances of ψ.

David
Well, I've been saying for quite a while that I think that psi depends upon implicit processes, so that it should be tested using implicit/indirect approaches (like hypnosis), rather than the explicit tests in common use.

Linda
 
#14
Hypnosis is based on suggestion, belief, and expectation... Some are more susceptible than others. I think the link to placebo (and homeopathy for that matter) is obvious.
Okay, I see what you're getting at. But, honestly, it doesn't take that much work to get people to alter their subjective reports, and everybody is susceptible to doing so (rather than a select few).

Linda
 
#15
It's odd that Dr. Malerba doesn't think that taking a placebo would lead to any effects with respect to a homeopathic proving. After all, the placebo arm of clinical trials typically find that 5-10% report side effects (e.g. the muscle effects claimed to be so pervasive with the use of statins are found with the same frequency among those taking placebo http://cpr.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/03/06/2047487314525531.full.pdf). And if you expand that to include dreams, moods, foods you desire, etc., why wouldn't someone taking a placebo have these experiences?

Same with the idea that the placebo effect has to be real if it 'works' in kids and animals. The effects of doing nothing are going to be seen regardless or any suggestibility or expectation. And of course, under those circumstances, whoever is evaluating whether the dog or baby has improved can be influenced by expectation in their report.

Linda
 
#17
It's odd that Dr. Malerba doesn't think that taking a placebo would lead to any effects with respect to a homeopathic proving. After all, the placebo arm of clinical trials typically find that 5-10% report side effects (e.g. the muscle effects claimed to be so pervasive with the use of statins are found with the same frequency among those taking placebo http://cpr.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/03/06/2047487314525531.full.pdf). And if you expand that to include dreams, moods, foods you desire, etc., why wouldn't someone taking a placebo have these experiences?
a
Just in case you aren't sure about statin side effects, let me tell you a little about my experience. There were no side effects for 3 years, and I was very positive about the value of reducing my CVD risk (which is slightly raised due to hypertension, and of course, my age). I'd reached the stage where you just pop the pill and never even think about it - so nocebo effects seem less likely. The problems started suddenly with severe cramps that then seemed to be getting worse. Obviously I went to see my GP, who decided on my second visit to refer me to a specialist. Fortunately I had remembered that statins can cause muscle problems, so I suggested stopping taking the tablets while the cramping problem was resolved. The net result of this, was that by the time I got to see the specialist, the problem was diminishing - and no conclusions were reached. Buoyed up by the realisation that the problem was going away, I started taking Simvastatin again - I'd never really believed the statin was the problem because the "muscle aches" described on the side of the packet didn't seem to adequately describe what I was experiencing! About a week after restarting, the problem started to recur, and after yet another stop and start, the penny dropped. Even after stopping, it took me about 9 months to return to absolutely normal.

I'll give you a few more relevant details by PM if you are interested.

After my experience, I obviously talked to other people I know of about my age, and I was amazed quite how many other statin horror stories I encountered. Several just stopped taking the drug without a formal discussion with their doctor. Another had gone through all the statin drugs his GP could prescribe because he had some problems with arterial blockage. He simply had to give up the statins because they all gave him muscle and memory problems.

I have never felt the same about big pharma or medical science after that experience. All the sophisticated statistical analysis doesn't really help if those doing the analysis are under huge pressure to get the right answer.

David
 
#18
Just in case you aren't sure about statin side effects, let me tell you a little about my experience.
I didn't claim that you didn't have subjective experiences which you attributed to statins. I was pointing out that people in the placebo group also had the same kinds of subjective experiences which they attributed to statins.

I have never felt the same about big pharma or medical science after that experience. All the sophisticated statistical analysis doesn't really help if those doing the analysis are under huge pressure to get the right answer.

David
Huh? Why would they be under huge pressure to get the 'right' answer? None of the authors had any interest in the statin market.

And if it's okay to dismiss "sophisticated statistical analyses" on the basis of "I believe, in the absence of evidence, that the authors were prejudiced because they found evidence against my preconceived notions", doesn't that allow for the en masse dismissal of research into parapsychology and homeopathy?

Linda
 
#19
I didn't claim that you didn't have subjective experiences which you attributed to statins. I was pointing out that people in the placebo group also had the same kinds of subjective experiences which they attributed to statins.



Huh? Why would they be under huge pressure to get the 'right' answer? None of the authors had any interest in the statin market.

And if it's okay to dismiss "sophisticated statistical analyses" on the basis of "I believe, in the absence of evidence, that the authors were prejudiced because they found evidence against my preconceived notions", doesn't that allow for the en masse dismissal of research into parapsychology and homeopathy?

Linda
Try this for size!

http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2014/06/doctors-tell-nice-youre-not-independent-youre-not-evidence-based/

I expect something similar or worse applies in the USA.

David
 
#20
Huh? This only confirms what I pointed out previously - the placebo groups consistently report the same/similar levels of adverse events as those taking statins. And there's no reason to think that they wouldn't be just as certain that it was due to their 'statin' as you and the online forum participants you mentioned.

Otherwise, I agree with the disclosure of conflicts of interest, and with the idea of closer scrutiny when they are present. But this only harms the case for 'evidence' from parapsychology and homeopathy research, so I don't really think you should be going there.

Linda
 
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