Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homeopathy and Wikipedia

I'm going to want you to read this page in a minute.  Try to read it as if you know almost nothing about the topic.  Maybe pretend you just encountered someone at work that tried to give you homeopathic pills for some ailment you have been complaining about.  Or possibly you are just getting involved in a romantic relationship with someone who espouses the benefits of homeopathy to you.  The person now has you curious, they speak wonders about how wonderful their health is now, how inexpensive the treatments are, and want you to set up an apt with their practitioner. 

You know you aren't getting a unbiased description from this person, maybe you have heard that homeopathy isn't real medicine, or something about the English Royals being totally supportive of it.  Heck, you even heard that the British medical system will pay for homeopathy treatments, and why would they do that if it does not work?  So you turn to the Internet.  Where do you look if you are just looking for a description?  Maybe a search engine?

(23 million hits)

This is the order of links I received on Yahoo Search

Homeopathy on Wikipedia
ABCHomeopathy which is a pro-Homeopathy site
U.S. National Institutes of Health site
The National Center for Homeopathy
Quackwatch site
What's the Harm in Homepathy?  (Tim Farley's site)

Okay now read the first hit that the average person will also see.   

What do you think?  Does this page reflect a good definition of homeopathy?   If you didn't really understand the topic before hand, what would you think after reading it?  

Look at the external links.  Someone put the Merseyside Skeptics Society "Homeopathy, There is nothing in it" link as well as 14 minute video by James Randi.  Awesome!

Another cool link located near the external links is a box stating that there is a Wikipedia News Article related to homeopathy.  The headline... 

"Parents prosecuted after homeopathic treatment leads to daughter's death"

The homeopathy page didn't just happen with one editor working on it.  This took years and many many editors contributing to the page.  It is still evolving, with discussions all the time happening on the talk page.  

The reason why I'm pointing this out is to make you really understand why Wikipedia is so important to getting critical thinking to the people who need it.  I'm not advocating for people to start editing the homeopathy page, this is a recognized "natural science good article".  Please don't try to edit this page unless you discuss it on the talk page first.   

Now go to the talk page.  I want you to see what the editors see when they are thinking about changing the page.  Look at the FAQ section, these are decisions that have already been decided and letting everyone know that changes to the page aren't up for discussion.  

If you ever questioned whether or not Wikipedia is a skeptical site or not, this should leave no doubt in your mind that it is.  We might not be able to get people to read the skeptical blogs we keep releasing but we should recognize the importance of Wikipedia.  

Just in case you were wondering what kind of impact I am talking about, here are the stats for homeopathy for December 2011... 86,425.  For the 2011 year... 1,266,752 hits.  Name another single page website that generates those kind of numbers?

In this case the page for Homeopathy is really well written.  Not so for many other Wikipedia pages.  Won't you take a moment to help out with this project?  

further note - 

Homeopathy generally gets 2-5 thousand hits each day.  Once in a while there is a spike in the hit numbers, to me this is extremely intriguing as it shows how media attention (maybe something WE did?) sends people indirectly to Wikipedia.  (by indirectly I mean, the media didn't give them a URL to follow, but Homeopathy was in the news and people just sent to WP to learn more about the topic).

These spikes are usually off a couple days because of the way they are reported on

A normal day is 2-5 thousand hits
Jan 4 -  32.4K
Jan 5 -  23.4K
Feb 7 - 6.4K
Feb 8 - 5.7K
June 5 - 6.5K
June 6 - 7.3K
Aug 13 - 11.5K
Oct 31 - 8.8K

It is quite possible that the surge in numbers for the early Feb was because of the 10:23 campaign.  

Lets not forget our non-English Wikipedia friends.  Personally I can't update other-language pages because I don't read/write in other languages.  This is where we have to get creative.  The project of improving Wikipedia pages for skeptical content is FAR to important to only focus on English.  If you can help in other languages please please contact me.  

Here are a few numbers for homeopathy in other languages...   All November 2011 (note: when the page has a ranking, that means the page was really popular, most terms are not ranked)

Homeopathy - English - 106,894 (ranked 4,498 most popular page on WP in English)
Homeopatia - Polish - 12,373 (ranked 1,156 most popular page on WP in Polish)

Omeopatia - Italian - 13,929 (ranked 1,873 most popular page on WP in Italian) 
Homeopatía - Spanish - 44,072 (ranked 1,794 most popular page on WP in Spanish)
   it reached 3,236 most popular page in Hebrew -  hits in Hebrew (it writes left to right)  1,231 הומאופתיה

I could go on and on but have no idea what language most of these are.  Hrvatski, Galego, Ελληνικά, Ido, 日本語, తెలుగు, and ייִדיש are just a few other Wikipedia languages that have homeopathy pages.  Wonder what their visitors will read?



  1. Rather than trying to "fix" the fact that Wikipedia documents the world as it is rather than you wish it were, you need to fix three fundamental problems in the evidence base for homeopathy. Then the Wikipedia article will change to reflect that fact.

    The three problems are:

    First, there is no reason to suppose it should work; similia is an axiom and lacks any credible evidence base.

    Second, there's no way it can work, and if it did cellphones, GPS, semiconductor fabs and many other things would be completely different.

    Third, there's no good evidence it does work, all observations are equally consistent with the null hypothesis and the more carefully a test controls for bias the more consistent its results are with placebo.

    Even better: if you manage to fix these three problems with the homeopathy evidence base, you will also qualify for several Nobel prizes.

    1. There is no reason to suppose that might work? For what reason? Aja, as skeptical pseudo ideology, say contradicts "all laws of physics, chemistry and toxicology"

      But homeopathy contradicts the law of gravity? or that other law or Avogadro? The handling underwater R. Park are so little criticized in the comunity pseudo skeptical ...

      The same is not a simple axiom. Your reductionism is quite inconsistent. The history of homeopathy shows that the product of detailed observations and experiments carried by generations of doctors. Adding new knowledge on the similar principle taken in universities.

      "All" the observations are equally compatible? You repeat the same pseudo refutations of Dr. Groski, Novella and H. Hall. Including his idol novel E. Ernst.

      The last thing said by you is known as the "fallacy of compensation" in this case is a "fallacy of compensation Nobel Prize." So your argument is irrelevant.

      Finally, you do not say anything about the post.

  2. Top homeopaths have tried to get the facts straight on this Wikipedia entry and either they have been blocked or their work has been removed.

    Well one thing is for sure. You homeopathy skeptics are not succeeding and are not going to succeed. This article says one thing: homeopathy is getting more and more popular and people are getting more and more interested in it DESPITE all your pathetic efforts.

  3. Although I am mystified as to how Guy Chapman got the wrong end of the stick, when you say,

    "Won't you take a moment to help out with this project?"

    I'm not sure what you are asking us to do. I share your concern at the wiki article - I don't think it's as neutral as it could be - but you seem to be saying we shouldn't change it?

    @Louise Maclean. Getting more and more popular? That would be why applications for places on homeopathy "degrees" plummeted resulting in the closure of all five courses. The NHS is finally coming to realise it's a waste of funds and spending on it has plunged.

    Is this the homeopathic version of 'getting more popular'?

  4. I agree with Louise. There has been a concerted effort to get rid of the " skeptic" -written and maintained page on homeopathy. Homeopaths and homeopathic supporters have been blocked at every turn from changing it. It certainly has changed my view of Wikepedia. I no longer trust other information I find there.

    As to why fewer people applied to graduate programmes, I see two reasons :

    1). the economy in the U.K. is dire and going to school is unaffordable for many.

    2).you " skeptics" have undermined the ability of homeopaths to make a living.

    Most importantly, though, it was not low registration that closed those programmes but your concerted disinformation campaign against homeopaths that convinced the universities to close these programmes.

    The reality is, though, that homeopathy is stronger and more popular than ever.

    Truth will out in the end.

  5. The anonymous poster wrote:

    "As to why fewer people applied to graduate programmes, I see two reasons :

    1). the economy in the U.K. is dire and going to school is unaffordable for many."

    As you can "see" a benefit to a worthless, pre-science cult therapy like homeopathy, it comes as no surprise that you can "see" a situation happening to university applications that is the opposite of what, until this year, was happening in reality. Last year, when there were still a few of these courses running, applications for university places had risen not fallen.

    "Applications for a university place have soared by 2.5% according to figures published by UCAS today. Over 8,000 more students have applied causing a record high compared to figures at the same point last year."


    Seems none of them wanted to do homeopathy though.

    "2).you "skeptics" have undermined the ability of homeopaths to make a living."

    LMAO! Surely if homeopathy is as good as you homeopaths claim it is, it will take more than a few pesky skeptics to stop you proving it to the world and becoming very rich from the business you take away from mainstream medicine.

    Good luck with that.

  6. University applications have risen for 2 main reasons - one, because there are no jobs around so it delays the inevitable for 3 years and two, the students want to avoid the fee increase. To train as a Homoeopath doesn't require doing a degree in any case, there are plenty of 'degree equivalent' courses that are approved by the Society of Homeopaths, mostly part-time so that people can continue their day job whilst studying. If anyone is sceptical about whether it works or not, the best way is to try it and see. My sister's dog certainly has had remarkable relief for arthritis after only one tablet.....hardly 'the placebo effect'! I've been using it on pets, children, friends and family for over 20 years and in many cases for things that 'conventional medicine' couldn't deal with. I don't need to argue, I know it can work - not always or for everything, but it certainly isn't just quackery.....

  7. There is no question that highly skilled and respected homeopaths have done their utmost to correct the information provided by Wikipedia about homeopathy. It would be a great public service if Wikipedia would provide accurate, correct information about it. Unfortunately, the best efforts of all those who have tried to correct the Wiki page have been subverted. What Wikipedia now provides is an inaccurate, biased, opinion-only page.

    Knowing homeopathy as I do after many years of personal experience with it, I certainly would not put much faith in other Wikipedia pages after reading the biased opinions that are paraded as "facts" about homeopathy. (This page may be one of the reasons for our local school system's refusal to allow students to use Wikipedia material in their homework.)

    Anonymous has said that "skeptic" disinformation has had a negative impact on the ability of UK homeopaths to make a living. I have to go even further by stating that "skeptic" disinformation could and has in the past had a negative impact on the health and well being of homeopathic patients. More than 200 million people use it today with satisfaction and confidence. Attempting to deny people the medicine that they choose because it works for them borders, in my opinion, on being criminal. So does attempting to dissuade people from using this very effective and safe system of medicine.

  8. Skepticat_UK must be a shill for Big Pharm. whose minions are clearly those responsible for the atrocious article on Homeopathy in Wiki. There is however a new article which those purveyors of lies haven't either seen, nor are aware of.

    To say that Homeopathy is based on nothing, and that its efficacy is non existent is a joke. Those who are known as linear thinkers will always go against common sense. For instance, when the popular thinking was that the earth was flat, but when one looked at the distant horizon a pronounced curve could be seen.

    I had supported Wiki for one full year, but now as I see how biased it is, my money will be spent on better things/causes.

    1. Let's look at some of the problems with your statement:

      "Those who are known as linear thinkers will always go against common sense. For instance, when the popular thinking was that the earth was flat, but when one looked at the distant horizon a pronounced curve could be seen."

      This is true, and can be proven scientifically through a number of ways: the shape of the Earth's shadow on the moon, curve of the horizon, or traveling all the way around it.

      However, equating this to homeopathy is nonsense. Yes it goes against common sense, the basic idea is that extremely diluted drugs are far more powerful that non diluted drugs. But simply because it is against common sense does not make it right, in fact it makes it very wrong.

      In order to get one molecule of the active ingredient in a homeopathic medicine, you would kill yourself from hyper-hydration.

      Every study from professional doctors and researchers (those that actually accept reality) have found homeopathic drugs to do nothing except as a placebo.

      But why dont I go one step further? Why spout what you believe to be nonsense when you wont even bother to listen? If you believe it works, then it must. Which is why I was among the people that participated in the 10:23 Campaign to overdose on homeopathic medicine. I didn't choose some random drug, I went and found something that should kill me when I took it: potassium chloride (used in lethal injections, and is a real homeopathic medicine that you can get at CVS).

      If homeopathic medicine is so much more powerful than normal medicine, I took multiple times the lethal dose. So tell me, if it works, why am I alive?

  9. The actual issue with Wikipedia is its openness, not that it is biased, as far as I understand it can be edited by anyone. Most alternative health pages on Wikipedia are regularly edited by anybody - members of the public, pharmaceutical companies and skeptics etc., just as pages in many other fields are also edited anybody.

  10. Thank you for drawing my attention to this one. I hadn't seen this yet. It is an extremely bias entry. Someone has spent a long time and probably a lot of money - it sounds as if it was produced by legally trained individuals - to find all the negative outcomes reported on Homeopathy.
    I think it is part of the campaign against Homeopathy after the Cuba-Lepto outcome was publicised on the web.
    I have contacted the Society of Homeopaths here in the UK, and hope they will take it up.
    Anyone reading the definition will realize just how bias it is. Luckily I don't rely on Wikipedia for new patients. Interestingly my first patients to request flu prophylaxis this year were doctors ...

  11. Josh Freeman, formerly from Bradford, W. Yorks.June 15, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Having watched the effectiveness of homeopathy on infants and on adults I have seen first hand that it works. I have lost faith in Wikipedia, which is a shame, but not surprising.

    For those who are convinced that homeopathy is quackary, only personal experience will change that. Socrates wisdom was that he did not claim knowledge that he did not have. If you do not have direct experience and wish to behave like Nanin's guest, then the quality of your journey through life will be what it is. The sad part is that people are only to happy to tell others what they can or can not do.

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